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Derek Cressman
Derek Cressman is author of the forthcoming book When Money Talks -- The High Price of "Free" Speech and the Selling of Democracy, published in January, 2016 by Barrett-Koehler.

ran for California Secretary of State in the June 2014 primary after spending 19 years working to protect voting rights and get corporate money out of politics. Derek didn’t win his election, but the legislature did refer Prop 49 to the November 2014 ballot calling upon Congress to overturn the Citizens United ruling – the central plank of Derek’s campaign platform. Both during and after his campaign, Derek joined the March for Democracy where activists walked from Los Angeles to Sacramento, culminating in a non-violent direct action were many were arrested for holding the US flag during a sit in at the state Capitol.

Prior to announcing his campaign, Derek served as Common Cause's Vice President of State Operations. In addition to managing the staff and program for 35 states, Derek coordinated Common Cause's Amend 2012 campaign to reverse the Citizens United v Federal Elections Commission ruling by the Supreme Court. In 2012, Derek exposed a secret $11 million contribution to California elections. His complaint at the Fair Political Practices Commission lead to the largest fine in the history of California campaign finance law against two dark money groups associated with the Koch brothers.

Mr. Cressman has worked professionally on democracy issues since 1995 as Director of the State PIRGs Democracy Program and founder and director of He has testified before the United States Senate, California Assembly and Senate, California Fair Political Practices Commission, served as an expert in federal litigation, and authored and co-authored numerous reports as well as one previous book: The Recall’s Broken Promise—How Big Money Still Runs California Politics.

He graduated with honors in Political Science from Williams College in 1990.

Entries by Derek Cressman

Harris and Sanchez are Strangely Silent on Citizens United

(1) Comments | Posted February 26, 2016 | 1:29 PM

While presidential candidates, especially on the Democratic side, are campaigning heavily on promises to do everything in their power to reverse Supreme Court rulings striking down limits on big money in political campaigns, California candidates for the U.S. Senate are ducking the issue.

Hardly a day goes by without Bernie...

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Is Jerry Brown Ready to Modernize California Elections?

(4) Comments | Posted September 18, 2015 | 3:26 PM

California has been taking steps to address a crisis in voter participation, and one major step in this response now sits on the desk of Governor Jerry Brown. While responsibility for solving this crisis ultimately lies with California citizens, it is imperative that government do its part to...

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When Money Talks, Climate Solutions Die

(30) Comments | Posted September 11, 2015 | 9:09 PM

Californians are rightfully proud that we have led the country in establishing a cap and trade system to reduce carbon emissions and set up a renewable energy portfolio requirement that has us on track to generate 33% of our electricity from non-greenhouse gas sources by 2020.

As a...

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Californians May Have a Chance to Vote Down Citizens United

(57) Comments | Posted September 4, 2015 | 2:09 PM

California voters could instruct their members of Congress to support a constitutional amendment that would overturn the Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United v. FEC if the California Court restores Proposition 49 to the ballot for 2016. The court has ordered a hearing on the case for October 6, 2016...

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Why Lessig Should Run for President as a Republican

(8) Comments | Posted August 18, 2015 | 1:55 PM

Harvard Professor Lawrence Lessig is threatening to run for president on the single plank of political equality and campaign finance reform if he can raise $1 million by the end of August. The centerpiece of his campaign would be a promise to resign -- you heard that right -- just...

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What's the Cost of Letting Billionaires Fund Campaigns?

(1) Comments | Posted October 30, 2014 | 10:56 AM

If you live in a competitive congressional district (and most of us don't), you've been receiving lots of "free" information lately about the candidates who would like to represent you in the next Congress. Mailers, ads, robocalls - all free. Aren't you lucky?

By free, I mean that you don't...

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California's Constitutional Crisis: Can We the People Speak?

(0) Comments | Posted August 6, 2014 | 4:50 PM

While conflicts between our three branches of government over constitutional issues usually occur at the federal level, there is a profound debate happening almost under the radar over state constitutional authority in California. The case deserves our attention as the results could weaken the republican form of government for a...

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It's Time to Drain the Swamp in Sacramento

(0) Comments | Posted April 16, 2014 | 7:14 PM

If the scandals involving California state senators Leland Yee, Ron Calderon, and Roderick Wright have proven anything it is that the existing system for the Senate to police the ethics of its own members has been an utter failure. The time has come to...

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We the People v. the Roberts Court

(4) Comments | Posted September 27, 2013 | 12:58 PM

When the Supreme Court hears arguments in the McCutcheon v FEC case on October 8th, it will not only threaten an important piece of campaign finance law but also the fundamental balance of powers established by our Constitution. Ever since Chief Justice Rehnquist has departed, the Court has increasingly overstepped...

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