November 30, 2010

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by Jessica Levinson | The Huffington Post

The Supreme Court has decided to review a 1998 Arizona law which provides public financing to qualified candidates. This decision will likely define the constitutional boundaries of public financing laws across the country.

Critics claim programs that provide public funding for candidates are welfare for politicians, that the public should not be forced to support candidates with whom they disagree, and that public funds could be better spent in other areas. Proponents, on the other hand, contend that these programs provide qualified candidates who may not have access to campaign funds with the opportunity to run competitive campaigns, allow candidates to spend time with all of their constituents and not just those who can provide campaign donations, reduce corruption or the appearance of corruption, either of which may arise as a result of private contributions, and increase public confidence in their elected officials.

In an effort to allow publicly financed candidates to remain competitive in the face of heavy opposition spending from privately financed opponents or independent expenditure groups, many public campaign finance laws provide so-called “rescue funds.” These rescue fund provisions now stand on constitutionally shaky ground because of the Court’s 2008 decision in Davis v. FEC.   [Read more]

November 29, 2010

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by Frank Rich | The New York Times

SO America’s latest crisis — until it wasn’t — was airport screeners touching our junk. As this long year lurches toward its end, we all agree that something has gone wrong in America, and we’re desperately casting about for a coherent explanation for our discontent, if not a scapegoat. Alas, the national consensus that the T.S.A. and full-body scans might be the source of all evil fizzled in less than a week. Most everyone got to Grandma’s house for Thanksgiving without genital distress.

The previous transient scapegoat was the Democrats. They were punished in yet another “wave” election — our third in a row — where voters threw Washington’s bums out. But most of the public remains bummed out nonetheless. In late October, the NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll found that only 31 percent of respondents believed that America was on the right track. When the survey asked the same question after the shellacking, the percent of optimists jumped to … 32. Regardless of party or politics, there’s a sense a broken country can’t be fixed. Few have faith that even “wave” elections are game-changers anymore.   [Read more]

November 23, 2010

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By Stephen C. Webster | Raw Story

Even amid the most turbulent economic conditions since the Great Depression, US corporate profits are at an all time high, according to a Tuesday report [PDF link] by the US Bureau of Economic Analysis.

At the same time, America’s poor and middle classes are under siege, with a mostly stagnant job market that has shown only marginal signs of improvement.

In spite of meager growth in some sectors, the real unemployment rate remains high, at approximately 1 in 5 Americans.

Yet for seven fiscal quarters running — since President Obama’s election — American corporate profits have shown strong growth.

According to a New York Times analysis, Q3 2010 saw the largest corporate profits in recorded US history, at $1.66 trillion.   [Read more]

November 12, 2010

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by John Wellington Ennis | Huffington Post

The first major exhibit of the street artist Alec Monopoly opened Thursday in New York, taking over a corner storefront in Chelsea, at 22nd Street and 8th Ave., and will be free and open to the public for the next week.

Alec’s show displays the colorful styles of pop art which he has implemented in his pieces adorning neighborhoods in Los Angeles and New York — iconic portraiture of Jack Nicholson, Bob Dylan, and Twiggi, interspersed with a large-scale series re-imagining the Monopoly Man series on canvases coated in archived newspapers, sealed with resin.  New large celebrity portraits are unveiled in this show as well, such as Robert DeNiro as Travis Bickle in “Taxi Driver,” Christian Bale in “American Psycho,” and a dancing profile of Michael Jackson.  Other paintings revealed a broader sense of style, as some canvases touched on impressionism, others evoking a feminine sensibility through color, subject, and minimal line art.

While such an impressive debut exhibit by a young artist would traditionally warrant an appearance by the creator himself, circumstances inhibit in-person accolades: The NYPD are looking for him.
[Read more]

November 11, 2010

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Democrats are gearing up for the 2012 shadow spending wars

By Andy Kroll | Mother Jones

Barely a week after Democrats’ trouncing in the 2010 midterms, due in part to a massive influx of shadowy political spending, the left is gearing up to fight fire with fire. David Brock, the former investigative journalist who founded the watchdog Media Matters for America, is trying to form a 527 political advocacy group, according to Greg Sargent at the Washington Post. In theory, the group would be akin to Karl Rove’s American Crossroads outfit, but with a liberal bent.

The revelations about Brock’s potential 527 come days after a top White House adviser, David Axelrod, opened the door for lefty groups to push back against the wave of secretive GOP cash. In an interview with Politico, Axelrod wouldn’t rule out the need for Democratic outside groups in 2012 to push back against conservative forces like American Crossroads, Crossroads GPS, the US Chamber of Commerce, and many more. While outside groups of all ideologies spent more than $400 million in the 2010 midterms, the White House anticipates the Chamber and its right-leaning ilk spending upwards of $500 million on their own to defeat President Obama.   [Read more]

November 9, 2010

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by Nikki Willoughby | Common Cause

“It’s not too late to limit or reverse the impact of the Supreme Court’s disastrous decision in Citizens United v. FEC,” says Fran Korten in a recent article for Yes! Magazine. Korten puts forth 10 ideas that would help limit or reverse the Court’s decision, including:

  • Require shareholders to approve political spending by their corporations. Public Citizen and the Brennan Center for Justice are among the groups advocating this measure, and some members of Congress appear interested. Britain has required such shareholder approval since 2000.
  • Pass the Fair Elections Now Act, which provides federal financing for Congressional elections. This measure has the backing of organizations representing millions of Americans, including, the NAACP, the Service Employees International Union, and the League of Young Voters. Interestingly, the heads of a number of major corporations have also signed on, including those of Ben & Jerry’s, Hasbro, Crate & Barrel, and the former head of Delta Airlines.
  • Give qualified candidates equal amounts of free broadcast air time for political messages. This would limit the advantages of paid advertisements in reaching the public through television where most political spending goes.
  • Ban political advertising by corporations that receive government money, hire lobbyists, or collect most of their revenue abroad. A fear that many observers have noted is that the Court’s ruling will allow foreign corporations to influence U.S. elections. According to The New York Times, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-New York) and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland) are exploring this option.
  • Publicize the reform options, inform the public of who is making contributions to whom, and activate the citizenry. If we are to safeguard our democracy, media must inform and citizens must act.   [Read more]

November 2, 2010

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Dark money, shadowy groups, and secret millionaires.

By David Corn | Mother Jones

One result of the 2010 campaign is clear before any ballots are counted: Democracy is in danger.

That sounds hyperbolic. But whatever remains of the quaint notion—call it a myth—that in a democracy citizens are more or less equal is in the process of being shredded, due to the rise this year of super PACs and secretive political nonprofits. Thanks to the Supreme Court’s notorious Citizens United decision and other rulings, a small number of well-heeled individuals (or corporations or unions) can now amass a tremendous amount of political influence by throwing an unlimited amount of money into efforts to elect their preferred candidates. And certain political nonprofits, such as Crossroads GPS—the outfit set up this year by GOP strategists Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie (which with an affiliated group is spending about $50 million)—can pour tens of millions of dollars into the elections without revealing the source of their campaign cash.  [Read more]