Democracy Decoded

By Campaign Legal Center

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Aaron
 Mar 18, 2022

Description

Why does American Democracy look the way it does today and how can we make it more responsive to the people it was formed to serve? "Democracy Decoded", a podcast by Campaign Legal Center, examines our government and discusses innovative ideas that could lead to a stronger, more transparent, accountable and inclusive democracy. Host Simone Leeper speaks with experts from across the political spectrum and takes a deep dive into the forces fueling our elections, not just in our nation’s capital but at all levels of government.

Episode Date
Giving a Voice to All Americans
00:22:30

Democracies work best when everyone can participate meaningfully, but wealthy special interests and a small number of big donors have come to dominate the funding of political campaigns - if money is speech, some people (and groups, and corporations) are speaking MUCH louder than others.

In the season finale, Simone dives into the world of public financing, examining how two cities on opposite sides of the country took important steps to provide candidates with public funds to support their election efforts. Programs like those now in use in Seattle, Washington and Washington, D.C. can reorient our elections by encouraging the best and brightest candidates to seek public office and motivating them to connect with the people they want to represent.

 

Guests:

Catie Kelley is senior director of Policy & Strategic Partnerships at CLC, overseeing the organization’s policy work at the federal, state and local levels. She is leading CLC's work to address the emerging threats of election sabotage. Previously, Catie built and ran CLC's state campaign finance program. In that capacity, she worked with state and local stakeholders and policymakers to advance innovative policies designed to decrease the influence of money in the political process. She began her legal career in the Federal Election Commission's Office of General Counsel. 
Read her full bio here.

René LeBeau has over 20 years of elections experience at the state, county, and city level. In 2016, she joined the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission to implement and administer the first-ever Democracy Voucher Program. She is a life-long Washington resident who calls Seattle home.

Wayne Barnett has helmed the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission for 18 years, after completing three years with the Massachusetts State Ethics Commission. He started his public service work with stints with Congressman John Dingell and Senator Kent Conrad, before studying law at New York University.

Councilmember Christina Henderson is an At-Large member of the Council of the District of Columbia. Christina’s career has been guided by the principle that one’s zip code should not determine your opportunity for success, and she is excited to work each and every day to make this principle a reality for all DC residents. As a trusted political advisor, Christina has counseled United States Senators, DC Council members, and state and local education officials on an array of domestic policy issues which deeply impacts families and children. Christina lives in Petworth with her husband Nu, their daughters Jordan and Cameron, and rescue dog Langston.

Dexter Williams is a native Washingtonian who grew up in the Hillcrest neighborhood of Ward 7, where he currently lives. He organized residents, with other leaders around the city, to establish the DC Fair Elections program. Dexter works for RepresentUs, focusing on making election systems around the country better and is also the elected Ward 7 Democratic State Committeeman, where he educates voters about the democratic process and works to build interest and participation in the Democratic Party. He is currently running for DC Council At-Large.

 

Links for Part One:

Democracy Voucher Program (Seattle.gov)
 

Seattle candidates again vie for ‘democracy vouchers’ as they pivot to November election” (The Seattle Times)

Elster v. City of Seattle (Campaign Legal Center)

Supreme Court Leaves Seattle’s Democracy Voucher System in Place” (Campaign Legal Center)


Links for Part Two:

Fair Elections Program (dc.gov)

What We Learned from DC’s Fair Elections Program” (Campaign Legal Center)

The Fair Elections Program is changing politics as usual in D.C.” (The Washington Post)

 

About CLC

Democracy Decoded is a production of Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization which advances democracy through law at the federal, state and local levels, fighting for every American’s right to responsive government and a fair opportunity to participate in and affect the democratic process. You can visit us on the web at campaignlegalcenter.org.

Apr 21, 2022
Of, By and For the People
00:13:03

This week, Simone examines some of the gaps in our campaign finance laws that have allowed foreign entities to spend money to influence our elections.

She focuses on a recent story that took place in Maine, speaking with two state legislators who introduced bills to combat foreign interference in their state – a bigger concern than most would expect, especially considering the cause of their concern comes not from a hostile foreign government, but from one of our closest allies.


Guests:

Aaron McKean serves as Legal Counsel for State and Local Reform at Campaign Legal Center, working with state and local partners to develop and advocate for campaign finance reforms that lift the voices of voters and lead to a more transparent democracy. Prior to joining CLC, Aaron was a legislative attorney at the Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau, a nonpartisan legislative service agency, drafting legislation for members of the Wisconsin Legislature. He also served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Azerbaijan from 2009 to 2011. He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin Law School and the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Senator Richard A. Bennett a former President of the Maine Senate, has 14 years of public service in the Senate and House. He has represented western Maine since 2020 and earlier for four terms in the Maine Senate, from 1996 to 2004. From 1990 to 1994 he served two terms in the Maine House of Representatives. He has earned a reputation as a reformer and staunch advocate for fiscal discipline, balanced budgets, term limits, governmental accountability, and Maine’s precious outdoors heritage. Senator Bennett is a Maine native and has family roots in Oxford County going back over two centuries.

Kyle Bailey is a former state legislator and social entrepreneur with nearly two decades of experience managing candidate campaigns, ballot measure campaigns, and start-up nonprofits. Kyle managed the ballot campaign that won the nation’s first statewide ranked choice voting law in Maine in 2016, and the 2018 ballot measure campaign that protected the voter-approved law from legislative repeal. In 2012, he led in-state fundraising for the 2012 campaign that won the nation’s first statewide ballot measure campaign for the freedom to marry for same-sex couples.

 

Links:

Maine Misses Chance to Fight Foreign Election Interference” (Campaign Legal Center)

Maine judge quashes Hydro-Quebec power line plan for now” (Marketplace)

Mainers Again Flex Their Independence to Protect Their Vote” (The American Leader)

Protect Maine Elections


About CLC

Democracy Decoded is a production of Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization which advances democracy through law at the federal, state and local levels, fighting for every American’s right to responsive government and a fair opportunity to participate in and affect the democratic process. You can visit us on the web at campaignlegalcenter.org.

Apr 14, 2022
There Oughta Be a Law...
00:26:03

This week, Simone takes a closer look at the Federal Election Commission - the only government agency tasked solely with overseeing the integrity of our political campaigns – with one of the FEC’s commissioners, Shana Broussard. 

She also takes a deeper look at our current campaign finance system, and how that system has failed to keep up with modern times – namely by failing to adequately regulate online ads. She is joined by some former Senate staffers who were part of an effort to change that. 
 

Guests:

Commissioner Shana M. Broussard joined the FEC in 2008 as an attorney in the Enforcement Division of the Office of General Counsel. In 2015, she was assigned on detail as Counsel for Commissioner Steven T. Walther, advising the Commissioner during his tenure as Chair in 2017 and continuing in that role until her own appointment as Commissioner. Commissioner Broussard previously was an Attorney Advisor at the Internal Revenue Service, Office of Professional Responsibility, and Deputy Disciplinary Counsel at the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board. She also worked as a New Orleans Assistant District Attorney and was appointed in that role to the Violent Offenders Strike Force.
Read her full bio here.

 

Adav Noti coordinates all of CLC's programmatic activities, overseeing CLC's efforts to fix the campaign finance system, protect voting rights, ensure fair redistricting and promote government ethics. He has conducted dozens of constitutional cases in district courts, courts of appeals and the United States Supreme Court. Prior to joining CLC, Adav served for more than 10 years in several capacities within the Office of General Counsel of the Federal Election Commission. From 2013 to 2017, as associate general counsel for policy, Adav oversaw all legal recommendations regarding the FEC’s regulations and advisory opinions.
Read his full bio here.


Lindsey Kerr is a Senior Vice President for The Messina Group. She is a veteran of Capitol Hill, having served in the House and the Senate, including time as the chief of staff for Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN). In 2021, Lindsey served as the top Senate Democratic staff representative responsible for working with the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies to plan, oversee, and execute the Presidential Inauguration. Prior to that, she worked in the House of Representatives as senior counsel to Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN). Lindsey started her career on Capitol Hill as a fellow with the American Political Science Association. She holds bachelor’s, master’s, and juris doctorate degrees from Georgia State University in Atlanta.
See her full bio here.

Truman Anderson is former chief-of-staff to the late U.S. Senator John S. McCain III of Arizona and is now a consultant to the McCain Papers Project at Arizona State University. He holds a doctorate in History from the University of Chicago, was a lecturer at the London School of Economics in International History, and served for many years as the Executive Director of the Stuart Family Foundation in Lake Forest, Illinois. He is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps.

 

Links for Part One:

About the FEC (Federal Election Commission)

Let’s Celebrate the FEC’s 47th Birthday By Strengthening the Agency’s Enforcement Abilities” (Campaign Legal Center)

Democrats’ Improbable New F.E.C. Strategy: More Deadlock Than Ever” (New York Times)
 

Links for Part Two:

Disclosure Rules for Digital Political Spending (Campaign Legal Center)

FEC Symposium Draws Attention to Online Advertisement Disclosure Loopholes” (Campaign Legal Center)

What You Need to Know About the Honest Ads Act” (NPR)

Lawmakers Seek to Curb Foreign Influence by Closing Online Political Ad Loopholes" (OpenSecrets.org)

 

About CLC

Democracy Decoded is a production of Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization which advances democracy through law at the federal, state and local levels, fighting for every American’s right to responsive government and a fair opportunity to participate in and affect the democratic process. You can visit us on the web at campaignlegalcenter.org.

Apr 07, 2022
Dark Money Trickles Down
00:25:16

This week, Simone is joined by two CLC experts, Erin Chlopak and Brendan Fischer, as well as attorney Peter Earle and “BadAss Grandmas” Ellen Chaffee and Dina Butcher. These guests help explain two key instances in which big money spending impacted local communities. Importantly, they also explain how every day citizens can make their voices heard.

Campaign finance can sometimes seem like something far removed from our everyday lives, maybe something that only matters in Washington. But there’s a lot going on at the state and local levels, too, and there’s a lot that everyday citizens can do to influence things and ensure their community’s voices are heard.
 

Guests:

Dr. Ellen Chaffee is a consultant to university governing boards after a long career in higher education research and administration. This included two university presidencies, presiding over two national professional associations, and serving on boards of directors. After decades of political independence, she agreed to be a running mate to a gubernatorial candidate, which taught her "too much" about how the current political system works and how unsuited she is for that arena. Her alter ego, BadAss Grandma for Democracy, works to improve America's flawed democracy, which is a root cause of most social problems.

Dina Butcher’s grandson’s friend dubbed her BadAss after seeing her picture on a brochure promoting an initiated measure to amend the ND Constitution regarding having an ethics commission and requiring transparency in political influence on elections. This 2018 campaign led to many of her fellow Republicans questioning her loyalty. As a first generation American, born to German-Jewish refugees who fled Germany in 1939, she feels she needs to speak up against the militant right infiltration of the Republican party. Since she tended a Goldwater campaign headquarters “trailer” in King George County, Virginia with a pause while her husband served in the FBI, she has been a Republican activist, run for elective office in 1996 and served in three Republican administrations. This graduate of Skidmore College with teaching credentials earned at Minot State College, says her daughters say “she has lost her filters and gained her voice” in this her ninth decade.

Erin Chlopak leads CLC’s work to promote and defend strong campaign finance laws and ensure that existing laws are enforced. Through litigation, advocacy and public education, Erin works with CLC’s campaign finance team to make our political system more transparent and accountable, and to protect the right of every American to participate in the democratic process.
Read her full bio here.

Peter Earle was born in Mexico City on June 22,1950, and emigrated to the United States in 1955.  He graduated from the Chicago-Kent College of Law with High Honors in 1988. As an attorney, Mr. Earle has been selected for an AV Preeminent rating by Martindale-Hubbell each year for the last 30 years. Mr. Earle has also successfully litigated numerous individual lead poisoning cases resulting in the expansion of the risk contribution doctrine in cases where the plaintiff is unable to identify the manufacturer of the product that actually caused the injury. Thomas v. Mallett, 701 N.W.2d 523 (WI 2005); Gibson v. American Cyanamid, 760 F.3d 600 (7th Cir. 7/14/14). He is widely regarded as an aggressive bilingual lawyer dedicated to enforcing the rights of working people and holding accountable those who abuse authority.

Brendan Fischer currently serves as Deputy Executive Director at Documented, having served as Director, Federal Reform at CLC from 2016-2022. He has expertise in campaign finance, government ethics, lobbying and political transparency issues, and is a frequent commentator for national news publications. He also has spoken at conferences and events nationwide on money-in-politics issues. Before CLC, Brendan was General Counsel with the Center for Media and Democracy, where he led the watchdog group’s legal research and advocacy efforts.

 

Links for Part One:

Bad Ass Grandmas Say Alaskans Should Vote for More Transparency in Elections” (Campaign Legal Center)

How Our Government Put Money and Oil Before the People of North Dakota” (Campaign Legal Center)

Ballot Initiative in North Dakota Aims to Increase Transparency” (Campaign Legal Center)

“Badass Grandmas” on Facebook

“North Dakotans for Public Integrity” on Facebook

About the North Dakota Ethics Commission   
 

Links for Part Two:

Secret Money Puts Our Health and Safety at Risk” (Campaign Legal Center)

Senate Must Act to Bring Dark Money to Light” by Peter Earle (Daily Kos)

"Poisoned by their homes: how the US is failing children exposed to lead” (The Guardian)

Lead-Safe Wisconsin

 

About CLC:

Democracy Decoded is a production of Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization which advances democracy through law at the federal, state and local levels, fighting for every American’s right to responsive government and a fair opportunity to participate in and affect the democratic process. You can visit us on the web at campaignlegalcenter.org.

Mar 31, 2022
How Did We Get Here?
00:15:23

Joined by Sheila Krumholz, Executive Director of OpenSecrets, and Norman Ornstein, chair of the Board of Campaign Legal Center, host Simone Leeper looks back on the history of campaign finance law in the United States.

As they trace historical events from the Watergate scandal to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision and beyond, Simone and her expert guests explore the scandals, legislation and judicial decisions that have helped shape the current system and the root causes of the ever-growing cost of our elections.

 

Guests:

Sheila Krumholz is the executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan watchdog group that tracks money in politics on its website, OpenSecrets.org. Krumholz became Executive Director in 2006, prior to which she was CRP’s research director for eight years, supervising data analysis for CRP’s website, OpenSecrets.org, and for CRP’s partners and clients in the media, academia and elsewhere. Krumholz has testified before Congress and the Federal Election Commission on issues related to government transparency and is cited frequently in prominent national media outlets. She regularly makes presentations to scholars, government officials, NGOs that conduct research and advocacy, meetings of professional news organizations, and trains reporters on CRP’s data tools and resources. Currently, Krumholz serves on the board of the Institute for Nonprofit News. She has a degree in international relations and political science from the University of Minnesota.
Learn more about OpenSecrets, the nation's premier research group tracking money in U.S. politics, here.

 

Norman J. Ornstein, CLC's Board Chair, is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research. He is co-host of AEI’s Election Watch series, is a contributing editor and columnist for National Journal and The Atlantic, and a BBC News election analyst. His campaign finance working group of scholars and practitioners helped shape the major law, known as McCain/Feingold, that reformed the campaign financing system.
View his full bio here.

 

Links:
 

Money-in-Politics Timeline (OpenSecrets.org)

"The Tillman Act: 34 Stat. 864 (1907)" by Paweł Laider and Maciej Turek (Basic Documents in Federal Campaign Finance Law)

Mission and history (The Federal Election Commission)

﷟HYPERLINK "https://www.fec.gov/about/mission-and-history/"Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) (The Federal Election Commission)

“Anniversary of U.S. v. Nixon Shows Why We Should Restructure the FEC” (Campaign Legal Center)

Buckley v. Valeo (Oyez.org)

Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (Oyez.org)

“How Does the Citizens United Decision Still Affect Us in 2022?” (Campaign Legal Center)

McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission (Oyez.org)

 

About CLC:

Democracy Decoded is a production of Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization which advances democracy through law at the federal, state and local levels, fighting for every American’s right to responsive government and a fair opportunity to participate in and affect the democratic process. You can visit us on the web at campaignlegalcenter.org.

Mar 24, 2022
Cracks in the System
00:18:25

Joined by Trevor Potter, president of Campaign Legal Center and a Republican Former Chairman of the Federal Election Commission, host Simone Leeper breaks down the basics of America’s campaign finance system. At the root of their discussion is an examination of how illegal coordinated campaign spending occurs, and why it has not been properly addressed.  

Trevor speaks about his appearances on the Colbert Report and discusses what has changed (or not changed) in campaign finance over the past ten years. He also reveals his fears that the current lack of transparency and outsized spending by special interests on our elections is leading to the disillusionment of American voters who feel they're not being heard - that their voices don't matter because somebody with a lot of money is able to simply buy the results they want.

 

Host and Guest:

Simone Leeper litigates a wide range of redistricting-related cases at CLC, challenging gerrymanders and advocating for election systems that guarantee all voters an equal opportunity to influence our democracy. Prior to arriving at CLC, Simone was a law clerk in the office of Senator Ed Markey and at the Library of Congress, Office of General Counsel. She received her J.D. cum laude from Georgetown University Law Center in 2019 and a bachelor’s degree in political science from Columbia University in 2016.

Trevor Potter is the founder and President of Campaign Legal Center. He is a former Chairman of the Federal Election Commission, and was General Counsel to John McCain’s 2000 and 2008 presidential campaigns, and an adviser to the drafters of the McCain-Feingold law. To many, he is perhaps best known for his recurring appearances on The Colbert Report as the lawyer for Stephen Colbert’s super PAC, Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow, during the 2012 election, a program that won a Peabody Award for excellence in reporting on money in politics.

View his full bio here.

 

Colbert Episodes:

Season 7, Episode 43: Colbert PAC – Trevor Potter

Season 7, Episode 52: Colbert Super PAC – Trevor Potter

Season 7, Episode 124: Colbert Super PAC – Trevor Potter & Stephen’s Shell Corporation

Comedy Central’s “Colbert Super PAC”
©2022 Comedy Partners. All Rights Reserved. CBS, all related titles, characters, and logos are trademarks owned by Viacom International Inc.

 

Links:

About the FEC (Federal Election Commission)

Cost of Election statistics (OpenSecrets.org)

“PACs, Super PACs & Dark Money Groups: What's the Difference?" (Campaign Legal Center)

“How Does the Citizens United Decision Still Affect Us in 2022?" (Campaign Legal Center)

“Ten Years After Potter’s Interview on Colbert’s Show, Illegal Coordination Still Pervades” (Campaign Legal Center)

 

About CLC:

Democracy Decoded is a production of Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization which advances democracy through law at the federal, state and local levels, fighting for every American’s right to responsive government and a fair opportunity to participate in and affect the democratic process. You can visit us on the web at campaignlegalcenter.org.

Mar 17, 2022
Introducing: Democracy Decoded
00:01:30
Why does American Democracy look the way it does today and how can we make it more responsive to the people it was formed to serve? Democracy Decoded, a podcast by Campaign Legal Center, examines our government and discusses innovative ideas that could lead to a stronger, more transparent, accountable and inclusive democracy. Host Simone Leeper speaks with experts from across the political spectrum and takes a deep dive into the forces fueling our elections, not just in our nation’s capital but at all levels of government.
Feb 16, 2022