Campaign Cash: Citizens United Becomes Get-Out-of-Jail-Free Card for Corporate Criminals

by Zach Carter, Media Consortium blogger

The votes are in, and while some close races are still being tallied, there is a clear winner from the 2010 elections: Secret corporate cash.

Such unaccounted for political donations may end up allowing those accused of wrongdoing to go free. As Joshua Holland details for AlterNet, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission may have provided a lifetime supply of get-out-of-jail-free cards to corporate criminals.

The Kentucky senate race serves as a prime example. The Democratic candidate, Jack Conway, is currently Kentucky’s attorney general. Conway is also currently prosecuting a nursing home for allegedly covering up the sexual abuse of one of its residents.

But that nursing home is owned by Terry Forcht, a millionaire who gives prodigiously to right-wing causes. He poured money into Karl Rove’s organization, American Crossroads GPS, which ran ads backing Conway’s Republican opponent, Rand Paul. Guess who came away with the victory last night?

As Holland emphasizes, the mid-term elections are just how the first phase of the justice system’s corruption plays out. Eventually the mere threat of attack ads could be enough to prevent needed prosecutions. Corporate bigwigs could literally get away with murder, and pay for it only through attack ads.


Think this is bad? Just wait for 2012

As David Corn details for Mother Jones, the Supreme Court’s ruling has put American democracy in grave danger. This year’s big spending is just a warm-up for the 2012 presidential election. Karl Rove has already pledged to keep running attack ads after the mid-terms, and there’s no doubt that he’ll make good on that. As Corn emphasizes, this issue doesn’t just affect how campaigns are financed—it will permanently reshape the very nature of American elections.

The permanent, neverending campaign will become even more permanent and neverending. These big-and-secret-money groups will be working 24/7, opposing and discrediting President Barack Obama and the Democrats in the so-called off-year and then revving up for the 2012 presidential and congressional elections. The negative ads never have to stop.

That, ultimately, is the major take-away from last night’s elections. Not the number of seats Republicans picked up in the House, or the Tea Party’s ability to infiltrate the Senate, but the formal incorporation of American politics. With literally no limits on the amount of money they can spend to influence elections, corporations and secret billionaires are going to be tipping the democratic scales wherever they smell profit.

That means it will be much, much harder for politicians of any ideological stripe to solve society’s problems. The richest corporations have the most political purchasing power, and the companies with the most money are those that have thrived under the status quo—however destructive that state of affairs may be to society at large. This money will go to keeping things the way they are—not toward creating jobs, improving education, expanding access to health care, stopping ecological catastrophe or anything else.

Citizens United 101

We spoke with Jesse Zwick of The Washington Independent about the nuts and bolts of Citizens United and secret campaign cash. In the below video, Zwick details the potential impact of secret money—and how citizens and legislature can curb the effects of this historic ruling.

Bare-bones, anti-Citizens United legislation might still have a shot

So what can be done? Earlier this year, Republicans successfully filibustered legislation that would have forced corporations to disclose their political spending and require front-groups to divulge the identities of their donors. But as Jesse Zwick emphasizes for The Washington Independent, there’s still one more opportunity to push a bare-bones version of the bill through Congress. Democrats will retain their broad Congressional majorities until January 2011, when the candidates elected last night formally take up office. If Democrats see which way the corporate wind is blowing, they’ll flex their political muscles one last time to get a disclosure bill through Congress. There are many things that people are reluctant to do in public that they have the political right to do. If lawmakers can remove the anonymity from corporate and elite political spending, some of the Citizens United damage could be reversed.

If not, 2012 is going to be even uglier than last night.

But wait, there’s more!

  • Amie Newman of RH Reality Check reports that a last-minute mailer funded by outside group The Citizens for Responsible Spending attacked Washington state Sen. Rodney Tom, citing his pro-women’s rights and pro-LGBT positions. Tom ended up losing his seat last night.
  • California upheld its environmental protection law by defeating Proposition 23, despite the fact that oil companies funneled nearly $10 million to pass the measure, reports Kate Sheppard at Mother Jones.
  • As Dave Gilson details for Mother Jones, outside spending worked overwhelmingly in favor of Republican candidates in key races.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the mid-term elections and campaign financing by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit The Media Consortium for more articles on these issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, The Pulse, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.



Elections and the God Factor

By now most have seen, or at least heard about, the ad that Jack Conway (D-KY) is running to attack Rand Paul (R-KY) on religion. Conway took, what I consider to be, an objectionable last-ditch effort to discredit Rand Paul. In a race where Paul has been consistently leading Conway by 4-8 points (depending on the poll), Conway was clearly desperate to hit Paul and hit him hard.

For those who are not familiar with the ad, Conway attacks Rand Paul’s membership in a “secret society that mocked Christianity” and allegedly called the Holy Bible a “hoax.” The ad also mentioned references to the now famous Aqua-Buddha supposed worship.  

Make no mistake, this post is in no way an endorsement for Rand Paul. I find myself agreeing with Jack Conway on many more things than Paul, however this lowball attack ad campaign is ridiculous. Religion should be disregarded from political elections and a heavier focus should be placed on policy issues, and what candidates are going to bring to the office they are wishing to hold (however that would be in a perfect world).  

On the other hand, from a recent episode of Hardball Chris Mathews (like him or not) pointed out that what Conway used in his ad, albeit distasteful, has yet to be proven wrong.  Rand Paul avoids discussing the issue and the voters in Kentucky don't seem too distraught by the accusations (at least not enough to put polls in Conway's favor).  

This provides a perfect segue for the latest installment of religious-based smear tactics, courtesy of everyone’s favorite millionaire: John Raese.

Raese, who has already piled a wholesome $2.4 Million of his own money into his campaign, is starting to realize he’s in trouble. The polls show Manchin up anywhere between 2 and 5 points, and Raese has begun to panic. Where to turn from here? How does a plutocrat of questionable residency appeal to the West Virginia voter base?

With just ten days before the November mid-term elections, one of the closest and most important Senate races in the country has entered the realm of “silly.”

Republican U.S. Senate John Raese affirmed his support for Lance Schultz, president of the West Virginia Conservative Fund. Mr. Schultz criticized Mr. Manchin, saying the governor supports cap and trade legislation. He added that any candidate that supports such legislation “denies the existence of God, denies the truth of His work.”

“Well I tell you, you can’t have any better support than Lance Schultz,” Mr. Raese said following the event.

(Source: The State Column)

Granted Raese did not claim directly that Manchin denies the existence of God, he didn’t denounce it either. The most baffling part of this quote is that Joe Manchin is an outspoken critic of the Cap and Trade Legislation (he literally shoots a hole in the bill)

Hopefully, John Raese will take the higher road and not pursue the issue any further. It’s a shame when candidates get so desperate that they have to question the opponent’s personal faith in God to score political points.

(cross-posted from MyFDL)

Kentucky Senate Race - Three Polls

A new cn|2 poll released yesterday shows the Senate race in between Democrat Jack Conway and Republican Rand Paul in the Commonwealth of Kentucky to be a statistical dead heat. When asked which candidate they would support if the election were today, 41.7 percent of likely Kentucky voters said Conway and 41.2 percent picked Paul. 16.4 percent remain undecided. The survey of 801 voters was conducted August 16 through 18. The poll has a margin of error of 3.46 points.

The results reflect a 10-point jump for Conway from the last statewide cn|2 poll taken August 2-4. Support for Paul has held steady at around 41 percent mark since June in the cn|2 polls.

However, a Rasmussen Reports poll of about 500 voters interviewed by an automated system released on Wednesday showed Paul with a 49-40 lead over Conway. Four percent prefer another candidate, and seven percent are undecided In all Rasmussen poll to date since January, Paul has received between 46 percent and 50 percent support in match-ups with Conway. During the same period, Conway has earned between 34% and 42% of the vote.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Tuesday fell right in the middle of these two polls. This poll gave Paul, a Tea Party favorite, a five point lead over Conway. Paul garnered 45 percent to Conway's 40 percent.

There's more...

Rand Paul’s Kentucky Problems

Most of Repub Senate nominee Rand Paul’s “gaffes” have been over national issues – calling the President un-American for criticizing BP, attacking the Civil Rights Act, presenting himself as a board-certified doctor when the board is pretty much just his family, etc. As Tip O’Neil said, though, all politics is local – and Paul has just as many problems with Kentucky politics as he does national politics.

Democrat Jack Conway’s campaign sent out the following email today, highlighting Paul’s attacks on local farmers and his lack of knowledge about Kentucky agriculture and history:

According to the Courier-Journal:

"Renewing his attack on federal farm subsidies, Republican U.S. Senate nominee Rand Paul told a Kentucky Farm Bureau audience Thursday that three agriculture companies have received a total of more than $1 billion in aid…But, in fact, the 'companies' are all cooperatives that are owned by thousands of farmers. And the federal payments have gone to the farmers who own them over the past 15 years - as the Paul campaign later acknowledged in an interview."

In fact, Paul's spokesperson Jesse Benton told the C-J: "I don't know what a co-op is."…

Last week, in Details Magazine's profile, Paul's ignorance of the state he is running to represent in the Senate was once again apparent when the reporter - a non-Kentuckian - asked about the significance of Harlan County in history:

"'I don't know,' he [Paul] says in an elusive accent that's not quite southern and not quite not-southern. The town of Hazard is nearby, he notes: 'It's famous for, like, The Dukes of Hazzard.'"
The reporter did a little digging and found out Paul was wrong: "Harlan County, Kentucky, it turns out, is famous not for the Duke boys, or for the Hatfields and McCoys, as Rand Paul speculated, but for its violent coal battles."

This follows an earlier AP story that highlighted Paul’s growing unpopularity with Kentucky’s poor. Paul quoted Soviet materials to make a bogus point about American poverty while bashing programs incredibly important to the state’s citizens:

Paul's recent remarks at his first forum with Democratic opponent Jack Conway stirred some anger in impoverished pockets of Kentucky, where as many as a third of residents live in poverty.

The libertarian-leaning Paul addressed the issue of poverty by alluding to a decades-old, anti-American propaganda film by the Soviet government designed to criticize the free-market system…

Charles Hardin, a Democratic judge-executive from eastern Kentucky's Magoffin County, said Monday that Paul's comments rubbed him the wrong way and he criticized Paul for relying on "anecdotal tales."

Two polls released in the last two days show this to be a close race: CN|2/Braun Research has Paul leading 41-38, and Rasmussen has Paul leading 49-41. I’d never heard of Braun Research before, but their methodology seems more sound than Rasmussen’s – they use live interviewers rather than phone buttons and a three-day frame rather than one day. One encouraging CN|2 finding: "Conway scored higher with women than Paul did, 42.5% to 35.9%."

To help defeat Paul and elect a true progressive, help Conway out at our ActBlue page.

Does Rand Paul Want To Abandon NATO?

A new Rasmussen poll shows Democrat Jack Conway just seven points behind Repub Rand Paul in KY-SEN, 49-42. The news of this flimsy lead comes on the heels of a failed money bomb attempt where Paul raised far less than he had been able to do before his comments regarding the Civil Rights Act and the BP oil slick.

Paul just doesn’t know when to stop digging. From the Louisville Courier-Journal:

Republican U.S. Senate nominee Rand Paul said Wednesday that the United States needs to continue rolling back its defenses in Europe and allow counties there to foot the cost of defending the continent.

"You know, it's been 70 years since World War II and I think that the expense for defending Europe really should be borne by Europeans and there should probably be changes as to how many troops" are deployed there, Paul said in response to a question on Germany on WHAS radio's Mandy Connell show.

First of all, though we haven’t “defended” Europe in decades, doing so would be part of our NATO treaty obligations, and asking NATO to step up its commitment to our defense in Afghanistan makes this the wrong time to criticize our role in the organization. Second, many if not most of our installations in Europe are about deployment and logistics, not European defense. As the Courier-Journal article goes on to point out, Germany is home to “Landsthul Regional Medical Center, the largest American hospital outside the United States and the destination of seriously injured soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Either Rand Paul is suggesting we abandon NATO, which would make sense given his father’s criticism of the UN, or he doesn’t know a thing about policy but is still willing to run off his mouth, which would make sense given Sarah Palin’s endorsement of her.

Paul’s opponent, Jack Conway, has been a part of our Act Blue page since before the primaries. It’s almost as easy to support him as it is to oppose Paul.


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