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Posts tagged "Campaign Finances"

Reid’s right. 

H/T: Michael McAuliff at HuffPost Politics

crooksandliars:

Dinesh D'Souza Pleads Guilty To Making Fraudulent Campaign Contributions

Wasn’t he just telling Bill Maher about his “vigorous defense”? Maybe, like most wingnuts, he’s just full of crap:

(Reuters) - The conservative author and filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza pleaded guilty on Tuesday to a campaign finance law violation, averting a trial that had been expected to begin the same day in Manhattan federal court.

D’Souza pleaded guilty to one criminal count of making illegal contributions in the names of others. A second count concerning the making of false statements is expected to be dismissed once the defendant is sentenced.

The plea came four months after Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara charged D’Souza with using straw donors to give funds in 2012 to Wendy Long, a Republican Senate candidate in New York who ultimately lost to Democratic incumbent Kirsten Gillibrand.


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crooksandliars:

Conservative filmmaker and author Dinesh D’Souza failed to win dismissal of his federal charges for using straw donors to exceed campaign donation limits yesterday. D’Souza’s attorney argued that the recent McCutcheon decision by the Supreme Court rendered the law unconstitutionally vague. Judge Berman also nixed D’Souza’s desired fishing expedition for evidence that he is a victim of political payback.

h/t: Kenneth P. Vogel at Politico

mediamattersforamerica:

Educate yourself: http://mm4a.org/1fIW9lp
Our democracy depends on it.

crooksandliars:

Sen. Sanders: Supreme Court Undermines Democracy By Allowing Billionaires To Buy Elections

Sen. Bernie Sanders discusses the latest disastrous ruling to come out of the Supreme Court, giving the likes of the Koch brothers even more power to buy our elections with Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman: Sen. Bernie Sanders: Supreme Court Undermines Democracy by Allowing Billionaires to “Buy Elections”:

AMY GOODMAN: As the 2014 election season gets underway, the Supreme Court has issued a major ruling on campaign finance in a case described by many as “the next Citizens United.” In a 5-to-4 vote Wednesday, the court’s conservative justices eliminated a long-standing limit on how much donors can give in total to federal candidates, party committees and political action committees in a two-year election cycle. Without any aggregate limit, a donor can now give millions of dollars directly to candidates and parties.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion, quote, “There is no right more basic in our democracy than the right to participate in electing our political leaders. … Money in politics may at times seem repugnant to some, but so too does much of what the First Amendment vigorously protects.”

read more

See Also: BREAKING: Right-Wing Activist Judges at SCOTUS rule in favor of McCutcheon

h/t: Andy Kroll at Mother Jones

More proof that right-wing activist judges are destroying this nation, with the McCutcheon v. FEC ruling being the latest. This is WORSE than Citizens United!! 

McCutcheon v. FEC is Citizens United on steroids.

crooksandliars:

(Credit: DonkeyHotey)

In reaction to a $3 million ad buy by Senate Majority PAC, a spokesman for Koch Industries accused the group of “negative cynical, divisive, and dishonest attacks” against Charles and David Koch.

A Koch brothers aide is blasting Democrats for big ad buys in battleground states that go on the attack–the very same things the Koch brothers, themselves, do.

An aide to the Koch brothers on Friday ripped into a massive Democratic ad buy that attacks the billionaires across five Senate battleground states.

In reaction to a $3 million ad buy in Colorado, North Carolina, Arkansas, Michigan and Louisiana by Senate Majority PAC, a spokesman for Koch Industries accused the group of “negative cynical, divisive, and dishonest attacks” against Charles and David Koch.

This is even more laughable given the recent disclosure that the Kochs put big money into the Florida congressional race that David Jolly eked out with big out-of-state dollars, testing an anti-Obamacare strategy.

And Republicans are singing the praises of the Kochs.

Republican senators are beginning to more pointedly defend the Kochs, exemplified by Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) telling constituents this week that the brothers “are two of the most patriotic Americans.”

This is a good argument for publicly-financed elections.

The rightwing group Alec is preparing to launch a new nationwide network that will seek to replicate its current influence within state legislatures in city councils and municipalities.

The American Legislative Exchange Council, founded in 1973, has become one of the most pervasive advocacy operations in the nation. It brings elected officials together with representatives of major corporations, giving those companies a direct channel into legislation in the form of Alec “model bills”.

Critics have decried the network as a “corporate bill mill” that has spread uniformly-drafted rightwing legislation from state to state. Alec has been seminal, for instance, in the replication of Florida’s controversial “stand-your-ground” gun law in more than 20 states.

Now the council is looking to take its blueprint for influence over statewide lawmaking and drill it down to the local level. It has already quietly set up, and is making plans for the public launch of, an offshoot called the American City County Exchange (ACCE) that will target policymakers from “villages, towns, cities and counties”.

The new organisation will offer corporate America a direct conduit into the policy making process of city councils and municipalities. Lobbyists acting on behalf of major businesses will be able to propose resolutions and argue for new profit-enhancing legislation in front of elected city officials, who will then return to their council chambers and seek to implement the proposals.

In its early publicity material, Alec says the new network will be “America’s only free market forum for village, town, city and county policymakers”. Jon Russell, ACCE’s director, declined to comment on the initiative.

Alec spokesman Wilhelm Meierling also declined to say how many corporate and city council members ACCE has attracted so far, or to say when the new initiative would be formally unveiled. But he confirmed that its structure would mirror that of Alec’s work in state legislatures by bringing together city, county and municipal elected officials with corporate lobbyists.

“As a group that focuses on limited government, free markets and federalism, we believe our message rings true at the municipal level just as it does in state legislatures,” he said.

In December, the Guardian revealed that Alec was facing funding problems as a result of fallout from its backing of “stand-your-ground” laws, in the wake of the shooting in Florida of the black teenager Trayvon Martin.

The Guardian also disclosed that Alec had initiated a “prodigal son project”, designed to woo back corporate donors that had broken off relations with the group amid the gun-law furore.

The extension of its techniques to city councils and municipalities across America offers Alec the chance to open up a potential source of funding that might help it solve its budgetary crisis. There are almost 500,000 local elected officials, many with considerable powers over schools and local services that could be attractive to big business.

Alec makes the appeal to corporations explicit in its funding material for the new ACCE exchange. It offers companies “founders committee” status in return for $25,000 a year and “council committee” membership for $10,000.

By joining ACCE’s council committee, corporate lobbyists can “participate in policy development and network with other entrepreneurs and municipal officials from around the country”. In committee meetings, lobbyists will be allowed to “present facts and opinions for discussion” and introduce resolutions for new policies that they want to see implemented in a city. At the end of such meetings, the elected officials present in the room will take a vote before returning to their respective council chambers armed with new legislative proposals.

Nick Surgey of the Center for Media and Democracy, which monitors Alec’s activities, said: “It just wouldn’t be possible for any corporation to effectively lobby the hundreds of thousands of local elected officials in the US, which until now has left our local mayors and school board members largely free from the grasps of coordinated lobbyists. Alec is now trying to change that.”

One of the main criticisms that have been levelled against Alec is that its influence distorts the democratic process by giving corporations a handle over lawmaking. Similar fears are now being expressed about the intentions of ACCE in American cities.

Natalia Rudiak, a Democratic city council member in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, said she was “offended” by the suggestion she needed an outside body such as ACCE, which is licensed in Arlington, Virginia, to tell her what her community needed.

“Local politics in America is the purest form of democracy,” she said. “There is no buffer between me and the public. So why would I want the involvement of a third party acting on behalf of a few corporate interests?”

Rudiak added that she found ACCE’s boast that it will be “America’s only free market forum” patronising.

“If by ‘free market’ they mean weighing supply against demand in the best interests of the people of Pittsburgh,” she said, “then we are debating those issues in the council chamber every single day.” 

h/t: Ed Pilkington at The Guardian

It should be the power of our vote, not the size of our bank account, that drives our democracy!
Barack Obama at #SOTU2014. 

(via Huffington Post: 7 Charts To Understand Citizens United On Its 4th Anniversary)

WASHINGTON — Four years ago the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case that corporations could spend unlimited sums of money on independent political spending. That ruling also applied to labor unions and, following a subsequent lower court ruling, to individual donors, as well.

The ensuing four years have seen significant changes to the way campaigns are funded, and an increase in influence for big money donors, as the independent political spending allowed by the court exploded. As these groups have spent more money, the sources of a large portion of their spending have gone undisclosed.

Below are seven charts to help you understand the impact of the Citizens United ruling as it reaches its fourth year:

Big Money Dominates

Top 1% Of Donors Accounted For Two-Thirds Of All Super PAC Funds In 2012
  • Top 1%: 68%
  • Other 99%: 32%
Source: Center for Responsive Politics.



According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the top 1 percent of super PAC donors accounted for 68 percent of all contributions made to super PACs in the 2012 election, the first full election cycle following the ruling.

These donors were led by casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson and his family, who combined to give more than $93 million to super PACs. The super PAC, created following both the Citizens United and the related SpeechNow.org decisions, became the primary vehicle for independent spending for the wealthy. While these groups are required to disclose their spending, they are also allowed to spend all of their funds on electoral efforts, unlike nonprofit organizations. But more on that later.

The top 1 percent of super PAC donors reads like the Forbes 400 or a guest list at Davos. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg operates his very own super PAC. The libertarian venture capitalist billionaire Peter Thiel became the largest donor to the Club for Growth’s super PAC as it worked to defeat establishment Republicans in primary campaigns. And billionaire hedge funders James Simons, Robert Mercer, Paul Singer and Ken Griffin all gave millions.

Billionaires now have an easy outlet for their entrepreneurial endeavors in politics. The only question is whether they want their names on a plaque — in this case, a disclosed FEC report — or if they would rather remain anonymous.

[…]

Of course, it isn’t so simple. The court’s ruling opened the door for nonprofit corporations, whether they are funded by corporations or not, to spend unlimited amounts on independent campaign activity so long as they remain in bounds of the lax tax laws that govern them. These tax laws do not require the disclosure of nonprofit donors. In fact, prior court rulings and Federal Election Commission legal interpretations had protected nonprofits from donor disclosure.

Nonprofits are not ideal for individuals or corporations who want to spend money on independent political activity, due to tax laws requiring these groups to spend a majority of their time outside of politics. But the donor anonymity they are guaranteed can make nonprofits worth the investment. The billionaire Koch brothers and their donor collective used a labyrinthine network of nonprofit groups to pump hundreds of millions of dollars into both the 2010 and 2012 elections.

One of the most obvious examples of donors’ desire for anonymity comes in the form of the Crossroads groups founded by Karl Rove. There is American Crossroads, the super PAC that discloses its donors, and there is Crossroads GPS, the nonprofit that does not. As evidenced in the chart below, donors have chosen anonymity at a rate of two-to-one since the groups were founded in 2010.

Donors Choose Dark Money Over Disclosure 
  • American Crossroads: $144,047,997
  • Crossroads GPS: $256,547,160
Source: Federal Election Commission and Internal Revenue Service.



More Money Than Candidates

In the 2012 election, independent groups spent more money than the actual candidates in three general election Senate races. That’s right — in Indiana, Virginia and Wisconsin, the major party candidates in the general election were outspent by independent groups.

That same dynamic played out in at least six House races in 2012. In California’s 35th District, independent groups — and really, just one independent group — spent two times as much as the candidates. In this race between two Democrats, Michael Bloomberg’s super PAC intervened with $3.3 million as the billionaire mayor sought to defeat the pro-gun incumbent Rep. Joe Baca (D). And he did: Bloomberg’s super PAC spending is credited with helping the heavily underfunded Gloria Negrete McLeod defeat Baca.

Shattered Television Advertising Records

Presidential Television Advertising Surged Post-Citizens United
  • 2004: 753,000
  • 2008: 796,000
  • 2012: 1,140,000
Source: Wesleyan Media Project. Numbers are based on data released in the paper titled, “Negative, Angry, and Ubiquitous: Political Advertising in 2012.”



The Wesleyan Media Project tracked television advertising in the 2012 election and found that advertising in the presidential campaign shattered previous records for money spent and advertising volume.

The number of television advertisements in the presidential general election jumped from approximately 753,000 in 2004 to approximately 1.14 million in 2012. While the decision by both President Barack Obama and also GOP nominee Mitt Romney to forgo public funding accounts for some of the increase, the rise of independent spending also played a major role.



h/t: Politico.com