One of the best ways to understand why Congress does what it does is to follow the money. Take a look at which corporations and unions are donating to members of Congress who support their pet bills and you can start to see the networks of influence that partly control what legislation gets considered and how senators and representatives vote. Unfortunately, in our post-Citizens United v. F.E.C. world, following the money is becoming much more difficult. In the 2012 presidential contest, Super PACs, which do not have to publicly disclose where all of their money comes from, have officially overtaken candidate campaigns in election fundraising and spending. Any semblance of separation between Super PACs and campaigns has completely disappeared as well, meaning that the traditional, regulated and disclosed candidate campaign has basically been replaced by the unlimited, secretive Super PAC.
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It's no coincidence that over the past few years we've experienced the largest and most sustained activations of grassroots political protest that this country has seen in decades. We’re beginning to rebel against a political system that tries to placate us while the government and corporations collude to secure extraordinary powers for themselves.Read Full Article
The upcoming lame duck session is the last chance for Congress to require disclosure of unions, corporations and special interests that donate to campaigns, without limit, under the loopholes opened up by the Supreme Court's Citizens United v. FEC decision. If it doesn't get done before the year ends, the Republicans, who have stood in lock-step against disclosure, will gain even more influence in Congress and the 2012 elections will be controlled by secretive special interests to a whole new level.Read Full Article
In my article yesterday refuting the claims Republicans are making in their attack ads alleging that conservative Democrats have liberal voting records, several people in the comments asked if I was going to address similar falsehoods in Democratic ads. I responded that of course I would if someone could show me an example of a Democratic attack ad that uses data to bolster lies. The suggestion was that I look at Obama's claim that the Chamber of Commerce is funding ads against Democrats with contributions from foreign entities. So let me address that.
Here's what we know about the Chamber:Read Full Article
Sunlight Foundation has just launched their latest tool for getting at the web of influence surrounding our elected officials, and it's definitely worth checking out -- Influence Explorer. It's a dirt simple way to get all the key info on the connections, financial or otherwise, between politicians, organizations and powerful people at both the state and federal level.Read Full Article
Publicly-funded congressional campaigns are about to move one step closer to becoming a reality. The Fair Elections Now Coalition announced this afternoon that the House Committee on Administration has scheduled a mark-up session of Rep. John Larson's [D, CT-1] Fair Elections Now Act, which would allow federal candidates to finance their campaigns with public funds rather than having to spend their time fundraising from special interests and corporations. The bill has been sitting in Congress for four years. This will be the first time it has advanced in the lgislative process at all, and it will likely lead to a full House vote in the coming weeks.
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Despite growing concern about Afghanistan triggered by the WikiLeaks' release of classified documents, Congress has passed an appropriations bill for the war there. Republicans have so far been successful in filibustering the DISCLOSE Act, and Democrats introduced a bill that would lift the liability cap for oil companies pay for oil spills. All this and more in today's edition.Read Full Article
Last Tuesday, House Democrats announced that they had made progress in passing HR 5175, the DISCLOSE Act by rewriting the bill to exclude several organizations from its strict disclosure provisions. Among other things, the original bill would have required public organizations to disclose a list of any contributors who have donated more than $600, as well as to feature a list of their top donors on all political advertisements within 90 days of an election. Additionally, the bill would prohibit government contractors and foreign organizations from funding political advertisements.
Last Tuesday's amendment, however, offered exclusions from the bill's disclosure requirements to organizations meeting oddly specific criteria.Read Full Article
"The banks -- hard to believe in a time when we're facing a banking crisis that many of the banks created -- are still the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill. And they frankly own the place." - Sen. Dick Durbin [D, IL].
In a few weeks, the banks' "ownership" of Congress will be put to the test. The Senate is going to take up comprehensive financial regulatory reform legislation in May -- this is the main bill the banks are spending their political capital on to fight, and the Senate is where they are hoping to use their influence and make it friendlier to their business.Read Full Article
"The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that corporations may spend as freely as they like to support or oppose candidates for president and Congress, easing decades-old limits on business efforts to influence federal campaigns."Read Full Article
Sen. Russ Feingold has reintroduced the Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act, legislation that would force the Senate to provide speedy access to campaign finance information. Efforts to approve the bill during the 110th Congress were stifled by Republicans attempts to attach non-germane amendments and hold other bills hostage. In the 111th Congress, Sen. Pat Roberts is insisting on an amendment that would require outside groups to disclose their donors when filing ethics complaints against senators.Read Full Article