salon.com — One of the oldest dirty tricks in politics is running candidates in your opponent’s primary to distract them from the general or even potentially knock them out entirely. The FBI is reportedly investigating Rep. David Rivera for backing a fake Democrat with envelopes stuffed with cash, and Republicans in Wisconsin openly supported “fake Democrats” there in order to give Gov. Scott Walker an edge in the election’s timing. But the rise of super PACs has opened up a new venue for this tactic, allowing operatives to anonymously deploy hundreds of thousands of dollars of ads while deceitfully pretending to be partisans of the other side.
alternet.org — The Republican Party’s war on Democratic voting blocks is like a game of three-dimensional chess in which their strategies are intended to remain dormant until Election Day, and in the following days when votes are officially counted. But their game plan is simple. They want to discourage voters by complicating every step for new and existing voters from specific blue cohorts, such as students, poor people and minorities. While most of the GOP’s voter suppression strategies are designed to erupt in November, it is now possible to identify at least three major areas where hundreds of thousands of likely Democratic votes have already been thwarted—and where steps to reverse that process, if possible, must be taken soon before fall voter registration deadlines kick in.
theroot.com — In states from Florida to Pennsylvania, Republican Party efforts to diminish minority voting strength for this year's presidential election are a sobering reminder that the struggle for full civil rights is not over. But it's not only black voters who should be concerned about Republican voter-suppression tactics. The GOP's war on voting is a serious attack on the fundamental workings of our democracy. It is, at its core, an attempt to negate the important victories of the early 1960s that laid the foundation of our modern representative democracy. To understand the breadth of the threat represented by voter-ID laws and other new practices, it's important to realize that the effort to dismantle obstacles to voting rights for black voters in the South during the early 1960s did more than just enfranchise African Americans. It exposed the myriad ways in which key aspects of the American electoral system were fundamentally unfair for all voters.
thenation.com — On January 27, 2010, one year into his term, President Barack Obama used the occasion of his State of the Union address to issue a warning. The Supreme Court had just opened the “floodgates for special interests—including foreign corporations—to spend without limit in our elections.” He was speaking about the ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, in which the Court struck down nearly a century of law, granting corporations vast new leeway to influence the outcome of elections. In the months after Obama’s speech, the American Petroleum Institute, an oil industry trade association that represents hundreds of multinational oil and gas companies, would demonstrate just how prescient the president’s warning was.
washingtonpost.com — Pushing constitutional amendments tends to be the province of Republican presidents: to mandate balanced budgets, for instance, or to make abortion illegal. But President Obama has been both speaking privately and flirting openly with the notion of amending the Constitution. His goal would be to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision and get the biggest-money checks out of politics. Would the prospect — threat? — of an amendment have an impact on the court? Is it proper for a president to seek to pressure the court this way?
We might wish the uproar from the convention halls of both parties these busy weeks were the wholesome clamor of delegates deliberating serious visions of how we should be governed for the next four years. It rises instead from scripted TV spectacles — grown-ups doing somersaults of make-believe — that will once again distract the public’s attention from the death rattle of American democracy brought on by an overdose of campaign cash.
No serious proposal to take the money out of politics, or even reduce its tightening grip on the body politic, will emerge from Tampa or Charlotte, so the sounds of celebration and merriment are merely prelude to a funeral cortege for America as a shared experience. A radical minority of the super-rich has gained ascendency over politics, buying the policies, laws, tax breaks, subsidies, and rules that consolidate a permanent state of vast inequality by which they can further help themselves to America’s wealth and resources.
project-syndicate.org — When the French politician and moral philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville published the first volume of his Democracy in America in 1835, he did so because he thought that France was in big trouble and could learn much from America. So one can only wonder what he would have made of the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida. Nearly two centuries have passed since Tocqueville wrote his masterpiece. The connection between the general interest and the private interest of individual Americans has, if anything, become much stronger, even if their private interest is tied to a post office box in the Cayman Islands. But the mechanisms that individuals can use to join with their immediate neighbors in political action that makes a difference in their lives have become much weaker.
propublica.org — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's allies seemed to give a big old raspberry to presidential aspirant Mitt Romney on the front page of the New York Post yesterday. Anonymous sources told the paper that Romney demanded Christie agree to resign the governorship if he was offered vice president on the GOP ticket. Christie was said to have declined since he didn't think Romney would win.The possible need for Christie's resignation arises from federal rules that forbid the employees of Wall Street firms from giving money to state officials running for federal office if the firms do business with that state. If the public official — in this case, the governor of New Jersey — has any influence, directly or indirectly, in selecting the pension investment advisers or bond underwriters, the firms can't give campaign contributions. This would likely have cut off an important spigot of campaign cash for Romney.
policyshop.net — Political equality is a fundamental American value. Matching small campaign donations with public funds is a way to honor this value by empowering citizens and magnifying their voices. Where the current campaign finance system operates as a megaphone for millionaires, public funding helps push back against the political inequality brought about by the influx of huge donors and special interest money. It protects against corruption and the appearance of corruption that can turn off so many citizens who see their government as in the pockets of the highest bidders. Two-thirds of Americans say they have less trust in government because they believe big donors have more influence than regular voters.