Our History

This Is How It Started

Moneypolitics:  Noun. A political system created in the United States by the Supreme Court circa 2010, whereby wealth has nearly the entirety of political power.  The system is characterized by large numbers of television ads, which mislead the people into believing that candidates who are best for wealthy interests are also best for the people.  This political system only survives as long as the people are distracted, uninformed and inactive. — Ken Gordon, February 22, 2011

The definition above was the opening of an email by the late former Senate Majority Leader Ken Gordon when he decided to formalize his campaign to rid politics of the corrupting influence of special interest money. While Ken may have been a voice crying out in the wilderness in the wake of Citizens United, he helped spark a movement that has millions of Americans fighting for campaign finance reform in an effort to preserve our democracy and keep political power in the hands of the people, not the corporations.

Just a year after the 2010 Citizens United decision, Ken made the point that it’s no longer possible to talk about politics without talking about money:

“Before Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, people knew that space and time were two separate things.  It turns out that they are not separate, but inextricably connected.  You can’t have time without space and matter.  Now scientists talk about “spacetime.”  (Don’t ask me to explain this in any more detail.)

“Similarly there was once a time when people thought money and politics were two separate things.  It turns out that our Supreme Court doesn’t believe in the separation of money and politics, and until we either amend the Constitution or replace the Court, we should no longer talk about politics, or elections or democracy.

“It should always be moneypolitics, moneyelections or moneydemocracy.”

Ken explained that Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission gave “non-human entities” what we had previously thought were exclusively human rights.  The case gave corporations, for example, the right to spend unlimited amounts of money persuading the electorate that the candidate who is best for the corporation’s own private interest is actually the best for the general welfare.

“I have successfully run for office seven times and I have never accepted contributions from special interest political action committees,” Ken wrote.  “It has always been clear to me that it is wrong to finance campaigns by contributions from groups buying influence over the political process.”

As Ken explained, the American concept of democracy was demonstrated in a commitment to political equality throughout our founding documents:

  • Declaration of Independence:  “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal,”
  • Gettysburg Address:  “dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal,”
  • U.S. Constitution:  no person shall be denied “the equal protection of the laws.”

“Our economic system allows for vast disparities in wealth,” Ken continued.  “In order to insulate the equality necessary for our political system to respect individual human dignity and democracy, there has to be a barrier between wealth inequality and political equality.  The U.S. Supreme Court has destroyed that barrier.

“The Court. I will name the justices who made up the majority.  Their names should live in infamy. Justices Roberts, Thomas, Scalia, Alito and Kennedy have said there can be no effective money rules in politics. They have made it extremely difficult to protect average people. What then can actual citizens do to reclaim political power and invigorate our founding concept of democracy?”  

Ken proposed the creation of an organization to support candidates who agree to three things:

  1. To fund their campaigns from individual contributions.  Not special interests.
  2. To run honest and respectful campaigns.
  3. To denounce third parties who do dishonest and disrespectful activities on the candidate’s behalf.

Ken’s vision was a little ahead of its time, but it was a simple idea and it has taken root.  If we support the kind of candidates Ken described above with individual contributions, volunteers, and digital communication, we will begin real political change.

“We can make it a political advantage to do the right thing,” Ken wrote. “People respond to candidates who want to represent them and not big contributors.  I have seen it in my own career.  This is idealistic and pragmatic at the same time.

“We are on the verge of a tipping point.  The dots are closer than they have ever been.  All we need to do now is connect them.  The American people rightfully believe that organized, wealthy, special interests have captured our government.  That knowledge can motivate action. We can create an organization to do just that, and in the coming weeks, months and years, I will be asking for your help.  The power of committed citizens can overwhelm the power of Big Money.”

The organization, CleanSlateNow.org, served that mission of education voters and mobilizing them to action through the rest of Ken’s life and now for more than four years since his passing.  Seven years since its founding, there are tens of thousands of supporters of CleanSlateNow.org, engaging in the mission of working to eliminate the corrupting influence of big money in politics on the local, statewide, and national level.  As we continue to grow exponentially, we now have participants in all 50 states working to educate their communities about candidates, elected officials, and proposed legislation that are all focused on returning the notion of serving the public interest back to the top-ranking priority of those seeking to be elected into a career in public service.

“When you think about it, we actually don’t have a choice,” Ken summed up. “We have to do this.”

Here is Ken explaining to a crowd why he started CleanSlateNow.org:

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