Anyone else sensing a familiar odor reminiscent of ALEC? No, not Baldwin, he probably smells pretty good. I’m referring to another ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council), an organization of state legislators that favors federalism and conservative public policy solutions. They literally write legislation for Republican Congress members, who then do whatever they can to pass it.
Which brings us to Wisconsin, where records made public by the liberal group One Wisconsin Now show that mining officials requested modifications on a bill before it was introduced. And naturally, those modifications would make life easier for themselves, their industry, and their wallets. Because you know how annoying those pesky regulations can be, the ones that provide for people’s, you know, lives and safety.
Once again, under Gov. Scott Walker’s watch, we see all kinds of footsies being played:
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Drafting records show a company looking to open a huge iron mine in far northwestern Wisconsin made suggestions on language in a Republican bill that would streamline Wisconsin’s mining regulations.
Paging Gov. Walker, Koch brothers on line one! Let’s take a trip back in time to 2011: The ALEC-Koch pipeline to Wisconsin Legislators and the Mining Bill:
The Mining Bill released by Assembly Republicans late last week is clearly a case of Legislative patronage to a corporate sponsor– in this case, Gogebic Taconite Mining, LLC. Not surprising, but more disturbing, are the covert links to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), Koch Industries, and closer to home, Hamilton Consulting in Madison.
All three have created an expressway of influence to Wisconsin Legislation for co-opting state resources – creating record profits for themselves (which they will ultimately pay little tax on) and untold burdens on middle class taxpayers and the environment.
“The day after the election, 17 angry old white men will wake up and realize they’ve just bought the country.”
When our smaller donations don’t make a dent, we’re in real trouble.
When our votes don’t count, we’re in real trouble.
When Voter I.D. laws result in intentional voter suppression, potentially eliminating millions of votes, we’re in real trouble.
When billionaire sugar daddies can buy up obscene amounts of ad space, saturate the air waves with lies and propaganda, and influence an uninformed electorate, we’re in real trouble.
When laws are made to chip away at democracy, and we feel more and more helpless to go head-to-head with the rich and powerful, we’re in real trouble.
So we’ll have to keep fighting… and registering… and voting.
How does the brave new world of campaign financing created by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision stack up against Watergate? The short answer is: Things are even worse now than they were then.
The 1974 scandal that brought down President Richard Nixon was all about illegal money secretly flowing to politicians. That’s still a danger, but these days, the biggest weakness of our campaign finance system is not what’s illegal, but what’s legal. As Dan Eggen of the Washington Post put it, “there’s little need for furtive fundraising or secret handoffs of cash.” The rules increasingly allow people and corporations with great wealth to skew public policy toward their interests—without risking a jail time, or a fine, or any penalty at all. It’s an influence free-for-all.
The Supreme Court could tell us this month on why they were right about Citizens United, the case that has changed this country for the worse, as the Wisconsin recall election made very clear, and as those in November are shaping up to do the same. Or they could hear the case in the fall and decide whether or not they screwed up.
Unlimited use of private wealth to influence election outcomes is giving a handful of political billionaire sugar daddies more clout than the candidates themselves.
An article in today’s L.A. Times drives the point home while it illuminates. For example, all that money that’s been given to campaigns isn’t as corporate as you’d think. An entirely different case was decided by a U.S. Court of Appeals after the Citizens United ruling that affects super PAC campaign ads, not necessarily corporate ones.
The rise of “super PACs,” which may raise and spend unlimited amounts so long as they do so independently of a candidate, has allowed close aides to candidates to set up supposedly independent committees that have raised huge amounts, primarily from wealthy individuals. The PACs have spent most of their money on negative ads attacking the opposition. That unlimited fundraising was set in motion by Citizens United, but came to full flower after the subsequent Court of Appeals decision.
So, as the L.A. Times reports, we have a two-track campaign funding system: “One features small donors and strict regulation; the other exists for the very wealthy, who are largely freed from regulation.” A twofer!
And SCOTUS decided that the 1st Amendment protects independent spending on campaigns and that “more public speech and debate on politics is a plus, not a minus.”
And by public speech and debate they mean secret money.
As I mentioned earlier, the problem is that control went from candidates and political parties to outside groups.
The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, citing the 5-4 opinion, reasoned that since the 1st Amendment guaranteed the right to unrestricted “independent” spending on politics, PACs should have the right to collect unlimited sums, so long as they too were independent. [...]
A person who wants to contribute to the campaigns of President Obama or Mitt Romney, his Republican challenger, may give no more than $5,000 this election cycle. But those who have a million dollars to spend can send their money to a super PAC supporting Obama or Romney.
Super PACs have to disclose their donors, but those who prefer secrecy can use not-for-profit groups and trade associations that don’t disclose theirs.
The Supreme Court is being asked to hear a case to address some of this mess, in which the Montana Supreme Court refused to strike down its state ban on election spending by corporations. But you can bet that the wealthy will win, because their guys on the highest court in the land attend and/or headline fundraisers hosted by conservative groups filled to the brim with corporate donors.
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Kuwaiti Citizen Detained at Guantanamo since 2002
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