Category Archives: Campaign finance

‘A Staggeringly Bad Idea’: Outrage as Pelosi Pushes Tax Rule That Would ‘Kneecap the Progressive Agenda’

“This is a very bad idea, House Democrats. It makes no sense whatsoever to give Republicans veto power over progressive legislation.”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 11-16-2018

Nancy Pelosi. Photo: Gage Skidmore/flickr

Nearly three-quarters of the American public and a historic number of Democratic lawmakers support Medicare for All, but the House Democratic leadership is considering using its newly won majority to impose a rule that would “recklessly betray” the grassroots forces that put them in power by making single-payer and other progressive priorities impossible to enact.

According to a list of Democratic proposals obtained by the Washington Post, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)—who is currently fighting back against efforts to prevent her from becoming House Speaker—is pushing for a rule that would “require a three-fifths supermajority to raise individual income taxes on the lowest-earning 80 percent of taxpayers.” Continue reading

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‘Actions Speak Louder Than Words’: Prominent Group ‘End Citizens United’ Called Out for Backing Democrats Drowning in Corporate Cash

“If their organization only supported candidates who firmly pledged no PAC money, their contributions could breathe much-needed life into grassroots campaigns. Instead it looks more like an intentional obfuscation.”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-5-2018

At first glance, the prominent political action committee End Citizens United (ECU) appears to be dedicated to channeling widespread grassroots anger at corporate money in politics into promoting candidates who reject cash from big business and support bold campaign finance reform.

But a closer look at the candidates ECU endorses and funds reveals that the organization frequently uses its vast resources to reinforce the poisonous status quo. Continue reading

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What Facebook’s New Political Ad System Misses

Facebook announced a new system to make political ads more transparent. It’s got holes.

By Jeremy B. MerrillAriana Tobin, and Madeleine Varner. Published 5-24-2018 by ProPublica.

Screenshot: Bloomberg

Facebook’s long-awaited change in how it handles political advertisements is only a first step toward addressing a problem intrinsic to a social network built on the viral sharing of user posts.

The company’s approach, a searchable database of political ads and their sponsors, depends on the company’s ability to sort through huge quantities of ads and identify which ones are political. Facebook is betting that a combination of voluntary disclosure and review by both people and automated systems will close a vulnerability that was famously exploited by Russian meddlers in the 2016 election.

The company is doubling down on tactics that so far have not prevented the proliferation of hate-filled posts or ads that use Facebook’s capability to target ads particular groups. Continue reading

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This Memorial Day, support our troops by stopping the wars

By Kevin Basl. Published 5-25-2018 by People’s World

Vietnam Vets Against the War take part in an antiwar rally – 1970. Photo: flickr

“How do you motivate men and women to fight and die for a cause many of them don’t believe in, and whose purpose they can’t articulate?”

That’s what Phil Klay, author and U.S. Marine Corps veteran, asks in an essay published this month in The Atlantic. Unfortunately, he points out in a recent New York Times op-ed, “Serious discussion of foreign policy and the military’s role within it is often prohibited” by what he calls “patriotic correctness.”

In a well-functioning democracy, Klay argues, citizens must debate and question how their elected officials employ their military, an organization which ought to represent the values of the people. But it seems many Americans remain unconcerned about the wars the United States is currently fighting (at last count, we’re bombing at least seven countries) though they foot the bill both in tax dollars and lives. Continue reading

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Recognizing Powerful Interests Running the Joint, More Than 75% of Americans Back Campaign Finance Reform

“Let’s turn opinion into action by overturning #CitizensUnited and enacting public financing of elections nationwide,” says Public Citizen in response to new Pew survey.

By Andrea Germanos, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 4-27-2018

New findings from the Pew Research Center reveal widespread support for campaign finance reform. (Photo: Backbone Campaign/flickr/cc)

Amidst a widely-shared recognition that the country is effectively being run by powerful special interests, a new poll out Friday shows that more than 3 out of 4 Americans now support serious campaign finance reform as a way to mitigate the corrupting influence of money in the nation’s democracy.

The results of the extensive Pew Research Center survey, released Thursday, reveal Americans “see the country falling well short in living up to” democratic ideals and values, and believe core changes are needed in the political system. Continue reading

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‘Tip of the Iceberg’: Watchdog Files Ethics Complaints Targeting 30 Lobbyists in Trump Administration

One expert estimates that “the real number of potential violations is fourfold.”

By  for CommonDreams. Published 3-26-2018

One ethics expert at Public Citizen said Monday, “These 30 apparent violations of Trump’s own ethics rules are only the tip of the iceberg.” (Photo: jackandfred/imgur)

Underscoring allegations that “ethics do not matter in the Trump administration,” a watchdog group on Monday filed complaints against 30 lobbyists whom President Donald Trump has appointed to his administration without ethics rule waivers—and experts warn this is only the “tip of the iceberg,” positing that the actual number of violations is likely much higher.

The advocacy group Public Citizen has identified at least 36 former lobbyists in the administration who are working on issues for which they recently lobbied, and only six of them have waivers from the ethics rule that Trump issued just days after taking office. Continue reading

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‘This Needs to Happen All Over America’: Applause for Candidate Who Called Out Big Oil Donors

“Why do we need campaign finance reform? This. This is why.”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 2-12-2018

West Virginia House of Delegates candidate Lissa Lucas was hailed as a model for congressional candidates across the nation after she read off the names of politicians taking money from the oil and gas industry. (Photo: Facebook/Screengrab)

When West Virginia House of Delegates candidate Lissa Lucas decided to take a stand against Big Oil’s pernicious political influence last week by rattling off the names of state lawmakers receiving massive campaign donations from the fossil fuel industry, she was swiftly and forcefully silenced.

Now, her story—first reported by journalist Russell Mokhiber in a piece for Common Dreams on Sunday—has become a viral sensation and a model for those looking to challenge the stranglehold corporate cash has on the American political system.

Watch the video of the incident, which has since garnered over 133,000 views on Facebook: Continue reading

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Striving for ‘Best Plutocracy Money Can Buy,’ Koch Brothers Plan to Dump $400M in 2018 Midterms

“This is why we need to overturn the terrible Citizens United Supreme Court decision and move to public funding of elections.”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 1-28-2018

Photo: YouTube

Fresh off the passage of tax legislation that could net them over a billion dollars a year in additional profits, the oil moguls Charles and David Koch have now set their sights on the 2018 midterms, during which they are reportedly planning to spend around $400 million promoting right-wing candidates and priorities.

The news came as the Kochs and others within their sprawling network of deep-pocketed donors and politicians were preparing to gather for a secretive weekend conference in Indian Wells, California. Continue reading

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We started a revolution over this once

Do you remember voting for lobbyists to decide who pays what in taxes? We don’t.

Photo: Daniel Huizinga/flickr

On Friday night, the Senate passed their version of the #GOPTaxScam. The bill, all 479 pages of it, was presented to the full Senate just hours before the vote. The vote was along party lines, with the one dissenting vote among the Republicans coming from Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee.

So, what was in this bill, and why did they vote on it before all the Senators could actually read through the bill? We’re glad you asked. First, what’s in it.

A lot of the bill is what you’d expect. For example:

  • The top individual rate is reduced from 39.6% to 38.5%, and the threshold at which the top rate kicks in is increased from $418,000 for a single/$480,000 for married filing jointly to $500,000/$1,000,000
  • The estate tax exemption is doubled, to $11 million for a single taxpayer and $22 million for married taxpayers.
  • The corporate rate is reduced from 35% to 20%.
  • The top rate on the income earned by owners of “flow through” businesses — S corporations and partnerships — is reduced from 39.6% to a shade below 30%.

Questions about these measure that we were forced to ask include; how is it that corporations are able to keep the tax deductions that have now been excluded from individual tax bases? Why is the corporate tax is now LOWER than the top individual rate? If corporations are people too, why is there ANY difference in these tax rates?

Then, there’s the “Why are these items in a tax bill, anyways?” parts. These include:

  • A provision that explicitly allows parents to use tax-free college savings plans, known as 529s, for a “child in utero.” This is essentially a personhood bill, setting a precedent for the legal definition of life beginning at conception.
  • The bill repeals the Johnson Amendment, which bans non-profit groups from engaging in political activism. This would mean that churches and the like could actively engage in elections without disclosing individual donors; think of it as Citizens United on steroids. This serves the purpose of blurring the lines between the separation of church and state, allowing the churches to donate and promote individual candidates in local and national elections, all while cloaked under the donation secrecy this provision allows.
  • Eliminating the individual mandate of the ACA. While this actually does deal with taxes (the fine for not being insured is paid as part of your taxes), removing the mandate means that younger and healthier people won’t buy insurance until they need it. These are the people who currently offset the cost of providing healthcare to the older and sicker people. Without this in place, premiums will rise dramatically more than the anticipated 10% over the next 10 years.
  • A provision that would open part of Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or ANWR, to oil and gas exploration. While this would raise revenue, it only amounts to $2 billion over the next ten years, at the cost of almost assuredly ruining the local environment and ecosystem. Additionally, it is worded in such a way that it is actually ILLEGAL to not drill, forcing Alaska to accept ANY drilling permits and fields desired.

Of course, the individual tax cuts are set to expire, meaning that the middle class will see a tax increase. And, what’s going to pay for these? The GOP mantra’s always been that tax cuts pay for themselves, but others, such as Marco Rubio, have already admitted that the tax reform is part one of a two-step process designed to defund and eventually dismantle Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security; the very programs designed to help the elderly, disabled and poorest members of American society.

Now obviously, a lot of these proposals don’t sit well with the electorate. So, why the rush to pass it? The GOP needs a victory. Even with controlling both houses of Congress and the White House, this administration’s been notably inept in getting meaningful things accomplished. Furthermore, the GOP donor class has stated that the campaign money will dry up if they don’t get the tax cuts they want.

Photo: Represent.US

So, who came up with most of the amendments? Lobbyists. Out of the 11,000 registered lobbyists in Washington, more than 6,000 said that they worked on taxes this year. That works out to 11 lobbyists for each member of Congress. Do you remember electing lobbyists to write our laws? We sure don’t.

We still have a chance to stop this. The House and Senate bills now go to a conference committee. The bill that comes out of that will need to be passed by both houses. The healthcare fiasco this summer proves that if we’re loud and persistent enough, our message gets through. And, with the bill only having 37% approval before the vote, there’s enough of us to make the message get through.

And what if it doesn’t? The last time that the GOP had won control of both houses and the presidency before 2016 was 1928. The new tax bill looks even more extreme than the policies put into place by the Republicans after the 1928 election. Does anybody remember what happened in 1929?

Another annoying historical factoid that you may wish to remember at a time like this: 244 years ago, a group of people decided that they weren’t going to pay taxes without proper representation, and what became known as the Boston Tea Party took place. This in turn led to a revolution, and the founding of this country.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana

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How the tax package could blur the separation of church and politics

File 20171122 6072 1ri5exo.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1

If a House provision gets enacted, churches will be able to endorse – not just pray for – political candidates. Andrew Cline/Shutterstock.com

Susan Anderson, Elon University

The tax package pending in Congress includes a provision that would leave churches and other nonprofits, which by law must be nonpartisan, suddenly free to engage in political speech.

This measure, currently only in the House version of the bill, could potentially change charitable life as we know it.

As an accounting professor who teaches nonprofit taxation, I believe that this significant change deserves vigorous public debate and is too big to bury in tax legislation. Continue reading

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