peoplemoremoneyIowa CCI Members Slam U.S. Supreme Court Decision Striking Down Aggregate Campaign Contribution Limits


Iowa Congressional Races Could Be Impacted This Year


Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (Iowa CCI) slammed a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in McCutcheon vs. the FEC to do away with aggregate political donor limits, a ruling that will open the floodgates for a small handful of America’s richest 1 percent to continue corrupting the country’s democratic institutions through massive campaign contributions.

Iowa CCI members also warn that the 5-4 ruling could have an immediate impact on Iowa’s congressional midterm elections and call on everyday Iowans to organize to protect the interests of the common good against a potential onslaught of corporate money.

“The floodgates are totally open now and the negative impact of this decision could have far-reaching consequences, starting right now in this election cycle,” said Susie Petra, a retired teacher and CCI member from Ames, Iowa.

“It’s up to the people to fight this, and we call on everyday Iowans to stand up and make our voices heard.”

In 2012, only 646 Americans reached the 2012 cap, for a total of $93.4 million.

“The Supreme Court argued that the voices of a few hundred billionaires are worth more than the voices of 300 million Americans,” Petra added.

There are over 140 protests taking place in 38 states and Washington DC with a list available at:

Emergency rallies being held April 2 in Iowa are:

West Steps of the State Capitol in Des Moines

at 5:00 PM

Clinton and Iowa Avenue, east of the Old Capitol building Iowa City IA 52242

at 12:00 PM

2126 W 59th St Davenport IA 52806

at 5:00 PM

131 E 4th St Davenport IA 52801

at 5:00 PM

Federal Building, Cedar Rapids, IA

at 5:00pm

Industry Attempts to Hide Iowa Water Quality & Land Use Data from Public Is Only Latest Example of Corporate Ag’s Lobbying for Secrecy 

In Iowa and across the country, battle lines are drawn between strong and effective public oversight and corporate ag secrecy as industry ramps up use of privacy laws in an attempt to shield the absentee landgrabbers and corporate hogs responsible for polluting our water from public view

An attempt to sneak language into an Iowa House ag budget bill that would prevent the public from accessing information about water quality and land use practices collected in projects funded with taxpayer dollars is only one example of how corporate ag lobbyists try to  use their political power to attempt to shield one of the country’s most polluting industries from even the most basic forms of public transparency and citizen oversight, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement Action Fund (Iowa CCI Action Fund) members said Monday.

“We’re talking about giant, out of state corporations and absentee landgrabbers who use machines and low-wage migrant labor to work tens of thousands of acres,” said Lori Nelson, a CCI Action Fund member from Bayard whose rural homestead is surrounded by 5,000 corporate hogs.

“Giant, absentee landgrabbers and out-of-state, corporate hog factories are not subject to personal privacy laws and should not be shielded from basic transparency initiatives,” Nelson continued.

Iowa CCI Action Fund members say the secrecy provisions in the Iowa House ag budget bill, HF2458, scheduled to be debated this week, are only one example of how corporate ag attempts to keep vital information from the public:

  • Basic Clean Water Act inspection and manure spill records at some 8,500 factory farms across Iowa are not easily accessible to the public and almost impossible to track down because no centralized, online database of the information exists at the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR);
  • Secret “stakeholder” meetings codified through executive order by Iowa Governor Terry Branstad that allows big money corporate interest groups to write draft rules with state regulators before the public has an opportunity to weigh-in;
  • Provisions in many state laws passed by the Iowa legislature that handcuff the DNR and prevent them from writing rules stronger than federal law, essentially imposing a “ceiling” on enforcing stronger environmental standards when the federal guidelines should actually be the “floor”.
  • The American Farm Bureau Federation sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency after federal regulators released the most basic, sensible kinds information to national environmental groups about factory farm polluters across the country such as the location, size, manure produced, and ownership data for thousands of industrial animal factories;
  • Proposed amendments to the Farm Bill by Representative Steve King (R-IA) that would have banned state governments from passing laws dictating how food and livestock are raised and produced within that state for sale in other parts of the country;
  • Controversial “Right to Farm” bills introduced in state legislatures across the country to prevent adjacent property owners from filing “nuisance” lawsuits against nearby factory farm polluters;
  • So-called “Ag Gag” laws that make it more difficult for factory farm whistleblowers to expose animal abuse inside factory farms – the first of which was passed here in Iowa in 2012 and signed into law by Governor Branstad.

Iowa CCI Action Fund members say Governor Branstad has supported virtually all of these secrecy attempts by corporate ag, which further undermine his administration’s proclaimed commitment to transparency.

“There’s no question about it:  Governor Branstad is part of the problem and he regularly puts the interests of corporate ag before the interests of everyday people and the environment,” Nelson continued.  “Branstad has never met a factory farm he doesn’t like and the corporate agribusiness lobby is one of the most fundamental parts of his political base of support.” 

You’ve had one hell of a summer.

Whether you were fighting factory farms, winning back stolen wages, or attending a meeting with the head of the EPA – you’ve been busy. It’s time to celebrate your summer successes, and kick off autumn. Check out a few highlights in photos:

Together, we’ve accomplished a lot:

  • Talked to hundreds of everyday Iowans about clean water, and garnered over 3,500 signatures in support of clean water.
  • Pushed for a strong work plan mandating Clean Water Act enforcement for factory farms in Iowa – in September, it was finally signed.
  • Won back $3,857 in stolen wages from Iowa workers.
  • Empowered over 670 immigrants and immigrant allies to take action on fair immigration reform.
  • Pushed your “Put People First” Agenda at the national level at congressional meetings throughout the August Recess.
  • Kept your work for a more just & democratic Iowa in statewide & national media over 80 days this summer.
  • And more!

Reflecting on such a great summer, we can’t wait to see what autumn brings. We’ll be sure to keep you updated on how you can help us keep the momentum going.


Will you share your victories with your friends, and ask them to join the movement? It’s easy, just click here to share your victories with your friends on Facebook.

Join the Fight!

  • Join as an Iowa CCI member today or chip in $10 to support our organizing on this issue.
  • Sign up for our E-Mail Action list to get the latest updates
  • Follow us on Facebook and Twitter

Larry Cohen is the keynote for CCI’s Bold Vision, Bold Action 2013 Statewide Convention. This article originally appeared in the Tuesday, July 9th edition of the Des Moines Register:|head&nclick_check=1

Click here to sign up to hear Larry speak at CCI’s Bold Vision, Bold Action 2013 Statewide Convention on Saturday, July 13th.


Is this what democracy looks likes?

Ordinary Americans are facing hard times. Strange, isn’t it, because the stock market is up, corporate profits are at a record high and the rich are getting richer.

But working people aren’t sharing in this economic good news. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Wages continue to stagnate. Workers haven’t seen a real increase in wages for 40 years. We worry about finding a job, how to help our children go to college and whether we’ll be able to retire.

We need economic justice in our country, and the only way we will get there is with all of us working together in new ways.

A new partnership called the Democracy Initiative is starting to make that happen. Workers, people of faith, community activists, civil rights and immigrant groups, students and many more are coming together to fight for real democracy. We’re partnering with Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and National People’s Action to break through the barriers and gain economic and social justice for all.

In small towns and urban communities, we are standing together against banks that are continuing their predatory lending and illegal foreclosures. We are marching for immigration reform. We are standing with miners who have had their retirement security stolen. We are fighting for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and to achieve retirement security for ordinary Americans.

We are asking: Is this what democracy looks like?

Democracy doesn’t look anything like our current election process, which is dominated by corporate America as never before in the history of our nation. More than $7 billion was spent during the last election cycle, an increase of $1 billion over the previous cycle.

This massive amount of spending, overwhelmingly by corporate groups and shadow organizations doing their bidding, was allowed by the disastrous U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2010 called Citizens United. The decision said that corporations are people and are entitled to free speech rights. The decision went on to equate speech with money so these groups can spend millions of dollars — anonymously — to influence elections anywhere in the country.

Iowans are proud of their grass roots involvement in the election process. The system enables citizens to hear directly from the candidates and participate in the caucuses. That citizen involvement is being drowned even here by an obscene flood of money in our democratic process. We must end the corrosive influence of big-money contributions.

Democracy doesn’t look like the obstruction that is the rule in today’s U.S. Senate.

Too many measures, like setting a fair interest rate for student loans or programs for repairing collapsing bridges or protecting consumers from predatory lenders, don’t get a minute’s debate on the floor of what is supposed to be the world’s greatest deliberative body.

With each day, protections for consumers, the environment, workers and citizens seeking justice in our courts become harder to attain. If the U.S. Senate can’t even debate ideas about climate change and unjust home foreclosures, how will we move forward? Is this what democracy looks like?

The growing attack on voting rights is another block to real democracy. Instead of trying to restrict voting hours and close polling places, we should adopt universal registration, as so many countries have, so that people can exercise their right to vote and not be turned away by a right-wing agenda.

That’s why, whether we’re black, white or brown, young or old, living in a rural community or a big city, we are working together for real change that will build our democracy.

We see all too clearly the barriers that prevent progress for ordinary Americans. But we are aiming high for the democracy and economic and social justice that all of us deserve.


Join the Fight!

Enjoy Larry’s writing? Check out a video of Larry in action here.

Join the movement for a “People-First” Iowa & United States today. See Larry in action! Register for CCI’s 2013 Bold Vision, Bold Action Statewide Convention

  • Join as an Iowa CCI member today or chip in $10 to support our organizing on this issue.
  • Sign up for our E-Mail Action list to get the latest updates
  • Follow us on Facebook and Twitter

A recent report released by the Sunlight Foundation details top donors to federal candidates in the last election cycle by state. Agribusiness giant and Branstad-appointed Board of Regents President Bruce Rastetter tops the Iowa list of campaign donors.

You can check out the full report here.

While the report is disturbing, it comes as no surprise.

Thanks to recent Supreme Court decisions that chip away at campaign finance regulations and the growth of big-moneyed political groups, the corrosive influence of big money within our political system continues to grow.

As wealthy donors continue to give more and more, it silences everyday Iowans who participate in the political process by voting or giving small contributions; it has little meaning in light of  huge contributions.

The report shows that wealthy donors, many with corporate interests and personal gain in mind, are using the “pay to play” campaign finance system to gain favor with elected officials.

This “pay to play” system is another reason why people are upset with Congress – many see congress as serving big-moneyed interests, not the interests of everyday people.

We think the best way to confront the corrosive influence of big money on our political system is by instituting a small dollar public finance system that empowers small dollar donors in a legislator’s own district. This will allow candidates to focus on hearing from everyday folks in their district, rather than relying on huge sums from a few individuals.

Check out coverage of the report and Iowans’ reactions here.


Join the Fight