Money in Politics Category

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LOD: Art Pope Teach-In

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


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: Perdue Campaigners Indicted

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.


LOD: Colbert’s Super Magic

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.”


LOD: 9 Ways to Buy An Elections

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.


LOD: Election Results, Beyond NC

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.


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.


LOD: Justice at Stake

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.


LOD: Serving the Public

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.


LOD: Money for Lawmakers

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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