Saturday, January 31, 2015



DETROIT – Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (MI-13) released the following statement after the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office announced the dismissal of the remaining misdemeanor charges against Detroit Police Officer Joseph Weekley arising from the shooting of 7-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones during a 2010 raid [on her home] in pursuit of a murder suspect:

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
“Though the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office has decided not to go to trial for a third time in its case against DPD Officer Joseph Weekley, this action is unlikely to end the controversy over the incident.  However, our community must not lose sight of the greatest tragedy of all in this situation – the loss of a 7-year-old innocent child, Aiyana Stanley-Jones.

“The troubling circumstances of this case further exemplify the urgency of enacting legislative reforms to address the legal hurdles often faced in creating a system for better police accountability and illustrate the need for major reform in our criminal justice system. 

“It is imperative that we concentrate our passions over this case toward cultivating community-focused, smart policing that rebuilds trust between residents and law enforcement.  That cultivation must start with basic reforms such as, police retraining and curtailed use of deadly force.  As a result of today’s event, I plan to take two steps.  First, I plan to review the matter very closely.  Second, I plan to continue my work on police accountability and follow through by introducing legislation.

“I will continue to engage members of the community, law enforcement and clergy concerning the recent series of police-involved shootings. I extend my deepest condolences to the family of Aiyana Stanley-Jones during this very difficult time.”
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Thursday, January 29, 2015

'Handle With Care' Behavioral Management Newsletter: January 29, 2015

Handle With Care

HWC Newsletter

Join us for a Q & A Session with HWC's President and Founder, Bruce Chapman
Feb 11, 2015 at 2:00 PM EST.
In this webinar, you will be able to ask, Bruce Chapman, a leading expert in the field, questions behavior management & crisis intervention including how to handle your most challenging students and clients.
Register now!

How HWC holding methods create a calm mind state - faster
The research and science that explains why HWC holds result in calmer students and clients.
What does physical restraint have to do with a "squeeze machine"? (Plenty!)
Forty years ago, when I was a young psychiatric technician working on an acute locked psychiatric inpatient unit, I came to realize that physically holding someone in a way that was safe, painless and effectively limited purposeful movement was ultimately reassuring and resulted in a rapid calming effect on patients who had been extremely excited and agitated just moments before. I postulated that there was some primitive neurophysiological process at work that was related to the restricted movement, confinement and safety of the womb environment. I also concluded that the process was likely the same one involved in the ancient practice of swaddling infants to produce calmness.

Tentative Touch vs Definitive Touch
I later made a distinction between, what I call, “tentative touch”, which can excite, overstimulate and further agitate someone and “definitive touch”, which is the quality of touch inherent with a firm-feeling and secure therapeutic holding method. Tentative touch reflects and belies the fear, apprehension and absence of commitment of the person or people performing the hold. It produces more anxiety and the continued agitation of the person being held and the loss of his confidence in the people involved in the hold. Conversely, a hold that exudes definitive touch communicates calmness and certainty and helps to reproduce a state of calm in the child and a more rapid return to emotional homeostasis and equilibrium. Maintaining a calm affect neutral” (and decidedly non-punitive) emotional state by staff and faculty is absolutely critical in helping the child experience the hold as safe and that that the hold is being done ‘for’ him rather than ‘to’ him. In other words, a firm or definitive physical hold performed by someone with a benign heart can produce a more rapid return to a calm mind state.

The effect of definitive touch on the therapeutic relationship
Some of the holds that I performed with adults on our unit back in the ‘70s became remarkable pivot points in my relationships with patients who had been intractable and unable to form anything other than the most superficial relationships with other helping professionals. Some of our patients experienced a complete course correction in their commitment to treatment which began once the hold was withdrawn. It is really a two-step process. We temporarily assume control until there is a return to a calm mind state. Once a calm state has been achieved, we relinquish control back to the patient, client or student. When the cycle is complete, the credit for his return to a positive state of safety and calm is transferred by him to you, the helping person, in a way that fundamentally changes the nature of your relationship with that child or adult moving forward. An “attachment” takes place.
Unfortunately, the perception that some professionals and the public have of the therapeutic value of physical restraint has been completely lost over the last decade or so. Physical restraint is now being promoted as inherently and irreparably damaging and traumatic, especially to special needs and autistic students. A publicly-funded advocacy industry is busy at work instigating parents, lobbying for draconian regulations and generally interfering with your ability to provide for the physical and emotional well-being of your students in crisis. It threatens the safety of everyone except for the advocacy attorneys who are driving this train from the comfort and security of their law offices. Besides being so embarrassingly wrong on policy and disingenuous about the actual constellation of laws governing restraint usage, they are also totally wrong on the science. There is a serious body of research on the use of “pressure” to create a state of calm in children with autism, ADHD and other patients, clients and students prone to sensory processing difficulty and stimulation overload. To be clear, pressure does not mean pressure or weight on the person’s chest, diaphragm or anything else that would restrict respiration or cause discomfort.
What does the research show?

Well, it confirms my observations about the calming effect of physical holding, its relationship to swaddling and the more contemporary use of weighted blankets with autistic children. The single unifying feature of these modalities is their ability to create “deep touch pressure”.

Temple Grandin, Ph.D., is a brilliant self-described autistic adult and researcher who built, what she calls, a “squeeze machine”, also referred to as a “pressure machine” or “hug machine”, for herself as a teenager five decades ago in order to overcome her own problem of “oversensitivity to touch” and to “allay” her anxiety. In 1992. Dr. Grandin published a paper titled “Calming Effects of Deep Touch Pressure in Patients with Autistic Disorder, College Students and Animals” in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology.

What is especially interesting is that, by using a pressure-producing mechanical appliance in a study that included autistic, “normal” and animal subjects, she prevented the human relationship from contaminating her scientific conclusions; something that I was unable to do in making my own anecdotal observations. In my view, physical holding is both an extension of the therapeutic relationship and a neurophysiological process that can be replicated scientifically.

What does this mean for you and your students in the classroom?
While everyone understands the importance of using a physical holding method that is medically and orthopedically safe, in light of the contemporary science behind deep touch pressure and autism, you also need a physical holding method that provides for the firmness and depth of touch that many autistic and ADHD children need to integrate and process sensory input.
Using a physical intervention method that is able to restore a calm mind state more quickly is even more advantageous for very young children, when the brain’s circuitry is most vulnerable and most pliable. A faster-cycling “recovery arc” allows the child to more quickly release the fear, anxiety and panic that drives his maladaptive behaviors and reduces the total amount of time the child is spending in the state that is producing them. By shortening a young child’s exposure to these events, you can diminish the extent to which his maladaptive and pathological behaviors become more and more ingrained over time. Timely and appropriate physical intervention when it is needed in combination with positive behavioral supports and the other important elements of his IEP/IBP can only improve the child’s functioning and long term prognosis.

Click to learn more about Handle With Care.

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Click to learn more about Handle With Care's Small Child Program.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2015


Failings by All Three Branches of Our Federal Government Leave Abused and Neglected Children Vulnerable to Further Harm

Shame on U.S., a report by the Children’s Advocacy Institute of the University of San Diego School of Law, in collaboration with First Star, discusses how the federal government is failing to properly enact, monitor, interpret, and enforce federal child welfare laws — and in so doing is allowing states to fall below minimum floors with regard to appropriately detecting and protecting children from child abuse and neglect and complying with minimum federal child welfare requirements and outcomes.   

Each branch of our federal government plays an integral role in the child welfare system, and when even one fails to perform its role in an appropriate manner, children are put at risk of harm.  Because all three branches must be performing optimally to ensure a well-functioning child welfare system, this report discusses the performance of each branch in this arena.  Specifically, the report:
  • provides an overview of the scope and purpose of major child welfare laws as enacted by Congress, and to what extent current laws meet the needs of children;
  • examines how the judicial branch has interpreted those laws;
  • discusses to what extent the executive branch implements and enforces those laws;
  • comments on the potential efficacy of each branch’s scope and reach;
  • provides examples of shortcomings in all three branches with regard to their respective roles vis-à-vis the child welfare system;
  • discusses issues where the purpose or intent of child welfare laws are being openly violated by some states;
  • calls for more robust activity from all three branches — and particularly enforcement by the executive branch charged with enforcing Congressional intent and, when necessary, withholding federal funding or imposing penalties where states are clearly not meeting minimum standards; and
  • makes several recommendations for all three branches of federal government, all of which are necessary in order to ensure a well-functioning child welfare system.
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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

House Introduces Anti-Immigration Bills Under Guise of Child Protection

The U.S House has introduced a series of Bills to address human trafficking of children by amending existing legislation.

Strengthening Child Welfare Response to Trafficking Act of 2015

Human Trafficking Prioritization Act

Human Trafficking Prevention Act

International Megan's Law to Prevent Demand for Child Sex Trafficking

To improve the response to victims of child sex trafficking

Enhancing Services for Runaway and Homeless Victims of Youth Trafficking Act of 2015

While the efforts to protect children are admirable, there are underlying issues which demand floor debate:  Anti-immigration, deportation and the dismantling of the 13th and 14th Amendments.

Each of the Bills expands the power of Child Protective Services, an entity which has no public scrutiny of its operations or its financial integrity to execute the aforementioned partisan agenda.

Will these operations be privatized?

Each of the Bills becomes a filter on "what types of children" are to be protected by the U.S. and "what criteria" exist for children to remain in the U.S.:  Is a child a victim of sex trafficking and if not, then what.

These Bills should be examined under the lens of caution as they seem to be crafted to address the flow of children entering the U.S. from south of the border, or rather anti-immigration.

If a child does not fall under the purview of a "trafficked" victim, will they be immediately turned away from the border, denied humanitarian help?

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Grassley Looks into Nonprofits Suing Parents but not Children

In my efforts to further understanding of the secret industry of Medicaid fraud in child welfare, I present to the public, another, working example of how a private non-profit fraud scheme operates to "maximize revenue" from federal funding.

In child welfare, children and parents qualify for services for being poor.

In foster care, specifically, the States have a practice of billing parents of children receiving foster care services, even intercepting child support payments.

When a parent is unable to "pay back" the state for services rendered, whether these services are necessary or proper, not only is collection initiated, but in some instances, termination of parental rights proceedings are also launched because the parents are too poor to "provide for the necessary care for the child."

Then, to make matters even more egregious, upon collection of payment for foster care services, the States never reimburse its federal funding for the services provided.

For the purposes of showing the impact of nonprofit hospitals suing poor patients, poor patients have, in some instances, children.  When these poor parents are sued, reliance upon the state is the only recourse to "provide for the necessary needs of the child."

The entire Congress should also be 'astounded' that the same goes on in child welfare.

Senator 'Astounded' That Nonprofit Hospitals Sue Poorest Patients

NPR and ProPublica have been reporting about nonprofit hospitals that seize the wages of lower-income and working-class patients. Now, Sen. Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, says hospitals could be breaking the law by suing these patients and docking their pay. And he wants some answers.
NPR and ProPublica looked across six states, and in each, we found nonprofit hospitals suing hundreds of their patients. One hospital in particular jumped out — Heartland Regional Medical Center in St. Joseph, Mo. Thousands of patients a year are getting their paychecks docked by the hospital and its debt collection arm.
One family we interviewed in our story has been getting their wages seized for nearly 10 years, but still owes $25,000 and feels trapped — in part because Heartland is charging 9 percent interest on that debt.
This family, and others we spoke to, should have qualified for free medical care under the hospital's own charity care policy based on their income. But that didn't happen. We also documented that hundreds of patients with low-wage jobs at McDonald's, Wal-Mart and elsewhere had their pay seized by this hospital.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, says nonprofit hospitals could be breaking the law by suing patients and docking their pay.i
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, says nonprofit hospitals could be breaking the law by suing patients and docking their pay.
Grassley: Hospitals Could Be Breaking The Law
Grassley, R-Iowa, told NPR and ProPublica he was "astounded" by these collection practices. For more than a decade, Grassley has been working to make nonprofit hospitals more accountable for the huge tax breaks they get. They don't pay federal income tax or local property tax. Grassley says that to justify their tax-exempt status, nonprofit hospitals have to "earn" it by "taking care of people who couldn't provide for their own health care."
Grassley worked on voluntary standards. But he also authored language in the Affordable Care Act requiring hospitals to do more to provide charitable care.
After he saw NPR and ProPublica's reporting on Heartland Hospital (which is changing its name to Mosaic Life Care), Grassley decided to get involved.
He says that under the ACA, a hospital has a responsibility to make a determination: Can a person or a family pay, or can they not? "It seems like Mosaic turned [the law] on its head," he says.
Grassley says the ACA requires that hospitals take the initiative to determine whether patients qualify for financial aid. The hospital is not supposed to shift that burden onto the patients. But in Heartland/Mosaic's case, Grassley said, "It seems to me they have not taken the initiative and they have not abided by the law."
Tougher Rules Required?
And Grassley hopes his letter sends a wider message to other nonprofit hospitals that are being too aggressive collecting bills from patients who can't afford to pay. "Well, I think some hospitals, you hit them over the head with a two-by-four and they still don't get the message," he said.Heartland/Mosaic's board is reviewing its practices as a result of our earlier reporting. Grassley has now sent a letter to the hospital saying he wants to be briefed on the results of that review by Jan. 30. Grassley wrote that the hospital "may not be meeting the requirements to be a nonprofit."
Grassley says the health care law may need to be strengthened in order to force nonprofit hospitals to offer financial assistance to poor patients. "If they don't get the message now, we'll have to work towards getting the ideal language in the legislation," Grassley told NPR and ProPublica.
Tama Wagner, a Mosaic Life Care spokesperson, says the hospital will quickly respond to the senator's request and that the hospital's goal is to "do the right thing."
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Monday, January 26, 2015

RIP Leonard Henderson - LK Report For January 25th 2015

Baby LK recaps the week in news for the child protection industry. Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©


WASHINGTON – Over two dozen Members of Congress, led by Reps. John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) and Ted Yoho (R-FL), issued a letter to President Obama urging him to maintain his policy of refusing to transfer shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles (“MANPADS”) to Syrian combatants.

The letter encourages the Obama Administration to uphold the policy towards Syrian combatants that have been vetted and trained by the U.S. Department of Defense or the Central Intelligence Agency.

MANPADS can be fired at aircrafts by individuals on the ground and can be easily hidden or transported in the trunk of a car.  U.S. and Israeli officials have expressed concern that they could be used by terrorists to bring down commercial airliners, including in Israel.  Former CIA director David Petraeus said last year that the possibility of a civilian airliner being shot down by a MANPAD was “always our worst nightmare.”  According to the Arms Control Association, thirty fatal MANPAD attacks have resulted in almost 1,000 civilian deaths since the first known use against a civilian aircraft in 1978.

In late 2014, the headquarters of the CIA-backed milita Harakat Hazm— one of the biggest recipients of U.S. arms including powerful TOW anti-armor missiles —was overrun by Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda’s primary Syrian affiliate.  Harakat Hazm fled its positions, leaving behind many of their weapons that were seized by al-Nusra.

In the 113th Congress, Reps. Conyers and Yoho proposed a collaborative amendment to H.R. 4870, the “Department of Defense Appropriations Act of 2015” that would have prevented the transfer of MANPADs to any party in the Syrian Civil War.  The House of Representatives approved the amendment unanimously in June 2014.

In addition to Reps. Conyers and Yoho, the letter was signed by Reps. Peter Welch (D-VT), Steven Cohen (D-TN), John Garamendi (D-CA), Water Jones (R-NC), Rick Nolan (D-MN), Mo Brooks (R-AL), Hank Johnson (D-GA), Paul Gosar (R-AZ), Alan Grayson (D-FL), Bill Posey (R-FL), Mark Pocan (D-WI), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Joseph Pitts (R-PA), Jared Huffman (D-CA), Brian Babin (R-TX), Tom Rooney (R-FL), Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Randy Weber (R-TX), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Jeff Miller (R-FL) and Curt Clawson (R-FL).
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Friday, January 23, 2015

New Jersey Child Welfare Lawsuit Does Nothing For Children Who Have Suffered

If the New Jersey child welfare system is "light years" better than a decade ago, as opined by a federal judge, does this not lead one to believe the children severely suffered?

So why has no one addressed the harms of the children who lived through this hell?

When are these children, who are now adults, going to be made whole?

Who cares, children have no civil rights, right?

N.J. child welfare system 'light years' better than a decade ago, judge says

Inaugural Ceremony of Governor Chris Christie and Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno
NEWARK — New Jersey's child welfare system thursday received its 15th report card in nine years evaluating its transformation from a money-starved, mismanaged bureaucracy to one that a federal judge described as "light-years" better than it once was.
Like other monitoring reports, however, the Department of Children and Families is meeting about half of the goals contained in the settlement a class-action lawsuit that alleged neglect of thousands of foster children. Federal monitor Judith Meltzer and her team at the Center for the Study of Social Policy, a Washington D.C. think tank, concluded the department met 19 of 43 requirements from January 2014 to June 2014, showed progress in eight areas, and missed the mark on 16 others.
"Although there remain important...outcomes still to be achieved, the Department of Children and Families has demonstrated it is a system that is continually trying to improve itself," according to the 200-page report Meltzer submitted to U.S. District Court Judge Stanley R. Chesler in Newark before a hearing this morning.
Shortcomings included:
• Rising caseloads among staff who investigate child abuse claims and supervise foster children waiting to be adopted.
Unmanageable caseloads was one of the most vexing problems that drove the state to accept outside monitoring following the death of 7-year-old Faheem Williams, whose body was found in a relative's closet in January 2003, almost a year after his family's caseworker lost track of him.
• Too many children whose parents have been deemed unfit were waiting too long — more than 60 days — for court and child welfare employees to begin making them available for adoption.
• Too few young adults who had "aged-out" of foster care without getting adopted had enrolled in school or found a job, and a place to live. The goal is 95 percent to have housing and on a job track, but only 84 percent had a place to live and 63 percent were going to work or school.
Successes included:
• Caseworkers visited 93 percent of children twice during their first month in a foster home, up from 89 percent in the last report. The goal is 95 percent, but Meltzer said the progress was notable.
• 98 percent of caseworkers completed reports assessing the safety and risk of a child's home within 30 days of closing out an investigation.
• 97 percent of all adoptions were done within nine months, exceeding the goal of 80 percent.
Children and Families Commissioner Allison Blake attributed much of the department's success to the reams of data that is available through an automated system that was purchased in the early stages of the reform effort.
After 25,000 family cases, the department learned 9 percent of families were investigated and evaluated three or more times a year. "Among these frequently-encountered families," most abused drugs and alcohol.
"We responded by investing $1.8 million to expand the Mommy and Me program...which allows parents to live with their children during drug treatment and addiction recovery," Blake told Chesler.
Marcia Robinson Lowry, the lead attorney who brought the lawsuit against the state in 1999 when she led national legal advocacy organization Children's Rights, also complimented the Department on how far it had come.
"We are pleased with the monitor's report, and with the progress the agency is making and the responsiveness of the leadership," said Lowry, who is still lead attorney in the case but under has a new nonprofit advocacy group called A Better Childhood, Inc.
The monitor, the state and the plaintiffs also left the hearing with a plan to hold confidential meetings to discuss revising some of the settlement's goals. In July, Blake took everybody by surprise when she announced in court she wanted to renegotiate some of the terms.
"Should there be adjustments to the settlement agreement, any further discussions between the parties should not be (held) during these proceedings," Chesler said.
Chesler praised the department for "having the capacity to look at itself and its problems. There is still work to be done ... but we are light years from the system I saw 11, 12 or 13 years ago. I congratulate you."
Cecilia Zalkind, executive director for Advocates for Children of New Jersey, a research and advocacy group, said there are things to celebrate in the report. "It is positive that the state is continuing to make progress, especially in areas where improvement lagged, such as parent and child visitation." But rising caseloads are a "red flag...Caseloads that are too high for workers to do their jobs is how the system got into trouble in the first place. I would hope there would be an action plan on this."
"This settlement was signed nine years ago ... I wonder what that says about progress. There still seems a lot left to do."
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Thursday, January 22, 2015


WASHINGTON – Today, during debate on the House Floor of H.R. 7, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) urged his colleagues to vote against the unnecessary legislation.  Rep. Conyers delivered the following remarks, as prepared for delivery:

“Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong opposition to H.R. 7, the so-called “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act.” 

“Today, on the 42nd Anniversary of Roe v Wade, the majority is launching yet another attack on women's health and constitutionally-protected right to choose whether to carry a pregnancy to term. 

“Most importantly, this bill will make it virtually impossible for a woman to obtain abortion services even when paid for with purely private, non-Federal funds.

“It accomplishes this end by denying tax credits to income-eligible women and small business employers who choose insurance coverage that includes abortion.

“Through its novel tax penalty provisions, H.R. 7 departs radically from existing law, taking away women’s existing health care and placing their health and lives at risk.

“Despite the claims of its sponsors, H.R. 7 does not codify current law and it is not about the regulation of federal funds.
“There is no federal abortion due to the Hyde Amendment, and the Affordable Care Act maintains that policy and law. 

“For more than 30 years, Congress has prohibited federal funding of abortion, except in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother, through provisions in like the Hyde Amendment in annual appropriations bills.

“Nothing in the Affordable Care Act changes this.

“So what is H.R. 7 really about?  Plain and simple, it is an assault on women’s health and freedom.

“Members should understand that a vote for H.R. 7 is not a vote to codify existing law.  It is, instead, a vote to attack women’s health and freedom.  

“H.R. 7 also eradicates the authority of the District of Columbia to make decisions about how appropriated funds are used for the health care of the District’s citizens.
“If H.R. 7 should become law, the District’s discretion to make the funding decisions that best serve the needs of its residents will be permanently restricted.

“H.R. 7's permanent restriction on the District’s use of its own local funds should be rejected.  Women and families who live in the District should not be subject to additional harm simply because of where they live.

“The Administration ‘strongly oppose[d]’ a nearly identical bill last Congress, saying the legislation ‘would intrude on women’s reproductive freedom and access to health care; increase the financial burden on many Americans; unnecessarily restrict the private insurance choices that consumers have today; and restrict the District of Columbia’s use of local funds, which undermines home rule.’

“The fact that this bill has been brought to the Floor at the last minute and that Members are foreclosed from offering any amendments today is yet further proof that this legislation is simply intended to be yet another polemic attack on the Constitution’s protections for certain members of
our society, an attack against our deliberative legislative process, and an attack against the citizens of the District of Columbia. 

“Accordingly, I strongly urge my colleagues to oppose this egregious bill and I reserve the balance of my time.”

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Saving Our Republic From Citizens United

By John Conyers, Jr.
Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
When Benjamin Franklin walked out of the 1787 Constitutional Convention, a woman standing outside the hall asked him what sort of government the delegates had created. Franklin responded, "A republic, Madame, if you can keep it."

While this republic was born without legal franchise for people of color and women, it has marched steadily for more than two and a quarter centuries toward fulfilling its promise. It remains a great achievement of human history that Americans established a democratic republic -- governed according to the will of its people rather than the whims of a despot -- and that we've been able to keep it.

Today, on the fifth anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, in the face of limitless anonymous political donations and dramatically widening inequality, it's an open question whether we can keep our republic. Our government is slowly starting to look more like an oligarchy, governed according to the whims of a special few. Thankfully, there are straightforward steps Congress can take right now to reverse this deeply troubling trend.

On Jan. 21, 2010, the Supreme Court majority in Citizens United v. FEC declared it unconstitutional to restrict a corporation from contributing money to support or attack candidates, opening the door to unlimited contributions from shadowy outside groups, including Super PACs and tax-exempt nonprofits. In the five years since then, spending by such outside groups has more than doubled, and the cost of winning an election has increased astronomically. In the most competitive Senate elections of 2014, more than 70 percent of the outside spending benefiting winning candidates came from undisclosed sources.

Unlimited secret money, coupled with rising inequality, creates a vicious cycle for democracy. The wealthiest among us are able to buy votes for politicians who pledge to cut their taxes, rig financial rules in their favor, and remove regulations requiring them to protect workers and the environment. All these actions make the rich richer and, in turn, enable them to purchase more political support. Lax campaign finance laws lock in a permanent governing class. The absence of disclosure requirements makes this governing class utterly unaccountable.

This not only damages our national character but directly impacts lives. With 95 percent of economic growth since the end of the Great Recession accruing to the wealthiest 1 percent of the population, working people lack the purchasing power to pay for college, mortgages, or many basic goods and services. While over two thirds of the public believes that "the government in Washington ought to see to it that everyone who wants to work can find a job," a recent study indicates that only 19 percent of the wealthiest Americans, who disproportionately fund elections, agree.

While multinational corporations and Wall Street titans have taken maximum advantage of Citizens United, small businesses have also been negatively impacted by the flood of campaign money. A new poll conducted by Small Business Majority found that 88 percent of small-business owners view money as a negative force in politics, and 66 percent believe Citizens United has hurt modest-sized firms.

But history gives us reason for hope.

As former Labor Secretary Robert Reich has pointed out, the corporate "robber barons" of America's late-19th-century Gilded Age would drop sacks of money on lawmakers' desks in exchanges for business favors. Public outcry gave rise to the progressive movement and the nation's first campaign finance laws -- as well as the major labor protections, antitrust enforcement, and food and product standards.

To take on our modern crisis of corruption, Congress needs to pass legislation to repeal Citizens United, require transparency in political contributions, and empower small donors.

As Ranking Member of the Judiciary Committee, I have been proud to help lead the fight for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to reverse the Supreme Court's unprecedented application of the First Amendment to corporations, giving Congress and the states specific authority to regulate corporate expenditures on political activity.

Today my Democratic colleagues and I will reintroduce the DISCLOSE Act to require that corporations and outside groups disclose all political spending to the Federal Elections Commission.
To counter the flood of big money and ensure that candidates spend time hearing from regular citizens rather than elite contributors, we need frameworks that encourage small donors. That's why I support Congressman John Sarbanes' "Government by the People Act" to match small donations with federal dollars and amplify the voices of ordinary concerned citizens.

After the last Gilded Age, the great jurist Louis Brandeis said the nation had a choice: "We can have a democracy or we can have great wealth in the hands of a few, but we can't have both."

The same remains true today.

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WASHINGTON– Today, House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) announced the Democratic subcommittee assignments for the 114th Congress:

Subcommittee on Constitution and Civil Justice
Ranking Member Steve Cohen (TN-09)
Jerrold Nadler (NY-10)
Ted Deutch (FL-21)

Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet
Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler (NY-10)
Judy Chu (CA-27)
Ted Deutch (FL-21)
Karen Bass (CA-37)
Cedric Richmond (LA-02)
Suzan Del Bene (WA-01)
Hakeem Jeffries (NY-08)
David Cicilline (RI-01)
Scott Peters (CA-52)
Zoe Lofgren (CA-19)
Steve Cohen (TN-09)
Hank Johnson (GA-04)

Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations
Ranking Member Sheila Jackson-Lee (TX-18)
Pedro Pierluisi (Puerto Rico – Res. Comm.)
Judy Chu (CA-27)
Luis Gutierrez (IL-04)
Karen Bass (CA-37)
Cedric Richmond (LA-02) 

Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security
Ranking Member Zoe Lofgren (CA-19)
Luis Gutierrez (IL-04)
Sheila Jackson-Lee (TX-18)
Pedro Pierluisi (Puerto Rico – Res. Comm.)

Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law
Ranking Member Hank Johnson (GA-04)
Suzan Del Bene (WA-01)
Hakeem Jeffries (NY-09)
David Cicilline (RI-01)
Scott Peters (CA-52)

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