Campaign Finance Reform
Following up on my piece last week on the newest version of the DISCLOSE Act, which failed a cloture vote to overcome a GOP filibuster last night, and which will face another cloture vote around 3pm Eastern today, I wanted to share this interview of Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island), the lead sponsor of S.3369, conducted by progressive talk radio host Sam Seder at this year’s Netroots Nation conference.
Around the 1:35 mark, Sen. Whitehouse says (emphasis added)
That’s a tweet from Roll Call Senate reporter Niels Lesniewski just after breakfast this morning. Instead of taking up annual appropriations, a rudimentary function of annual fiscal business in Congress, Senate Democrats are instead choosing to attempt to squelch political participation before the November elections.
Well reading Foreign Policy for that North Korean blog entry, I came across “The 14 Biggest Lies of 2011,” by David J. Rothkopf. I like list articles a lot; lots of information, in a very short time span, and gets you to focus on them. Sometimes, lists are completely, totally wrong; other times they are spot on; and in this case, it’s quite mixed. I want to offer some rebuttals to a few of his items, because they seem, to me, to be wildly inaccurate. Perhaps they are lies, but his own answers to them are not exactly encouraging. I will only focus on that we disagree on, to save space, but do read the entire list. I actually find it rather humorous…in a morbid sort of way.
I will start out by agreeing 100% with his introduction, however, that in DC, that lying is not an art form, but rather “is more reflexive, like breathing or taking cash from fat cats.” It is nothing but a pit of lies, and the Great Obamessiah himself is one of the best of them. All for civil liberties and ending the wars while running for president, not so much when he actually got into office. What a shame.
But onto Mr. Rothkopf’s list:
6 - “America is unthreatened by China’s growth.”
The Supreme Court issued a significant ruling this week on the subject of campaign financing. It is a complex subject and the opinions authored by the Court illustrate this complexity checking in at 183 pages (read here if you dare). I have read most of them and will offer my thoughts.
In the 2008 election cycle, a group called Citizens United produced a film called Hillary: The Movie which was apparently quite an unfavorable depiction of the Presidential hopeful. Citizens United intended to distribute the film as an on-demand pay-per-view on DirecTV. The commercials which supported the film were deemed an “electioneering communication” by the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia and the film was not shown. Citizen United is a non-profit 501(c)4 corporation which has special non-profit status in that, unlike standard non-profit 501(c)3 charitable corporations, they can participate in the political process via lobbying and and campaigns. If this sounds complicated already, then welcome to the world of campaign finance in the United States.
This week the National Rifle Association, universally considered one of the nation’s most powerful political institutions, endorsed Senator John McCain for President, a decision that has to leave many of its members scratching their heads. Whether or not you support the right of an individual to keep and bear arms, you have to question the reasoning behind the endorsement, given the specific candidate and the current political outlook.
Article excerpt from NRA’s Political Magazine “America’s1st Freedom” - June 2001
Despite the rhetoric of the Obama Administration and Democrats claiming that the United States Chamber of Commerce doesn’t disclose contributions, Americans for Limited Government has located FEC disclosures from the PACs registered to the organization:
Obama’s statement is actually provably false. You see, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce actually operates a political action committee, which is required to file reports with the Federal Elections Commission (FEC).
You can read the U.S. Chamber PAC’s filings for yourself at http://query.nictusa.com/cgi-bin/cancomsrs/?_10+C00082040.
Additionally, the PAC’s “secret” donor lists are at http://query.nictusa.com/cgi-bin/com_ind/2009_C00082040 and http://query.nictusa.com/cgi-bin/com_rcvd/2009_C00082040. These are all FEC filings. PAC’s are already required to disclose donors under federal law.
In fact, this is a part of the Chamber that is expressly engaged in electioneering, subject to full disclosure. Here are the PAC’s expenditures, all public for the world to see: http://query.nictusa.com/cgi-bin/com_supopp/2009_C00082040.
While it is true that the Chamber’s 501(c)6 filings are not public, that does not mean such disclosures do not exist. Many of them actually should already be available to the Obama Administration. How?
With about three weeks before the mid-term elections, Republicans look poised to make significant gains in both the U.S. House and Senate. Most of the major polls are now projecting that the House will return to Republican control; the only question being, by what margin? There is even the remote possibility that Republicans can retake control of the Senate, a scenario that seemed laughable only three months ago. Governors’ races across the country are looking very favorable for the GOP as well, as are the state legislatures. In short, it seems that the predictions of the death of conservatism, and the Carvillian prophecy of forty years of Democrat rule, may have been a bit premature. In fact, it appears that not only will Democrats fall short of the forty year mark; they will fall short of the forty month mark.
For Republicans and conservatives across the nation, certainly this is an encouraging time. Less than two years ago it looked as if we would be wandering for years in the political Sahara, but now America is behind us once again. Or are they?
With all of the rosy news flowing in for Republicans, it would be easy to believe their own hype. However, I would submit that if Republicans allow themselves to buy into this mantra, then they are setting themselves up for failure just as the Democrats have done. In the 2006 and 2008 elections, Republicans lost 55 House seats and saw the Democrats take a 61-39 lead in the Senate (with self-proclaimed Socialist Bernie Sanders of Vermont caucusing with the Democrats). A number of factors led to these losses, but in large part it came down to a handful of issues; weariness of George W. Bush and eight years of war, an unending stream of revelations of corruption among elected Republicans, and out of control spending.
Recently, President Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats have been slamming the United States Chamber of Commerce for spending money on ads in the mid-term election, money they contend is coming from foreign source, which is illegal. The problem with the accusation is that it’s false. The New York Times notes:
[A] closer examination shows that there is little evidence that what the chamber does in collecting overseas dues is improper or even unusual, according to both liberal and conservative election-law lawyers and campaign finance documents.
In fact, the controversy over the Chamber of Commerce financing may say more about the Washington spin cycle — where an Internet blog posting can be quickly picked up by like-minded groups and become political fodder for the president himself — than it does about the vagaries of campaign finance.
The spin from the Obama Administration is that the president is just trying to “draw attention to the inadequacies of campaign disclosure laws.” The DISCLOSE Act, which was shot down in the Senate (twice), would have required PACs and organizations like the Chamber of Commerce to produce their donor lists. That legislation was also an assault on free speech.
Today at 2:15pm, the United States Senate will, for the second time, vote on the DISCLOSE Act. In July, Republicans successfully filibustered the DISCLOSE Act, legislation aimed at curbing political speech in response to the Citizens United decision, from coming to the floor for limited debate and final passage this afternoon by a vote of 57 to 41 (60 votes are needed to move toward a vote for final passage).
Democrats hoped that an adjustment to the bill, which was to change the date the bill would go into law to the beginning of next year, preventing it from affecting the mid-term elections, would lure Republican support.
As Politico reports, it seems all but certain that Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) doesn’t have the votes, but is using the DISCLOSE Act to stall for time until the weekend:
When the defense authorization bill failed to clear cloture Tuesday, Democrats needed a measure to fill floor time before the weekend, and the DISCLOSE Act was one of the few measures in their legislative arsenal that was quickly available.
Having failed cloture once, the campaign bill only requires a less strict “motion to recommit” from Reid to call another cloture vote. New legislation likely would need 30 hours after being filed, 30 hours the Senate doesn’t have.
So even if Democrats know they’re likely short of votes Thursday, the alternative was practically nothing.
The folks over at the Institute for Justice are calling out MoveOn.org for their hypocrisy in its protests of Target. In case you haven’t heard, the retailer is under fire for giving donations to Tom Emmer, a Republican that is opposes gay rights.
MoveOn.org’s premise is that a corporation shouldn’t be giving money to a candidate, playing off of the populist, anti-political speech sentiment that was a result of the Citizens United decision. The Institute for Justice calls the anti-liberty PAC out:
As we’ve noted, Target has drawn heavy fire for its donation to an organization that’s speaking out in support of Minnesota gubernatorial candidate who opposes gay marriage. One of the latest examples of this criticism is a humorous viral video featuring a flash mob that performs a song called “Target Ain’t People”—set to the tune of Depeche Mode’s hit song “People are People”—in the middle of a Target store as employees and customers look on with varying degrees of bemusement.