Money in Politics Category


You are welcome to submit comments to this moderated blog. Please treat others with respect, avoid partisan rhetoric, and help us provide a fact-based discussion of issues related to North Carolina’s political landscape. Thank you.

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: Contributing to Reform

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

A group of well-heeled New Yorkers are pushing the governor and legislators in that state to adopt a comprehensive public campaign financing program that parallels the successful one used in New York City’s elections. The group includes hefty political donors affiliated with both major parties. According to the New York Times, “Coalition leaders said they were prepared to spend more than $1 million promoting public financing, but they acknowledged that it could take beyond this legislative session to persuade lawmakers to embrace their proposal.” Meanwhile, a different kind of effort is underway nationally to convince political donors to divert most of their campaign contributions toward nonprofit charities. The donors would pair up across party lines and offset each other contributions, with the money going to the charity rather than the candidate. Sound far-fetched? Read the full report in the Washington Post.


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: Oily Protection Money

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

The protection money that Big Oil doles out to politicians has paid off again in Washington. A solid majority of Americans want to end tax breaks worth over $4 billion a year for oil companies, but 43 Republicans and 4 Democrats blocked a crucial vote in US Senate last week, so the windfall continues. An analysis by Think Progress shows that Big Oil’s supporters received nearly four times the campaign donations of those standing for responsible fiscal policy. Since January 2005, US Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) has received $234,800 from oil and gas industry donors, while Sen. Kay Hagan took in $17,550. Hagan voted to end the tax subsidy, Burr voted to keep it. The New Yorker has a long story (“Gusher”) about the recent history of ExxonMobil’s remarkable political clout, but at the moment only an abstract is accessible. For details about the oil industry’s subsidies and more, see this article from OMB Watch.


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: More Sunshine, Please

Monday, March 12th, 2012

The Center for Responsive Politics follows the “Shadow Money Trail” through the annual reports of foundations and business associations in order to uncover some of the millions spent by the Koch-Pope-Americans for Prosperity network for political advertising – but the source of most of the money remains hidden. What can be done? Even New Bern’s arch-conservative Sun Journal says Congress should pass much tougher disclosure requirements. More sunshine on the flow of money should be required by our General Assembly, too, despite the bad example set by House Speaker Thom Tillis. The Center for Responsive Politics’ posting also provides an update on another way to hold secretive conduits accountable: make the IRS stop giving tax breaks to 501(c)(4) and other entities that launder election donations.



LOD: Secrecy & Pay-to-Play

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

House Speaker Thom Tillis left out loads of information about his donors when he filed his campaign disclosure report for the last half of 2011. He got called out by Democracy NC and others; he said he’d fix the report and file an amendment. Well, the new report is in and there are still lots of holes – but what does get included is even more stunning. Tillis labels the CEO of a consumer loan company a “homemaker” – even though she helped organize a fundraising event for him in Greenville that brought in more than $30,000.  Turns out two thirds of that money came from other loan company execs from around the state, apparently bundled together for delivery at the fundraiser, along with fat checks from the industry’s two PACs. This feels like a replay of Jim Black’s style of pay-to-play: Tillis, you will remember, muscled a controversial bill through the House for the loan companies, despite vigorous opposition from military brass and consumer advocates. Democracy North Carolina put all this info together into a release today that stimulated some press coverage, including these video reports on WRAL-TV and Raleigh’s NBC-17.



LOD: Super Negative

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

Here’s a sobering statistic from a Washington Post report: “Four years ago, just 6 percent of campaign advertising in the GOP primaries amounted to attacks on other Republicans; in this election, that figure has shot up to more than 50 percent, according to an analysis of advertising trends.” Most of the money for the negative ads has come from outside groups, not the candidates’ committees, and it is dominating the election cycle so far, thanks to the Supreme Court’s various rulings that equate buying political influence with free speech. Outside groups feel less accountable for what they say, and media outlets let them get away with over-the-top trash talk. The New York Times has a donor-by-donor chart and USA Today adds analysis of the latest financial reports for Super PACs. The puny showing of the operation supporting Barack Obama’s re-election has led the President and his campaign to shift course and join in the hoax of helping “independent” groups raise mega-dollars to run “uncoordinated” advertising campaigns. The election system is being sucked into an Orwellian world ruled by Supreme Court justices who see corporations as people.


Page 2 of 151234510...Last »