American Business Leaders Condemn Supreme Court, Call on Congress to End Corporate Bribery

powell 1 300x206 American Business Leaders Condemn Supreme Court, Call on Congress to End Corporate Bribery Forty-one business leaders have signed letters to members of Congress condemning the U.S. Supreme Court decision to allow corporations — even foreign corporations — to spend unlimited amounts to influence American political campaigns.

It’s an important first step, and a great sign that opposition to the Court’s anti-democratic action spans the political spectrum. It’s not left versus right or Republican versus Democrat. It’s people who believe in democracy versus those who are content with the coup by authoritarian, unaccountable corporations.

The letters — printed in full below the fold, with the list of signers — say the decision further corrupts an already broken system. The business leaders urge Congress to pass the Fair Elections Act, which allows candidates for federal office to receive limited public funds for their campaigns if they limit individual contribution amounts and meet a threshold of small-dollar donors from their community.

The high cost of campaigns has forced candidates and officeholders to spend most of their time raising money, and the rest of the time returning favors for that money. While I believe there are many public-spirited contributors in politics who never ask for anything in return for their money, most big contributors — especially corporate leaders — demand certain, uh, considerations in return for their money. It’s institutional corruption, and the Supreme Court just made it worse.

January 21, 2010

The Letter to the House

The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
235 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Re: Citizens United and he Fair Elections Now Act (H.R. 1826 & S. 752)

Dear Speaker Pelosi:

We write to you at an extremely troubling moment in the history of our democracy.  The recent Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission has opened the door to increased election spending by the deepest pocketed political interests in American politics. The corrosive influence of special interest money already impairs our government’s ability to address our nation’s most critical problems. We cannot continue down this path.

As business leaders, we believe the current political fundraising system is already broken. The Supreme Court decision further exacerbates this problem.  Members of Congress already spend too much time raising money from large contributors. And often, many of us individually are on the receiving end of solicitation phone calls from members of Congress. With additional money flowing into the system due to the Court’s decision, the fundraising pressure on members of Congress will only increase.

Congress needs to spend its time working on the leading issues of the day, from reviving our economy to addressing our nation’s energy crisis to reforming the healthcare system. And on those issues, Americans must have full confidence that Congress has acted in the best interests of the public, swayed by the merits of policy without regard to the interests of campaign contributors.

We believe Congress must address both the Citizens United decision and the problems of the current campaign finance system by passing the Fair Elections Now Act (S. 752 and H.R. 1826). This measure would enact a voluntary alternative system for financing federal elections, giving candidates the option to run for office on a mixture of small contributions and limited public funds.

Under the leadership of Assistant Majority Leader Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and House Democratic Caucus
Chairman John Larson (D-Conn.), the bill is moving forward. We have significant momentum in the
House, with 126 cosponsors joining Representative Larson. With a strong public financing system in place, candidates will be not be consigned to a system in which constant fundraising creates conflicts of interest and leaves Members little time to do the job they were elected to do.

We hope in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision you will support the Fair Elections Now Act so that Congress can act effectively on the people’s business.

The Letter to the Senate

January 21, 2010

The Honorable Harry Reid
522 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Re: Citizens United and he Fair Elections Now Act (H.R. 1826 & S. 752)

Dear Majority Leader Reid:

We write to you at an extremely troubling moment in the history of our democracy. The recent Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission has opened the door to increased election spending by the deepest pocketed political interests in American politics. The corrosive influence of special interest money already impairs our government’s ability to address our nation’s most critical problems. We cannot continue down this path.

As business leaders, we believe the current political fundraising system is already broken. The Supreme Court decision further exacerbates this problem. Members of Congress already spend too much time raising money from large contributors. And often, many of us individually are on the receiving end of solicitation phone calls from members of Congress. With additional money flowing into the system due to the Court’s decision, the fundraising pressure on members of Congress will only increase.

Congress needs to spend its time working on the leading issues of the day, from reviving our economy to addressing our nation’s energy crisis to reforming the healthcare system. And on those issues, Americans must have full confidence that Congress has acted in the best interests of the public, swayed by the merits of policy without regard to the interests of campaign contributors.

We believe Congress must address both the Citizens United decision and the problems of the current campaign finance system by passing the Fair Elections Now Act (S. 752 and H.R. 1826). This measure would enact a voluntary alternative system for financing federal elections, giving candidates the option to run for office on a mixture of small contributions and limited public funds.

Under the leadership of Assistant Majority Leader Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and House Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson (D-Conn.), the bill is moving forward. We have significant momentum in the House, with 126 cosponsors joining Representative Larson. With a strong public financing system in place, candidates will be not be consigned to a system in which constant fundraising creates conflicts of interest and leaves Members little time to do the job they were elected to do.

We hope in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision you will support the Fair Elections Now Act so that Congress can act effectively on the people’s business.

Signed,

The Signatories

Berkley Bedell
Founder & Former President
Pure Fishing

Peter A. Benoliel
Chairman Emeritus
Quaker Chemical Corporation

Edgar M. Bronfman, Sr.
Former President and CEO
Seagram’s, Ltd.

Allan Brown
Chairman of the Board
Vance Brown Builders

Richard M. Burnes, Jr,
Founder and General Partner
Charles River Ventures

Frank Butler
President (Ret.)
Eastman Gelatine Corp.

Ben Carlisle
President
Allegiant Partners Inc.

Ben Cohen
Founder
Ben & Jerry’s

Charles Couric
Founder & Past President
Brita Products Company

Richard Foos
President
Shout! Factory

Walt Freese
CEO
Ben & Jerry’s

Murray Galinson
Former Chairman (Ret.)
San Diego National Bank

Gerald Grinstein
Strategic Director
Madrona Venture Group
Former CEO of Delta Airlines

Mike Hannigan
President
Give Something Back

Alan G. Hassenfeld
Chairman of the Executive Committee
Hasbro, Inc.
Christie Hefner
Former Chairwoman & Chief Executive
Playboy Enterprises

Arnold Hiatt
Former Chief Executive Officer
Stride Rite, Inc.
Chairman
Stride Rite Foundation

William N. Hubbard III
President
Center Development Corporation

Frederick S.Hubbell
Chairman (Ret.), Insurance and Asset
Management Americas
ING Group

G. David Hurd
Emeritus Chairman
Principal Financial Group

Michael J. Johnston
Executive Vice President (ret.)
Capital Group Companies

Mike Kappus
President
The Rosebud Agency

Harry P. Kamen
Chairman & CEO (Ret.)
MetLife

Joe Keefe
President & CEO
Pax World Management Corp.

Earle W. Kazis
President
Earle W. Kazis Associates, Inc.

Steve Kirsch
Founder, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
Propel Accelerator
Chief Executive Officer
Abaca Technology Corporation
Chairman
Kirsch Foundation

Alan E. Kligerman
Chief Executive Officer
AkPharma Inc.

Thomas Layton
CEO
Metaweb Technologies

Mark Lichty
President & CEO (Ret.)
Bustin Industrial Products

Vernon R. Loucks
Former CEO
Baxter International Inc.

Arnold Miller
Co-Founder
Isaacson Miller

Alan Patricof
Managing Partner
Greycroft, LLC

William Ruckelshaus
Strategic Director
Madrona Venture Group

Vincent J. Ryan
Chairman
Schooner Capital
Paul Sack
Principal
Sack Properties

Gordon Segal
Chairman
Crate & Barrel

Dick Senn
Founder & CEO
Tanamar, Inc.

Robert Sibarium
President
Midnite Enterprises LLC

Timothy Smith
Senior Vice President
Environment, Social and Governance Group
Walden Asset Management

Philippe Villers
President
GrainPro Inc.

George Zimmer
President & CEO
Men’s Wearhouse

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About Glenn W. Smith

Glenn W. Smith has spent the past 30 years in journalism and politics, where he’s made a name for himself as a writer, campaign manager, activist, think tank analyst and, as Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas says, a “legendary political consultant and all-around good guy.” “There’s no one like him,” says author George Lakoff. CNN commentator Paul Begala says, “He has unmatched experience, a graceful pen (or pixel nowadays) and deep insight into the best and worst of us.” Novelist Sarah Bird speaks of his “lucid and lyrical” prose. And, she says, he’s fun. Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington says Glenn writes with “grace and abundant humor” and “uses his colorful experiences in Texas to enlighten us all.”

Smith led Ann Richards’ successful 1990 campaign for Governor of Texas. He worked for former Texas Lt. Gov. Bill Hobby and U.S. Senator Lloyd Bentsen. Earlier, Smith was a political reporter for the Houston Chronicle and the Houston Post. He’s coordinated national campaigns for groups such as MoveOn.org. In 2004, he authored the highly acclaimed book, The Politics of Deceit: Saving Freedom and Democracy from Extinction. He also wrote Unfit Commander, a book that detailed George W. Bush’s mysterious disappearance from military service.

In 2004, Smith was featured in the film, Bush’s Brain, a documentary about Karl Rove. Smith provided commentary on Rove’s role as then-President Bush’s senior advisor. He has made numerous media appearances with Chris Mathews on Hardball, Joe Scarborough, Brit Hume, and many others. He writes a regularly for top national web sites, including FireDogLake and Huffington Post.

As a senior fellow at George Lakoff’s prestigious Rockridge Institute in Berkeley he studied, wrote and taught on the power of metaphor and narrative in political communications. He also lectured on religion and politics at the Starr King School for Ministry in Berkeley. As a sponsor and organizer, he has pulled together numerous national events with progressive religious leaders. He also organized a celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King at Riverside Church in New York City as well as “Freedom and Faith” bus tours, which was a nationwide campaign for social justice and progressive values.

Smith’s play, Double Play, which explored American Western myths and legends, was held over to sold-out audiences. He’s even written and performed songs in the Americana tradition, such as his best-known song, “Helping Marty Robbins,” a tribute to his hometown, Houston.

Most recently, Smith is the creator of DogCanyon, a political and cultural web site covering state, national and global issues from a Texas perspective. DogCanyon is an exhilarating and unique site that gets the connections between politics and culture and explores both the personal side of politics and the ups, down, craziness and beauty of “life its ownself,” as humorist Dan Jenkins would say. DogCanyon offers heartfelt personal essays, hard-hitting political analysis, and, most importantly, laughs.

As Paul Begala said, Smith writes in “the finest, firmest, fearless tradition of Texas essayists like Molly Ivins.”