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Posts Tagged ‘Citizens United’

People are taking action across the country to mark the one-year anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that corporate political spending is the same thing as real speech by real people.

Left unchecked, the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling will have grave consequences for our democracy. In last fall’s elections, corporate spending soared, and sources of outside spending were kept secret. This outside money was a major factor in 80 percent of the races where power changed hands.

Now, any lawmaker who is interested in standing against corporate interests has to figure out how to say ‘no’ to corporate lobbyists wielding the resources to replace him or her with a more corporate-friendly lawmaker.

But We, the People are mobilizing to fight back.

From Massachusetts to Oregon, Florida to Alaska, more than 100 demonstrations are being held throughout the nation.
Even a group of socially conscious business corporations, led by Ben & Jerry’s, is standing up to assert that we need a constitutional amendment to stop the corporate takeover of our democracy.

Nearly a million concerned citizens have signed petitions calling on Congress to pass such a constitutional amendment — petitions that will be delivered to Congress at noon today (Public Citizen’s petition is at www.DontGetRolled.org).

If you’re participating in today’s actions, be sure to take pictures, make videos, blog and tweet about what you’re doing. You can share your photos, videos and other documentation with us by sending an email to action@citizen.org, sending a tweet to @Public_Citizen or posting it on our Facebook page. (more…)

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Stunning Statistics of the Week:

  • $4 million: The amount U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski raised during the 2010 election cycle
  • $1.26 million: The amount spent by a super political action committee (PAC) sponsored by Alaskans Standing Together to re-elect Murkowski. Much of that came from corporations.
  • $250,000: What Murkowski’s own PAC raised
  • Nearly $2 million: What Murkowski’s opponent, Joe Miller, raisedNote: Murkowski won a long-shot write-in campaign.

Although clamoring for change, these new lawmakers go straight for the cash
They came in as renegades, determined to upset the system and do things differently. Washington – Congress in particular – won’t do business as usual any more, they vowed. So what are the tea partiers and others who were swept into office on anti-incumbency fervor during the midterm elections doing now? Holding big-money fundraisers, of course. And many of those who newcomers are beefing up their staffs with well-entrenched K Street lobbyists. “Lobbyists for the most part are hired guns that represent corporations and other special interests that pay for them,” Craig Holman, money and politics expert at Public Citizen, told The Washington Post. “Those lobbyists now have direct access to the political agenda of these lawmakers.”

U.S. Chamber’s aggressive tactics prompt consternation by local chambers
The U.S. Chamber was unabashedly aggressive in its attempt to sway the midterms and in particular help conservatives get elected. But its tactics made many of its local affiliates uncomfortable. More than 40 local chambers distanced themselves during the elections from the U.S. Chamber, including (more…)

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Corporate America is raking in higher profits than ever before.

On Capitol Hill, lobbyists are calling for cuts to line the pockets of the super-rich while gouging holes in the safety net for those hit hardest by the Great Recession.

And in January, a new Congress will arrive — a Congress stacked with members whose campaigns reaped the benefits of the limitless corporate money unleashed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

It’s time for We, the People to take a stand.

Join us next month in demonstrations against Corporate America on the one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. To stay in the loop on planning and preparations, sign up at www.citizen.org/i-will-stand-up-to-corporate-america.
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Stunning Statistics of the Week:

  • 308: The number of outside groups, excluding party committees, that reported spending money on this year’s elections
  • 166: The number of those groups that provided any information about the sources of their funding
  • $266.4 million: The total amount spent by all outside groups in 2010 to influence this year’s elections
  • 27.1: Percentage of disclosed campaign expenditures from outside groups

Wanted: Nightlight to show voters in the dark just who was funding those attack ads
The U.S. Senate should pass a version of the DISCLOSE Act following the onslaught of undisclosed corporate campaign contributions in the 2010 elections, six good government groups said at a press conference this week at the steps of the U.S. Capitol. A version that strips some of the more controversial items from the legislation and focuses on disclosure is a vital first step to protecting the integrity of American elections, said Public Citizen President Robert Weissman. Such a measure would require the funders of broadcast ads to own up to their political expenditures. At the press conference, Public Citizen also released a report showing that the amount of information available to voters about who was behind midterm attack ads was dramatically less than in previous years.

Anti-gay organizations spent nearly $1 million to oust three Iowa justices
Three Iowa Supreme Court justices lost their jobs in the midterms after five out-of-state organizations spent $948,355 to boot them from office. The groups’ gripe? They didn’t like a 2009 ruling that legalized same-sex marriage.  (more…)

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Public Citizen joined Democracy 21, The League of Women Voters, the Campaign Legal Center, People for the American Way and Common Cause this week in calling for the U.S. Senate to pass a pared-down version of the DISCLOSE Act. This past election, which saw a flood of anonymous corporate donations pay for a record amount of political advertising, underscores the need for disclosure, the groups said. Above is Public Citizen President Robert Weissman. After the jump is a video featuring Common Cause President Bob Edgar. (more…)

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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.

Overheard:

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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Citizens UnitedStunning Statistics of the Week:

  • $97: The amount per vote spent by Nevada Republican Sharron Angle and Connecticut Republican Linda McMahon – a record
  • $69: The amount per vote spent by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.)
  • $33: The average cost of a vote in the midterms

October saw record number of political ads on TV
A record number of political ads ran on TV in October – even more than during the same month in 2008, when the presidential contest was in its final month. An estimated 1.48 million political ads aired on TV last month, compared to 1.41 million in October 2008. Hot spots for ads were Cleveland, Ohio; Columbus, Ohio; Portland, Ore.; Sacramento, Calif. and Seattle, Wash. Wow. Can’t wait for 2012.

Counting noses: How to get the DISCLOSE Act passed
Time is running out for advocates of disclosure to get the DISCLOSE Act passed – a measure designed to make public the funders of political ads and introduced in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision, which gave corporations (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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