June 23, 2016

With the NRA Blocking Meaningful Gun Reform, Senate Dems Call for Vote and Passage of #WetthePeople Legislation to Break NRA’s Grip on Elections, Senate Republicans

Senate Dems Push Legislation to Overturn Citizens United, Amend the Constitution to End Unlimited Campaign Contributions & Reform the Lobbying Laws to Limit Special Interest Influence from Groups Like the NRA

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Following Senate Republicans blockade of commonsense legislation to keep guns out of the hands of suspected terrorists and expand background checks and House Republican leadership’s refusal to even schedule a vote on such bills, Senators Charles Schumer, Sheldon Whitehouse, Tom Udall and Jeff Merkley today called for a vote and passage of the We The People Act, to break the grip of special interests, such as the NRA, on elections and Congressional Republicans. This push by Senate Democrats to pass meaningful gun and government reform comes in the wake of the deadly attacks in Orlando, Florida. Senate Democrats’ We the People Act, first unveiled earlier this month, would hold the government more accountable, amend the Constitution to end unlimited campaign contributions and reform the lobbying laws to limit special interest influence on elected officials.

Senate Democrats also highlighted how Republican Senators who voted against “terror gap” and universal background checks legislation received 30 times and 11 times, respectively, as much in campaign contributions from gun advocates than Senators who supported the legislation. [MapLight, 6/15/2016]

Additional information on how Senate Democrats’ We The People Act would help rein in special interest groups’, like the NRA, influence on Congressional Republicans can be found below:

  • According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the NRA’s unlimited political spending funded by contributions from corporations and special interests – like the Koch Brothers – has tripled since the Citizens United Supreme Court decision.  In 2014 alone, experts estimate that the NRA spent at least $31.4 million on the midterm elections [Common Cause, 12/7/2015, 1/13/2015]
    • The We The People reform package would overturn the disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision with an amendment to the Constitution that would provide Congress and the states with power to enact campaign finance reforms that withstand constitutional challenges.
  • Most of the NRA’s political spending is on “independent expenditures,” not on individual campaigns, so their “dark money” special interest contributors are not always disclosed. [Common Cause, 12/7/2015]
    • The We The People reform package would require organizations spending money in elections – including super PACS and tax-exempt 501(c)(4) groups – to promptly disclose donors who have given $10,000 or more during an election cycle.
  • The NRA may be in violation of federal law for failing to report up to $58 million in political spending activities since 2008.  [Yahoo News, 4/21/2015, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, 6/9/2015, NY Times, 1/29/16]
    • The We The People reform package would replace the dysfunctional Federal Election Commission (FEC) and create a new independent agency to serve as a vigilant watchdog over our nation’s campaign finance system. The newly established agency would consist of five commissioners appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate and would have greater enforcement and investigation powers than those of the gridlocked FEC. Unlike the existing FEC, the new agency would be empowered to hold candidates, politicians, and their financial supporters accountable for violating campaign finance laws.

“As the Senate tries to address gun safety in America, we are living with the consequences of a system that has been flooded by unlimited dark money,” said Senator Schumer. “The NRA has its claws so deep into congressional Republicans that it’s next to impossible to pass even the most modest gun safety measures. Until we pass the We The People Act, the system will remain rigged against Americans and in favor of special interests, and leave the country with a Congress that can’t even pass the most sensible bills to protect our citizens from gun violence.”

“Citizens United unleashed a tsunami of special interest money into our political system, and special interests were consequently powered up.  One result is that now the American people are being ignored in favor of the NRA gun lobby,” said Senator Whitehouse.  “The NRA’s threat of consequences has particular force when the consequences they can threaten now are even worse.  This keeps the vast majority of Americans –  even gun owners – from getting the action they want on sensible gun safety measures.”

“The American people are crying out for action to prevent gun violence, and Congress should be able to deliver commonsense steps that would keep guns out of the wrong hands,” said U.S. Senator Tom Udall (NM). “Only so far, we haven’t been able to because of the hold that a few special interest groups have over Republicans in Congress. Since the Supreme Court put a ‘for sale’ sign on our elections with the Citizens United ruling, the NRA has increased its spending exponentially. And it’s bullying our colleagues on the other side of the aisle into blocking reasonable steps to close dangerous loopholes in our laws. We need to pass the We the People legislation and my constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United to end the stranglehold such special interests have over Congress.”

“It’s rare to find any issue that nine in ten Americans agree on, but 90% of Americans, including strong majorities of Democrats, Republicans and Independents, support background checks for gun purchases,” said Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR). “The only reason Congress is standing in the way of full background checks and a common-sense ‘no-fly-no-buy’ anti-terrorism provision is because one powerful lobby group, the NRA, opposes these provisions. This is a stark example of how ‘We the People’ has been turned on its head to ‘We the Powerful,’ and it’s exactly why we must pass the We the People Act to restore government of, by and for the people.” 


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Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921