Video: Maybe kids ought to bundle money for McConnell

What's more important to Senator Mitch McConnell -- health insurance for 157,996 of Kentucky's children or big money donors from Big Tobacco, HMOs, and other health interests?

You can guess the answer by the mere fact that I even have to ask the question.

With an imminent Senate vote on S-CHIP, the children's health insurance program, we at Public Campaign Action Fund made a poignant, hard-hitting web ad that raises this question for Sen. McConnell.

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Ky Senate 08: As A.G. Greg Stumbo Fought for Fair Elections

We all know how terrible Mitch McConnell has been for Kentucky and America. Besides rubber-stamping every failed policy of the Bush Administration he has constantly been an opponent of fair elections. From opposing McCain-Feingold, to assuring that money will continue to drive the process, to opposing paper trails, Mitch McConnell does his best to make sure the the big monied special interests that drive his campaign has more clout than the voters of Kentucky and America.

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Some Selling to Do on Public Financing

Before I get started I just want to thank Todd for pulling the slack yesterday when I was dealing with an interesting issue. While I was walking to class yesterday the zipper on my backpack jostled open and my laptop fell out, crashing to the pavement. As luck would have it, only the screen was damaged, as I found out once I was able to high tail it to the Apple store. Within a few short hours they were able to replace the screen. Also as luck would have it, it seems that my insurer will pay for the repair. As you might imagine, yesterday was a long, but interesting day for me...

A couple days ago Gallup released polling showing that, by a fairly wide margin, Americans disapprove of presidential candidates accepting campaign contributions from federal lobbyists. Thus the take away line for many was that John Edwards' call for other presidential candidates (read: Hillary Clinton) not to accept donations from federal lobbyists has the potential to resonate with the American people.

But another data point from the poll seemed more interesting to me, in a sense, and that was on the public financing of presidential elections. As a quick backstory, those who were in attendence at the Yearly Kos presidential forum or had the opportunity to watch it in full might remember the overwhelmingly strong response the crowd gave to Chris Dodd when he spoke in favor of public financing. Indeed, such a position is assumed to be widely popular with the Democratic base, and possibly even the American people. But that same Gallup poll showed something else. Take a look:

Thinking now about the different ways in which presidential candidates can finance their campaigns, do you think each of the following is an acceptable or unacceptable way for a presidential candidate to raise money for a campaign. How about money from public financing from the federal government?

Acceptable41
Unacceptable57
No opinion2

This poll brings up a couple of interesting points, as well as at least one question that may bear polling -- perhaps even official polling sponsored by the federal government or Congress. As many on this site likely know, there already is a federal financing scheme in place for presidential elections, and has been since the 1976 election. Every single major party presidential nominee has taken public financing in the general election (though that could change this time around), and most candidates have accepted public financing for their primary campaigns (though that began to change in 2000). So do Americans realize that there already is a public financing system in place for presidential elections?

But even if we leave that question unanswered for now, these numbers seem to suggest that there is still a lot of work to be done before there is the political will necessary to implement a system of public financing for all federal elections. Perhaps if you turned the question on its head -- i.e. would you support public financing for federal elections -- you might find more support, even possibly majority support, for such a system. Yet these new numbers from Gallup suggest that there is more than a little reluctance among the American people today for public financing. So those who believe in such a system likely have a lot more work to do in selling such a system if they hope to see one implemented any time soon.

Update [2007-8-31 13:20:49 by Jonathan Singer]: David Donnelly, who works on this issue and who has done a lot of writing here at MyDD, will sound off on this topic early next week, so make sure to stay tuned.

They talk big, but will candidates deliver the fundraising transparency we need?

Last night, Presidential hopeful Barack Obama reiterated once more that he does not take money from lobbyists:

OLBERMANN: Thirty seconds. Senator Obama, I know you and Senator Edwards have taken a firm stand against accepting money from lobbyists, yet you allow them to raise money for you and, as the phrase goes, "Bundle it." What's the difference between those things?
OBAMA: No, no. I do not have federal registered lobbyists bundling for me, just like I don't take PAC money.  (APPLAUSE) And the reason that's important is because the people in this stadium need to know who we are going to fight for. And I want to be absolutely clear that the reason I'm in public  life, the reason I came to Chicago, the reason I started working with  unions, the reason I march on picket lines, the reason that I'm  running for president is because of you... (APPLAUSE) ... not because of the folks who are writing big checks. And that's a clear message that has to be sent, I think, by every candidate.

Click here for full transcript. 

While Obama's assertion is reality-based, he is dancing on a technicality, since several of his bundlers have recent histories that include lobbying. In April, Alex Bolton reported in The Hill that:

Three of Obama's top fundraisers, who each have raised more than $50,000 for his campaign since January, were registered as lobbyists last year, according to reports filed with the Senate Office of Public Records. In 2006, Alan Solomont of Solomont Bailis Ventures earned $90,000 in lobbying income; Tom Reed, of Kirkland & Ellis, lobbied for the Seismological Society of America, the Nanobusiness Alliance, and the Airport Minority Advisory Council; and Scott Harris, of Harris, Wiltshire & Grannis, represented Cisco Systems, Microsoft, Dell and Sprint-Nextel.

All three Obama fundraisers have said they are no longer lobbyists, although the public records office has not posted contract termination reports for any of them.

Several other major Obama fundraisers also have histories of lobbying government officials for a living. Thomas Perrelli was a lobbyist for Jenner & Block as recently as 2005. Until 2003, when Obama was a member of the Illinois Senate, Peter Bynoe was a registered state lobbyist representing Boeing and other corporate interests, according to the Illinois secretary of state. They have both raised at least $50,000 for Obama's presidential bid, according to his campaign.

 
The full article is here.

In fact, at least five of Obama's disclosed bundlers have registered in the past with the Senate Office of Public Records. Three of them hadn't filed the normal paperwork indicating termination of their lobbying contracts, though Alan Solomont, Tom Reed and Scott Harris all told they Hill they had stopped lobbying.

(You can confirm the lobbying IDs with the Secretary of the Senate's lobbying database. For example: Alan Solomont; Tom Reed; Scott Harris. One of them, Thomas Perelli, of Jenner and Block, lobbied for victims of the August 1998 Africa embassy bombings. Which raises the point that many have made in comments that not all lobbyists are alike.)

The article went on to point out that some fundraisers for Obama are corporate officers of companies that hire lobbyists. At least 10 other major bundlers work for companies that have lobbied the federal government, including Bill Kennard of the Carlyle Group.

And late last week, the Los Angeles Times noted that Obama has taken in more than $1.4 million from firms with partners registered to lobby the federal government.

That total likely includes money brought in by two federal lobbyists who don't appear on Obama's "official" fundraising list. John Corrigan and Sanford Stein both had their personal donations to Obama returned, the LA Times reported. They also were asked not to help with fundraising, but not until after they had sent out emails for a fundraiser that helped Obama bring in $190,000 from Illinois donors between June 6 and June 11th. Did Obama return the money Corrigan and Stein helped to bring in? He hasn't said.

As today's Tom Paine article on the candidates' "Secret Santas" describes, the candidates are actually ALL being less-than-forthcoming about the details of their fundraising operations.  

Public Citizen sent letters today to all of them calling on them to "put their mouths where their money is" and come clean on their bundling operations. It's a sad day when the Democratic hopefuls are disclosing less campaign finance information than did masters of secrecy Bush and Cheney in 2004.

You can find out what we do know about the presidential candidates' bundlers at www.WhiteHouseforSale.org and collect tips on bird-dogging the candidates on their poor disclosure of bundlers here.

Public Citizen, among others, is calling for a law to require disclosure of all bundling activity (and not merely by lobbyists, as in the recently passed lobbying and ethics bill). Relying on voluntary disclosure of information about bundlers makes us all too dependent on the whims of candidates.

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Ask yourself why foreclosure rates are so high

The high mortgage foreclosure rates the country is seeing recently have caught everyone's attention - but have you asked yourself why it's happening? Why were there 1.2 million foreclosure filings in 2006? And why is the number continuing to rise?

The answer? The mortage lending industry spent nearly $210 million on Washington lobbying and campaign contributions over the past seven years, all in order to stop Congress from taking action to restrict lending abuses. They were generous...and they were successful.

As consumer and housing advocates won successes in states around the country for more regulation of mortgage lenders, the industry went to work in Congress. Their goal was to block strict regulatory legislation and pass federal legislation pre-empting state restrictions - their tool was money. Below are some eye-opening numbers on lobby expenditures and PAC donations from the largest subprime mortgage lenders, their trade associations, and corporate parents.

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