Across the Political Spectrum: Community Conversations

Democrats, Libertarians and Republicans talking together.
Hosted by Common Ground for Texans.

The first Community Conversation was held in Austin on Nov. 2, 2013. Its primary goal was to come up with neutral wording on questions to ask candidates for state legislative office in 2014.  How do people of different political persuasions interpret these questions? The questions’ final wording would be included in the Travis County edition of the LWV voter guide to candidates.  Our second goal was to ask the panel participants to discuss and reach consensus on the question: “What election reform(s), if any, would you support to give voters more candidate choices?”  Here is a summary of that conversation and the wording of the four questions submitted to the LWVAA for their voter guide.

The second Community Conversation was held in Lago Vista on April 5, 2014 on the topic “Is There Too Much Money in Politics?”  Questions considered were:

  • The amount of campaign spending correlates closely with who wins and who loses a political race. 95% of the time, the bigger spender wins. How does this affect who runs for office and who wins?
  • Independent (and often anonymous) political spending by special interest groups (not by the candidate or a party committee) saw a 20-fold increase from 2000 to 2012. How has this affected voters’ perception of candidates and electoral politics? How has it affected these races’ outcomes? How has this affected the elected officials’ voting records and decisions?
  • Does the free marketplace of ideas benefit from a disproportionate increase in spending by wealthy speakers?
  • Since media buys are expensive, better-funded candidates have a bigger voice in elections than lesser-funded candidates. What kind of system would give voters the best chance of hearing sufficiently from all qualified candidates for public office?
  • What is your opinion of full and complete disclosure (transparency) of ALL political donations over some minimal amount, including those to super-PACs?

Here is a summary of that conversation.

The third Community Conversation was held in Austin on May 3, 2014 on the topic “Has the Supreme Court gone too far? Or not far enough?  Is political money always a corrupting influence on our elected leaders?”  Craig McDonald, with Texans for Public Justice, opened with an overview of the Supreme Court decisions on campaign finance issues and how these decisions have impacted legislation aimed at regulating campaign donations and expenditures before and after the 2010 ruling in Citizens United v FEC.  Significant campaign finance cases include:

Buckley v Valeo (1976)
Citizens United v FEC (2010)
Speech Now v FEC (2010)
McCutcheon v FEC (2014)

Here is a summary of that conversation.

We hope to host more of these conversations.

Lessons learned:

  1. Before an Across the Political Spectrum conversation begins, the participants should be presented with background information on the topic.
  2. People who hold differing points of view CAN sit around a table and have an in-depth CIVIL conversation.

If you like what you see here, please consider adding your name to our mailing list.  We promise NOT to inundate you with messages. We send one mid-month message on a current topic on money in politics that includes a call to action, and another toward the end of the month announcing our next general meeting topic.


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