Sue Broidy

Negative Campaigning – Colorado Coffee Party Takes a Stand

Negative campaigning recently became an unpleasant feature of the Colorado Senate seat race, within both the Romanoff-Bennet contest for the Democratic Party and the Buck-Norton contest for the Republican Party. Mindful of this backdrop, the Colorado Coffee Party movement sent a letter to 58 candidates for offices throughout Colorado.

Kudos to the eight candidates who signed and returned the Unity Pledge included in the letter.

They are:

The Unity Pledge they signed reads as follows:

“In this election, I confirm that I will find a way of campaigning without deliberately triggering anger, hatred and fear. I undertake to avoid contributing to the disuniting of America. It is the last thing we need in a time of two wars, an environmental catastrophe and an economic crisis. I commit to working against division and towards being united as a People for the good of all citizens of the United States of America.”

“The responses were from an interesting mixture of Republican, Democratic and Libertarian candidates” said Suzanne Metlay, Colorado Statewide Coordinator for the Coffee Party movement. “The Coffee Party wants to promote good government and this is the first outreach we have done to candidates. We will follow up on this further after the Primary, with the intent of reducing negative campaigning and keeping the focus on effective governance.”

According to ThisNation.com, a non-partisan website for American Government and Politics, a 1999 survey showed that voters are quite capable of distinguishing between what they feel are fair and unfair attacks in a political campaign. 57% of voters interviewed believe that negative information about a candidate is fair if it reveals talking one way and voting another, accepting campaign contributions from special interests and exposes the opponent’s voting record as an elected official.

The Coffee Party in Colorado wants candidates to know that voters are watching, perhaps more carefully than they have done before. When a negative ad is beyond the bounds of what voters feel is relevant or fair, then the effect may be just the opposite of what was intended. If the facts in the ad are wrong, that must be exposed and refuted. To make judgment calls easier, the Boulder Coffee Party group is putting together a list of resources for its members, listing websites for organizations such as Colorado Ethics Watch, Media Matters and the Colorado Government Accountability Project (CGAP).

Voters seem to be increasingly turned off by negative campaign ads but political candidates continue to use these tactics. Yet there is conflicting data about whether or not negative campaigning makes a candidate more likely to win or lose, or whether intense competition increases voter turnout or has the opposite effect of turning people off the whole political process.
For more information about the Coffee Party movement, please look up your local chapter on Facebook or visit the national website at www.coffeepartyusa.com .

Today’s Democratic Primary

We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.
—Louis D. Brandeis

If Michael Bennet wins the Democratic Primary tomorrow, it will be a bitter disappointment to those of us who still hope that we can stop money from killing our political system. Michael Bennet is a wealthy man, having made millions as a corporate raider, and his donations to the Democratic party reflect this. Over the years, according to the FEC records, he has donated around $30,000 to various politicians and causes, notably to the Obama campaign and to Harry Reid, Democratic Senate leader. Is there any doubt that he was being rewarded for his donations when he was appointed to the vacant Senate seat by the Obama administration?

33 out of 35 Democratic County Chairs wanted Andrew Romanoff to be appointed to the Senate seat vacated by Ken Salazar in 2008. At the Democratic Party Assembly in Broomfield in May 2010, 60% of delegates voted to endorse Andrew Romanoff. In spite of this expressed will of the people, Washington went ahead and picked the wealthiest candidate to support in the Primary.
Michael Bennet portrays himself as a financial guru and a Washington outsider. So how is he doing as a Senator so far? Well, according to an article in this week’s New Yorker, he doesn’t know what he’s doing there and admits to achieving nothing. “You know what you’ll see happening? Nothing. When I’m in the chair, I sit there thinking, I wonder what they’re doing in China right now.”

He no longer needs to wonder. An article in today’s Apollo Alliance newsletter states that China plans to invest 5 trillion yuan, or $738 billion, into renewable energy projects over the next decade, according to the state-owned China Securities Journal. Now, maybe Senator Bennet’s time would be better spent applying his mind to a meaningful energy bill for our country, but given the fact that some of his biggest donors are BP, ConocoPhillips and NationalFuel, it hardly seems likely.

Challenging Bennet in the Senate race is Andrew Romanoff, who refuses any corporate or special interest funding at all. He has attracted enormous grassroots support and admiration for his integrity on this issue. His campaign has been run on small donations and the energy of his volunteers, not the corporate dollars of Bennet’s campaign which has massively outspent Romanoff on TV propaganda. Now the Obama administration is adding their weight to the campaign with support and funding, it is patently obvious that donations buy favors. The oil companies and other big corporations understand this. And politicians who give hefty donations to the Party understand they get a payback in return.

It is all a distasteful reminder of how money dominates politics – not only dominates, but distorts and corrupts – no matter which party you support.

With Andrew Romanoff, Colorado Democrats had a chance to take their agenda to the polls. Clean campaigns, clean energy, clean government. His message energized all those who still had the idealism that Obama’s campaign had ignited, now so long ago. Here was a man who promised that he would represent the individual in Congress, not the corporation. Here was a candidate who had been elected over and over again to public office in Colorado, with an honorable track record in legislation. Instead of Andrew Romanoff being our chosen uncontested candidate in the Primary, Washington has forced upon us a wealthy corporate raider, a man whose campaign is awash with special interest money, a man appointed to office instead of being elected.

Is it any wonder that this race is being seen as a race for the soul of the Democratic Party – if indeed it has one left?

Coffee Party on Negative Campaigning

Negative Campaigning – Colorado Coffee Party Takes a Stand

Negative campaigning recently became an unpleasant feature of the Colorado Senate seat race, within both the Romanoff-Bennet contest for the Democratic Party and the Buck-Norton contest for the Republican Party.

Mindful of this backdrop, the Colorado Coffee Party movement sent a letter to 58 candidates for offices throughout Colorado.

Kudos to the seven candidates who signed and returned the Unity Pledge included in the letter. They are:
• John Finger, candidate for US Senate
• Kevin Bradley, candidate for US Congress (District ??)
• Walker Robert Stapleton, candidate for State Treasurer
• Stan Garnett, candidate for Attorney General
• William Townend, candidate for Board of Education,
• Steve Bosley, candidate for UC Regent
• Melissa Hart, candidate for UC Regent

The Unity Pledge they signed reads as follows:

“In this election, I confirm that I will find a way of campaigning without deliberately triggering anger, hatred and fear. I undertake to avoid contributing to the disuniting of America. It is the last thing we need in a time of two wars, an environmental catastrophe and an economic crisis. I commit to working against division and towards being united as a People for the good of all citizens of the United States of America.”

“The responses were from an interesting mixture of Republican, Democratic and Libertarian candidates” said Suzanne Metlay, Colorado Statewide Coordinator for the Coffee Party movement. “The Coffee Party wants to promote good government and this is the first outreach we have done to candidates. We will follow up on this further after the Primary, with the intent of reducing negative campaigning and keeping the focus on effective governance.”

According to ThisNation.com, a non-partisan website for American Government and Politics, a 1999 survey showed that voters are quite capable of distinguishing between what they feel are fair and unfair attacks in a political campaign. 57% of voters interviewed believe that negative information about a candidate is fair if it reveals talking one way and voting another, accepting campaign contributions from special interests and exposes the opponent’s voting record as an elected official.

The Coffee Party in Colorado wants candidates to know that voters are watching, perhaps more carefully than they have done before. When a negative ad is beyond the bounds of what voters feel is relevant or fair, then the effect may be just the opposite of what was intended. If the facts in the ad are wrong, that must be exposed and refuted. To make judgment calls easier, the Boulder Coffee Party group is putting together a list of resources for its members, listing websites for organizations such as Colorado Ethics Watch, Media Matters and the Colorado Government Accountability Project (CGAP).

Voters seem to be increasingly turned off by negative campaign ads but political candidates continue to use these tactics. Yet there is conflicting data about whether or not negative campaigning makes a candidate more likely to win or lose, or whether intense competition increases voter turnout or has the opposite effect of turning people off the whole political process.

The next meeting of the Coffee Party in Boulder, is Sunday August 8th from 1-3pm at the Meadows branch of the Boulder Library on Baseline Road. The Longmont Coffee Party meets on Saturday August 7th at 4pm at the Brewing Market, on S. Hover Street in Longmont.

For more information about the Coffee Party movement, please look up your local chapter on Facebook or visit the national website at www.coffeepartyusa.com .

The Coffee Party: Thoughtful antidote to the Tea Party

The Coffee Party movement began in February with a “rant” on Facebook by its founder Annabel Park. Since then it has grown into a phenomenon with over 250,000 followers and it looks as if it is here to stay. It may have started as a reaction to the Tea Party, but it is turning into something more thoughtful and powerful – a movement for good government. It may be more academic and centrist than some of its members had hoped for but nevertheless, it is a timely and welcome development of a more intellectual form of political activism.

Like the League of Women Voters, The Coffee Party is intended to be non-partisan, with goals of reinvigorating the public sphere and reinstating commonly held democratic ideals such as civic duty, civic pride and expecting government to be accountable to the people. Like the League, members vote to achieve consensus on issues to study and support and like the League, members are mainly members of the Democratic Party with a deep concern for voting rights, election finance reform and the restoration of ethics in government.

It is interesting to see that now the shouting of the Tea party adherents has died down, or at least has turned into domestic squabbling, the voices of thoughtful conservatives are now being heard in the Coffee Party. One self-described representative of libertarian and conservative voices recently wrote on the Coffee Party website that he hopes the conversation will continue to include his viewpoint. “Why I think the Tea Party movement will ultimately be ineffective,” he writes, “is because probably all their positions are- to put it lightly-contrary to reality.” He goes on to say that the need is for solutions that work and that requires an understanding of the problems.

The Coffee Party expects its members to be informed and participatory. Groups all over the country are being encouraged to be autonomous and not look for leadership to tell them how to run their meetings and activities. That has not stopped some dissension, as disappointed progressives have left the movement for more activist organizations or issues, and some centrists or independents have left because the agenda may have seemed too partisan. Those who are staying are enjoying the civil conversations taking place over coffee and may not be completely aware that they are maintaining a long tradition of political discourse beginning in the coffee houses of Europe, leading to political change and even revolution.

The Coffee Party recently ran a National Coffee Summit, followed by a Café Call and a National Vote, using information and internet technology to reach across the country and determine members’ main concerns. Overwhelmingly, the core issue was determined to be Money in Politics with 95% of members voting for a specific course of action, based on support for the Fair Elections Now Act, the DISCLOSE Act, the Shareholder Protection Act and a constitutional amendment to reverse corporate personhood.

This does not mean however, that other issues are being overlooked. The Boulder Coffee Party group in Colorado for example has set up a special interest group to include the environment and clean energy. Other groups are addressing immigration reform which will be an ongoing issue till the election and beyond. Local groups are being encouraged to take an interest in state and city politics to complement the national campaign and many state groups are seeing the efficacy of scheduling meetings with their elected representatives and hosting public forums for civil discourse on matters of timely importance.

As people look to leadership for guidance or give their input for leadership to follow, it is becoming apparent that the first National Coffee Party Convention will be an interesting place to be. Scheduled for September 24-25 at the Galt House in Louisville, Kentucky, one has to wonder if the hotel was named after John Galt in Atlas Shrugged. No doubt that will be a conversation starter at social hour. Hopefully Ayn Rand’s influence will be balanced by quotations from Jefferson such as, “Difference in opinion leads to enquiry, end enquiry to truth; and I am sure….we both value too much the freedom of opinion sanctioned by our Constitution not to cherish its exercise even when in opposition to ourselves.” (written to P.H. Wendover, 1815)

Meetings of The Coffee Party in Colorado are held in Boulder, Longmont, Fort Collins, Lakewood, Arvada, Castle Rock, Craig, and Denver. Details of meetings can be found on their respective Facebook pages.

The Longmont Coffee Party also meets Saturday July 10th at 4pm at the Brewing Market And residents in Boulder County are urged to attend the next meeting on Saturday July 10th at 11am at The Boulder Library, Meadows Branch, located behind Safeway, 4800 Baseline Road, Boulder, CO 80303.

City Council, campaigns must be open and honest

The following address was presented to the Longmont City Council at its May 18th meeting:

Sue Broidy speaking at Longmont City Council Public Invited To Be Heard

Good evening Mayor Baum and members of the Council.  I am pleased to be here tonight to speak in support of the Election Committee’s recommendations for the Longmont Fair Campaign Practices Act and to urge you to pass it.

I moved to Longmont two months ago and am very pleased to find this legislation is being introduced.  Over the last ten years, I have spent a lot of time and energy on campaign finance reform, voter registration and the running of fair and efficient voting systems.  I worked with the California Secretary of State to ensure that Diebold voting machines were banned from use in California and with the Ventura County Attorney to prosecute a vendor for illegal voter registration tactics – so I am very aware of these continual threats to our election process and the need for continued vigilance and oversight.

Like many other new citizens, I have a passionate concern for the preservation of democracy and believe that not only must the election process be democratic but it must be seen by the public to be democratic.  As a nation, we can hardly be critical of other countries electoral shortcomings if we ourselves are being careless with the process and looking to subvert it for partisan political ends.

Elections therefore must be free, fair and honest and campaign finance rules must include limits on contributions, with frequent reporting, transparency and greater disclosure making the process completely accessible to the general public.  One of the reasons that voters are becoming disaffected with government generally is because of the complexity of bureaucracy, the difficulty in obtaining information and the feeling that a vote doesn’t count because it’s all to do with Big Money anyway.

We can put a stop to this in Longmont – along with cities and counties all over the country who have drafted their own campaign finance rules where they find state and national rules inadequate.  We can stop the drift toward apathy and cynicism by bringing back confidence in the electoral system – and the best way to start is at City level, where voters and their elected representatives have the closest contact.

Colorado has a very exciting opportunity to introduce campaign reform with Ballot Initiative 53 which will be on the ballot in November once sufficient signatures are obtained.  Three states to date – Connecticut, Maine and Arizona – have already passed similar publicly funded Clean Campaigns initiatives with great success.  For example, candidate participation, has increased from 30% to over 90% in Maine within just 8 years.  Measures such as these are vital to counter the undue influence of the massive infusion of corporate money on elections, increasing now because of the recent Supreme Court Citizens United decision.

With reform coming at state level, the City of Longmont will be prepared to play its part in bringing back democracy to the electoral process.  I commend you all for your hard work in setting up an Elections Committee and bringing this important legislation to the public notice – and hopefully soon to a successful vote and implementation.