Fox News: Dozens of Business Leaders Back Starbucks CEO’s Pledge to Halt Campaign Donations

Written by admin on August 25th, 2011

Howard Schutz’s call for a halt to campaign contributions may actually being having an effect.

Fox News

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz told Fox News he wants to send a “powerful message” to Washington about frustration in the business world, announcing that more than 100 business leaders have endorsed his pledge to suspend campaign contributions until a long-term debt deal is reached. 

Schultz first called for the cutoff about 10 days ago. Since then, a host of other CEOs have signed on, including AOL CEO Tim Armstrong; Zipcar CEO Scott Griffith; J. Crew CEO Millard Drexler; JC Penney CEO Myron Ullman; and Whole Foods Co-CEO Walter Robb. 

The Starbucks chief told Fox News their message is simple: “Do your job and give us the America we deserve.” He said uncertainty over the country’s finances has spooked the private sector, and they want Washington to show “real leadership” by striking a significant deficit-reduction deal. 

“We need a long-term debt-ceiling deal that … doesn’t put a Band-Aid on this, but removes the level of uncertainty and the fracturing of confidence,” he said Wednesday. “This is a crisis in America. It’s a crisis of leadership, and it’s a crisis in the economy. And we must send a powerful message to Washington that we’re not satisfied.” 

Schultz said the recent decision by Standard & Poor’s to downgrade U.S. credit was the result of a lack of confidence in politicians’ ability to get things done. 

Schultz is also calling on businesses to inspire “confidence” in the economy by hiring more people “now” — as opposed to waiting for another government stimulus program. He has launched a website and Facebook page describing the dual pledges and enlisting supporters.

If Schultz’s donation-boycott appeal strikes a chord with enough business leaders, the pledge could make a dent. 

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, contributions from business political action committees totaled $334 million in the 2009-2010 cycle. 

Individual donations from the business community approached $1 billion, split about evenly between the two parties. 

Schultz said the contributions are “obscene” considering “there’s 9 percent unemployment in America.” 

The Starbucks CEO wants a halt to donations for all members of Congress and the president. He describes the effort as non-partisan. Over the years, Schultz has been a prolific contributor mostly to Democratic candidates. In 2007, he donated to then-Sen. Barack Obama, as well as Hillary Clinton and John Edwards, in the presidential race.

 

MapLight: Contribution Profile of Members of the Deficit “Super Committee”

Written by admin on August 15th, 2011

Our friends at MapLight have quantified the campaign contributions to the Congressional super committee members by industry.

MapLight

The members of the so-called “Super Committee” are Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), John Kerry (D-Mass.), and Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Reps. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), Fred Upton (R-Mich.), Dave Camp (R-Mich.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.), and Jim Clyburn(D-S.C.).

  • To download a spreadsheet featuring an analysis of contributions from PACs to Super Committee members (not including employee contributions) click here.

Top 10 Industry Contributors to Super Committee Members

Industry Totals
Lawyers/Law Firms $31,529,149
Securities & Investment $11,221,416
Democratic/Liberal $9,647,264
Health Professionals $9,321,588
Real Estate $8,793,350
Education $8,568,460
Misc. Business $7,902,021
Business Services $6,563,524
Women’s Issues $6,396,728
Insurance $5,693,595

Top 10 Organization Contributors (PACs and Employees) to Super Committee Members

Organizations Totals
Club for Growth $990,066
Microsoft Corp. $810,100
University of California $629,495
Goldman Sachs $592,684
EMILY’s List $586,835
Citigroup Inc. $561,081
JPMorgan Chase & Co. $494,316
Bank of America $349,566
Skadden, Arps, et al. $347,356
General Electric $340,935

Methodology: MapLight analysis of campaign contributions from Jan. 1, 2001 – Dec. 31, 2010 to the 12 members of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction. Campaign contributions and industry classifications established by the Center for Responsive Politics (OpenSecrets.org).

 

Bloomberg: Debt-Panel Outcome Clouded by Pressure From Lawmakers’ Backers

Written by admin on August 14th, 2011

House and Senate leaders named lawmakers who probably won’t face a stiff re-election fight soon. The six House members were all re-elected with at least 62 percent of the vote, and none of the six senators are facing voters in 2012.

Bloomberg

The 12-member congressional panel charged with finding $1.5 trillion in budget savings may be unable to overcome resistance from the lobbyists, donors and interest groups that sustain them in office.

The committee, already split by internal divisions over taxes and entitlements, will examine defense and health care for possible cuts, and both industries have influence with its members. Health professionals are the biggest donors to three of the House members. Three senators have dozens of military installations to protect, and employees of defense contractor Boeing Co. (BA) are top donors to the panel’s co-chairwoman, Patty Murray.

Retirees are among the largest givers to almost all the lawmakers, and members considering scaling back Social Security or the Medicare insurance program for the elderly will confront a barrage of lobbying by the seniors’ group AARP.

“Nobody wants to promise their cohorts any kind of pain and suffering or divergence from the current theology,” said Bill Frenzel, a former congressman who served as the ranking Republican on the House Budget Committee. Republican distaste for tax increases and Democrats’ insistence on protecting entitlement programs is a “doomsday formula,” he said.

The panel, whose work has taken on greater urgency since Standard & Poor’s downgraded the U.S. credit rating, is already facing doubts about whether it can meet a Nov. 23 deadline for a plan and head off a round of automatic, across-the-board spending cuts. It includes six Democrats who back tax increases and six Republicans who signed a pledge to oppose that. Few have engaged in bipartisan efforts on major issues; 11 of the 12 have voted with their party at least 90 percent of the time.

Pelosi Names Allies

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi yesterday completed the panel’s membership by appointing three of her closest allies: fellow House leaders Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, James Clyburn of South Carolina and Xavier Becerra of California. A day earlier, House Speaker John Boehner tapped Republican Conference Chairman Jeb Hensarling of Texas, and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp and Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, both of Michigan.

The Democratic senators serving on the panel are Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus of Montana, John Kerry of Massachusetts and Murray of Washington, who runs her party’s fundraising efforts for senators. Their Republican counterparts are Senators Jon Kyl of Arizona, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Rob Portman of Ohio, who served as President George W. Bush’s budget director. Hensarling will join Murray as co-leader of the panel.

 

AP: Special interests gave millions to budget panel

Written by admin on August 12th, 2011

The AP’s analysis shows the extent to which special interests have directly supported the 12 members during their tenures in Congress, including support from agriculture businesses ($600,000) and labor unions ($580,000). Big checks also came in from the banking and insurance industry.

AP via Yahoo

The 12 lawmakers appointed to a new congressional supercommittee charged with tackling the nation’s fiscal problems have received millions in contributions from special interests with a direct stake in potential cuts to federal programs, an Associated Press analysis of federal campaign data has found.

The newly appointed members — six Democrats and six Republicans — have received more than $3 million total during the past five years in donations from political committees with ties to defense contractors, health care providers and labor unions. That money went to their re-election campaigns, according to AP’s review.


The congressional committee, created as part of the debt limit and deficit reduction agreement enacted last week, is charged with cutting more than $1 trillion from the budget during the coming decade. If the committee doesn’t decide on cuts by late November — or if Congress votes down the committee’s recommendations — spending triggers would automatically cut billions of dollars from politically delicate areas like Medicare and the Pentagon.

The lawmakers represent a large swath of political ideology and geography, but they have some things in common: They received more than $1 million overall in contributions from the health care industry and at least $700,000 from defense companies, the AP found. Those two industries, especially, are sensitive to the outcome of the committee’s negotiations because the automatic spending cuts could affect them most directly.

The committee’s co-chairs — Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas — each received support from lobbyists and political committees, including those with ties to defense contractors and health care lobbyists. Hensarling’s re-election committee, for instance, received about $11,000 from Lockheed Martin and $8,500 from Northrop Grumman.

Companies like Lockheed rely heavily on government contracts: More than 80 percent of Lockheed’s net sales during the first six months of 2011 came from the U.S. government, according to Securities and Exchange Commission records. And in SEC filings two weeks ago, Northrop expressed concern of a “material adverse effect” on its finances had the debt ceiling not been raised.

The other panel members are Sens. Max Baucus, D-Mont.; John Kerry, D-Mass.; Jon Kyl, R-Ariz.; Pat Toomey, R-Pa.; and Rob Portman, R-Ohio; and Reps. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C.; Xavier Becerra, D-Calif.; Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.; and Michigan Republicans Dave Camp and Fred Upton.

The AP’s analysis shows the extent to which special interests have directly supported the 12 members during their tenures in Congress, including support from agriculture businesses ($600,000) and labor unions ($580,000). Big checks also came in from the banking and insurance industry.

The extent of potential conflicts could be even greater than the AP’s analysis shows. The AP measured contributions from industry PACs to lawmakers’ election committees. But it didn’t capture amounts from independent expenditures, such as donations, from defense executives and their families or money given to leadership political committees.

Even still, influence can extend beyond direct campaign contributions. Senate records show that Murray, also the chairwoman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, was named in so-called honoree payments of more than $1 million from lobbyists since 2008. Such honoree contributions are sent to groups associated with members of Congress or for events held in their honor.

Murray spokesman Matt McAlvanah said Thursday that the senator “has made a career out of standing up for working families and against special interests. And that’s reflected in her personal story, her votes and the policies she has championed.”

Already, even as the final appointments to the committee were announced Thursday, watchdog groups said the panel members will be under remarkable pressure from outside interests. Public Campaign, one such group in Washington, said establishing the committee “will make it cheaper for Wall Street, tax-dodging corporations and special-interest lobbyists to influence the spending cuts and revenue debate in Washington as the focus shifts to just 12 members of Congress.”

 

Politico: Mystery Mitt Romney donor comes forward

Written by admin on August 8th, 2011

Conard came forward because despite ‘prominent legal counsel”, the Federal Elections Commission might not have agreed.

Politico

The anonymous donor behind the headline-making $1 million contribution to a pro-Mitt Romney super PAC is a former Bain Capital official with long ties to the candidate, who’s asking the outside group to amend its filings, POLITICO has learned.

The check-writer is Ed Conard, who was a top official at Bain, the private-equity firm Romney helped create, and who has been a strong supporter of his over the years.

The donation, made to the super PAC “Restore Our Future” – which was founded by former Romney advisers and is able to take in unlimited contributions, but must report them to the FEC – showed up in the group’s first round of filings. It was listed as coming from a W Spann LLC.

In a statement to POLITICO, Conard said, “I am the individual who formed and funded W Spann LLC. I authorized W Spann LLC’s contribution to Restore Our Future PAC.

“I did so after consulting prominent legal counsel regarding the transaction, and based on my understanding that the contribution would comply with applicable laws,” he said. “To address questions raised by the media concerning the contribution, I will request that Restore Our Future PAC amend its public reports to disclose me as the donor associated with this contribution.”

The LLC had been registered to a Madison Avenue address in Manhattan that was the same building occupied by Bain, sparking more of the mystery surrounding Spann. Sources familiar with the situation said Conard retired from Bain in 2007, but still maintains an office of his own at that Madison Avenue address.

Conard came forward as criticism from campaign watchdogs and Democrats were gathering steam, and there was an official complaint with the FEC, as well as with the Justice Department, filed by a nonpartisan group.

The contribution was first reported by POLITICO’s Jonathan Martin and Ken Vogel on Sunday. NBC’s Michael Isikoff reported earlier this week that Spann was formed in March and dissolved less than four months later, raising questions about the purpose of the company.

It wasn’t immediately clear why Conard chose to go the anonymous donation route.

 

 

Bloomberg: Carmakers Blitz U.S. Lawmakers Amid Fight Over Fuel-Economy Rule

Written by admin on July 26th, 2011

“Auto lobbyists had to tread carefully in Washington for a couple of years after the bailout, but as business and profits are restored, so is the industry’s credibility — and clout — with lawmakers.”

Bloomberg

The U.S. auto industry, rejuvenated after the government’s $80 billion bailout of General Motors Co. (GM) and Chrysler Group LLC, is stepping up its lobbying and spending on political donations as the White House moves to boost fuel economy standards.

GM spent $5.5 million during the first six months of 2011 to try to influence Congress and federal agencies, up from $4.1 million in the same period a year earlier, according to lobbying disclosures released yesterday. Ford Motor Co. (F) spent $3.4 million in 2011, versus $2.8 million in 2010. Chrysler more than doubled its lobbying spending to $2.4 million from $1.1 million. Auto companies’ political action committees also gave more to federal campaigns, Federal Election Commission reports show.

The White House is in talks with automakers on fuel economy standards for 2017 to 2025. President Barack Obama’s administration in June floated the idea of a fleetwide average of 56.2 miles per gallon by the end of the period, up from 27.3 mpg now. That represents about a 5 percent annual increase. Regulators’ final proposal is due in September.

“It is a life-or-death issue” for the automakers, James Burnley, a former U.S. transportation secretary, said in a telephone interview. “They have to use the usual tools to educate decision-makers.

 

Bloomberg: Koch, Exxon Mobil Among Corporations Helping Write State Laws

Written by admin on July 23rd, 2011

Corporations are “paying for an opportunity to connect directly with legislators,” said Jeremy Kalin, a former Democratic Minnesota state representative. “It’s an end-run around transparency and disclosure laws. Corporate interests that would otherwise be required to register as lobbyists are writing legislation behind closed doors.”

Bloomberg

Koch Industries Inc. and Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) are among companies that would benefit from almost identical energy legislation introduced in state capitals from Oregon to New Mexico to New Hampshire — and that’s by design.

The energy companies helped write the legislation at a meeting organized by a group they finance, the American Legislative Exchange Council, a Washington-based policy institute known as ALEC.

The corporations, both ALEC members, took a seat at the legislative drafting table beside elected officials and policy analysts by paying a fee between $3,000 and $10,000, according to documents obtained by Bloomberg News.

The opportunity for corporations to become co-authors of state laws legally through ALEC covers a wide range of issues from energy to taxes to agriculture. The price for participation is an ALEC membership fee of as much as $25,000 — and the few extra thousands to join one of the group’s legislative-writing task forces. Once the “model legislation” is complete, it’s up to ALEC’s legislator members to shepherd it into law.

“This is just another hidden way for corporations to buy their way into the legislative process,” said Bob Edgar, president of Common Cause, a Washington-based group that advocates for limits on money in politics.

As a tax-exempt organization, however, ALEC doesn’t disclose its corporate donors. ALEC doesn’t reveal its corporate and legislative members beyond those who serve as committee chairmen. Its model bills, which now total almost 1,000, are listed on its website, although their full texts can be called up only by members.

 

MarketWatch: NIC Technologies Brings Mobile Access to Federal Campaign Finance Filings

Written by admin on July 9th, 2011

New iPhone application brings searchable access to financial filings for Presidential and Congressional candidates

MarketWatch

Transparency into presidential and Congressional campaign finances became more convenient today as NIC Technologies, LLC announces the launch of a free iPhone application, “FEC Campaign Finance $earch,” providing mobile access to public Federal Election Commission (FEC) data. Available for free download on iTunes, users can search by federal candidate and/or committee, resulting in totals for net contributions, net distributions, cash and debt, as reported by that candidate or committee.

“This application gives real-time access to public information on federal campaign finance totals,” said Randall Bartlett, president of NIC Technologies, LLC. “We independently developed this as a public service to give mobile access to this important data.”

The new iPhone application also includes an advanced search giving users election finance data from 2001 to the present, with office, political party, and candidate status search fields. Senate and House searches also include state, and where appropriate the district criteria.

“A quick search on the new FEC Campaign Finance $earch app provides information on over 150 presidential candidates who filed with the FEC in the last Presidential election year, 2008,” said Bartlett. “The app will provide mobile ‘ringside seat’ access for current information on candidates in the upcoming 2012 presidential election.”

 

Los Angeles Times: Supreme Court quashes another campaign finance law

Written by admin on June 28th, 2011

As the cost of campaigns climb ever higher, only candidates backed by wealthy interests will be able to dominate elections.

Los Angeles Times

The Supreme Court, sharply divided along ideological lines, struck down part of an Arizona campaign funding law, ruling that states and cities may not seek to “level the playing field” by giving extra public funds to candidates who agree to abide by spending limits.

The 5-4 decision strikes down a provision in an anti-corruption law adopted by Arizona after a bribery scandal involving state legislators. It offered extra “matching funds” to candidates who opted to accept only public funds but faced free-spending opponents who relied on personal money.

Monday’s ruling follows the Citizens United campaign funding law decision last year, which gave corporations and unions a right to spend freely on election ads. The Arizona outcome came as no surprise.

“Campaign finance laws have now gone 0 for 5 in the Roberts court,” said Richard L. Hasen, an election law expert at the UC Irvine School of Law, referring to the series of campaign finance rules knocked down by the court.

The court’s decision featured an unusually direct clash between Roberts, speaking for the conservative majority, and Justice Elena Kagan, writing in dissent for the liberals.

They differed over whether the Arizona provision involved a restriction on free speech. Roberts and his colleagues in the majority agreed with two conservative groups who contended the extra public money unfairly infringed on the rights of candidates who rely on private money.

“It is not legitimate for the government to equalize electoral opportunities in this manner,” Roberts wrote. “And such basic intrusion by the government into the heart of the debate over who should govern goes to the heart of 1st Amendment values. Leveling the playing field can sound like a good thing. But in a democracy, campaigning for office is not a game.”

Kagan said the Arizona law put no restriction on freedom of speech. Candidates relying on private money could spend as much as they wished, and say whatever they wished, she said. “By providing more resources to many candidates, [the law] creates more speech and thereby broadens public debate,” she said.

She said the wishes of Arizona’s voters should have been upheld. “Less corruption, more speech. Robust campaigns leading to the election of representatives not beholden to the few, but accountable to the many. The people of Arizona might have expected a decent respect for those objectives,” she wrote. “Today, they do not get it…. Truly, democracy is not a game.”

 

Open Secrets: Democrat or Republican, National Party Committees Reap Campaign Riches From Registered Lobbyists

Written by admin on June 14th, 2011

The Democratic National Committee has a policy against accepting donations from registered lobbyists, but the other national party committees appear all too happy to take lobbyists’ money.

Open Secrets

During the past two years, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, National Republican Senatorial Committee and National Republican Congressional Committee each received more than $1 million in contributions from individuals who actively lobbied the federal government for all, or at least part, of the 2010 election cycle, according to new research by the Center for Responsive Politics.

That’s at least four times more money than any single political action committee collected from active, federal lobbyists during the same time.

Federal-level lobbyists who spend their days influencing politics on behalf of various special interest groups may, like non-lobbyists, contribute upward of $30,000 to party committees each calendar year.

And many eagerly open their checkbooks for their preferred political outfits.

Here’s how much cash the four major congressional party committees collected from individuals who lobbied the federal government for at least a portion of the two-year election cycle:

  • The DSCC accepted more than $2.7 million from active, federal lobbyists, according to the Center’s research.
  • The DCCC received more than $1.8 million from active, federal lobbyists, according to the Center’s research.
  • The NRSC took in more than $1.1 million from active, federal lobbyists, according to the Center’s research.
  • The NRCC received more than $1 million from active, federal lobbyists, according to the Center’s research.