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It's Still a Democracy for the Rich and Connected

October 3, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Last week I wrote about how the deficit supercommittee has so far held the majority of its meetings in complete secrecy. Well, as it turns out, that's not exactly true. According to Politico, the committee members have choosen a select group of citizens to give special access to their private meetings to. You and I just happen to not be on the list.

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The conclusions will probably come as a surprise exactly none of you, but a new study from the International Monetary Fund on the influence of campaign donations and lobbying politics is worth a mention because of the completeness of the research and the authority of its source. Two IMF economists, Deniz Igan and Prachi Mishra, have been examining how the targeted political activities of financial corporations between 1999 and 2006 affected how Congress voted on bills that strengthened or loosened regulation of Wall Street leading up to the 2008 crisis. They found -- surprise! -- that the more the corporations spent on campaign donations and lobbying, the more likely Congress was to vote in favor of deregulation. Furthermore, they found that the money Wall Street spent on lobbying members of Congress who were connected to Wall Street, either from having worked there in the past or through a former staff member who had gone through the revolving door to K Street, had a much stronger effect on their voting than on those who had no Wall Street connections

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Last year, the independent, non-partisan Office of Congressional Ethics asked the House Ethics Committee to look into some fishy fundraising activity by three congressmen -- Rep. Joseph Crowley [D, NY-7], Rep. John Campbell [R, CA-48] and Rep. Tom Price [R, GA-6]. The allegation was that they held an unusually high number of campaign fundraising events with Wall Street types in the days leading up to the vote on the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act and that this may amount to soliciting funds "in a manner which gave the appearance that special treatment or access was being provided to donors or the appearance that the contributions were linked to an official act."

Well, the Ethics Committee has issued their findings, and though they found that staff members were involved in fundraising and fundraising consultants were involved in setting up lobbyist meetings, they didn't see anything wrong with any of it.

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Big Banks Use Revolving Door to Fight FinReg

April 29, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

One of the best ways for a corporation to affect government policy is to hire lobbyists with personal connections to the people they will be lobbying. Not surprisingly, this is one of the technique the big financial companies have been using to fight financial reform legislation. Last year, 71% of the lobbyists hired by the six biggest bank-holding companies were former government officials, the Sunlight Foundation's Paul Blumenthal reports.

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Rangel Under Fire For Breaking House Rules

February 26, 2010 - by Eric Naing

An admonishment by the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct could threaten the powerful chairmanship of Rep. Charlie Rangel [D, NY-15].

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TPM reports on an emerging strategy for corporations that want to use the recent Citizens United v. FEC Supreme Court ruling to funnel unlimited amounts of cash to congressional candidates without having to reveal their identity and expose themselves to public backlash. But there is already a bill in Congress to thwart the strategy.

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$1.3 Million Per Hour

February 17, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

The past year in Congress was one of the most productive sessions ever. But don't worry -- the lobbyists in Washington have managed to keep up with the pace, spending more money on influencing federal policy than ever before.

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Congress Links

February 16, 2010 - by Eric Naing

Even though the House and Senate are in recess until next week, the drama continues on Capitol Hill. Here are a few articles and blog posts of note from the day:

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Sen. Ensign's Untangling Web

October 2, 2009 - by Paul Blumenthal

Earlier this year, Sen. John Ensign, a rising star in the Republican party, revealed that he had had an affair with the wife of a top aide and close friend. Unlike the more famous affair revelation of South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, Ensign's affair wasn't a tale of true love, but a story about corrupt politicians paying out hush money.

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As the summer of the Democrats' discontent winds to a close, the head count for health care reform in the Senate begins in earnest. One of the key Democratic senators on the fence is Sen. Blanche Lincoln, a member of the Senate Finance Committee and one of the most vulnerable Democrats in the 2010 election. Lincoln jumped into the news today with a quote to a reporter stating her opposition to a public option plan in a health care reform bill. "I would not support a solely government-funded public option. We can't afford that," Lincoln said. The senior Arkansas senator is also the top recipient of campaign contributions from the health industry among senators this year.

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