Archive for the ‘Ethics’ Category

Stunning Statistics of the Week:

  • $718 million: Total amount spent by all presidential candidates in 2004
  • $745 million: Amount President Barack Obama spent to get elected in 2008 – a new record
  • $1 billion: Amount Obama is expected to raise and spend on his 2012 re-election campaign
  • $1.3 billion: Total amount spent by all presidential candidates in 2008

Republicans reap benefits of being in power
Just before the midterm elections, when it was pretty clear that Republicans would be taking over the House of Representatives, industry interests lavished hundreds of thousands of dollars on lawmakers slated to be chairs of influential committees. These include committees overseeing tax policy, energy matters and the implementation of the new health care law. “People bet on winners,” Craig Holman, money and politics expert at Public Citizen, told USA Today. (more…)

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A meager $293? That’s the average weekly unemployment check collected by the 15 million Americans looking for work right now. Or $293 million? That’s what outside groups funded primarily by corporations and the very wealthy spent on the 2010 elections.

$75 billion? That’s the windfall coming to people who are already rich if the Bush tax cuts are extended. $145 billion? That’s the record amount Wall Street is paying in bonuses this year.

Trillions? In the wake of the financial crisis, that’s what We, the People provided in bailouts, loans and other supports to save Big Business from its own greed and irresponsibility.

At Public Citizen, our mission is to counteract the policies that cause numbers like these. We can defeat corporate power. But we need your help.

Please contribute $10, $20, $35 or whatever you can today.

Contribute $100 or more and get a free DVD from a selection of popular progressive films!

Corporations just elected their dream Congress. It’s going to take all of us doing everything we can, together, to prevent Congress from rolling back our health and safety protections and showering gifts on their corporate patrons—and to win new public interest initiatives.

Public Citizen will be leading the fight against corporate power in the new Congress, a Congress that will be less critical of corporate America’s agenda than any we’ve ever seen.

The critical first step is making sure we can hit the ground running when Congress returns to Washington in January. That’s why I’m writing now to ask for your help to raise $150,000 by the end of 2010.

Your contribution of $10, $20, $35 or whatever you can afford will be put to work immediately building on our important achievements in 2010 and growing our movement against runaway corporate power.

For four decades, Public Citizen members have stood together to face down corporate power.

I need you to stand with me today.

Robert Weissman is president of Public Citizen.

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Today’s Flickr photo

Thousands of demonstrators marched in Cancún to ask UN negotiators to achieve a fair deal against climate change. Flickr photo by Oxfam International.

If you read one thing today . . .

Got to love the piece from the WaPo’s Dan Eggen who points out that the political circle is once again complete — the upstart GOP candidates who ran “against” Washington are now filling their staffs with corporate lobbyists from K Street. Public Citizen’s Craig Holman told Eggen that the situation benefits the former corporate clients of the new congressional staffers.

“Lobbyists for the most part are hired guns that represent corporations and other special interests that pay for them,” Holman said. “Those lobbyists now have direct access to the political agenda of these lawmakers.”

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Stunning Statistics of the Week:

  • 69: Number of preliminary reviews conducted by the Office of Congressional Ethics over the past two years
  • 11: Number of disciplinary actions meted out by the House ethics committee during that time
  • 10: Number of disciplinary actions meted out by the House ethics committee between 1997 and 2008, before the Office of Congressional Ethics was created

U.S. Supreme Court takes aim at Arizona clean elections law
The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case challenging Arizona’s clean elections law. Under the system, if candidates forgo private fundraising and adhere to spending limits, they can receive public money after raising a set number of $5 donations. The law permits candidates to receive extra money if their opponent spends more than a certain amount. Good government advocates worry that the Supreme Court is gearing up to once again erode laws designed to curb corporate influence of elections.

U.S. Chamber’s election spending raises eyebrows among shareholders
Investors in four corporations that sit on the board of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce – IBM, Pfizer, Pepsi and Accenture – are raising concerns about the Chamber’s political spending and agenda. Through the shareholder resolutions, investors challenged their corporate boards to review their policies relating to political expenditures. One of the resolution’s filers said in a press release that “[t]he Chamber of Commerce is an aggressively (more…)

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Today’s Flickr photo

Shorne, England. Flickr photo by brianfuller6385.

If you read one thing today . . .

Is there a potential coalition brewing with the GOP and the Congressional Black Caucus, both of which have the Office of Congressional Ethics in their sites? As we wrote yesterday, eliminating the OCE would be a terrible mistake. But Mother Jones says that the House’s decision to censure Rep. Charlie Rangel has members of the CBC rising to their colleague’s defense.

Back in the spring, a group of twenty CBC members signed onto a resolution to rein in the OCE and curtail its authority to make investigations public, arguing that the office was destroying political reputations and victimizing black lawmakers. But soon they may have the chance to do more than just neuter the OCE. Having vocally opposed the creation of the panel, incoming House Speaker John Boehner and other top Republicans are quietly discussing ways to kill the OCE when it comes up for mandatory reauthorization next year—and it looks like at least a handful of Democrats could be on board.


David Brock, founder of Media Matters, tells the WaPo’s Paul Farhi that his organization’s mission is to be Fox News watchdog:

“I don’t consider it a media institution,” Brock says. “It’s a political institution that [Fox News Chief Executive Roger] Ailes created after Obama came into office. . . . We’re here to counter their lies and misinformation.”

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By Lisa Gilbert


Today’s events have put a spotlight on congressional ethics.

The same day that the U.S. House of Representatives voted to censure one if its most senior members over ethics violations, it also heard entreaties from 10 reform groups, including Public Citizen, to maintain an important ethics safeguard in the House: the independent Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE).

The events highlight a broader drama unfolding in Congress. Despite some shortcomings, the OCE is vastly improving compliance to the ethics rules in Congress – and for that reason the OCE is coming under attack. The agency is in danger of being critically weakened, or even eliminated, when the new Republican majority rewrites the House ethics rules on Jan. 5.

A new Public Citizen analysis (pdf) shows a marked increase in activity by the House ethics committee in just the past two years. This activity stems in large part from the good work of the OCE, and that is why some in Congress want to shut it down. (more…)

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Today’s Flickr photo

BP cleanup dumpsters in Pensacola, Fla. Flickr photo by Keo 101.

If you read one thing today . . .

The New York Times’ Paul Krugman paints a rather stark and depressing picture of American politics in the wake of the GOP’s take over of the House and its agenda to oppose all things Obama. Krugman figures Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke might have better luck tilting at windmills than gaining some Republican buy-in on measures to reduce unemployment.

Indeed, far from being willing to help Mr. Bernanke’s efforts, Republicans are trying to bully the Fed itself into giving up completely on trying to reduce unemployment.

And on matters fiscal, the G.O.P. program is to do almost exactly the opposite of what Mr. Bernanke called for. On one side, Republicans oppose just about everything that might reduce structural deficits: they demand that the Bush tax cuts be made permanent while demagoguing efforts to limit the rise in Medicare costs, which are essential to any attempts to get the budget under control. On the other, the G.O.P. opposes anything that might help sustain demand in a depressed economy — even aid to small businesses, which the party claims to love.

Right now, in particular, Republicans are blocking an extension of unemployment benefits — an action that will both cause immense hardship and drain purchasing power from an already sputtering economy. But there’s no point appealing to the better angels of their nature; America just doesn’t work that way anymore.


Remember Bob Ney, the Ohio congressman who was brought down in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal? Ney left Washington in disgrace for a 30-month sentence in a federal prison. The National Journal’s George E. Condon Jr. caught up with Ney in, of all places, in India where he is hanging out with devotees of the Dali Lama. Ney spends his days listening to the Dali Lama’s teachings on meditation and such.

“You bring a pillow, or you can buy one,” Ney explains. “They come around with some bread and some butter tea. You sit, and you bring a hat because of the sun—because it is quite warm here. And you sit out there … on stone areas, and he does the teachings.”

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Charlie Rangel

Charlie Rangel from a July, 2010 photo. Flickr photo by azipayborah.

Today, a special panel of the House ethics committee has found Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) guilty on 11 of 13 ethics charges, ranging from improper solicitations of money from lobbyists and corporate officials, to illegally accepting gifts of rent-stabilized luxury apartments, to failure to disclose hundreds of thousands of dollars in income on congressional financial disclosure forms.

Though the ethics investigation and verdict has taken entirely too long and should have been concluded long ago, the special panel of the House ethics committee is to be applauded for finally carrying through with its mission. The committee has been under tremendous conflicting pressures from both Democrats and Republicans, as well as conflicting pressures from Rangel himself, but in the end, Chairman Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and the panel decided there would be no more delays and reached a verdict. (more…)

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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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