Archive for the ‘Ethics’ Category

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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In an effort to hold BP accountable for the damage done to wildlife as a result of the oil disaster in the Gulf, three environmental groups have sued the company.

The three groups, Defenders of Wildlife, Gulf Restoration Network and the Save the Manatee Club, say the spill has caused and will continue to cause the taking of endangered and threatened species,” including whales, manatees, birds and sea turtles that “show no avoidance response to oil slicks.”

While BP has already agreed to pay $ 500 million for restoration efforts, the groups are concerned it’s not enough because the effects of the disaster will continue for a long time.

This is welcome news for anyone still appalled by the ambivalence displayed by Congress’ lack of legislation in response to the spill. A new plan released from the Obama administration would invest billions of dollars of BP fines into recovery efforts in the Gulf.  But that’s mopping up the damage. What about going forward?

Lawmakers have yet to vote on sensible legislation designed to address the core causes of the disaster and the inadequate response to it— issues that apply to the oil industry as a whole. It’s been six months since the Deepwater Horizon explosion, and we still have nothing. Congress needs to act.

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Today’s Flickr Photo


From an Oxfam campaign on sustainability and climate change. Flickr photo by Oxfam International.


If you read one thing today . . .

While the GOP is the party mostly benefiting from the flood of anonymous corporate donations being collected and spent this year on political ads, the WaPo’s Sue Marcus points out that just six years ago the Democrats were the party being accused of running roughshod through campaign finance regulations. There’s little moral high ground for Dems  in the debate over reforming our campaign finance rules. Marcus writes:

Let’s not be naive, though. Unlike most Republicans, Democrats have long supported campaign finance reform; for that they deserve enormous credit. But campaign cash is where the hardball hits the mitt. For decades, both parties and their allies have demonstrated a hardheaded willingness to exploit and stretch existing campaign finance laws. To expect otherwise is to expect lions not to eat zebras when the opportunity arises. The ethics — and the expressions of ethical outrage — are purely situational.

Democrats are not playing the outside group game this election — but it would be awkward to do so while blasting Republicans. As a presidential candidate in 2008, Barack Obama discouraged the formation of outside groups — but his fundraising juggernaut meant he didn’t need them.

The real villains of the current mess are a tax code that gives way too much leeway for secret and unlimited political cash and a regulatory regime that has proved itself incapable of stemming the flow.


From  Jennifer Steinhauer and Carl Hulse in the New York Times comes a look at House Minority Leader John Boehner’s humble Ohio roots:

“Growing up, we were probably Kennedy Catholics because we were a strong devout Catholic family,” said Bob Boehner, the congressman’s older brother, who like all his siblings eventually switched party allegiance. “But the first time you get a real job and get your paycheck, you look down and you wonder, where’s the rest of your money, and they explain to you that that’s the tax you have to pay to the government, you start thinking more and more about becoming a Republican.”

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Today’s Flickr Photo


From a rally against Prop 23 in downtown Los Angeles. Flickr photo by Faultybox.


If you read one thing today . . .

This  seems like a no-brainer — a law that would prohibit members of Congress and their staffs from making stock market trades based on inside information they learn on the job. A no-brainer, except that the sponsor of the legislation, Rep. Brian Baird, D-Wash., has been told by colleagues that they’ll block any attempt to make them play by the same rules as everyone else in the country. Perhaps, they think padding their income with a few “smart” stock bets is a matter of congressional entitlement. Erika Lovely writes about it in Politico:

“There are some members who seem to think the rules just shouldn’t apply to us,” said Baird in an interview with POLITICO. “There’s money to be made, lots of it, and in ways that aren’t clearly illegal.”

Baird’s comments were spurred by a Monday report from the Wall Street Journal, which analyzed trading activity by Capitol Hill staffers between 2008 and 2009 and found market bets were made by high-level aides whose bosses helped influence related policy.


There’s a minor furor in the West Virginia Senate race over a commercial that the National Republican Senatorial Committee aired featuring some blue-collar types sitting around a diner complaining about the Democratic candidate’s ties to President Obama. The problem was that the diner was actually in Philadelphia and the West Virgina guys in trucker hats were actors who answered a casting call for “hicky” types. Governor Joe Manchin, the Democratic candidate, is hoping the dust-up will give his sagging campaign a boost:

“I wouldn’t have been upset if they said we want coal miners and truckers,” [Manchin] told me.  “Those are 2 of the most honorable professions we have- hard-working people. But to cast that in such a disparaging light is just awful. And that does get your blood boiling in West Virginia whether you’re a democrat, republican, or an independent.  It should get them fired up.”

See the ad here.


This is why I love living in America and why communism doesn’t hold a candle to good, old-fashioned democracy — someone like Alvin Greene, an unemployed veteran, can literally come out of nowhere and be the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate in South Carolina.

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If Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert and their “competing” Washington D.C. rallies don’t have your attention by now, you  a) have just woken up from a 25-year coma b) live in a shack in Montana where you are working on your great anti-technology manifesto, or c) are among the 4 percent of the population who truly believes President Obama might actually have been born in the Alpha Centauri solar system.

When both Big Os — Oprah and Obama — endorse your Rally to Restore Sanity, you know you might be on to something. Since Sept. 16, when Stewart announced his Oct. 30 rally, along with Stephen Colbert’s satirical March to Keep Fear Alive, 180,000 people on Facebook have said they plan to attend the event, while another 100,000 have said they might.

Public Citizen plans to be there, and we’ve been encouraging people to submit ideas for signs that we’ll hand out at the rally on the National Mall. We plan to pick the slogan that we think best sums up the message we want to share with the throngs of people who will be packed in front of the Lincoln Memorial. So far, more than 3,000 slogans have been entered in our “What Sign Should I Bring to Jon Stewart’s ‘Rally to Restore Sanity’ ” contest. Another 1,000 people have joined the accompanying Facebook page, and hundreds more are spreading the word on Twitter with the hashtag #signs4sanity.

Picking the best one is going to be difficult. We’ll be asking our Facebook fans to help, but in the end,  we may have to resort to the old picking a slogan out of a hat method. You can read the thousands of sign suggestions and enter your own at www.citizen.org/jon-stewart-sanity-rally-signs.

Generally, the sign suggestions fall into five categories: (more…)

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