October 31, 2010

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by John Wellington Ennis | Huffington Post

Karl Rove was served with a subpoena Sunday, Oct. 24th, 2010, as he arrived at CBS studios to appear on “Face the Nation.” The subpoena was to compel Rove to provide a deposition in a lawsuit that stems from the 2004 election in Ohio. Despite the fact that news crews from CBS and CNN taped Rove being served, neither have reported it or aired the footage.

I sat down with the attorneys who issued the subpoena, Clifford Arnebeck and Bob Fitrakis, who explained how their suit reached this point and what Mr. Rove’s legal obligations are, considering his aversion to appearing under oath.

[Read more]

October 29, 2010

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By JULIE CARR SMYTH | Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – A handful of McDonald’s employees in northeastern Ohio received handbills in their most recent paychecks suggesting they vote for three Republican candidates.

“If the right people are elected we will be able to continue with raises and benefits at or above our present levels,” the insert said. “If others are elected we will not.”

The fast food chain’s corporate headquarters in Oak Brook, Ill., quickly condemned the action by Canton franchisee Paul Siegfried, saying it violated company policy. Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, the Democratic elections chief, said she was launching an investigation because the action appeared to violate Ohio election laws.  [Read more]

October 29, 2010

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By Jay Heflin | The Hill

American business leaders are concerned about the pressure they feel to donate to political campaigns and the influx of large, undisclosed donations to third-party political organizations that are not required to disclose their sources of funding, according to a new Zogby poll commissioned by the Committee for Economic Development (CED).

The survey found that 60 percent of the over 300 business leaders polled say there is pressure to contribute to political efforts.

Seventy-seven percent of respondents believe that corporations should disclose all of their direct and indirect political expenditures, including money provided to third-party organizations to be spent on campaign ads.   [Read more]

October 29, 2010

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Public Citizen | Issue #36 • October 29, 2010

We hope you enjoy this issue of Public Citizen’s e-newsletter about the intersection of money and politics. This is part of the campaign we developed following the disastrous Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which allows corporations to spend unlimited amounts supporting or attacking political candidates. We’ll update you regularly with select news stories and blog posts, legislative developments and ways to get involved.

Stunning Statistics of the Week:

  • 149: Number of independent groups that have spent money to influence this year’s elections (according to Federal Election Commission (FEC) reports through Oct. 25)
  • $176.1 million: Amount those groups have spent on the midterms
  • 10: Number of groups responsible for the bulk of that spending
  • 59.9 percent: The percentage of that money that comes from undisclosed sources   [Read more]

October 27, 2010

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by Michael B. Keegan | People For the American Way

On Sunday, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele took to the airwaves with his party’s twin messages of corporate pandering and denial.

It was a remarkable performance.

Asked by Meet the Press host David Gregory if he was worried about the unprecedented amount of undisclosed special interest money being spent in this election, Steele answered, “I don’t know what they’re talking about. No one’s produced one shred of evidence that any of that is happening.”

Steele then proceeded to explain that he doesn’t have any evidence of secretive corporate spending in elections because organizations doing such spending aren’t required to disclose their donors:  [Read more]

October 27, 2010

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Companies and unions have been able to avoid the transparency called for in the court’s landmark ruling. Spending on next week’s midterm election has been exorbitant.

By David G. Savage | Chicago Tribune

The Supreme Court sent a wave of corporate and union money flooding into campaign ads this year, but it did so with the promise that the public would know — almost instantly — who was paying for them.

“With the advent of the Internet, prompt disclosure of expenditures can provide shareholders and citizens with the information needed to hold corporations and elected officials accountable for their positions,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote in January. “This transparency enables the electorate to make informed decisions and give proper weight to different speakers and messages.”

But Kennedy and the high court majority were wrong. Because of loopholes in tax laws and a weak enforcement policy at the Federal Election Commission, corporations and wealthy donors have been able to spend huge sums on campaign ads, confident the public will not know who they are, election law experts say.

Corporate donors have been able to hide their contributions despite the opposition of shareholders and customers — the very groups cited by Kennedy.   [Read more]

October 27, 2010

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By Fredreka Schouten | USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — Democratic Rep. Dina Titus has outraised her Republican challenger, Nevada physician Joe Heck, by more than $1 million.

But the millions collected by the candidates in their battle to represent Las Vegas still fall well short of the nearly $6.8 million that special-interest groups and political parties have pumped into the race, making it one of the House contests attracting the most outside spending. Much of the money is flowing into negative advertising.  [Read more]

October 26, 2010

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By JIM KUHNHENN | Associated Press

WASHINGTON – A year ago, two top Republican strategists sat down for lunch at the venerable Mayflower Hotel, five blocks from the White House, calculating how to exploit the voter anger they had seen erupt at Democratic town hall meetings that summer.

Today, the money-raising success of the GOP-allied attack led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Karl Rove-inspired American Crossroads has stunned opponents and even its own architects. It’s one big slice of the estimated $3.5 billion expected to be spent on this year’s campaigning, a record for a midterm election.

Financed to a great degree by undisclosed donors — and helped by a new Supreme Court ruling — the deep-pocketed groups have become a dominant part of this election’s narrative. They have reversed past pre-eminence by Democratic outside groups. And they have become a prototype for elections to come.

Their effort has been a major factor in the $264 million in spending so far in this election by outside groups — organizations separate from the political parties and candidates.   [Read more]

October 26, 2010

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By Kate Sheppard | Mother Jones

As we reported earlier, European companies are using political action committees to spend quite a bit on lawmakers who have blocked climate legislation in the Senate. But as Wonk Room reported over the weekend, foreign oil and gas interests have also directed quite a bit of cash to the US Chamber of Commerce, which is running a $75 million campaign focused on ousting congressional Democrats.

Wonk Room notes that a number of foreign oil and gas companies pay their member dues to the Chamber of Commerce’s 501c(6) account, which is the same account that funds its political ads. Those ads have included attacks on Democratic incumbents for supporting the House cap-and-trade bill (a.k.a. the “job-killing energy tax”)—folks like Joe Sestak (D-Penn.), a House member currently running for Senate, and Reps. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) and Betsy Markey (D-Colo.). Among the groups paying into this electoral war chest, and the interests they represent:

– Avantha Group, India (at least $7,500 in annual member dues): power plants
– The Bahrain Petroleum Company, Kingdom of Bahrain ($5,000): state-owned oil campany
– Gulf Petrochemical Industries Company, Kingdom of Bahrain ($5,000): state-owned oil company
– Essar Group, Mumbai, India ($7,500): oil & gas, coal power
– GMR, Bangalore, India ($15,000): coal power, mining
– Hinduja Group, London, UK ($15,000): the Gulf Oil group
– Jindal Power, New Delhi, India ($15,000): coal power
– Lahmeyer International, Frankfurt, Germany ($7,500): power plant engineering
– Punj Lloyd, Gurgaon, India ($15,000): offshore pipelines
– Reliance Industries, Mumbai, India ($15,000): oil and gas, petrochemicals
– SNC Lavalin, Montreal, Canada ($7,500): mining, power plant, and oil & gas engineering
– Tata Group, Mumbai, India ($15,000): power plants, oil & gas
– Walchandnagar Industries, Mumbai, India ($7,500): power plant, oil & gas engineering
– Welspun, Mumbai, India ($7,500): oil & gas exploration

[Read more]

October 22, 2010

By Michael A. Fletcher | Washington Post

For nearly two decades, Lillian McEwen has been silent — a part of history, yet absent from it.

When Anita Hill accused Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment during his explosive 1991 Supreme Court confirmation hearing, Thomas vehemently denied the allegations and his handlers cited his steady relationship with another woman in an effort to deflect Hill’s allegations.

Lillian McEwen was that woman.

At the time, she was on good terms with Thomas. The former assistant U.S. attorney and Senate Judiciary Committee counsel had dated him for years, even attending a March 1985 White House state dinner as his guest. She had worked on the Hill and was wary of entering the political cauldron of the hearings. She was never asked to testify, as then-Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.), who headed the committee, limited witnesses to women who had a “professional relationship” with Thomas.

Now, she says that Thomas often said inappropriate things about women he met at work — and that she could have added her voice to the others, but didn’t.    [Read more]

October 22, 2010

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by Harry Hanbury  |  GRIT TV

“The chamber’s increasingly aggressive role — including record spending in the midterm elections that supports Republicans more than 90 percent of the time — has made it a target of critics, including a few local chamber affiliates who fear it has become too partisan and hard-nosed in its fund-raising.”

So reports a headline story in the New York Times yesterday about the Chamber of Commerce’s increasingly secretive and partisan fundraising and lobbying efforts. The Chamber, once an institution that supported small and family businesses, increasingly does the bidding of a few large corporations, and in the first part of our GRITtv Digs investigation, Harry Hanbury starts to open up the Chamber’s secrets for you.

Want to see more investigations  like this from us? Let us know, and send us your support!

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October 22, 2010

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Public Citizen |  Issue #35 • October 22, 2010

We hope you enjoy this issue of Public Citizen’s e-newsletter about the intersection of money and politics. This is part of the campaign we developed following the disastrous Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which allows corporations to spend unlimited amounts supporting or attacking political candidates. We’ll update you regularly with select news stories and blog posts, legislative developments and ways to get involved.

Stunning Statistics of the Week:

  • $7 million: Amount Republican donor Bob J. Perry, who helped finance the Swift Boat Veterans campaign against presidential candidate John Kerry, has given to the conservative group American Crossroads for the upcoming election
  • $4.8 million: Amount given to American Crossroads by Robert Rowling, CEO of a company whose holdings include Omni Hotels
  • $15 million: Amount American Crossroads raised in 43 days
  • $24.1 million: Amount American Crossroads has raised this year

[Read more]

October 21, 2010

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By ERIC LIPTON, MIKE McINTIRE & DON VAN NATTA Jr. | New York Times

Prudential Financial sent in a $2 million donation last year as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce kicked off a national advertising campaign to weaken the historic rewrite of the nation’s financial regulations.

Dow Chemical delivered $1.7 million to the chamber last year as the group took a leading role in aggressively fighting proposed rules that would impose tighter security requirements on chemical facilities.

United States Chamber of Commerce logo.

And Goldman Sachs, Chevron Texaco, and Aegon, a multinational insurance company based in the Netherlands, donated more than $8 million in recent years to a chamber foundation that has been critical of growing federal regulation and spending. These large donations — none of which were publicly disclosed by the chamber, a tax-exempt group that keeps its donors secret, as it is allowed by law — offer a glimpse of the chamber’s money-raising efforts, which it has ramped up recently in an orchestrated campaign to become one of the most well-financed critics of the Obama administration and an influential player in this fall’s Congressional elections.

They suggest that the recent allegations from President Obama and others that foreign money has ended up in the chamber’s coffers miss a larger point: The chamber has had little trouble finding American companies eager to enlist it, anonymously, to fight their political battles and pay handsomely for its help.     [Read more]

October 21, 2010

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by Sam Stein  |  Huffington Post

The publication of an invitation that Koch Industries sent to top conservatives for a private strategy session in January lifted the curtain, however slightly, on the deep-pocketed funders betting on the Republican Party’s re-emergence.

Among the list of invitees were think-tank types, private equity titans, energy conglomerates, and media personalities — all partaking in a forum “to counter the most severe threats facing our free society and outline a vision of how we can foster a renewal of American free enterprise and prosperity.”

But exactly how deep are their pockets? The good-government group Campaign Money Watch ran the names of those who attended Koch Industries’ most recent gathering in June 2010 and found that they have contributed at least $35 million to federal candidates, parties, and political committees over the past 20 years.

Coming from a pool of roughly 210 attendees, the total is still a remarkable figure (only 36 on the list had no record of donating). That said, more than $15 million of the $35 million came from just ten attendees. Not all of the money went to Republicans. The Koch brothers, for instance, have given a small portion of their political donations to Democrats. But a vast majority was directed at the GOP. And in releasing its finding, Campaign Money Watch makes the assertion — not illogically — that Koch Industries and its guests are likely aiding some of the anonymous ad campaigns that are dominating the current electoral cycle.   [Read more]

October 21, 2010

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By Ian Millhiser | ThinkProgress

Earlier, ThinkProgress’ Lee Fang revealed several documents outlining the details of one of right-wing billionaire Charles Koch’s secret convenings of corporate political donors. As Koch revealed to the Wall Street Journal in 2006, the purpose of these meetings is to recruit “captains of industry” to fund the conservative infrastructure of front groups, political campaigns, think tanks and media outlets. Buried in this document, however, is a surprising revelation about the role two supposedly impartial jurists have played in these extended fundraising solicitations: “Past meetings have featured such notable leaders as Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.”

A Supreme Court justice lending a hand to a political fundraising event would be a clear violation of the Code of Conduct for United States Judges, if it wasn’t for the fact that the nine justices have exempted themselves from much of the ethical rules governing all other federal judges. Nevertheless, a spokesperson for the Supreme Court tells ThinkProgress that “[t]he Justices look to the Code of Conduct for guidance” in determining when they may participate in fundraising activities. Under that Code:

Fund Raising. A judge may assist nonprofit law-related, civic, charitable, educational, religious, or social organizations in planning fund-raising activities and may be listed as an officer, director, or trustee. A judge may solicit funds for such an organization from judges over whom the judge does not exercise supervisory or appellate authority and from members of the judge’s family. Otherwise, a judge should not personally participate in fund-raising activities, solicit funds for any organization, or use or permit the use of the prestige of judicial office for that purpose. A judge should not personally participate in membership solicitation if the solicitation might reasonably be perceived as coercive or is essentially a fund-raising mechanism. [Read more]

October 21, 2010

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by Clare O’Connor  |  Forbes

If the Republicans take back the House and Senate on Nov. 2, America’s richest brothers will be partly to thank. Oil billionaires Charles and David Koch‘s tremendous spending power and reach–what the media has dubbed the ‘Kochtopus‘–is unrivaled. The conservative nonprofit David founded, Americans for Prosperity, has said it plans to spend $45 million this election cycle, more than three times the $13 million the Democratic Governors Association has on hand as of mid-October. There’s no way of knowing how much the Kochs have given to the AFP or any other group; new Senate legislation allows tax exempt nonprofits to raise unlimited funds without disclosure. Publicly, only about $3.9 million can be traced to the brothers, including a $1 million donation to the Republican Governors Association from David, a former vice presidential candidate for the Libertarian Party.

President Obama has come out swinging against the Koch brothers, referring to AFP in an August speech as part of “a corporate takeover of our democracy.” The Kochs are no fans of Obama’s either, and they’re already strategizing beyond this election. Charles Koch recently sent a letter inviting potential donors to a four-day retreat in Palm Springs in January. He cited the attendees from his last meeting, which reads like a Who’s Who of Forbes 400 power players: Phil Anschutz, Blackstone’s Steve Schwarzman, Amway’s Rich DeVos, Citadel’s Ken Griffin, and Ken Langone, Home Depot’s original investment banker. In his letter, Koch makes it clear that the retreat won’t be “fun in the sun,” it’ll be formulating the next plan of attack.

Other right-wing groups are following AFP’s lead: Karl Rove’s American Crossroads has become the scourge of the left, publicly raising millions from billionaires including Public Storage tycoon B. Wayne Hughes, Texas investor Harold Simmons, TV mogul Jerry Perenchio and oil heir Robert Rowling. The group announced on Wednesday that Donald Trump has chipped in too. American Crossroads’ sister group Crossroads GPS is also raising unprecedented amounts of money toward anti-Democrat attack ads, but it’s not required to disclose its funding. Outraged liberal groups and Democratic politicians have asked the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and the IRS to investigate.     [Read more]

October 21, 2010

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By Christina Bellantoni | CQ Politics

The Republican National Committee raised $9.8 million in September, far less than the Democratic National Committee’s more than $17 million haul.

The party announced in a release the $9.8 million figure and said they raised $4.25 million during the first two weeks of October. The DNC raised $11.1 million during the first 13 days of October.

The RNC release noted it’s a strong total historically given the GOP does not control the White House or Congress.

“Indexed for inflation, September’s fundraising was $3.6 million more than the DNC raised in September 2006 and $1.7 million more than the RNC raised in September 1994,” officials said.

RNC officials said they got a $2.5 million loan in September as part of an existing $15 million line of credit. “These resources will help provide our candidates with the best possible opportunity to win on November 2,” the party said in a release.   [Read more]

October 21, 2010

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By Michael Crowley  |  TIME

Pity the campaign finance reform activist. For years he’s fought to wring big money out of politics and shine a spotlight on who’s funding campaigns. But less than a decade after that shining moment for the campaign finance reform movement, the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (known as McCain-Feingold after its two chief Senate sponsors, John McCain and Russ Feingold), its successes are unraveling and its prospects look dimmer by the day.

The 2010 elections will likely see more than $300 million spent by conservative independent groups who disclose little or nothing about their donors. (Pro-Democratic unions will spend perhaps half that, though their funds come from rank-and-file members, not outside donors.) That comes on the heels of a January 2010 Supreme Court ruling in the Citizens United case, which declared that corporations and unions are entitled to spend their money on direct electioneering — meaning to help or defeat candidates — as a function of their free speech. Campaign reformers say the Citizens United decision has effectively served as a green light for a new torrent of corporate cash that’s being funneled in the political system through intermediary groups, like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which take advantage of legal loopholes to keep their donors anonymous.   [Read more]

October 21, 2010

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By Greg Sargent  | The Plum Line

As promised, MSNBC’s First Read gang releases its NBC/WSJ polling showing that voters do care about the secret cash funding attack ads, despite all the assertions you keep hearing to the contrary:

So how has the White House/Democratic campaign against the GOP-leaning outside groups that have been spending so much on TV ads this midterm cycle fared? Per our poll, 74% say it’s a concern that outside groups have their own agenda and care only about electing or defeating candidates based on their own issues; 72% say it’s a concern that these groups don’t have to disclose who’s contributing to them; 71% say it’s a concern that the candidates who are helped by these groups could be beholden to their interests; and 68% say they’re concerned these groups are funded by unions or large corporations.    [Read more]

October 20, 2010

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Conservative Organization Appears to Operate As a Political Committee But Is Registered As Nonprofit, Say Groups

Public Citizen

WASHINGTON, D.C. – American Future Fund, a conservative nonprofit group pouring money into the 2010 midterm elections, appears to be violating campaign finance law, watchdog groups said in a complaint filed today with the Federal Election Commission (FEC).

The FEC should investigate whether American Future Fund must register as a political committee for its huge expenditures in the election, making the group subject to recordkeeping, reporting and disclosure requirements, Public Citizen, Protect Our Elections and the Center for Media and Democracy said in the complaint, available at: http://bit.ly/dA0LmP [Read more]