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Investing in Democracy: Clean Elections and Instant Runoff Voting (IRV)

    Democracy is a delicate thing. It requires constant vigilance, maintenance, and improvement. John Marty’s 23-year career in the senate is, perhaps best defined by his nationally-recognized efforts to improve democracy in Minnesota, opening up the political process, taking on the corporate powers and the special interest money, and fighting conflict of interest.

    Government Ethics. John Marty authored Minnesota's landmark law banning all gifts from lobbyists and interest groups to public officials. He has worked to eliminate conflicts of interest from our political process. Perhaps that is why he has been called the "Conscience of the Legislature."

    Clean Government. For years, John has fought for legislation to close the “Revolving Door” between public office and lobbying. As your Senator, he will continue to work for this vital legislation that would prohibit legislators, constitutional officers and state agency heads from lobbying their former colleagues for two years after leaving office.

    Instant Runoff Voting (IRV)/Ranked Choice Voting. John Marty has authored IRV legislation in Minnesota as an important step to offering Minnesotans a chance to support the candidates of their choice, whatever the party. Voters should have an opportunity to register their first preference, without concern for a “wasted vote” or unintentionally becoming a “spoiler” for a second preference. IRV is picking up steam all over Minnesota and the country. It’s smart. And it’s good for democracy.

    Open Government. John has been the strongest advocate in the legislature for openness in government. He believes the public business ought to be conducted in the public eye. He has been working to open up conference committee negotiations as well as negotiations between legislative leaders and the governor. John will continue to keep the doors open for this important public business.

    The Public’s Right to Know. John has worked to close loopholes in Minnesota’s financial disclosure laws covering public officials and lobbyists. For example, under current law, any lobbyist or interest group could pay a legislator an unlimited amount of money for "consulting" and there is no way that the public could even be aware of the financial relationship! Likewise, about 60% of lobbyist campaign contributions are never disclosed. This legislation would expose these transactions so that the public is aware of the conflict of interest. John will work in the Senate to close these disturbing loopholes.

    No special interest money. There is a critical factor that separates John Marty from politics as usual: special interest money. John Marty does not accept any PAC or Lobbyist contributions. Money has infiltrated our political system, and one’s ability to speak truth to power is compromised when that power bankrolls campaigns. Powerful interest groups regularly make generous financial contributions – often to both Republican and DFL legislative caucuses and candidates. Those contributions buy access and goodwill, which leads to favorable treatment. Special treatment doesn't necessarily mean support of the donor's issue; sometimes it is something as subtle as toning down criticism of it. No matter how indirect the benefit, selling political favors to the highest bidder is wrong.

    If you take contributions from the insurance industry or the pharmaceutical lobby, it becomes much more difficult to fully challenge them. Not accepting special interest money is one reason John has been able to consistently stand up to those powerful interests in pushing for real health reform in Minnesota, through his leadership with the single-payer Minnesota Health Plan. This is the type of leadership we need in the Senate. John Marty will always serve the public interest, not the special interests.

    "Clean Money" Campaign Finance Reform. Campaign finance reform may not be the most glamorous issue, but it is critically important.  It's about the future of our democracy, and John Marty has led the fight to take special interest money out of politics. John is working for "Clean Money" comprehensive campaign finance reform, which is more urgent than ever in light of the recent, misguided Citizens United US Supreme Court case.* This legislation would remove all special interest money from the political process while retaining Minnesota’s almost universal participation of candidates in Minnesota's public financing system. The proposal is designed in a manner that fits within the framework that the Supreme Court spelled out in its 1976 Buckley v. Valeo case.

    Among the provisions of the Clean Money campaign finance reform legislation are:

    • Provide significant public financing for campaigns that comply with the contribution and spending limits (public funding for 65% of the limit) with small, $100 or less contributions from individuals allowed, and the PCR program doubled to $100/person.

    • Provide public financing to those campaigns to match additional spending by opponents and to match independent expenditures against them.

    • Ban PAC contributions.

    • Ban Lobbyist contributions.

    • Ban all large contributions.

    In addition to effectively removing all corporate and special interest money from politics, this legislation will free politicians from the disturbing practice of "dialing for dollars" where candidates beg lobbyists and powerful interests for money, becoming indebted to them. Candidates will be freed up to spend time with constituents rather than wealthy donors.

    The recent Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United moves us ever closer to government of, by, and for the corporations. Special interest money has gained an ever more powerful grip on our elections and our political process, and this ruling will make the problem even worse. Our nation is, according to the words of Abraham Lincoln, to be a government of the people, by the people, for the people. John Marty will keep working to take back our democracy from corporate money and big interests.

    *Note the Citizens United US Supreme Court Ruling: For more than two decades, John has been working to take all of the special interest money, not just corporate money, out of politics. The Citizens United ruling is, like Plessy v. Ferguson ("separate but equal"), one of the most tragic decisions for those who care about democracy, in all of US History. Like Plessy, Citizens United will have to be overturned, or we need a constitutional amendment to do so.

    Justice Stevens got it right in his dissent: "In the context of election to public office, the distinction between corporate and human speakers is significant…Our lawmakers have a compelling constitutional basis, if not also a democratic duty, to take measures designed to guard against the potentially deleterious effects of corporate spending in local and national races." Corporations are not people, and they have been given rights that have allowed them to trample on the rights of people.

    Senator Marty has a long record of courageous and outspoken leadership on issues facing Minnesota. Perhaps the best way to illustrate his vision and leadership is to use his own words. Click on the links below to see John's columns on some key issues facing Minnesota.