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Posts Tagged ‘Campaign Finance’

Today’s Flickr Photo:

Flickr photo by tcktcktck

If you read one thing today…

It is T-minus 11 days away from Election Day, but one contentious race is being covered far less than the Tea Party revolution. It’s the battle of the corporations in California over Proposition 23, a measure that would suspend California’s landmark greenhouse gas law until the state’s unemployment level dropped. Both Big Oil and the developing green industries are dishing out the major moolah to sway voters on this referendum to the tune of $16 million.

The Washington Post’s article features a quote from the outgoing Governator that pretty much says it all.

“Does anyone really believe that these companies, out of the goodness of their black oil hearts, are spending millions and millions of dollars to protect jobs?” Arnold Schwarzenegger said recently. “This is like Eva Braun writing a kosher cookbook. It’s not about jobs at all, ladies and gentlemen. It’s about their ability to pollute and thus protect their profits.”

Overheard

In other campaign finance news, the corporation arguably spending the most on the upcoming midterm elections, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, has been pouring enormous gobs of money into highly contested races. And not so surprising, it has not disclosed where it’s getting the big bucks from this year.

Of the Chamber’s spending, John Motley, a former lobbyist for the National Federation of Independent Business said:

“They’ve raised it to a science, and an art form,” he said of the chamber’s pitches to corporate leaders that large contributions will help “change the game” in Washington.

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Stunning Statistics of the Week:

  • Amount political parties and outside groups have spent on ads this election season: $150 million
  • Amount political parties and outside groups spent on ads at this point in 2006: $109 million
  • Percent of those ads this election season that have been negative: nearly 80 percent
  • Source here.

Video highlights effects on real people of money in politics
A new video from FairElectionsNow.org features real people describing in their own words the profound impact of corporate corruption in Washington. The video shows how big agriculture, corporate coal and BP play the money game to make government work for them – not the American public. As long as members of Congress must rely on donations from corporations and lobbyists to fund their campaigns, wealthy corporate interests will continue to have an outsized role in crafting national policies.

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire: Three members of Congress still in hot water with ethics committee
Enough evidence of wrongdoing exists to continue investigating the link between fundraising events and votes made by three members of Congress, according to the Office of Congressional Ethics. The office is recommending further investigation of three members of the House of Representatives who held fundraisers just days before casting votes on financial reform legislation. The three are Reps. John Campbell (R-Calif.), Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) and Tom Price (R-Ga.). Five other members were cleared.

Texans rally against U.S. Supreme Court ruling
Despite a heat index of 104 degrees, folks in Texas rallied recently against the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which opened the door for unlimited corporate spending to influence elections. Watch the video here.

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Stunning Statistics of the Week:

  • Amount candidates for state and federal office spent on ads for the November elections to date: $395 million
  • Amount candidates for state and federal office spent on ads at this point in the 2006 midterms: $286 million
  • Percentage of the ads this election season that have been negative: More than 50 percent
  • Source here.

Downturn? What downturn?
Spending on political ads is expected to reach a record $4.2 billion this election season. You heard it right. That would be double what was spent two years ago during a presidential campaign year.

Patty Murray being attacked – but by whom?
Attack ads have started running against U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) by something called the Committee for Truth in Politics. Trouble is, no one knows who is funding this group. (This underscores the need for the Senate to pass the DISCLOSE Act, which would require funders of ads to be named.) What we do know: The group is represented by James Bopp Jr., the anti-campaign finance reform attorney who was involved in the U.S. Supreme Court case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which resulted in the court giving corporations the right to spend unlimited amounts to influence elections case. Bopp has brought other lawsuits to try to overturn campaign finance laws.

Judge upholds most Maine rules governing PACs
A federal judge has upheld most of the state’s reporting requirements governing political action committees. The judge said that despite the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United, the state may regulate corporate political speech with disclosure laws. However, the judge said that some language in Maine’s rules is unconstitutionally vague.

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Stunning Statistics of the Week:

Amount financial industry has spent on lobbying this year: $251 million

Amount Citigroup spent on lobbying during the first half of 2010: $3 million

Amount Goldman Sachs spent on lobbying in the first half of 2010: $2.7 million

Amount Bank of America spent on lobbying in the first half of 2010: $2.1 million


Goldman Sachs says it won’t make direct expenditures on electioneering

Goldman Sachs is taking the high road – sort of. (more…)

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Stunning Statistics of the Week:

Amount the U.S. Chamber of Commerce spent on lobbying in 2009: $120 million

Amount Chamber spent daily to defeat health care reform in the weeks before its passage: $800,000

Amount Chamber plans to spend to influence the fall congressional elections: $50 million

Senate Republicans block DISCLOSE Act; Public Citizen urges reconsideration

Last week in the U.S. Senate, partisan politics prevailed over the public interest as all (more…)

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It has been a long, long haul for Congress to fashion a legislative response to the devastating Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court, which unleashed a flood of unlimited corporate money in elections. Finally, we could almost see the horizon for a legislative response.

After months of prolonged negotiations among congressional leaders and civic groups, they finally produced the DISCLOSE Act (H.R. 5175), legislation designed largely to require full transparency of who is funding campaign ads by corporations, unions and advocacy groups. The House Administration held two hearings in two weeks on the DISCLOSE Act, marked it up in near-final form, and sent it to the House Rules Committee on Thursday to set the terms of the floor debate, which was expected today (Friday).

Thirty minutes before the Rules Committee was scheduled to hold its hearing, I received notice from a colleague outside the Rules Committee room that a sign has been posted on the door:

“Committee Meeting Postponed until Further Notice.”

Turns out we are nowhere near the horizon. (more…)

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Last night, Public Citizen participated in a panel discussion about the solutions to the crisis of money in politics following a sneak peak screening of Casino Jack and the United States of Money at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

Panelists included Angela Canterbury of Public Citizen (above right), Heather Smith of Rock the Vote, Mark McKinnon of Change Congress and Ilyse Hogue of MoveOn.org. You can now watch a recording of the discussion on ustream.tv.

The documentary tells the story of uber-lobbyist Jack Abramoff and teaches tough lessons about the “way Washington works” – an all-too-frequent euphemism for how corporate interests warp the political process to serve their agenda against the public interest.  

In the early 2000s, Abramoff siphoned money from lobbying clients into the political war chests of mostly conservative members of Congress. In particular, he cultivated a close (and lucrative) relationship with then-House Majority Leader Rep. Tom Delay (R-Texas), who was indicted and forced to resign because of his association with the scandal.  

Abramoff subsequently was convicted of fraud and corrupting public officials. He is now serving a four-year prison sentence. But while Abramoff is out of business, film makes it clear that the corrupting incentives for lawmakers to exchange campaign donations for legislative favors are stronger than ever. (And the film’s Web site also has an interesting tool you can use to compare your members of Congress’ voting record to the interests of their biggest campaign donors.)

Among the solutions panelists discussed was a constitutional amendment to limit corporate influence in elections, as well as the Fair Elections Now Act and the recently proposed DISCLOSE and Shareholder Protection Acts.

Clearly, there is much to be done. But momentum is building to fight for the solutions. This film will help educate and engage activists and spark the necessary discussions that will help push the American people to repair our wounded democracy.

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