Posts Tagged ‘FENA’

Yesterday, Craig Holman, blogged about the amount of time that goes into raising funds to campaign in the 21st century:

Consider that in 1976, successful U.S. Senate candidates spent an average of $2.3 million in 2010 dollars. In 2010, the average Senate winner spent an astonishing $7 million. It is estimated that senators spend a third of their time fundraising. That’s time that isn’t being spent on policymaking.

Campaigns have been a big business for years. However, in the short time since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Elections Committee ruling, there has been a huge spike in dollars being channeled to defeat candidates. These days, candidates often face even more pressure to amp up their own fundraising efforts as they find themselves having to top the efforts of corporately bankrolled political action committees and other advocacy groups who are spending like there is no tomorrow because, according to the controversial 5-4 decision by the Supreme Court, they have first amendment freedom of speech rights just like individuals.

One such entity that has been under scrutiny is Liberty Central, a tea party focused advocacy group and hybrid fundraising arm which, at the time of the Citizens United v. FEC ruling that deregulated campaign finance reform as we knew it, was being run by Justice Clarence Thomas’ wife, Ginni Thomas.

Kenneth Vogel of Politico cites,  “Ginni Thomas’s 2009 creation of a tea party non-profit group for which she raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in undisclosed contributions” as point of controversy, along with Justice Thomas’s attendance of conferences hosted by the Koch brothers.

Vogel reports:

“Ginni” Thomas has a new job in conservative journalism that keeps her involved with the recent focus of her political activism and business dealings – the tea party movement.

In her new capacity working side-by-side with conservative pundit Tucker Carlson, Vogel reports that Ginni Thomas is slated to attend the next conference by the Koch brothers. Vogel writes,

In an interview last month after announcing Thomas’s hiring, Carlson shrugged off questions about how her activities impacted her husband’s objectivity, telling POLITICO “that’s his business. He’s not writing for us. I wish he were.

Wouldn’t it be great if this wasn’t just another day in American campaign finance? Wish you lived in a world back before the Citizens United v. FEC ruling, the rise of Super PACs and non-stop issue ads? We do too, let’s make it happen. Tell your representative to support the Fair Elections Now Act and visit to get involved in our campaign for fair elections.

Money plays too large of a role in elections. To compete in an increasingly money-driven system, candidates spend their days “dialing for dollars” and meeting with interests that can bankroll their campaigns. The recent Supreme Court case Citizens United only makes matters worse, allowing organizations to spend vast sums of money in the dark of night. The public is losing faith in our campaign finance system and rightfully so.

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights took a step in the right direction Tuesday morning. Led by Senator Durbin, the subcommittee held a hearing on The Fair Elections Now Act, which would offer a new system for financing campaigns. The Fair Elections Now Act would allow candidates who value grassroots rather than corporate support, to accept matching public funds with small private donations. As a result, there would be increased transparency and accountability for our elected officials, who would respond to voters’ interests instead of deep-pocketed donors’.

Much of the hearing focused on the impact Citizens United has had on elections. Public Citizen’s recent report, “12 Months After” confirms that the damage is clear. Corporate expenditures are at an all-time high, corporate lobbyists wield influence like none other, and transparency is on the decline.

Former Republican Senator Alan Simpson, the Brennan’s Center Monica Youn, and Tea-Party election attorney Cleta Mitchell testified before the subcommittee.

Simpson presented a real-world view of electioneering to the panel. He offered a grim picture of our current system, as our elected representatives spend too much of their time “begging” for money. He said legislators hate this aspect of their job, but they continue to do it because it’s necessary to win. However, as a result, America suffers. Simpson ardently voiced his support for changing the current scheme so our elected officials can do what really matters: meeting with other legislators, debating bills on the floor, and offering solutions to our nation’s problems.

Youn spoke of how our campaign finance system allows for “Godiva Chocolate” organizations to thrive. According to Youn, they are “Godiva Chocolate” because they are rich, dark, and we have no idea what’s inside them. Under the current regime, sophisticated and shadowy organizations commit what amounts to legal money laundering. They direct vast amounts of money for their political causes, with no accountability. What Youn was referring to is becoming clearer in every election cycle. We’ve all seen the commercials, “Paid for by Americans for mom and apple pie,” but we don’t know who “mom and apple pie” really are.

Mitchell didn’t see an issue with any of this. She believes our election system works just fine. She even said that it’s a part of elected officials’ jobs to raise money, just like it’s her job as an attorney to seek clients. However, unlike attorneys, our elected officials should not spend their time selling out to the highest bidder.

Senator Franken, who was nonplussed at her testimony, asked her how it’s acceptable that corporations can spend large amounts of money in campaigns, without disclosing it to their shareholders. She dodged the question, saying Franken was “confused.” They tussled for a few minutes when Mitchell, seemingly triumphant said, “We just had a confuse-off.” To which Franken retorted, “Yes, and I won.”

Just as Durbin and Franken challenged the status quo in the hearing today, we must continue to demand that our elected officials are responsive to the people, not other interests. The Fair Elections Now Act is a good start.

Tell your representatives that the Fair Elections Now Act is a good start.

Micah Hauptman is a licensed lawyer working with Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division

"Craig Holman"Our elections are far too important to leave to auctioneers and well-financed special interests.

That is why Congress should pass the Fair Elections Now Act (S. 750 and H.R. 1404), which offers a new system for financing campaigns that relies on public funds matching small private donations. Doing so not only would help improve the openness, honesty and accountability of government, but also would free public officials to respond to the interests of voters rather than deep-pocketed donors.

If we want to protect the environment, design a better health care system and improve our energy policy, we need a political system that encourages lawmakers to listen more to voters than to oil and gas companies, pharmaceutical giants and other industries.

Several states and localities have been operating under comprehensive public financing systems for years. These systems work. They draw rave reviews from lawmakers while producing more diverse fields of candidates. Even better, lawmakers who run under the systems spend significantly less time raising money than those who do not, giving them more time to do the work of the people. Consider that in 1976, successful U.S. Senate candidates spent an average of $2.3 million in 2010 dollars. In 2010, the average Senate winner spent an astonishing $7 million. It is estimated that senators spend a third of their time fundraising. That’s time that isn’t being spent on policymaking.

And consider this: A study of contributions to gubernatorial candidates in Arizona found that privately funded candidates in the 1998 and 2002 election cycles received more than 70 percent of their campaign contributions from people living in areas with per capita incomes of $40,000 or more. In contrast, following adoption of public financing in Arizona, candidates who opted into the state’s public funding system received up to 68 percent of their qualifying and seed contributions from people living in zip codes with per capita incomes below $40,000.

The Fair Elections Now Act envisions a system that is entirely voluntary for candidates and imposes no new restrictions on the campaign fundraising or spending of those who do not participate. But it could transform elections into true contests of ideas and merit, rather than fundraising prowess.

For these reasons, Public Citizen enthusiastically rallies in support of the Fair Elections Now Act and applauds the campaign to clean up elections by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.) and all their colleagues who have co-sponsored this important legislation.

Take action today, support the Fair Elections Now Act!

Craig Holman is Public Citizen’s government affairs lobbyist.

Stunning Statistics of the Week:

Despite millions spent on ads, public funding wasn’t triggered in Wisconsin race
Millions of dollars were spent on ads in the Wisconsin Supreme Court race, but because they weren’t “express advocacy” ads, the huge sums didn’t trigger the state’s public funding mechanism. The public money was "Public Citizen Money and Democracy Update"supposed to be available if special interest groups attacked. Meanwhile, it looks as though some of the money that came from outside groups can be traced back to the Koch brothers.

Boehner blasted for fundraising despite looming government shutdown
The government might shut down, and you are a key player in the negotiations to stop it from happening – or getting things up and running if a shutdown occurs. So do you cancel that fundraiser, which is so inconveniently timed? Not if you are House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). Boehner is being blasted for not cancelling the event, scheduled for Saturday night, at which donors will have to cough up $250 to attend, $2,500 to get a photo with Boehner and $5,000 for a special VIP meet and greet.

Home Depot shareholders may get say on company’s political spending
People who own stock in Home Depot will vote on whether they can have a say over the company’s political spending, the Securities and Exchange Commission has decided. The SEC sent a letter to Home Depot in response to that company’s attempt to keep a shareholder resolution on corporate spending off a proxy statement. Likely other companies will see keep this in mind when putting their proxy ballots together.

Public financing of elections bill reintroduced
Standing alongside actor Alec Baldwin, Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.) this week reintroduced the Fair Elections Now Act, a bill that would give public money to congressional candidates who decline to take huge corporate donations but instead rely on small donations from voters. Public Citizen sent a letter of support, saying, “At no time in history has a strong congressional public financing program been so sorely needed – and so demanded by the American public.”

Meanwhile … Obama likely to forgo public financing
Once again, it appears that President Barack Obama is going to run a presidential campaign without tapping into the public financing system. In fact, experts predict that no candidate will use the public funds for the general election.

Strip club visit, improper reimbursements uncovered in Fiesta Bowl investigation
A $1,200 visit to a strip club, a $30,000 birthday party, improper reimbursement of more than $46,000 campaign expenditures to lawmakers including Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl – these are some of the problems identified by details by a panel investigating potential campaign finance violations of Fiesta Bowl executives. As a result, the president of the Fiesta Bowl has been fired. McCain has donated the contributions to charity.

Money in judicial races is harming integrity, lawyers say
More money than ever is being poured into judicial races, and that is having a detrimental effect on judicial independence and integrity, according to a new report from DRI, an organization of corporate defense attorneys. They recommend more disclosure of who pays for attack ads and disqualification of judges who receive too much money.

Paul, recipient of coal money, leery of new coal miner protections
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) isn’t sold on the need for more protections for coal miners. That shouldn’t be too surprising given that his campaign benefited from millions of dollars of expenditures from the coal industry.

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