Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Dirty Money, Dirty Politicians... We Need To Rid The System Of BOTH


Since Kirsten Gillibrand first ran for Congress, joined the Blue Dogs, got appointed the the Senate and kept making nice with Wall Street all the way through, she's taken $9,148,338 from the finance sector. Among sitting senators who have not ran for president, only notorious bankster whores Chuck Schumer ($26,775,768), Mitch McConnell ($12,339,704), Rob Portman ($10,861,584) and Pat Toomey ($9,303,550) have solicited and accepted more in bankster bribes than Gillibrand. So far, during the current election cycle Kirsten Gillibrand is #2-- at $1,413,818... and she has a safe coast to reelection in November. (She's raised $16,669,499 to the $507,177 her little known GOP opponent, Chele Farley, finance chair for NYC Republican Party and a former Goldman Sachs bankster, has raised.)

Now that Gillibrand is harboring some delusion that she's running for president, she has sworn off the Wall Street bribes that have taken her so far. In fact she has sworn off all corporate PAC money. So have crooked Democrats Cory Booker and Kamala Harris, both of whom are also hoping to wind up on a 2020 national ticket, as well as Maria Cantwell. (Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren don't taken corporate PAC money-- so wannabes like Gillibrand, Booker and Harris jumped on the bandwagon.) "Many Americans, wrote Said Jilani for The Intercept last week, "have grown increasingly distrustful of big business’s influence in politics since the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. In fact, Harris cited that case when explaining her decision not to accept cash from corporate PACs on the Breakfast Club, a New York radio show.
“I think that money has had such an outside influence on politics, and especially with the Supreme Court determining Citizens United, which basically means that big corporations can spend unlimited amounts of money influencing our campaigns, right? We’re all supposed to have an equal vote, but money has now really tipped the balance between an individual having equal power in an election to a corporation,” Harris said. “So I’ve actually made a decision, since I had that conversation, that I’m not going to accept corporate PAC checks. I just, I’m not.”

Swearing off corporate PAC money can be one positive step a lawmaker can take towards reducing the corrupting influence of money on politics. But it’s far from enough.

The reason is that money from PACs – corporate or otherwise-- comprises a relatively insignificant portion of these senators’ campaign contributions, raising the question of whether curtailing donations from corporate PACs will really make a difference. Critics think it doesn’t, noting that the bigger threat of influence comes from wealthy donors who don’t funnel their cash through PACs. But for politicians looking to seize on public discontent with the influence of money on politics, the decision makes for an effective messaging ploy.

Michael J. Malbin, a campaign finance researcher at Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy, pointed out to The Intercept that Harris has received only a small amount of her total campaign funding from PACs. “However, she also received many of her itemized contributions from individuals whose income is derived from their work as corporate executives,” he said.

Benjamin Page, a long-time researcher of political decision-making at Northwestern University, agreed. “Refusing to take corporate PAC money makes a nice symbol, and I suppose we should give it some credit.  But far more money comes from wealthy individuals,” he wrote in an email. “That is much more important, and I believe it tends to corrupt both the Republican and the Democratic party.”

OpenSecrets, a project of the Center for Responsive Politics, tracked and categorized PAC donations between 2013 and 2018. The data reveals that most of the senators who’ve sworn off corporate PAC money received more from large individual donors-- donors giving $200 or more, who can be regular people but also corporate executives and lobbyists-- than from PACs in that time period.
Cory Booker: 10.37 percent of Booker’s campaign funding has come from PACs, 76.40 percent of which is from business PACs. By contrast, 72.12 percent of Booker’s campaign funding is from large individual donors.
Maria Cantwell: Just 0.62 percent of Cantwell’s campaign funding has come from PACs of any kind. In contrast, 73.61 percent of her campaign funding has come from large donors.
Kirsten Gillibrand:  6.95 percent of Gillibrand’s campaign funding has come from PACs. Of this proportion, 65.73 percent is from business PACs. Meanwhile, 62.15 percent of her fundraising has come from large individual donors.
Kamala Harris: 4.89 percent of Harris’s campaign fundraising has been through PACs; 41.07 percent of this total has been from business PACs. By contrast, 64.99 percent of her campaign funding has come from large donors. (Though the OpenSecrets analysis covered a five-year period, in Harris’s case, it only goes back to 2015, when she first ran for U.S. Senate.)
Bernie Sanders: 1.73 percent of Sanders’s funding has come from PACs. Of that, 7.27 percent is from business PACs. 17.70 percent of his funding has come from large individual contributors.
Elizabeth Warren: Just 1.4 percent of Warren’s campaign money has come from PACs. Of that, 12.91 percent is from business PACs. Large individual donors made up 29.72 percent of her campaign funding.
These figures make clear that the senators are giving up relatively little money by swearing off donations from corporate PACs-- it just isn’t a very big portion of their overall campaign funding. Which raises the question: Is it really possible that the system is being corrupted by sums of money this small? If not, then politicians-- and the voters they’re looking to win over-- need to look closer at how big money is corrupting Washington.

University of Massachusetts, Boston professor emeritus Thomas Ferguson is one of America’s leading academics who studies the influence of money in politics; he is the brain behind “the investment theory of party competition,” which says that politicians are essentially driven by donors, their true political base.

He doesn’t think much of senators disavowing corporate PAC money. “It’s an absolutely cheap gesture that means nothing, that’s why they do it,” Ferguson said in an interview. He pointed out that corporations can also run their money through the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and that these senators haven’t disavowed the comittee’s backing.

A close look at Gillibrand’s and Booker’s top donors makes clear just how little it matters when senators swear off corporate PAC money. Gillibrand’s 11th-largest donor is Morgan Stanley, which did not give a penny of its money to Gillibrand through a PAC. Instead, Morgan Stanley employees donated $40,425 to her campaign committee as individuals. Of the $814,463 that she has received from the securities and investment industry, just $70,500 came from PACs.

Gillibrand was one of the Democratic senators who voted down an amendment that would have broken up Wall Street’s largest banks in May 2010. Jeff Connaughton, an aide to then-Sen. Ted Kaufman, D-Del., who co-wrote the amendment, noted dryly in his book that an Obama administration Treasury official later boasted that if the administration had supported the amendment, it would have passed, but because they didn’t, it didn’t. Speaking about the amendment four years later, Warren noted that it “had bipartisan support, and it might have passed, but it ran into powerful opposition from an alliance between Wall Streeters on Wall Street and Wall Streeters who held powerful government jobs. They teamed up and blocked the move to break up the banks.”

...A better path to limiting the influence of big money is for senators to simply develop a small donor base that supplants large donors of any sort, Ferguson said. “Let them say they won’t take money over, you know, a particular limit-- $500, $750, whatever you like,” he suggested.

Page agreed. “What we really need from candidates is reliance on small donations, if possible, as was done by Bernie Sanders and (to a lesser extent) Barack Obama,” he wrote to us.

In that regard, Warren and Sanders deserve an honorable mention, as they are the only senators in this group of six who got the majority of their campaign funding from small individual contributors since 2013. Nobody else comes close.

It’s easy to imagine lawmakers getting swayed by a pool of donors from a big bank or fracking company who give them $2,000 donations; it’s less easy to imagine that if the politicians build a donor base of people throwing in relatively small amounts, that they’d fall under pernicious influence.

(The Onion had an amusing article on this topic in 2016, with the headline: “Bernie Sanders Clearly In Pocket Of High-Rolling Teacher Who Donated $300 To His Campaign.”)

One of the other big problems with campaign spending is that outside groups that are technically independent--meaning they don’t officially support one candidate over another-- don’t always have to disclose where their money is coming from. For instance, 501(c)(4) groups are nonprofits that are not required to disclose donors at all. While these groups are not allowed to directly endorse a candidate, they are free to spend money on issues, and they often use their funds to run campaign attack ads.

Warren pioneered her own solution to this type of outside spending by working with her Republican opponent in 2012, incumbent Scott Brown, to form to a pact in which both sides agreed that if an outside group ran an ad, whatever candidate could conceivably benefit had to pay a penalty by donating to charity. The pledge reduced the influence of outside groups in the election, but it also had limitations-- for instance, some groups simply shifted their spending to mailers, as the pledge only explicitly applied to broadcasting.

Building a small donor base and developing agreements to keep outside groups out of elections are serious ways for individual politicians to limit the influence of big donors on politics, without changing campaign finance law itself.

Simply curtailing corporate PACs, when they don’t play a very large role in campaigns to begin with, isn’t.
Beto O'Rourke, the Democratic congressman from El Paso, swore off corporate PACs years ago and is now running for the U.S. Senate in Texas. His opponent, Ted Cruz, is one of the biggest recipients of dirty money from corporate PACs in the country-- but O'Rourke has been beating him in contributions anyway. And in the Oklahoma City-centered 5th district, Blue America’s progressive champion Tom Guild has raised the third most money of the 9 candidates, 3 Republican and 6 Democrats running for Congress. Tom’s average contribution is $31 and he refuses PAC contributions and money from the corporate elitists. The two candidates who have raised more money than Tom have both take PAC money and are awash in corporate contributions. One of those candidates is Republican incumbent Steve Russell, and the other is an establishment moderate, no labels Democrat, who is also awash in PAC and corporate money./span>

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At 11:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In spite of the clear evidence that "democrats" are still on the take despite claims of rejecting corporate PAC money (and not from wealthy corporatist individuals), there will remain those who still believe that they can retake control of the Party from within.

I should live so long.

Before too much longer, We the People will only be supporting a military bent on global conquest while we struggle with a serious lack of jobs, education, medical and elderly care. Those who can't tote a gun can just go die.

The Republicans have traveled a long way down their path to a regulation-free nation, and the quality of life of the average citizen has suffered, The "democrats" have allowed all of this with hardly a whimper, for their easy greed has captivated them into silent compliance with the plundering of the nation. And the efforts of those who dominate the Party are to stuff the slots with like-minded toadies already on the take.

The Republicans are just a couple of states away from being able to call a convention to rewrite the Constitution in the corporate image. Too many won't awaken until that call is issued. It will be too late by then. It may be too late now.

And in some manner you, citizen, will be expected to bear the costs of that global war for corporate dominance no matter how little you have.

At 5:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why, yes, of COURSE we need to rid ourselves of dirty pols and the dirty money that owns them AND THEIR PARTIES.

But you still say we should elect more democraps.

Please map out for us/US all how you could possibly get from here to there. I'm waiting.

At 2:46 PM, Anonymous ap215 said...



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