Stunning Statistics of the Week:
$2.4 million: Amount Walmart spent on lobbying on federal issues in the first quarter, its highest amount ever and a 23 percent increase from the first quarter of last year.
$1.8 million: The amount Visa reported spending on lobbying in the first quarter. This is its highest amount ever.
$930,000: The amount MasterCard spent lobbying in the first quarter, an increase of 13 percent from a year earlier.
Chamber rhetoric heats up over executive order on disclosure
It’s a pretty basic notion: Companies that bid for government contracts should disclose their campaign spending to diminish the likelihood that contracts are a payoff for political expenditures. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is preparing for a knock-down-drag-out against it. “To quote what they say every day on Libya, all options are on the table,” a Chamber spokesperson said. Meanwhile, a group of senators on Thursday sent President Barack Obama a letter on Thursday urging him not to sign the executive order. In an odd interpretation of the concept of fairness, they said they were basing their request on the desire that government contracting is “conducted in a manner that ensures a fair process.” Also this week, Public Citizen launched a petition urging Obama to sign the executive order; as of Friday morning, it had garnered nearly 14,000 signatures.
Dems launch answer to GOP Crossroads
Two former White House officials have launched two groups whose aim is to raise $100 million between them to help President Barack Obama’s re-election effort. Called Priorities USA and Priorities USA Action, the groups are designed to counter similar outside groups co-founded last year by Republican strategist Karl Rove. Those groups, Crossroads GPS and American Crossroads, poured huge sums of money into the midterm elections to help corporate-friendly candidates.
Corporate political spending? Tennessee wants more
While many states have hurriedly moved to enact measures to mitigate corporate spending in politics after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling, Tennessee is going a different direction. Under a measure moving through the Tennessee Legislature, direct corporate donations to political candidates – now illegal – would be allowed. Also, the limit on individual contributions would be raised by roughly 40 percent. “More money is more free speech,” one of the bill’s sponsors claimed.
Understandably, many Brits are a bit frustrated with the expense of the royal wedding in what are tough economic times for the country and the world. However, at least the royals over there are actually putting some money back into the economy with this big fancy wedding. Alas, the same cannot be said of the royal dynasty we are beginning to bear witness to right here in the good old US of A.
These are not the royal elites we should be most concerned with. In America, the red carpet has been rolled out yet again for big corporations.
We fought for our independence for a reason, but in a relatively short period of time, have we forgotten what that reason was?
One can only wonder where we are headed upon examining two recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions that have handed over the democracy our forefathers fought so hard for to a corporate elite class, primed to undermine the very notions of rule for and by the people.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling in January 2010, which gave corporations the green light to spend as much money as they want to sway elections based on the idea that corporations should have First Amendment rights, was a turning point. Corporations are NOT people. They are entities that, more often than not, lack a moral compass. Corporations exist only to make a profit, a profit that can now be spent influencing our elections in such a way that more profit can be made. Shareholders don’t have a say regarding which politicians that corporate profit is going to go toward bankrolling and neither do the employees that, as our recent hourly rates report shows, are not nearly as likely to see the payoff of that profit as are the CEOs they work under.
Currently, President Barack Obama is facing pressure from big business to not issue an executive order calling for companies vying for government contracts to disclose their political donations. As Public Citizen Robert Weissman explains in a piece titled, “Corporate America’s War on Political Transparency:”
While government corruption comes in many forms, nowhere is it more prevalent than in government contracting. “Pay-to-play” deals are a form of government contracting abuse in which a business entity makes campaign contributions or expenditures on behalf of a public official in order to obtain preferential treatment in receiving government contracts.
In 2009, 4,340 workers were killed on the job, a decrease of 874 deaths from the 2008 figure. But, as Huffington Post’s Lila Shapiro states, that has nothing to do with safeguards the government has put in place to protect workers. Instead, it’s because fewer people were working during the recession.
Today, on Workers Memorial Day, we must demand more from our lawmakers. We deserve to be safe at work. Think about it. In the past year we’ve seen:
• Air traffic controllers sleeping on the job, forcing pilots to blindly land;
• An explosion on an offshore oil rig that killed 11 workers and triggered the worst environmental disaster our country has ever seen;
• A fire in a West Virginia mine that killed 29 employees;
• A college student killed while filming a football game for his school, and another that died in the chemistry lab at her college;
• A marine-life trainer at a theme park crushed and drowned by an orca during a performance;
• Actors rushed to the hospital while rehearsing a Broadway hit;
• And countless other incidents.
Yet for all of the tragedies American workers have faced, we have witnessed shockingly little being done about them.
It’s getting a little ridiculous. Big oil companies like ExxonMobil are making a killing, while American consumers are getting killed at the pump. How much longer are politicians going to let this happen?
Public Citizen President Robert Weissman explains the situation:
“ExxonMobil and Shell today announced skyrocketing profits, as did BP yesterday, and as Chevron will tomorrow. The reason is simple: Prices at the gas pump are jumping, even though the cost of drilling hasn’t changed for the giant integrated firms. Big Oil is able to pocket the difference – at the direct expense of consumers. ”
As Weissman sees it,
Beneficiaries of such a windfall certainly should not be the recipients of billions in government subsidies.
“Even more fundamentally, there is an obvious response to the windfall profits of the oil companies: a windfall profits tax.”
Public Citizen has proposed a windfall profit tax before. Now, we are fighting for it again. The concept is simple. Weissman explains:
“The government should tax the windfall profits of the oil giants, and invest the money in renewable energy programs, so that we reduce our dependence on oil and dirty energy.”
Write that one down this time lawmakers. It’s a keeper.