MSNBC: Spending blitz by outside groups helped secure big GOP wins

Written by admin on November 4th, 2010

MSNBC reports on the successful spending by outside groups for Republican candidates.

MSNBC

A substantial portion of Crossroads GPS’ money came from a small circle of extremely wealthy Wall Street hedge fund and private equity moguls, according to GOP fundraising sources who spoke with NBC News on condition of anonymity. These donors 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, the sources said.

A scorecard compiled by NBC News shows the ad barrage appeared to mostly pay off: Republican candidates won nine of the 12 Senate races and 14 of 22 House races where American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS spent money.

As a result, the airwaves this campaign season were flooded with millions of dollars in attack ads, paid for by secret donors. Out of nearly $300 million spent on congressional campaigns ads by both parties, 42 percent were funded by undisclosed donors, according to a study by the Center for Responsive Politics

Just behind the Crossroads groups in outside spending on the GOP-side were the Chamber of Commerce ($31 million) and the American Action Network ($14 million), according to Sunlight Foundation figures. Neither disclosed the identity of its donors.

While outside Democratic groups belatedly tried to mimic the GOP efforts, they fell short. America’s Families First Action Fund, a group founded by a number of former Democratic strategists that operated much like American Crossroads, wasn’t organized until last summer and spent just $5.5 million — $1 million of which came from a non-disclosing nonprofit affiliate, according to the Sunlight Foundation. The big outside spenders on the Democratic side were labor unions such as AFSME ($10.7 million) and the SEIU ($10 million.)

 

Robert Naiman mentions “The Best Government Money Can Buy?”

Written by admin on November 3rd, 2010

Robert Naiman gives a strong endorsement to The Best Government Money Can Buy? in his column today regarding the election.  Available at any of the links below.

Just Foreign Policy

Daily Kos

Huffington Post

Megahy’s film makes a convincing case that we need a sustained movement from outside of Washington to combat corporate control in order to reform the system. And a logical inference to draw from the film is that this movement needs to constantly tie the need for reform to the direct and major economic and political harms that that present election finance system is causing to working families.

The film documents, for example, how the current campaign finance and lobbying system has produced effects like $30 billion in tax breaks for oil and gas companies, a law barring Medicare from using its market power to negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs, and a law prohibiting the import of cheaper prescription drugs from Canada.

If you’re concerned about corporate control in Washington, get this movie, and use it as a tool for education and organizing.

 

Amazon.com Election Day special!

Written by admin on November 2nd, 2010

Today only special event at Amazon.com.

The Best Government Money Can Buy? Video On Demand for free!

Amazon

 

Bloomberg: Anti-Tax Activists Rebuffed at Supreme Court on Election-Disclosure Rules

Written by admin on November 2nd, 2010

Bloomberg reports that the Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal of a decision which attempts to weaken the disclosure requirements of the remaining campaign finance laws.

Bloomberg

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to relax the disclosure requirements for groups that spend money to influence federal elections, as the justices turned away an appeal from anti-tax and libertarian activists.

Acting the day before the congressional elections, the high court let stand a ruling requiring SpeechNow.org to comply with the federal rules that govern so-called political committees. SpeechNow is a free-speech group founded by officials from the anti-tax Club for Growth and the libertarian Cato Institute.

SpeechNow’s backers, led by David Keating, argued unsuccessfully that those rules violated the First Amendment and that the group should have to comply only with the less stringent disclosure requirements that apply to other organizations.

A U.S. appeals court disagreed in a 9-0 decision

 

Washington Post: Roberts Court rulings on campaign finance reveal shifting makeup, forceful role

Written by admin on November 1st, 2010

The Washington Post reports on how the shift in the makeup of the Supreme Court has influenced the current elections.

Washington Post

The debate over the decisions echoes that of the ideologically divided justices themselves.

Justice John Paul Stevens, now retired, made Citizens United the last great dissent of many he wrote in 35 years on the court.

While American democracy is imperfect,” Stevens wrote in his 90-page opinion, “few outside the majority of this court would have thought its flaws included a dearth of corporate money in politics.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote the majority opinion, but colleague Antonin Scalia took up his pen to specifically answer Stevens.

To exclude or impede corporate speech is to muzzle the principal agents of the modern free economy,” he wrote. “We should celebrate rather than condemn the addition of this speech to the public debate.”

With the advent of the Internet, prompt disclosure of expenditures can provide shareholders and citizens with the information needed to hold corporations and elected officials accountable,” Kennedy continued, saying such “transparency” allows voters to evaluate the speech and the messenger.

But real life has revealed problems with that approach. Critics of the ruling said Kennedy and the majority did not address rulings by the FEC and IRS, which govern the myriad political groups and nonprofit organizations active in elections, that they need not always disclose their donors.

Fred Wertheimer, the longtime campaign finance watchdog who is now president of Democracy 21, estimates that groups will spend as much as $200 million during the midterm elections without disclosing the source of the money.

And after the ruling, with unanimous opposition from Republicans, including McCain, the Senate did not toughen disclosure requirements .

To McCain and Feingold, the court’s actions on campaign finance reflect both naivete and judicial activism.

 

MSNBC: Democrats blast GOP ‘front groups,’ but use them too

Written by admin on October 31st, 2010

MSNBC reports that the Democrats have adopted the same strategy as Republicans for the use of undisclosed donors’ funds in the election.

MSNBC

Another newly formed political committee, America’s Families First Action Fund, which is running negative commercials against Republicans in House races across the country, recently got $1 million from a closely related nonprofit affiliate, the records show. Both organizations were set up over the summer by Democratic strategists, who emphasized in a memo to donors that contributions to the nonprofit could be kept anonymous.

These operations illustrate how Democrats have belatedly tried to mimic some of the same GOP money-raising tactics they have sharply criticized, exploiting a controversial Supreme Court ruling earlier this year that allows unlimited contribution to political committees from corporations, labor unions and wealthy individuals. These donations can be kept concealed from the public if made to outside nonprofits, which can either run campaign ads directly or — as the Democratic groups are doing — make contributions to other political committees that run ads on their own.

“It’s opened this huge loophole (where) you can launder money though these groups that don’t disclose and get it into the campaign,” said Bill Allison, editorial director of the Sunlight Foundation, a nonpartisan group that tracks campaign spending. “We’ve seen this happening on both sides of the aisle.”

 

New York Times: Drowning in Campaign Cash

Written by admin on October 31st, 2010

Te New York Times editorializes today on the flood of campaign cash.

New York Times

Combining both traditional and outside money, Republicans have slightly outraised Democrats, $1.64 billion to $1.59 billion, but there is more to be tallied.

While large secret donations have been legalized, it is not clear that the 501(c) groups spending the money on barrages of attack ads are playing by the last, threadbare rules. The tax code requires that these groups not be “primarily engaged” in political advocacy, but neither the Internal Revenue Service nor the Federal Election Commission has made any apparent effort to investigate what other purpose they might have. Some groups have suggested they would begin nonpolitical activities — after the election.

What is clear is that the new world of unlimited spending, both open and secret, confers huge benefits on wealthy individuals, corporations and unions. In a striking example, reported by ABC News last week, Terry Forcht, a prominent Kentucky banker and nursing home executive, helped pay for a series of attack ads against Attorney General Jack Conway, the Democratic Senate candidate. Mr. Conway is prosecuting one of Mr. Forcht’s nursing homes for allegedly covering up sexual abuse.

Mr. Forcht has directly raised at least $21,000 for Mr. Conway’s Republican opponent, Rand Paul. He serves as the banker for American Crossroads, the shadowy group of nonprofits organized by Karl Rove that has spent nearly $30 million to defeat Democrats and more than $1 million to defeat Mr. Conway.

This year, of course, is just batting practice for 2012

 

NPR: Shaping State Laws With Little Scrutiny

Written by admin on October 31st, 2010

NPR reports on how many states laws are written for the legislators by a little known organization in Washington DC whose backers are undisclosed in large part.

NPR

The largest prison company in the country, the Corrections Corporation of America, was present when the model immigration legislation was drafted at an ALEC conference last year.

ALEC’s Bowman says that is not unusual; more than 200 of the organization’s model bills became actual laws over the past year. But he hedges when asked if that means the unofficial drafting process is an effective way to accelerate the legislative process.

“It’s not an effective way to get a bill passed,” he says. “It’s an effective way to find good legislation.”

The difference between passing bills and “finding” them is lobbying. Most states define lobbying as pushing legislators to create or pass legislation. And that comes with rules. Companies typically have to disclose to the public what they are lobbying for, who’s lobbying for them or how much they are spending on it.

If ALEC’s conferences were interpreted as lobbying, the group could lose its status as a non-profit. Corporations wouldn’t be able to reap tax benefits from giving donations to the organization or write off those donations as a business expense. And legislators would have a hard time justifying attending a conference of lobbyists.

Bowman says what his group does is educate lawmakers.

“ALEC allows a place for everyone at the table to come and debate and discuss,” he says. “You have legislators who will ask questions much more freely at our meetings because they are not under the eyes of the press, the eyes of the voters. They’re just trying to learn a policy and understand it.”

Much about ALEC is private. It does not disclose how it spends it money or who gives it to them. ALEC rarely grants interviews. Bowman won’t even say which legislators are members.

Is it lobbying when private corporations pay money to sit in a room with state lawmakers to draft legislation that they then introduce back home? Bowman, a former lobbyist, says, “No, because we’re not advocating any positions. We don’t tell members to take these bills. We just expose best practices. All we’re really doing is developing policies that are in model bill form.”

So, for example, last December Arizona state Sen. Russell Pearce sat in a hotel conference room with representatives from the Corrections Corporation of America and several dozen others. The group voted on model legislation that was introduced into the Arizona legislature two months later, almost word for word.

 

New York Times/CBS Poll: Americans Want Disclosure and Limits on Campaign Spending

Written by admin on October 30th, 2010

The latest NY Times/CBS polling shows bipartisan support for full disclosure and limits on campaign spending.

However as interviewee Prof. Larry Sabato clearly indicates in The Best Government Money Can Buy?, the people with the power to change the system are the ones who benefit most from the current system!

Larry Sabato clip

NY Times/CBS

The latest New York Times/CBS News poll found that nearly 8 in 10 Americans say it is important (including 6 in 10 who say “very important”) to limit the amount of money campaigns can spend. While majorities of each party’s registered voters agree that limits are important, Democrats (68 percent) and independents (59 percent) are more likely than Republicans (52 percent) to say it is “very” important.

Americans are even more supportive of full disclosure by campaigns with 92 percent saying it is important for campaigns to be required by law to disclose how much money they have raised, where the money came from and how it was used. There was little difference in the opinions of each party’s voters on this question.

 

New York Times: Coal Industry Increases Spending to Sway Next Congress

Written by admin on October 29th, 2010

The new York Times reports on the coal industries increased lobbying and campaign contributions during the current campaign.

NY Times

Among the largest recipients of coal money are Republican and Democratic members who have sponsored or voted for measures to block new E.P.A. regulations on global warming pollution from the burning of coal and oil and who are most likely to support efforts to block other new rules.

These members include Representatives Roy Blunt of Missouri and Joe L. Barton of Texas, both Republicans, and Nick J. Rahall II of West Virginia and Rick Boucher of Virginia, both Democrats. Each had received more than $25,000 in contributions as of early October, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group that tracks campaign spending.

Two Senate candidates, Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio, and Gov. Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, have also received sizable industry donations.

The political action committee of Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, who is in line to become speaker if Republicans capture the House, has received more than $300,000 from mining interests, most of it from coal companies. The industry is counting on Mr. Boehner to reverse the current Democratic leadership’s refusal to allow a vote on the measure blocking E.P.A. carbon regulation.

As of the beginning of October, coal mining companies had collectively contributed nearly $3 million to federal candidates, with three-quarters of the money going to Republicans, according to the campaign finance group. The companies spent about $3.5 million to influence the 2008 elections and it appears likely that they will surpass that figure this year.