RepresentUs is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization founded in November 2012 that advocates for state and local laws based on model legislation called the American Anti-Corruption Act. It is a proposal to overhaul lobbying, transparency, and campaign finance laws. RepresentUs is headquartered in Florence, Massachusetts and is supported by a national network of volunteer-led chapters.
|Purpose||Anti-corruption reform, lobbying reform, election reform, government transparency|
RepresentUs proposes the passage of anti-corruption laws through the ballot initiative process in cities and states to avoid political gridlock at the federal level. The laws, based on model legislation called the American Anti-Corruption Act, are designed "to protect communities from corruption and build momentum for national reform." Locally initiated ballot measures allow citizens to vote on its policy proposal directly.
RepresentUs places a heavy emphasis on grassroots organizing by using a staff of organizers to help manage a national network of volunteers and volunteer-led chapters. The organization also relies on a large social media following in platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, and Reddit to draw attention to its public education and advocacy campaigns.
RepresentUs is a nonpartisan organization with a board, staff, and membership composed of liberals, conservatives, and independents. The organization does not endorse or oppose political candidates so that it maintains a nonpartisan stance.
RepresentUs Education Fund 501(c)(3) engages in public education, "movement building," and advocacy. It produces written and multimedia content for The Bulletin, an online blog chronicling campaign finance related news.
RepresentUs 501(c)(4) engages in legislative lobbying efforts to support the passage of anti-corruption laws at the municipal, state, and federal levels.
The advocacy work is supported by a national network of volunteer-led chapters. Each chapter is led by local volunteers, who organize public education and engagement activities to build support for local anti-corruption initiatives. RepresentUs has more than 40 local chapters across the United States, including chapters in Tallahassee, Florida; Rockford, Illinois; Roanoke Valley; and New Orleans.
Funding for RepresentUs comes from individual donations and grants from philanthropic foundations. It does not accept money from governments, intergovernmental organizations, political parties, or corporations so that it avoids their influence. RepresentUs lists its donors on its website.
American Anti-Corruption ActEdit
It was written by former Federal Election Commission Commissioner Trevor Potter, in consultation with Professor Lawrence Lessig and other constitutional lawyers and scholars. Its authors maintain that the legislation is fully constitutional and compatible with the Supreme Court's decision Citizens United v. FEC and subsequent federal court rulings.
Its stated goals are the following:
- "Stop political bribery, making it illegal for politicians to accept money from the special interests they regulate."
- "End secret money, making political spending public and transparent so Americans can know who's buying influence in the election process."
- "Give every voter a voice, changing how elections are funded by moving toward small-dollar, voter funded campaigns."
RepresentUs members supported 13 successful state and local Anti-Corruption Acts and Resolutions in the 2016 election:
- South Dakota Initiated Measure 22 (IM-22) — An anti-corruption initiative backed by local ballot committee South Dakotans for Integrity and supported by grassroots RepresentUs members. IM-22 is the most sweeping political reform package ever passed at the statewide ballot. The measure overhauls state campaign finance laws, bans secret, unlimited gifts from lobbyists to politicians, requires greater transparency of political money, and toughens state ethics law enforcement.
- Maine Question 5 — Establishes a ranked choice voting system for statewide elections in Maine.
- Missouri Amendment 2 — Limits individual contributions to candidates for state or judicial office to $2,600 per election and to political parties to $25,000. Prior to the passage of Amendment 2, Missouri had no limits on donations by individuals and corporations to candidates and political parties.
- Rhode Island Question 2 — Restores the state ethics commission's constitutional authority to police ethics violations by members of the General Assembly.
- Washington Initiative 735 — A statewide call to overturn Citizens United v. FEC
- California Proposition 59 — A statewide call to overturn Citizens United v. FEC
- San Francisco, California, Proposition T (Prop T) — A city proposition that bans gifts from lobbyists to elected officials and prohibits lobbyists from contributing to officials and candidates and lobbyists from bundling contributions.
- Berkeley, California, Measure X1 — Encourages candidates to limit contributions to their campaigns to no more than $50 per person and only from Berkeley residents. Measure X1 then rewards these candidates with six dollars of public financing for every one dollar they raise in small contributions from Berkeley residents.
- Howard County, Maryland, Question A — An amendment to the county charter that enables the county council to establish the Citizens Election Fund and small donor campaign finance system for county council and county executive races.
- Benton County, Oregon, Measue 2-100 — Establishes a ranked choice voting system for local elections.
- Multnomah County, Oregon, Measure 26-184 — Limits contributions from individuals and PACs to $500, limits independent spending, and requires disclosure of true original sources of principal funders of political ads.
- Boone County, Illinois, Anti-Corruption Resolution — A ballot question calling on local and federal officials to pass anti-corruption reforms based on the American Anti-Corruption Act.
- McHenry County, Illinois, Anti-Corruption Resolution — A ballot question calling on local and federal officials to pass anti-corruption reforms based on the American Anti-Corruption Act.
Other city and state Anti-Corruption Acts and ResolutionsEdit
City and state Anti-Corruption Acts are modeled after the American Anti-Corruption Act, whose provisions serve as a model for state and local law. They are initiated by local RepresentUs chapters, which receive technical and organizational support from national campaign staff. Voters in Tallahassee, Florida, and Seattle, Washington, have approved reform legislation based on the Act.
Anti-Corruption Resolutions are public mandates demonstrating support for Anti-Corruption Acts by the electorate. Anti-Corruption Resolutions have been passed in the following locales:
- Princeton, New Jersey
- Genoa, Illinois
- Massachusetts State House District 2
- Massachusetts State Senate District 19
- Ewing Township, New Jersey
- DeKalb County, Illinois
- Winnebago County, Illinois
- Roanoke, Virginia
Tallahassee, Florida, Anti-Corruption ActEdit
In 2014, voters in Tallahassee, Florida, approved a city charter amendment modeled after the AACA. The law established a city ethics commission, imposed stricter contribution limits on candidates for city office, and created a public financing system. The initiative passed with the support of a politically diverse coalition of local advocates, including the Chair of the Florida Tea Party Network, the former President of the Florida League of Women Voters, the Chairman of Florida Common Cause, and a former Democratic County Commissioner.
The new ethics laws put in place by the Tallahassee Anti-Corruption Act limit campaign contributions to city candidates to $250 per donor, provide each voter with a tax rebate of up to $25 to contribute to the candidate of their choice, enact an ethics code that includes conflict-of-interest policies, and establish an ethics board to enforce the rules.
Gil Fulbright and the Honest Gil CampaignEdit
Gil Fulbright is a satirical presidential candidate created by RepresentUs designed to bring attention to corruption. Played by actor Frank Ridley, Gil ran a fake Senate campaign in Kentucky in 2014. In 2016, the character announced a run for president of the United States.
Gil Fulbright's presidential launch video garnered over 1 million views in less than 24 hours. Fulbright went on to beat several real candidates in a 2016 presidential straw poll, and out-fundraised Democratic presidential candidate Lincoln Chafee.
RepresentUs held its first conference called the "Unrig Summit" in February 2018 in New Orleans. In March 2019, 2,000 attended the conference in Nashville, including United Nations official Kate Gilmore, gun control advocate Emma González, voting rights activist Desmond Meade, and actress and comedian Sasheer Zamata, who spoke to attendees. Leading up to the conference, actress Jennifer Lawrence (who is a RepresentUs board member) released a short film detailing the organization's political aims to a general audience. According to RepresentUs, the summit is the largest national event that attempts to address underlining causes of dysfunction in US government.
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