Some are Red, Some are Blue — But ALL are Green

Ever wonder who’s being bought out by who when you’re looking at legislators?  Well, wonder no more.  Nicholas Rubin, 16 year old kid developed an app for that!  It’s available at ALLAREGREEN.com for download.  Once installed in the browser of your choice, hover your mouse over name and popup will open. It contains total contributions, small donations of ≤ $200, and industry breakdown from the last full election cycle. For small donations, highlights percentages as follows: ≤5%5-10%≥10% and provides rank #__ for the top 50 members of Congress.  You can also click on the name in the popup to get the latest 2014 contribution data on opensecrets.org. Click on  or  to see which campaign finance reform bills each member of Congress supports on reform.to.  Click on the small donor percentage for a ranked list of all members of Congress.

Pelosi“Exactly one hundred years ago, in Harper’s Weekly, Louis Brandeis made the frequently quoted statement that “sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.” Brandeis’s preceding sentence in the article may be less well known, but it is equally important: “Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases.” I created Greenhouse to shine light on a social and industrial disease of today: the undue influence of money in our Congress. This influence is everywhere, even if it is hidden. I aim to expose and publicize that disease through technology that puts important data where it is most useful, on websites where people read about the actions, or inaction, of members of Congress every day.

BoehnerIt is my hope that providing increased transparency around the amount and source of funding of our elected representatives may play a small role in educating citizens and promoting change. If you use the extension when reading about a Congressional vote on energy policy, for example, maybe you’ll discover that a sponsor of a bill has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the oil and gas industry. Or maybe you’ll learn that the top donors to a member of Congress who opposes tort reform are lawyers and law firms. I use the totals from the last full election cycle (generally 2011-12 for Representatives and 2007-12 for Senators) because it is the most complete. I also provide access to the most up-to-date 2014 data on OpenSecrets.org by clicking on the name of the member of Congress in the popup. Data in the popup will be updated later in this election cycle as 2014 contributions are more complete. Special thanks to OpenSecrets.org for providing access to the data.

The motto of Greenhouse is: “Some are red. Some are blue. All are green.” What it signifies is that the influence of money on our government isn’t a partisan issue. Whether Democrat or Republican, we should all want a political system that is independent of the influence of big money and not dependent on endless cycles of fundraising from special interests. The United States of America was founded to serve individuals, not big interests or big industries. Yet every year we seem to move further and further away from our Founders’ vision.

I plan to continue to refine this resource and expand it into other areas. If you have any feedback or ideas, please send them to me using the form below. I look forward to hearing from you. And feel free to spread the word using the Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus icons above!

Even though I am only 16 years old, not quite old enough to vote, I am old enough to know that our political system desperately needs fixing. I hope that this tool is one step in that direction.”

Thanks ….

Koch Bros Pursuing Election Domination

The Washington’s Post’s “The Fix” blog posted charts that show, clear as day, how the Koch brothers’ Americans For Prosperity is absolutely dominating the airwaves in states with competitive U.S. Senate races.

No wonder Nate Silver’s predictions are giving Republicans the edge!

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A companion chart for the most competitive House races tells a very similar story.

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The Koch brothers’ primary political organization is outspending both the Democratic Senate and House PACs by more than 2-to-1!  The Koch Brothers and their allies (Exxon Mobil, Monsanto, and others) spend their money to make America safe for corporate polluters, to let big banks run amok with the financial systems and to protect gains for the 1% at the expense of the rest of us.  This kind of spending by billionaire funded organizations on demonstrably negative ads should make it infinitely clear that we need to get the dark money out of our politics.

Those negative attack ads are just that.  They tell you absolutely zip-point-nothing about the candidate they’re supporting.  Instead, they tell half-truths and out-right lies to demean our Democratic candidates to influence how you’ll vote.  Do a bit of reading. Research a couple of topics.  Learn to spot the lies.  Read their platform, because that will tell you exactly what they intend to do once elected.

Until we can get that money out, it’s extremely important that you don’t just sit back on your couch and let this election pass by.  You need to make sure you understand the issues and what’s at stake.  You may not be able to contribute $$$ to any given campaign, but there is one thing you can do.  You can get up off your couch, head to the polls and vote, bot for selection of an effective Democratic candidate during the Primary election, and then again for a Democratic candidate for the Nevada House seats.

I work those polls each year.  I’ll look forward to seeing you show up to cast your ballot.

Cleaning Up Campaign Finance to Save the Environment

The assault on our democracy is a bigger problem than the temporary closure of national parks.

By Michael Brune

Michael Brune

America’s best idea is in trouble, and I don’t mean our national parks. Yes, our parks were closed, which was a crushing disappointment for millions of would-be visitors and an economic gut-punch for neighboring communities — to the tune of $76 million dollars a day.

But what’s really under attack is something even older than our national park system: our democracy.

Image courtesy of Oil Change International

How did we reach a point where one fraction of one party that controls one chamber of Congress would drive our government into the ground if it doesn’t get everything its members want? ‘This shutdown is like a firefighter standing on the hose to stop the rest of the company from putting out a blaze until he gets a million-dollar raise — all while the building burns.

We didn’t get here by accident. It’s the result of a systematic attack on basic democratic principles by a handful of people who have no interest in a functioning democracy. While there is no excuse, there is an explanation.

It starts with big money. The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision opened the floodgates for a tidal wave of corrupting corporate money into our system. But where is the money coming from and where is it going?

Huge amounts are from polluter-backed groups, which spent more than $270 million on television ads in just two months of the 2012 election — and that explains why Congress has taken more than 300 votes attacking clean air and water. The same people who are poisoning our democracy are also determined to poison our environment. It’s no surprise that 80 percent of Americans agree that political money is preventing our most important challenges from being addressed.

At the same time, special interest groups are spending millions to keep anyone who disagrees with them away from the polls and out of office. No sooner did the Supreme Court gut a key part of the Voting Rights Act, that state houses with Republican majorities pushed through suppressive legislation to keep young people, seniors, students, and people of color away from the polls. It’s no coincidence that those are the same citizens who have voted against them.

These challenges have led the Sierra Club to team up with the NAACP, Communications Workers of America, and Greenpeace to form the Democracy Initiative. Our goal is to build a movement to halt the corrupting influence of corporate money in politics, prevent the manipulation and suppression of voters, and address other obstacles to significant reform.

Challenges to our democracy might get even worse. We’re fighting a frightening Supreme Court challenge to campaign finance limits that would allow individuals to write million dollar checks to buy influence, brought to the court by Shaun McCutcheon — a coal company CEO.

Only about 1,200 people came close to reaching the spending limits McCutcheon wants overturned — and a good number of them are oil, gas, and coal executives, from the sectors that directly contributed $40 million in 2012. Give them free rein to write whatever size of a check they want, and we’ll see that number skyrocket.

The faster that money pours in, the quicker the voices of ordinary Americans are drowned out. We can’t let that happen. And we won’t. They may have millions of dollars, but we have millions of people. And, thanks to efforts like the Democracy Initiative, we are organizing and coming together to make sure our voices are heard.

If we want to see more shutdowns and debt crises, then we should maintain the status quo. If we want more attacks on our air, water, and climate, then all we need to do is turn away in disgust at the political posturing. But if we want to restore a democracy that works for Americans and will preserve a healthy planet for future generations, it’s time to stand up and fight back.


Michael Brune is the executive director of the Sierra Club, the largest grassroots environmental organization in the United States. SierraClub.org. Image courtesy of Oil Change International. Distributed via OtherWords (OtherWords.org)

Fair Elections — RIP

The Supreme Court’s Shelby ruling aids a Republican plan to win more elections without winning support from more voters.

— by Emily Schwartz Greco and William A. Collins

imageVoting rights are under attack again — this time it’s the Supreme Court’s turn.

The majority’s ruling in the Shelby County vs. Holder case gutted key Voting Rights Act provisions at a time when minority access to the polls faces new obstacles.

As Justice Ruth Ginsburg explained and proved in her dissent, the law is working well but remains necessary. She likened the ruling to “throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.”

But not everyone is peeved. The decision cheered up any Republican leaders who remained sour that their hospitality to the far-right fringe came back to bite them last November.

In what’s turning into a tradition, tea-partying enthusiasts forced rabid Senate candidates onto the ballot in 2012. Some of them lost what might have been easy wins when they turned out to be too radical for the general public.

Then there’s the White House. Despite spending a record $1.2 billion to win the presidency, Mitt Romney and the GOP blew that race.

Yes, the GOP did hang onto its majority in the House of Representatives. But Republicans now only have a 33-seat edge on the competition in that chamber, down from the 49-seat margin they enjoyed before the 2012 elections.

Now, you might guess these great leaders would move swiftly to rebrand the GOP to appeal to more voters. Or distance their party from those vote-repelling tea partiers. Well, guess again. They’ve settled on a different strategy: cheating.

An earlier Supreme Court ruling helped make this new approach possible. Remember that Citizens United decision? It allowed corporations for the first time to buy directly into elections with unlimited contributions.

The Republicans found out in November, when Romney outspent Barack Obama by more than $100 million, that it will take more than gobs of corporate cash to win big.

But money is only one GOP angle. Another is fraud. No, no, not that Republicans will vote twice or anything so pedestrian.

Instead, they accuse poor people of voting fraudulently, and thereupon get legislatures to pass laws making voting a serious hassle if you’re not part of the in-group with a government-issued photo ID. Republican operatives are also fond of flyers and announcements that threaten insecure new citizens and poorly educated voters with arrest if their papers are not exactly in order.

Another voting deterrence tool is inconvenience. Other nations — and many states — have long worked to increase polling places, lengthen voting hours, stimulate mail balloting, and simplify procedures.

Contrarily, numerous Republican-controlled states are seeking to reverse all those trends. The GOP’s theory is simple enough: We know who poorer, less mobile people tend to vote for, and it isn’t us. Hey, let’s make it as hard for them to vote as we can.

Yet another tactic is gerrymandering. State legislatures normally draw boundaries not only for their own districts but for Congress as well. In some states, lawmakers exert this power mainly to protect their own personal seats.

Ginsburg calls these tactics “second-generation barriers to minority voting.” Thanks to that shiny new Supreme Court ruling, they’re now easier to pull off.

Now the Republican Party, wherever it’s in charge, is going further. It’s crowding Democratic voters, especially around urban centers, into a few contorted pockets. This practice spreads the Republican voters around, helping the GOP accumulate additional “safe” legislative and congressional seats.

The GOP’s creative redistricting explains why President Obama won Wisconsin by more than 200,000 votes while Democrats only carried three of the state’s eight congressional districts.

There’s more. Coming soon to a gerrymandered state near you: an attack on presidential elections.

Here’s how this trick works: Each state gets to determine how its own electoral votes will be allocated — either by a statewide “winner-take-all” system or by congressional district. Republican-gerrymandered states are moving quickly to distribute their electoral votes by congressional district.

Isn’t that convenient? Even if the Republican Party doesn’t need any more help from the Supreme Court, our democracy sure does.


Emily Schwartz Greco is the managing editor of OtherWords, a non-profit national editorial service run by the Institute for Policy Studies. OtherWords columnist William A. Collins is a former state representative and a former mayor of Norwalk, Connecticut. OtherWords.org  Photo credit to Denver Post Blog

This Week in Review

By Sen. Bernie Sanders

Republican filibusters in the Senate on Monday and Tuesday blocked a bill to disclose which corporations are bankrolling which candidates and causes.  Another Republic filibuster on Thursday blocked a bill to provide tax breaks for businesses that bring jobs back to the United States from low-wage countries like China.  Years of inaction by Congress and the White House on climate change are said by scientists to have contributed to this summer’s severe drought. Federal disaster declarations were proclaimed Wednesday in parts of  eight states. And Capitol Hill gridlock could have serious consequences on another front as Congress begins to come to grips with year-end deadlines looming on taxes and spending cuts.  Sen. Bernie Sanders on Wednesday laid out his views on how to lower deficits without hurting working families in a major speech on The Truth About Deficits.

The Truth About Deficits
Unless Congress acts by the end of this year, $1.2 trillion in mandatory cuts – half from the military, half from domestic programs – will automatically kick in under what the Washington wonks call sequestration. Unless Congress acts by the end of this year, all of the Bush-era tax cuts will expire. Unless Congress acts by the end of the year, the Social Security payroll tax holiday will end.  With all those balls up in the air, Congress is beginning to get serious about finding alternatives. In a major Senate speech on Wednesday, Sanders spelled out his priorities.  He detailed how big budget surpluses built up by President Bill Clinton were turned into big deficits under President George W. Bush. He also talked about fair ways to deal with deficits without hurting the poor, the sick and the elderly. “I hope that the road we go down in terms of deficit reduction is one that is fair to working families and the middle class, and that means asking the wealthiest people and the largest corporations in this country to start paying their fair share of taxes.”

Watch Part 1 »
Watch Part 2 »

Jobs Filibuster 

Senate Republicans on Thursday killed a measure that would encourage companies to bring overseas jobs back to the United States. Sanders said the legislation would have eliminated a tax deduction that companies can use when they move jobs overseas and would create a new tax break for companies that bring jobs back to America.

Watch Current TV »

Campaign Spending Filibuster
Senate Republicans on both Monday and Tuesday blocked consideration of a bill to increase transparency in campaign spending by corporations and others.  The bill would have required disclosure of anyone who donates $10,000 or more to independent groups. Sanders urged the Senate to pass the legislation that was a response to the disastrous 5-4 Supreme Court Citizens United decision, which lifted limits on campaign spending by corporations and wealthy individuals.

Watch the speech »

USPS
House leaders signaled they won’t take up a Senate-passed bill to reform the U.S. Postal Service. While press reports portray a Postal Service in dire financial straits, the fact is that revenue from selling stamps and other products exceeded the costs of delivering mail by $200 million during the first quarter of this year. Yes, the USPS needs to be modernized to meet changing needs in the era of e-mail. Sanders helped write a Senate bill that passed in April which would do that. It also would revise a law that makes the Postal Service sock billions of dollars away for future retiree health benefits in a fund that already is so flush it can provide benefits for decades to come.