Money in Politics Category
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Thursday, December 15th, 2011
The “Art Pope Exposed” teach-in went off without a hitch on Tuesday, except for the traffic jams, video difficulties, and a few Popers in the audience (their camera seemed to work fine). More than 250 people (100 in person, the rest via web streaming) participated in the event that ended with a rump workshop about planning for actions in the Raleigh area, etc. We have the videos of each presentation here – beginning with a dissection of the Pope Empire by Chris Kromm of the Institute for Southern Studies (begins mid-stream), followed by in-depth descriptions by MaryBe McMillan of Pope’s hostility to basic economic fairness and Seth Keel on Pope’s attempt to gut public education in favor of a tiered system based on wealth and privilege. MaryBe ends with a call to action. You can find the petition she talks about here and the flyer here (for copies of the flyer to distribute send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org).
Monday, December 12th, 2011
Have you heard about tomorrow’s teach-in about Art Pope – North Carolina’s 40 million dollar man? He told the newspaper he might show up himself and express himself, not just be the subject or object; Art Pope is a verb! There’s still time for you to say you’re coming to “Art Pope Exposed.” The teach-in happens at 7 PM at the NC Association for Educators building, 700 S. Salisbury Street, Raleigh. RSVP if you can – or just come. Can’t make it to Raleigh? Don’t fret: the Institute for Southern Studies will be webstreaming the event at http://www.ustream.tv/user/facingsouth.
Wednesday, December 7th, 2011
Citizens in Rowan County gave their county commissioners an earful for wasting time with a resolution calling for photo IDs in local elections. The town council in nearby East Spencer echoed the dissent by adopting a resolution that said, the “Voter ID bill would cause more problems with widespread voter disenfranchisement than it could possibly solve.” Yesterday in Kinston, the Lenoir County Commissioners tabled a resolution calling for photo IDs (“I don’t think it’s right to take up our time, discussing and fussing over this issue,” said one board member), but commissioners in Montgomery, Stanly and Union counties have adopted pro-ID resolutions recently. On the other side of the nation, the city council of Los Angeles adopted a resolution calling for federal and state action to amend the US Constitution to clarify that corporations are not “persons” with basic rights such as Free Speech. The jubilation rippled across the nation, but an unusual holiday chorus in New Hampshire offers a different perspective on corporations in this YouTube video.
Monday, December 5th, 2011
You are going to hear more about this throughout the next year: growing consensus among reformers that an amendment is needed to the US Constitution to affirm the rights of real people over inert objects, e.g., corporations. John Bonifaz, a wizard on the subject provides this op-ed column with some of the context. The Occupiers already have identified Citizens United and corporate political spending as enemies of the 99%. Polling also shows broad support . . . but an amendment is obviously a difficult, multi-year campaign. Meanwhile, related to another Democracy NC issue, here’s another story of an elderly citizen, this time a white woman in the North, who is being told to pay up for a birth certificate and court papers in order to vote. The NAACP and Legal Defense Fund issued a report today on the scope and damage of the voter ID mania that spread across the nation this year. The evidence of people being barred from voting may eventually make the US Supreme Court revisit its pro-ID decision in the landmark Indiana case – but the delay and disenfranchisement are inexcusable.
Monday, November 28th, 2011
Three individuals on the inside of Bev Perdue’s 2008 gubernatorial campaign were indicted today – not by the feds but by a Wake County grand jury. According to the News & Observer, the indictments allege that a top fundraiser for candidate Perdue “schemed to pay a staffer $32,000 for work that was kept off the books in violation of state election laws.” The felony charges result from a year-plus investigation into the campaign’s handing of finances, including hiding in-kind donations of airplane flights and other donations that would put the donor over contribution limits. The charges include obstructing justice and failure to report campaign finances. As the N&O report continues: “Earlier this year a retired state magistrate was charged with obstruction of justice for allegedly trying to hide an illegal campaign flight. Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby has said that Perdue, a former lieutenant governor and state lawmaker, is not a target of the probe, but today’s indictment reached into the campaign’s inner circle. ‘The conduct of the governor has not been an issue, nor any other elected official,’ Willoughby said. ‘She cooperated in the investigation, was interviewed. We asked her not to talk about the facts of the case. We thought it might be inappropriate, and there might be additional charges.’” The Associated Press story is here, and the brief indictments for each charge are here.
Thursday, November 17th, 2011
What can those new Super PACs do with their money. Stephen Colbert’s ad with presidential candidate Buddy Roemer gives you the clue. Meanwhile, Larry Lessig of Rootstrikers is joining with Dylan Ratigan’s “Get Money Out” to create a new organization to work against special-interest control of government: United Republic. Lessig also has a new book out about the corrupting culture of dependency that dominates Congress. As one reviewer said, “If anything unites the tea party and the Occupy Wall Street protesters, surely it is the sense that the system is rigged in favor of big shots in Washington and against little guys back home. Money is at the heart of it.”
Friday, November 11th, 2011
Following the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, the Federal Election Commission relaxed more of its rules to regulate political spending. Wealthy individuals and trade groups, as well as corporations and unions, now have a wide variety of ways to exert even more influence over an election’s outcome. The New York Times boils the campaign finance rules down to a clever interactive guide for the 9 ways to invest $25 to $10,000,000 in a political campaign, with various degrees of privacy and impact. The Supreme Court majority essentially says all these ways to spend money are expressions of your right to “free speech,” protected by the First Amendment. Here’s a clear video explanation of why controlling undue corporate domination of elections will likely require changing the U.S. Constitution and the Court’s view of the First Amendment. A group of Senators has introduced an amendment that is less sweeping but aims to restore society’s ability to regulate “free speech” that is really paid electioneering.
Wednesday, November 9th, 2011
Three results from yesterday’s elections: (1) Arizona State Senate President Russell Pearce, a staunch opponent of the state’s successful Clean Elections program, was defeated on Tuesday by a political newcomer in a recall election. Pearce is the author of Arizona’s notorious anti-immigration law. He was also tainted by a corruption scandal involving tens of thousands of dollars worth of trips and freebies connected with the Fiesta Bowl. (2) In Maine, voters overrode the conservative legislature’s decision to eliminate Election Day Registration, which allows eligible citizens to register and vote on Election Day. The program, in place since 1973, has helped Maine rank among the top two or three states for voter turnout for years. Angry at the legislature’s vote to kill EDR, a progressive coalition gained the necessary signatures, put the issue on the ballot, and won by a 60% to 40% margin. (3) On the other hand, Mississippi passed a referendum by a similar margin to require a photo ID for voters, with the promise of free IDs and backup measures to avoid disenfranchising eligible citizens. The state NAACP, ACLU and others are waiting to see how the state intends to implement the requirement before immediately challenging the proposal through the judicial system.
Tuesday, November 8th, 2011
What does it mean to have elections about ideas and people instead of big money and mud? Read this great story of the nation’s pioneering Clean Elections program after a decade in action. Candidates for the state legislature in Maine have a real alternative to the private money chase that turns well-meaning lawmakers into professional hucksters. The program has paid off with better legislation for consumers, children, the environment, workers, the uninsured – the 99%. It’s now facing new challenges from the current Supreme Court’s hostility to protect free elections from the tyranny of paid speech – check it out. We face the same threats in North Carolina.
Thursday, October 27th, 2011
A trio of groups that analyze judicial elections today released a report documenting a national campaign “to intimidate America’s state judges into becoming accountable to money and ideologies instead of the Constitution and the law.” The New Politics of Judicial Elections, 2010 examines the “hostile takeover” of judicial elections by special interests and the attacks on impartial courts by state legislatures. The report was written by the Justice at Stake Campaign, the Brennan Center for Justice, and the National Institute on Money in State Politics.
North Carolina is held up as a national model because it provides state judicial candidates with a viable public financing alternative to the private money chase. The pioneering program has earned acclaim from reformers, the American Bar Association, and NC judges across the political spectrum. A blog entry today by Mark Binker at the Greensboro News & Record notes that Republican leaders in the NC General Assembly plan to keep the program, but delete a rescue-funds provision that mirrors one struck down by the US Supreme Court. The public grants and a state voter guide are not funded from the NC General Fund. A similar program for some Council of State offices will be suspended because it only has money from the General Fund; efforts last year to provide an independent source of funding for that Voter-Owned Elections program were stymied.
Tuesday, October 25th, 2011
So who do you want your Insurance Commissioner listening to when it comes time to regulate insurance rates? The public or the insurance companies? If the private companies supply the bulk of the commissioner’s campaign money, you can bet they’ll have an insider’s advantage. That’s one powerful reason why we need the Voter-Owned Elections program for NC Insurance Commissioner to continue. It gives candidates for the office an option: They can reject special-interest money, raise hundreds of small donations from voters, and earn access to a public campaign fund that allows them to stay loyal to the public interest. In 2008, the program meant that the Democratic and Republican candidates for IC raised only 5% of their total campaign funds from donors tied to industries regulated by the office; that’s an amazing drop from the 66% supplied by special interests in 2004 before the VOE program began. Unfortunately, legislative leaders are draining the VOE program of its money and pushing IC candidates onto “the money train,” as Common Cause’s Bob Phillips calls it in this article today about Commissioner Wayne Goodwin’s current fundraising travels. If people don’t like their local, state and federal candidates chasing the private dollars, they need to give them a meaningful public funding option. The payoff is huge: In 2009, Goodwin fought the auto insurance industry’s rate increase and eventually won a settlement that returned $102 to the average auto owner and cut the rate hike by $50 million a year.
Monday, October 24th, 2011
Here’s a story that deserves more attention: NC House Rules Co-chair Stephen LaRoque (R-Kinston) loaned his for-profit management company $200,000 from a non-profit organization that he set up to channel federal small-business loans to high risk ventures in rural North Carolina – and then he refused to disclose this insider dealing on the non-profit’s report to the IRS – abuses begging for state and federal investigation. The story, by Sarah Ovaska, is part of the on-going series on NC Policy Watch’s investigative blog; why aren’t more reporters digging into this unraveling scandal. Another blog, this one by Kirk Ross, provides the details of state Rep. David Rouzer’s new campaign finance report for his bid to Congress – piles of money from state lobbyists, hog farmers, state PACs, etc. You’ll recall that Rouzer (R-Benson) held a big fundraising event in late September hosted by several Raleigh lobbyists; because Rouzer is running for a federal office, the event didn’t violate the NC law against a state legislator raising money from lobbyists. Maybe his campaign will turn his cynical use of fundraising loopholes into an asset for serving in Congress. The Winston-Salem Journal describes how the money chase affects Congressional candidates, even those with weak opposition, including Democrat Mel Watt and Republican Virginia Foxx. Without a public campaign financing alternative, they all hustle the private money suppliers and often funnel a hefty amount into their party’s caucus accounts to shore up colleagues in tight races. Holding or gaining power takes a lot of money, and that’s a trap. The demand of the Occupy movement to stop corporate-financed elections requires, at a minimum, a strong public financing alternative to challenge the status quo.
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