Tag Archives: Campaign Finance

House GOP Quietly Moves to Kill Commission Charged With Securing Elections

House Committee also voted to abolish public financing for presidential elections

By Lauren McCauley, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 2-7-2017

Tuesday’s votes by GOP committee members, as The Nation’s Ari Berman put it, are “more proof of how the GOP’s real agenda is to make it harder to vote.” (Photo: Keith Ivey/cc/flickr)

Amid national outrage over possible foreign interference in the 2016 election and President Donald Trump’s own lies about so-called voter fraud, House Republicans on Tuesday quietly advanced two bills that “could profoundly impact the way we administer and finance national elections,” watchdogs are warning.

The GOP-dominated Committee on House Administration voted along party lines to approve the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) Termination Act (HR 634), which would abolish the only “federal agency charged with upgrading our voting systems” and “helping to protect our elections from hacking,” as Wendy Weiser, director of the Democracy Program at NYU School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice, put it. Continue reading

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Landmark Survey Finds Special Interests are Pouring Money into Local Elections

Secret spending on the local level rose from 24 percent in 2006 to 71 percent in 2014

By Lauren McCauley, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 6-26-2016

Photo: Brennan Center

Photo: Brennan Center for Justice

While the outsized influence that Big Money is having on federal elections is well-documented, the local impact of the Supreme Court’s 2011 Citizens United ruling has not been fully realized—until now.

The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law on Sunday published a landmark report (pdf) documenting how secret donations have corroded democracy at the state level, where it is “arguably most damaging.” Continue reading

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Who’s Funding Super PACs This Election Season? Good Question

New reporting looks at how shady LLCs are contributing to ‘corrupt campaign finance system’

By Andrea Germanos, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 3-19-2016

(Photo: Light Brigading/flickr/cc)

(Photo: Light Brigading/flickr/cc)

Campaign finance reform advocates have rallied against super PACs’ ability to influence elections since their creation in 2010, and new reporting by the Washington Post puts a spotlight on how “ghost corporations” are pumping money into these committees, with their big money contributors hiding behind a veil of secrecy.

As the Center for Responsive Politics explains: “super PACs may raise unlimited sums of money from corporations, unions, associations and individuals, then spend unlimited sums to overtly advocate for or against political candidates,” though they “are prohibited from donating money directly to political candidates.”  They report their donors to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) monthly during an election year. Continue reading

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FCC Finally Drags Political Ad Transparency Into 21st Century

While there’s more to do, unanimous vote will help expose “vital information about who’s seeking to influence our elections.”

By Deirdre Fulton, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 1-28-2016

The 2016 election will see an expected $4.4 billion in political ad spending on TV this year. (Image: @SunFoundation/Twitter)

The 2016 election will see an expected $4.4 billion in political ad spending on TV this year. (Image: @SunFoundation/Twitter)

Amid what is predicted to be the most expensive campaign cycle ever, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Thursday voted to make more information about purchases of political advertising available online.

Campaign finance reform advocates applauded the development, but said there was much further to go.

“These political files contain valuable information about the ads, such as how much they cost and when they ran,” the Sunlight Foundation said following the vote. “Having the political ad files online is important: In some cases they provide the only public information available on groups that are thinly disguised as nonprofit ‘social welfare’ organizations but are, in fact, major campaign players.” Continue reading

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The American War Machine Finally Stopped Pretending to Care About Your Safety

By Claire Bernish. Published 1-11-2016 at The Anti-Media

A sea of graves spreads across the Fort Snelling National Cemetery landscape. (Photo author's own work.)

A sea of graves spreads across the Fort Snelling National Cemetery landscape. (Photo MNgranny)

Economic opportunism, or more accurately, profit opportunism, best describes the foundation on which the war machine sustains its existence; and a recent report for ‘defense’ industry investors lays bare this callous reality.

“The Islamic State (ISIS) has become a key threat in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan and is involved in exporting terrorism to Europe, Africa, and elsewhere. The recent tragic bombings in Paris, Beirut, Mali, the Sinai Peninsula, and other places have emboldened nations to join in the fight against terrorism,” reads the report from the accounting firm Deloitte. “Several governments affected by these threats are increasing their defense budgets to combat terrorism and address sovereign security matters, including cyber-threats. For defense contractors, this represents an opportunity to sell more equipment and military weapons systems.” Continue reading

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Five Years Later, the Unfulfilled Promise of Dodd-Frank

Five years after the law’s enactment, fewer than two-thirds of its 390 rules have been completed

Written by Deirdre Fulton, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-21-15.

Despite Dodd-Frank's stated goal of reining in reckless banking, Washington, D.C. regulators keep giving Wall Street the green light. (Photo: GLing526/flickr/cc)

Despite Dodd-Frank’s stated goal of reining in reckless banking, Washington, D.C. regulators keep giving Wall Street the green light. (Photo: GLing526/flickr/cc)

With several key promises of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act still unfulfilled, “Americans cannot be comforted that Wall Street will not wreak havoc again,” according to a new report from the watchdog group Public Citizen.

“Five years after President Barack Obama signed this legislation, Dodd-Frank remains largely incomplete,” said Bartlett Naylor, Public Citizen’s financial policy advocate and author of the report, Dodd-Frank is Five: And Still Not Allowed Out of the House (pdf), published Tuesday.

“Major portions of the law have yet to be codified into specific rules,” Naylor explained. “Many enforcement dates are set well into the future, and certain rules are not yet being implemented and enforced to the fullest extent of the law.”

Dodd-Frank, signed into law five years ago Tuesday, “promised that America would never again be held hostage by banks that are too big to fail, but that promise remains unfulfilled,” Public Citizen said in a statement. “Instead, industry-captured regulators and members of Congress hungry for campaign contributions from Wall Street continue to delay and dilute the law.”

In fact, of the 390 rules required by the law, fewer than two-thirds have been completed; 60 rules have yet to be finalized, while another 83 have not even been proposed, according to a tally by law firm Davis Polk.

The report specifically looks at the status of key Dodd-Frank provisions including the Volcker Rule, which bans proprietary trading or short-term speculation; the “living will” stipulation empowering regulators to break up big banks that don’t provide a “credible” plan for an orderly resolution under the bankruptcy code should they fail; and restrictions on banker pay schemes that reward excessive risk-taking.

In all three areas, regulation has been stalled or stymied, Public Citizen declares—a reality the report attributes to the revolving door between Wall Street and Washington, D.C.

“Regulators and lawmakers who put Wall Street interests ahead of public interests aren’t fulfilling the law’s intent,” said Lisa Gilbert, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “Instead of rolling back key provisions, our officials should be taking full advantage of this important Wall Street reform law to protect Main Street financial markets.”

Of course, Public Citizen points out, “the Wall Street reform law, even if well implemented, was not a complete answer to financial challenges.”

As Campaign for America’s Future co-director Robert Borosage wrote in an op-ed on Tuesday:

The banks still “frankly own the place,” in Sen. Richard Durbin’s immortal words, Sen. Elizabeth Warren has only begun to unveil the revolving door between Wall Street and it regulators that often neuters the law. Wall Street continues to deploy legions of lobbyists to avoid sensible regulation. It remains the leading source of dough for the leading presidential candidates in both parties. The Wall Street Journal reports that in the first month of reporting, Clinton raised about $300,000 from people working in the six biggest banks, while Bush pocketed $144,000 from Goldman Sachs employees alone. And that’s not counting the big money donations for their superPACs.

“That’s why all progressives should be pushing for greater reforms,” Borosage wrote, “even while fending off efforts of the bank lobby to cripple the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, to cut budgets of regulatory agencies, and to weaken or repeal core elements of Dodd-Frank.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who has decried recent attempts to water down Dodd-Frank, spoke with the advocacy group Americans for Financial Reform about the legislation in an interview published Tuesday:

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A Worthwhile Target

Today marks the fifth anniversary of the Citizens United v Federal Election Commission decision. In this landmark case, the Supreme Court ruled that independent political expenditures by non-profit corporations are protected under the First Amendment and not subject to restriction by the government. The ruling has also extended to for-profit corporations, unions and other organizations.

Mind you, this doesn’t mean that corporations can contribute directly to candidate campaigns; that is still illegal under Federal law. What it does do is prohibit the government from restricting political expenditures by corporations and unions other than direct contributions to individual campaigns.

Continue reading

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Perry On, My Wayward Son

Rick Perry's mugshot. Photo Travis County Sheriff's Office

Rick Perry’s mugshot. Photo Travis County Sheriff’s Office

There’s a lot of entertaining politicians occupying the right side of the political spectrum. And, quite a few of them come from one of our favorite states to write about; the great state of Texas. They run the gamut from crazy (Louie Gohmert) to obnoxious (Steve Stockman) to out and out frightening (Ted Cruz. Don’t ever write Ted Cruz off as just another crazy fool; he knows exactly what he’s doing).

Somewhere in the middle on the crazy to psychotic scale is one of our favorites – James Richard “Rick” Perry, occasional presidential candidate and governor of Texas for the last sixteen years. Famous for not remembering which three federal agencies he wanted to eliminate during the 2012 GOP presidential debates, for bringing fellow lawmakers, friends and supporters to a really offensively named hunting camp and for executing over 250 people since he became governor, among other things. Rick has a natural talent for making the news, and usually not in a good way.

Last week on Friday, Rick was indicted by a Travis County grand jury on felony charges of abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public servant. The charges stem from the arrest of Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg on DWI charges. Lehmberg, as part of her role as Travis County District Attorney was also the head of the Public Integrity Unit, which investigates and prosecutes public corruption and malfeasance. Perry called for her to resign, or else he would veto funding for the Unit. She didn’t resign, and he vetoed the funding. Now, as Texas allows line item vetoes by the governor, this should be fine, right? Not quite…

You see, the Public Integrity Unit was investigating Rick Perry himself at the time; namely one of his pet projects –  the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas. And, if Lehmberg resigned, Perry would appoint a replacement. This would in all likelihood kill any investigation dealing with Perry. Travis County is a liberal island in red Texas, and Lehmberg was a Democrat- Perry would more than likely appoint a Republican.

Perry said he’d fight the case of course. On Tuesday, he appeared in an Austin courthouse to be booked and fingerprinted. On Wednesday, the Dallas Morning News ran a story naming two other cases where DAs were arrested for DWIs and Perry didn’t demand their resignations; in fact, he said nothing. And according to Progress Texas, there’s a third case; a former congressman who’s now chief legal council for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.  

What do these three have in common – that is, besides not incurring Perry’s wrath over their breach oi public trust? They’re all Republicans, and they aren’t investigating Rick Perry. I think I see a pattern here…

Then, on Thursday, a Perry spokesman said in an email that Perry would be using campaign funds to pay his defense lawyers. While I haven’t found anything yet in Texas law prohibiting this, I’m fairly sure that it’s illegal under federal law – which could make his preparing for a presidential run even more interesting. We’ve never had a candidate for president arrested during a debate before; it would make for great television.

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Conflict Of Judgement

By Gage Skidmore [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Scott Walker. By Gage Skidmore [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Earlier this month, I wrote about my crazy neighbors across the river in Wisconsin. One of the “stars” of that piece was Governor Scott Walker. Scott’s had a rather interesting term as Governor; he’s survived a recall election and has had numerous investigations of his campaign and administration.

On May 6,  Judge Rudolph Randa of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin ordered prosecutors to stop their investigation into the campaign spending and fundraising activities of Walker, the Wisconsin Club for Growth and other conservative groups immediately. The investigations were trying to discover if the Walker campaign and the conservative groups had illegally coordinated campaign strategies during the 2011 and 2012 recall elections in Wisconsin.

In his ruling, he told prosecutors to return all of the property seized during their investigation and to destroy copies of documents they obtained during their searches.The next day, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals stayed Randa’s order, ruling that he had overstepped his authority when he ordered the destruction of the documents. On May 8, Randa reissued his order, saying that the appeal was “frivolous” and at one point “the height of frivolousness.” The Circuit Court of Appeals responded by putting a stay on any destroying of documents.

On May 9, the Wisconsin State Journal disclosed that one of the judge’s assistants was married to a lawyer for the Walker campaign. Geoffrey Hazard, an expert on judicial ethics, stated that Randa wasn’t required to recuse himself from the case, “but it raises a question of prudence.”

Yesterday, the Center for Media and Democracy reported that Judge Randa attended privately-funded, all-expenses-paid judicial seminars put on by George Mason University in 200620082010 and 2012The seminars basically are privately-funded all-expenses paid trips for judges, with conference sponsors picking up the costs of a judge’s flights, hotel rooms, and meals.

The Charles G. Koch Foundation gave $350,000 to George Mason University in 2006, $2.78 million in 2008 and $4.7 million in 2010. In 2012, the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation gave $5.5 million to the school. The Kochs are the money behind Wisconsin Club for Growth, one of the main targets of the investigation. I think I see a pattern here…

The conflicts of interest are stunning. First the assistant married to a Walker campaign lawyer, and now this. But, this is business as usual in Scott Walker’s Wisconsin. This will be one worth watching…

 

 

 

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