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Posts Tagged ‘Transparency’

Stunning Statistics of the Week:

  • $718 million: Total amount spent by all presidential candidates in 2004
  • $745 million: Amount President Barack Obama spent to get elected in 2008 – a new record
  • $1 billion: Amount Obama is expected to raise and spend on his 2012 re-election campaign
  • $1.3 billion: Total amount spent by all presidential candidates in 2008

Republicans reap benefits of being in power
Just before the midterm elections, when it was pretty clear that Republicans would be taking over the House of Representatives, industry interests lavished hundreds of thousands of dollars on lawmakers slated to be chairs of influential committees. These include committees overseeing tax policy, energy matters and the implementation of the new health care law. “People bet on winners,” Craig Holman, money and politics expert at Public Citizen, told USA Today. (more…)

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Weissman

WikiLeaks is under attack from powerful government and corporate officials and entities. The attacks are an assault not only on WikiLeaks, but on freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom of the Internet.

Of greatest concern are the efforts to deny WikiLeaks access to the Internet and to financial services. We do not know of publicly available evidence that these efforts — which include reported denial of service attacks on WikiLeaks websites from unknown sources, terminated service agreements from companies like Amazon and PayPal, and shuttered bank accounts around the world — have been coordinated by the U.S. government, though many suspect this to be the case. Public Citizen has submitted Freedom of Information Act requests that we hope will reveal more about the government’s response.

What we do know is that the actions of powerful corporations to sever commercial relations with WikiLeaks occur in the shadow of what major media outlets have called a government declaration of war against WikiLeaks. Amazon reportedly decided to stop providing computing services to WikiLeaks after contact from the office of U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.). PayPal says it cut service to WikiLeaks in response to statements from the U.S. State Department.

Whether or not coordinated, Public Citizen condemns the unconstrained and unaccountable actions by corporations and the government to deny a disfavored website, nongovernmental organization or journalist enterprise access to the Internet and financial services. (more…)

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Holman

Today, every single Republican senator marched in lockstep with the GOP leadership to keep the funding sources of independent campaign ads secret from the public. In a party-line vote, the minority Republican caucus once again employed the filibuster to stop a floor vote on the DISCLOSE Act (S. 3295) – effectively casting a cloak over money in politics through the 2012 elections.

Precisely when disclosure is most important – at the time in which the U.S. Supreme Court has allowed unlimited corporate money to flood our elections – we no longer have a meaningful disclosure law in place. Corporate money is flowing into our elections at record levels, but a Public Citizen study shows that very little of this money is being disclosed to the public.

The Republican filibuster is a travesty for our nation. Republicans firmly believe that the banks and the insurance industry are going to bankroll a GOP majority into Congress this year and perhaps take the White House in 2012 – so long as they don’t have to tell voters who is paying for their election and what those special interests want in return.

Senate Republicans today succeeded in concealing most of this new corporate money flowing into politics. The question now becomes: Will their stealth funders get what they paid for?

Craig Holman is the government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen.

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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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Holman

Today in the U.S. Senate, partisan politics prevailed over the public interest as all Republican senators marched in lockstep to the orders of Republican party leaders and blocked a vote on the DISCLOSE Act (S. 3628). The failure of even a single Republican senator to vote for debate and consideration of the bill means there will be no disclosure of who is behind the expected onslaught of corporate spending in the 2010 elections – an onslaught created by the recent disastrous Supreme Court decision Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Voters will be left clueless as to who is funding the “independent” TV ads promoting and attacking candidates and how much these secretive funders are paying for these ads.

This lack of disclosure is exactly what Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and the national Republican Party want. This is partisan politics at its worst. (more…)

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Holman

Today, the U.S. House of Representatives took the first bold step in repairing some of the damage caused by the U.S. Supreme Court’s disastrous decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Public Citizen applauds the passage of the DISCLOSE Act (H.R. 5175) by a 219 to 206 vote. Two Republican members of Congress – Reps. Michael Castle (Del.) and Walter Jones (N.C.) Anh “Joseph” Cao (La.) – stood firm on their principles of promoting transparency in elections and joined in leadership with Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) in pressing for adoption of the measure.

When five justices of the Supreme Court decided unilaterally to rewrite the nation’s campaign finance laws and allow unlimited corporate spending in elections, it became imperative for Congress, at least as a first step, to give voters a chance to know who is paying how much to promote or attack candidates. The DISCLOSE Act, which stands for Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light On Spending in Elections, provides voters the desperately needed means to decipher campaign messages by revealing the true funding sources behind campaign ads. The measure 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 trade associations and innocuous-sounding front groups. Revealing the funders behind these groups is perhaps the most valuable tool voters can use in evaluating the merits of the campaign messages that are about to besiege them. (more…)

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Holman

Carving out an exemption for the NRA to the individual donor disclosure requirement of the DISCLOSE Act (H.R. 5175) is a strategic decision by congressional leaders to get the measure approved by the House. It is a troubling decision, but the carve-out poses little damage to the overall objectives of the bill.

The legislation still provides what the public desperately needs in the wake of the Supreme Court’s disastrous Citizens United decision: full disclosure of corporate and wealthy funding sources behind express advocacy ads and electioneering communications; extends the electioneering communications window to cover most of an election period; and applies some restrictions on major government contractors and foreign entities in financing campaign ads.

The NRA (and AARP and Humane Society) will still have to disclose in their ads that they are financed by the NRA and report to the FEC how much the NRA spends on electioneering activity. The head of the NRA will have to do a stand-by-your-ad disclaimer in each ad. Corporate money cannot be used by the NRA to finance these ads, and the sources of funds given to the NRA and earmarked for campaign ads will continue to be subject to disclosure under campaign finance laws. Personally I ardently disagree with the NRA’s politics, and I find the exemption reprehensible as a give-in to a powerful special interest, but the NRA is not a front group for corporate interests and so its exemption from disclosing its individual donors does not fundamentally undermine the DISCLOSE Act. (more…)

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Politico is reporting that Democrats have reached a deal in negotiations over the DISCLOSE Act that would extend an exemption to one portion of proposed campaign finance disclosure rules to a small group of nonprofits, such as the National Rifle Association.

The NRA had objected to some of the disclosure requirements for the new campaign finance proposals, and that had kept moderate, pro-gun Democrats from backing the legislation.

Craig Holman, Public Citizen’s government affairs lobbyist, says the exemption is narrow enough that it shouldn’t derail Congress’ effort to blunt the effect of the landmark Citizens United ruling. That U.S. Supreme Court ruling in January opened the door for corporations and unions to spend an unlimited amount of money to influence our elections. (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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Holman

The DISCLOSE ACT is a straightforward legislative response to a gravely damaging Supreme Court decision allowing unlimited corporate spending in elections. Far from revolutionary in scope, the DISCLOSE Act provides transparency and accountability in political spending, giving voters a valuable means to discern who are the interests that fund campaign ads.

It is unpredictable how much corporate money will flood into elections in our new unregulated system, but it is reasonable to assume it will be very substantial indeed – and possibly overwhelming in selected candidate races of particular interest to a major corporation.

Even before a single dollar is spent, the threat of corporate spending in elections wields significant influence over policymakers. Imagine the enormous political pressures business lobbyists can now place on Congress as it attempts to grapple with the major economic issues of the day, with the looming prospect of being punished or rewarded through direct campaign spending by the companies subject to the regulations. Corporate influence will reach to virtually all major policies – on financial services, health care reform, climate change, trade – everything. The public, minus the enormous wealth available to corporations, will be further shut out of its own government. (more…)

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