American elections feature an epic struggle between actual people trying to express their views in the face of fictional "people" (i.e., Corporations) trying to buy influence. I want to highlight topics such as corrupt money in politics, campaign lies and dishonesty, voter suppression.
Excerpt from article by DAN Dan Eggen and T.W. Farnam, Washington Post
Obama, whose fundraising juggernaut in 2008 became political legend, has had a harder time raising money this time and has been outraised by Romney for two straight months. The presumptive Republican nominee and affiliated party committees had $170 million cash on hand at the end of June, compared with $147 million for Obama and the Democrats.
Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton were outraised by their challengers, but Obama campaign officials say they are particularly worried because of an influx of money from conservative groups that can amass unlimited amounts. Last week, for example, the Obama operation spent twice as much as Romney on advertising but was still outspent by $1.9 million when independent groups were added to the mix, according to data from Kantar Media/CMAG.
The reports filed Friday reflect two distinct fundraising approaches: Obama relies more heavily on smaller contributions and keeps most of his cash under the control of his campaign, while Romney focuses more on high-dollar donors and has most of his money stashed at the Republican National Committee.
Even so, Romney was able to increase the amount he raised from small donors, considered an important measure of grass-roots support. In June, his campaign and the RNC raised 22 percent of their money from donors who gave less than $200 at a time, up from 14 percent a month earlier. That’s still less than half the rate of Obama and the Democratic National Committee, which have raised 47 percent of their money from such donors.
Obama on Friday identified more than 100 new fundraisers in the second quarter who had bundled together $50,000 or more in contributions. The full list includes 638 bundlers who have raised at least $143 million for the campaign and the DNC, records show. Romney has not released a list of his bundlers. [MORE]
Senate Republicans on Thursday blocked the No.1 item on the president's congressional "to-do-list," refusing to allow a vote on a bill that would give tax breaks for companies that "insource" jobs to the U.S.
Defending his role in the Citizens United case that opened the floodgates to overwhelming spending by corporate interests, Justice Scalia said there is nothing to fear from unlimited political spending in elections -- so long as the American people know where the money is coming from.
But, the GOP is blocking the Disclose Act that would provide the people with that information. If we can't have disclosure, then even the purported intellectual underpinnings of Citizens United crumble.
by DAVID BORRIS, Main Street Alliance for THE HILL
I’ve been a small business owner for more than 25 years. So it’s fair to say I’ve been around the block. I also happen to live in the Chicago metro area, so I know a thing or two about hard-nosed politics.
But even so, the brazen defense of secret political spending we’ve just witnessed in the U.S. Senate with the filibuster of the DISCLOSE Act still made my jaw drop. It’s hard for me to grasp how anyone who believes in free and fair competition would be against this basic level of transparency.
My wife and I pooled our life savings 27 years ago to take our shot at the American Dream. We started our catering business in 900 square feet with two employees and a handful of our mothers’ recipes. Through hard work and commitment – both our own and that of a dedicated staff – we’ve built a thriving business. Today we have 27 full-time, year-round employees, and over 80 part-time and seasonal workers.
I’m proud of what we’ve done and the role we play as job creators. I believe our country needs public policies that lay the foundation for more small business success stories like ours. Defending secrecy in political spending won’t do that.
The explosion of secret money in our elections leaves small businesses like mine at a severe disadvantage. I don’t have a line item in my budget for “independent expenditure” political ads. When big corporate entities and their CEOs dump millions of dollars into elections, there’s no way for small business owners like me to keep up.
Look, I’m a realist. I know that to be successful I have to deal regularly with big corporate interests. Some are direct competitors. Others are vendors, insurance companies, and big banks. I welcome the challenges that come with this – that’s why I chose to be a part of entrepreneurial America. But I want to face these challenges on a level playing field.
Dark money organizations and secret political spending make a mockery of that level playing field idea. They drown out the voices of Main Street and they corrupt and warp public policy to the benefit of narrow special interests. [MORE]
When Hillary and McCain ran against Obama in 2008, they chose not to focus on his race, strange name or unusual background. The Romney campaign apparently has concluded that that is why those candidates lost. Romney has sharply diverged from his best argument for the Presidency (jobs and the economy) and is now attempting to instill fear that O is "the other."
Yesterday, top Romney spokesperson John Sununu said the President should "learn how to be an American," which Cuban-born Sununu believed O needed lessons on because he spent some childhood years in Hawaii and Indonesia. Romney himself today repeatedly said O's beliefs were extraordinarily "foreign."
As this LATimes article points out, these charges have obvious ties to issues of race, birther and Muslim conspiracies and the facts that O's father was an immigrant and his step-father was Indonesian. The campaign's underlying message, whether overt or implicit, is that only white Christians are "real" Americans.
I am personally nauseated and insulted by these attacks. But I believe in the core values of America. I predict that Romney's attempt to scare Americans into fearing those of other races, religions or ancestries will backfire, and that they will choose to support the candidate who embodies the American dream. We shall see.
"I hope that the Senate will stand four square behind disclosure and sunlight and against the uncheck process of these [outside] electioneering ads that have certainly I think transformed the political landscape in ways that we could not possibly desire or embrace," thundered Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME), in a speech imploring her colleagues to vote on an amendment to force campagin disclosure. But that was eleven years ago, during debate over McCain-Feingold campaign finance legislation.
Last night, Senator Snowe, along with every single Republican US Senator, voted to filibuster the Disclose Act, a legislative item designed to add transparency in the post–Citizens United campaign finance landscape. The Disclose Act accomplishes essentially the exact same goal as Snowe's amendment over a decade ago. But her party has changed, and she along with it. I used C-SPAN’s archives to pull together a quick video showing half a dozen GOP senators giving impassioned speeches in support of full campaign transparency. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the leader of the opposition to any new campaign disclosure, as the Washington Post has noted, once supported providing transparency for outside money groups. Here are six senators who voted last night to kill the Disclos Act—Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Snowe, Thad Cochran (R-MS), McConnell, Pat Roberts (R-KS)—all speaking out on behalf of disclosure over a decade ago.
“Campaign finance reform used to be an arena where Democrats and Republicans could find common ground,” said Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) on the floor this morning. Indeed, the GOP once supported unlimited spending and full campaign transparency. Now that Citizens United has allowed unrestrained corporate, individual and union donations in elections, the party has flipped, voting lock-step for secrecy.
The US Chamber of Commerce, Crossroads GPS, Americans for Prosperity and other 501(c)s have concealed hundreds of millions in corporate and individual donations to run ads since the Supreme Court decision. The GOP, knowing full well that these groups boost Republican and big-business candidates, are now firmly against any effort to add disclosure. The Chamber’s lobbyists are so concerned about disclosure, that one even compared going to war with the Obama administration on the issue to killing Qaddafi. "We will fight it through all available means,” the Chamber’s Bruce Josten told the New York Times. Referencing the effort to depose Libya’s leader, Muammar Qaddafi, Josten said, “To quote what they say every day on Libya, all options are on the table.”
And McConnell knows full well about the benefits of secrecy. Though he has suggested to the press that he’s afraid of donors being “intimidated” through exposure, he’s probably more motivated by pure partisan advantage. His former chief of staff, Steven Law, is the head of Crossroads GPS, the well-funded 501(c)(4) group that is dedicated largely to electing more GOP members to the US Senate. [MORE]
<<By a lopsided 80 percent to 12 percent, voters polled said they believe members of Congress are more interested in helping themselves get re-elected when they design campaign finance laws than they are in improving the system. Seems that voters don't trust politicians to make the rules by which they themselves are hired and fired. ***
In terms of possible campaign reforms, voters have clear views:
88 percent think that all political campaign contributions and expenditures should be publicly disclosed. Over four-fifths of Republicans, Democrats, and independents are in agreement on this issue.>>
Yet, GOP has blocked the most basic of reforms, the Disclose Act, which would only require the very largest donors to be exposed to public scrutiny so that we could, at least, know who is trying to buy our votes.
To combat calls by both Dems and Repubs for Romney's tax returns, the Tea Party Nation head demands that O rebut a convicted con artist and release college transcripts. In so doing, he falls back on dog whistle racism. Crack? Well, you how black people like crack. O got into Harvard? Couldn't have been his intelligence; must have been because he's black.
Of course, not all Tea Partiers are racist. But when the leaders are, you can't credibly deny that there is a substantial racist element in their midst.
<<I was born in the Displaced Persons camp of Bergen-Belsen in Germany in 1948. From the day I became a naturalized US citizen, I have been as much an American as anyone. *** It is depressingly disconcerting, therefore, to hear the cacophony of voices from the political right accusing the President of the United States of not being "American," of being somehow foreign.>>
Paul Weyrich, father of the right-wing movement and co-founder of the Heritage Foundation, Moral Majority and various other groups admits, "I don't want everybody to vote" because higher turn out decreases conservatives' leverage.
Sad that a political leader hates democracy so much.
Politicians required to play by the rules, to openly confess that their loyalty has been purchased and forced to identify the highest bidders, could not possibly survive. So they must bend the rules to conceal their transactions.
Ed Gillespie, a senior adviser to Mitt Romney’s campaign, went on CNN yesterday to explain the circumstances surrounding the former governor’s departure from his position at Bain Capital. Gillespie settled the controversy by saying that Romney left Bain and went to work at the Salt Lake City Olympics in 1999 and then “retired retroactively” from Bain in 2002. This explanation has met with criticism and ridicule.
The criticism of Romney is especially unjust because, after all, he has retroactively retired from other jobs besides the one he held at Bain Capital—Governor of Massachusetts, for instance. During his term in office, Romney sponsored a health-care law with an individual mandate. As Romney said when he signed the law, on April 13, 2006, “Today, Massachusetts is leading the way with health insurance for everyone.” Later, when he began running for the Republican nomination for President, he retroactively retired from that position and said, “what works in one state may not be the answer for another.” Romney thus has a record of consistency in his commitment to retroactive retirement. (Ryan Lizza has written about his mastery of the technique.) [Read More.]
Here's a rarity: a Republican who embraces a key part of Obamacare -- the state insurance exchanges which, as former Majority Leader Bill Frist reminds us, was a Republican idea. He points out that one of the great things about Obamacare is that it lets each state design its own program (e.g., conservative one founded by former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman vs. single payer system that Vermont is heading toward).
<<Probably the best chance we have as citizens genuinely united requires two steps.
First, we have to demand that candidates of both parties for the House and Senate sign a pledge to pass the Fair Elections bill in January 2013. Second, we must insist on a similar pledge from both national and state legislative candidates that they will vote for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and to declare that only voters with beating hearts constitute people for the purposes of elections — even if it takes having stethoscopes at every polling station to make sure no corporation tries to slip in as a person. Voters could then refuse to re-elect candidates who reneged on their pledges, irrespective of party.
Without the issue of campaign financing resolved, nothing else matters.>>
From the Executive Summary: <<The result is plain: Voter ID laws will make it harder for hundreds of thousands of poor Americans to vote. They place a serious burden on a core constitutional right that should be universally available to every American citizen.
This November, restrictive voter ID states will provide 127 electoral votes — nearly half of the 270 needed to win the presidency. Therefore, the ability of eligible citizens without photo ID to obtain one could have a major influence on the outcome of the 2012 election.>>