Tag: Campaign Finance

Democrats: Bought & Sold by the Spies

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Who Buys the Spies? The Hidden Corporate Cash Behind America’s Out-of-Control National Surveillance State

by Thomas Ferguson, Paul Jorgensen, and Jie Chen

Democratic leaders are full-fledged players in the national surveillance state, right along with Republicans.

Long before President Obama kicked off his 2008 campaign, many Americans took it for granted that George W. Bush’s vast, sprawling national security apparatus needed to be reined in. For Democrats, many independents, and constitutional experts of various persuasions, Vice President Dick Cheney’s notorious doctrine of the “unitary executive” (which holds that the President controls the entire executive branch), was the ultimate statement of the imperial presidency. It was the royal road to easy (or no) warrants for wiretaps, sweeping assertions of the government’s right to classify information secret, and arbitrary presidential power. When Mitt Romney embraced the neoconservatives in the 2012 primaries, supporters of the President often cited the need to avoid a return to the bad old days of the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld National Security State as a compelling reason for favoring his reelection. Reelect President Obama, they argued, or Big Brother might be back.

But that’s not how this movie turned out: The 2012 election proved to be a post-modern thriller, in which the main characters everyone thought they knew abruptly turned into their opposites and the plot thickened just when you thought it was over.[..]

As the storm over surveillance broke, we were completing a statistical analysis of campaign contributions in 2012, using an entirely new dataset that we constructed from the raw material provided by the Federal Election Commission and the Internal Revenues Service (which compiles contributions from so-called “527”s).  In light of what has transpired, our quantitative analysis of presidential election funding invites closer scrutiny, particularly of the finding that we had already settled upon as perhaps most important:  In sharp contrast to endlessly repeated claims that big business was deeply suspicious of the President, our statistical results show that a large and powerful bloc of  “industries of the future” – telecommunications, high tech, computers, and software – showed essentially equal or higher percentages of support for the President in 2012 than they did for Romney [..]

But the point that our findings document is perhaps most instructive of all. Many of the firms and industries at the heart of this Orwellian creation have strong ties to the Democrats. Bush and Cheney may have invented it, but national Democratic leaders are full-fledged players in this 21st century National Surveillance State and the interest group pressures that now help to sustain its defenders in Washington work just as powerfully on Democrats as on Republicans.

Party Competition and Industrial Structure in the 2012 Elections

Key Findings:

   

  • Existing data sources used for studies of campaign finance have a variety of serious flaws.
  • As a result, the degree to which major parties’ presidential candidates depend on very large donors has been underestimated and the role small donors play exaggerated.
  • The relation between the money split between the parties and the proportion of votes received by their candidates in House and Senate races appears to be quite straightforward.
  • Firms and executives in industries strongly affected by proposed regulations limiting greenhouse gas emissions heavily backed Mitt Romney. So did much, but not all, of finance.
  • President Obama’s support within big business was broader than hitherto recognized. His level of support from firms in telecommunications and software was very strong indeed, sometimes equaling or exceeding Romney’s. Many firms and sectors most involved in the recent controversies over surveillance were among the President’s strongest supporters.
  • Republican candidates showed sharply different levels of contributions from small donors; President Obama’s campaign, while heavily dependent on large donors, attracted more support from small donors than did his Republican opponent.
  • Big business support for Tea Party candidates for Congress was substantial, but well below levels for more mainstream Republicans. Many of the same sectors that strongly supported Romney also backed Tea Party candidates. Backing for Tea Party candidates by Too Big To Fail banks ran above the average of business as a whole by every measure.

Read “Party Competition and Industrial Structure in the 2012 Elections: Who’s Really Driving the Taxi to the Dark Side?” (pdf), by Thomas Ferguson, Paul Jorgensen, and Jie Chen.

Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts and a Senior Fellow of the Roosevelt Institute, Thomas Ferguson discusses the finding of the study with Real New Networks Jaisal Noor.

As Yves Smith at naked capitalism noted this is a good explanation why “Obama started looking more stressed than usual around the time of the Snowden revelations.”

Citizens United: Part Deux

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This week the Supreme Court heard arguments for the ending of limits on campaign contributions for individuals, McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission. The argument for lifting the limits is the same that were used to argue Citizens United that opened the flood gates of money from corporations, money is free speech.

Next Citizens United? McCutcheon Supreme Court Case Targets Campaign Contribution Limits

by Paul Blumenthal, Huffington Post

Alabama electrical engineer and budding political donor Shaun McCutcheon broached a problem in conversation with conservative election lawyer Dan Backer, who one day earlier had led a CPAC panel on rolling back campaign finance laws in which he predicted that campaign contribution limits would soon rise.

McCutcheon had recently learned there were overall federal campaign contribution limits on what a single donor could give during a two-year election cycle. He voiced his annoyance to Backer and wondered if he could just ignore the aggregate limits — something that a few dozen donors wound up doing], whether deliberately or inadvertently, in the 2012 election. [..]

A little more than a year later, McCutcheon, now joined by the Republican National Committee, is bringing the biggest campaign finance case before the Supreme Court since the controversial 2010 Citizens United decision. If the justices rule in their next term to toss the overall limits, it would mark the first time the Supreme Court had found a federal contribution limit unconstitutional and would open the door for even more money to flood the political system.

It would also be a major victory for counter-reformers, who have racked up a string of wins rolling back campaign finance regulation ever since Justice Samuel Alito replaced the more campaign regs-friendly Sandra Day O’Connor. And it would be a major blow to the campaign finance regime crafted in the 1970s following a string of corruption scandals culminating in the abuses revealed in the Watergate investigation.

One other small point, McCutcheon is a climate denier.

This week’s guest on Moyers & Company, Yale Law School election and constitutional law professor Heather Gerken discussed the how a ruling in favor of McCutcheon will further erode campaign finance regulations and allow more cash and influence to slosh around in the system.

McCutcheon challenges aggregate caps on how much individual donors can give to candidates and political parties. The current overall cap stands at $123,200 per donor for a two-year election cycle, but McCutcheon could raise that amount to more than $3.5 million.

Gerken says if the court rules in favor of McCutcheon, one donor could write a check that might cover a politician’s entire election campaign. “We’re going to start to worry about the bad old days when politicians were beholden to an incredibly small group of wealthy donors … Right now when politicians want to raise money they have to talk to at least middle class voters. They have to talk to a pretty big number of voters to raise money for their campaigns.”

Gerken fears that a small, rich group would not only influence the outcome of elections, but policy decisions as well. “It’s not just a seat at the table on election day, it’s a seat at the table for the next four-to-six years when they’re governing,” Gerken says. “Wall Street is going to be controlling the congressional agenda, Main Street is not.”



Transcript can be read here

As suggested by Karin Kamp, at Moyers’ & Company web site, here is a list of recommended articles that explain the case.

Chief Justice Roberts: A Campaign Finance Moderate Who Gets It?

by Rick Hasen, Election Law Blog

Poor Little Rich Guys

by Dahlia Lithwick, Slate

Conservative Justices Signal Dismantling Of Campaign Donation Limits

by Sahil Kapur, TPM

Mitch McConnell’s Moneyocracy

by Katrina vanden Heuvel, The Washington Post

Meet Shaun McCutcheon

by Ben Jacobs, The Daily Beast

There is also a very informative video from the Washington Post that is worth watching.

IRS Gate: Just Ineffective Management?

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

President Obama is definitely having a bad week with two screw ups by the IRS and the Department of Justice and the Republicans obsession with Benghazi. The media has latched on to these “crises” like pit bulls with a juicy ankle. While Benghazi-gate is purely political with its eye on tainting the possible 2016 presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton, the secret subpoena of AP’s phone records and the IRS targeting of right wing 501(c)4’s financing have more relevance.

The news that the IRS was focusing on conservative groups with words such as “tea party” or “patriot” in their names broke when the director of the IRS’s exempt-organi¬≠zations division, Lois G. Lerner, confirmed complaints by tea party groups that their applications for ¬≠tax-exempt status were being unfairly scrutinized and delayed. Oops.

Naturally, the right wing came was furious and rejected the IRS apology demanding an full investigation:

“I call on the White House to conduct a transparent, government-wide review aimed at assuring the American people that these thuggish practices are not underway at the IRS or elsewhere in the administration against anyone, regardless of their political views,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said. “An apology won’t put this issue to rest.”

“The IRS has demonstrated the most disturbing, illegal and outrageous abuse of government power,” said Jenny Beth Martin, national coordinator of Tea Party Patriots. “This deliberate targeting and harassment of tea party groups reaches a new low in illegal government activity and overreach.”

The IRS has a notoriously bad history of being used by presidents to harass and intimidate their political enemies, most infamously by Richard M. Nixon. Since Watergate the IRS was reformed making it more independent supposedly to insulate from politics.

In a government oversight report (pdf) by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, the IRS was found to have acted “inappropriately” and was poorly managed allowing “inappropriate criteria to be developed and stay in place for more than 18 months.”

All In host, Chris Hayes discussed the report and how the IRS handled this internally with New York Times reporter Nicholas Confessor.

Andy Kroll at Mother Jones recounts the five things you need to know in the Inspector General’s IRS Tea Party Scandal Report:

Treasury’s Inspector General for Tax Administration conducted the probe from June 2012 to February 2013 in response to pressure from Congress, and the 54-page report sheds light on the whole debacle.

Here are five key takeaways from the report.

1) Incompetence appears to have caused this scandal, not wrongdoing. [..]

2) Even the IRS doesn’t understand how political is too political in the murky world of 501(c)(4) groups. [..]

3) All the confusion at the IRS led to a huge backlog and a lot of unnecessary headaches. [..]

4) The IRS didn’t feel outside pressure to single out tea partiers. [..]

5) The report gives as much fodder to transparency advocates as it does to IRS critics.

Obama’s “Love Affair” with Pritzker’s Billions

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

What we do for love, or in this case the love of money. This is very evident with President Barack Obama’s Commerce Secretary nomination of Chicago multi-billionaire and Hyatt Hotels heiress Penny Pritzker, who served as his campaign fund-raiser.

Now the fact that Obama is heavily in the Pritzkers’ debt is no secret; Penny was Obama’s campaign finance chairman in 2008 (and make no mistake, Obama has considerably exaggerated the importance of small donors. He was and remains a machine candidate) and was co-chairman of his reelection campaign. But the roots go much, much deeper. If you haven’t read it already, I strongly urge you to read a speech by Robert Fitch to the Harlem Tenants’ Association one week after Obama’s 2008 win, in which he correctly foretold how Obama would behave towards big financial firms based on his long-standing role as a front for them. The important part is his description of the role that Obama played in the redevelopment of the near South Side of Chicago, and how he and other middle class blacks, including Valerie Jarrett and his wife Michelle, advanced at the expense of poor blacks by aligning themselves with what Fitch calls “friendly FIRE”: powerful real estate players like the Pritzkers and the Crown family, major banks, the University of Chicago, as well as non-profit community developers and real estate reverends.

She was previously nominated in 2008 for the same position but faced with awkward questions about her financial dealings, she declared that she did not want the nomination. Those same questions remain:

Penny Pritzker’s Commerce (Part One)

by Rick Perlstein, The Nation

n December of 2008, Obama’s choice for Secretary of Commerce, Chicago-based business tycoon Penny Pritzker, withdrew her name from consideration in the face of a triple-barreled onslaught. First, there was her position on the board of Superior Bank, which her family bought with the help of $645 million in tax credits for the federal government. In 2001, Superior collapsed after pioneering the bottom-feeding trade in subprime mortgages. In In These Times, David Moberg called it a “mini-Enron scandal”; 1,406 uninsured depositors lost their savings. [..]

Here was the second concern which kept her from the Commerce Department in 2008: “Whether she could disentangle herself,” as The Washington Post put it, from her family’s “vast financial holdings”-many of which they would prefer not to see scrutinized in public. How vast? Well, way back in 1973, The New York Times reported of “The Very Private Pritzkers,” “The family law firm, Pritzker & Prizker, hasn’t accepted an outside client for thirty years because of the potential conflict of interest with the Pritzker enterprises, which are too numerous for any one member of the family to recall at any given moment.” In 1982, when the list became public for the very first time-more on why later-the holdings included at least 216 separate corporate entities, from mining to motels. [..]

The third reason Obama chose not to risk political capital on a Penny Pritzker nomination fight is that unions despise her. Among the reasons: the Hyatt hotel chain, which the Pritzkers built practically from nothing, is infamous for just about the worst treatment of their staff in the business. (Here’s a moving first-hand account.)

Penny Pritzker’s Commerce (Part Two)

by Rick Perlstein, The Nation

Did you know that in the early 1970s, the Internal Revenue Service investigated the Pritzker family, whose scion Penny Pritzker has just been tapped by President Obama to become Secretary of Commerce, because their Hyatt Corporation was paying no taxes? [..]

Did you know that this particular financial institution, Castle Bank & Trust of the Bahamas, was founded by a veteran of the wartime spy agency the Office of Strategic Services who specialized in creating front organizations for the CIA, and helped launder funds for attempts to overthrow Fidel Castro? [..]

Did you know that the IRS dropped a major investigation of Castle in 1977, according to The Wall Street Journal, at the behest of the Central Intelligence Agency? [..]

Perlstein notes the New York Times reporter Charles Savage asked the White House what made Pritzker’s nomination “more suitable” now that it was in 2008:

When asked what had changed since 2008, Eric Schultz, a White House spokesman, said that Ms. Pritzker was in a different place.

“At the time,” he said, “she was managing an extensive portfolio of businesses that were under pressure due to the financial crisis. Those businesses had thousands of employees. She also had an ongoing obligation to oversee her family’s restructuring of assets to separate out the interests of various family members.”

Indeed, a Democrat familiar with the Obama transition team said in 2008 that Ms. Pritzker’s family had resisted any nomination because their assets were so entangled. Last week, a White House official involved in vetting her said they had since completed dividing up their finances.

What Perstein said:

Got that? It took lawyers four years to figure out how to divest her from the sleaze. And that’s what makes her qualified for the job-a job not unrelated to the devising and interpretation of tax policy itself. And, not incidentally, a job concerned with subjects like this:

   Tax evasion by individuals with unreported offshore financial accounts was estimated by one IRS commissioner to be several tens of billions of dollars, but no precise figure exists. IRS has operated four offshore programs since 2003 that offered incentives for taxpayers to disclose their offshore accounts and pay delinquent taxes, interest and penalties. GAO was asked to review IRS’s second offshore program, the 2009 OVDP. [..]

That’s the abstract to a paper published two months ago and distributed by the Commerce Department’s National Technical and Information Service. I would give far more than a penny to hear Pritzker’s thoughts about that.

Why does the image of the late Leona Helmsley keep flashing in my mind? Oh, “we don’t pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes” Yes, Penny will be a wonderful role model for women everywhere. Good choice, Barack.

The White House For Sale By OFA

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

White House for Sale photo white-house-for-sale_zpsffe731a9.jpg President Barack Obama’s campaign organization, “Obama for America” (OFA), is being reinvented as as a 501(c)(4) tax-exempt “social welfare group” that is not subject to federal contribution limits, laws that bar White House officials from soliciting contributions, or the stringent reporting requirements for campaigns. The goal is to raise $50 million  support of Mr. Obama’s second-term policy priorities, including efforts to curb gun violence and climate change and overhaul immigration procedures. Much like the alleged “grassroots” organizations, The Tea Party and Freedom Works, the new organization, now known as “Organizing for Action” (still OFA, so as not to confuse Obama supports), will derive most of its budget from a select group of donors who will each contribute or raise $500,000 or more. Sounds harmless? But wait, there’s more, as reported in The New York Times

But those contributions will also translate into access, according to donors courted by the president’s aides. Next month, Organizing for Action will hold a “founders summit” at a hotel near the White House, where donors paying $50,000 each will mingle with Mr. Obama’s former campaign manager, Jim Messina, and Mr. Carson, who previously led the White House Office of Public Engagement.

Giving or raising $500,000 or more puts donors on a national advisory board for Mr. Obama’s group and the privilege of attending quarterly meetings with the president, along with other meetings at the White House. Moreover, the new cash demands on Mr. Obama’s top donors and bundlers come as many of them are angling for appointments to administration jobs or ambassadorships. [..]

Many traditional advocacy organizations, including the Sierra Club and the National Rifle Association, are set up as social welfare groups, or 501(c)(4)’s in tax parlance. But unlike those groups, Organizing for Action appears to be an extension of the administration, stocked with alumni of Mr. Obama’s White House and campaign teams and devoted solely to the president’s second-term agenda.

The new OFA, which would be among the largest lobbying groups in Washington, will supposedly stay out of electoral politics, advocating only for progressive issues which as the article notes may be easier said than done as the 2014 midterm elections near. It’s already drawing fire from Democrats and watch dog groups that are accusing the group of selling access to President Barack Obama. Cole Leystra, executive director of former Sen. Russ Feingold’s Progressives United group said in a blog post http://www.huffingtonpost.com/…

(I)t was exactly “what selling access looks like.”

“It’s embarrassing that the largest grassroots organization in history would abandon its own beliefs,” wrote Leystra.

“Organizing for Action should embrace its base of grassroots donors as a model of participatory democracy, not shun them in the dash to rake in huge contributions from a wealthy and powerful few,” he added. “We cannot return to the days of soft money — when unlimited corporate contributions blurred the differences between the two political parties, and resulted in policies that slammed average working families while rewarding Wall Street.”

In an interview with Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh, the president of the watch dog group Common Cause, Bob Edgar raised the main objections to the new and “improved” OFA:

The watchdog group Common Cause called on President Obama on Tuesday to shut down the nonprofit spinoff of his campaign committee, saying that the group effectively puts access to the president up “for sale.”

“If President Obama is serious about his often-expressed desire to rein in big money in politics, he should shut down Organizing for Action and disavow any plan to schedule regular meetings with its major donors,” said Bob Edgar, president of Common Cause. “Access to the President should never be for sale.”

Apparently Pres. Obama thinks that since the Koch Brothers and Pete Peterson can get away with influencing and misinforming voters with massive media campaigns and its paid shills on every talk show spouting the company line, so can he. Don’t be fooled, these groups are all the same: certainly not “grass roots” and definitely not for the people, unless they’re the rich ones.

Contributions Are Killing Democracy

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

In January of 2010, the US Supreme Court handed down its decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that held that the First Amendment prohibited the government from restricting independent political expenditures by corporations and unions. However, the case did not involve the federal ban on direct contributions from corporations or unions to candidate campaigns or political parties, which remain illegal in races for federal office.

Once again the US Supreme Court is about to weigh in on campaign finance agreeing to hear arguments in the McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission which contends that limits on what individuals are allowed to give candidates and parties and PACs is an unconstitutional violation of the individual donor’s free speech rights.

Supreme Court Takes Campaign Finance Case, Will Rule On Contribution Limits

by Paul Blumenthal, The Huffington Post

The U.S. Court of Appeals already ruled in favor of keeping the biennial limits, which have been in place since 1971 and were upheld in the 1976 Buckley v. Valeo case. By accepting the case, the Supreme Court is stepping into the thick of another controversial campaign finance case just three years after ruling in Citizens United v. FEC that corporations and unions can spend freely on elections. [..]

Campaign finance reformers are already calling on the court to maintain the Buckley precedent and rule against the challenge in McCutcheon, for fear that any overturning of Buckley will eventually lead to future erosion of contribution limits and other campaign finance precedents meant to protect against corruption or the appearance of corruption. [..]

A ruling to overturn the biennial limits would not directly affect the amount an individual donor could give to a single candidate, but, thanks to the proliferation of joint fundraising committees, known as victory funds or committees, a candidate could potentially solicit a single contribution from one donor of up to — if not more than — $3,627,600.

In a recent segment of Moyers & Company, host Bill Moyers discussed how “big money” is destroying democracy with Dan Cantor, Executive Director of New York’s Working Families Party, and Jonathan Soros, co-founder of the Friends of Democracy super PAC and a Senior Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute.

“There’s so much money being spent, there’s so much cynicism about the system, but the evidence shows, in states that do have public financing systems, that candidates can run in those systems and win, and they do it by focusing on their constituents and small donors,” Soros tells Bill.

Soros and Cantor advocate for a New York State public financing system inspired by New York City’s publicly-funded program that makes it less financially prohibitive to run for city-wide office. “People should appreciate who gets to run for office when you have a system like this. Librarians run for office, ex-teachers run for office – not just people who have a rolodex of prospective donors,” Cantor says. “It’s good for the candidates and the voters alike.”

The Super PAC That Aims to End Super PACs

by Michael D. Shear, The New York Times

In the next four months, Mr. Soros and a small team at Friends of Democracy, the new Super PAC, are going to pick 10 to 15 House lawmakers whose records and public statements have not been supportive of what Mr. Soros calls a system of “citizen-led” elections.

In those districts, the new Super PAC will produce direct mail, telephone calls, Internet advertising and even a few television commercials aimed at making sure voters know the positions of the lawmaker

In addition, a separate sister organization will be picking a handful of campaign finance reform “heroes” who will receive some direct contributions to reward them for their positions.

If all goes according to plan, Mr. Soros is hoping to eventually demonstrate to politicians that there is a political cost for standing in the way of reform.

For sale to the highest bidder, the Unites States of America.

Elections: “Super PAC’s Upped the Ante”

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

One of the people I am thankful for is Bill Moyers and his quiet, rational discussion of the problem that plague this country and the world on his PBS program Moyers & Company. In an interview with Trevor Potter, the former Federal Election Commission Chairman and  the lawyer behind the creation and functioning of Stephen Colbert‘s PAC, “Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow”, they discuss how Citizens United has effected, not only this campaign, but campaigns in the very near future with the influx of undisclosed money to Super PACs from very wealthy donors who want only to protect their influence in Congress.

Trevor Potter on Big Money’s Election Effect

Former Federal Election Commission Chairman Trevor Potter – the lawyer who advised Stephen Colbert on setting up a super PAC – dissects the spending on the most expensive election in American history. Many voices are claiming “money didn’t matter, Citizens United wasn’t a factor,” but Potter disagrees.

“Super PACs just upped the ante,” he tells Bill. “If you’re a senator and you have just been elected, or heaven forbid you’re up in two years, you’re thinking I don’t have time to worry about deficit reduction and the fiscal cliff. I have to raise tens of thousands of dollars every day to have enough money to compete with these new super PACs… And that means I need to be nice to a lot of billionaires who often want something from me in order to find the funding for my campaign.”

The transcript can be read here

Campaign Finance Game: Stephen Goes Stealth

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Colbert Super PAC – Trevor Potter & Stephen’s Shell Corporation

Trevor Potter helps Stephen create his own shell corporation so that he can obtain secret donations for his Super PAC.

Stephen get schooled in how to game the campaign finance system by creating a 501(c)(4):

501(c)(4) organizations are generally civic leagues and other corporations operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare, or local associations of employees with membership limited to a designated company or people in a particular municipality or neighborhood, and with net earnings devoted exclusively to charitable, educational, or recreational purposes. 501(c)(4) organizations may lobby for legislation, and unlike 501(c)(3) organizations they may also participate in political campaigns and elections, as long as campaigning is not the organization’s primary purpose. The tax exemption for 501(c)(4) organizations applies to most of their operations, but contributions may be subject to gift tax, and income spent on political activities – generally the advocacy of a particular candidate in an election – is taxable.

Contributions to 501(c)(4) organizations are not deductible as charitable contributions for the U.S. income tax. 501(c)(4) organizations are not required to disclose their donors publicly. This aspect of the law has led to extensive use of the 501(c)(4) provisions for organizations that are actively involved in lobbying, and has become controversial. In 2010, a bill (the DISCLOSE Act) was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives that addressed identification of donors to organizations involved in political advocacy, but the bill failed to pass in the Senate.

The entire transcript is below the fold but here is the punch line(s):

SC: Can I take this C-4’s money and then donate it to my Super PAC?

TP: You can.

SC: Well,wait. Super PAC’s are transparent.

TP: Right, right

SC: And the C-4 is secret

TP: Umhmmm

SC: So I can take secret donations of my C-4 and give it to my supposedly transparent Super PAC.

TP: And it’ll say given by your C-4

SC: What is the difference between that and money laundering?

TP: Hard to say.

On Being Bumped, Or, Let’s Have Another Roundup

So I thought I was going to have another Jay Inslee story for y’all today, but it turns out that I’m going to have to do more research before we can “come to press” with that one.

But that’s OK, because the world’s been busy doing a lot of other things – and while many of them get media coverage, some don’t get a lot of notice at all.

And of course, there are also those stories that look one way at first glance…but look a lot different when you dig a bit deeper.

We’ll hit a few of those today, have a bit of fun doing it, and get ready for what promises to be another busy week of strategically not doing things in Washington.

To make things even better, some of the stories will be real, and some won’t.

We’ll see if you can tell the difference.

SCOTUS Strikes Down AZ Campaign Finance

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Once again the corporate owned, conservative Supreme Court has struck down the 1998 Arizona Campaign Finance Law provided escalating matching funds to candidates who accept public financing. How the Roberts’ court decided that law violates the First Amendment rights of these corporation is truly a backbreaking twist if logic and the constitution.

The vote was again 5-to-4, with the same five justices in the majority as in the Citizens United decision. The majority’s rationale was that the law violated the First Amendment rights of candidates who raise private money. Such candidates, the majority said, may be reluctant to spend money to speak if they know that it will give rise to counter-speech paid for by the government.

“Laws like Arizona’s matching funds provision that inhibit robust and wide-open political debate without sufficient justification cannot stand,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for the majority. Justice Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. joined the majority opinion.

What about the under funded candidate’s right to be heard under the First amendment? The reason for the law, which  was written after a corruption scandals rocked the state’s election financing during the 90’s, was to foster free speech:

The idea was to encourage candidates to forgo the scramble for money, with all its inherent invitations to corruption — to spend more time speaking to the electorate, and less time speaking to potential funders.

In that sense, its goal was very much to increase genuine political speech. But to the Roberts court, money as speech takes precedence over speech as speech.

The court’s majority clearly telegraphed its antipathy to the Arizona provision during oral arguments in March. The only real suspense was whether they would go further, and use the case to cast doubt on public financing generally.

So there was a sense of relief in the good-government community Monday.

“This is not the death knell of public financing. This ruling affects only one mechanism of public financing, and there are numerous ways to fix it,” said Common Cause president Bob Edgar in a statement. “Today, in the wake of Citizens United, it is more critical than ever that we change the way we pay for our elections by moving to a small donor system that gives the public a voice back in our government. Nothing short of our democracy is at stake.”

Well, thank these corporate shill justices for that.

90 Second Summaries

A while back, a couple of us here at Sum of Change got involved in meetings with a great group of folks about working together to provide insider reporting of Capitol Hill with an outsider perspective. In time, we became Main Street Insider. Today, Main Street Insider released a new show, 90 Second Summaries.

The purpose of 90 Second Summaries is simple, provide citizens on Main Street with a quick synopsis of what a bill is all about. The first three episodes come out today, tomorrow and Thursday, with new ones every following Monday. Each video comes with a one-page summary (which you can view online or download as a pdf) containing everything you will need to learn even more about any piece of legislation.

Without further ado, presenting Season 1, Episode 1: H.R. 4790, Shareholder Protection Act

The following is cross-posted from Main Street Insider:

Kucinich tells his side of the story on Democracy Now!

In a lengthy interview on Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman, Congressman Dennis Kucinich explained why he would not vote for the present health care bill and defended his position against attacks from people on the left like Markos Moulitsas.  He also spoke about the subjects of Afghanistan, campaign finance, and the passing of activist Granny D.

I mean, I have a responsibility to take a stand here on behalf of those who want a public option. There’s about thirty-four members of the Senate, at least, who have signed on to saying they support a public option. If I were to just concede right now and say, “Well, you know, whatever you want. All this pressure’s building. Just forget about it,” actually weakens every last-minute bit of negotiations that would try to improve the bill. So I think that it’s really critical to take this stand, because without it, there’s no real control over premiums. Without it, we have nothing in the bill except the privatization of our healthcare system.

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