Money in Politics
The imbalance of power between advocates for social change and the powerful wealthy individuals and corporations opposing their agendas has always created significant challenges for Foundation grantees trying to affect the public policies impacting their communities. With Citizens United and other negative court decisions, vast sums of money are now flowing into federal, state and local campaigns to elect policy makers and judges. Beyond elections, the influence of well-funded lobbyists at the state and federal level often represents another barrier to advancing social justice. However, organizations and individuals across identities, geographies and political ideologies are pushing back and advocating for a future where everyone has an equal voice in the political process.
Given the impact of this system on the environmental and human rights issues that Overbrook cares about, the Foundation has launched an initiative to support efforts to reform the corrosive role of money in our democracy and to promote a future where government is representative of and responsive to the needs of communities. Overbrook particularly seeks to support projects that are employing innovative strategies to engage the broader public on these issues, focusing on promoting solutions and building a larger and more diverse grassroots base of people supporting a movement for reform. Moving forward, the Foundation expects to prioritize funding for projects working at the intersection of money in politics reform and other areas of focus for Overbrook, including environmental, racial and gender justice.
Below are the Foundation’s 2016 grantees in this portfolio.
General Operating Support for Work on Money in Politics - $100,000 (second 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.
Inclusive Democracy Partnership - $100,000 (first payment of a two-year grant)
The purpose of the Inclusive Democracy Partnership is to more closely align the racial justice movement and the democracy reform field in ways that advance the people’s power to achieve political, gender, economic, and racial equity. An important goal of this work is to broaden the democracy reform field to include and center the leadership of organizations advancing campaigns in communities of color and possessing the capacities and membership bases needed to create a more inclusive field. The Inclusive Democracy Partnership is designed to convene and support a cohort of state-based groups that will integrate money in politics and affirmative voting reforms into their work to advance an economic and racial justice agenda and strategy to build political power.
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 $30,000 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 use to influence museums around the nation.
Collaborative Communications Initiative - $75,000 (first payment of a two-year grant)
Piper Fund established the Collaborative Communications Initiative (CCI), housed at ReThink Media to enhance the communications capacity and effectiveness of the Money in Politics and fair courts sector. The Collaborative Communications Initiative has become an integral part of the field by earning trust across the sector, bringing groups together as a neutral convener, inspiring greater cohesion to message, increasing coordination among the sector, providing professional tools and resources, and delivering high quality media skills training. This approach has fostered a more collaborative and impactful field that speaks with a unified voice to elevate the import of Money in Politics and fair courts in the minds of the American public, and to energize a broader reform movement.
New Florida Majority - Education Fund – Public Campaign Finance Initiative in Miami Dade County - $25,000
Piper Fund recognizes that state and municipal campaigns act as strategic footholds in the Money in Politics movement that can energize the public and demonstrate how all Americans can achieve an equal voice in shaping our country. Piper Fund has identified a number of priority areas for policy advancements in 2016; chief among them is an opportunity to develop a small donor matching program for county campaigns and strict contribution limits for county elections in Miami-Dade, Florida. Specifically, this project will conduct public education efforts and outreach to communities of color in Miami-Dade County around the importance of developing a strong public financing program. These funds will be regranted to New Florida Majority, which has been identified as the ideal organization to lead the coalition toward advancing these reforms while ensuring that a racial justice lens is applied to the policy reforms that are sought.
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.
Inserting Money in Politics into a One Fair Wage Campaign - $10,000
In Washington DC, the Restaurant Opportunities Center of DC (ROC) is co-leading a campaign to achieve One Fair Wage -- a $15 minimum wage and elimination of the separate, lower wage for tipped workers, currently just $2.77 per hour. Because of the current political landscape in DC, this presents the opportunity not only to mobilize low-wage workers around a ballot measure or City Council legislation that would raise their wages, but also to educate and mobilize them around the need for campaign finance reform in the District. Thus, ROC is partnering with Demos to conduct education and training for ROC-DC worker leaders to examine the role of big money and how it influences politicians to not support policies that are good for business and for workers, such as for tipped employees to be included in minimum-wage increases.
Books Related to Money in Politics - $35,000 (third payment of a three-year grant)
The New Press is a not-for-profit publishing house operated editorially in the public interest and committed to publishing works of educational, cultural, and community value that, despite their intellectual merits, may be deemed insufficiently profitable by commercial publishers. The Press publishes well-written, coherently-argued books that wage “hearts and minds” campaigns, especially impactful in the field of human rights. Books are developed with an eye to their potential impact on policy and other public debates, their ability to play a communications role for the nonprofit sector, and their potential role as tools for educators, activists, and policymakers. Over the next three years, The New Press will continue its important work at the nexus of media, arts and human rights, in particular publishing books that address issues of money in politics.
On the Media - $40,000
Each week, On the Media co-hosts Brooke Gladstone and Bob Garfield explore the economic, political, and cultural contexts of the information the public receives about the world – whether it be from the mainstream media, the internet, social networks, advertisements, or elected officials. By doing so, the show provides audiences with the critical and analytic tools they need to become more discerning news consumers and demand greater transparency from powerful interests. Illuminating the role of money in politics – and how politicians and political parties communicate with the public – has been a consistent focus of On the Media over the years.