Progressive radio host Thom Hartmann—author of "Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human RIghts"—joins Democracy Nerd to discuss how corporations have claimed 'human rights' under the U.S. Constitution along with the political dangers posed by corporate personhood.
Exporting Oregon-Style Democracy
In this episode, Jefferson Smith talks with Linn Davis from Healthy Democracy. Linn oversees the Citizens Initiative Review, in which Oregon voters deliberate a ballot initiative and provide a statement for the voters' pamphlet. The use of citizens' juries to weigh in on public policy has been exported to other states and other countries, including Switzerland where Linn Davis visited in the Fall of 2019.
In a representative democracy, voters should be expected to choose their representatives. However, the practice of partisan gerrymandering allows politicians to choose their voters. The practice of gerrymandering determines whether district lines are drawn that either strengthen or dilute the voices of targeted voters. This episode of Democracy Nerd examines efforts to reform partisan gerrymandering. Guests include Katie Fahey, who helped lead a ballot initiative to ban partisan gerrymandering in the state of Michigan. We will also be speaking to Patrick Rodenbush about the National Democratic Redistricting Committee's efforts to pass fair maps in states with gerrymandered maps resulting in continued Republican control despite the actual vote outcome.
Corruption & Money in National Politics
For many Americans, our electoral system can be described as "corrupt" and "undemocratic." How did the vision of a democratic republic as imagined by the Framers of the Constitution become "the best democracy money can by?" This episode of Democracy Nerd traces that evolution, looking at the past four decades of Supreme Court cases allowing unfettered "dark money" to influence national politics, the social and cultural impact of our current electoral system, and efforts currently undertaken by Congress to address the corrupting influence of money in politics. Guests include Harvard Law professor Lawrence Lessig, Congressman John Sarbanes, and Norman Williams, Dean of the Center of Constitutional Government at Willamette University.
Oregon Campaign Finance
During the 2019 legislative session, Oregon lawmakers considered passing campaign finance reform that would place limits on campaign spending for state elections. With a Democratic super-majority, passing spending limits should be an easy task. However, past efforts to pass campaign finance reform were deemed a violation of the free speech clause in Oregon's state constitution. To pass campaign finance reform, Oregon lawmakers had to consider other options to bypass the free speech arguments that prevented past reform efforts. Campaign finance reform advocates wondered if there's even enough 'fire in the belly' to place meaningful spending limits on state elections. Similar problems are found in the state of New York, in which longtime calls by Democrats to extend New York City's system of publicly funded elections appear to run into a lack of political willpower despite a similar Democratic super-majority in the state legislature.Host Jefferson Smith speaks with elected officials and campaign finance reform advocates in both states, including Kate Titus from Common Cause Oregon, former Oregon Appellate Court Judge David Schuman, Oregon State Rep. Dan Rayfield, Oregon State Senator Jeff Golden, Patrick Starnes, Jason Kafoury, and Alex Carmada from Reinvent Albany.
Free speech is a treasure right in the United States. Political campaigns, however, are very expensive. Highest-funded candidates typically win on Election Day, America's political-funding systems benefits wealthy donors and corporations, while shutting out ordinary Americans. The Pacific Northwest has become an epicenter for campaign finance reform, with Seattle and Portland passing various measures to reduce the impact of money on local elections. Will these limits help even the playing field?Host Jefferson Smith speaks to key individuals that have helped pass finance reform in the two cities, including Dan Meek, Jason Kafoury, Kristin Eberhard, Liz Dupee, Portland Commissioner Amanda Fritz, Juan Carlos, and Multnomah County Commissioner Sharon Meieran.