Hello Reddit! I’m Josh Silver, the executive director of Represent.Us. We’re organizing progressives and conservatives to pass anti-corruption laws at the state and local level using the ballot initiative process.

On election night, our members supported 13 successful democracy reform efforts across the country, including a historic statewide Anti-Corruption Act in South Dakota. The South Dakota Anti-Corruption Act is the most comprehensive campaign finance and ethics overhaul ever passed at the ballot. It stops secret, unlimited gifts from lobbyists to politicians, creates a citizen-funding program for candidates who agree not to take big, out-of-state donations, and toughens ethics law enforcement (crazily enough, bribing a state lawmaker wasn't even classified a felony in South Dakota before; now it is).

Our plan is to emulate the success of marriage equality and marijuana legalization advocates and take the fight against political corruption local. I’ll be answering questions from 12pm-2pm (ET) — ask me anything about money in politics and what’s next for the anti-corruption movement!

Comments: 57 • Responses: 9  • Date: 

mmpartee39 karma

Our country has become so divided and polarized. So many people just want to attack or blame the other side, not realizing that both Rs and Ds use exactly the same techniques to distract and anger each other, avoiding any mention that it's the corrupting effects of money in the system that is at the root of all problems, and that nothing gets fixed until that aspect gets fixed. What materials (like YouTube explainer videos) or techniques do you recommend to help people understand that their partisan preferences are getting in the way of seeing the bigger picture? How can we help people understand that it's not the "evilness" of the other side that is the issue, but rather the system that rewards these conflicts that is the problem?

RepUs_Josh43 karma

I think one of the most important things is to approach the conversation about corruption with a willingness to call out your own “side.” Liberals tend to get angry about money in politics when it’s coming from conservatives, and conservatives get mad about liberal spending. But everybody is mad about the same thing – big money and special interests controlling our political system. So just saying, “You’re right, both sides need to stop taking money" can make a huge difference.

In terms of resources, this TED talk is a great place to start! https://www.ted.com/talks/jonathan_haidt_on_the_moral_mind

gusmoreno1514 karma

How will you make it public when you find out about corruption? Is your team also in charge of prosecuting this corrupt politicians or lobbyists??

RepUs_Josh20 karma

We rely on journalists and whistleblowers to expose corruption. Some great organizations doing this work are Center for Public Integrity and ProPublica, and there are plenty of local investigative journalists exposing city and state corruption. But there’s more we can do. We need more anti-corruption watchdog organizations in cities and states across the country. Playing that role is something Represent.Us hopes to do in the future.

prinsesstarta12 karma

What are some things in which redditors can do to help fight corruption?

RepUs_Josh17 karma

Partially copy/pasting from an answer to a similar question here:

Getting involved at the grassroots level is one of the most impactful things you can do. If you want to pass a resolution or ballot initiative where you live, start by going to http://volunteer.represent.us/ and sign up to volunteer now.

Our organizers will reach out and ask you to join a conference call, where we’ll give you the tools necessary to get to work. It all starts by passing state and local laws and resolutions that end political corruption, create transparency, and fix our broken voting system (pushing for ranked choice voting and gerrymandering reforms are going to be another big area of focus in the coming years)

hillcharlotte9 karma

Are you planning on working on other systemic reforms like gerrymandering? Given Republican dominance in state legislatures, this seems like a top priority.

RepUs_Josh20 karma

Yes, with momentum from our wins this year, we plan expand our issue set beyond 1) stopping political bribery and 2) ending secret money to also 3) fixing our broken elections. And that means both tackling gerrymandering by creating independent redistricting commissions and also overhauling voting systems so that independents can run and win office without being brandished a “spoiler.” This is a crucial addition to our policy agenda, because we can do all three reforms through state and local ballot initiatives and redraw the political map of America, city by city and state by state. These policies create more choices for voters, make elections more civil, and reduce the power of the two major parties.

BearOnARoll8 karma

Why do you feel i-1464 in Washington State failed and how can we change it to get it passed?

RepUs_Josh16 karma

It failed for a few reasons, but the biggest was very confusing ballot language (written by the state attorney general) that was nearly impossible for the typical voter to understand. We even went to court to try to clarify the language.

Here's what voters ultimately read at the ballot box: "Initiative Measure Number 1464 concerns campaign finance laws and lobbyists. This measure would create a campaign finance system; allow residents to direct state funds to candidates; repeal the non-resident sales-tax exemption; restrict lobbying employment by certain former public employees; and add enforcement requirements.”

As a result, 100,000 people who voted on other initiatives chose not to vote on 1464 at all. That's a ton of confused voters. Polling showed that when we reached voters with our message, we convinced them to vote yes – but to reach all of them would have cost millions, and we simply didn’t have those kinds of resources.have cost millions, and we simply didn’t have those kinds of resources.

mmpartee4 karma

It sounds like the State Attorney General is part of the problem that you mentioned that is going to get worse as Represent.Us gains momentum -- that the powers that be that have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo, will actively work to thwart Represent.us' mission.

RepUs_Josh9 karma

It’s true that people in power will inevitably oppose what we’re trying to do, but we’ve beat tough odds before. In South Dakota, we faced $600K in opposition spending from the Koch network and had to repeatedly combat half-truths and outright lies about our initiative in TV and radio ads. But our strong ballot language in that state helped voters understand what IM-22 would really do: stop secret unlimited lobbyist gifts, empower voters by changing how elections are funded, make political spending transparent, and ramp up ethics enforcement.

We’re also more set up for success now than we’ve ever been. We’re a young organization, but we’ve made huge strides in building up our grassroots organizing operation:

Represent.Us members made almost 21,000 phone calls urging people to support democracy initiatives this election cycle. The Vancouver (Washington state) chapter alone made over 3,500 calls in support of Initiative 1464 to ensure voters a much stronger voice in government.

At the group’s local chapters, volunteers showed up for the nitty-gritty political organizing work required: attending community meetings across San Francisco in support of Proposition T (lobbying reform); holding educational forums in two Illinois counties to inform voters about Boone County Resolution 16-18 and McHenry County Resolution 5234 (anti-corruption resolutions); and in South Dakota even planning a GOTV concert called “Rock the Reform” that featured local musicians and artists supporting Initiated Measure 22, a state anti-corruption measure.

You can read more about that here: http://billmoyers.com/story/now-good-news/

BearOnARoll4 karma

Do you feel that the sales tax and state funds portion of the bill gave opponents something to attack? Do you feel it would be best left off of the next attempt?

That stated - I believe it was the best part of the initiative, but I worry it may have contributed to the complexity of the bill and freaked out some voters at the expense of getting the anti-corruption parts passed.

RepUs_Josh11 karma

Polling data showed that once we had a chance to explain to voters what the provisions of I-1464 were, they strongly supported all the provisions, including citizen-funded elections. So we feel confident that the real problem was the confusing ballot language. People simply didn’t know what they were voting on.

arik7173 karma

As an incoming college freshman, what can I and other young people do to be effective in the fight against systemic corruption?

RepUs_Josh17 karma

Good question! Students and young adults have been driving this movement. In San Francisco, a 25-year-old named Morgan led the charge to put Proposition T on the ballot, which bans lobbyist gifts and donations – and it just won with 87% of the vote, which is the biggest margin of victory in San Francisco since 1993.

If you want to pass a resolution or ballot initiative where you live, start by going to http://volunteer.represent.us/ and sign up to volunteer now.Our organizers will reach out and ask you to join a conference call, where we’ll give you the tools necessary to get to work. It all starts by passing state and local laws and resolutions that end political corruption, create transparency, and fix our broken voting system (pushing for ranked choice voting and gerrymandering reforms are going to be another big area of focus in the coming years)

joshuaglynn0 karma

Half the country just used their vote to disrupt the establishment at the federal level, and it looks like it might just work. Why focus on states? Let's drain the swamp instead.

RepUs_Josh29 karma

Trump has promised to “drain the swamp” in his first 100 days of office with a series of policies that crack down on DC corruption. We think that’s great – it’s about time a president made fighting corruption one of their top issues.

Unfortunately, we’ve seen too many times in the past that Congress is unwilling to go along with reform, because the current system is what got them elected in the first place. That’s why we are focusing on state-based reforms: because we don’t have to wait for politicians to act. We can go around them and pass comprehensive laws ourselves that stop political bribery, end secret money, and fix our broken elections.

That’s what voters just did this election when they passed the South Dakota Government Accountability and Anti-Corruption Act, which finally makes it illegal for lobbyists to give secret, unlimited gifts to politicians, changes how elections are funded so voters have more of a voice, makes political spending transparent, and ramps up enforcement so lawbreakers get punished.