Do We Need the Disclose Act or a Constitutional Amendment?

Democrats in Congress have been desperately trying to bring at least some transparency to this new avalanche of corporate spending we’ve been experiencing in our elections. They’ve been trying to pass legislation such that if corporations, millionaires and billionaires want to spend billions to cover up Mitt Romney’s lies — then at least, we the voters, should know where that money is coming from. In 2010 — Democrats in the House of Representatives passed the DISCLOSE Act, which would have done just that. Unfortunately — the DISCLOSE Act laws were filibustered that year by the Republican minority in the Senate.

So, Democrats in the Senate are now trying it again. On Tuesday, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and eight other Senate Democrats proposed a new, watered-down DISCLOSE Act, hoping that the latest, more corporate-friendly legislation may attract some Republicans supporters. But is this really the strategy Progressives should be using to get corporate money out of our politics. Or do we need to be bolder and push for a Constitutional Amendment that once and for all says corporations are not people, and money is property – not speech?

Legal Maximum Donation is $78,500?

Mitt Romney is already selling tickets to his “Presidential Inaugural retreat.” In case you think I’m kidding, I’ve included the letter from Romney’s campaign to big donors.

Yesterday, at a private fundraising event, he said the Department of Housing and Urban Development “might not be around.” And the Department of Education would, at the least, be “a heck of a lot smaller” such that you could probably fit it inside a thimble.  Cut education for children and put struggling veterans back on the streets? No wonder he’s not sharing the details with the American public.  He claims to want to “lead” this nation … but he’s unwilling to share his super-secret plans for America … that is, unless you’re one of his high-dollar donors.  The only thing he’s shared with the general public thus far is that he wants to repeal “Obamacare” and he endorses Rep. Paul Ryan’s Path to Poverty budget that would turn Medicare into a declining value voucher system, turn Medicaid into a block grant program, and pretty much gut that safety net that Romney’s “not worried about.”

As Democrats, we don’t believe in that kind of politics. We’re fighting to re-elect President Obama and Democrats up and down the ticket who will keep fighting for the middle class.

Given what Mr. Romney told his high-dollar donors in Florida this week, we can only imagine what Romney would tell his high-dollar donors at his “Presidential Inaugural retreat.”  It might be considered wonderful news for them, but you could probably safely bet your last dollar it won’t be good news for the vast numbers of ordinary Americans.  And if you’re a woman, well … the writing is already on the wall as to what the GOP thinks about us and the envy they’ve displayed in regulating our bodily functions.  All one needs to do is look at the bills GOP-dominated legislatures are passing in Arizona (where women are now considered pregnant before they’re pregnant and where women of child-bearing age are subject to monthly sonograms to ensure that each and every fetus is brought to full term) and in Wisconsin (where they’ve now repealed equal pay for equal work law at the state level).

Help us make sure the GOP is denied the Presidency as well as majorities in either house of Congress by supporting President Obama and down-ticket Democrats.  If you can’t afford to make a donation to the Obama Campaign, but you have some shoe-leather to walk door-to-door, or you’re willing to work a phone bank, we can use your help as the fall campaign unfolds.  Check out our Contacts list and get in touch with a representative from your County.

—-ROMNEY FUNDRAISING EMAIL—–

From: Richard Stormont

Subject: Governor Romney for President

this is very important for the future of our country. Please read it to the end.
___

The campaign is now moving into its next phase with the formation of “Romney Victory.” This is a joint fundraising committee established between Romney for President, the RNC and a number of battleground fund states. Romney Victory will make it easy for a donor to make one contribution to fund various committees focused on the election. The legal maximum that an individual can donate to Romney Victory is $75,800. The campaign is asking people who are able to make a $50,000 contribution to do so today and become a “Founding Member” of Romney Victory. These donors will be invited to a special retreat with Governor Romney in late June in California and will have preferred status at the first Presidential Inaugural retreat as well as yet to be determined access at the Republican National Convention in Tampa in August.

As for our Georgia efforts, Governor Romney will be returning to Atlanta on June 11th to participate in two Romney Victory fundraising events.

The first event will be a reception which will be 1K per person/2K per couple to attend and 10K per couple to get a photo with Governor Romney. 10K represents a maxed out couple, giving $2500 each to both the primary and general election. Please keep in mind that while we are now accepting general election funds, we are still raising primary dollars. Contributions made to Romney Victory will first go toward the primary election account and then once an individual has reached their $2500 limit, the general election account. We are forming a host committee for this event, asking each host to raise 25K. There will be a private reception for the host committee with the Governor prior to the event.

The second event on the 11th will be a private dinner at a home in Buckhead that is being co-chaired by Tom Bell, Fred Cooper, Bernie Marcus and Jeffrey Sprecher. This dinner will be for “Founding Members” of Romney Victory who contribute 50K.

On April 27th, Spencer Zwick, Governor Romney’s national finance chairman, will be in Atlanta to participate in a lunch with the host committee and co-chairs for the June 11th events.

We have two months to make the June 11th events a success and I am confident that we can do it.

We know there have been a number of people who have been standing on the sidelines waiting for a nominee to be selected. It is now clear who the nominee will be and we will be making every effort to reach out to all those who have yet to give as well as those who previously supported another candidate. We now all need to unify in our efforts to retire President OBAMA in November.

Please let me know that you will be participating in this critical phase of the future of our country. I would like to request that you take a moment and reply back to me as soon as possible as to whether you would like to serve on the Host Committee for the June 11th reception and/or if you are interested in participating in the private dinner on June 11th?

The future of our country is at stake.

PAC Track — Who’s Spending What Where for Whom

For those of you who are disturbed by the extraordinary influence of money being dumped into the election process by special interest groups and other unknown parties, a new tool is now available as a ProPublica project.  ProPublica published a new page under their Tolls & Data tab called PAC Track.  Their new tool has three tabs.  The first tab tracks total PAC spending throughout the Primary Calendar.  The Second tab tracks the latest spending by day to payee.  The final tab tracks top contributors to various PACs by Name, PAC and Amount.

“Two federal court rulings in 2010 paved the way for the ascent of “super PACs,” political action committees that can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money on political races, as long as they don’t coordinate with a specific candidate. And so far, they’re spending heavily on the Republican race. This app, part of our long-term investigation into “dark money,” keeps track of where super PACs are spending their cash to influence the presidential race. — Al Shaw & Kim Barker”

There have actually been three rulings, two by federal courts and one by the Supreme Court:

  • September 2009: EMILY’s List v. Federal Election Commission which struck down FEC regulations and allowed EMILY’s list (and other groups) to spend money on campaign-related activities backing female Democratic candidates.
  • January 2010:  Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission in which the Court said corporations, unions could pend unlimited monies to support or criticize specific candidates, essentially equating money as speech.
  • March 2010:  SpeechNow.org v. Federal Election Commission.  The appeals court in this decision drew upon the Citizens United ruling to  make it possible for SuperPACS to “independently” collect and spend unlimited amounts of monies to support or criticize candidates.

Please take the time to look at the obscene amounts of money being donated by single donors in an attempt to buy the candidate of their dreams.  It’s already started in Nevada as Restore Our Future, Inc. and Winning Our Future have begun polluting our air waves with $81,566 worth of propaganda for and against Newt Gingrich.  Seeing how this is progressing throughout the Republican primary process …. it kinda makes you think of turning the main stream media off this fall, dusting off and watching/re-watching some of your favorite selections in your video collection, or better yet, reading a book or two or three.

I’ve included a link in the right hand side panel in the “info & reference” section to make it easy for you to reference contributions and spending as this campaign season progresses.

Under the Reading Lamp — 1/22/2012


Does US Senate Commit Treason with NDAA Bill?

Jeanine Molloff, Op-Ed: “December 1st, 2011, the US Senate accomplished the unthinkable–with the nearly unanimous passage of the National Defense Authorization Bill of 2012–they committed treason. Written and planned in secret by the Senate Armed Services Committee, the newly minted NDAA contains three sections which collectively sanctions indefinite detention of alleged terrorists or ‘terrorist sympathizers’–anywhere in the world including the US– and designates the military the duty to arrest, imprison and interrogate without benefit of counsel,’ accused civilians here on Main Street.”


After ‘Citizens United’: The Attack of the Super PACs

John Nichols and Robert W. McChesney, Op-Ed: “Citizens United’s easing of restrictions on corporate and individual spending, especially by organizations not under the control of candidates, has led to the proliferation of “Super PACs.” These shadowy groups do not have to abide by the $2,500 limit on donations to actual campaigns, and they can easily avoid rules for reporting sources of contributions. For instance, Super PACs have established nonprofit arms that are permitted to shield contributors’ identities as long as they spend no more than 50 percent of their money on electoral politics.”


Corporate Rule Is Not Inevitable

Sarah van Gelder, Op-Ed: “You may remember that there was a time when apartheid in South Africa seemed unstoppable. Sure, there were international boycotts of South African businesses, banks, and tourist attractions. There were heroic activists in South Africa, who were going to prison and even dying for freedom. But the conventional wisdom remained that these were principled gestures with little chance of upending the entrenched system of white rule. ‘Be patient,’ activists were told. ‘Don’t expect too much against powerful interests with a lot of money invested in the status quo.’”


A Credit Union to Bail out People, Not Big Banks

Judith Scherr, News Report: The Occupy Movement condemns the banks’ role in predatory lending and the foreclosure crisis, the high-interest student loans they say enriches the bankers and impoverishes college students, bank investments in private prisons and more. But protesting isn’t enough for Occupy San Francisco activist Brian McKeown. He says a bank should be a transparent institution whose mission is to help people. And so, with like-minded partners, McKeown is putting together a plan for the People’s Reserve Credit Union (PRCU).


Boehner Threatens to Hold Payroll Tax Holiday Hostage to Approval of Keystone XL

Zack Ford, Video Report: On Fox News Sunday this morning, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) told Chris Wallace that “We’re going to do everything we can to make sure the Keystone Pipeline is approved.” When Wallace pressed him whether Republican leadership would make the pipeline a condition for extending the payroll tax holiday, Boehner admitted, “We may,” adding (several times) that “All options are on the table.” Proponents of the pipeline have dwarfed opponents in lobbying spending, inflated the actual effect it will have on job creation, and spread various myths designed tocircumvent its environmental impact.


Bernie Sanders: We Must Stop This Corporate Takeover of American Democracy

Bernie Sanders, Op-Ed: “Two years ago, the United States supreme court betrayed our Constitution and those who fought to ensure that its protections are enjoyed equally by all persons regardless of religion, race or gender by engaging in an unabashed power-grab on behalf of corporate America. In its now infamous decision in the Citizens United case, five justices declared that corporations must be treated as if they are actual people under the Constitution when it comes to spending money to influence our elections, allowing them for the first time to draw on the corporate checkbook – in any amount and at any time – to run ads explicitly for or against specific candidates.”


How the Republicans on the FEC Are Making Citizens United Even Worse

Josh Israel, News Analysis: “Three Republican appointees to the Federal Election Commission may be as responsible as anyone for the lack of transparency of post-Citizens United political spending. Two years ago, when the Supreme Court issued its Citizens United ruling, one bright spot was that the majority explicitly endorsed the constitutionality and necessity of disclosure rules that inform voters who paid for the political ads they see. ‘Disclosure is the less-restrictive alternative to more comprehensive speech regulations,’ they affirmed.”


The Green Economy, Boon or Menace?

Emilio Godoy, News Report: In its study “Who Will Control the Green Economy?”, published Dec. 15, 2011, the ETC Group argues that the development of a green economy will primarily benefit large corporations, unless changes are made to the current models of production and consumption of goods and services and international governance. It reveals that large transnational corporations in the energy, pharmaceutical, food and chemical industries are already forming alliances to exploit biomass and grab control of natural resources like land and water.


Christopher Petrella | Death, Taxes, and Alcatraz

Christopher Petrella, Op-Ed: “Please allow me to introduce some figures that I believe will convincingly demonstrate the scope and depth of our predicament. Although the United States represents less than 5% of the world’s population, we harbor over 25% of those incarcerated. In fact, we’ve incarcerated more people in absolute terms than China, whose population is four times the larger. Despite these sobering figures, few thinkers, however—even those of avowedly ‘progressive’ persuasion— have sharply critiqued the well-worn diptych of ‘crime and punishment.’”


Bad Bankers, Bad Fraud Deals, And The President’s ‘Great Gatsby’ Problem

Richard (RJ) Eskow, Op-Ed: “Investigate the Banks!” Today a coalition of progressive groups handed in a petition with more than 360,000 signatures that demanded exactly that. It calls on the Obama administration to stop pushing a cushy fraud settlement for bankers, to pursue a fair deal for shafted homeowners, and to let criminal investigations against Wall Street crooks proceed. Yet White House officials are still aggressively pushing the very same cushy deal on foreclosure fraud that inspired the petition.


How Payday Lenders Make Billions By Fleecing Americans In Poverty

Tanya Somanader, News Report: “As a growing number of Americans slip out of the middle-class into economic insecurity, they are increasingly vulnerable to predatory lending schemes like the payday loan. Each year, about 12 million Americans incur long-term debt by taking out a short-term loan that’s intended to cover a borrowers’ expenses until they receive their next paycheck. Payday lending takes ‘unfair advantage of lower-income borrowers,’ with most taking out nine repeat loans per year with an interest rate as high as 400 percent.”


Robert Reich | Amend 2012

Robert Reich, Video Presentation: Thanks to the Supreme Court and Citizens United, the same big corporations and billionaires that destroyed our economy and caused millions of us to lose our jobs and homes, are spending obscene amounts to drown out our voices in elections and take over our government. But together, “We the People” can set things right. Stand with Robert Reich and join the movement for a constitutional amendment today.


Kucinich Announces Constitutional Amendment to Publicly Finance Federal Elections

Dennis Kucinich, Op-Ed: On the eve of the second anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling known as Citizens United, which opened the floodgate of unlimited, shadowy corporate spending in public elections, Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) has introduced H. J. Res. 100, a constitutional amendment to rescue American democracy from corporate money’s corrupting influence.

Help Stop Karl Rove’s Super PAC Power Grab

Take action!Just in case corporations and the ultra-wealthy didn’t already have far too much power in our elections, leave it to Karl Rove.

Rove and his Super PAC American Crossroads want to tear down the thin wall that prevents Super PACs — which can accept unlimited, easily hidden contributions — from running ads coordinated directly with candidates and their campaigns — which have strict contribution limits.

The prohibition on coordination is one of the few remaining rules separating our so-called democratic elections from becoming a no-holds-barred, corporate cash free-for-all. So it’s no surprise that Rove has asked the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) if he can get around it, by running coordinated political advertisements, featuring candidates the PAC is supporting.

The FEC has already issued four draft opinions. It is supposed to issue a final ruling within days and is accepting public comments on Rove’s request.

Tell the FEC: Reject Karl Rove’s Super PAC power grab. Submit a comment now.

The deeply damaging Citizens United decision opened the floodgates to unlimited corporate donations and spending by Political Action Committees, so long as they were independent of the campaign.

But Rove’s FEC request flouts even that. In a truly “what the definition of ‘is’ is” moment, Rove literally states that what is coordinated, shouldn’t be considered coordinated:

“While these advertisements would be fully coordinated with incumbent Members of Congress facing re-election in 2012, they would presumably not qualify as ‘coordinated communications,’.”

And yet, three of the four draft responses posted by the FEC would allow Rove’s American Crossroads Super PAC, to air these coordinated-yet-not-coordinated ads featuring, and approved by, political candidates.1

The limits that exist to prevent coordination between Super PACs, officially known as “independent-expenditure only committees,” and political candidates are already astonishingly weak — allowing discussion of strategy, and even for candidates to fundraise directly for a Super PAC.2

Now Rove wants to use these unlimited pots of Super PAC money to essentially fund candidate’s official advertising campaigns. That’s going way, way too far. And we need to tell the FEC to stop it.

Tell the FEC: Reject Karl Rove’s Super PAC power grab. Submit a comment now.

In some ways, this is like fighting over bread crusts when what you really want is a whole sandwich.

To truly heal our democracy we need to overturn the Citizens United decision, and reduce the ability of corporations and the ultra-wealthy to drown out the voices of everyday people in elections.

Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened yet — so our democracy is serious trouble, and right now, these paltry, insufficient limits are all we’ve got. We can’t let Karl Rove and the FEC take them away.

Tell the FEC: Reject Karl Rove’s Super PAC power grab. Submit a comment now.

Elijah Zarlin, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets

1. “Four Ways The FEC Could Rule On Uncoordinated Coordination By American Crossroads,” Talking Points Memo, November 28, 2011
2. “Uncoordinated Coordination: Six Reasons Limits on Super PACs Are Barely Limits at All,” Talking Points Memo, November 21, 2011