NDAA, SOPA, and Upcoming Volunteer Meeting

Most of the emails regarding policy I have received recently have been in relation to two bills that recently came before congress.

The first, the National Defense Appropriations Act (NDAA) for 2012 is a budgetary appropriations act which has non-germane language in section 1021 regarding indefinite detention. Although the White House assures us that this section “will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens”, I have to ask why is it being considered at all? Why do we let our guiding principals like habeas corpus, enshrined in Article 1, Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution only apply within our borders? Regardless of whether the language in section 1021 potentially applies to Americans, and I believe it does, I don’t think we should be suspending habeas corpus in cases of terrorism. Terrorism is not war, it is an international criminal act, and it should be prosecuted and treated by the standards of justice we hold true in the United States. In the case of enemy combatants, declaration and end of war needs to be rigorously defined by congress and prisoners of war should be detained with all concern towards their rights. The quagmire of Guantanamo represents an affront to American justice. Being detained for over a decade without rapid trial inevitably presents problems of human rights and return of the innocent. If we do not practice habeas corpus and rapid trial universally, it is only a matter of time before it is applied to all American citizens through concern of security and outright fear mongering.

The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) represents another case of congressional ignorance of technology. In spite of opposition from major technology companies such as Google, Yahoo!, Facebook, and Twitter, congress continued to carry water for media companies demanding that they should have the ability to shut down any website without proper trial of criminality. Hearings were stacked with proponents in an attempt to squash opposition. To his credit, Utah’s 3rd Congressional District representative, Jason Chaffetz saw through these tactics and opposed the bill. Unfortunately, it has merely been “suspended” for further wrangling in 2012. SOPA was an attempt to limit the openness and freedom of the Internet and I heartily oppose it.

I will be holding a volunteer coordination meeting Saturday, January 14th, from 1pm – 3pm at 780 East South Temple in Salt Lake City. All are welcome to attend.

Public Financing, not PACs

One of the impressions a first time candidate is given is that PAC (Political Action Committee) financing is an essential part of their campaign. In 2006, after two trips to Washington, numerous letters to “Leadership PACs” and endless meetings, the grand total of PAC contributions made up less than 4% of the overall money raised. The first thing I decided after the campaign ended in 2006 was to not seek PAC money again.

One of the regrets I have in the last campaign is being suckered by other elected Democrats into their email-address-sucking contests where supporters of each candidate were encouraged to “vote” for their favorite candidate. These contests never yielded any results for the campaign, and they only got the people who cared about my election stuck on mailing lists they didn’t ask to be subscribed to.

Yet the PAC system is what incumbents thrive on. The percentages reverse for people who are already elected, where PAC money is the dominant form of financing for those who carry the water. Which is why I’m done with it. Although I’m sure there are legitimate PACs pushing valid interests, I think the system as a whole is wrong. It continues to perpetuate our cash infested broken democracy.

I support public financing. I believe it will take a constitutional amendment to implement public financing on a federal level. Until that is done, the playing field between incumbent and challenger will always be in favor of the former, and money will continue to imbalance governmental interest away from the majority of Americans. Russell Simmons presented one such proposal recently. I find it ironic that he is doing it, while the author of the amendment remains anonymous, but I think the initial text is good. It is time we pushed this forward.

Of course, until that amendment is passed, challengers still face an enormous uphill battle. I can use your help in that fight.

Announcement Speech

At the end of my last campaign in 2006, I believed that in spite of my failure to win election, another victory was had. By making the operations of my campaign transparent, by demonstrating accountability by publishing the details of my days, and by including anyone who wished to help craft policy, I had demonstrated a new way of campaigning. A way to utilize advanced communications to enrich and enlighten the democratic process. Yet although these efforts were praised, to this day, I believe they have not been duplicated.

Other campaigns have utilized the Internet for organizing and fundraising, but I am disappointed to see the opportunity for opening campaign operations along with accountability and transparency being lost. Although strides and promises have been made by candidates running for office, who subsequently won office, the doors on our elected officials, the people who are working for us, inevitably swing shut against the public.

Behind those doors are where decisions about our country are made, and without a window into the process, you are shut out. The balance of influence is tilted, weighted, and pointed to those who have the cash to buy it. The remainder of us are left to email, phone, and petition in the hope that somehow our voice will be heard by those whose primary concern from the day they take office is their own reelection.

Since 2006, I have yearned for a candidate who could embrace and understand the potential of communication and the Internet. I have hoped for someone who sought to balance the influence of the people, all of the people, in Washington. I have wished for an individual who cared less about being relected and self preservation, than they did about moving our country forward. I do not believe everyone in Washington is self-serving and corrupt, but I have difficulty finding anyone deserving of my respect.

So it comes to this – If you are unable to respect the existing system, do you have the self respect to change the system? Running for office once is hard, I know that from experience. Today I am telling you that running for office again is even harder. I am fulfilled in my professional life. I do not need this campaign, nor do I lust for public office. Yet, life begins at the end of your comfort zone, and I still believe I can make a difference.

I must be honest though. If I thought I stood a chance of overhauling the tax code as a junior senator, I would tell you so, however, I have little to none. This campaign will confront many of the issues head-on, but primarily it is about influence. It is about what happens to someone after they win office. It is about your voice and whether it is heard. I do not pretend to channel the founding fathers, but when it comes the influence of money and government, I believe they would be ashamed. This government can not be changed by running campaigns in the same way. As in 2006, I intend to innovate rather than follow the recipe. I want to break the mold of campaign consultants and cash. I admittedly made mistakes in 2006, and I will not repeat them. I will not seek PAC funds, nor will I ever again. I will not setup a SuperPAC to funnel outrageous amounts of donor money into whatever I wish behind public inspection. I will not go begging to the those in Washington who continue to perpetrate this broken democracy.

This means of course one thing. I depend on you. I can only do this upon your shoulders. I need your help. If the people are to peacefully strike a blow to the powerful, then it needs to be done one step at a time and multiplied. With you, it is possible for this campaign to win. This is why I am proud to announce my candidacy for U.S. Senate, representing the great state of Utah.

“Lowering” Corporate Taxes

Sent today:

Senator Hatch, I recently heard you stating that the tax rate on corporations and businesses was the highest in the world. Lowering them would be fantastic for my own business, but I don’t think it should be lowered any further for the likes of G.E., Bank of America, and ExxonMobile. You see, unlike these parasites, my business has never received any cash outlays from the government and I’ve always paid my tax responsibility.

It would be nice to see some Reagan style action to make business taxes equitable in this country. Small business is the backbone of America, but that backbone may break under the weight of large businesses who avoid their fair share in taxes.

Also, I’d be curious as to your thoughts on your colleague Senator Sanders’ list of Top-10 Tax Avoiders. Maybe next time you’re in front of the camera, or sending out a “Hatch Dispatch” you can include them.

Sincerely,

Pete Ashdown

Stop Federal Control of the Internet

Once again, Utah’s own Senator Hatch has cosponsored an Internet related bill that further paves the road to Hell. Of all the possibilities that could be exhausted in the lame-duck Senate session (like START ratification), carrying water for media companies is highest on the list. The “Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act” (COICA) bill passed unanimously out of committee today. One provision of this bill is that the Attorney General can direct Internet Service Providers to block websites that media companies claim are infringing copyright. As I have seen with the equally well-intentioned Digital Millennium Copyright Act, media companies tend to shoot first and ask questions later when it comes to making accusations of copyright violation. DMCA has also been repeatedly used between competitors to hamper each other’s operations, all the while sticking the ISP between them as detective, judge, and jury. COICA is DMCA on steroids and is not good for the Internet. Since Senator Hatch is a sponsor and a repeat offender in regards to technology & copyright law, I suggest you call Senator Bennett’s office and hope that he uses his lame-duck powers for the people rather than the corporations.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is following COICA closely and is a good resource for criticism on it.

Balance the Budget

The New York Times has a nifty web calculator for experimenting with proposed tactics for reducing the federal budget deficit. Although simplistic, it is an interesting exercise that counters the idea that the budget deficit can’t be fixed without privatizing social security or eliminating the Department of Energy and/or Education. I’d like to see a larger interactive budget calculator that allows you to tweak all aspects of federal taxation and expenses. It might reveal some interesting results. Here is what I came up with.

Representative Wimmer Speaks Out on Open Primaries

Representative Carl Wimmer courageously speaks out on why Democrats need an open primary.

OK, Time for opperation chaos Utah style. Utah Democrats have an open primary election, so EVERY Republican in the Utah 2nd Congressional District needs to go and vote for Claudia Wright against Matheson. She is very liberal, and would give Morgan Philpot an almost certain victory in that district.