The U.S. Supreme Court will today hear the first challenge since the 1970s to laws regarding public financing systems for political campaigns. OpenSecrets Blog will be at the Court’s chambers covering the oral argument, but for now, here’s a synopsis of the case at hand:
The Case: McComish v. Bennett
The Issue: Arizona’s public financing system is set up to award an initial grant to participating candidates. Then, over the course of the election, additional funds — up to two times the initial amount — can be doled out to participating candidates. These so-called matching funds are allocated when certain spending thresholds are crossed by either privately funded candidates in the race or outside special interest groups that make independent expenditures in opposition to a publicly funded candidate (or in support of his or her opponent). In this legal challenge, the constitutionality of these triggers is being called into question.
The Supremes: Under Chief Justice John Roberts, the Supreme Court has leaned toward deregulation when it comes to campaign finance issues. A 5-4 majority, led by Roberts, created a political firestorm in January last year when it overturned prohibitions on corporate money funding political advertisements in its Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision. In 2008, a 5-4 majority of the court also rejected a campaign finance regulation known as the “Millionaires’ Amendment” in Davis v. Federal Election Commission. [Read more]
Video and photos from US Uncut’s 40 nationwide protests are beginning to come in. Perhaps the liveliest chapter is US Uncut DC whose 100+ members shut down a Bank of America branch on Saturday. Reportedly, the bank managers pulled a fire alarm  as action began at the protest. This is not the first time the franchise has successfully shut down BoA’s operations.
Other states decided to target different corporate tax dodgers. In 2009 and 2010, Verizon reported $24.2 billion in pretax income, but the company hasn’t paid a penny in taxes on that revenue, so in Ohio members of the “Citizens’ Revenue Service” went to a local Verizon store in order to collect the taxes on behalf of the American people.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) called for closing corporate tax loopholes and eliminating tax breaks for oil and gas companies Sunday after reports that General Electric and other giant corporations pay nothing or almost nothing in federal income taxes.
According to The New York Times, General Electric made $14.2 billion in profit last year, $5.1 billion of which was made in the United States. The corporation received $3.2 billion in tax benefits, but did not pay any money in taxes.
“We have a deficit problem,” said Sanders. “It has to be addressed, but it cannot be addressed on the backs of the sick, the elderly, the poor, young people, the most vulnerable in this country. The wealthiest people and the largest corporations in this country have got to contribute. We’ve got to talk about shared sacrifice.”
Oil giant Exxon Mobil made $19 billion in profits in 2009, but paid no federal income taxes, according to the senator. Instead, the corporation received a $156 million rebate from the IRS.
Sanders has introduced legislation that would establish a surtax on millionaires and strip tax deductions for oil companies — a proposal he claims would cut the deficit by about $50 billion. [Read more]
In lengthy interviews with a conservative magazine, the billionaire Koch brothers mounted an aggressive defense of their business and political interests, describing their liberal critics as “very, very extreme” and “very dangerous” and President Barack Obama as a “radical” with “Marxist” ideas whose success is owed largely to his “silver tongue.”
Obama is “the most radical president we’ve ever had as a nation … and has done more damage to the free enterprise system and long-term prosperity than any president we’ve ever had,” David Koch is quoted saying in a story posted late Friday on the website of the Weekly Standard.
In a grudging reference to Obama’s rhetorical skills, he added: “It just shows you what a person with a silver tongue can achieve.”
David’s brother Charles Koch said of Obama: “I’m not saying he’s a Marxist, but he’s internalized some Marxist models — that is, that business tends to be successful by exploiting its customers and workers.”
The Weekly Standard story comes after months of intensifying scrutiny of the Kochs’ funding of conservative causes, including the fights to limit carbon emissions and block last year’s Democratic healthcare overhaul, as well as this year’s showdown with public employee unions in Wisconsin. [Read more]