Meeting Minutes from InspireSeattle Social on November 16, 2013

SuperPacs v. Supercitizens

Court DecisionsIn 1906 Teddy Roosevelt called for legislation forbidding all contributions by corporations “to any political committee or for any political purpose.”  In 1907

The Tillman Act passed by Congress completely banned corporate contributions.

On January 21, 2010 the US Supreme Court, in Citizens United v. FEC, in a 5–4 decision, overturned longstanding precedent limiting corporate expenditures in elections. The Court gutted the McCain-Feingold Act, stating that under the First Amendment, the government cannot discriminate against a speaker based on the speaker’s identity as a corporation. The majority said further that, “Independent expenditures do not give rise to the appearance of corruption.” 

On March 26, 2010, based on Citizens United, The DC Circuit Court of Appeals decided in v. FEC that if the government could not limit independent corporate expenditures based on the anti-corruption rationale, then it could not limit contributions to political committees that want to fund independent expenditures. Super PACs were born.

Consequences - In 2012, spending on races for the presidency, the Senate, and the House of Representatives by Super PACs and other independent political groups topped $1.3 billion, far more than any previous campaign in our history. Just 61 large donors to Super PACs ($4.7 million per contributor) for the two major party presidential candidates matched $285 million in grass roots contributions from more than 1,425,500 small donors. At least $300 million was spent by groups that are not required to disclose their donors -- so-called "dark money”.  Surveys have found that 86% of TV advocacy paid for by all independent groups were negative attack adds.

Public Response - In a 2010 poll 80% of Americans agreed that the “new rules that let corporations, unions and very wealthy people give unlimited money to Super PACs will lead to corruption.” Only 15% disagreed. The agreement was bi-partisan; three out of four Republicans (74%) agreed with this statement.

Actions to Amend - Sixteen states have requested that Congress pass and return to the states for ratification an amendment to the US Constitution that addresses the problems of money in politics. By resolution: Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Vermont, Connecticut, Maryland, California, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, West Virginia and Oregon.  By initiative: Colorado and Montana with supermajorities.

In Washington State a resolution passed the House but was stopped in the Senate Government Operations Committee by Chair Pam Roach who twice opted not to let the bill be voted upon by members of the committee.

WAmend  is a coalition of 26 state and national groups. It is now organizing for a Washington State initiative to appear on the ballot in November 2014. Signature gathering will begin in January. Twenty-five additional organizations have endorsed this effort.

Needed: Volunteers to recruit signature gatherers and collect signatures.

For more information and to contribute needed $, go to .


Guest Speaker: 

Jim Street serves as a member of the Washington State Partnership Council on Juvenile Justice, which provides advice to the Governor and State Legislature on Juvenile Justice Policy Reform, and as a board member of the The Defender Agency, a non-profit public defender agency in King County. His other current project is overturning Citizens United through constitutional amendment.

Previously, Jim served as Director of Reinvesting in Youth (RIY). Phase 1 of RIY was a regional partnership for juvenile justice and youth services reform led by the King County Juvenile Court, King County and the City of Seattle. Phase 2 was a regional partnership located at the Puget Sound Educational Services District and dedicated to the implementation of a comprehensive strategy to reduce school dropouts in King County and the State of Washington. From 1997- 2000 Jim was a King County Superior Court Judge including service in the criminal, civil and juvenile courts. From 1984-1995 Jim was a member of the Seattle City Council, including the last two years as its president. While a member of the City Council Jim was deeply involved in issues related to environmental sustainability, grassroots political democracy and the needs of at risk youth.

Speaker: Jim Street  


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