Archive for the ‘Campaign Finance’ Category

Public Citizen President Robert Weissman (left) and Common Cause President Bob Edgar at a news conference at the Capitol calling for the U.S. Senate to pass a pared-down version of the DISCLOSE Act.

The amount of information available to voters about who was behind attack ads during the midterms was dramatically less than in previous years, a new Public Citizen study shows.

The study was released at a press conference held today by six good government groups who called on the U.S. Senate to pass a stripped-down version of the DISCLOSE Act focused solely on disclosure.

Of the 10 top spending groups in the 2010 cycle, accounting for 52 percent of all spending in the elections, only three provided any information about their funders, Public Citizen found. These groups disclosed the sources of only one in four dollars they spent on the 2010 elections.

Groups not disclosing any information about their funders (more…)

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E.J. Dionne Jr. in the WaPo says that if the lame duck Congress has a spine, it would reconsider the DISCLOSE Act in the final days of its term. The DISCLOSE Act would make the outside groups that are raising money for “independent” political ads disclose who is paying for the ads. As we saw this past election, corporations and wealthy donors can give anonymously to these front groups and unions and avoid accountability to voters. Dionne writes:

Shortly after the election, Michael Isikoff and Rich Gardella of NBC News reported that one of the big Republican secret-money groups, Crossroads GPS, got “a substantial portion” of its money “from a small circle of extremely wealthy Wall Street hedge fund and private equity moguls.” These contributors “have been bitterly opposed to a proposal by congressional Democrats – and endorsed by the Obama administration – to increase the tax rates on compensation that hedge funds pay their partners.”

It shouldn’t take investigative reporting after the fact for voters to learn such things. [Sens.] Snowe, Collins and Brown say they are for disclosure, as does Mark Kirk, the new Republican senator from Illinois. Senate Democratic leaders should give them a chance to prove it by bringing up the bill.

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Today’s Flickr photo

Flickr photo by WarmSleepy.

If you read one thing today . . .

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could create a set of campaign finance laws that didn’t have loopholes you could drive a truck through? Alas, we’ll just have to keep dreaming. The New York Times’ Michael Luo writes about 2012 GOP presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty and how they’ve been avoiding federal rules by raising money — contributions many times bigger than what federal law allows — through state-regulated political action committees.

The money, which has gone to the politicians’ “leadership PACs,” is not allowed to be used to fuel a presidential run, but it often acts as seed money to help raise a potential candidate’s national profile and provide financing to other politicians who can help him later. The contributions can also build an infrastructure of staff, offices and donors that can be later transformed into a full-fledged campaign, but this kind of spending also carries the potential of tripping over campaign finance laws.

The outsize contributions are possible because while donations to federal PACs are limited to $5,000, many state-based entities have no such limits. Some can also take donations from corporations and unions, which federal PACs cannot directly do.


Some Democratic fundraisers are meeting this week in Washington, D.C. where they are playing Monday morning quarterback on this year’s midterm elections. Among the things they’ll debate, according to Andy Kroll in Mother Jones, is whether they should fight fire with fire. That is, whether they should do what the conservatives and the GOP did so successfully this past year, which was to raise massive amounts of money through outside groups, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Karl Rove’s Crossroads. Democratic fundraiser and former Clinton staffer Harold Ickes says Democrats have to pull out all the stops:

“Is small money better? You bet,” Ickes says. “But we’re in a f*cking fight. And if you’re in a fistfight, then you’re in a fistfight, and you use all legal means available.”

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Filmmaker Harry Hanbury considered making a series of short documentaries about the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling — the one that opened the way for corporations to spend an unlimited amount of money on political advertising — but he wondered if the name “Citizens United” would resonate with the viewing public. Instead, he decided that if he was going expose the corrupting influence of money in politics, he couldn’t find a better villain than the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The Chamber certainly plays the heel very well. During this past election, it bragged about what amounted to a money-laundering scheme i.e. allowing corporations to funnel anonymous contributions to the Chamber, which in turn could spend the money on candidates who support its pro-Wall Street, Big Oil, anti-regulation agenda. That way, the Chamber could be the heavy, while the anonymous corporate donors could keep their names out of the news. Add to that a Think Progress investigation that raised concerns that a small portion of the $75 million that the Chamber was spending on electioneering may have been coming from foreign entities, which, if true, would be a serious federal election law violation.

Hanbury’s documentary series, “The Loaded Chamber,” is running on GRITtv. Part 1, posted above looks at the Chamber’s role raising secret donations. Part 2, which looks at the toothless Federal Election Commission’s lack of oversight, and Part 3, which shines a light on the Chamber’s foreign cash pipeline, are posted after the jump. Hanbury, who screened his work Wednesday night at Public Citizen, promises more installments are on the way.


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Stunning Statistics of the Week:

  • $73 million: Amount of his own money that Rick Scott spent on his successful bid for governor of Florida
  • 62%: Percentage of Florida voters who say they have reservations about Scott

Winning candidates rode a wave of spending by outside groups
Outside groups put their money behind the winners in 58 of the 74 races in which power changed hands Tuesday, according to a new Public Citizen analysis. In only 14 contests did the loser benefit more from spending by outside groups.

Spend more, win more…
Republican-leaning political organizations spent $167 million on the midterm elections and won almost twice as many races as they lost. In particular, two groups co-launched by Republican strategist Karl Rove—American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS—backed the victor in 23 of the 36 House of Representatives and Senate races where a winner was declared.

…But money doesn’t always guarantee success
Not everyone who broke open the bank account prevailed this week. Several wealthy candidates lost despite spending eye-popping sums. Meg Whitman, former eBay CEO, spent $142 million to become California’s next governor, but she still lost to Democrat Jerry Brown. And in Connecticut, former wrestling (more…)

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Look, if you thought making the world a better place was going to be easy, you got a rude wake-up call Wednesday morning. Now, you can either whine or you can roll up your sleeves and join the fight. Michael Kieshnick, president of CREDO Mobile, has some suggestions in HuffPo on what you can do to help push back against the Tea Party and its handpicked members of Congress. Here are his top three  suggestions:

1. Commit to Taking Down FOX News. So long as FOX News has any credibility within the Beltway, it will be a pipeline for malicious material that will poison our political culture. Join our friends at Color of Change.

2.Tell the Senate to pass the DISCLOSE Act during the lame duck session. We were able to defeat the Texas Oil Initiative, Prop 23 in California, in part because we knew who the enemy was — having disclosure of corporate contributions brings the enemy out in the open for us to take on and fight. The DISCLOSE Act passed the House and came within a single vote of passing the Senate. One vote. You can join this fight by taking action with Public Citizen at http://citizen.org/disclose-act-action.

3. Keep fighting to end the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. This issue will get resolved during the lame duck session. Take action here.

To see the rest of his top 10 list, click here. And we would add another to this list: Join Public Citizen and help us fight corporate power in Congress, in the courts and in the executive branch.  Join Public Citizen for as little as $20 a year.

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Today’s Flickr photo

Republican leaders Eric Cantor and John Boehner. Flickr photo by TalkMediaNews.

If you read one thing today  . . .

Roll Call’s Matthew Murray would like to introduce you to the men and women behind the man — the K Street crew that likes to refer to itself as “Boehner-land.” This is the group of lobbyists who are in tight with the presumptive Speaker of the House John Boehner. Most of the denziens of Boehner-land are former members of Boehner’s legislative staff.

A prodigious fundraiser, Boehner has long nurtured his relationships on K Street, where the Ohio Republican’s pro-business, small-government platform was a natural fit with large corporations and small-business groups alike . . .

Republican sources interviewed for this story also described his K Street inner circle as chummy, with conversations more about politics than policy and a healthy dash of good-natured ribbing.

“It’s loyalty. It’s friendship. It’s alumni,” a Republican source said. “He can count on us.”


Apparently, any chance we had at catching our breaths after these midterms elections was just wishful thinking. As the WashPo points out, there’s a whole lot of political jockeying taking place with everyone positioning themselves for 2012.

“Right now, you have empirical and anecdotal evidence that President Obama is vulnerable. What you’ve seen over the last two years is a dismantling of the coalition he used to get elected in 2008,” said GOP strategist Kevin Madden, who is an adviser to former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, a probable 2012 contender.

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A staggering amount of money—$3.7 billion and counting—has been spent on the 2010 midterm elections that will be decided today.

Please join me at noon (EDT) this Wednesday, November 3, for a live, interactive online presentation: “Corporate Money and the Midterm Elections.”

I’ll review—and take your questions about—the election results, the unprecedented levels of corporate spending, and Public Citizen’s ongoing work to preserve democracy for We, the People.

This one-hour webinar is free and open to the public. Space is limited, so just fill out this simple registration form to reserve your virtual seat: www.citizen.org/election-webinar-registration

With the economy in crisis—and the Obama administration having made a fatal political (and policy) error by embracing Bush’s Wall Street bailout—corporations have sought to exploit an electorate that is, quite rightfully and understandably, outraged.

And the Supreme Court’s massively misguided decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission has permitted corporations to spend all the money they want trying to influence your vote.

I hope you can join me and hundreds of fellow Public Citizens for the “Corporate Money and the Midterm Elections” webinar.

Take just a moment and register now so that you can join us!

Thank you.

P.S. No matter how much money Big Business spends to drown out the voice of the people, there is still one way to make your voice heard: Vote. If you haven’t participated in early voting, please be sure to vote today.

Robert Weissman is president of Public Citizen.

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Today’s Flickr photo

Flickr photo by kevp65.

If you read one thing today . . .

There’s an election going on today, in case you haven’t heard. We hope you voted for the candidate of your choice, whether he or she be Republican, Democrat, Green or Independent. Democracy is truly a wonderful thing to see in action. Visit the HuffPo for a running blog on the election. David Corn in Mother Jones warns that the Democracy we so cherish is being threatened by the secretive nonprofit PACs that have poured money into the election:

The secret and unlimited flow of dollars into congressional campaigns this year is largely unprecedented—at least since campaign finance reform was implemented following Watergate in the 1970s. Almost half a trillion dollars have been spent so far by outside groups—with about one-quarter of that coming from dark-money groups that don’t disclose donors. And it’s not just a Republican phenomenon. Unions and Democratic-leaning advocacy outfits are playing the game. Still, the advantage goes to the GOP. Of the outside groups not connected to either political party, those supporting Republicans and opposing Democrats have so far spent $119.2 million, and those supporting Democrats and opposing Republicans have dumped $73.8 million into races. This split is dramatic, but there’s another factor to consider: Much of the pro-Democratic money comes from large membership groups (including the SEIU and the National Education Association), yet much of the pro-Republican money originates from a small number of millionaires (or billionaires). Consequently, fat cats have gained even more disproportionate influence.


With the likely GOP takeover of the U.S. House of Representatives, organized labor is bracing itself for what could be some rough waters over the next two years. Steven Greenhouse’s story in the New York Times highlights the concerns of labor leaders:

“Republicans are likely to pursue a version of what Samuel Gompers often said: ‘Reward your friends and punish your enemies,’ ” said Joseph McCartin, a labor historian at Georgetown.

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From Jon Stewart’s closing remarks at his Rally to Restore Sanity on the National Mall:

“I can’t control what people think this was.  I can only tell you my intentions.   This was not a rally to ridicule people of faith or people of activism or to look down our noses at the heartland or passionate argument or to suggest that times are not difficult and that we have nothing to fear.  They are and we do.  But we live now in hard times, not end times.  And we can have animus and not be enemies.

The Examiner has the full text of his speech.

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