Step-by-Step Plan

Disclaimer: This page is copied verbatim from here.

This plan lets us go around Congress to fix corruption ourselves

Go to this link for video:  https://act.represent.us/sign/the-solution/?source=homepage_1

How to roll up your sleeves and pass an Anti-Corruption Act in your city or county.

Step 1: Answer these initial questions

1: Does your city or county have a history of corruption?

  • Answering “yes” does not require that any of your local public officials have been convicted of a crime. After all, we’re trying to put an end to the legalized bribery that defines American politics today.

Here are some ways you can investigate corruption in your community to answer this question:

  • Are there examples of local politicians being investigated or accused of corrupt/unethical activities? If so, can you create a list of articles from local media outlets? Not sure? You can call alocal political reporter to see what they think, and if they have any hot leads you otherwise might not have heard of.
  • Find out if your city or county has a list of the top government vendors. Compare vendors getting big contracts to the list of big campaign donors.
  • See if your city or county maintains a lobbyist registry, then compare the list of lobbyists to the big political campaign donors.
  • Ask if your local elected officials file financial disclosure reportsthat list their private financial interests, then see if their business interests get government contracts.
  • Research to see if your elected officials have filed notices of voting conflicts or disclosures when they receive gifts.

2: Does your city or county have a binding ballot initiative process for passing local laws? Is it a direct initiative process or a charter amendment?

  • Ballot Initiative – A local ballot initiative is a form of direct democracy. It is a procedure under which local voters directly propose (“initiate”) legislation through a “general law” process. That is, citizens write a new law, gather a sufficient number of signatures, place a summary of the law on the ballot, and vote it up or down. A majority vote makes the initiative the law of the land.
  • Charter Amendment – Many cities are not “general law” cities, but instead are “charter cities”. Charter cities (also known as “home rule” cities) have their own city charter. Citizens must craft a “charter amendment,” gather signatures, and place it on the election ballot. Rather than immediately becoming the law of the land — as with a general law initiative — charter amendments direct the city or county commission to make specific changes within six months or so.
  • How to find out if your city is a general law city or a charter city:
    • Check Ballotpedia.org for the article specific to your state, search “Laws governing local ballot measures in STATE”
    • Call your city clerk and ask. If the clerk says you are in a charter city, be sure to ask where you can obtain a copy of the charter

3: What is the timing and process?

  • When is the next municipal election? 
  • How many signatures do you need to collect to get a question on the ballot? When do they need to be turned in? Often this is outlined on your local ballotpedia page, or you can call your city clerk.
  • What are the key approval steps and deadlines?  When are the deadlines for signature gathering? Does the local government attorney or governing body have a role in the approval of the ballot language?
  • What are the rules for the petition committee and referendum campaign? The elections administrator should be able to provide you with a list of the specific rules, including: number of city residents required to form the committee, the format of the ballot petition, and other important policies to follow to stay in compliance with election law.
  • Note: It is better to run an Anti-Corruption Act during a regular election — not a special election with low voter turnout.

Step 2: Pick your campaign process

  • Anti-Corruption Act:  A binding law, either as an ordinance by initiative process or by a charter amendment, requires that the ballot language becomes law once approved by voters. These are preferable, but are not available in every city or county. If one is not available in your community, you might consider a non-binding Anti-Corruption Resolution, below.
  • Anti-Corruption Resolution: A non-binding resolution is a formal, democratic request to your local or state government body to support the principles of the American Anti-Corruption Act, and to pass a version of it. This is generally easier to accomplish to make a statement that demonstrates the views of the municipality or county, but it does not change the law.

Step 3: Build your network

One of the things that makes Represent.Us unique is that we have a strong commitment to building broad and diverse coalitions. In a time of unprecedented political polarization, building a team that includes progressives, conservatives and independents, working together on the same left-right team is essential to running a successful anti-corruption campaign.

First check out our map to see if there’s already a Represent.Us Chapter near you or sign up here to start your own.

Your leadership team — in order to build a strong coalition — should include:

  • A conservative
  • A progressive
  • A local political expert (someone who is very familiar with local politics)
  • A local lawyer or legal counsel (we can help with this)

Build support in your community

Step 4: Write your Law

Once you’ve decided on your process, built your team, and gained some support within the community, you’re ready to write a local law. If you know a pro-bono lawyer (with ethics and campaign finance expertise) who would be willing to help draft the law, that is a great place to start. Otherwise, contact Represent.Us headquarters and we can help you find someone local who can help. See the ‘resources’ section below for some sample legislation. Once the question is drafted, make sure to get it approved by the city clerk or necessary official.

Remember, there is no cookie cutter approach to writing an Anti-Corruption Act. Each one should be uniquely tailored to the local needs of your city or county, but must include:

  • Ethics and/or Lobbying reform to stop political bribery
  • Transparency laws to end secret money
  • Citizen funding of elections to give every voter a voice

Step 5: Hold a kickoff meeting

Once you have your law crafted, and know exactly what it’s going to take to pass it, bring your team of volunteers and local supporters together to officially announce the campaign. Here are a few tips:

  • Hold your meeting in a public space – these are usually free and accessible to the public
  • Touch base with us at HQ – we’re happy to send out an email to folks in your area.
  • Ask local businesses to donate food.
  • Tell everyone you know.

Step 6: Hit the Streets

Once you are ready to start gathering signatures:

  • Confirm the number of signatures as well as all of the rules for signature collection with your city clerk or county clerk.
  • Develop a plan to collect the signatures. Make sure to account for invalid signatures by planning to collect nearly twice as many as are required. Need help making your plan? Contact one of our organizers at info@represent.us
  • Hold volunteer canvasses and signature gathering events. There are some good tips and tricks in our action handbook.

Step 7: Get Out The Vote

Once the signatures are collected and turned into the clerk, you’ll want to confirm with the clerk that the question will appear on the ballot. Often it will have to be approved by a government attorney. In the weeks leading up to the election, it is important to remind the public about the question and mobilize support. Here are a few things you can do in your community to build support for the initiative.

  • Write letters to the editor of the local paper to advocate for the measure and meet with the paper’s editorial board.
  • Pursue television and radio interviews.
  • Reach out to local bloggers.
  • Engage on Facebook, Twitter and other social media websites.
  • Be everywhere the candidates go during the campaign. Organize and participate in candidate forums.
  • If you have phone numbers of the petition signers, organize a phone bank to make sure to turn people out to vote yes in the election.
  • On election day, station volunteers outside of the polls to hand out literature and encourage voters to vote yes on the measure.

Step 8: Celebrate

Win or lose (…we think you’ll win) make sure you celebrate all of your hard work with your team.

Resources

  1. Ballotpedia
  2. Local Ballot Initiatives manual
  3. The American Anti-Corruption Act
  4. Follow the Money tracks money raised by state politicians. Reports on local politicians are often available from the city clerk or county elections supervisor.
  5. Need some help? Speak to a Represent.Us organizer at 413.585.8100 ex.24

Disclaimer: This information is advisory in nature and should not be construed as legal advice.

Got feedback? emailgrassroots@represent.us

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