United Republic: creative, inclusive group aims to end corporatism and corruption in US politics

United Republic is a group that campaigns to get corporate money, corruption and lobbying out of politics. They've formed coalition with similarly aimed groups like Larry Lessig's Rootstrikers and Dylan Ratigan's Get Money Out campaign, and have an inclusive, credible campaign strategy to make democracy accountable to the interests of people, not money.

We aim to transform our nation’s outrage over corruption, gridlock, and cronyism into a powerful political force that can demand and deliver lasting change. We will hold politicians accountable; expose how corporate lobbyists hurt ordinary Americans; build a coalition of supporters from left, right and center; and provide financial support to the best people and organizations working on solving the problem.

Already our coalition is growing. In the fall of 2011, we joined forces with Rootstrikers, a group founded by Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig that shares the goal of ending the domination of Big Money over the political process. The group’s name is inspired by the Henry David Thoreau quote, “There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.” And we've recently merged with the Get Money Out campaign, an effort started by MSNBC host Dylan Ratigan that shares similar goals.

United Republic | Democracy is not for sale (Thanks, Larry!)


  1. This raises a whole bunch of questions. Funded how? By whom? How are you guys going to publish your finances? How do you arrive at decisions amongst yourselves?
    Also: United Republic? Srsly? That has an authoritarian ring to it. Freedom is freedom to disagree. To think and speak for yourself. To not be united.
    Maybe, you guys are the greatest thing since sliced bread. Maybe, yet another attempt to co-opt the Occupation. I’m not applauding yet.

    1. >> Also: United Republic? Srsly? That has an authoritarian ring to it. Freedom is freedom to disagree. To think and speak for yourself. To not be united.

      Yeah, what’s with this unity crap?  Fascists! 

      How ’bout “Loosely knit Republic with generally similar goals, but, hey, srsly, do what you want, dude”?  

      That’s the ticket!  Effective change, here we come!!!

    2. info@unitedrepublic.org

      They are a 501(c)(3)

      Exemption Requirements – Section 501(c)(3) Organizations

      To be tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, an organization must be organized and operated exclusively for exempt purposes set forth in section 501(c)(3), and none of its earnings may inure to any private shareholder or individual. In addition, it may not be an action organization, i.e., it may not attempt to influence legislation as a substantial part of its activities and it may not participate in any campaign activity for or against political candidates.

      Organizations described in section 501(c)(3) are commonly referred to as charitable organizations. Organizations described in section 501(c)(3), other than testing for public safety organizations, are eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions in accordance with Code section 170.

      The organization must not be organized or operated for the benefit of private interests, and no part of a section 501(c)(3) organization’s net earnings may inure to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual. If the organization engages in an excess benefit transaction with a person having substantial influence over the organization, an excise tax may be imposed on the person and any organization managers agreeing to the transaction.

      Section 501(c)(3) organizations are restricted in how much political and legislative (lobbying) activities they may conduct. For a detailed discussion, see Political and Lobbying Activities. For more information about lobbying activities by charities, see the article Lobbying Issues; for more information about political activities of charities, see the FY-2002 CPE topic Election Year Issues.

      1. Thanks for that, Cowicide. That was me at my crankiest. I’m tired. I’ve been quite occupied lately.

        There are some cool people involved.  And I do hope something good will come from it.

    3. United Republic staffer here. We plan to disclose our funding sources soon. In the meantime, I can tell you we’re funded mainly by major individual donors and a large number of small contributors. No corporations or PACs.

      Also, we’re not trying to co-opt the Occupy protests. In fact, one of our first micro-grants was a vanload of bottled water for campers in Zuccotti a month ago.

  2. I’m all for removing the power of money over politics, but the real question is how.  Capitalism as it is structured tends towards ever increasing accumulation in the hands of a few.  That focusing of wealth tends to create vastly disproportionate influence over politics.   Trying to keep that money out by legislation appears to me to be a futile cause.  We need to go after the very mechanism which focuses money in a few hands in the first place.

    1. Trying to keep that money out by legislation appears to me to be a futile cause.  We need to go after the very mechanism which focuses money in a few hands in the first place.

      Legislation that promotes regulation on behalf of the American public will aid with systemic change.  But there won’t be any legislation without educating the citizenry on what’s wrong and what to do about it.  It seems to me United Republic is focused on educating the public on issues and I commend them for that.

      Education, then legislation, then regulation.

      Until there’s legislation, corporatists can continue robbing the American public blind without redress.  And, without relentless education, we are defenseless against their constant onslaught of lies designed to divide and conquer the American public.

      If you do have some other better ideas on what to do, please voice them.  Right now, America needs all the good ideas it can get.

    2. Well, I guess “inclusive” managed to last at least a few hours.  Those of us who like capitalism, as long as fraud and bribery are detected and punished, aren’t welcome, eh?

    3. How? 

      First: Don’t make voting so gawd-dang difficult in the ‘States. 

      If democracy really was a fundamental cornerstone of the USA, you would get legally-mandated, paid time off from work to go vote, just as is done in civilized countries.

      Next, get rid of fixed election dates. 
      These may seem like a good idea if you don’t spend any time thinking about it, but all you just get two-year-long election campaigns where only the very rich can survive to the end.  Severely limit the time between ‘dropping the writ’ and the actual election.  Maximum 45 days.

      Then, fund political parties directly, using taxes. 

      You can start by giving the parties one dollar per vote that they received in the last elelction.   This will allow third and fourth parties to be able to be heard.  Something the US really needs is voices and opinions different from the two solidly-entrenched parties you have.

      (Are tax credits issued for political contributions in the US, as is the case in Canada?  If so, taxes are already funding political parties, no?)

      1. First, there is no tax preference for political contributions in the US, at least not on the federal level (one can check off that a few bucks of your taxes will go the Presidential campaign fund, but one doesn’t get a lower tax bill because of it).

        Second, it is perfectly simple to go vote in the United States.  Pick up a voter registration card almost anywhere (Post Office, Motor Vehicle Office, among elsewhere).  You can get a mail-in absentee ballot by right in most jurisdictions, vote early at the registrar’s office in most jurisdictions, and most in person voting is available from 7 am or so to 8 pm or so.  Anyone who wants to vote in the US can do so.  It’s not thrust upon you as a civic obligation (ala Australia), but it’s available to anyone who gives a damn.

        1. Do you’all get paid time off to go vote?

          In Canada, you must have a contiguous four hours available to you of poll-open time.

          So, for a poll opening at 7AM, you wouldn’t have to show up at work until 11AM, or for poll closing at 8PM, you’d be able to leave work at 4PM – with no penalty in pay.

          While it may seem to be ‘perfectly simple’, the USA has one of the lowest voter turnouts in the world. 
          While Canada’s turnout is slipping, the USA’s turnout is the only one below 50% in this list:

          The voter system in the US is broken, obviously.  When I’m in a paranoid mood, I suspect this is by design.

  3. I suport this, but wish they would deal with the sister issue of public union political donations resulting in $50K employees retiring with $150k pension due to overtime padding in final years, and the like. Sucks money from the public coffers that could be used to address real human needs.

    1. Yeah, you mean real human needs like pensions?  Because that is a real human need.

      Give me a break.  Fair and balanced requires things of commensurate magnitude.  You’re trying to weight Pluto against Jupiter.

  4. The problem with this sort of thing is that pretty much everyone belongs to some sort of corporation (defined as any group of people organized for collective action), but no one wants to admit that their sort of corporation is just as potentially bad as any other.  Unions, churches, clubs, HOAs, they’re all corporations.  The sins of the for-profit business collectives people think of as ‘Corporations’ are the sins of humanity in general: fear, greed and stupidity.  But we are all human.

    Bonus question: what are governments made of?

  5. Thanks very much for this post. So much of what I read in regard to politics these days fills me with despair – it’s heartening to see what this group is up to.

  6. Apropos of nothing, but the guy in the picture looks like a cross between George Bush Sr. and Bill Maher, and it’s freaking me out.

  7. After watching this video, I checked out the vimeo channel. The next video after this was a speech given by a leader of one of the tea bagger groups at Harvard Law School. Y’know, because the folks at HLS are really in touch with the working folks and are really invested in keeping the influence of the wealthy out of the system. He yammered on about how the tea baggers are really really concerned about the fractiousness in this country and how they’re totally not racist and stuff. Which you could totally tell by all the signs at the ‘bagger rallies comparing Obama to a monkey, a witch doctor, a mugger, and Hitler. Because that’s how you show that your objection to the first black president is not rooted in racism. And shouting down people who disagree with you in public forums and calling them fascists and socialists (at the same time!) is how you express your desire for unity and understanding.

  8. If I ever try to start anything great, I doubt I would like it to be brought into the land of Boing so that a bunch of armchair quarterbacks could spit in my face and criticize it. To the people that are giving this clearly well-intended group appreciation, kudos. To those that immediately jump on to tear it down, we can’t wait to hear your ideas.

  9. No offense to the organizers of this group, but I don’t take groups like this seriously unless they are also equally dedicated to getting union money out of politics. That has just as distorting an effect on politics as does corporate money, and by exempting unions you just expose yourself as a partisan for one side. Since both Republicans and Democrats both get huge corporate donations but union money goes largely to Democrats, banning the one and allowing the other automatically gives a huge funding advantage to the Democrats, and hands labour unions a huge, oversized influence over public policy.

    I also agree with PaulR’s suggestion about getting rid of fixed election dates, combined with a short election campaign. This would prevent the endless election campaigning that seems to be such a prominent feature of American politics, and which is a huge part of the reason why election campaigning requires so much money. In Canada, for example, an entire election campaign lasts only six weeks, and since the parties don’t know when an election will occur, they can’t really spend much time or money on campaigning until the writ is officially dropped. It helps keep election campaigns short and boring, which is the way they should be. 

    1. None of what you said makes sense to me. The unscheduled, frequent elections that have been called in Canada the last few years have only encouraged endless campaigning, and cost a great deal more money.

      As far as unions, it would be interesting to know when their influence on government was ever so great as business; maybe somewhere between the era of common strikebreakers and our time of legislating away their authority?

      1. And we ultimately have endless campaigning in the US, too, although via the corporate-owned media. The Republicans were campaigning for the 2012 election on November 5, 2008.

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