Lobbying Category

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LOD: 250 Years of Scandal

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

Mother Jones magazine has boiled the history of political money deals in the United States into a clever annotated timeline and a highly readable article, starring a host of shady characters in “a dramatic battle between the forces of reform and influence that goes back more than 250 years before the birth of the super-PAC.”


LOD: Too Much to Swallow

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

Remember the mega-millions poured into making the healthcare debate in Congress so sickening? Well, the lobbying surrounding the 2012 Farm Bill has even more big-money spending from outfits that will make you gag. According to Think Progress, the new Farm Bill “would, among other things, deprive millions of Americans of food stamps, gut food safety protections, and prematurely force genetically engineered crops onto the market.” The fight in Congress is not over and the money keeps flowing. To get a sense of scale, an analysis by Food & Water Watch says that agribusinesses, commodity groups, food manufacturers and other special interests spent $173.5 million on the 2008 Farm Bill — more than $500,000 a day during the 110th Congress. By comparison, the lobbyists’ price tag for the Obama’s healthcare legislation hit $120 million.


LOD: Lies and Damnable Lies

Saturday, May 12th, 2012

Two national stories with NC connections: One, from the Los Angeles Times, dissects the damnable lies spewed forth in political advertisements sponsored by Americans for Prosperity. It’s not an accident that the deceitful ads attack alternative energy production as well as President Obama; the biggest backers of AFP are oil and gas mega-billionaires David and Charles Koch who don’t like competition from “green” alternatives or the implications of global warming for their industry. One of AFP’s four directors (and a major AFP donor) is Raleigh’s Art Pope, head of the Roses and Maxway chain of department stores. The tax-exempt, “social welfare” organization plans to spend $151 million during the 2012 election on this kind of “educational” ad, but the real source of that money is unknown. The article points out that Obama aims to ramp up his attack ads, too, but in that case you at least know who to hold accountable when you vote. The second story, from National Public Radio, profiles a series of meetings that ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) is holding in Charlotte, bringing together top corporate lobbyists with state legislators across the nation to craft model legislation aimed at maximizing private profits and weakening government’s role in protecting the public’s health and welfare. The example NPR uses in its story is a bill to undercut a state attorney general’s ability to sue a utility company (a regulated monopoly) for gouging its customers. The Koch brothers and their corporations are heavy backers of ALEC as well.


LOD: Sick for Justice

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

The multi-part series in the News & Observer about NC hospitals will make you sick. Today’s part adds the money-in-politics dimension to the profile of heartless institutions with unbelievable profit margins, hiding behind the respectable shield of non-profit charitable service. Rep. Dale Folwell, the Republican House Speaker Pro-Tem, says his effort to cap a sales tax windfall for hospitals went nowhere fast last year. “The reason this bill never got a hearing is because big money bottled it up,” he said. Today’s paper also includes an op-ed on the dangers of turning the health-care management of prison inmates over to for-profit corporations that use political corruption wherever they go to turn state resources into enormous private gain. Not that North Carolina’s non-profit hospitals do much better with prison care; the N&O shows they routinely charge the state three times their actual costs to treat sick inmates. Sure seems like a crime, but who will threaten these smiling hospital managers with a prison term?


LOD: Tax Dodgers

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

Robert Reich, economist and chairman of Common Cause, has a two-minute video that shows how top corporations use their profits to manipulate the political system to reap more tax breaks and the lion’s share of productivity gains over the past several decades; Reich connects a lot of dots in 135 seconds. His themes are fleshed out in a succinct essay by Paul Buchheit on “five reasons why the very rich have not earned their money.”  With Tax Day here, it’s worth recognizing that the maze of tax laws lets corporations like Duke Energy and Wells Fargo pay Zero federal taxes. US PIRG analyzes one giant tax distortion that costs the rest of us $100 billion a year: the offshore tax havens enjoyed by eBay, Wells Fargo and others.


LOD: Mega-Donor Profiles

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

The Charlotte Observer uses research from Democracy North Carolina for an analysis of Duke Energy’s political clout, which would grow even larger after the proposed merger with Progress Energy. “We are not apologetic about what we do in state capitals and Washington,” said Duke spokesperson Tom Williams. “We are a large player and we serve a lot of people. . . . We clearly would be very large and active players in the policy arenas in those six states (Duke and Progress serve) and Washington. Our bottom line is influenced by political policies, and we certainly offer our opinions.”  In another profile of mega-donors, CBS News looks at the contributors to Super PACs through the examples of Julian Robertson, the North Carolina native and hedge fund founder who is a major donor to Mitt Romney, and Jeffrey Katzenberg, Hollywood producer and patron of Barack Obama.


LOD: From the Horse’s Mouth

Friday, April 6th, 2012

In this hour-long production, the radio documentary “This American Life” manages to get Washington politicians and lobbyists saying the worst things possible about themselves, political corruption and the all-consuming money chase. Amazing! Who needs more evidence of the need for fundamental change? It begins with the tape of a shakedown fundraising call from a member of Congress to a developer, proceeds with similar candor through a dozen interviews, and ends with Sen. John McCain’s comments about the Supreme Court’s sarcasm and stupidity in the Citizens United case.


LOD: State Integrity Index

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

Maybe you’ve heard about the State Integrity Investigation that scored each state on the strength of its laws and practices governing campaign finances, lobbying regulations, ethics, access to government records, redistricting, etc.  Overall, North Carolina earned a C- and ranked 18th best among the 50 states, but in some areas it scored an A, in others an F. Here’s a link to the narrative and detailed tables about North Carolina. NC project coordinator Adam Hochberg begins the narrative with a story: “When an influential North Carolina lawmaker named Stephen LaRoque helped sponsor and pass a 2011 bill loosening regulations on billboards, he was the co-owner of five billboards and president of a firm that owned four others. But when LaRoque asked the North Carolina Ethics Commission to review his key legislative role, it found no conflict, citing what it called a “safe harbor” stemming from the fact that his law would benefit everyone owning billboards. The case reflected what many analysts say is the prevailing state of North Carolina’s ethics regulations: A lengthy set of rules has been enacted to help keep public officials honest, but enforcement has sometimes not been strict. They also complain that the extensive rules haven’t adequately curbed the influence of monied interests on state policymaking.”


LOD: Guns, Money and ALEC

Monday, March 26th, 2012

The gun lobby nurtures fear to make money and increases its profits through a partnership with the American Legislative Exchange Council, writes Paul Krugman of the New York Times. Florida’s radical version of ALEC’s boilerplate Castle Doctrine legislation cost young Trayvon Martin his life, but it is paying off for gun makers, gun dealers, the National Rifle Association, and their lobbyists – and the NRA/ALEC alliance continues to push the Florida model in other states. Public Campaign traces the impact of NRA’s political donations in Florida. “We need a political system that listens to families like Trayvon Martin’s and not the wealthy special interests,” says David Donnelly of the Public Campaign Action Fund. The gun lobby succeeded in pushing through a less extreme version of the Castle Doctrine in North Carolina last year – less extreme but still dangerous and deadly. Despite claims that the NC law has effective safeguards, we’re doomed to witness its harsh consequences on life, liberty and, says Krugman, “our society — and our democracy.”


LOD: Toxic Mix in Raleigh

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

Despite promises of cleaning up what it called a “pay-to-play culture in Raleigh,” the new leadership in the General Assembly has done nothing to strengthen ethics or campaign finance laws. It hasn’t even enacted stronger disclosure laws to help the public’s right to know how money flows through the political system. Instead, as the Independent Weekly details, the Republican leadership in the NC House now appears to embrace a quid pro quo approach to passing legislation – campaign money is being traded for favorable public policy. Keep your eye on what happens next with proposed legislation to gut North Carolina’s regulation of chemicals pumped into the air by utilities, manufacturers and others. Will the millions invested in NC politics by the toxics lobby overcome our current public health standards? The NC Coastal Federation has a two-part profile (part one, part two) of what’s at stake, who’s involved, and why you should care about the outcome of a General Assembly committee considering this legislation today.


LOD: Broadband Bandits

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

A new report by the National Institute on Money in State Politics examines the money behind the telecommunications industry’s recent success in passing legislation to restrict local governments from building broadband networks that hooked local businesses and residents to the Internet, even in areas long ignored by the private providers. According to the report, “The state’s two biggest cable providers, Time Warner Cable and CenturyLink, along with the North Carolina Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCCTA), aggressively lobbied for the bill and were prominent campaign donors. . . . Republican lawmakers and those who held key leadership positions, sponsored the bill, and/or who voted in favor of the bill received considerably more campaign contributions from the telecommunication donors than did their colleagues. For example, lawmakers who voted in favor of HB 129 received on average 76 percent more than the average received by those who voted against the bill. The four primary sponsors of the bill received an average of $9,438 each, more than double the $3,658 given on average to lawmakers who did not sponsor the bill.”


LOD: MoJo on Dirty Money

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

The first issue of 2012 from Mother Jones has a series of articles dissecting the secretive, seductive direct money that is crippling our entire society. It includes a roadmap for “How to Buy An Elections” and one story (“Occupied Washington”) you can readily access, but the other juicy material requires you to sign in. Worth the connection.


LOD: Good Ol’ Boys to Cash Cows

Friday, December 9th, 2011

The transition from “good ol’ boy” politics to money-dominated politics is a story best told from the South, and who can tell it better than Fritz Hollings, the former South Carolina governor who represented his state in the US Senate from 1967 to 2005. His column in the Charleston, SC newspaper gives a special window into the problems of both the old and new. Definitely worth reading, even if you don’t agree with some of his conclusions. Examples abound of the slimy mess of lobbyists buying government with their clients’ money. The most recent came yesterday with the rejection of Richard Cordray to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau; here’s an account of how Sen. Dean Heller is cashing in on his vote.


LOD: Lobbyist-Donor Ban Upheld

Monday, November 7th, 2011

The US Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals today upheld North Carolina’s year-round ban on registered lobbyists making campaign contributions to state candidates. Previously, NC had a ban while the General Assembly was in session, but after the fiasco involving then-Speaker Jim Black, the legislature expanding the prohibition to cover 24/7, 365 days a year. Democracy North Carolina and Common Cause-NC led the fight for a package of lobbying and campaign finance reforms during that crucial 2005-2006 period, along with excellent leadership inside the Building from Rep. Joe Hackney and a number of other legislators. Some of us were not sure the total ban would hold up, but the Court today affirmed the district court’s opinion: “Applying the ‘closely drawn’ standard of scrutiny that we conclude is applicable to such contribution restrictions, we hold that the statute is constitutional, both facially and as applied to Preston [the plaintiff], as a valid exercise of North Carolina’s legislative prerogative to address potential corruption and the appearance of corruption in the State.”


LOD: Corporate Disclosure Index

Friday, October 28th, 2011

Which companies are doing the best job of disclosing their political spending to their stockholders and the public? For several years, the Center for Political Accountability has led a growing campaign to make the biggest publicly traded companies see the wisdom in opening their books and lowering their exposure to the kind of attack that hit Target after its blundering donations to a regressive politician. Institutional pension funds, religious agencies, unions and other large stockholders have sided with CPA on disclosure resolutions at stockholder meetings, and key corporate leaders are jumping on the bandwagon to jawbone their peers, as this NPR segment reports. Now CPA has teamed up with academics to produce an Index of Corporate Political Disclosure and Accountability. At the top of the list are Colgate-Palmolive, IBM and Merck; companies at the bottom include Lowe’s Cos., Cisco Systems, Wal-Mart, and Halliburton.


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