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.

 

 

Silver Lining in Corporate Attack on Democrats

In the past, corporations and rich donors were savvy enough to split their giving to both political parties so that both sides would have a financial incentive to protect them. Yes, they might lean more to the Republican side, but they gave enough to the Democrats to get them properly motivated to look out for corporate interests.

This is what has led to the two parties playing good cop-bad cop with us for the past 30 years. Republicans are the bad cops who rough up the middle class and the Democrats come in to sooth you over as they pretty much go along with very similar "pro-business" policies.

But now there is an important change in that dynamic. Multinational corporations seem to have pushed their chips all in on the Republican side. The Chamber of Commerce is planning to spend $75 million in these elections and 85% of it will go to Republicans.

Of course, there is a huge downside to this for the average American. The Republicans have an enormous financial advantage because of this and many other "independent" groups like Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS piling on money collected from some of the richest people in the country. This is their class warfare to make sure the top 1% and their tax cuts are protected. And they seem to have chosen a very good time with the anti-incumbent feeling in the air so strong and the economy hurting so much.

So, what's the upside? Well, they've given Democrats no incentive not to fight back (which is their usual M.O. in the good cop-bad cop games they've been playing until now). Now that the Democrats feel significantly endangered and there is no good argument for holding back, it's game on.

If the Democrats manage to hold on, for the first time in a long time they would have an incentive to fight back against a system that is rigged in favor of the rich and the powerful. Because those same folks just declared war on them. If they don't join the battle soon, they are going to get wiped out in 2012. If you thought business interests spent a lot of money in this election, wait till you get a load of 2012.

To be clear, of course not all business interests are nefarious. They are a very legitimate constituency to consider when making policy. But when corporations use their power to kill a bill that would have stopped subsidies for offshoring jobs, then that is exactly the kind of abuse of power that is hurting this country. And that just happened last month.

Can you believe our politicians give tax breaks to companies to offshore our jobs? Well, that's the current state of things, because the system is deeply corrupt and both sides were bought off. Were. Now there is some hope the Democrats won't be in the next term.

Of course, the Democrats could be wiped off the board next month. Or the lesson they learn from this election could be that they have to suck up to corporate interest even harder. But so far, the indications are good. President Obama is fighting back on the campaign trail. Nancy Pelosi has had some harsh words for these corporate donors. And even Tim Kaine compared secret corporate giving to Watergate. You know when Tim Kaine gets tough with corporate funders there is a sea change.

So, the silver lining is that after this election we have some chance of getting the Democratic Party back. That for the first time in decades they might be properly motivated to be on our side and looking out for us instead of their corporate donors - because they no longer have those donors.

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Let The Co-Opting Begin

Rove pointed to unresolved questions about O'Donnell's financial practices, potentially dubious campaign tactics, and generally "nutty things" she'd been saying.

Former Bush Senior Adviser Staff Karl Rove today defended his earlier criticisms of Delaware's Republican Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell and insisted he supports her campaign, since she is now the Republican nominee.

Asked today on Fox News whether he would endorse O'Donnell, Rove said, "I endorsed her the other night -- I said I'm for the Republican in each and every case." - CBS News

As more and more teabaggers are nominated during the Republican primaries the new task for the Republican establishment and pundits is to try and make them appear “main stream”. Under normal conditions this would be difficult because the candidates would have to face the media, their opponents, and the voters. What we are seeing now is a new strategy being instituted by Sarah Palin and her ilk. The new strategy is to avoid the media except for Fox, the voters except for your supporters, and no debates. This election will be telling not just in the policies and visions of the teabaggers, but also a demonstration of the political strategy of evasion. Are the voters so angry that politicians are no longer required to answer tough questions or that their personal lives are no longer relevant?

I believe that former Senator Trent Lott said it best on one of the Sunday talk shows when he said that the Republicans have to figure out a way to co-opt the teabaggers into the larger Republican movement. I have a question why are the teabaggers a natural outgrowth of the Republican Party? If you follow the logic of the teabaggers which is difficult they are for smaller government and fiscal responsibility (among a host of other non-descript principles) then you would think that they would support the only Party in the last 35 years to reduce the national debt and recorded a surplus which would make them Democratic supporters wouldn’t it? So obviously the size of government or the deficits is not what is fueling the outrage.

I think what is troubling to Karl Rove and what should be troubling to the other so-called Republican leaders is that what the teabaggers are putting on display is what is at the heart of the conservative movement which is fear, racism, and tribalism. The teabaggers are like the crazy uncle that you keep in the attic. He is in the family but you don’t want anyone to know about it. The teabaggers are the raw nerve of the Republican Party. They are the ones who are the attack dogs for the Party. Let’s not be naive the reason the so-called Establishment Republicans are not challenging the teabaggers is because the teabaggers are the heart of the Republican Party. And now the trick that they want to play on the American public is to disguise this dark heart as being normal or main stream. These folks are not extremists. They are just angry main stream Americans who may go a little overboard but who could blame them during these revolutionary times.

The Beckster is even trying to talk the teabaggers into toning down the costumes, signs, and rhetoric. According to Mr. Beck now that the teabaggers have made a name for themselves it is time to clean-up their image. He is now offering fashion tips for the teabaggers. When I heard this I was instantly reminded of the Klan’s attempts to become main stream by placing David Duke on the public stage. The problem with managing a mob filled with hate, fear, and paranoia is that there is no managing it. Since a recent poll shows that 50% of the public does not have an opinion of the teabaggers their handlers have decided now is the time for a facelift. Their hope of course is that the public will not remember the signs, the rhetoric, or the racism. Or there is another opinion and that is they truly believe that the majority of Americans secretly share these intolerant views.

I can’t speak for the voters of Delaware, but what gives me cause for concern about Ms. O’Donnell and her shortcomings is simply this, if someone is dishonest in small things they will be dishonest in big things. Although the amounts of her misappropriations are small by Washington standards she has demonstrated a lack of basic honesty. If you will misuse a few thousand dollars how can you be trusted with millions of dollars? Ms. O’Donnell has learned that all Senators are millionaires and she wants to join the club. The fact that the teabaggers will support her or any candidate regardless of their personal integrity demonstrates to me that they are a red herring.

These folks are no more concerned about the deficits than they are concerned about death rays from Mars. You can’t say that you are concerned about the federal deficit and not have enough sense to do a simple history lesson and learn what Party has done more to increase the deficit. This isn’t rocket science a simple internet search will give you the details. But again this isn’t about knowledge or facts it is about a clash of cultures and a clash with the future.

I'm not worried about the deficit. It is big enough to take care of itself. – Ronald Reagan

The Disputed Truth

The Journal Never Learns

The Wall Street Journal has an op-ed today from Karl Rove called, “How Badly Will The Democrats Do?” Why the Journal found Rove to be a trustworthy prognosticator, I’ll never know. Granted, he’s better than Dick Morris, but that’s not saying much. This go-round, Rove lists a variety of numbers regarding fundraising, primaries, polls, enthusiasm, etc., and comes to this conclusion about the 2010 midterms:

The White House has many tools to change the narrative to its advantage. But it's unlikely swing voters will abandon their concerns about ObamaCare, spending and deficits. The public, especially independents, increasingly believes Mr. Obama's policies threaten America's economic future.

Though this midterm election will likely turn on national concerns, it will still come down to individual contests. While a lot will play out over the next six months, there's no question good Republican candidates running effective races will make this a memorable, perhaps even epic, election for the GOP. Obama Democrats should beware.

Okay, but remember the last time he talked about individual contests, on NPR in 2006? Days before he GOP lost 30 House seats and the majority? Here’s the man’s track record:

SIEGEL: I'm looking at all the same polls that you are looking at.

ROVE: No, you are not. I'm looking at 68 polls a week for candidates for the US House and US Senate and Governor, and you may be looking at 4-5 public polls a week that talk attitudes nationally.

SIEGEL: I don't want to have you to call races...

ROVE: I'm looking at all of these Robert and adding them up. I add up to a Republican Senate and Republican House. You may end up with a different math but you are entitled to your math and I'm entitled to THE math.

SIEGEL: I don't know if we're entitled to a different math but your...

ROVE: I said THE math.

Okay, so, after all that, the Journal still gives the man’s predictions credibility… why, exactly?

Ruin Karl Rove's Special Day - LP/Culture Jamming his memoir

The idea began as an internet rant and quickly has expanded since then. Karl Rove, Bush's brain, the man behind George W. Bush's presidency wrote a memoir and had the unmitigated gall to call it "Courage and Consequence".

I'm irritated by a lot of things, but this really rubbed me the wrong way. The architect of the Swift Boat Veterans, 2 wars, and our economic crisis taking a victory lap and making money on book tours? Courage? BAH! Why not release a record with good bands with the same name with songs about his deeds and how bad he sucks? Why don't we call it the same name and try to bum out his special day by releasing it BEFORE his book?

Well, why not?

Help support us producing this compilation of songs and have it released the same day as Karl Rove's memoir of the same name, "Courage and Consequence"

 (not actual cover!)

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