MOney in politics
For many years, the Foundation has found its grantees involved in a steep, uphill climb as they attempt to advance their advocacy and public policy agendas. The imbalance of power between social change activists, who are generally small and comparatively poorly financed, and the very powerful forces opposing their agendas has always made their success challenging. However, in January 2010 with the Citizens United v. FEC Supreme Court decision, the odds against progressive organizations successfully advocating for issues on human rights and the environment have worsened. Vast sums of money are now flowing into federal, state and local level campaigns to elect policy makers and judges. Beyond elections, the undue influence of well-funded lobbyists at the state and federal level represents another barrier to advancing progressive agendas through the legislative process and within the executive branches of government.
Given this corruption in the American political system and its impact on the issues we care about, the Foundation has launched an initiative to support a movement to reform the corrosive role of money in our democracy and enable a government that is responsive to the needs of all the people living in this country. The Foundation also supports efforts to shine a light on this critical issue through projects funded in its media program.
Below are the Foundation’s 2015 grantees in this portfolio.
General Operating Support for Work on Money in Politics- $100,000 (first payment of a two-year grant)
The Brennan Center for Justice is a nonpartisan law and policy institute that seeks to improve our systems of democracy and justice. Since 2010, Citizens United has unleashed a flood of money in American elections, further tilting the political terrain away from ordinary citizens – and toward deep pocketed special interests. The Brennan Center is working to mitigate the damage of Citizens United and related cases by focusing on immediate strategies for boosting the voices of voters. At the same time, to achieve victory over the next decade in the Supreme Court and overturn Citizens United, the Brennan Center is charting a path for achieving a fundamental transformation of the constitutional framework for money in politics.
Movement Building with the New American Dēmos: To Get Big Money Out of Politics and Enshrine the Freedom to Vote - $75,000
Throughout all of its work, Dēmos challenges our country to live up to its potential as a democracy that truly empowers people of all backgrounds, so that all Americans have an equal say in setting the policies that shape opportunity and provide for our common future. A key part of this agenda is reducing the undue influence of big money on politics and policy in the U.S. The field recognized as advancing this agenda has historically been predominantly white, often failing to reach the communities of color whose concerns are disproportionately marginalized by large political donors. To address this, Dēmos is working to expand and re-center the field. Dēmos is providing resources and leadership opportunities to organizations with membership bases in communities of color with the goal of supporting them to expand their advocacy campaigns and member-education programs related to money in politics reforms. In doing so, Dēmos hopes to break down silos in the field, connect this field to other movements, and support the infrastructure needed to generate a groundswell of public support for policies and reforms that would advance racial equity and fulfill the promise of a multiracial democracy.
General Operating Support - $50,000
Free Speech For People works to renew our democracy and our United States Constitution for we the people, not big money and corporate interests. It catalyzes and helps lead the movement to amend the U.S. Constitution to overturn the Supreme Court’s rulings in Citizens United v. FEC and Buckley v. Valeo, and the doctrines underlying those rulings. It engages in legal advocacy to advance a new jurisprudence on money in politics and to confront the misuse of the U.S. Constitution to claim corporate exemptions from our laws. It develops and advocates for model laws and other tools to challenge big money in politics and to make corporations responsible and accountable to the public.
The Natural History Museum - $20,000 (With an additional $20,000 awarded by the Environment Program)
The Natural History Museum is a project of Not an Alternative, a Brooklyn-based nonprofit arts collective that brings together tools from art, design, and political organizing, to affect popular understanding of events, institutions, and history. Through collaborations with scientists, artists, writers, environmentalists, and others, The Natural History Museum Project aims to use a creative new format in order to educate, direct public opinion, and inspire people to take action on climate change. The project has created a modern day natural history museum as a way of bringing to light the plight of climate change and highlight the funding role that climate deniers, like the Koch brothers, use to influence museums around the nation.
Collaborative Communications Initiative - $75,000 (second payment of a two-year grant)
Piper Fund established the Collaborative Communications Initiative (CCI), housed at ReThink Media, to build the communications capacity of the money in politics and fair courts movements and to enable these sectors to speak with a more unified and hard-hitting voice. As such, CCI serves as a strategic “game changer” in the democracy reform movements. Its unique ability not only to unite the movement with cohesive and powerful messaging, but also to develop and disseminate tools and training for diverse advocates and communities, provides the field with the concrete skills to interest and influence a larger, more diverse swath of U.S. citizens in pushing back against the corrosive nature of money in politics.
Making Corporations Accountable and Transparent in Campaign Spending - $50,000
Public Citizen has been actively involved in getting money out of politics for decades with an “all of the above” strategy that involves cutting-edge research, litigation, and legislative advocacy. In the post Citizens United era, Public Citizen has become widely recognized for its leadership role in the fight for political spending disclosure, particularly by corporate entities. To tackle this issue, Public Citizen has convened the Corporate Reform Coalition with over 85 participating organizations and businesses that are challenging undisclosed corporate political spending at the national and state levels. They are pushing for shareholder resolutions demanding greater transparency in political spending and lobbying at 10 major publicly traded corporations, for stronger laws regulating disclosure of political spending in several states, and for federal level action via an executive order and an SEC rule making to require stronger disclosure for corporate entities.
General Operating Support - $75,000 (first payment of a two-year grant)
Represent.Us Education Fund (RUEF) is a national, nonpartisan, nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization challenging the undue influence of well-financed special interests over American politics and government. RUEF supports public education, research, and online and traditional grassroots organizing to advance sweeping democracy reforms. RUEF is building a national trans-partisan grassroots movement to generate unprecedented support for more comprehensive reform through its Represent.Us campaign
It’s Our Time - $25,000
‘It’s Our Time’ is a network of social-movement leaders of color uniting fights against the state and fights against capital and working together for gender, economic, and ecological justice using a race-centered framework. It’s Our Time seeks to create a lasting multi‐sectoral movement focused on reforming democratic processes in the United States.