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Author ArchiveZachCarter

Campaign Cash: Tea Party Vows to Block Campaign Finance Reform

Posted Nov 4, 2010 @ 10:41 am by
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by Zach Carter, Media Consortium blogger

Welcome to the final edition of Campaign Cash, which tracked political spending during this year’s midterm elections. Stay tuned for more reporting on money in politics from members of The Media Consortium. To see more stories on campaign funding, follow the Twitter hashtag #campaigncash.

Flickr/dsb nolaAnonymous millionaires just helped elect dozens of ultraconservative congressional candidates, by pumping millions of dollars into national Tea Party organizations. And guess what’s at the top of the legislative to-do list for those same Tea Party groups? Blocking campaign finance reform legislation.

As Stephanie Mencimer explains for Mother Jones, one of the nation’s largest Tea Party organizations, the Tea Party Patriots, is already coming out guns-a-blazing against any lame duck effort to crack down on secret corporate spending in elections.

And with good cause. The Tea Party’s appeal, after all, is based on its populist, grassroots image. If anybody knew that secret right-wing millionaires were bankrolling the entire operation, the “movement” would lose its luster.

But whether reformers are able to force front-groups to disclose their donors or not, the broader effort to eliminate undue corporate influence from the political process will take years.

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Campaign Cash: Citizens United Becomes Get-Out-of-Jail-Free Card for Corporate Criminals

Posted Nov 3, 2010 @ 10:52 am by
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by Zach Carter, Media Consortium blogger

Flickr/Gage SkidmoreThe votes are in, and while some close races are still being tallied, there is a clear winner from the 2010 elections: Secret corporate cash.

Such unaccounted for political donations may end up allowing those accused of wrongdoing to go free. As Joshua Holland details for AlterNet, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission may have provided a lifetime supply of get-out-of-jail-free cards to corporate criminals.

The Kentucky senate race serves as a prime example. The Democratic candidate, Jack Conway, is currently Kentucky’s attorney general. Conway is also currently prosecuting a nursing home for allegedly covering up the sexual abuse of one of its residents.

But that nursing home is owned by Terry Forcht, a millionaire who gives prodigiously to right-wing causes. He poured money into Karl Rove’s organization, American Crossroads GPS, which ran ads backing Conway’s Republican opponent, Rand Paul. Guess who came away with the victory last night?

As Holland emphasizes, the mid-term elections are just how the first phase of the justice system’s corruption plays out. Eventually the mere threat of attack ads could be enough to prevent needed prosecutions. Corporate bigwigs could literally get away with murder, and pay for it only through attack ads.

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Campaign Cash: Why Conservative Attack Ads Won’t Stop After Election Day

Posted Nov 2, 2010 @ 10:24 am by
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by Zach Carter, Media Consortium blogger

Flickr/Theresa ThompsonToday is the first election in American history in which corporations have been allowed to spend their own money to buy political favors. This legalized corruption comes courtesy of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which injected massive amounts of corporate cash and unprecedented levels of secrecy into American politics.

And all of this crazy corporate spending will not be restricted to elections. That’s right. As Jesse Zwick reports for The Washington Independent, two front-groups founded by GOP strategists Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie plan to keep running ads attacking Democrats well after the elections are over.

As Zwick emphasizes, this is actually a way to help keep one of the organizations, known as American Crossroads GPS, from breaking the law. Many groups that spend money on elections register as 501(c)(4) organizations, which must devote no more than half of their activity to political operations. In return for limiting their political activity—advocacy or condemnation of specific candidates—they don’t have to disclose who their donors are. So groups like American Crossroads GPS plan to run “issue ads” focusing on the budget deficit and immigration reform this fall to balance out the ads directed at specific candidates that they’ve already run.

Under the Citizens United ruling, so long as corporations or wealthy elites launder their political expenditures through a front-group, they can give as much as they want without ever being held publicly accountable. But the high court’s decision also allows these front-groups to keep their actual expenditures secret as well. It’s not just that we don’t know who is funding them—in many cases, we also don’t really know what they’re funding.

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Campaign Cash: Biggest Loser Corporate Edition—Spending $2 Million on a Losing Race in Iowa

Posted Nov 1, 2010 @ 10:44 am by
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by Zach Carter, Media Consortium blogger

Flickr/Public CitizenCorporate America is on the attack in every state. As Joshua Holland explains for AlterNet, outside groups have spent somewhere between $750,000 and more than $2 million in an attempt to unseat Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA) in a state where ad buys come cheap. But Braley is almost certain to win anyway, even if his lead isn’t quite as comfortable as it was in 2008, when he took 64 percent of the vote. This is what corporations and wealthy elites are willing to pony up in races they’re sure to lose.

Most of that money comes from two groups: the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a front-group for some of the nation’s largest corporations, and America’s Future Fund, a right-wing front-group founded by GOP lobbyist and ethanol executive Nick Ryan. Public News Service‘s Eric Mack highlights the races in Hawkeye state that are unusually flush with cash.

Thanks to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission earlier this year, corporations and wealthy elites now have license to spend unlimited sums to promote candidates they like (or attack ones they don’t). Things are already getting out of hand. Outside groups are dumping millions of dollars into obscure races this year—even in places where they appear to have almost no chance of victory.

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Campaign Cash: The Tea Party Jets to Grassroots Rallies, Wall Street-Style

Posted Oct 29, 2010 @ 9:59 am by
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by Zach Carter, Media Consortium blogger

Flickr/scottjloweTwo Tea Party leaders, Mark Meckler and Jenny Beth Martin, have been jet-setting all over the country ginning up support for conservative politicians. Literally.

They’ve been flying around in a private jet like Wall Street CEOs, except they’re heading to “grassroots” rallies instead of merger talks. Meckler and Martin don’t say how outraged, ordinary citizens can find the money to support such extravagance, and they don’t have to. Thanks to the Supreme Court’s ruling in this year’s Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission, they can now accept unlimited funding without disclosing the identities of their donors.

No one would even know about the jets themselves, but Meckler and Martin never counted on Mother Jones, or a reporter named Stephanie Mencimer. Using public flight-tracking information, the Tea Party Patriots’ flight schedule, and some serious attention to details in the group’s own videos, Mencimer was able to figure out which jet the not-so-populist duo were using. She then traced the plane to Raymond F. Thomson, founder and CEO of a semiconductor company called Semitool, which he sold last year for a cool $364 million.

It’s both sad and hilarious to see the secret financial arrangements of the super-rich masquerading as grassroots activism. But it also shows the lengths to which reporters must go to actually report on political spending in the wake of Citizens United. There is no documentation to follow, just the contrails of private jets.

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Campaign Cash: Sen. Jim DeMint’s Making a Mint with Corporate Cash

Posted Oct 28, 2010 @ 10:28 am by
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by Zach Carter, Media Consortium blogger

Flickr/Gage SkidmoreCorporate cash does funny things to people. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) got into office by pledging to fight “special interests,” but just a decade or so later, he’s running one of the biggest special interest shows in Washington. It’s easy to see the appeal. As the fancy funding backing the Tea Party demonstrates, big money buys big things—from elections to populist outrage.

In a piece for Mother Jones, Kate Sheppard details some of DeMint’s serious campaign finance flip-floppery. During his first bid for Congress in 1998, DeMint denounced the Political Action Committee (PAC) mechanism as a tool deployed by “special interests” that “corrupts” the electoral process. But today, DeMint is the single most important figure and fundraiser for Senate Tea Party races. He has endorsed and pledged millions of dollars to support fringe right-wingers Senate candidates Christine O’Donnell (Delaware) and Rand Paul (Kentucky). DeMint has funneled this money through his own Political Action Committee (PAC) known as the Senate Conservatives Fund.  DeMint even pledged to “fight for reforms that allow only individual contributions to campaigns.”

But as I note in a blog for Campaign for America’s Future, DeMint isn’t the only power player pouring money into the Tea Party. DeMint’s 12 Tea Party Senate candidates have reaped over $4.6 million from Wall Street for this election—excluding Wall Street cash that has been funneled through DeMint’s PAC. So much for all that grassroots rage against bailed-out elites. (more…)

Campaign Cash: Harry Reid Under Siege by Swift Boat Billionaire Bob Perry

Posted Oct 27, 2010 @ 10:12 am by
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by Zach Carter, Media Consortium blogger

Flickr/Center for American Progress Action FundRemember that horrible 2004 Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ad that helped derail John Kerry’s 2004 presidential bid? Well, Bob Perry, the billionaire tycoon who financed that smear campaign is back, and he’s underwriting a barrage of dirty ads that target politicians he doesn’t like.

And this time around, the Supreme Court gave Perry cover in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling, which allows big donors to fund attacks anonymously.

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Campaign Cash: Corporations Get More Power, Political Parties Get Less

Posted Oct 26, 2010 @ 10:15 am by
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by Zach Carter, Media Consortium blogger

Flickr/Truthout.orgWar chests from right-wing billionaires and corporate titans are funding tremendous portions of political activity, from the so-called grassroots activism of the Tea Party to the streamlined lobbying assaults of the nation’s largest corporations.

In the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s wildly unpopular ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission, secret election financing by elites is exploding, even as the public visibility of such electoral purchasing power evaporates.

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Campaign Cash: How Citizens United Will Change Elections Forever

Posted Oct 25, 2010 @ 11:00 am by
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Lawrence Lessig, Harvard law professorEd. Note: This blog is available for any organization or outlet to republish or excerpt. Please feel free to share it widely!

by Zach Carter, Media Consortium blogger

Undue corporate influence over U.S. elections has been a serious problem in American politics for decades, but this year’s Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission made things worse. Worst of all, we may never know the extent of the damage.

Citizens United freed corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money backing specific political candidates, and without congressional action, those expenditures can be completely anonymous. Major corporations are already capitalizing on the new legal landscape by the millions, and the public doesn’t really know who is buying what influence or why.

That’s why The Media Consortium will be carefully watching the effects of this ruling in the run up to this year’s midterm elections. Every day through Nov. 4, we’ll bring you some of the best independent reporting on the effects of corporate spending in an attempt to measure just how widespread the effect of Citizens United will be on this—and the next—election.  Keep your eye on “Campaign Cash” as we follow this issue in the coming weeks. If you want to tweet about it, use the hashtag #campaigncash. (more…)

Weekly Audit: Will Obama Save Homeowners From Wall Street’s Latest Fraud Scheme?

Posted Oct 12, 2010 @ 10:12 am by
Filed under: Economy     Bookmark and Share

by Zach Carter, Media Consortium blogger

A massive foreclosure fraud scandal is rocking the U.S. mortgage market. Wall Street banks and their lawyers are fabricating documents, forging signatures and lying to judges—all to exploit troubled borrowers with enormous, illegal fees, and in some cases, improperly foreclose on borrowers who haven’t missed any payments.

The fraud is so widespread that it could put some big banks out of business and even spark another financial collapse. Fortunately, things haven’t fallen apart just yet. With strong leadership from President Barack Obama and Congress, the government can help keep troubled borrowers in their homes and prevent another meltdown. (more…)