Tag Archives: Campaign Finance

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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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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‘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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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.

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