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“Feigning Outrage”: Outraised By Grimes, McConnell Rethinks Money-As-Speech

Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D) has once again outraised Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) in their 2014 Senate race — and all of a sudden, McConnell no longer seems so enthusiastic about the use of money as free speech.

In the first three months of 2014, Grimes raised $2.7 million, edging McConnell’s $2.4 million haul. McConnell still holds a decisive financial advantage in the race; his campaign has almost $10.4 million in cash on hand, more than double Grimes’ total.

That said, McConnell’s campaign has already spent more than $7 million in the 2014 election, only to see a slight decline in his polling numbers. And it seems that the new fundraising totals have made the Republican leader’s campaign defensive.

“The very same ultra-rich liberal elite who bankrolled Barack Obama into the White House are pulling out all the stops for Alison Lundergan Grimes,” spokeswoman Allison Moore told the Louisville Courier-Journal. “Kentuckians know darn well her entire campaign is funded by those who seek to destroy Kentucky values and our way of life and the only way they can accomplish that is by getting rid of the man responsible for stopping them, Mitch McConnell.”

Moore’s implication — that Grimes is wrong for taking money from wealthy out-of-state donors — is rather ironic, considering that few politicians raise money from the “ultra-rich elite” better than McConnell does. According to the Wall Street Journal, as of December 31, 80 percent of McConnell’s campaign contributions came from donors outside of Kentucky (good for a total of more than $9.3 million). And the top donors to his campaign committee — which include Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, and Goldman Sachs — don’t exactly scream “Kentucky values.”

McConnell has also benefited from outside groups that have jumped directly into the race; $3.4 million has already been spent in support of the Republican, according to GOP ad-tracking firm SMG Delta.

Although McConnell’s campaign is now feigning outrage that Grimes has raised big sums from “Obama’s liberal Hollywood friends” like Jeffrey Katzenberg, the senator is generally one of the nation’s most outspoken defenders of outside money in politics. In 2012, McConnell led the opposition to the DISCLOSE Act, which would have required political groups to disclose campaign contributions of more than $10,000. At the time, the minority leader argued that full disclosure could be used as a “political weapon,” enabling the government to unleash “harassment and intimidation tactics” against those who donate to opposition candidates.

Today, it appears that McConnell would like to turn the weapon against the “liberal elite” backing Grimes.

 

By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, April 16, 2014

April 18, 2014 Posted by | Campaign Financing, Mitch Mc Connell | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Mitch McConnell Has Your Back”: Conservative Billionaires Oppressed By Liberal Thugs

Fear not, billionaire super PAC and 501(c)(4) funders. You may feel oppressed, you may fear the pitchforks and torches of the unwashed masses gathering at the gate of your manse, you may wake in the night in a cold sweat and bellow to your footman, “Dare I give Paul Ryan $10 million for his 2016 presidential race, lest some bearded plebian pen a vicious blog post aimed at my very heart?” If nothing else, Mitch McConnell has your back.

Today, McConnell takes to the pages of The Washington Post to defend the right of America’s millionaires and billionaires to pour their funds into campaigns while remaining anonymous. Those with long memories may recall that when the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law was being debated, McConnell and others said that the answer to the problem of money and politics was disclosure: Let the wealthy give as much as they want, but disclose contributions quickly, and with everything out in the open we could forestall the possibility of corruption. But with McCain-Feingold safely struck down and Citizens United inaugurating a new dawn of American liberty, disclosure is now McConnell’s enemy:

These tactics are straight out of the left-wing playbook: Expose your opponents to public view, release the liberal thugs and hope the public pressure or unwanted attention scares them from supporting causes you oppose. This is what the administration has done through federal agencies such as the FCC and the FEC, and it’s what proponents of the Disclose Act plan to do with donor and member lists.

The fearsome “liberal thugs” notwithstanding, this gets to the heart of democracy’s messiness. You can have a political system where everyone is unfailingly polite to each other, or you can have a system where people are free to express their views, but you can’t have both. By choosing to have a democracy, we make a series of bargains. We enshrine freedom of religion, even though we know that means people who believe in idiotic faiths (i.e. those different from our own) will be able to practice them, too. We create a system of due process, even though that means guilty people, even monstrous people, will be given fair trials with at least the possibility of getting off. And we defend freedom of speech, knowing that that means we’ll have to tolerate the voicing of abhorrent ideas, not to mention Two and a Half Men and the career of will.i.am.

And if our election rules will allow the Sheldon Adelsons of the world to put millions behind their favorite candidate—something which, by the way, residents of most of the world’s democracies find beyond absurd—it isn’t too much to ask that if you choose to use your enormous wealth to attempt to shift the outcome of elections, if nothing else the public should know who you are. That way we’ll know whom our elected officials are indebted to. And yes, there is a price to pay for that participation: people might say you’re wrong, or even call you a jerk. Money is speech, you say? Well freedom of speech means the right to say whatever you want, not the right to be immune from criticism. It’s amazing how often conservatives can’t see the difference.

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, May 23, 2013

May 24, 2013 Posted by | Campaign Financing, Democracy | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Contempt For The Mainstream”: Republican Platform Deletes All Memory Of Moderation

The campaign platform adopted by the Republican party this week became instantly notorious for its plunge to the right, deleting all memory of moderation in previous years. The document might be even more remarkable, however, for its tone of utter defiance.

No one expected the party to soften its support for gun rights, even after the Aurora shooting. But despite the national horror at the deaths of 12 people and the injuries to 58 others, Republicans deliberately added a plank to this year’s platform intended to inflame the gun debate.

As the Associated Press reports, the platform contains this new line: “We oppose legislation that is intended to restrict our Second Amendment rights by limiting the capacity of clips or magazines.” High-capacity magazines, which allow attackers to shoot more people quickly, without reloading, were used in both in Aurora and in the Tucson shooting that injured the former congresswoman Gabby Giffords and killed six. There is no Second Amendment right to shoot without reloading, and even many supporters of the right to bear arms oppose the easy availability of big clips, which used to be illegal.

The platform also supports the “stand your ground” laws that played a role in the shooting of an unarmed black teenager in Florida earlier this year. Where the 2008 platform said that citizens have the right to a gun at home for self-defense, the new one adds a line supporting “the fundamental right to self-defense wherever a law-abiding citizen has a legal right to be.”

On another contentious issue, the platform reverses course on disclosure of political donors, sticking a thumb in the eye of previous generations of Republicans who believed that full disclosure was the antidote to unlimited contributions. As Paul Blumenthal of the Huffington Post reported today, earlier platforms going back to 1996 supported full disclosure, but the current version says exactly the opposite.

“We oppose any restrictions or conditions that would discourage Americans from exercising their constitutional right to enter the political fray or limit their commitment to their ideals,” the document says, explaining why it opposes passage of the Disclose Act, which would end the use of secret donations fueling so many of this year’s attack ads.

After the Citizens United decision, Republicans realized they would gain a huge financial advantage if corporations and executives were allowed to give unlimited sums without fear of public embarrassment. Led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, they constructed a First-Amendment theory to fit this benefit, saying that secrecy protects free speech (for corporations) without worry of harassment.

Now the party has enshrined that political greed and expediency in its fundamental declaration of principles. Although “principles” seems too high-minded a word for these statements of contempt for the mainstream.

 

By: David Firestone, The New York Times Opinion Pages, August 30, 2012

September 1, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“What Do They Have To Hide?”: Romney, The Senate GOP And the Right-Wing Secrecy Machine

Yesterday, Senate Republicans voted, for a second time in two days, to continue their filibuster of the DISCLOSE Act, a bill that would simply require outside groups spending money on elections to tell the public where their money comes from. At the same time, not surprisingly, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is in hot water for failing to disclose more than the minimum of personal tax returns and lying about his history at the company that made his fortune — all while we know that a portion of his wealth was hidden in infamously secretive Swiss bank accounts.

Senate Republicans and Romney are spending a lot of time and energy this week to keep their financial histories secret. It’s only natural to ask: What do they have to hide?

You would think the DISCLOSE Act would be an easy bill to pass. In fact, many Republican Senators were “for it before they were against it“. What it does is simple: it requires any organization — corporation, union, super PAC or non-profit — that spends money influencing elections to report within a day any election-related expenditure of $10,000 or more. It also requires that these organizations make public the names of the individuals and corporations contributing $10,000 or more to fund this election spending. In short, all those front groups that have been pouring money into elections since Citizens United will have to disclose who their major donors are. Voters would know who was trying to tell them what.

This is not a partisan issue. Disclosure requirements, like those in the DISCLOSE Act, were endorsed as constitutional by the Supreme Court majority that handed down Citizens United. Even the conservative justices who saw no problem with more money in politics assumed that disclosure would be a check on the integrity of the election process.

But Republicans in Congress have been fighting tooth and nail to keep DISCLOSE from the books. Why? The fact that they might not want to publicize the motives of some of these super donors, and the fact that the new flood of outside political spending overwhelmingly favors conservatives, might have something to do with it.

Meanwhile, Mitt Romney is having disclosure problems of his own. It’s standard practice for presidential candidates to release their past tax returns — President Obama has made public his returns from the past dozen years. Even Romney called on his gubernatorial opponents in Massachusetts to release their returns. (In a classic Romney flip-flop, when he was later asked to hold himself to the same standard, he said his original demands had been wrong).

The only conclusion to draw from Romney’s tax-return reticence is that there’s something he doesn’t want us to see. The recent revelations that Romney has told conflicting stories about when he left his job at Bain Capital might give us a taste of what he’s kept hidden. And hiding part of his fortune in tax havens like the Cayman Islands and in Swiss bank accounts that have for centuries epitomized financial secrecy doesn’t help.

The issue of financial disclosure isn’t a sideshow to this election — it’s a big part of what this election is about. How can we trust senators who spend more time covering up the sources of election spending on their behalf than they do legislating? How can we trust a candidate who won’t be open and honest with voters about the source of his personal fortune and the taxes he has paid?

Full disclosure should be a no-brainer in honest politics. The public knows that. Even the Supreme Court knows that. The only people who seem to be missing the message are the politicians who are desperately trying to win elections without telling voters who might be buying them.

 

By: Michael B. Keegan, The Blog, The Huffington Post, July 18, 2012

 

 

July 20, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Perfect Storm”: The Selling Of American Democracy

Who’s buying our democracy? Wall Street financiers, the Koch brothers, and casino magnates Sheldon Adelson and Steve Wynn.

And they’re doing much of it in secret.

It’s a perfect storm:

The greatest concentration of wealth in more than a century — courtesy “trickle-down” economics, Reagan and Bush tax cuts, and the demise of organized labor.

Combined with…

Unlimited political contributions — courtesy of Republican-appointed Justices Roberts, Scalia, Alito, Thomas, and Kennedy, in one of the dumbest decisions in Supreme Court history, “Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission,” along with lower-court rulings that have expanded it.

Combined with…

Complete secrecy about who’s contributing how much to whom — courtesy of a loophole in the tax laws that allows so-called non-profit “social welfare” organizations to accept the unlimited contributions for hard-hitting political ads.

Put them all together and our democracy is being sold down the drain.

With a more equitable and traditional distribution of wealth, far more Americans would have a fair chance of influencing politics. As the great jurist Louis Brandeis once said, “we can have a democracy or we can have great wealth in the hands of a comparative few, but we cannot have both.”

Alternatively, inequality wouldn’t be as much of a problem if we had strict laws limiting political spending or, at the very least, disclosing who was contributing what.

But we have an almost unprecedented concentration of wealth and unlimited political spending and secrecy.

I’m not letting Democrats off the hook. Democratic candidates are still too dependent on Wall Street casino moguls and real casino magnates (Steve Wynn has been a major contributor to Harry Reid, for example). George Soros and a few others have poured big bucks into Democratic coffers. So have a handful of trade unions.

But make no mistake. Compared to what the GOP is doing this year, Democrats are conducting a high-school bake sale. The mega-selling of American democracy is a Republican invention, and Romney and the GOP are its major beneficiaries.

And the losers aren’t just Democrats. They’re the American people.

You need to make a ruckus. Don’t fall into the seductive trap of cynicism. That’s what the sellers of American democracy are counting on. If you give up on our system of government, they win everything.

This coming Monday, for example, the Senate has scheduled a cloture vote on the DISCLOSE ACT, which would at least require that outfits like the Chamber of Commerce and Karl Rove’s “Crossroads GPS” disclose who’s contributing what. Contact your senators, and have your friends and relatives in other states — especially those with Republican senators (who have been united in their opposition to disclosure) — contact theirs. If the DISCLOSE ACT is voted down, hold accountable those senators (and, when and if it gets to the House, those House members) who are selling out our democracy for the sake of their own personal ambitions.

 

By: Robert Reich, The Robert Reich Blog, July 13, 2012

July 16, 2012 Posted by | Democracy | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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