Archive for influence

Soros is no Koch brother

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Soros is no Koch brother, close up

Those on the right love to compare the Kochtopus to George Soros. Yes, both the Koch brothers (scroll) and George Soros are wealthy individuals who donate to the party and candidates of their choice. They're allowed to by law, even more so under the most recent (and terrible) Supreme Court decision.  But that's where the comparison should end.

Which brings us to today's Los Angeles Times letter to the editor about the difference between these "big spenders":

Re "Big spenders," Letters, April 8

One letter writer asserts that exposing the Koch brothers' financial involvement in various conservative causes is mudslinging. He claims their political spending is no different than that of major Democratic donors such as George Soros and unions.

What the writer fails to acknowledge is that the Kochs fund a web of foundations and organizations created by and for themselves to promote their own views. Their political groups are given populist-sounding names — such as Americans for Prosperity — that distract from their real purpose, which is to protect the Kochs' extraordinary personal fortune.

And, but for their wealth, many of these organizations would either cease to exist or lack real political clout.

In comparison, when Soros and unions make political donations, they do not take extraordinary lengths to hide their involvement. We know to whom they gave and how much. The same cannot be said for the Kochs.

That is the difference.

Robert J. Switzer

West Hollywood

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Stew of corruption: Just add politicians, cash, and simmer.

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culture of corruption

Last night, Rachel Maddow did a segment on several recent corruption scandals involving state level politicians, in this case Democrats. It was pretty jaw-dropping. Included in her report was the arrest yesterday of California State Sen. Leland Yee:

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This morning, I came across this Los Angeles Times article about Yee and noticed this:

Democrat Derek Cressman, one of Yee's opponents in the secretary of state race, called his arrest a "wake-up call."

"We are clearly beyond the point of looking at one bad apple and instead looking at a corrupt institution in the California Senate," Cressman said. "The constant begging for campaign cash clearly has a corrosive effect on a person's soul and the only solution is to get big money out of our politics once and for all."

Then I saw this Los Angeles Times editorial:

This page has been firm in its opposition to the NRA's abject disdain of the public good in pursuing its warped view of the 2nd Amendment's right to bear arms and its bullying approach to the political process. But the blame for this national insanity should not be placed entirely on the NRA. Politicians respond to the group's pressure out of fear, knowing that their jobs often depend on low-turnout, one-party primaries in which fringe passions are amplified.

In other words, if politicians don't respond to the NRA's bullying, they can kiss their donations good-bye, and some other extremist will win the cash... and the day.

Thank you Supreme Court and Citizens United, for turning campaign finance laws on their heads, for allowing super PACs and billionaires to call the shots and buy our elections, and for giving toxic organizations like the NRA the leeway to exert their influence on election outcomes. The result? More corruption and less democracy.

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WI GOP fast-tracks "dark money" bill in midst of "John Doe" campaign finance violations probe

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citizens united check republic Koch brothers dark money

By now you've probably heard of dark money. I've written about it often. It is when nonprofits spend money on elections by exploiting loopholes in campaign finance disclosure laws. In other words, they don't reveal who their donors are, but use their wealth to influence election outcomes by funding "issue ads." Thank you, Citizens United.

Here's how Rachel Maddow described the practice:

...Millions and millions of dollars, hundreds of millions of dollars, that are intentionally made difficult to trace, funneled to networks that build networks that you can disown when you want to, if you want to.

In that particular segment of her show, she was describing how the Koch brothers operate.

Now we get to see how Republican legislators in Wisconsin operate, or as I like to call it, Dark Money Central.

Via PRWatch.org:

A proposed bill that would keep the public in the dark about the sources of money in Wisconsin elections could also make it easier for dark money groups to coordinate with candidates, an issue of particular salience given the ongoing "John Doe" probe into alleged campaign finance violations in the state. [...]

And most importantly, it could open the door to direct candidate coordination with issue ad groups, potentially undermining what remains of Wisconsin campaign finance law. Prosecutors in the John Doe campaign finance probe are reportedly pursuing a theory of illegal coordination between independent "issue ad" groups and the Walker campaign during the 2011-2012 recalls. [...]

Wisconsin courts have held that if a group is coordinating on issue ads with a candidate, their spending -- regardless of whether it includes express advocacy -- can be considered a contribution, which under Wisconsin law encompasses both cash donations and the giving of anything of value.

If those "contributions" exceeded donation limits and were not reported to the state elections board, the group running coordinated issue ads would be violating election law.

And that is the whole reason for the bill. It would change the "political purpose" definition which would also end up changing the interpretation of "candidate contributions."

Nothing new here, just your typical GOP approach: If you can't get what you want honestly and openly, cheat, lie, defraud, slither, smear, steal, and/or hide.

what's the big secret

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Money in politics out, people in: "It's We the People, not It the Money."

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money in politics citizens united corporations

"Money is the root of all evil." Well, maybe, maybe not, but that classic quote sure applies when it comes to politics.

As I was watching The Stephanie Miller Show on Free Speech TV (which I highly recommend), this most excellent video from 2012 came on (Free Speech TV doesn't air commercials. Instead, viewers are treated to all kinds of recorded segments informing us about clean energy, common sense gun safety measures, and equal rights, among other things):

Represent.Us:

Published on August 2, 2012

It will take millions of people to defeat billions of dollars. Join us at www.unpac.org!

Super PACs and special interests have turned our politicians into money junkies only out for their next fix. We have to fight back before this becomes the new normal in American politics.

Please share this video with your friends and family.

Sadly, this is the new normal in politics thanks to the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision. Way to go! America first!

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Reporting about the Koch brothers' money trail matters, despite their threats.

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citizens united check republic Koch brothers

Kudos to Team Maddow for coming up with the Koch brothers graphic above. Sadly, it's all too accurate.

In the following segment of her show, she starts out by referring to this news report that I posted about back in October 2013: CA fines secretive donor groups, including one linked to Koch brothers:

Anonymous political donors are being fined by my home state of California for their secretive little doings...

Citizens United is still alive and well, unfortunately, and huge amounts of money are still influencing elections, but at least officials here are zeroing in on "dark money" groups like those linked to the Koch brothers.

Please watch the whole video, it's worth it, because Rachel Maddow kicked Koch ass last night:

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Maddow:

The Kochs ... tried to put the Republicans back in control of the Senate. And they failed. They tried to get more Republicans in the House as well, and they failed at that, too...

Change the world. sway elections, but keep your hands clean...

If you are writing checks alongside the Kochs, you get to be part of this Leviathan, far-reaching, well-funded nest of networks and no one ever has to know that about you unless you want them to. The Washington Post called it "a maze of groups that cloaks its donors."

koch brothers money trail WaPo

The Koch brothers say they have nothing to do with drug testing for welfare benefits or with the Florida law. But the group that is promoting that Florida policy around the country is affiliated with the Koch brothers and benefits from being part of their network of conservative political groups. And that matters. And reporting it despite their threats matters...

The Koch brothers are spending and organizing the spending of more money than almost anyone in history to influence American politics. They also fight vociferously to limit real reporting on how much they spend, how they spend it, and what the impact that spending has in our polity. They want to influence American politics. And they are influencing American politics. But they do not want to be known for what it is that they do....

[T]his is also about how American politics works now. And whether it stays in the light, or whether it is allowed to go underground. Because how they are working their side of politics now is millions and millions and millions of dollars, hundreds of millions of dollars, that are intentionally made difficult to trace, funneled to networks that build networks that you can disown when you want to, if you want to.

Does that intentionally opaque political activity get reported on now, or doesn't it? They have tried to make it as hard as possible for that reporting to get done. I say we do it anyway. It's our country too, even if we don't get invited to your billionaires party in Palm Springs every January. 

koch brothers influence

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Koch bros. go-to guy lost groups millions in GOP "dark money"; cowardly wealthy donors scared of unions

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GREENPEACE AIRSHIP OVER KOCH BROTHER MEETING

Recently I posted CA fines secretive donor groups, including one linked to Koch brothers. Anonymous political donors are being fined by my home state of California, but sadly, Citizens United is still alive and well, and huge amounts of money are still influencing elections. But at least California officials are targeting on "dark money" groups like those linked to the Koch brothers.

It gets pretty convoluted, but the short version is this: A Republican guy gets millions and shuttles it through a Republican non-profit group that sends the millions to another Republican guy who knows yet another Republican guy who sends it to yet another Republican guy (or something) who eventually funnels it to a California anti-union, anti-tax campaign until uh-oh! Someone noticed. Bam! Busted.

So now those Republicans have multimillion-dollar problems.

Politically active nonprofits have way too much influence on our elections, but finally, some of them are being fined, costing the the GOP millions. A drop in the bucket, sure, but it's a start.

The Los Angeles Times takes it from there, starting with what "dark money" is:

They provide donors a way to influence elections by piping major money around the country until it resurfaces — without their fingerprints — in a campaign. [...]

Many donors did not want to "put their name on … this fight because they didn't want to face the retribution of the unions," Miller told state investigators. Deep-pocketed labor groups were planning major campaign efforts in 2012, and some conservatives were wary of crossing them. [...]

[Republican strategist and Koch brothers consultant Sean Noble] wanted the Virginia group, Americans for Job Security, to transfer the millions he had raised with [GOP consultant Jeff Miller, lead fundraiser for former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and for Texas Gov. Rick Perry's 2012 presidential campaign] to Noble's center, and he wanted Noble to relay the money to California campaign committees, obscuring the money trail. [...]

A month before the November election, the whole operation came crashing down....  Miller believed Noble hoped to prevent California authorities "from opening up his books," giving them the keys to an entire network of nonprofits that were distributing money around the country.

The money was improperly reported, and when Republican consultant Tony Russo asked Noble to transfer money, Noble balked. "He couldn't spend it in the final two months of the campaign without jeopardizing the anonymity he had promised his rich donors." Russo handed over $25 million, but only about $15 million ended up back in California, and that sparked an investigation. Hence, the fine.

Follow the L.A. Times link for the whole story. It gets complicated. I know I'm confused, but then again, I usually am.

By the way, wealthy GOP donors: If you're not afraid to "redistribute your wealth" in order to get your way, if you're not afraid to bully your way to a win, if you're not afraid to huff and puff and buy election outcomes, then why are you a-skeered of unions who have way less to spend than you do?

chart maddow unions v corps campaign spending smaller

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GOP consultant: Bleak future for CA Republicans, GOP "anathema to younger voters, women, Latinos"

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schadenfreude

I recently posted CA fines secretive donor groups, including one linked to Koch brothers:

California officials are imposing a record $16 million in penalties on secretive political groups that funneled money into initiative campaigns in 2012...

Today I noticed a follow-up article in the Los Angeles Times that reports "a bleak, and now public, assessment for the state [Republican] party." Oh, the schadenfreude. I can barely stand it:

Buried in the avalanche of documents released in the state probe of secretive political groups was a fairly succinct description of the problems facing California Republicans.

It was striking not because of the content made public by the Fair Political Practices Commission -- it mimicked what California Democrats have been saying for years -- but because of the author, Republican consultant and fundraiser Jeff Miller.

Oh come on. How bad can it be?

“Over the last two decades, California’s working class has slowly migrated out of the state and Latino and women voters are completely disenfranchised with the Republican Party. There are only a few pockets of conservative voters left in the state and they are only able to help carry the day for Republicans in ultra-low turnout elections on issues where campaign spending is at parity or to the Republican advantage, and where the Democratic and union grass-roots apparatus is not activated,” Miller’s memo said. “There is no good way to sugarcoat this. ... The Republican label is anathema to younger voters, women and Latinos -- growing voter blocs with real significance to future elections. We are going to be on permanent defense in California for the foreseeable future”

Oh. Wow. Yeah, that's bad.

gop terrible horrible no good very bad year

He went on to say more, including how labor unions have "remained a potent pro-Democratic force." Which, for anyone who still isn't aware, is why the GOP is trying so hard to bust unions into smithereens. They have a ton of corporate donors, we have a few unions:

chart maddow unions v corps campaign spending smaller

Union numbers have been dwindling, thanks to the efforts of people like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, and so many more Republican governors and state legislatures, not to mention anti-union U.S. Congress members. Privatization and profit are their goals, not what is good for Americans and democracy.

They have to appeal to a diverse voter population without losing the support of their very white, mostly conservative base. And now they're experiencing a political civil war between the CruzBots and those in the party who still have residual impulses to compromise occasionally.

Good luck with that. And you know what they say: As California goes, so goes the nation.

GodIlovemystate.

More schadenfreude here.

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