End Citizens United Endorses Beto O’Rourke for the Senate

End Citizens United released a poll, and the group found that their candidate Beto O’Rourke is only trailing Senator Ted Cruz by 45-37 percent. According to the Cruz campaign’s polling, Senator Cruz is ahead by 52-34 percent.

End Citizens United’s goal is to end the stranglehold that “Big Money” has on Washington, D.C., and candidate Beto O’Rourke is someone whom the group can support because he refuses to take money that corporate political action committees offer him. People behind End Citizens United have made it their mission to support candidates in this year’s congressional races who repudiate large donations from large corporations.

End Citizens United was created on March 1, 2015 because of the disastrous Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case. That decision declared that “corporations are people” and allowed special interest groups to spend unlimited amounts of money on America’s elections without the need for transparency. This made it possible for large donors to have an unreasonable amount of influence on our elections.

End Citizens United Endorses Beto O’Rourke for the Senate
Beto O’Rourke – U.S. Representative for Texas’s 16th congressional district

O’Rourke is currently a congressman from El Paso, and he is the first person that End Citizens United is endorsing this year. He could have also received an endorsement from the AFL-CIO, but he chose not to attend the group’s convention this year, so he lost the endorsement.

This year, Republicans hold 51 of 100 seats in the Senate. Ordinarily, the party that is not in power gains more seats in mid-term elections than the party in power, but it doesn’t look like this will be the case for the Democrat Party this year.

There are 34 elections scheduled for 2018, and the Democrats must defend 24 of them. This includes the two independent seats that caucus with the Democrats, and they are located in states President Donald Trump won in 2016. Republicans need to defend eight of these seats, and one of them is located in Texas, a state that voted for Trump by nine percentage points.

Ted Cruz isn’t being taken seriously by anybody, and Democrats now have hope because a Democrat won the Alabama election in December against a Republican candidate who was plagued by scandal.

In the End Citizens United poll, 38 percent of voters were in favor of Cruz, but 49 were not. Unfortunately, 61 percent of those polled had never heard O’Rourke’s name before. Only 20 percent of the voters were in favor of him, and 19 percent were not.

When asked whether they would support a candidate who vowed never to take large donations from corporate entities, 63 percent of respondents said that they would support the candidate. After respondents heard that O’Rourke stated that he would never accept money from corporate entities, he tied with Cruz at 43-41 percent.

Beto O’Rourke has said that he wants most of his donations to come from the state of Texas. He doesn’t particularly want Super Political Action Committees to contribute to his campaign.

End Citizens United is a political action committee that wants to encourage campaign finance reform, and it wants to do this by helping candidates get elected who propose to support legislation that will change the way that campaigns are financed. ECU obtains a majority of its donations from small donors. In fact, the average donation is just $14.

Last election cycle, the group raised $25 million for the candidates it supported, but this year, it planned to raise $35 million to support challengers in the “Big Money 20” races this year. The Big Money 20 is senators and representatives who accept money from large corporate donors and special interest groups. In Texas, the group received donations from 157,000 people. Most of Ted Cruz’s donors are also from Texas, and these supporters donated $5.7 million to his campaign. In contrast, O’Rourke only received $2.9 million.

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In 2009, a Public Policy Polling survey showed that U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison had 56 percent of the vote and that Governor Rick Perry only had 31 percent. A report by Rasmussen showed very different results. In the Rasmussen poll, Perry had 56 percent of the vote while Hutchison had 36 percent, and he went on to win the contest. Public Policy Polling has done another poll, and experts are taking the results with a grain of salt. The poll has O’Rourke behind Cruz by eight points, but these results are similar to the results obtained by other surveys.

ECU paid for the poll, and the questions were worded in such a way so that Beto O’Rourke would be favored, but he only beat Cruz by two points. None of the other polls are indicating that O’Rourke has a chance of beating Cruz. However, Cruz is not seen favorably by the voters, and it is believed that he could lose because of his prior loss during the 2016 primary race for President of the United States.

The League of Conservation Voters Action Fund also announced its support for Beto O’Rourke.

End Citizens United Denounces Republican Efforts to Gut The Johnson Amendment

UPDATED December 12th, 2017 – End Citizens United announces their “Big Money 20” for the 2018 elections. The political action committee is targeting these 20 republicans and will spend roughly $35 million dollars to help keep money out of politics.

Last week, the US House Appropriations Committee rejected a proposal to remove a controversial rider from a spending bill that restricts enforcement of the Johnson Amendment. According to End Citizens United, a political action committee that advocates for campaign finance reform, the decision gives a green light for special interest groups to, “manipulate churches and funnel secret political money through the pulpit.”

The Johnson Amendment is a provision in the US tax code that forbids 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations, which include most churches, from endorsing or opposing political candidates. It was proposed in 1954 by Lyndon B. Johnson, who was a senator of Texas at the time.

The amendment has long been a sore spot for some conservatives, which is why President Donald Trump made repealing it a campaign promise. Repealing the Johnson Amendment would require an act of Congress, which is hard to come by these days, so opponents of the rule are looking for other ways to undermine its enforcement.

Rather than outright repeal, house republicans have included a rider in a spending bill that forbids the IRS from using funds to investigate churches for violations of the Johnson Amendment. Exceptions can be made by the IRS commissioner, who must report to Congress about all such investigations. Despite attempts from opponents to remove the language from the bill, the committee voted 28-24 to keep the controversial rider.

How is the Johnson Amendment Enforced?

Churches and other similar nonprofit organizations can engage in some political activities, such as voter registration drives, but the Johnson Amendment forbids endorsements of specific parties or candidates. The amendment was famously invoked in 1992 when a church had its tax-exempt status revoked for taking out a full-page ad in USA Today that implored Christians to vote against then-presidential candidate Bill Clinton.

Today, however, the IRS rarely investigates churches for political activities, and some pastors don’t shy away from voicing their political opinions from the pulpit. Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative advocacy group, sponsors a campaign called Pulpit Freedom Sunday that encourages pastors to openly flout the law in protest. Although the IRS has audited at least one of the thousands of participating churches, no penalties have been issued. Nonetheless, the new language would make it almost impossible for the IRS to penalize churches for funneling money from their congregations to political campaigns.

What do Americans Think About the Johnson Amendment?

Among American voters, there isn’t an overwhelming consensus on the issue of religion in politics. A 2016 Pew Research Center survey found that 66 percent of Americans are uncomfortable with the thought of churches endorsing candidates, but a vocal minority of conservative Christians believe that the Johnson Amendment restricts freedom of speech.

Some religious group are actually adamant about maintaining the Johnson Amendment. Dozens of nonprofit organizations including the Episcopal Church, the American Jewish Committee, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty co-signed a letter to the House Appropriations Committee voicing opposition to the measure.

“Weakening current law would allow politicians and others seeking political power to pressure churches for endorsements,” the letter states.

What do Experts say About the Johnson Amendment?

Charles Haynes, a religious freedom historian at Washington DC’s Newseum, told the Washington Post that the language, “puts a further chilling effect on any attempts by IRS staff to enforce the Johnson Amendment with respect to pulpit speech.” However, the problem doesn’t stop at speech.

“At its worst, the provision keeps IRS staff from doing its job to prevent charitable donations to flow to political campaigns,” Haynes says.

While the Johnson Amendment forbids any nonprofit group from endorsing candidates, the language in the spending bill specifically exempts religious organizations from such oversight. Daniel Mach, director of the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief, told the Washington Post that giving religious organizations preferential treatment violates the First Amendment of the US Constitution.

Tiffany Muller, who is the President and Executive Director of End Citizens United, released a statement condemning the House Appropriation Committee for restricting enforcement of the Johnson Amendment.

“The Johnson Amendment has been critical to ensuring churches and charities can carry out their missions free from manipulation of Big Money special interests and partisan politics,” said Muller. “Today, extreme House Republicans approved a rider in a must-pass bill that leaves churches vulnerable to being used as tools of political mega-donors looking to push their agenda.”

About End Citizens United

End Citizens United was founded in 2015 to counter the effects of the landmark 2010 Supreme Court case that allowed corporations to make unlimited undisclosed donations to political candidates. It uses grassroots tactics to support candidates who are committed to reforming campaign finance law. By raising awareness of the issue of money in politics, End Citizens United advocates for legislation that will limit the flow of dark money to campaigns.

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Church Money in Politics? Not On End Citizen United’s Watch

If there’s one thing that most people understand about the United States, it’s that it was founded on the principle of the separation of church and state. It has been this way since the dawn of this country, but now it’s at serious risk of being stripped away. At this very moment, conservative members of Congress are working feverishly to slip through a rider that will effectively strip the Johnson Amendment of its powers. This law is the one that specifically forbids tax-exempt non-profit organizations, including churches, from actively campaigning for political candidates. End Citizens United recently issued a press release urging Congress not to allow this to happen.

Few people were even aware of the Johnson Amendment until the 2016 presidential campaign season got into full swing. Republican candidate Donald Trump made repealing the amendment one of his top campaign promises. This promise went over many people’s heads, as they were unaware of the significance. However, those for whom Trump truly works–the wealthiest people in the country–were well aware, and it was music to their ears. Should the Johnson Amendment be repealed, there will be no stopping people from donating indiscriminately to religious organizations–and those religious organizations can then turn around and funnel the money wherever they’d like it to go.

Why is End Citizens United front and center in this battle? The grassroots organization, which was founded to fight back against the disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision of 2010, sees this move as an attempt to further solidify the power of corporations and the extremely wealthy. In its press release, Tiffany Muller, the president of End Citizens United, stated, “The House Republican’s tax plan includes the terrible decision to repeal the Johnson Amendment, which can turn churches into tools for secret campaign spending.”

To understand why the repeal of the Johnson Amendment would be a true disaster for democracy in America, it helps to understand how much money is at stake. In the year 2015 alone, Americans donated more than $119 billion to religious organizations. To put that into perspective, the total cost of the 2016 election–the most expensive in history–was around $6.5 billion. The implication here is that should the amendment be gutted, a significant chunk of that $119 billion could find its way into the campaign coffers of conservative candidates–candidates who have been bought and paid for by the powers that be.

Although the Johnson Amendment has been in conservatives’ crosshairs for some time, it caused no controversy whatsoever when it was enacted in the mid-1950s. The amendment was proposed by then U.S. Senator Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas. He was inspired to champion the law after being attacked and accused of being a communist by non-profit religious groups. Noting that these 501(c)(3) organizations, as they are known, enjoy tax-free status, Johnson believed that they had an unfair advantage. Given that the country was founded on the concept of the separation of church and state, it seemed logical to enact this kind of law.

The Johnson Amendment has historically been more of a preventative measure than a punitive one. The mere existence of the law–and the threat of being stripped of tax-exempt status by the IRS–ensured that most toed the line. Still, some have deliberately flouted the law through the years, stating that it restricted pastors’ and others’ right to free speech. In fact, a movement called Pulpit Freedom Sounding, which is organized by the conservative Alliance Defending Freedom, encourages churches and other groups to actively thumb their nose at the law. Even so, very few organizations have actually faced penalties because of it.

How exactly are Republicans working to do away with the Johnson Amendment? Not surprisingly, they are being pretty sneaky about it. Rather than blatantly attempt to repeal the law, they have attached it to various other pieces of legislation in the hopes of getting it passed without too much oversight. Language stripping the law of much of its power was included in the House Financial Services appropriations bill earlier this fall. More recently, a rider was added to the huge tax bill. It forbids the IRS from using funds to investigate violations of the Johnson Amendment, which means that the law is basically useless.

If the general public really understood what was at stake with the repeal of the Johnson Amendment, there would surely be a lot more fuss being made. However, public sentiment regarding the separation of church and state is surprisingly muddled. According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2016, 66 percent of Americans are uncomfortable with the idea of religion in politics. That’s a comfortable majority, of course, but it suggests that a large percentage of people are fine with it–and that is a problem.

Despite the perception that all religious organizations are welcoming the repeal of the Johnson Amendment, the reality is that plenty of them oppose this move too. In fact, more than 100 such organizations have joined End Citizens United in its efforts to prevent the repeal of this incredibly important law. The repeal of this 63-year-old law would undoubtedly open the floodgates, allowing organizations to funnel tax-free contributions to political campaigns. As if that’s not alarming enough, those who made donations in this way would conceivably enjoy tax breaks, as such donations are typically deductible. In this way, the very wealthy will be double-dipping and enjoying yet a22851977_1131203693680779_2957189258061179696_nother unfair advantage over the public at large.

As dire as things seem at this time, groups like End Citizens United are closely monitoring the situation and mobilizing to fight back. Ideally, of course, the Republicans will fail in their objective. Should they prevail, ECU and other groups will have to work even harder to get their candidates elected. This will mean a lot more work, of course, since it will mean undoing a lot of damage. Although President Trump signed an executive order back in May, the battle is far from over. By supporting End Citizens United, citizens can help to take their country back.