Thursday, January 27, 2011

The GOP Has Many Ways To Legalize Bribery And Corruption-- I Wish The Democrats Would Fight Back With Greater Vigor


"Caught" don't mean squat if we just "move on" and they don't get punished

Yesterday Lee Fang reported that former Virginia senator and GOP ex-presidential hopeful George "Macaca" Allen has been supported, financially, by Big Oil during his traumatic Capitol Hill exile.
He was one of the largest recipients of oil industry campaign contributions, and a lead sponsor of efforts to expand offshore oil drilling, including off the east coast. He was even feted by oil billionaire Charles Koch at the 2005 secret planning meeting Koch Industries organizes to coordinate conservative and corporate influence.

Allen left the Senate after losing his reelection bid in 2006, started a lobbying business called “George Allen Strategies,” and joined the board of several companies, including an energy company called the Hillsdale Group. But Allen’s relationship with the oil industry didn’t end there. Given that Allen announced yesterday that he intends to run for Senate again in 2012, it’s worth taking note that of the role that oil and polluter industry fronts have had in propping up Allen.

Fang gets right into it, and if you want to hear the specifics about Macacawitz's total immersion in Big Oil graft and corruption... well, here's that link again. Of course, Macacawitz is, for once, swimming in the mainstream of American politics by living in a revolving-door bubble of Beltway bribery. There are virtually no Republicans who don't-- and far too few Democrats who have renounced this self-legalized criminal behavior. As OpenSecrets went on yesterday after the State of the Union, Obama, "facing a nation on edge over high unemployment, soaring deficits and the recent violence in Arizona... sounded themes innovation and extolled the American entrepreneurial spirit in his second such address. He implored the nation to rise to the challenge and 'win the future' through investments in education and infrastructure, and called on Congress to continue to work together on a responsible way to tackle the deficit." Sounds good, huh? But special-interest money doesn't allow it. Period.
[A] horde of special interest groups, who, like in years past, will seek to influence anything the president mentioned-- and far beyond. 

Expect education and health care organizations to continue to be a major part of the congressional conversation in the coming year, of course: Those sectors have already spent tens of millions of dollars to influence major reforms during Obama's first two years in office.

Transportation and high speed rail advocates have also spent big, and were probably delighted by the president's calls for further investments in their industry. Groups such as Transportation for America spent more than $270,000 on federal lobbying in the 111th Congress, and are likely already lining up outside the Capitol.

...The Obama Administration announced strong opposition to H.R. 359 on Tuesday, a bill introduced by the Republican majority in the House of Representatives that would end federal financing of presidential campaigns, according to The Hill.

Citing the recent Supreme Court decision in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, the administration released a statement Tuesday warning that dismantling the public financing system would enhance the power of corporations and special interests.

Republicans in the House Rules Committee cited wasted taxpayer dollars as their reason for introducing the legislation, and noted the unlikelihood that a Republican and Democratic presidential candidate would even use the system in the 2012 election. 

Richard Hasen, a distinguished professor at Loyola Law School and an expert on election law, warned yesterday on Slate that with the new Republican commissioners utterly committed to gutting campaign finance laws, the FEC is as good as dead. Everything is bogged down in a 3-3 partisan deadlock.
For the past several years the three Republican FEC commissioners have blocked enforcement of much of what remains of federal campaign finance law. As we enter the 2012 election season, the FEC is as good as dead, and the already troubling campaign finance world of secret unlimited donations is bound to get worse.

Campaign finance reformers have long complained about the toothlessness of the FEC, whose rules require the appointment of no more than three commissioners from any one party at one time and the votes of four commissioners to get anything done. And yet in past years, the evidence did not bear this out. Democratic and Republican commissioners often worked together, crafting rules and voting to penalize candidate, parties, and political committees for violating federal law.

All of this changed a few years ago, when Republicans put forward the name of Hans von Spakovsky to serve as an FEC commissioner. Von Spakovsky had a controversial tenure when he worked at the Bush Department of Justice, where he was involved in overruling career attorneys (who are not political appointees) on whether the department should approve Georgia's controversial voter-identification law and the Tom DeLay-led Texas redistricting plan. When President Bush nominated von Spakovsky in late 2005, civil rights and campaign finance reform groups protested, and a new senator by the name of Barack Obama put a hold on the nomination.

For a while, von Spakovsky held a recess appointment, but the fight over him resulted in a standoff in the Senate that whittled the FEC's six members down to two. Without a quorum of four, the commission was unable to do even basic things such as approving public funding for presidential candidates. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, an ardent foe of campaign finance regulation, would not give up on von Spakvosky's nomination, but in 2008 von Spakovsky got tired of waiting for confirmation and withdrew.

President Bush quickly nominated in his stead a Republican staffer on the Senate rules committee, Matthew Petersen. That broke the logjam. The Senate quickly approved Petersen and three more FEC nominations: Cynthia Bauerly, a Democratic Senate staffer, Caroline Hunter, a reliable Republican vote during her service on the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, and Donald McGahn, a Republican election lawyer.

McGahn is everything McConnell could have hoped von Spakvosky would be-- a strong opponent of campaign finance regulation in an agency charged with writing and enforcing those regulations. And he is so much more. Instead of inviting controversy, McGahn is a smart, under-the-radar ringleader of the Republican commissioners. (His name gets only three hits from Google News in all of 2010.) With Petersen and Hunter, who garner even less attention than he does, McGahn is dismantling the country's campaign finance laws.

The Republican commissioners have eviscerated campaign finance law simply by resisting the enforcement of such laws. Consider the all-important topic of campaign finance disclosure. As part of the 2002 McCain-Feingold reforms, Congress required that virtually all contributions that pay for television or radio ads close to an election and feature a federal candidate must be disclosed in reports filed with the FEC. The disclosure requirement became even more important after Citizens United, because the Supreme Court's ruling for the first time allowed corporations to spend money directly in federal elections. If the corporations can spend money while shielding their activities from public view, they can avoid alienating customers.

Over the summer, the three Republican FEC commissioners blocked an investigation into whether the conservative group Freedom's Watch violated the disclosure provisions by failing to identify its donors... Earlier this month, the three Republican commissioners blocked an investigation into whether a Louisiana company, U.S. Dry Cleaning Corp., gave more than $38,000 in illegal campaign contributions to Sen. David Vitter, R-La., by laundering the money through several company executives and their spouses. They also deadlocked "on whether to investigate Robert Kirkland for allegedly spending more than $1 million for advertising to aid the campaign of his brother, of Ron Kirkland, an unsuccessful Tennessee Republican candidate for the House. Robert Kirkland's spending would be illegal if he coordinated it with the campaign-- which both he and a consultant for his "independent" effort both initially worked for.

The list of deadlocks goes on, leading up to the culminating failure last week to review FEC rules in light of Citizens United. The Democratic commissioners want to restore the disclosure rules undermined by the summer FEC vote. They also want to make clear that foreign corporations are still barred from participating financially in federal elections. The Republican commissioners will have nothing to do with any of this. The likely result is no new rules for the 2012 election cycle.

So... if you were unhappy that China and India and several other foreign powers with agendas that put American workers at a disadvantage were able to finance Republican congressional victories through the Chamber of Commerce and other shady GOP front groups, that was just the beginning. This might be a good time to mention that the Blue America PAC only supports incumbents who are co-sponsors of the Fair Election Now Act and only endorses challengers who pledge to become a co-sponsor if elected. Nicholas Ruiz from central Florida (FL-24) is Blue America's first endorsee of the 2012 cycle. He'll be the Blue America guest at Crooks and Liars on Saturday (2pm ET). This morning I asked him if he's read the bill. Had he ever! This is what he told me:
The concept of a fair election is one of the most pressing issues we face as a democratic republic. There are many ways to achieve this goal, and the Fair Elections Now Act is a worthy attempt to level the electoral playing field. When an election is a financial horse race, the spirit of democratic representation rarely prevails. This is one reason why citizens are increasingly so disconnected from the political scene-- they view it as a financial winner-take-all sham.

For a fair election, the central place to start is media access-- regardless of how much capital a candidate has raised. Political candidates, once they have been qualified by their respective state laws as an official candidate for Congress, should receive regulated free and equal media access across the media spectrum, via regulated debates and advertising spots.

It's like a boxing match-- we would not expect a featherweight to defeat a heavyweight. When one candidate receives and spends millions of dollars on media, where the opponent receives and spends only thousands of dollars on media, it's not a fair debate. It all comes down to the voter being able to fairly evaluate the policy positions of the candidates. The only way to conduct a fair debate is through equal representation in the media for evaluation by the voter.

UPDATE: House Votes Against Reform

Democrats used a debate on a motion to recommit HR 359-- the GOP bill to end voluntary taxpayer funding of presidential elections-- to propose requiring disclosure of foreign countries, companies or individuals donating to presidential campaigns and donors spending more than $100K. That failed, 173-228, with North Carolina Republican Walter Jones voting with the Democrats and corrupt and extremist Blue Dog Jason Altmire crossing the aisle in the other direction to assume the position for Boehner and Cantor. 

Later the reprehensible bill actually passed, 239-160, again with Jones the only Republican voting with the Democrats in favor of reform. But this time more corporate Democrats let their freak flags fly. Enlisting in the Boehner Boys posse today were 9 Blue Dogs and a Big Business whore who's not a member of the caucus:

Jason Altmire (Blue Dog-PA)
Dan Boren (Blue Dog-OK)
Ben Chandler (Blue Dog-KY)
Henry Cuellar (Blue Dog-TX)
Joe Donnelly (Blue Dog-IN)
Jim Matheson (Blue Dog-UT)
Nick Rahall (WV)
Mike Ross (Blue Dog-AR)
Adam Schiff (Blue Dog-CA)
Heath Shuler (Blue Dog-NC)

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At 9:23 PM, Anonymous me said...

I Wish The Democrats Would Fight Back With Greater Vigor

They would if they wanted to. They don't want to. Most "Democrats", including O'Bummer, are actually republicans.

They are a bunch of assholes and they can eat shit and die for all I care.


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