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Time is Running Out: Coalition Calls on Obama to Protect Democracy Before November Election

Democracy movement leaders urged citizens to flood White House with phone calls demanding action on dark money and ballot access

"In the United States, democracy is absolutely for sale," said CWA president Chris Shelton. (Photo: Sierra Club Live/twitter/cc)

The 2016 presidential election is on track to be the most expensive in history, with widespread disenfranchisement.

And President Obama can and should take executive action to put a stop to the billions of dark corporate dollars funding politicians this campaign season, argue a coalition of Democracy Awakening movement leaders and public interest groups, and he must also pressure Congress to re-establish and strengthen the Voting Rights Act before the November election.

"Our democracy is in crisis. Big Money is dominating our elections, and voters across the country are systematically being denied the franchise. Americans of all political stripes are united by their outrage and demand for action," said Robert Weissman, president of consumer watchdog Public Citizen.

"With the clock ticking down on President Obama's tenure in the White House, it is vital that he issue a clarion call for far-reaching reform," Weissman said.

Democracy Awakening began as a grassroots campaign of civil disobedience calling for campaign finance reform earlier this spring. The movement's leaders have coordinated a national call-in day of action on Wednesday, rallying a crowd during a press conference outside the White House that morning to pressure the president into action.

The groups' message was straightforward, as Public Citizen said: "Act now."

"There's a lot of folks back here with signs that say 'Democracy is not for sale,'" Communications Workers of America president Chris Shelton said during Wednesday's rally. "Well, they must be talking about another country, because in the United States, democracy is absolutely for sale."

The Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United was when the government "put up the for sale sign," Shelton observed.

Debbie Sease, senior advocacy and lobbying director for the Sierra Club, lamented, "The very companies that are polluting our environment are taking our money to pollute our democracy."


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"Our children, our neighborhoods, our planet are the ones that pay the price," Sease added.

Sease told the crowd that "with the stroke of a pen, the president can protect the future of our democracy and planet by signing a 'no secret money' executive order."

Indeed, advocates for campaign finance reform have argued for such an executive order before, and a recent Common Cause petition calling for one garnered over one million signatures, according to the public interest group. While the issue has broad support, Obama has failed to act—and Wall Street has already outdone itself on campaign spending this election.

Speakers outside the White House also renewed calls to restore the Voting Rights Act recently gutted by the Supreme Court's 2013 Shelby v. Holder decision, to ensure that every eligible voter has access to the ballot in November.

"From the White House to Main Street, we continue our call for Congress to undo the damage done by Shelby," said Hilary Shelton, Washington bureau director and senior vice president for advocacy at the NAACP. "Congress must act now to repair and strengthen the 1965 Voting Rights Act."

As vice president of the Center for American Progress action fund Michele Jawando told the crowd as the rally neared its end, "I'm riled up because my democracy is better than this, and we deserve better than this!"

By the end of the rally, the groups' hashtag #NoSecretMoney was trending on Twitter in the D.C. area.

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