Our Itemized Social Contract of Democratic Philosophy – The U.S. Constitution

Signing the Constitution by Louis S. Glanzman

Signing the Constitution by Louis S. Glanzman

As many of the nations involved in the Arab Spring struggle to establish governments, we perceive them to be mired in chaos and tend to judge them harshly.

But not so fast. The United States in its infancy also struggled. Under the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, the precursor to the U.S. Constitution, the government did not have the right to raise revenues so it could not pay its bills. In fact it defaulted on most of its debts. It could not pay its army. It could not bring errant states back in line, making it a struggle to establish validity as a nation before foreign governments.

The Confederate Congress could make decisions, but it could not enforce them. And implementing decisions required unanimous approval by all 13 states. Congress could print money, but it was worthless. Congress could borrow money, but it could not pay it back. No interest was paid on debt owed to foreign governments and by 1786, a mere five years after ratification, it was defaulting on those debts as they became due. Spain closed New Orleans to American commerce.

Something needed to change before the vision of a representational government faded—or fell apart—completely. Most state delegates agreed that an “effective central government with a wide range of enforceable powers” was needed. “All agreed to a republican form of government grounded in representing the people in the states.”

In 1787, the Articles of Confederation were reexamined and in only four months birthed the U.S. Constitution. A handwritten document five pages long established the governance of the United States of America. Can you imagine in our political climate something so miraculous happening so quickly?

While not unanimously approved, it was a great compromise. In the words of Benjamin Franklin, one of 39 signers of the constitution: “There are several parts of this Constitution which I do not at present approve, but I am not sure I shall never approve them.” He would accept the Constitution, “because I expect no better and because I am not sure that it is not the best.” In the end, it was approved by all that remained: eleven state delegations and the lone delegate from New York. Enacted in 1788, it was ratified by ten of the 13 states (nine were required for enactment). Ultimately it was ratified by all 13 states in 1790.

“Since the Constitution came into force in 1789, it has been amended twenty-seven times. In general, the first ten amendments, known collectively as the Bill of Rights, offer specific protections of individual liberty and justice and place restrictions on the powers of government. [These were added to the Constitution in 1791.] The majority of the seventeen later amendments expand individual civil rights. Others address issues related to federal authority or modify government processes and procedures. Amendments to the United States Constitution, unlike ones made to many constitutions world-wide, are appended to the end of the document. At seven articles and twenty-seven amendments, it is the shortest written constitution in force.

“The Constitution is interpreted, supplemented, and implemented by a large body of constitutional law. The Constitution of the United States is the first constitution of its kind, and has influenced the constitutions of other nations.” [Source: Wikipedia] As Benjamin Franklin prophesied, the Constitution is not perfect and there are differing interpretations of its intent. It is viewed by some as a living document requiring adjustment as culture and times change, and by others (ahem, Justice Scalia) in only the strictest sense as it was written in the 18th century. It has taken 227 years to get to this point, and amendments are still likely to be considered on into the future.

The countries around the globe that are struggling to create new governing bodies and law under the duress of violence and clashing cultures deserve the time to envision the government that can embody stability for their people. Impatience on our part is impertinent, unrealistic and undeserved.

Making Your Voice Heard – Write a Letter to Congress!

Letter to congress_Wikihowdotcom

Below are recommendations on how to write an effective letter to your congressional delegation (and at the bottom of the blog, a suggestion that you write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper).

As we heard on the April 19 live broadcast of TVSet, writing Congress about your stance on fast tracking the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement is critical. TVSet highly recommends stopping the fast track process.

Here are your tips to effective congressional letter writing. Of course a phone call to the office is also always appropriate, but not necessarily as effective.

And to make it that much easier for you to write about TPP, here is Ron Wyden’s contact information.

http://www.wyden.senate.gov/contact
Portland office:

911 NE 11th Ave., Suite 630
Portland, OR, 97232
tel (503) 326-7525
Washington D.C. office:
221 Dirksen Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, D.C., 20510
tel (202) 224-5244
fax (202) 228-2717

All federal congressional delegates for Oregon can be found here: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/members/OR

Now on to letter writing.

How to Write Letters to Congress – Real Letters Are Still the Best Way to Be Heard by Lawmakers (http://usgovinfo.about.com/od/uscongress/a/letterscongress.htm)

By Robert Longley

So, you’re going to write a letter to Congress? Good idea. Make it a good letter.

People who think members of Congress pay little or no attention to constituent mail, are plain wrong. Concise, well thought out personal letters are one of the most effective ways Americans have of influencing law-makers. But, members of Congress get hundreds of letters and emails every day. Whether you choose to use the Postal Service or email, here are some tips that will help your letter to Congress have impact.

Think Locally

It’s usually best to send letters to the representative from your local Congressional District or the senators from your state. Your vote helps elect them — or not — and that fact alone carries a lot of weight. It also helps personalize your letter. Sending the same “cookie-cutter” message to every member of Congress may grab attention but rarely much consideration.

Keep it Simple

Your letter should address a single topic or issue. Typed, one-page letters are best. Many PACs (Political Action Committees) recommend a three-paragraph letter structured like this:

  1. Say why you are writing and who you are. List your “credentials.” (If you want a response, you must include your name and address, even when using email.)
  2. Provide more detail. Be factual not emotional. Provide specific rather than general information about how the topic affects you and others. If a certain bill is involved, cite the correct title or number whenever possible.
  3. Close by requesting the action you want taken: a vote for or against a bill, or change in general policy.

The best letters are courteous, to the point, and include specific supporting examples.

Addressing Members of Congress

To Your Senator:
The Honorable (full name)
(Room #) (Name) Senate Office Building
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Senator:

To Your Representative:
The Honorable (full name)
(Room #) (Name) House Office Building
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Representative:

The above addresses should be used in email messages, as well as those sent through the Postal Service.

Here are some key things you should always and never do in writing to your elected representatives.

  1. Be courteous and respectful without “gushing.”
  2. Clearly and simply state the purpose of your letter. If it’s about a certain bill, identify it correctly. If you need help in finding the number of a bill, use the Thomas Legislative Information System.
  3. Say who you are. Anonymous letters go nowhere. Even in email, include your correct name, address, phone number and email address. If you don’t include at least your name and address, you will not get a response.
  4. State any professional credentials or personal experience you may have, especially those pertaining to the subject of your letter.
  5. Keep your letter short — one page is best.
  6. Use specific examples or evidence to support your position.
  7. State what it is you want done or recommend a course of action.
  8. Thank the member for taking the time to read your letter.

Never

  1. Use vulgarity, profanity, or threats. The first two are just plain rude and the third one can get you a visit from the Secret Service. Simply stated, don’t let your passion get in the way of making your point,
  2. Fail to include your name and address, even in email letters.
  3. Demand a response.

Identifying Legislation

Cite these legislation identifiers when writing to members of Congress:

House Bills: “H.R._____”
House Resolutions: “H.RES._____”
House Joint Resolutions: “H.J.RES._____”
Senate Bills: “S._____”
Senate Resolutions: “S.RES._____”
Senate Joint Resolutions: “S.J.RES._____”

How to Write a Letter to Your United States Senator (http://www.wikihow.com/Write-a-Letter-to-Your-United-States-Senator)

Writing to your senator can help solve issues in your state. It is a good way to get their attention, and can make your voice heard. There are a few steps to getting your voice heard correctly, however.

Write the issue on the envelope. If the letter is about an issue currently in front of the Senate, note the issue or the bill number in the bottom left hand corner of the envelope. The staff will handle mail that is relevant to the current session first.

Be sure to include your name, address and phone number, and email address, so that the senator can respond to you and so that they know they are hearing from someone who lives in their district. Ensure that everything you write, particularly your contact information, is legible.

Start with the correct form of address. The appropriate form of address is: Dear Senator (last name).

Introduce yourself in the first paragraph.

Explain the purpose of the letter in the following paragraph. Share the facts that support the purpose.

Stick to one issue and one issue only when you write. The message comes across more effectively this way. Mentioning too many matters will only confuse the main issue.

Make a request for a reply. Be thankful for the senator’s time and for taking your issue seriously. Even if your politician is not of your political preferences, you must still be thankful as this person is still taking valuable time reading this letter.

Use a business-like tone. However, don’t be afraid to tell your personal story as to why this issue matters to you.

  • Avoid the use of slang vocabulary. A professional tone is important for your letter to be taken seriously.
  • Try to use persuasive vocabulary.
  • Bear in mind that the more hysterical, emotional or paranoid your writing comes across, the less seriously your letter is taken.

Use a computer if you can, for neatness counts. Make sure you keep the letter as brief as possible.

Use standard English and do pay some attention to spelling and grammar, but don’t fret over this. You can have someone capable proof-read the letter for you, if you really want to, but the main thing is to be clear in your idea.

Tips

  • Senators do not reply personally to mail. Interns and staff assistants normally sort mail by issue, whereupon replies are written by legislative correspondents and more interns. A Senator will never see a standard piece of mail, but due note will be taken of the concerns expressed in the letter, and it will help inform the Senator’s decision making.
  • Be wary of affiliating yourself with a specific group (a pressure group, club, union, etc.) in writing a letter; this will diminish the impact of your letter, particularly if the whole of a group is writing. Instead, provide a pithy personal example of a piece of legislation’s impact on your life.
  • Do not send form letters or copy the text of another letter. Such letters are almost always ignored.
  • Many states have a sharp difference between Senators in terms of responsiveness, etc. If you have a pressing personal issue speak to both, and follow through with whichever staff seems most supportive. Less popular Senators often focus more on constituent services.
  • Senators cannot, and will not, address correspondence from non-constituents. Some Senators will reply indicating that; others will forward your letter to the appropriate Senator(s); others will simply ignore your letter. Ensure that you are writing to your own Senators regardless of the issue, even if the matter concerns something that happened in another state.
  • Do not get upset if you do not get a reply right away. Remember a senator is usually busy, and receives many letters every day.
  • If you are writing about a casework issue you should address the letter to the district office of the Senator closest to your home, and not the Washington DC office. A privacy release form is necessary for a Senator to intercede on your behalf; these can normally be printed online from the Senator’s website, and should be mailed with the description of the casework issue.
  • Other countries than the United States have senators too. The basics of this article still apply in terms of the letter writing and things to be aware of.
  • If you are writing about your political feelings on an issue, a response may not be necessary and you may or may not get one. Just be satisfied at least that you wrote, and that someone in the Senator’s office has read your comments. If, on the other hand, you need a response on a matter you need immediate personal assistance with, don’t be afraid to make a follow up phone call if you don’t hear from the Senator’s office within a reasonable period of time.

Warnings

  • Referring to your history as a loyal voter/sending tea bags/suggesting that you’ll vote someone out of office/etc. are generally unhelpful.
  • Avoid any kind of threatening tone as this will not help your case, and may trigger a visit from Capitol Police or the Secret Service.

How to Write a Sample Letter to a Senator (http://www.ehow.com/how_8560429_write-sample-letter-senator.html)

By Steve Bradley, eHow Contributor

One of the best way to get the attention of your senator, be it of the state or federal variety, is to write a professional letter. All government officials take this kind of correspondence seriously as it represents a voter’s interests. If congressmen do not listen to and respond appropriately to voters’ concerns, they are less likely to receive the electoral support needed for re-election. There are three keys to writing a letter to a senator. Keep it focused. Keep it professional. Give your Senator an action item.

  • Write your letter using proper business letter format. Most word processing programs will have letter templates that are quick and easy to use. In general the format is as follows:

Starting in the upper left-hand corner list your name and contact information. Under this put the date followed by the senator’s address. Then write a brief salutation and begin the text of your letter. Finally, write a closing and sign your name at the bottom.

  • Introduce yourself and your credentials, if these are appropriate to the issue. State precisely for what reason you are writing to your senator. Keep it factual not emotional. Provide as much specific information as possible detailing how your issue effects both yourself and others. If a particular bill is involved be sure to list it by name and number.
  • Present your senator with an action item. Having something concrete that you are looking for will help focus his attention and better the chances of your letter getting the appropriate reply. Ask your senator for a specific response. Thank him for taking the time to read your letter and ask that he either consider voting a certain way or ask that his office get back to you with a particular piece of information.

How to get your senators’ and representatives’ attention on any issue without being a wealthy donor | Protip from a former Senate intern (http://www.reddit.com/r/politics/comments/1os8rz/)

This is an exerpt:

An email to your senator or representative may result in a form letter response and a phone call to the office may amount to a tally mark on an administrative assistant’s notepad. But, for any given policy concern, if you want to get their attention a letter to the editor in one of your state’s 5-10 biggest newspapers that mentions them specifically BY NAME is the way to go. If your message is directed to your representative, pick a newspaper that is popular in your district.

Links to TVSet topics from April 19 Live Show

TVSet’s live April 19th show will start in just over two hours at 6 p.m. on Comcast Portland Channel 11. Topics on the show are often wide ranging and this evening is no exception.

On the cultural, and Latin American history side of the equation, delve into the life of Eduardo Galeano. [Look for an earlier blog post on his life and how he straightened out revisionist history].

Here are some links of interest:

Link to a legal, free PDF of “Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent”, the book President Hugo Chavez gave to President Obama at the 2009 Summit of the Americas (the copyright has expired on the work).  https://ia700708.us.archive.org/25/items/fp_Open_Veins_of_Latin_America/Open_Veins_of_Latin_America.pdf

Online sources offer glimpses of Eduardo Galeano’s life:

Wikipedia en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eduardo_Galeano

YouTube https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=eduardo+galeano

The Guardian http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/apr/17/my-hero-eduardo-galeano-by-tariq-ali

The Guardian http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/apr/15/eduardo-galeano

Victor Jara, a political activist and folk singer, was one of thousands of people rounded up at a stadium in the capital Santiago after the coup that brought General Augusto Pinochet to power. His killer is being brought to justice. You’ll learn a more about him on the show and here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Víctor_Jara

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=Victor+Jara

BBC News http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-32328555

Al Jazerra http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2015/4/16/killer-of-chilean-victor-jara-to-face-us-justice.html

And lots of information on the important Congressional “Fast Track” vote on the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP):

Wikipedia en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trans-Pacific_Partnership

Wikipedia en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fast_track_%28trade%29

Public Citizen www.citizen.org/TPP

Electronic Frontier Foundation https://www.eff.org/issues/tpp‎

New York Times, Joseph E. Stiglitz “On the Wrong Side of Globalization” http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/03/15/on-the-wrong-side-of-globalization/

Tune in!

Tune in for the next live TVSet show on Sunday, April 18, at 6 p.m.

jim at tvset

Jim Wrathall on the set of TVSet. He’s been aiding and abetting the progressive community since 1991.

Host Jim Wrathall and co-host John Kellerman will discuss the Trans Pacific Partnership (aka TPP) and why it is very important that we care and call our representatives to stop fast tracking the trade agreement.

Other topics will include various significant political, musical & literary issues of interest to viewers. And then there’s always international editorial cartoons (“dessert” as Wrathall likes to say).

Revered Writer and Socialist Eduardo Galeano Leaves a Legacy

14galeano-1-obit-master675

Eduardo Galeano, after a speech at the National Pedagogical University in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, in 2005. Credit Tomas Bravo/Reuters

Each one has something to tell that deserves to be heard.

Eduardo Galeano (1941 – 2015)

“[The world is] managed by five, six countries, big corporations and so-called international institutions, which are not at all international. The World Bank is not worldly, and the International Monetary Fund and so on and the big corporations. So, it’s like—like war. Most of wars or military coups or invasions are done in the name of democracy against democracy.”

Eduardo Galeano

Best known for “The Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent,” published in 1971, it was the book infamously given by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to President Obama at the 2009 Summit of the Americas. The book describes the legacy of the Spanish colonial era and the European and U.S. exploitation that followed it.

“Weaving tapestries of sometimes obscure historical anecdotes, Galeano’s books presented alternative histories that gave equal weight to the sufferings of the downtrodden as to grand achievements of better-known historical figures. For some, the books were rallying calls. Galeano insisted he was merely trying to ‘unmask reality, to reveal the world as it is, as it was, as it may be if we change it.’

“Galeano didn’t spare Latin American governments, using vignettes showing a panoply of injustices including murders of reformers and modern-day subjugation of indigenous peoples. He knew firsthand the boot of oppression, having been arrested in 1973 by Uruguay’s right-wing military regime and forced into exile, first in Argentina, then in Spain until 1985.” (Source: news.obits@latimes.com)

Mr. Galeano wanted to breathe life into history for his readers. “[A great writer is one] that was able to make the past become present telling a history of two centuries ago or three centuries or four or I don’t know how much, and the reader may feel it’s happening right here and now.” He went on to say in a 2013 interview on Democracy Now, “I write trying to recover our real memory, the memory of humankind, what I call the human rainbow, which is much more colorful and beautiful than the other one, the other rainbow. But the human rainbow had been mutilated by machismo, racism, militarism and a lot of other isms, who have been terribly killing our greatness, our possible greatness, our possible beauty.”

In a memorial to Mr. Galeano on Democracy Now, Amy Goodman quotes the writer John Berger: “To publish Eduardo Galeano is to publish the enemy: the enemy of lies, indifference, above all of forgetfulness. Thanks to him, our crimes will be remembered. His tenderness is devastating, his truthfulness furious.” Co-host of the program, Juan Gonzalez says, “This is a huge loss, not only for Latin America, but for those who are fighting for social justice and for truth around the world.”

Watch an interview with Mr. Galeano talking to Democracy Now:

http://publish.dvlabs.com/democracynow/ipod/dn2015-0414.mp4

In homage to his idol and socialist role model, Rosa Luxemburg, Mr. Galeano writes:

“In 1919, Rosa Luxemburg, the revolutionary, was murdered in Berlin.

Her killers bludgeoned her with rifle blows and tossed her into the waters of a canal.

Along the way, she lost a shoe.

Someone picked it up, that shoe dropped in the mud.

Rosa longed for a world where justice would not be sacrificed in the name of freedom, and freedom would not be sacrificed in the name of justice.

Every day, some hand picks up that banner.

Dropped in the mud, like the shoe.”

Beautiful.

Why the Uproar Over RFRAs?

Indiana passed a Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or RFRA, and the state has received a lot of attention as a result. Why the fuss? There are 20 other states that have RFRAs on the books, as does the federal government. Then I saw an ad in the New York Times with the headline “No Hate in Any State or in these United States,” with the next most prominent lines in the ad “Restore true religious liberty. Ask the President and Congress to Repeal RFRA.” Huh? The ad was sponsored by Freedom From Religion Foundation, a nonprofit “educational association of atheists and agnostics working to ban marriage between church and state.” Now I was really confused. How did Indiana’s RFRA law become about gay marriage?

I Googled RFRA and pondered Wikipedia’s description about the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, a bi-partisan bill that had unanimous support in the U.S. House, nearly unanimous support in the U.S. Senate (three senators voted against passage), and was signed into law by President Clinton. In 1997, the law was held to be unconstitutional as applied to the states; however, it continues to be applied to the federal government. Before the Indiana debacle and Alabama’s run at passing an RFRA, there were twenty individual states that passed state RFRAs. Their laws are largely based on the federal law, but apply to state government and local municipalities.

The story seems to start back in 1960. “In a case called Sherbert v. Verner, the Supreme Court established a basic standard for protecting the free exercise of religion. The government could pass laws that affected free exercise, the court said, only if it could demonstrate a ‘compelling interest.’ An example of such a compelling interest might be protecting public safety — or, following enactment of civil rights laws, preventing discrimination based on race. (As Ian Millhiser has pointed out at Think Progress, supporters of segregation sometimes claimed Christianity supported separating people by race.)

“But in a series of rulings from the early 1990s, federal courts allowed the government to infringe upon Native American religious practices — by, among other things, withholding unemployment benefits from people who’d used peyote. The Supreme Court reasoned that such laws were permissible because they did not single out religious practices — rather, they had neutral language and just happened to affect certain faiths adversely. Congress responded to these rulings by passing a federal religious freedom law.” (Source: “Why Indiana’s Religious Freedom Law is Such a Big Deal,” Jonathan, Cohn, Huffington Post, April 1, 2015)

Why was the federal RFRA passed in the first place, and who or what was it trying to protect? The law was put in place to “protect the rights of people to follow their faith against an overbearing government,” summarizes the opinion piece by David G. Savage of the Tribune News Service, titled “Religious ‘protections’ backfiring.”

There is an Oregon tie-in. From Wikipedia: “The Religious Freedom Restoration Act was a cornerstone for tribes challenging the National Forest Service’s plans to permit upgrades to Snow Bowl Ski Resort [located on Mt. Hood]. Six tribes were involved, including the Navajo, Hopi, Havasupai, and Hualapai. The tribes objected on religious grounds to the plans to use reclaimed water. They felt that this risked infecting the tribal members with “ghost sickness” as the water would be from mortuaries and hospitals. They also felt that the reclaimed water would contaminate the plant life used in ceremonies. In August 2008, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected their RFRA claim.”

Not being an attorney, it was challenging to wade my way through all the legalese about the 1993 law and subsequent impacts of various rulings. How did a law embraced by democrats, republicans and many states erupt into a “divisive dispute over gay rights and religious freedom?” The federal RFRA figured prominently in the 2014 Hobby Lobby case, which gives personhood rights to a corporation and enabled Hobby Lobby to opt out of providing contraception based on religious objections. But the uproar over the Indiana law (and the proposed law in Alabama) is over LGBT rights and same-sex marriage.

I found Savage’s opinion piece to provide the greatest clarity, so I quote: “By overturning a key provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act in 2013, the court set in motion a string of rulings across the nation that voided state laws banning same-sex marriage. By this June, a majority of justices is widely expected to legalize gay marriage nationwide.

“So while the marriage ruling opened the door for expanded protections for gays and lesbians, the Hobby Lobby decision offered new tools for those opposed to such moves. . .The [1993 RFRA law signed by President Clinton] says the ‘government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion.’ But the court’s conservative majority defined ‘person’ to include profit-making companies. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, speaking for the liberal dissenters, called it a ‘decision of startling breadth’ that gives ‘commercial enterprises, including corporations’ a right to ignore laws that conflict with their owners’ religious views.

“Armed with the Hobby Lobby ruling and concerned that their statewide bans against same-sex marriage were in danger, conservative lawmakers in Indiana, Arkansas and other sates adopted their own versions of the federal religious freedom law and broadened the scope to include a business, company or corporation as a protected person. That small change created a large concern.

“By giving special religious rights to businesses, the law could encourage [small businesses, corporations and others] to take the law into their own hands and to refuse to serve gay customers.

“Bowing to public and corporate outrage over new state laws that critics warned might allow religiously minded businesses to turn away gay and lesbian customers, Republican state lawmakers quickly retreated, and it revealed an emerging consensus on a principle of national equality: Businesses open to the public must be open to all and may not discriminate based on their sexual orientation.”

And here’s the irony: “So rather than expand the scope of religious liberty, as conservatives had intended, the battles in Indiana and Arkansas instead accelerated the push for civil rights protections for gays and lesbians.” Thank you David G. Savage for your clear explanation of how we got from a law protecting religious freedom to a fight for protecting the rights of the LGBT community.

Does SEC Chair have the Power to Force Corporations to Disclose Political Influence Money?

The Corporate Reform Coalition and others are attempting to engage Mary Jo White, S.E.C. Chair, to force corporations to disclose to shareholders where their investment dollars are being spent to influence the political process. Sounds like a good thing.

“Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s overreaching decision in Citizens United, corporations have had greater leeway to spend shareholder money to influence politics, but no new rules or procedures have been established to ensure that shareholders – those who own the corporations – are informed of decisions about spending in politics.” (Read the full Corporate Reform Coalition press release here.)

Getting Mary Jo White to act is the goal of a rather creative endeavor. Positioning Ms. White as a superhero that can save our democratic process from the evil “dark money menace,” an ad campaign is plastered in a subway entrance/exit near SEC headquarters in Washington, D.C. “The ads and video, available at www.WhereIsMJW.com, are part of a push by the Corporate Reform Coalition to ensure that shareholders and voters know how much corporations spend to influence elections, and which races they fund. The ads were paid for by Avaaz, Public Citizen, Common Cause, U.S. PIRG, Greenpeace, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and Communications Workers of America.” There’s also #WhereisMJW to boost the campaign’s visibility.

“’Corporate political spending requires particular investor protections because it exposes investors to significant new risks,’ said Lisa Gilbert, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. Public Citizen is a co-founder of the Corporate Reform Coalition. ‘Corporate political spending choices may diverge from a company’s stated values or policies, or may embroil the company in hot-button issues. Investors have a right to know what candidates or issues their investments are going to support or oppose.’”

Why run the ad campaign now? “The ad campaign comes in advance of the SEC’s spring announcement of its rulemaking agenda. Under former Chair Mary Schapiro, the agency had included a political disclosure rule on its 2013 agenda, but Mary Jo White removed the rule last year, sparking outrage among investors and the public and leading many to ask, ‘Where is Mary Jo White on this important investor priority?’” Shareholder disclosure has a broad base of supporters.

“Disclosure of political spending is required for labor organizations. S.E.C. Chair Mary Jo White should make the same requirement for corporations,” George Kohl, senior director, Communications Workers of America, is quoted as saying.

Mary Jo White was nominated to be SEC Chair by President Barack Obama on Feb. 7, 2013, and confirmed by the U.S. Senate on April 8, 2013. The Huffington Post called her “a well-respected attorney who won high-profile cases against mobsters, terrorists and financial fraudsters over the course of nearly a decade as the U.S. attorney for Manhattan.” (Source: Wikipedia)

“In 2013, she announced plans to shift the agency away from its decades-long practice of allowing virtually all defendants to settle without admissions of wrongdoing, making it a central element in her enforcement platform.” (Source: The New York Times article “She Runs S.E.C. He’s a Lawyer. Recusals and Headaches Ensue.” by Peter Eavis and Ben Protess, Feb. 23, 2015)

A political independent, she has a reputation for toughness. Sounds like she could be a likely superhero, right? Her hands might be tied with strong ethical rope in some instances.

“Because of ethics rules that Ms. White follows, she must leave all [Cravath] cases in the hands of the commission.” [Cravath, Swaine & Moore is the firm where her husband, John, practices law. He and the firm represent many corporations, some of which are facing S.E.C. investigations. After Ms. White joined the S.E.C., Mr. White converted his Cravath partnership so that he would no longer receive a share of the firm’s profits.] “Without Ms. White, some cases have split the agency’s four remaining commissioners, pitting two Democrats who have endorsed the public uproar over financial wrongdoing against two Republicans who have expressed reservations about levying big corporate fines. Ms. White, a former United States attorney in Manhattan who promotes big fines and admissions of wrongdoing, would otherwise provide the deciding fifth vote.” (Source: Ibid)

It must be noted that Ms. White is not the only one facing recusal. At times, other commissioners must also recuse themselves. The articles goes on to say: “Private sector experience like hers sharpens the prosecutorial acumen of the agency, Ms. White’s supporters say. And they note that the S.E.C. last year announced a record number of enforcement actions, including actions she supported against Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse.”

Here’s to hoping that the Corporate Reform Coalition’s Where is Mary Jo White ad initiative will have the desired result.

The Corporate Reform Coalition is made up of more than 75 organizations and individuals from good governance groups, environmental groups and organized labor, and includes elected officials and socially responsible investors. The coalition seeks to promote corporate governance solutions to combat undisclosed money in elections.