superpac

Earlier this week, Oregon joined the growing chorus of  16 states calling for the overturning the Supreme Court’s landmark 2010 Citizens United ruling, which allows corporations to spend nearly unlimited sums of money buying our political system.

With the state Senate’s passage of House Joint Memorial 6, Oregon legislators have made it clear that they stand with the American people and against a corporatist Supreme Court that defied all logic by ruling that corporations should receive the same free-speech rights as individuals, and they are allowed to express these rights by channeling unlimited amounts of undisclosed cash into super Political Action Committees (PACs).

According to this wonderfully progressive resolution, it is upon Congress to propose a constitutional amendment  “clarifying the distinction between the rights of natural persons and the rights of corporations” and recognizing “that Congress and state legislatures may regulate all moneys raised and spent for political purposes.”

BuzzFlash breaks down the status similar resolutions around the nation:

Oregon joins four other states – Delaware, Maine, West Virginia and Illinois – that have called for a constitutional amendment over just the past two months. All of the resolutions this year have passed with bipartisan support in at least one chamber. This is an issue that affects every American, regardless of political affiliation.The other states that have called for an amendment to overturn Citizens United are California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Vermont, Connecticut, Maryland, Colorado and Montana. The Washington, D.C., Council has called for an amendment as well.

Given that the Supreme Court has decided to sell the American political system to the highest bidder, it is up to the American people to wrestle back control of our government from corporations.

Luckily, we are also making progress at the federal level, where not every single politician is a corporatist stooge. Democratic senators John Tester of Montana and Tom Udall of New Mexico have proposed constitutional amendments aimed at reforming the campaign-finance system that Citizens United corrupted. Earlier this year, independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Florida’s Democratic Ted Deutch introduced a constitutional amendment aimed at directly overturning the Supreme Court’s ruling. Also joining the fight where Democratic Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Widen of Oregon, who have signed on as cosponsors of similar efforts.

Although the American people face an uphill climb, it is imperative that we continue to make noise about the Supreme Court’s disastrous Citizens United decision and keep the heat on congress and the states until they bring an appropriate end to this corporate takeover of our political system.

Please do your part by saying this and other related articles on social media forums.

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Nancy Pelosi launches the new “Stop Colbert” campaign to pass the DISCLOSE Act. And it’s freakin’ hilarious:

"Stephen Colbert used to be my friend. I even signed the poor baby’s cast when he hurt his hand. But since the day he started his SuperPAC, taking secret money from special interests, he’s been out of control - even using his SuperPAC to attack my friend, Newt Gingrich."

Fuck yeah, Nancy Pelosi.

Sunlight is the best disinfectant

So now comes the news that the owner of the Chicago Cubs has been pitched the idea of creating an anti-Obama ad campaign focusing on Jeremiah Wright — the minister at Obama’s former church who became controversial in the 2008 presidential campaign for exclaiming, “God Bless America? God Damn America!” You can read a report about it here. The notion is to spend $10 million during the Democratic convention to link Obama to Wright, concluding that Wright implanted terrible ideas about America in Obama’s brain, and thus that Obama can’t be trusted to be President as a result.

I don’t want to talk about the inherent inanity of this idea: the idea that Obama is a dangerous radical might have worked before he had been President of the United States for four years, after all, but it is unlikely to change any minds AFTER he’s been president for four years. Likewise, I don’t really want to talk about the racism embedded in this attack: others will, and the “black other” who must be controlled by whites is an old theme in American political life dating back into the slavery era (a point I have discussed before). And I don’t even want to talk about the way this issue demonstrates the outsized influence of SuperPACs in this election: really? One guy can just dump $10 million into an election and we’re okay with that? Really?

No: I want to talk about transparency. See, as disgusting as I think this plan is, I am thrilled to death that I KNOW ABOUT IT AT ALL. Just by knowing whose money it is, and what goals are behind, I can assess whether I find the message credible. I can put the ad in a context from which I can make a judgment. And that’s just wonderful.

One of the worst things about Citizens United, and about American campaign finance law more generally, is that it makes it pretty easy to hide who you are and what you want from the public at large. I can know what a person or donor wants — or at least I can guess. But what does “Americans for a great America” want? What does the “Better America” foundation want?

Alas, Citizens United and current Federal Election Commission inaction make it all too easy to hide interests behind happy labels. Who can be against a group (I just made up) called “Puppies are great!”? (Or “GET ALL THESE DAMN CAT PHOTOS OFF THE INTERNET” for that matter!?)

As a consequence, I don’t know what the people behind these groups want. I can’t make an informed judgment about them — or the candidates and causes they support.

So I’d like make a modest proposal. Eliminate all campaign contribution limits. They’re essentially a joke anyway. Instead, go for 100% transparency. If you create or give money to a SuperPAC or associated organization, you have to declare who you are. That’s all. You have to cite, by name, every donor and list the amount they gave.

That sounds like a pretty good deal to me: you get to give as much as you want. I get to know who you are.

And if you’re afraid to tell me who you are because you are giving to a cause or a candidate you are embarrassed by, well then let me offer you a piece of advice: don’t give the contribution.

Sunshine, they say, is the best disinfectant.

“There is a hall-of-mirrors quality to what he is doing that is hilarious and very effective,” said Mark Feldstein, a professor of journalism who is about to begin teaching at the University of Maryland.

“He is taking advantage of loopholes to set up an organization that is not a legitimate political action committee, if there is such a thing, to make the point that the current system is a form of legalized bribery. Try making that point as a member of the mainstream media and holding on to your objectivity.”

—  David Carr

Earlier this month, digital rights activist and Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig launched Mayday PAC, a super political action committee aimed at reforming U.S. campaign finance laws.

To date, the Super PAC has raised more than $1.2 million in pledges from 17,500 people. Through Mayday, Lessig hopes to turn the mechanism of corporate influence in politics against itself. “If we are effective,” he says, “we will reduce the power of money.”

The goal, according to Lessig, is to raise a total of $12 million by the 2014 midterm elections. Several Silicon Valley billionaires have lined up to match all donations to the Super PAC.

That money, Lessig hopes, will be used to elect five candidates as a sort of proof of concept—showing lawmakers and voters alike that the issue of money in politics does matter and can be influenced by everyday citizens.

If successful, Lessig and his supporters plan to launch during the 2016 election a much larger campaign aimed at reversing recent laws that have granted corporations unprecedented political influence.

Mayday PAC: The Super PAC Built to Destroy Super PACs

In Fact, No One Listens to What People Say

So as I engage in my morning ritual of reading lots of newspapers, both in real paper form and online, I have been fascinated by all the buzz Stephen Colbert has generated about his supposed run for President. I watched Colbert and Stewart riff on Colbert’s SuperPAC last night, and thought they satirized the win-wink nudge-nudge reality of non-coordinating coordination between SuperPACs and candidates quite brilliantly. Then, of course, Colbert announced the formation of his exploratory committee … and the crowd went wild.

Except, of course, Stephen Colbert DID NOT announce the formation of an exploratory committee to run for President of the United States. He announced the formation of an exploratory committee to investigate running for the President of the United States OF SOUTH CAROLINA.

Pop quiz: DOES SOUTH CAROLINA HAVE A PRESIDENT? If you don’t know the answer, please stop reading this blog post now. You’re too dim to understand my point.

For the rest of you: the moral of the story is PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT PEOPLE SAY, NOT WHAT YOU THINK THEY SAY. Colbert is a brilliant satirist, and a brilliant attention-getter. He will run a beautiful mock campaign for President of the United States … of South Carolina. It will slice the rituals and absurdities of the real campaign to pieces and we will laugh along with him.

But he’s not running for President. And he told you so. Pay attention.

Money and the 2012 election: the round up

David Firestone at the New York Times has a useful summary piece on money and the 2012 election. It’s worth a read.

"High"lights?

  • both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama raised and spent over $1bn each.
  • SuperPACs raised and spent over $800 million; some 60% of that total was raised from only 159 people and groups.
  • Las Vegas casino owner Sheldon Adelson personally spent more than $150 million on the election.
  • The Obama campaign is taking unlimited corporate contributions to pay for the inauguration.

So, there!

Super-PAC-man

Let’s fling another quarter into the Super-PAC-Man machine, watch him go whole-hog, to and fro, gobble up the ghosts of democracy. Send those rolled-over forefathers back to the grave.

See our money at work in this feeding frenzy gone berserk. Chomping at whatever bits are in the American way.

Fruit bowl to dust bowl, no matter. Got to bite off more than he can chew. The high score, his only higher calling. His special interest is that next level of funding.

So jiggle that joystick. Whatever it takes in politics. Swallow down those power-ups and devour the “just us” in justice. No need to trust us. Just keep on waka-waka-ing.

And don’t forget to leave your initials: There’s no transparency in anonymity. Only conspiracy. But that’s just a theory.

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