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.

 

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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

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 link in the header and give one of us a call.

—-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.

Under the Reading Lamp — 4/3/2012

BANKING


When Bankers Rule the World

David Korten, Op-Ed: “The tell-all defection of Greg Smith, a former Goldman Sachs executive, provided an insider’s view of the moral corruption of the Wall Street banks that control of much of America’s economy and politics. Smith confirms what insightful observers have known for years: the business purpose of Wall Street bankers is to maximize their personal financial take without regard to the consequences for others.”


Fed Policy and Inflation Risk

Martin Feldstein, Op-Ed: “During the past four years, the United States Federal Reserve has added enormous liquidity to the US commercial banking system, and thus to the American economy. Many observers worry that this liquidity will lead in the future to a rapid increase in the volume of bank credit, causing a brisk rise in the money supply – and of the subsequent rate of inflation.”

CIVIL RIGHTS


Chris Hedges | Someone You Love: Coming to a Gulag Near You

Chris Hedges, Truthdig Op-Ed: “The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), signed into law by President Barack Obama last Dec. 31, puts into the hands of people with no discernible understanding of legitimate dissent the power to use the military to deny due process to all deemed to be terrorists, or terrorist sympathizers, and hold them indefinitely in military detention.”

ECONOMY


Robert Reich | Whose Recovery?

Robert Reich, Op-Ed: According to an analysis of tax returns by Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Pikkety, the top 1 percent pocketed 93 percent of the gains in 2010. 37 percent of the gains went to the top one-tenth of one percent. No one below the richest 10 percent saw any gain at all. In fact, most of the bottom 90 percent have lost ground. Their average adjusted gross income was $29,840 in 2010.


Desolation Row: Five Pictures of the Future in a Paul Ryan/Mitt Romney America

Richard (RJ) Eskow, Op-Ed: The Romney/Ryan America of tomorrow is more like the science-fiction worlds of H.G. Wells’ Time Machine or Fritz Lang’s Metropolis than it is like the United States, as we know it. The privileged few would be even wealthier than they are today, while the rest of us struggle to survive in a dystonic world of disease, deprivation, and fear. That’s not lefty rhetoric, either. All you have to do is read the budget. What did Romney say about Ryan’s budget? “He is setting the right tone for finally getting spending and entitlements under control.”

ELECTION REFORM


Conservative Wisconsinites Call For Greater Transparency In Outside Election Spending

Scott Keyes, Video Report: With the election just two months away, outside spending groups are already scrambling to pour money into ads both for and against Walker. However, because of a quirk in Wisconsin campaign law, these groups can spend unlimited funds without disclosing where their money is coming from. ThinkProgress spoke with attendees last weekend at the Americans For Prosperity Defending the American Dream Summit in Milwaukee.

ENERGY


A New Energy Third World in North America?

Michael T. Klare, Op-Ed: Eager to escape ever-stronger environmental restrictions and dying oil fields at home, the energy giants were naturally drawn to the economically and environmentally wide-open producing areas of the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America — the Third World — where oil deposits were plentiful, governments compliant, and environmental regulations few or nonexistent.


Steve Horn | Unpacking the Shale Gas LNG Export Boom

Steve Horn, News Analysis: “While the North American shale gas boom continues full-steam ahead, so too does another boom receiving less of the spotlight: the LNG export boom. LNG, shorthand for liquefied natural gas, is gas that’s been condensed into a liquid form by chilling it to approximately −162 °C (−260 °F). That gas is placed in LNG tankers, also known as ‘trains,’ then shipped off to lucrative global markets.”

ENVIRONMENTAL


Jim Hightower | Congress Opts to Keep Poisoning Children

Jim Hightower, Op-Ed: “Yes, we certainly need to cut unnecessary and frivolous federal spending, because…well, because it’s unnecessary and frivolous. So Congress has targeted unnecessary oil subsidies and frivolous tax giveaways to billionaires, right? Uh…no. Instead, our learned solons have chosen to whack the Lead Poisoning Prevention Program.”


FDA Rejects Monumental BPA Ban

Mike Barrett, News Report: BPA has been shown to prompt hyperactivity and depression in young girls, while also being linked to breast cancer in more than 130 studies. Infertility and fertility defects are also caused by BPA exposure. The chemical is used so widely that it has been found in the urine of nearly 93 percent of Americans, with one study finding that eating canned soup can spike urinary bisphenol-A levels by 1,200 percent compared to fresh soup.


Anthony Gucciardi | BPA Makers to Gross $8 Billion Thanks to FDA Rejecting Ban

Anthony Gucciardi, News Report: “Producers of toxic BPA are now boasting $8 billion in sales for 2012 thanks to the FDA rejecting a potential ban on the cancer-linked chemical on March 30th. According to GlobalData, manufacturers will produce 4.7 million metric tons of BPA this year to be dispersed into the daily lives of millions worldwide.”


Illegal Ocean Dumping Persists Despite DOJ Crackdown

Ronnie Greene, News Report: “Under federal and international law, ships must properly dispose of oily wastewater and sludge by passing the waste through an oil-water separator on board, or burning sludge in an incinerator. The ship’s crew must record each transfer or disposal in an ‘Oil Record Book.’ When dumping occurs in international waters, U.S. authorities cannot prosecute the actual pollution because it lies outside their jurisdiction.”


Extreme Weather is the New Normal

Stephen Leahy, News Analysis: “A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), released Mar. 28, provides solid evidence that record-breaking weather events are increasing in number and becoming more extreme. And if current rates of greenhouse gas emissions are maintained, these events will reach dangerous new levels over the coming century.”


Anthony Gucciardi | Stealth GMOs Rapidly Consuming Global Food Supply

Anthony Gucciardi, News Analysis: “Obviously there is no room for GMOs in truly healthy food products, which is why it is truly vital that you understand the nature of GMOs and how they are oftentimes hidden in commercial food products. It may very well shock you to know just how prevalent GMOs are within the food supply. It’s truly amazing that modified products continue to go unlabeled despite being linked to organ damage — among a barrage of other conditions — in a prominent review of 19 studies.”

HEALTHCARE


The Best, Most Revealing Reporting on Our Healthcare System

Blair Hickman and Cora Currier, News Analysis: As we wait for the Supreme Court to issue its verdict on the health-care reform law, we rounded up some of the most revealing reporting on the issues. They’re grouped roughly into articles on high costs and those on insurance. The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, and Reuters are some publications who have given their opinion on the subject matter.


Romney Would Lower Health Costs By Asking Patients To Pay More For Their Benefits

Igor Volsky, News Analysis: “Republicans like to claim that exposing people to the true cost of health care — that is, putting more skin in the game — would discourage overtutilizaiton of care and force health care beneficiaries to act more like consumers, shop around, and select the best deal for a given service or treatment. The theory sounds good, but there is very limited evidence that it actually works. After all, insurers have been shifting individuals into high-deductible plans for some time now, but premiums and prices continue to increase. ”

IDEOLOGY


Five Preposterous but Persistent Conservative Myths

Paul Buchheit , Op-Ed: “With the mainstream media in the hands of the mostly conservative wealthy, it’s difficult for average Americans to learn the truth about critical issues. The following five conservative claims are examples of mythical beliefs that fall apart in the presence of inconvenient facts.”


Koch-Funded Reason Institute Trivializes Severity of Bullying Young People Experience

Zack Ford, News Report: Despite acknowledging the technology young people have access to, he completely ignores the significant impact that cyberbullying now has on young people. Last year, the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project found that nine out of ten have witnessed the cyberbullying of their peers. A similar Associated Press-MTV poll found that about half of young people regularly encounter discriminatory slang in their online communications, and 54 percent of them think it’s okay to use such language in their circle of friends because “I know we don’t mean it.”

INTERNET GAMBLING


Robert Reich | Turning America Into a Giant Casino

Robert Reich, Op-Ed: “Organized gambling is a scam. And it particularly preys upon people with lower incomes – who assume they can’t make it big any other way, who often find it hardest to assess the odds, and whose families can least afford to lose the money. Yet America is now opening the floodgates. Organized gambling is a scam. And it particularly preys upon people with lower incomes – who assume they can’t make it big any other way, who often find it hardest to assess the odds, and whose families can least afford to lose the money.”

SUPREME COURT


Robert Scheer | Five Hypocrites and One Bad Plan

Robert Scheer, Truthdig Op-Ed: “The Supreme Court is so full of it. The entire institution, as well as its sanctimonious judges themselves, reeks of a time-honored hypocrisy steeped in the arrogance that justice is served by unaccountable elitism. My problem is not with the Republicans who dominate the court questioning the obviously flawed individual mandate for the purchasing of private-sector health insurance but rather with their zeal to limit federal power only when it threatens to help the most vulnerable.”


Jokes from Justice Scalia Mask Grim Reality of American Health Care

Wendell Potter, News Analysis: “Since Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia clearly isn’t going to take the time to actually read the health care reform law before he decides whether or not it’s constitutional, maybe he and a couple of his buddies on the High Court can catch a screening of ‘The Hunger Games’, the movie about children battling each other to the death in a futuristic America, renamed Panem.”


Dean Baker | The Supreme Scream: Obamacare After the Court Ruling

Dean Baker, Op-Ed: “The conventional wisdom following the oral arguments before the Supreme Court last week is that, at the least, the health insurance mandate portion of the Affordable Care Act is going down. Many observers thought it likely that the Republican-controlled court would strike down the entire bill. Either way, it will be necessary to do some serious rethinking of health care policy.”


The Right’s Stealthy Coup

E.J. Dionne Jr., Op-Ed: “Last week’s Supreme Court oral arguments on health care were the most dramatic example of how radical tea partyism has displaced mainstream conservative thinking. It’s not just that the law’s individual mandate was, until very recently, a conservative idea. Even conservative legal analysts were insisting it was impossible to imagine the court declaring the health-care mandate unconstitutional, given its past decisions.”

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 — 1/30/2012


Jim Hightower | Buying Our Future
Jim Hightower, Op-Ed: “Already, four of the top GOP presidential contenders have dropped out. Michele Bachmann went first, because she was too wacky, followed by Jon Huntsman, because he was too sane. Herman Cain gave up because he was too exposed, and Rick Perry because he was too dim-witted. But the greatest surprise is the sudden surge of the Adelson campaign. Little-known until now, Adelson was the big winner in South Carolina, has made his mark in Florida, and looks to have the political kick needed to go the distance.”


Plan for Popular Presidential Vote Quietly Advances
Matthew Cardinale, News Report: Unlike many of the younger democracies around the world, the United States still does not elect its president by popular vote. Indeed, a majority of U.S. citizens elected Al Gore to be president in 2000, but because the U.S. elects its presidents by way of a convoluted system called the electoral college, George W. Bush was declared the winner that year instead.


Robert Reich | Why No Responsible Democrat Should Want Newt Gingrich to Get the GOP Nomination
Robert Reich, Op-Ed: “Independents, who will be key to the general election, are especially alarmed by Gingrich. As they should be. It’s not just Newt’s weirdness. It’s also the stunning hypocrisy. His personal life makes a mockery of his moralistic bromides. He condemns Washington insiders but had a forty-year Washington career that ended with ethic violations. He fulminates against finance yet drew fat checks from Freddie Mac. He poses as a populist but has had a $500,000 revolving charge at Tiffany’s.”


ALEC’s Latest Actions
Ben Adler, Op-Ed: “These include bills that are plainly counter-productive, such as the ‘Eliminating Support Services for Newborn Children’ Act. According to Granite Progress ‘This legislation would eliminate support services for newborn children whose parents are utilizing TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families).’ How that will break the cycle of the poverty or give the disadvantaged children of poor people a more fair shot at becoming productive citizens is unclear.”


Foster Care, Uncertain Futures Loom for Thousands of Immigrant Children
Marjorie Valbrun, News Report: More than 5,000 children of immigrants are languishing in state foster care nationwide because their parents were living in the United States illegally and were detained or deported by federal immigration authorities. These children can spend years in foster homes, and some are put up for adoption after termination of their parents’ custody rights. With neither state nor federal officials addressing the problem, thousands more are poised to enter the child welfare system every year.


Dream Activists Heckle Romney in Miami
Amanda Peterson Beadle, Video Feature: Three immigration activists interruptedMitt Romney’s stump speech in Miami last week, shouting, “Why are you trying to separate our families?” and “What about equality?” Romney ignored the three hecklers, who said they were part of the DREAM Act movement. This is not the first time Romney has been targeted by students because of his promise to veto the DREAM Act or for his extreme immigration views — the harshest among the GOP presidential field. “We are here for a pro-family agenda. Pro families that are undocumented, pro families that have parents who are same-sex couples,” one activist said. “Romney has a platform that is anti-family.”


Future of U.S. Manufacturing Begins With Education
George Koo, News Analysis: “Advanced manufacturing depends on staffing the factory floor from the production line to the line supervisors with people possessing technical skills. The training programs Obama talked about might serve as temporary Band-Aids that might keep certain production from leaving in the short term. But to maintain a world leadership position, the US will need far more technicians, engineers and scientists than the country is producing.”


Wisconsin Recall Drive More Popular Than GOP Presidential Candidates – Combined
John Nichols, Op-Ed: “America is almost four weeks into the voting stage of the Republican presidential race. The candidates are debating. The media is covering the competition 24/7, and in such minute detail that Rick Perry’s quitting of the contest was treated as news. And Republicans in three states have caucused and voted in numbers that party leaders, pundits and the talk-radio amen corner tell us are significant. Yet at the same time, those same party leaders, pundits and radio talkers continue to dismiss the movement to recall Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker as a false construct with little real hope of prevailing.”


A Tale of Two Cities: Beijing and Detroit
Helena Norberg-Hodge, Op-Ed: “Around the world, two opposing forces are contending to define our future. On one side are those working for a new economy—one that is more equitable, decentralized, and attuned to the needs of people and nature. On the other are the forces behind corporate globalization and its consolidation of political and economic power. While thousands of people have braved the winter cold and pepper spray to alert the world to the plight of the 99%, our governments are still forging ahead with destructive deregulatory treaties.”


Shedding Light on the Shadow Banking System
Ellen Brown, Op-Ed: “The scandal involves employees signing names not their own, under titles they did not really have, attesting to the veracity of documents they had not really reviewed. Investigation reveals that it did not just happen occasionally but was an industry-wide practice, dating back to the late 1990s; and that it may have clouded the titles of millions of homes. If the settlement is agreed to, it will let Wall Street bankers off the hook for crimes that would land the rest of us in jail – fraud, forgery, securities violations and tax evasion.”


Analysis: Buffett Rule Will Raise $50 Billion Per Year, Affect Just 0.08 Percent of Taxpayers
Pat Garofalo, News Analysis: When President Obama announced his latest vision for the so called “Buffett rule” — a 30 percent minimum tax on millionaires — during his State of the Union address this week, Republicans were quick to criticize it. For instance, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) derided the proposal as a “political gimmick.” “It’s a smokescreen,” added Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA). However, as a new analysis from Citizens for Tax Justice pointed out, the Buffett rule as laid out in the speech could raise up to $50 billion per year to pay down the deficit, while affecting just 0.08 percent of taxpayers.


After the Battle Against SOPA-What’s Next?
Lawrence Lessig, Op-Ed: “January 18, 2012, could prove to be an incredibly important day, and not just for copyright policy or the Internet. On that day, two critically important things happened. First, with its 6-2 decision in Golan v. Holder, the Supreme Court shut the door, finally and firmly, on any opportunity to meaningfully challenge a copyright statute constitutionally.”


Civil Rights Advocates Meet in L.A. to Discuss Voter Suppression Laws
Jose Luis Sierra and Zaineb Mohammed, News Report: Earlier this week, at a press briefing co-hosted by New America Media (NAM) and Common Cause, civil rights lawyers and advocates representing California’s largest ethnic communities spoke of the need to work together to ensure that 2012 elections are open and accessible, in light of a rash of state laws that they say are being deliberately designed to suppress the vote of ethnic minorities and the poor.


Growing Elite Opposition to Military Option Against Iran
Jim Lobe, News Analysis: “Like the imminent prospect of one’s hanging, to paraphrase the 18th century British essayist Dr. (Samuel) Johnson, the suddenly looming possibility of war can concentrate the mind wonderfully. If that aphorism didn’t apply in the run-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq 10 years ago, it appears to be the case now for key sectors of the U.S. foreign-policy elite – notably, liberal hawks who supported the Iraq war – with regard to the sharp rise in tensions between Iran and both the U.S. and Israel earlier this month.”


Mega Manufacturer Caterpillar Locks Out Workers to Force Pay Cuts While Making Record Profits
Pat Garofalo, News Report: While certainly not in the same league with Apple’s abuses, Caterpillar is just the latest company attempting to force workers to accept wage cuts at the same time its hauling in huge profits and paying its CEO millions. AT&T, Navistar, John Deere, and Wellpoint have all pulled the same trick in the last few years, laying off hundreds of workers. Caterpillar’s CEO, John Oberhelman, made $10.5 million in 2010.


US Media Iraq Reporting: See No Evil
Dave Lindorff, Op-Ed: “The Iraq war may be over, at least for US troops, but the cover-up of the atrocities committed there by American forces goes on, even in retrospectives about the war. A prime example is reporting on the destroyed city of Fallujah, where some of the heaviest fighting of the war took place. On March 31, 2004, four armed mercenaries working for the firm then known as Blackwater (now Xe), were captured in Fallujah, Iraq’s third largest city and a hotbed of insurgent strength located in Anbar Province about 40 miles west of Baghdad.”

Teetering those Totters

Years from now, we will think of February 2011 as the tipping point in America’s great awakening. After all the warnings and wake-up calls, this will be remembered as the time when the American people decided to come together, confront the plutocracy that plagues our republic, and do something to change the economic inequality / instability that has grown from it. There is a tide, and it’s turning.

In the last few weeks, that tipping point rapidly turning into a boiling point. Everywhere, there are organized and spontaneous acts of peaceful resistance. Lethargy, complacency and cynicism are transforming into indignation and determination.

Wisconsin has stripped public unions of bargaining rights.  Ohio is preparing to do the same.  But, in Michigan, they’ve upped the ante by giving the Governor the right to dissolve whole towns, nullify any and all contracts that town may have entered into and then place whomever or whatever corporation he wants to put in charge.  I’m sure the folks who were misled into voting for the folks who are doing all the pillaging are ruing the day they voted Republican.

There is however, a bit of good coming from the over-reach of Republican legislatures:

  • People are actually getting off their butts, are beginning to pay attention, and they’re showing their disdain in the streets.
  • People are beginning to see parallels between Rep. Peter King (Muslims) and Rep. Joseph McCarthy (Communists), and between the GOP (villifying Union workers) and the Nazis (villifying Jews).  The hearing held yesterday and the series of additional ones Rep. King has indicated he will hold won’t make America any safer, but they will leave us ever more divided. Congress has no business singling out the religious beliefs of one group of Americans.  Actions being taken in a number of northern central states are not budgetary in nature. Their aim is to take money out of Union coffers in an attempt to take away a potential Democratic Presidential victory in those states (since unions are major contributors to Democratic candidates).
  • People are beginning to realize “THEY” are NOT the Republican’s constituency … the Republican’s constituency is the rich, the powerful, and the corporations who funded their campaigns, or in other words, whoever it was that bought them their seats.
  • People are becoming actively involved in efforts to recall members of their legislatures who cast their votes on onerous bills that are clearly against the public’s interest.
  • What people haven’t yet realized is, that 2011 is a ‘redistricting’ year … and the GOP-dominated legislatures across this nation will reapportion the districts in state after state to favor the continued election of GOP candidates over the next decade.  Going forward, it’s not going to be easy to elect middle-class friendly congressional leaders as the GOP will be working diligently to tilt the balance of affairs in their favor.

Most interesting, however, is that people are finally beginning to wake up and take action against those donors who funded the campaigns of the like of Governor Walker. Opponents of Scott Walker’s budget balancing bill are urging consumers to boycott companies whose executives or political action committees made big contributions to the Republican governor’s campaign. Today, M & I Bank of Wisconsin learned first had what public outrage is capable of.  You see, M&I Bank of Wisconsin as a ‘contributo’r to Governor Walker, found itself on the Governor Walker Watch List.  Seeing the name of their bank on that list, some 600 disgruntled fire fighters and ordinary citizens descended upon M&I Bank of Wisconsin and began withdrawing their deposits, closing their accounts, and demanding cashier’s checks, on the spot.

According to Daily Kos, two of those firefighters, who pride themselves in saving significant sums of their earnings withdrew over $600,000 just between the two of them.  And, at the M&I bank across from the Capital, firemen there withdrew $192,000.  Needless to say, the bank closed the doors of all their banks, fearing a major run on their banks.

Apparently M&I Bank has forgotten this is the age of interconnectivity.  They can physically close the doors to their bank buildings, but it can’t and won’t stop them from bleeding funds.  All the people need to do is go to the bank next door, or better yet a local credit union, open an account and give that bank or credit union permission to request those funds via electronic transfer.

If we learn anything from the actions in Wisconsin and Michigan this week, it’s that like gardens that need tending, close scrutiny needs to be paid to political goings-on.  While many felt their job was done once they left the ballot box, they’re now finding that’s not case.  And in going forward, we need to invest our efforts in terms of saving and spending our money with companies and firms who believe in American Democracy, not with those who are pursuing a Corporate Plutocracy.  If we truly value the America we grew up in, then we need to stand up and fight to keep it.

Related Reading:

 

 

Citizens United: The Corporate Buy-Out of Elections

Citizens United v Federal Election Commission, a landmark decision by the United States Supreme Court decided on January 10, 2010, holding that corporate funding of independent political broadcasts in candidate elections cannot be limited under the First Amendment is having a profound effect in this year’s mid-term elections.

“… the Court’s opinion is thus a rejection of the common sense of the American people, who have recognized a need to prevent corporations from undermining self-government since the founding, and who have fought against the distinctive corrupting potential of corporate electioneering since the days of Theodore Roosevelt. It is a strange time to repudiate that common sense.” — from Justice John Paul Steven’s dissenting opinion.

As I understand it, prior to the Citizens United ruling, Corporations were only able to create “issues” advertising around some specific issue asking viewers to contact their congressmen. They weren’t able to make unlimited buys of advertising via special interest groups (who don’t have to disclose their donors) to attack or support candidates running for office within the waning weeks leading up to the election. That’s no longer the case.

So let’s put the Court’s ruling into perspective (as it’s being practiced) in this post-Citizens United election season. In 2008, Exxon-Mobil posted profits of $45 billion. If Exxon-Mobil were to donate just 1% of its 2008 profits on political advertising in this election, it would exceed what was spent by both Obama and McCain combined throughout the 2008 election season. And, it they were to donate that money via one of the special-interest groups channeling monies into campaign advertising, (1) we wouldn’t know they were behind the attack ads being introduced, and (2) they could influence the election of an oil company friendly legislator.

No longer will it be the campaign committees of the major parties who are the big spenders in election campaigns. They’re being eclipsed by special-interest group spending. In this post-Citizens United election season, we’re seeing huge sums of money being channeled into GOP-sympathetic special-interest groups. Those special-interest groups are spending upwards of five times what they spent during the 2006 mid-terms.

To help you understand the magnitude of those expenditures, here’s the top 10 spenders for just last week alone:

  1. National Republican Congressional Committee — $5,382,422 (for adds opposing 44 Democratic candidates)
  2. Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee — $2,715,814 (for ads in 7 key races opposing Republicans)
  3. Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee — $2,686,462 (ads opposing 29 Republicans)
  4. American Crossroads — $2,345,329 (plus, will be rolling out nearly $4.25 million in political ads in 8 states this coming week)
  5. National Association of Realtors PAC —$1,800,238 ( for ads supporting 3 Republicans and 2 Democrats)
  6. Crossroads GPS — $1,176,704 (for ads opposing 3 Democrats)
  7. Revere America — $781,937 (for ads opposing Democrats)
  8. American Future Fund — $608,461 (for ads opposing Democrats)
  9. National Federation of Independent Business/Save America’s Free Enterprise Trust — $573,751 (for ads supporting Republicans)
  10. Americans for Job Security — $573,702 (for ads opposing Democrats)

Groups like Carl Rove’s American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS are set up as a 501(c)(4) organizations, which means they don’t have to disclose who their donors are. Under IRS rules, these types of groups are considered as tax-exempt “social welfare” group. As such, they’re allowed to spend on campaigns as long as they limit those expenditures to less than half of their total spending and their primary purpose is “the promotion of social welfare.” As I look at the TV ads where the disclaimer indicates the ad was placed by American Crossroads or Crossroads-GPS, I fail to see how those ads are promoting “social welfare.” They’re nothing more than typical Republican attack ads. By the time some one or some entity finally manages to get a challenge of these ads before the courts, it will be far too late, the election will be long over and the damage will have been done. Carl Rove has indicated he’s set a goal of expending $50M in campaign advertising via these two groups.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce didn’t hit last week’s top ten. But, the U.S. Chamber is vowing to spend $75 million this election cycle, and maybe even more. Like American Crossroads and Crossroads-GPS, the Chamber doesn’t have to reveal who it’s donors are. The major problem with that is the fact that they accept donations from foreign corporations and that there is the possibility of those funds being co-mingled with U.S. corporate funds to influence U.S. elections. They claim they have an accounting system that effectively keeps those funds separate, however, that seems a bit questionable. We should just ‘trust’ them? Like we trusted Exxon in Alaska, or BP in the gulf? I think not. Hopefully, Atty General Holder will take action to investigate their books to ensure they aren’t using foreign contributions to fund their day-to-day operations such that they can shift the majority of the U.S. contributions into attack advertising to influence the elections in favor of corporate interests. If they are indeed operating in that fashion, then contributions from foreign corporations are truly being used to enable the Chamber to sway the election.

The Disclose Act (HR 5175) is before the Congress. It would require special-interest groups who are running political campaign ads to identify their donors and would prohibit foreign influence in Federal elections. That bill passed the House on June 24, 2010, however, all 39 Republicans in the Senate have voted en bloc to prevent it from coming to the Senate floor for debate and a vote, effectively filibustering it.

I can’t think of a better reason to get out and vote for Democrats this election. Republicans are serious about “taking the country back” and they’ll pull every trick in the book they can as well as bending every rule ’til they break. My only question is, “back to what?” The 19th century? If elected, they vow to repeal every bit of progress we’ve made since President Obama was elected. In addition, they want to go after and privatize Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Veteran’s health care. Well, obtaining health care via private insurance companies has worked so well for the masses hasn’t it? Individuals would be able to better manage their own retirement plans via the stock market wouldn’t they? Think again folks and get out and vote.

Understand where the GOP wants to take our nation:

  • Republican Pledge to America, presented by Rep. John Boehner who would be the likely Speaker of the House and 3rd in line for the presidency if Republicans retake the House
  • Republican Roadmap for America, written by Rep. Paul Ryan who would be Chairman of the House Budget Cmtee if Republicans retake the House

Early voting begins at 10:00 AM on Saturday, October 16, 2010. Make your plans now to not only vote, but to vote early this Saturday.