Category Archives: campaign finance

Elections 4 $ale

I’m trying not to be too upset about SCOTUS’ ruling lifting the cap on individual campaign contributions. I mean, think about it: if money alone could decide an election, we’d have President Gingrich and Vice President Adelson today.

Trust me, I’m not thinking this is a good thing by any means. But let’s be real, the rich are not our betters, nor are they necessarily any smarter than anyone else. I just trotted over to OpenSecrets.org and got a look at Lee and Kelly Beaman’s latest campaign contributions. Here I found they both donated generously to Liz Cheney’s aborted senate campaign — not exactly a smart investment, since any idiot knew she wasn’t going to go the distance — as well as the notorious Palin grift vehicle known as SarahPAC. Now that we know they can just keep on giving, maybe these folks will all be bankrupt before too long. Fools and their money, after all.

The place this is really going to hurt, I think, is on things like ballot initiatives and local elections. Because even though this ruling only applied to federal elections, I have to wonder if states aren’t going to do away with their own restrictions now. Seems like a few have already tried.

But you know, here’s the thing: Congress could pass a law. They could say that corporations aren’t people and money isn’t speech and all of that other stuff. They could pass a law saying all federal elections have to be publicly financed. They won’t, but they could, if we elect the right people. So elections do matter.

Also, you know who the big beneficiary of this is, right? The corporate media. All of those campaign contributions run straight into their coffers, most of them at least. That explains a helluva lot, don’t it?

Gotta think the Founding Fathers are rolling over in their graves right now, though. If money is speech, the poor are voiceless. Is that your vision of America? Shameful.

16 Comments

Filed under campaign finance, Media, Supreme Court

Grand Ole Ratfuckers

Welcome Crooks & Liars! Thanks, Mike!

The Republican Party is so unpopular with the rank and file, they’ve actually resorted to fraud and deception to solicit donations for their sucky candidates:

Republicans are defending a series of websites they established that appear to support Democratic candidates for Congress, but instead direct contributions to the GOP.

The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) said its websites were not confusing, and accused Democrats of crying foul because their candidates were struggling.

The sites, like this one for Arizona Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, feature a “Kyrsten Sinema for Congress” banner, and a picture of the first-term congresswoman from a competitive Maricopa County district.

The sites also display a clear, but smaller secondary banner, urging contributions to “help defeat” (in this case) Sinema. At the bottom of the page, it features an NRCC disclaimer.

Let’s take a look at this donation page, shall we?

imagesizer

This is pathetic. So if you’re in a hurry, and just briefly glance over the page, you see a picture of the Democratic candidate and what appears to be her donation options. You may see the word “defeat” but more likely it doesn’t register. You’re in a rush and skim over that stuff as you search for your credit card and focus on the actual donation options. Only after you complete the transaction do you realize you’ve been pwned, sucka!

Trying to figure out who this works for. Surely the people who got ripped off have an even lower estimation of the Republican Party, right? Certainly if I were a candidate who was being used to defraud voters, I’d speak up about it.

Even the URLs appear to be links to Democratic candidates. Check out the sad tale of a Floridian who tried to donate to Democrat Alex Sink’s campaign:

Ray Bellamy said he wanted to make a political contribution to Alex Sink a Google search landed him at “http://contribute.sinkforcongress2014.com.”

“It looked legitimate and had a smiling face of Sink and all the trappings of a legitimate site,” Bellamy, a doctor from Tallahassee who follows Florida politics, wrote in an email to the Buzz. (Here’s Sink’s actual site, which uses a similar color scheme.)

What Bellamy overlooked was that the site is designed to raise money against Sink. “I failed to notice the smaller print: Under “Alex Sink Congress” was the sentence ‘Make a contribution today to help defeat Alex Sink and candidates like her,’ ” he said.

As with the Kyrsten Sinema campaign, the Republicans are using confusion and deception to try to steal donations which don’t belong to them. They’re counting on the fact that donors are busy, and will trust a quickie Google search to land them in the right place (also: hello, Google? Why is a fake Alex Sink campaign site ranked higher than the real one? UPDATE: Google has since put a phising warning on the website.) Even worse, in the case of Ray Bellamy’s errant donation, the NRCC wouldn’t refund his donation — until he went to the news media.

How is this not a violation of campaign finance rules? Or have we effectively done away with those?

Republicans are horrible people. Trying to steal elections, using fraud to steal donations — can’t you guys do anything honestly for once in your lives?

(h/t, Juanita Jean)

4 Comments

Filed under campaign finance, fraud, Republican National Committee, Republican Party

Money Is The Root Of All Evil & The Rich Are Not Our Betters

Dark money trying to sway our elections, what could possibly go wrong:

WASHINGTON — Well-known corporate chiefs funded illegal “dark money” contributions to groups in the Koch brothers’ political network that were involved in Thursday’s record campaign finance settlement in California, according to settlement documents.

Members of the Fisher family, founders of the Gap clothing chain, plowed more than $8 million into a dark money campaign in California’s 2012 elections, partially redacted documents show. The money went toward defeating Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax increase, Proposition 30, and supporting the anti-union Proposition 32, according to the documents, which list donors to Americans for Job Security, a group that handled contributions in the campaign.

Those documents also show that Charles Schwab, founder of Charles Schwab Corp., donated $6.4 million through Americans for Job Security. Philanthropist Eli Broad, who publicly backed Brown’s tax increase proposition, made a $500,000 contribution, according to the documents. Las Vegas Sands Corp. CEO Sheldon Adelson and his wife gave a combined $500,000. Crossroads GPS, the dark money nonprofit founded by Karl Rove, chipped in $2 million.

Gosh I’m so old, I remember when The Gap was born out of the counterculture movement.

You need to read the whole piece because it’s just one fucking jaw-dropping revelation after another.

Here’s the thing: Prop 30, a ballot measure to increase taxes to fund education, passed. Prop 32, an anti-union measure which would have drastically affected how donations to unions are made, was defeated. All of those millions of dollars spent to defeat or pass ballot measures, wasted. Not to mention all of the millions and millions spent to defeat President Obama and various Congressional races.

If these bazillionaires are supposedly our betters, if their vast wealth supposedly proves how smart they are, and if we’re supposed to just roll over for them, why do they keep wasting millions and millions of dollars on lost causes? Doesn’t the fact that they keep wasting their money on campaigns that are so clearly what the people don’t want evidence of how out of touch they are from the American people?

Be not surprised that notorious California conservative operative/ratfucker Tony Russo is behind this craptacular waste of money:

The contributions were orchestrated by California political consultant Tony Russo to help big donors hide their identities when supporting his campaign against Proposition 30 and for Proposition 32. Those who wanted their contributions to be disclosed could give to the Small Business Action Committee, the group directly running the campaigns for the ballot initiatives. Those who did not want publicity were directed to give to Americans for Job Security, which planned an advertising campaign on the two ballot initiatives.

(Why do donors need to hide their identities? If you aren’t doing anything wrong ….!)

The Republican Party is basically one giant grift machine. Millions and millions of dollars thrown down the toilet. But you know Russo Marsh & Rogers got their fees. Oh, yeah. This system ain’t broken, not for the people who profit off of it.

Kinda makes you wonder what Eli Broad, the Fisher family, and especially notorious lost-cause financier Sheldon Adelson are thinking. Adelson is the idiot who sent $5 million to Newt Gingrich’s obviously sinking campaign. If you guys don’t show better judgement than this, why the hell should we listen to you about anything?

Eagerly await the day when these idiots all go bankrupt.

3 Comments

Filed under campaign finance, corporations

The Politico-Industrial Complex

Don’t know if anyone saw Stephen Colbert (the satirist not the character) talk to David Gregory this weekend but it’s a must-see (sorry, but WordPress won’t let me embed the video for some reason … you’ll have to click on the link).

What’s I most appreciated was hearing him talk about what he calls the “Politico-Industrial Complex.” He says:

The Super Pac was an act of discovery because I didn’t intend to have a Super Pac […] What I found out is that there’s an entire industry in politics — which I didn’t know, I suspected — but there’s an entire industry, there’s a “politico-industrial complex” that is not just raising money, but is built around making money off of the fact that there is so much money in politics. And there are almost no rules.

Yes, yes, yes. An entire industry built around making money off of money in politics. Where there’s shit there’s always flies.

If there’s an untold story of American politics, and this election in particular, it is this. Michael Moore has touched on this a little bit in some of his films, and documentaries like “Casino Jack” have touched on it as well. But I think the real scope of this, the idea there is a “Politico-Industrial Complex” influencing and corrupting our system of governance, is still a foreign idea to most American voters. And I also think that’s by design because I remain convinced that the media is complicit in this — after all, most of the hundreds of millions of dollars raised by these campaigns ends up on their balance sheet in the form of TV advertising. So the media comprises a substantial portion of the “Politico-Industrial Complex.”

How this changes I have no clue, but it’s a natural law that the larger something gets, the more unstable it gets. I’d say the next few years will see the collapse of a lot of this stuff — headlines like this one are a big reason why.

Hope it’s not just wishful thinking on my part.

10 Comments

Filed under campaign finance, Media, politics, pop culture, Stephen Colbert

The Face Of What’s Wrong With America

Anyone who can read this story, and say, “yes, this is as it should be, this is right, and good for the country,” is fucking nuts.

To recap: Republican Congresswoman Diane Black — someone I would never in a million years support, let me add — is locked in a bitter primary fight with her longtime Republican nemesis, raging Islamophobe Lou Ann Zelenik. Normally for those of us on the left this would be a “grab the popcorn” moment, but today’s paper gave me pause. Here we learned who is funding the attack ads Zelenik is running against Black: one guy named Andrew Miller Jr. He’s a “healthcare investor,” who happens to be her former finance director, and who served on the board of Zelenik’s anti-Muslim group, the Tennessee Freedom Coalition (and yes, the fact that there’s an anti-Muslim group calling itself the “Tennesse Freedom Coalition” tells you these people have descended into self-parody). Miller apparently had $260,000 collecting dust in his bank account and decided to try to buy the Republican primary. I wonder, should Zelenik win, how he expects to recoup that investment? Maybe we shouldn’t ask.

Miller was last seen trying to unseat Rep. Jim Cooper by serving as finance director for “Constitutional Conservative” (i.e., Tea Party wackadoodle) Jeff Hartline in 2010. Miller makes his money through a healthcare venture capital and private equity firm called HealthMark Ventures. And this just tells me everything I need to know about what’s wrong with our country. We’ve got a healthcare system that leaves 40 million people without insurance and denies policyholders coverage for pre-existing conditions like being a battered spouse. But there is so much money swirling around the so-called “best healthcare system in the world” that vulture capitalists like Miller are drowning in cash. Any suggestion that they should pay the tiniest bit more in taxes so people don’t have to put a pickle jar by the Mapco cash register to get their kid chemo is the worst sort of un-American affrontery.

Miller isn’t the only fly crawling over this shitpile but he’s the perfect face of it: using his profits not to create jobs, but to buy an election on behalf of an anti-Muslim hatemonger. Ain’t America grand.

8 Comments

Filed under campaign finance, healthcare, Tennessee politics

What Have I Been Saying, People?

Building on what I posted earlier today, and the point that this tsunami of campaign money ends up with broadcasters and other media outlets, I’d like to draw everyone’s attention to this:

Today a House subcommittee voted to defund a Federal Communications Commission initiative announced in April that would provide online access to spending for political ads on some local television stations. In the current election cycle, outside spending has already reached record levels, more than doubling what was spent as of the same date in 2008.

The provision, inserted into the financial services appropriations bill, would add to the uncertainty around the FCC’s political ad disclosure rule, which is in limbo. The National Association of Broadcasters, a group that represents the major broadcast media companies, sued the FCC to try to block it two weeks ago. The Office of Management and Budget has yet to approve the rule, which at the earliest would not go into effect until next month.

What have I been saying, people? It’s fine to try to go after Citizens United via a Constitutional amendment but more immediately we need to go after our broadcassters, which is where this money ends up. They want the system broken! They’re getting rich off of it! And they’re doing it on our dime, because for the most part it’s the public airwaves.

3 Comments

Filed under campaign finance, corporations, Media

When Money Is Speech Only The Rich Are Free

Well, now we know.

Not that we didn’t know already, but we now we’ve actually seen it, we know what it’s going to take. Maybe we all need to buy Powerball and MegaMillions tickets or something. Because right now our elections have been bought and paid for by a handful of super-wealthy elites and shadowy industry front groups. They bought hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of pro-Walker ads, drowning the Democrats in a river of cash.

Again I’m reminded that our political dysfunction benefits the news media, which sells campaigns the airtime and ad space. Without elections the bottom lines of our corporate television and print outlets would look a lot worse. Someone is benefiting from our political divide and it’s not the people.

We’ll figure out a way around this, we always do. Something will change, some new technology or organizing tool, Occupy 2.0, whatever. Negative political ads will cease to be effective, workers will find a new way to organize. Where we are now is not where we will be in a month, a year, five years. It never is.

(h/t, Joe My God)

[UPDATE]:

And the Democrats take control of the state senate.

[UPDATE] 2:

And oh goodie, let’s reward our media overlords even more for the political disarray they’ve created.

18 Comments

Filed under campaign finance, corporations, Wisconsin Protests

Don’t Hate The Player, Hate The Game

I’ve said this before only, like, a thousand times, but at least the hotshots in our national punditry are starting to notice:

The primaries have been great for the economy. Dimwitted billionaires are dumping money they don’t need into the campaigns of people who can’t win, providing much-needed jobs for ad-writers, poll-takers and yard-sign manufacturers.

Yes but it gets even better. It’s not just the primaries, it’s everything. We have a permanent campaign culture now, and it’s been an enormous boon to the media. You’d have to be an idiot not to connect the dots between the news coverage stoking partisan outrage about this or that thing, the e-mails flooding your inbox from political parties and advocacy groups asking for money to stop (or support) that thing, and the ads about that thing running on local, national and cable news channels. A cynic might say they’d planned it that way, and it’s just too easy to say that money is the whole problem when the media is the one who controls the message and profits from the partisanship.

Seriously, Americans need to get a new hobby.

11 Comments

Filed under 2012 presidential election, campaign finance, Media

No Doubt Just As The Founding Fathers Intended

[UPDATE]:

Gosh I hate it when I’m right about this stuff.

——————————–

Really, until we fix shit like this, there’s no point in doing anything, as far as I can tell:

Firm gives $1 million to pro-Romney group, then dissolves
Records offer no clues who was behind mystery company that donated to ‘super PAC’

By Michael Isikoff

A mystery company that pumped $1 million into a political committee backing Mitt Romney has been dissolved just months after it was formed, leaving few clues as to who was behind one of the biggest contributions yet of the 2012 presidential campaign.

The existence of the million-dollar donation — as gleaned from campaign and corporate records obtained by NBC News — provides a vivid example of how secret campaign cash is being funneled in ever more circuitous ways into the political system.

The company, W Spann LLC, was formed in March by a Boston lawyer who specializes in estate tax planning for “high net worth individuals,” according to corporate records and the lawyer’s bio on her firm’s website.

The corporate records provide no information about the owner of the firm, its address or its type of business.

Six weeks later, W Spann LLC made its million-dollar donation to Restore Our Future — a new so-called “super PAC” started by a group of former Romney political aides to boost the former Massachusetts governor’s presidential bid. It listed its address as being in a midtown Manhattan office building that has no record of such a tenant.

The Boston lawyer, Cameron Casey, dissolved the company on July 12 — two weeks before Restore Our Future made its first campaign filing of the year reporting the donation from the now-nonexistent company, the corporate records show.

Well, isn’t that just peachy. Nothing to see here … move along:

According to records obtained by NBC, W Spann LLC filed a “certificate of formation” with the Delaware Secretary of State’s Office on March 15, but provided no further information about its owners or type of business. The only address listed was that of a Wilmington registered agent service, Corporation Service Co., which provides such services for many companies. The company declines as a matter of policy to answer any questions about its clients, according to one of its agents.

W Spann then made its million-dollar contribution on April 28 and filed a “certificate of cancellation” on July 11, effectively dissolving as a corporate entity, the records show.

The “authorized person” that filed the W Spann LLC incorporation papers and then canceled them was Casey, the Boston estate tax planner lawyer, who specializes in “wealth transfer strategies” as an associate in Ropes & Gray’s Private Client Group’s trust and estate practice for high end clients, according to her biography on the Ropes & Gray’s website.

One of the Rope & Gray’s longtime clients is Bain Capital, the investment firm formerly headed by Romney. It is also one of a number of major companies — including UBS, IBM and Cemex — that have offices at 590 Madison, the address listed for W Spann.

AH. Maybe something to see here, after all. If I didn’t know better, I’d say Romney’s former company, Bain Capital, just made a $1 million donation to its founder’s presidential campaign, and it did so very secretively. That’s like Halliburton funding Dick Cheney’s campaign, or Pilot Oil funding Bill Haslam’s. That’s the problem with these CEO politicians, if you ask me: they are invariably doing the bidding of their company. It’s the United States of IBM, Oh Beautiful For Spacious ExxonMobil, From WalMart to Shining WalMart.

So, we’re off to the races, folks. The next year should be fun, fun, fun.

Comments Off on No Doubt Just As The Founding Fathers Intended

Filed under 2012 presidential election, campaign finance, Mitt Romney

>Can You Really Buy An Election?

>I’ve been pondering all of the corporate money flooding this election: the direct donations from outfits like Rupert Murdoch’s NewsCorp to the Republican Governor’s Assn., the corporate donations to groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Karl Rove’s American Crossroads, the corporate PACs, and the bazillionaire self-financed candidates. And then there are the ads from liberal groups: the Democratic campaign committees, unions, and the like. Most of the donations are going to Republican candidates, and while Democratic groups are certainly spending money — and asking for it, lord God almighty how they are asking — the GOP has been outspending Democrats significantly.

I have a couple of thoughts on this. For one thing, I have to wonder if these corporate donations are the best use of those millions. Is it really worthwhile, spending all of that money trying to get Republicans elected? Funneling all that cash to the GOP via PAC donations and Chamber donations and “grants” to corporate front groups like the American Enterprise Institute, Cato Institute and Heritage Foundation? Really? Wouldn’t it be cheaper to just deal with whatever regulation it is the Democrats supposedly want, or increase the fuel economy on the car you’re manufacturing (and which the American public wants too, I might add)? Is it really a good return on investment to spend tens of millions every two years trying to swing an election?

The general assumption is that they wouldn’t be spending this kind of money if they didn’t think it worthwhile, but let’s face it: American corporations do all sorts of crazy, stupid shit. New Gap logo, anyone?

(And here’s another thought: if the majority of Americans really believed in Free Market Fairies and the tyranny of Big Government and the dangers of the deficit, would they really need to spend so much money selling us these ideas?)

Maybe it was a smart expenditure before the good ol’ days of Citizens United, when we weren’t talking about so many zeroes on every campaign donation and every Karl Rove and Karl Rove wannabe didn’t have his or her hand out demanding money for this or that organization, PAC, think tank, foundation, etc. I mean, seriously. Wouldn’t you people rather be expanding your factories and hiring people with that money or something? Or giving yourselves fat bonuses?

Just wondering.

Here’s something else. It’s looking like $2 billion will be spent on campaigns this election, a record for a midterm election. We’ve all been griping about the money coming from foreign sources but nobody ever finishes the sentence: no one stops to think where this money is going. The vast majority of it is going to buy television air time.

Elections are a media cash cow, from the ad agencies making the buys to the cable, network and local television stations cashing the checks. Where is all of this Chamber of Commerce and American Crossroads money going? Straight to Fox News, MSNBC, CNN, CBS, ABC, NBC and the rest.

Well no wonder campaign finance reform and public financing of elections never got off the ground. No wonder our news information sucks. Who stands to benefit from an undecided voting public, an electoral horse race in every district, hotly contested primaries orchestrated by a media-created Tea Party “movement”? I mean, think about it.

Since I started writing this post this morning I have received seven solicitations for political donations and one phone call. Swear to God. Here’s one from the DCCC:

There are just hours left before our most critical deadline of the election. The amount of money in the bank tonight determines tomorrow’s television spending — this is the FINAL time we can make adjustments to our ad buy for the final week.

Enough already, people. I have just one question for the DCCC, Organizing For America, the Chamber of Commerce, and everyone else with skin in this game: do TV ads even work anymore? Other than getting a candidate’s name and image out there, of course, but does anyone think they will sway a voter’s opinion on a candidate?

For years we’ve been hearing that product marketers are getting away from traditional ad buys to things like “guerilla marketing” and “branding.” Consumers have been assaulted with advertising for decades and I think we’re all savvy enough to assume the information in a television ad is going to be bullshit. Just because Tide says its detergent is the most fabulous thing out there doesn’t mean anyone believes it. Why would anyone think we believe political campaign ads?

Here’s what’s interesting to me: there are thousands of people who believe Barack Obama is a Muslim of Kenyan birth. I don’t recall seeing one television ad telling people that information, yet somehow it managed to spread around the country anyway.

Interesting.

I’m not the only one questioning the dubious effectiveness of all this campaign advertising. As I was wondering these things I happened across this post over at Gin And Tacos which pretty much articulates my own thoughts on the subject. Ed writes:

Accordingly, asking whether money matters is essentially asking if advertising matters. Much like money, advertising has a threshold beyond which its marginal effects are indistinguishable from zero. There are different schools of thought on this issue, but my personal bias favors the argument that the threshold is very, very low. Advertising is good for name recognition and not much else. As you sit through the barrage of TV commercials for this year’s candidates, ask yourself who is actually persuaded by any of this crap. Individuals’ own preferences and partisan predispositions are an effective screen; in other words, any message from the opposite party is heavily discounted if not ignored altogether. If you’re a Republican, you’re going to tell yourself that anything in the Democrats’ commercials is untrue and untrustworthy anyway.

Naturally, Republican ads are discounted by Democratic voters, and please show me the independent/undecided voter who is actually swayed by a campaign ad featuring the Scary Voiced Announcer Dude and Soaring Chorus when Candidate X appears on screen?

The only people campaign advertising makes a difference to is the people selling the air time. And it makes a huge difference to them. It will continue to make a difference to them until the candidates and campaigns themselves decide TV advertising isn’t effective. When that happens, the local and national networks will have a huge sad. Maybe as big of a sad as the one we’ll see by the RSCC, RCCC, DSCC, DCCC, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and every other group with their hand out seeking donations for ad buys that we could all do without.

Then and only then will this highway robbery come to an end and maybe we can have some sane political campaigns.

23 Comments

Filed under advertising, campaign finance, media, midterm elections