Marriage Equality

In 2012, I was defeated in convention by a man who refused to stand up for an individual’s right to marry whom they wish. The Democratic candidate for governor in the same year also had the same stand. In this week, we have also seen Utah’s only Democrat in congress announce he would not seek another term. Jim Matheson has also shied away from marriage equality, and voted for the Defense of Marriage Act, of which a key provision was struck down by the Supreme Court earlier this year.
For many years, I’ve been dismayed to see prominent Democrats cower and waffle when faced with the marriage question. Before the tide began to change in this country, when I ran in 2006, I was unapologetic in my support for individual marriage liberty. I asserted that demanding marriage licenses on a very private decision was not only wrong, but a benefit only to insurance companies as to whom you could claim as a partner.
What the court upheld this week was not an infringement on religious practice, but an affirmation of individual freedom. I hope that now and in the future, anyone seeking office, of any party, will stand for the rights of the individual and not fear saying so.

Change is Quick but Progress is Slow

My husband Pete did not receive the nomination yesterday to run as the Democratic candidate for US Senate. Pete and I are sincerely grateful to everyone who supported his cause, and I am sorry to have disappointed those who believed in the change that Pete was trying to make. We were hopeful that the delegates would understand how essential it is to lead by example. If you want to solve the problem, you can’t be part of the problem. Pete had widespread support in Utah as well as support from around the country to get dirty money out of elections. We believed that in giving people a just cause around which to rally, we could beat the special interest candidate in November.

I won’t lie. Yesterday was a big blow. Not so much for the ego part of it; I am perfectly happy to send Pete back to work at XMission on Monday. Pete did not set out to become a politician, but ran because he could not find another candidate who supported his core values. Yesterday’s loss was not a personal loss, rather it seems like a setback for those who are committed to getting corporate money out of politics. There are good, honest people in the Democratic Party, courageous individuals who are willing to put their necks out, to be called “nutcakes.” We have to keep working, regardless of the powers that be and those that say you can’t win unless you stoop to what the other guy is doing. To me, the ends do not justify the means — ever.

The question is, what now? I don’t know if Pete will run again, but I do know that we need to continue to fight to support others who are making a difference. Today my confidence is low, and I feel that I am just spinning my wheels. I want to stop feeling that the only choice we have is “the lesser of two evils.”

I think I’ll try to raise my spirits by listing some inspirational individuals and groups who are still fighting the good fight. I invite you to fill in the comments with your inspirations:

  • I am inspired by a group called Move to Amend Salt Lake, who collected 11,251 signatures for a resolution calling for a constitutional amendment to clearly state that corporations are not people and money is not speech. Its success means that this citizen led initiative will be on the ballot in SLC this November. This is a credit to the everyday people who went door -to-door, store-to-store and park-to-park, to get the word out. Ashely Sanders, one of the co-coordinators inspires me in her response to the naysayers of the work, “I know the system is broken. I have no illusions about how hard it will be to fix, how many people it will require or how long it will take. I am here for only one reason: Because I believe in a beautiful, giant, unstoppable grassroots movement of everyday people. Because I used to accept that corporations control every meaningful part of my life, then [I] sat in my basement sad and paralyzed…  It is tempting to believe that our system is so broken that a people’s movement is impossible, that we have been conquered. But we cannot accept that because our history is calling to us to make it real.” 
  • I am inspired by Paul Krueger, who  recently showed what a single person can do. Mr. Krueger started a petition that, in addition to gathering nearly 35,000 signatures, it opened the discussion and called widespread attention to a problem. We don’t think that Governor Herbert would have vetoed HB363 without Mr. Kreuger’s petition and all those who joined the cause. Without their work, Utah schools would have faced sex ed not being taught in school. Mr. Krueger is a retired firefighter who now drives school buses.  He said, “I’ve never done anything like this, and it’s kind of amazing how fast this took off.”
  • CleanSlateNow.org is a non partisan group that supports candidates who forgo special interest money, creating an environment where people, not money, determine the outcome of elections.
  • Pete still inspires me. While he will continue to champion campaign finance reform and transparency in government, he has never given up his support of the local community and his integrity in business: He will keep supporting non-profits with free Internet service regardless of whether or not he agrees with their mission, he will continue to provide political candidates with free Internet services regardless of their party. Pete will continue to serve on non-profit boards and help them solve their technology problems. Through his own non-profit organization, Electroregeneration Society, Pete will continue to take old computers and teach people how to recondition them,  give those computers to people and non-profits who need them, and thus help keep e-waste out of the landfill. He will keep on contributing to his community through donating to community events, festivals, museums and other organizations that benefit us all. Pete will continue to pay 100% of his employees and their families’ health and dental benefits. He will continue to employ people in Utah instead of outsourcing to another country. Pete will continue to fight for a free Internet and individual privacy

Here is a link to Pete’s speech from yesterday’s convention. Unfortunately he was cut off before he had a chance to finish delivering it.

I remain committed to getting the corrupting power of money out of our elections and hope to continue working with those who want to take back their voice in government and get corporations out of our democratic process.

Congratulations Move to Amend!

Move to Amend Salt Lake City has collected 11,251 signatures for a resolution calling for a constitutional amendment. The amendment would clearly state that corporations are not people and money is not speech. The Salt Lake City canvassers needed to collect 9,000 signatures and they collected 2,251 more than they needed. This is the first citizen resolution to collect enough signatures to make it on the ballot in Salt Lake City. Congratulations to all involved!

If you haven’t listened to This American Life’s recent episode, “Take the Money and Run for Office”, you should. Every American would be well served to take an hour and listen to what our elected spend most of their time doing in Washington. This is why I’m not taking PAC money. This is why I want public financing of federal campaigns.

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.

“It’s Just A Name”

Publius, Junius, American Farmer, Common Sense, Silence Dogood, Caesar, Senex, Phocion, Historicus, The Sons of Liberty

If these names had been connected to individuals, the American Revolution may have never happened. If these names had not written letters, handbills, columns and essays under pseudonyms, the public may not have come together against the tyranny of the British crown.

John Adams estimated that his cousin Samuel Adams used between 50 and 100 pseudonyms from the beginning of the American Revolution to its end. Samuel Adams himself said there were too many to count. If the pen is mightier than the sword, anonymity is its shield. Transparency is the key to accountability in government and law-enforcement. If that accountability can only come through the anonymity of a whistle-blowing citizen, then so be it. How many dissidents in Iran wish to have their names connected to their Twitter accounts right now? There is no difference between an anonymous blogger and someone handing out paper 245 years ago. The Fourth Amendment was written for this reason.

If I was a gun maker in revolutionary America, a list of my customers would be valuable information for the British. Would that list be included in my “papers and effects”? What makes the same information recorded by computer on a hard drive any different? The founding fathers demanded warrants be issued with very specific instructions because they had been subjected to the tyranny of inspections and seizures without cause or notice. New technologies do not require the reduction of old protections.

The Attorney General’s office has been twisting arms on the senate floor in a full court press to get HB150 through. The way this bill has been rammed through the House and committee meetings is evidence in itself that something is askew. Representatives of the AG’s office have not only discounted that I am the only Internet Service Provider protesting this bill, they have insinuated that I knowingly harbor child pornographers.

The last line of defense from the AG is that HB150 is actually good for Internet Service Providers. That ISPs can easily refuse an administrative subpoena and fight it in court. I’m not sure how going to court to defend my customers’ Fourth Amendment rights is actually easier than law-enforcement following the letter of the Constitution. I can tell you the latter costs me a lot less time and money.

Enlarging law-enforcement powers by writing a bill with “child predators” at the top is an easy task. What legislator in their right mind is going to stand against that? They aren’t going to be praised for upholding our constitutionally protected liberties, they’re going to be eviscerated for being soft on the lowest form of criminal. This is how these administrative subpoenas snuck out of government as an internal tool between departments and into our daily lives as a bypass of U.S. and Utah Constitutions. The justification is made that this type of information request has been upheld in the courts as constitutional. The Fourth Amendment is a single sentence made up of 54 words. In spite of these judicial opinions, I read warrantless requests for any amount of information as otherwise. With the constant cry that activist judges are shredding our constitution, it is up to our legislature to affirm our rights. They have repeatedly done so on the 2nd and 10th Amendments this session. They cannot turn around and punch a hole right through the 4th just because the Attorney General claims it’s easy.

Thank you to The Eagle Forum, The Sutherland Institute, The Salt Lake Tribune Editorial Board and The Utah Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers for publicly opposing this bill.

If you do one thing today, call or write the Utah Senate.

Legislature Flier Against HB150

Representative Brian King, the sole committee vote against HB150, asked me to bullet point the problems with HB150 so he could distribute it in the legislature. This is what I wrote for him. Feel free to refer to this when calling and writing your representatives.

VOTE NO ON HB150

1. It is unconstitutional. The 6th Circuit Court has ruled that lack of a proper warrant and probable cause for the disclosure of email from an Internet Service Provider is unconstitutional. To whit from Warshak v. United States, “facially violates the Fourth Amendment by simple virtue of the fact that it authorizes the seizure of personal e-mails from commercial ISPs without a warrant and on less than a showing of probable cause. “ HB150′s disclosure of IP address and email address of customers without warrant could be considered the same as email disclosure, since an email carries this information regardless of content and is the only place that information can usually be retrieved from.

2. It is ripe for abuse. The Fourth Amendment was written to protect the innocent. Its purpose has been repeatedly demonstrated in the face of overreaching government and those who abuse power. HB150 expands the reach of government.

3. There is no accountability. Under HB150 an Internet Service Provider is required to turn over customer information to law enforcement agencies without judicial oversight. The argument that “new technologies” requires “new techniques” is not an excuse to violate the privacy of law-abiding Americans. HB150 does not require a law enforcement agency to keep copies of their individual subpoenas, only the “number” of supoenas are reported to a third party, the Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice.

4. It is anti-business. Burdensome regulation against Internet Service Providers, making them a wholesale detective arm of law-enforcement is punitive against small ISPs and favors large ISPs with more resources. There are no nationwide ISPs headquartered in Utah and this law will help drive the already struggling small Utah-based ISPs under. Yahoo has already published their price list for violating your personal privacy. Smaller ISPs are more likely to protect your privacy as long as the law stands with them, they don’t have the money to fight a court battle in your favor.

5. The current system works. Internet Service Providers are currently required to respond to proper search warrants, as is any other business or individual. HB150 is a bill in search of a problem, which instead creates a much larger anti-Constitutional violation. Even more concerning, criminal evidence gathered under HB150′s guidelines are subject to “suppression” (exclusion in a court case) due to the lack of proper warrant and may give opportunity for real criminals to walk free.

VOTE NO ON HB150
Thank you! – Pete Ashdown – XMission
pashdown@xmission.com