Archive for political donations

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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Dems outraise GOP in March. Too bad about those SCOTUS rulings.

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money in politics citizens united corporations outraise

Democrats outraise Republicans! Big headline! Lots of thumbs up on Twitter in response to the headline! Boyoboy! We're rolling in dough, we're raking in the big bucks! We'll show those Republicans, yes we will! Go Dems! Outraise again! Keep it up! We did it! We beat our rivals!

To which I ask, so what?

After the appalling Supreme Court decision that favors billionaires, the decision that extends the influence of big money on elections... brought to us by SCOTUS's previous Citizens United ruling, this is only mildly good news. The truckloads of money shelled out by super PACS, the Koch brothers, and the Sheldon Adelsons on the right make these numbers look like lunch money.

Roll Call:

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee outraised its Republican counterpart in March, ending the month with more than $22 million in cash on hand for the competitive midterms.

Both the DSCC and the National Republican Senatorial Committee said they posted their best fundraising months of the cycle in March.

Democrats raised $8.1 million in March, which is $21 million more than the NRSC. Plus, the DSCC paid off its 2012 debt. Republicans hauled in $6.4 million and have $15.9 million available to them. They also paid off their debt from 2012.

But Republicans have a huge advantage now that the Supreme Court has French kissed Adelson and the Kochs.

You know the solution, though, right? Say it with me now:

vote  turnout  gotv

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The Supreme Thwart: SCOTUS "re-created legalized bribery"

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democracy gone, legalized bribery

Apparently "legalized bribery" is fine with the Roberts Supreme Court. As you can see by my previous post Billionaires and Supreme Court undermine our "1st Amendment right not to be drowned out", this appalling decision makes me furious and more than a little worried. In the post I wrote:

Think it was bad before? You ain't seen nothin' yet. You thought Sheldon Adelson and the ass-kissing at Jewish Mingle were obscene? Billionaires like him are just getting started. Super PACs are morphing into Super Duper PACs, Mingles will become orgies, and the kajillions of TV ads will turn into mini-series sponsored by Deep Pockets, Inc.

Despite the TV "news" media's skimpy reporting on this very important topic-- instead running wall-to-wall speculation about the horrific Fort Hood killer-- the Los Angeles Times gave ample coverage to the legalized bribery that is now law. Here are a few takes on what came down yesterday, or as I like to call it, The Supreme Thwart of democracy as we knew it.

First, excerpts from the L.A. Times front pager:

The decision, McCutcheon vs. Federal Election Commission, also shows again the impact of President George W. Bush's two appointees: Roberts and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.

Or to put it another way, elections matter. Continuing...

Fred Wertheimer, a veteran champion of campaign finance reform, said the court was on a "march to destroy the nation's campaign finance laws enacted to prevent corruption."

The decision "re-created the system of legalized bribery today that existed during the Watergate days," said Wertheimer, president of the nonprofit group Democracy 21.

Michael Waldman, president of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School, said neither the Founding Fathers nor most Americans "want government beholden to narrow elite interests."

Republicans call that hand-wringing.

Moving on to an editorial titled, "Really, justices? Even more money in politics?"

The campaign reform group Democracy 21 notes that after Wednesday's decision, a presidential nominee could form a joint fundraising committee and solicit a contribution of as much as $1,199,600 from a single donor for the election cycle. Does anyone doubt that the person who signed that check would expect special consideration from the candidate who solicited it?

Roberts was untroubled by the idea that mega-donors would receive special treatment in exchange for their largesse.

How nice for Roberts that he can sleep well at night knowing that the imbalance of power in this country is causing democracy to go the way of Chris Christie's political career.

Finally, there was an op-ed written by Jessica A. Levinson, an associate clinical professor at Loyola Law School-Los Angeles and vice president of the Los Angeles Ethics Commission:

And how many people were handcuffed by these limits? Well, fewer than 600 donors, or 0.0000019% of Americans, gave the maximum amount under those oh-so-restrictive limits, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. [...]

Disclosure may be the only way we can regulate the political money trail in the near future. [...]

Where does McCutcheon leave us? It leaves people like me who believe it is both legal and good policy to limit the influence of money in politics in an existential crisis. [...]

Our current system essentially limits only direct contributions from donors to candidates and political committees. But independent organizations receive and dispense vast sums related to candidate campaigns, and many do not have to disclose the donors of this dark money.

The base contribution limits could be the next restriction on the chopping block.

And then she called for more transparency. And how about more justice... and different Justices?

money talks democracy has no voice

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Billionaires and Supreme Court undermine our "1st Amendment right not to be drowned out"

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citizens united check republic billionaires Koch brothers dark money

Today Michael Hiltzik gets a twofer at TPC, this time regarding the appalling Supreme Court decision that favors billionaires, the decision that extends the influence of big money on elections... brought to us by SCOTUS's previous Citizens United ruling.

Via a New York Times email alert:

The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued a major campaign finance decision, striking down limits on federal campaign contributions for the first time. The ruling, issued near the start of a campaign season, will change and probably increase the role money plays in American politics.

The decision, by a 5-to-4 votes along ideological lines, was a sort of sequel to Citizens United, the 2010 decision that struck down limits on independent campaign spending by corporations and unions. But that ruling did nothing to disturb the other main form of campaign finance regulation: caps on direct contributions to candidates and political parties.

I'm beyond furious, way past frustrated, and drowning in worry over turning on enormous spigots of money that will drown out the majority of ordinary (aka 99% of us) political donors. Our voices will no longer be heard (are they now?) over the deafening ka-chings and the triumphant stomping all over our rights and campaign finance reform efforts.

We are being silenced by five Supreme Court Justices and the powerful entities with gigantic bank accounts to which they genuflect. Money talks, we're just audience members. But we are not applauding.

booo

Think it was bad before? You ain't seen nothin' yet. You thought Sheldon Adelson and the ass-kissing at Jewish Mingle were obscene? Billionaires like him are just getting started. Super PACs are morphing into Super Duper PACs, Mingles will become orgies, and the kajillions of TV ads will turn into mini-series sponsored by Deep Pockets, Inc.

Anyone still wondering why the GOP is trying to kill labor unions? If so, here's why: They tend to support Democrats, and those very few union sources for campaign cash are dwindling:

chart maddow unions v corps campaign spending smaller

Hiltzik:

The notion that an unrelenting torrent of money can suborn the entire political process doesn't seem to occur to Chief Roberts.

Justice Stephen Breyer, writing for the minority, didn't accept this charade. [...]

It's not only the 1st Amendment right to be heard, but also the 1st Amendment right not to be drowned out that are at issue, he wrote:

"The First Amendment advances not only the individual’s right to engage in political speech, but also the public’s interest in preserving a democratic order in which collective speech matters.... Where enough money calls the tune, the general public will not be heard."

For proof, he needed to go no further than the majority opinion.

So what do we do? Vote in droves. It's time to stop the endless obstruction by the GOP: Obstruction to voting rights, civil rights, women's rights, gay rights, and constitutional rights. Get. Out. The. Vote. We can do this.

Please read the entire piece by Hiltzik here.

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Even if Chris #Christie skates on #Bridgegate, "his ethics troubles won’t be over."

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ethics

New Jersey Gov. Chris "Cleared and Still Heartbroken" Christie has more ethics issues to deal with. Yes, more. Bet you didn't think that was even possible, did you? Guess again.

This time his problems stem from questionable campaign contributions. Surprise! And by that I mean, not surprised in the least. Words like "secretive" and "little-regulated" popped up in this latest report.

Roll Call has the whole story:

Christie’s complicated relationship with campaign contributors and state contractors, in particular, will draw scrutiny as he continues to mull a 2016 presidential bid. Christie’s donors have a history of gravitating to secretive and little-regulated political groups to promote the GOP governor and his agenda.

These include tax-exempt organizations that spent millions on Christie’s gubernatorial election and re-election campaigns, and that operate outside the disclosure rules. [...]

...Christie’s big backers, who have bankrolled several pro-Christie operations, stand out because many of them are state contractors otherwise barred from contributing to his campaign. New Jersey “pay-to-play” laws, considered the strictest in the nation, bar large state contractors, utilities and financial services firms that manage state pension funds from donating to state candidates.

Yet a long list of New Jersey contractors and pension fund managers have given generously to groups that either back or are closely linked with Christie. Such contributions have repeatedly raised questions as to whether Christie supporters are skirting the state’s pay-to-play laws.

Before Governor "Who Moi?" became chairman of the RGA, the organization raised over $500,000 from "New Jersey utilities, individuals and businesses with significant state contracts," according to the New York Times..

Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen, said, “Government contractors cannot make contributions directly to Christie, but what they can do is give contributions to the RGA. And the RGA can use those contributions to promote Christie.” It sure did, to the tune of $1.7 million for his re-election.

[Christie spokesman Kevin Roberts] referred CQ Roll Call to Christie’s public comments on Reform Jersey Now in 2009: “There are a group of citizens who are out there to advocate policies in line with mine, and that’s great.”

As with Christie’s more recent troubles, that’s a response that is likely to beg further questions.

Christie's likely response will be, "Ethics schmethics. Shut up, you idiots." And then he'll clear himself.

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GOP woos the Jews: The Awkward Moments

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GOP woos the jews chris christie Sheldon Adelson Jeb Bush

Potential Republican 2016 presidential contenders went out of their way to woo the Jews yesterday, specifically billionaire Sheldon Adleson. The elitest of the elite (read: wealthiest) GOP donors showed up in Las Vegas at a Very Special Event. Members of the Republican Jewish Coalition were holding auditions, and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Ohio Governor John Kasich, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush were strutting their cringe-worthy stuff in one way or another.

Citizens United does it again: How to win buy friends politicians and influence people elections.

Being one of many Jews who would never open my wallet for any of those possible candidates, I tend to find humor in situations like these. And this time I found it courtesy of an article in the Los Angeles Times that included some of the more awkward moments.

Let's begin with how Gov. "Heartbroken" tried to shake off his Bridgegate scandal and how determined he was to rescue his damaged career by kissing Adeleson's ass bank account:

For Christie, Saturday's tryout showed the potential for missteps when governors wade into foreign policy at this early stage. During an otherwise warmly received speech, Christie's mention of a helicopter flight over "occupied territories" — terminology used by Israel's critics — during his trip to Israel sent murmurs and whispers of surprise through the conservative audience.

Oops, "murmurs and whispers of surprise" couldn't have done much to salvage his image. So much for Gov. "Who Moi?" and his efforts to restore some of the credibility he never had.

Scott Walker's anemic overtures to Jews whom he couldn't believably relate to at all went this way:

The candidates' attempts to connect with the audience appeared awkward at times. Walker emphasized that he decorates his house during the holidays with Christmas lights as well as a menorah candle. He also noted that his son's name, Matthew, means "gift from god" in Hebrew.

Via onamatopoeia.wordpress.com

You've heard of Christian Mingle? This "What Happens in Vegas Pays in Vegas Moment" was a little like Jewish Mingle. A speed dating version of courting a roomful of donors. John Kasich's version of flirtation was trying to ingratiate himself by flaunting his first-name basis palsy-walsitude with Sheldon:

Kasich, who had been sitting next to Adelson at the Saturday luncheon, addressed him by name repeatedly throughout his post-meal remarks, as if the conversation was one-on-one.

Allow me to address these opportunists by name: Chris, Scotty, John, Jeb, can we talk? Don't pretend you're BFF with obscenely wealthy Jews when you're not; don't try to impress Jews with embarrassing references to your trip to Israel; and pleaseohplease don't attempt to convince Jews that you, an Evangelical Christian, are "one of them" because your Christian kid's name happens to have a Hebrew origin or meaning.

Seriously, don't.

What next, asking Adelson if he's a Scorpio?

More here.

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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:

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

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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