Pay to Play Category

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LOD: MT Judges Slam US Supremes

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

As the second anniversary of Citizens United approaches (Jan. 21), the corruption flowing from that decision is becoming more apparent. The Supreme Court declared that independent groups can not corrupt the political process, but the dominant role of Super PACs in the Republican primary is just the latest evidence that their decision was based on bias, not fact. Now another court has stepped up to tell the Supremes exactly that. The Montana Supreme Court rejected the Citizens United ruling, saying the evidence shows that independent spenders can and do wield enough influence to corrupt politics. “Organizations like WTP [a corporate political group] that act as a conduit for anonymously spending by others represent a threat to the political marketplace,” wrote Mike McGrath, Chief Justice of the Montana Supreme Court, for the majority. “Clearly the impact of unlimited corporate donations creates a dominating impact on the political process and inevitably minimizes the impact of individual citizens.” Even the dissenting judges in the 5-2 decision upholding Montana law denounced the US Supreme Court. “While, as a member of this Court, I am bound to follow Citizens United, I do not have to agree with the [U.S.] Supreme Court’s decision,” wrote Justice James C. Nelson, in his dissent. “And, to be absolutely clear, I do not agree with it. For starters, the notion that corporations are disadvantaged in the political realm is unbelievable. Indeed, it has astounded most Americans. The truth is that corporations wield enormous power in Congress and in state legislatures. It is hard to tell where government ends and corporate America begins: the transition is seamless and overlapping.” If the Montana case gets a fair hearing on appeal at the Supreme Court, it will completely expose that majority’s hypocrisy and corruption of judicial duty.


LOD: Dominatrix of the Year

Saturday, December 31st, 2011

Two commentaries close out the year, each describing a way big money shapes our lives. Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor, reviews the year with a focus on why Congressional decisions are so out of touch with real needs. Jesse Jackson looks at what’s getting covered over by big money in the presidential campaign.


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: 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: 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: 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.


LOD: Target the Pressure

Monday, September 19th, 2011

Public Campaign has a good bi-partisan campaign that challenges members of the debt reduction Super Committee to stop raising money while they are choosing whose ox will be gored by possible spending cuts or tax increases. The nonprofit has calculated that each of the 12 Members has so much money already stockpiled that they can afford to take a break – collectively, their campaign accounts have $20 million in cash-on-hand. But even as the Committee began meeting, most of them kept up a vigorous fundraising schedule, hosting or attending $1,000-a-person events with lobbyists and their clients – it’s almost laughable to read. Public Campaign scored a victory with a pledge by one member, Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), to embargo fundraising for his own campaign. He’s under pressure to stop helping others, too. The bi-partisan campaign is a great illustration of how a focused grassroots effort, with an incremental goal, can yield results.


LOD: Perry and His Super Donors

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

Here are recent links for those of you interested in the money behind the frontrunner for the Republican nomination for President, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, and the favors he’s done for his big donors. As with other candidates, his new Super PAC could dwarf what he raises himself for the nomination. The Washington Post weighs in on the dangers of these Super PACs, which aren’t independent of the candidate but obvious end runs around the law. Will the FEC or Congress or the courts step in? Not without huge public pressure.


LOD: Changing Names to Protect…

Thursday, August 18th, 2011

California Republican US Rep. Darrell Issa is a . . . , Issa is a, is a . . . what? At the moment, he’s the heavyweight chair of a key Congressional committee with a mission to gut regulations that big businesses don’t like, even though they may benefit consumers. News stories keep revealing Issa’s cozy relations with lobbyists and corporations, so he has a name to remember. Now comes a bizarre story of a top Issa staffer changing his own name; he was a vice president at Goldman Sachs and now, under a new name, he’s the top dog in Issa’s office pushing the SEC and others to lighten up on Wall Street, despite the horrendous consequences of that approach. Shameless.


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