Posts tagged "Campaign Finances"

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

Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler tossed his hat into the2014 Governor’s race to unseat Democrat John Hickenlooper in September of this year, and has been working to capture an early lead when he suddenly suspended his campaign in order to send his resources into a local school board election.

Understandably, this has outraged many, including the good citizens of Douglas County, the focus of Gessler’s efforts. Denver Post:

Republican Secretary of State Scott Gessler says his passion for education reform is why his 2014 gubernatorial campaign is shifting gears over the new few days to focus on electing a conservative slate of candidates to the Douglas County School Board on Tuesday.

But Gessler’s announcement, both in an e-mail and on Facebook, has attracted critics who contend the state’s top election officer — and a former elections law attorney — is violating campaign finance laws with announcements about “paid opportunities.”

Not at all, said Gessler’s political director Rory McShane.

“We are currently following and will continue to follow all campaign finance laws,” McShane said.

Campaign finance laws prevent a candidate committee from accepting contributions or making donations to another candidate committee.

Here’s what Gessler wrote in his e-mail: “We’re actively recruiting door-knockers to get out the vote. We also have paid opportunities … .”

Here’s what he wrote on his Facebook campaign web site: “If you would like to help we’re looking for walkers! It pays $11 per hour!”

McShane said groups supporting the conservative school board candidates are paying the walkers, not Gessler’s gubernatorial campaign but that’s not how critics read the missives.

Boy, are those groups supporting the conservative candidates spending money in that race, too. There’s a slate of four candidates who are associated with the Tea Party who have received between $38-40,000 each from 25 donors or less. Compare and contrast that with the homegrown candidates sponsored by people who actually live in the area. They have ten times the number of donors but only about a quarter of the funds.

The Douglas County School Board race is ground zero for union-busters right now, but it’s not the only one, nor is this a new tactic. Conservatives going all the way back to the halcyon days of the John Birch Society have long believed school board takeovers are the very first step to “taking back their country,” and education reformers are taking advantage of that to bust unions for their own ends.

However, it could be the first time that an elected official and candidate for Governor has decided to pay people to get out the vote for them while suspending his own campaign. In the email he sent out to his supporters onhis email list, he was clear about his motives:

Against the advice of the Denver political elites, I’ve ordered my campaign for Governor to shift focus for the next week until the Douglas County elections, to ensure that conservatives are victorious this year.

We’re actively recruiting door-knockers to get out the vote. We also have paid opportunities – but we need you if we’re going to be successful as a team.

He donated his email list and a piece of his website to recruitment to elect candidates funded with outside money in order to bust unions, but he’s just fine with that. He’s an election lawyer and known for his own voter suppression efforts in Colorado during the 2012 general election.

Gessler also appears to be ethically challenged.

First, it was learned that a discretionary account intended to cover official state business was tapped to pay for a partisan junket to Florida. Reporting by The Denver Post also showed that, at the end of the fiscal year, Gessler reimbursed himself $1,400 for expenses for which he has no documentation.

[…]

A short time later, Gessler lowered fines owed the state by the Larimer County Republican Party by tens of thousands of dollars and then agreed to help them raise money to pay off the debt.

He may have shrugged off criticism about the moonlighting and the GOP shilling, but Gessler will have a hard time ignoring complaints that he misused taxpayers’ money.

Earlier this month, it was learned that he spent $1,452 from his office’s discretionary account to attend a Republican National Lawyers Association meeting and the Republican National Convention in Florida. Questioned as to the prudence of spending taxpayer money on partisan activity, the secretary implied that everybody does it and criticized the scrutiny as politically motivated.

Oh, maybe so, except that he didn’t produce the receipts for it.

Gessler has long-standing ties to shady political groups, like the Western Tradition Partnership, now renamed the American Tradition Partnership by Gessler as part of his services to whoever funds that particular 501c4. Whatever the name, boxes of financial records were discovered in a meth house in Colorado, and shed some light on the dark money moving in Colorado and Montana:

But the details available on WTP, which has worked to elect conservatives in Montana and Colorado and has won national attention for a lawsuit that led the Supreme Court to apply itsCitizens United ruling to states, are striking.The bank records highlight WTP’s ties to groups backing libertarian Ron Paul. The Conservative Action League, a Virginia social welfare nonprofit run at the time in part by John Tate, most recently Paul’s campaign manager, transferred $40,000 to WTP in August 2008, bank records show. Tate was also a consultant for WTP. In addition, WTP gave $5,000 to a group called the SD Campaign for Liberty, affiliated with Paul and the national Campaign for Liberty.

The bank records also illustrate how cash passes between dark money groups, further obscuring its original source: $500,000 passed from Coloradans for Economic Growth to WTP to the National Right to Work Committee, over a few days in October 2008. Coloradans for Economic Growth and the National Right to Work Committee are social welfare nonprofits that don’t have to disclose their donors. Tate and others paid by WTP were also once associated with National Right to Work.

What Gessler and his moneybags pals are doing in Douglas County isn’t all that different from what Republicans do in general. They move in gangs, they capture big bucks to buy the office and then pay off their sugar daddies with quid pro quo activities like suppressing the vote, weakening campaign finance laws, and busting unions.

Is it any wonder the parents in Douglas County are aggravated? What happened to caring about the children, after all?

h/t: Karoli at Crooks and Liars

Though the bulk of the federal government remains shutdown, the Supreme Court will convene Monday for the opening of its next term — a term that features major campaign finance, abortion, race, religion and environmental cases and which could potentially give the Court’s Republican majority an opportunity to strike a critical blow to union organizers. The first closely watched case of the term will be heard Tuesday, and this case could give millionaires and billionaires even more influence over elections than they already enjoy.

The plaintiffs in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission include the Republican National Committee, which has an obvious interest in weakening legal barriers preventing large-dollar donations directly to the GOP or to GOP candidates. During the 2012, just one Republican billionaire — casino mogul Sheldon Adelson — spent nearly $150 million to elect Republicans. As things stood in 2012, however, Adelson needed to funnel nearly all of this money through third-party groups — super PACs and the like — rather than giving them directly to candidates or Republican Party organizations. For all that the Roberts Court’s Citizens United decision did to inject big money into elections, that opinion at least suggests that donations directly to candidates (and, potentially to political parties, for reasons explained below) can still be restricted even if super PACs are free to collect enormous donations.McCutcheon, by contrast, could allow Sheldon Adelson to write a series of massive checks directly to Republican Party groups.

Currently, federal law caps the totally amount a wealthy donor can give to candidates and party organizations at a total of $123,200 per election cycle. Now, the RNC wants the Supreme Court to eliminate this cap. Thus, if the Roberts Court sides with the GOP in McCutcheon, wealthy individuals who havealready spent six figures to shape the outcome of the 2014 elections will suddenly be allowed to spend even more money to help place their favorite candidates in office. In theory, the case does not threaten caps on the amount donors can give to a single candidate or party organization — just on the total amount they can give to all candidates or party groups — but it is very easy to transfer money between party groups once the money leaves the donor’s bank account.

Even after Citizens United, a Republican Party victory in McCutcheon would require a drastic shift in the law. In Citizens United, the five Republican justices claimed that “the potential for quid pro quo corruption distinguished direct contributions to candidates from independent expenditures.” In essence, these justices reasoned, when campaign expenditures are given directly to a candidate, they can easily become bribes intended to secure policy commitments from the candidate.” When such expenditures are given to super PACs or other third-party groups, by contrast, candidates are less likely to be influenced by their benefactors.

This distinction between gifts to candidates and gifts to outside groups that support the same candidate is not particularly convincing — it’s not like the GOP candidates funded by Sheldon Adelson were not capable of discovering who was spending all that money on their behalf — but this artificial distinction between direct and indirect contributions is an important prong of Citizens United‘s holding, and a decision for the GOP in McCutcheon could tear down this distinction.

As the lower court explained in McCutcheon, striking down the contribution caps at issue in that case would enable billionaires like Adelson to essentially launder money through a political party to the candidate of their choice.

H/T: Ian Millhiser at Think Progress Justice

justinssportscorner:

(via Is Your Team’s Owner a Major League Asshole? | Mother Jones)

In early February, a US Patent and Trademark Office court in Washington, DC, confirmed what baseball fans had suspected for more than a century: The New York Yankees are evil. After an internet startup, Evil Empire Inc., had attempted to trademark the phrase “Baseball’s Evil Empire,” the Yankees filed an injunction, and the panel of judges agreed. As the court put it, “The record shows that there is only one Evil Empire in baseball and it is the New York Yankees.” If only it were true. The ranks of Major League Baseball owners include some of the richest men—and they are almost exclusively white males—in the country, as likely to open their wallets for a super-PAC as they are a top-shelf free agent. Viewed in the context of the competition, with its anti-discrimination settlements and SEC investigations, the Yankees are, like their Opening Day roster, fairly pedestrian.

So where does your team’s ownership rank? We took a stab at it, analyzing each franchise by its level of political activity (based on campaign donations and office-seeking) and relative degree of evil—copyrighted or not. Read below the matrix for the full breakdown.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court won’t hear an appeal of a decision upholding a century-old ban on corporate campaign contributions in federal elections.

The high court on Monday refused to hear an appeal from William P. Danielczyk Jr. and Eugene R. Biagi, who wanted the courts to say the ban violates corporations’ free-speech rights.

A federal judge agreed with them, but the 4th U.S. Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., overturned that decision. The Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision struck down a prohibition against corporate spending on campaign activities by independent groups but left untouched the ban on direct contributions to candidates.

This comes one week after the justices decided to hear a challenge to limits on how much an individual can give to political campaigns. In that case, an Alabama man argues that it’s unconstitutional to stop a donor from giving more than $46,200 to political candidates and $70,800 to political committees and PACs.

Shaun McCutcheon says he accepts that he can only give $2,500 to a single candidate but says he should be able to give that amount to as many GOP candidates as he wants.

The justices will hear that case later this year.

h/t: TPM