Campaign Legal Center’s David Kolker on Free Speech vs Citizens United


Citizen Lobbying 101 with Issue One’s Meredith McGehee

Workshop Notes: 

  • Know your policy, not just the message and the passion – you have to know what you’re talking about
  • Know what success looks like; come to work every day with a dynamic plan that evolves.

Advice to take home:

Democracy is a marathon. Be prepared for the long haul, be prepared to lose, and stay tough through the wins and losses. Cultivate unlikely allies and view lobbying like dating, by checking in regularly and getting to know your allies and your enemies.

Tips for Communication:

  • Text – direct and short. No sarcasm, no jokes. Just don’t do it! Keep it pithy.
  • Email can be misinterpreted, so be direct and get to the point.
  • Personal calls – pick up the phone!
  • Coalition meeting – No more than 1 hour for a coalition meeting with maximum of ten people. If it’s a 2 hour coalition meeting, provide food!

Be able to articulate your message and your ask in 1-2 minutes. Make your ask more open ended by asking something like “has your boss made a commitment on that yet?” instead of “so do we have your support?”

Regular contact should be monthly communication – sharing a specific article, extending an invitation to an event or briefing, informing a new bill introduced.

Phone banking is rapidly losing impact. It’s more about a process that has already identified people who are with you and who are already responding.

Final Thought:

“If you’re a good lobbyist, you listen.”


Funding Reform: Trends and Challenges in 2018

Funding Reform: Trends and Challenges in 2018
“We’re trying to unrig the system by changing the rules of the game,” says Carmen Lopez-Wilson, during an interactive panel about how to work with and approach donors, such as those trends and challenges that arrive with applying for, accessing and effectively utilizing funds for organizations and causes.

Fighting Big Money While Running for Office

“The academic research says you don’t not need to outraise your opponent. You need to raise enough money to get your message out,” Every Voice President and CEO David Donnelly said to a room full of active and prospective candidates at the “Fighting Big Money While Running for Office” panel he facilitated with Tiffany Muller, End Citizens United President and Executive Director.

The experts ran through successful messaging, broke down polling data, and gave a crash course on winning the right way.


Fierce, Independent, and Fighting for You: Government Watchdogs

Government watchdogs from around the country are at the front lines of the fight for accountability. Four experts: Ann Ravel, Stephen Street, Letitia James, Jennifer Rodgers – congregated on Saturday morning’s “Fierce, Independent, and Fighting for You” panel to discuss the problems plaguing government ethics and transparency – and the potential reforms.

Stephen Street – Louisiana Inspector General

The only state that gives us a real run for our money is Illinois. They’ve had more governors go to jail than we have.

After all these years, I’ve got a thick alligator hide, and I don’t give a shit about these corrupt politicians. You want to have a debate about ethics, I feel very comfortable about my side — so bring it on.

Ann Ravel – former Federal Elections Commission chair

These secretive 501(c)(4)s all had names like ‘We love puppies’… but it turned out that they were all Koch groups that were counting on their donors’ names never being disclosed.


Foreign Influence in U.S. Elections

This panel featured Federal Election Commission Commissioner Ellen Weintraub; Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, Associate Professor of Law at Stetson University; Eric Wang, Senior Fellow at the Institute of Free Speech; Adav Noti, Senior Director, Trial Litigation & Chief of Staff of Campaign Legal Center; and Professor Anthony Johnstone of the Montana School of Law. Scott Greytak of RepresentUs moderated.

The five panelists held a lively, and at times contentious, discussion on the seriousness of the threat foreign influence poses to American democracy and how to best address it. Much of the discussion revolved around the revelations of Russian expenditures during the 2016 election cycle. Panelists noted that social media provided foreign actors an extremely cost-effective means of influencing and dividing the American public. With the exception of Eric Wang of the Institute for Free Speech, panelists were nearly unanimous in their support for the expansion of disclosure laws.

There was also special attention paid to how to make the bipartisan case for reform. Professor Johnstone of the University of Montana School of Law stressed that this issue should be framed as one of self-governance, not about bigotry or an anti-foreign sentiment: “The concern, once you open government up to represent us…is making sure it’s the right ‘us.’”


A Presidential Election for Everyone: Fixing the Electoral College


Professor Lawrence Lessig joined CEO of Ainsley Shea Patrick Rosentiel, VP for Programs at Brennan Center for Justice John Kowal, and Associate Attorney at Covington & Burling Maggie Brennan to discuss U.S. elections and the Electoral College.

It was standing room only as speakers discussed the Electoral College and its impact on presidential elections. Presidential candidates devote significant time to campaigning in eight battleground states and craft their entire campaigns around issues that impact those areas most.


Know Your Audience: A Chat with the Pollsters


In polling, the numbers aren’t everything. As the expert pollsters and seasoned political communicators on the “Know Your Audience” panel repeated this afternoon, data falls flat when it’s stripped of narrative and personal connection. And unrigging the system, the panelists argued, requires seeking out the people ignored by status quo politics. No reform campaign can compete without knowing its audience — but conservatives, progressives, and every candidate in between will benefit from asking the right questions.


Criminal Justice Reform in Louisiana

It was a packed house at Unrig the System Summit’s panel, “Criminal Justice Reform in Louisiana”!

Former State Senator Nina Turner moderated a discussion with Louisiana activists to learn about the issue and how conservatives, independents, and liberals from across the state came together in 2017 to pass a landmark criminal justice reform package.