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Posts Tagged ‘McCain-Feingold’

Of the $176.1 million spent by outside groups using large, often undisclosed contributions to influence the current elections, just 10 groups are responsible for the bulk of the spending, according to a new analysis released today by Public Citizen.

What’s more, 59.9 percent of the money comes from undisclosed sources. Of those contributions that have been disclosed, nearly two-thirds has come from just 0.12 percent of the contributors. The analysis of data from Public Citizen’s Stealth PACs database shows that: (more…)

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The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is going to have a big say in who represents you in Congress next year. How big? Well, the corporate lobby group has a goal of spending $75 million on the midterm elections in some of the country’s most competitive races. The vast majority of its money will go toward helping Republican candidates who have pledged to roll back the reforms passed this year in Congress.

Some of that money may or may not be coming from foreign corporations — a possibility raised this week by Think Progress, the blog run by the Center for American Progress. Who’s to say how much of the money behind the Chamber’s ads  is coming from foreign corporations because the Federal Election Commission is not forcing the Chamber and other outside groups to disclose their donors.

Public Citizen President Robert Weissman said the Chamber “is hijacking our democracy and they are mocking all of us.” Weissman spoke at a Moveon.org rally Thursday in front of the Chamber’s Washington, D.C. headquarters. He said the Chamber’s political spending hammers home the need for a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission ruling, which opened the door for unlimited corporate spending on elections.

Learn more about Public Citizen’s efforts to overturn Citizens United at www.DontGetRolled.org.

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Lincoln

In January, when the Supreme Court decided in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission to allow unlimited corporate spending on elections, Justice Anthony Kennedy justified the court’s decision in large part on the assumption that such activities would be fully disclosed. Today, the U.S. Senate will vote today on the aptly named DISCLOSE Act, which would ensure that the public receives the information that Kennedy promised.

“A campaign finance system that pairs corporate independent expenditures with effective disclosure has not existed before today,” Kennedy wrote in Citizens United, adding that Congress’s previous ban of corporate-funded electioneering communications was “premised on a system without adequate disclosure” such that “[t]he public may not have been fully informed about the sponsorship of so-called issue ads.” With disclosure, Kennedy wrote, the public could evaluate issue ads and determine “whether elected officials are in the pocket of so-called moneyed interests.”

Kennedy’s clear implication was that an adequate system of disclosure now exists and that the public would be informed of the sponsors of the corporate-funded ads that Citizens United allowed. But no such system is in place. Although language requiring disclosure of funders of electioneering messages was included in the 2002 McCain-Feingold bill – and was upheld in the Citizens United opinion – the Federal Election Commission already had gutted that clause more than two years earlier in response to (more…)

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It’s almost as if the folks at the Federal Election Commission have thrown up their hands and decided that policing the political spending by outside groups just isn’t worth the effort. Consider that in 2004 there was almost complete disclosure on who was paying for the issue ads flooding our airwaves. Today? Not so much. A new study by Public Citizen shows that more than two-thirds of outside groups spending heavily on electioneering communications this year  are not reporting who is bankrolling their ads.

A lot of this has to do with the new feeling of corporate empowerment that has taken hold since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in January that corporations have a right to spend an unlimited amount from their treasuries to influence voters.  The Public Citizen study shows: (more…)

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Stunning Statistics of the Week:

  • Percentage of voters polled by SurveyUSA who say it is important for a candidate to commit to reducing the lobbyist influence over laws: 89 percent
  • Percentage of Republicans who say it is important: 87 percent

After Wisconsin groups sue over elections rules, state backs down
Three lawsuits in 10 days have prompted Wisconsin state elections officials to weaken a disclosure rule enacted in the wake of U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which gave corporations a green light to spend unlimited sums of money to influence elections. The suits were filed by nearly a dozen groups from across the political spectrum. All claimed that (more…)

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When corporate lobbyists and CEOs hand over a wad of campaign cash to an officeholder, and then promptly receive a lucrative funding project for their company from the same officeholder, most of us know precisely what happened: The corporate executives and officeholder rewarded each other through the exchange of money, also known as a bribe.

But what we all know from common sense becomes clouded – and even denied – by the folly of our campaign finance system in which officeholders are required to raise campaign cash from the very same private interests that have business pending before them. The U.S.  Supreme Court codified this folly in its 1991 U.S. v. McCormick decision which said that the exchange of earmarks for campaign contributions cannot be assumed to constitute bribery because such conduct “in a very real sense is unavoidable so long as election campaigns are financed by private contributions or expenditures …”

So when Public Citizen pressed for the prosecution of Rep. Tom DeLay and others in the Westar bribery scandal – in which internal Westar Energy Company e-mails outlined the company’s plan to buy a “seat at the table” in a House energy conference committee by contributing cash to influential lawmakers in exchange for their support of a special regulatory exemption – neither the Department of Justice nor House ethics committee were willing to conclude it was bribery. Instead, the ethics committee concluded (more…)

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Two interviews with Public Citizen President Robert Weissman at last month’s Netroots Nation convention on the need to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s disastrous ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. That ruling opened the door for unlimited corporate spending on elections. Up top Weissman talks to The Uptake’s Jacob Wheeler about the need to overturn Citizens United and about Public Citizen’s and People For the American Way’s Pledge for Democracy campaign in which candidates for Congress are asked to take a pledge to support a constitutional amendment to undo Citizens United. And after the jump, an interview with Sum of Change that delves a little deeper into the legal issues behind the ruling. (more…)

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Craig Holman, Public Citizen’s expert on lobbying and ethics, says that the GOP decision to block debate on the DISCLOSE Act will have serious ramifications on the November elections. Mainly, it will prevent the public from knowing who is paying for the campaign ads that will soon flood the airwaves.

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Holman

It was not long ago that Republican congressional leaders embraced “transparency” as their mantra on how to address the potentially corrupting influence of money in politics. That was then, welcome to now.

Echoing the sentiments of all but two Republicans in the House who voted against the DISCLOSE Act, Cleta Mitchell, legal counsel for some of these members, declared: “…the Disclose Act would impose onerous and complicated ‘disclosure’ restrictions on organizations that dare to engage in constitutionally protected political speech and on corporations that dare to contribute to such organizations.”

The DISCLOSE Act (S. 3295), sponsored by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), is a legislative response to the Supreme Court’s disastrous Citizens United decision that allows unlimited corporate and union spending in federal, state and local elections. The legislation would close a gaping loophole in the campaign finance disclosure system. Under existing law, groups that pay for independent expenditures need not disclose their major donors. Most corporations are not likely to (more…)

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For those of you keeping score at home, it’s now Citizens United 2, Democracy 0. The Federal Election Commission voted 4-1 Thursday to give Citizens United, the conservative advocacy group based in Virginia, an exemption to campaign finance requirements. If you remember, in January, Citizens United won a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that gave corporations the right to spend an unlimited amount of money to influence our elections.

However, that court victory came with an *asterisk. Citizens United, and other corporations, could spend the dough but they would still have to disclose where their money was coming from i.e. the names of its donors, and how it was spending its money. As I blogged in April, Citizens United argued that since it produced “documentary” films, it should be considered a media company and exempt from disclosure requirements. This is the case for companies such as the New York Times, Washington Post and FOX News etc, which can produce opinion pieces about candidates and issues without having to fill out campaign finance forms.

SCOTUSblog has more about the FEC’s decision.

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