Posts Tagged ‘political ads’

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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Stunning Statistics of the Week:

  • 149: Number of independent groups that have spent money to influence this year’s elections (according to Federal Election Commission (FEC) reports through Oct. 25)
  • $176.1 million: Amount those groups have spent on the midterms
  • 10: Number of groups responsible for the bulk of that spending
  • 59.9 percent: The percentage of that money that comes from undisclosed sources

Public Citizen calls on electioneering groups to disclose corporate donors
Public Citizen has sent a letter to all groups that are conducting electioneering communications or independent expenditures in the 2010 elections, urging them to disclose to the public the sources and amounts of corporate contributions they use for their campaign spending.

Disclosed corporate funds are a fraction of what is hidden, heavily favor Republicans
Tapping into what few disclosure records exist of campaign spending by outside groups in the 2010 elections, Public Citizen has identified about 200 corporate contributors to a mere 29 independent groups that have reported their funding sources to the Federal Election Commission. These disclosure records account for (more…)

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Stunning Statistics of the Week:

  • Amount the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spent this week in new independent expenditures: $6.6 million
  • Amount the committee has spent to date: $19 million
  • The amount the committee is expected to spend before Election Day: $52 million
  • Amount that just two Republican groups, American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, have raised to influence the elections: $56 million

FEC should investigate Crossroads GPS for campaign finance law violations, watchdogs say
Crossroads GPS, an organization created by Republican strategists Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie to influence the midterm elections with huge expenditures of money, appears to be violating federal campaign law, Public Citizen and Protect Our Elections told the Federal Election Commission in a complaint filed this week.

SuperPacs are debasing our democracy‎
When the U.S. Supreme Court issued its Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision in January, Public Citizen predicted that corporations were sure to accept the court’s invitation to overrun the political process. We were hardly alone in offering this prognostication. Nine months later, we concede: Things are much, much worse than we anticipated. (more…)

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Republican strategist Karl Rove has boasted on Fox News that the two organizations he co-created are great places for donors to turn when they have maxed out on giving to Republican committees trying to influence the upcoming elections. The trouble is, one of Rove’s groups, Crossroads GPS, is not supposed to be focused on political activity because of the tax code under which it was set up. Still, both groups, American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, are spending like there’s no tomorrow on political ads.

This afternoon, Public Citizen and Protect Our Elections filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission asking the agency to investigate whether Crossroads GPS is breaking numerous campaign finance laws, including failing to register as a political committee, failing to file committee financial disclosure reports and failing to comply with the political committee organizational requirements. (Read the press release.)

Public Citizen President Robert Weissman said:

“American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS are this year’s poster children for everything wrong with our campaign finance system in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. “The decision paved the way for unlimited corporate spending on elections, and more generally signaled that Wild West rules now prevail for elections. Yet Crossroads GPS manages to transgress the modest rules still in place, failing to register with the Federal Election Commission as a political committee. We need the FEC to act to redress this apparently wrongful activity. More than that, we need Congress to pass the DISCLOSE Act, so we know which corporations and billionaires are behind the attack ads now polluting our airwaves. We need Congress to pass the Fair Elections Now Act, to replace the private election financing system now poisoning our democracy. And we need a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United decision and get corporate money out of elections.”

The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United has ushered in (more…)

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Today’s Flickr Photo


From Thursday's rally against the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Flickr photo by Common Cause.


If you read one thing today . . .

When our great-grandchildren click on their history lessons will they look back on the current debate over climate change the same way we view the 17th century debate on whether the earth was flat or round? Or will it be like the 1925 case of the State of Tennessee vs. Scopes, which put evolution on trial? Even though the theory of evolution is widely accepted, there’s still some holdouts who refuse to believe, even in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence. Climate scientist Michael Mann has an op-ed in today’s WaPo that fires back at the politicians who are trying to promote doubt about climate change where there is none.

We have lived through the pseudo-science that questioned the link between smoking cigarettes and lung cancer, and the false claims questioning the science of acid rain and the hole in the ozone layer. The same dynamics and many of the same players are still hard at work, questioning the reality of climate change.

The basic physics and chemistry of how carbon dioxide and other human-produced greenhouse gases trap heat in the lower atmosphere have been understood for nearly two centuries. Overloading the atmosphere with carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels is heating the planet, shrinking the Arctic ice cap, melting glaciers and raising sea levels. It is leading to more widespread drought, more frequent heat waves and more powerful hurricanes. Even without my work, or that of the entire sub-field of studying past climates, scientists are in broad agreement on the reality of these changes and their near-certain link to human activity.


From  Michael Luo’s excellent piece in the New York Times about the influx of money into the midterm elections:

“The difference between the law pre- and post-Citizens United is subtle to the expert observer,” said Trevor Potter, a former chairman of the Federal Election Commission and a critic of the ruling. “To the casual observer, what they have heard is the court has gone from a world that prohibited corporate political speech and activity, even though that isn’t actually the case, to suddenly for the first time that it’s allowed. It’s that change in psychology that has made a difference in terms of the amount of money now being spent.”

And be sure to check out the graphic that illustrates the money trail.

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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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Campaign spending  by special interst groups has reached record amounts for this year’s midterm elections, yet no one knows exactly where all the dough is coming from.

Interest groups are spending five times as much ($80 million) on this year’s congressional midterm elections as they did on the last midterms in 2006 ($16 million), according to the Washington Post.

Of course, these record numbers aren’t suprising in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Comission ruling. The past months have been filled with reports of interest groups organized as nonprofits who aren’t required to disclose the identity of donors. Less than half of all interest groups have released their donors identies compared to 90 percent in 2006.

And when it comes to spending, groups backing GOP candidates are dominating the playing field. One of the biggest spenders is an Iowa group, American Future Fund, which has spent $7 million on Republican House and Senate Races. Karl Rove’s conservative group American Crossroads and the associated Crossroads GPS announced Tuesday that it will spend nearly $4.25 million on a nationwide advertising campaign for eight crucial Senate races.

Crossroads GPS is now the largest third-party player on television and watchdog groups are requesting the IRS investigate the group for potentially violating federal tax laws.

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Stunning Statistic of the Week:

Number of political organizations established since June to raise unlimited amounts of money to elect or defeat candidates: 33


Odd bedfellows call for earmark reform

Public Citizen, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Taxpayers for Common Sense and lobbyists from Holland & Knight and K&L Gates called this week for earmark reform. Campaign contributions from those that receive earmarks should be limited and congressional aides should be forbidden from attending campaign fundraisers, among other things, they said.

$500 million: Maybe this is why climate legislation failed

The oil, coal and energy industries spent $500 million since January 2009 to defeat climate legislation, according to a new analysis by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. The industries’ next goal: (more…)

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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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Note: Today, the U.S. Senate is reconsidering passage of the DISCLOSE Act (S. 3295). The measure was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives in July but has stalled in the Senate in the face of a Republican filibuster. In July, all Republican senators marched in lockstep with the party leadership and refused to allow a vote on the bill.

The Republican filibuster of the DISCLOSE Act is a travesty and a betrayal of the professed principles of many individual senators. Several Senate Republicans have a long history of supporting transparency when it comes to money in politics. The issue is not whether there is a Republican senator who supports disclosure – there are plenty – but whether one or more of these senators is willing to stand for this principle against the wishes of party leaders.

A recent study by Public Citizen shows that more than two-thirds of independent political groups are refusing to disclose their funding sources for electioneering communications for this election cycle. Precisely when disclosure is most important – at the time in which the U.S. Supreme Court has unleashed unlimited corporate money flooding our elections – we no longer have a meaningful disclosure law in place. The DISCLOSE Act closes the gaping loopholes in current disclosure laws that allow corporations, unions and wealthy individuals to hide their campaign spending by funneling their money through innocuous-sounding front groups.

Public Citizen calls upon those senators who believe in openness to stand true to their principles, end the filibuster and bring all this new special interest money out of the shadows.

Read the letter Public Citizen sent today to the U.S. Senate.

Craig Holman is the government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen.

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