talkingpointsmemo.com — Too many U.S. jurisdictions allow our elections to be run by political partisans. Local officials have too much control, and often lack adequate training and resources. Political rhetoric has been ratcheted up and mistrust has been building thanks to spurious and exaggerated claims of voter fraud (and in some cases voter suppression) by political provocateurs. Social media inflames partisan passions and could push the next election meltdown into the streets. What can be done to end the voting wars? We might begin by asking about the goals of a fair and effective election system. Most people of good faith considering this problem likely would agree with this statement: an election system should be designed so that all eligible voters, but only eligible voters, may freely cast a vote which will be accurately counted.
propublica.org — It was mid-July and I had come to Hilltop Public Solutions because Jessie Bradley, a partner with the consulting firm, appeared to run two social-welfare nonprofits out of its Washington, D.C., office. ProPublica was preparing a story about how such groups – also known as 501(c)(4)s for their section of the tax code – were pouring money into elections. The nonprofits run by Bradley, Economy Forward and the Citizens for Strength and Security Action Fund, or CSS Action Fund, had spent more than $3 million supporting Democrats in 2010, records showed. Eighteen of 106 social-welfare nonprofits that we identified as having spent money on elections in 2010 would not provide us with these documents, despite repeated requests and reminders that they were legally obligated to do so.
washingtonpost.com — Last week, Judge Robert Simpson of the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania refused to halt a discriminatory new state law requiring voters to show photo identification. It was the judicial equivalent of giving democracy the bird. Since you’re significantly more likely to be struck by lightning than encounter an actual case of voter fraud, the law is really just a solution in search of a problem. Or, rather, a political party in search of a vote to suppress.
juancole.com — It would be bad enough, as I reported last week, that 47 billionaires were responsible for the lion’s share of individual Super PAC contributions. It turns out that the Super PACs aren’t even the biggest players. The biggest players are the dark money PACs, which do not have to reveal the sources of their funding. If we just look at the television ads bankrolled by the top six sources of funding, we make a startling discovery, which Kim Barker reported on in these pages last week. The ‘dark money’ PACs are outspending everyone else. Crossroads GPS, founded by Karl Rove and backed by anonymous big-money donors, has bought negative attack ads against President Obama to the tune of $52 million! The Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity spent $20.6 million. The political parties and the Super PACs, which have to identify the source of their funds, are making a much smaller contribution.
huffingtonpost.com — Last week, Florida's former Republican Party Chairman Jim Greer appeared on my TV show, and candidly discussed how the GOP in his state systematically pushed for harsh new voter ID laws in order to suppress the vote -- specifically that of African Americans and young people. He confirmed what some of us have long argued, and he provided a backdrop into what is transpiring all across the country in advance of the upcoming presidential election. Well today, in the battleground state of Pennsylvania, a judge ruled in favor of upholding the draconian Republican-supported voter ID law. This outrageous ruling is a slap in the face to democracy, and a slap in the face to all those who sacrificed so dearly in order to secure our liberties.
truthdig.com — Voter ID laws adopted in 10 states representing nearly half of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency will make it harder for hundreds of thousands of poor and minority Americans to vote and could decide the outcome of the 2012 election.
propublica.org — Two conservative nonprofits, Crossroads GPS and Americans for Prosperity, have poured almost $60 million into TV ads to influence the presidential race so far, outgunning all super PACs put together, new spending estimates show. These nonprofits, also known as 501(c)(4)s or c4s for their section of the tax code, don't have to disclose their donors to the public. The two nonprofits had outspent each of the other types of outside spending groups in this election cycle, including political parties, unions, trade associations and political action committees. Super PACs, which do have to report their donors, spent an estimated $55.7 million on TV ads mentioning a presidential candidate, CMAG data shows. Parties spent $22.5 million. Campaign-finance reform advocates say the spending by the two organizations highlights the role anonymous money is playing in this election, which will be the most expensive in history.
prospect.org — Voter ID laws create an unnecessary barrier to voting that disproportionately affects poor and nonwhite voters. If you’re going to have them, you should at least tell people that they're going into effect. But given the impetus of these laws, it's no surprise that few of the states that have passed them have made any effort to educate voters. The point of these laws is to decrease turnout among poor, nonwhite, young, and elderly voters—those more likely to vote Democratic—and thereby give Republicans an electoral advantage. Informing and preparing voters defeats the point. But conservative lawmakers are likely to keep pushing the laws, and voting-rights advocates could alleviate some of the harm by pushing for comprehensive plans to educate voters. Plus somewhere, a state might actually want to inform voters about what happened at the state capital. It all begs the question: What exactly would a good voter education campaign look like?
progressive.org — We need more local broadcasting, not a return to the Fairness Doctrine, to enhance our media diet. Twenty-five years ago this month, the Reagan administration’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) did away with the Fairness Doctrine. It ruled that the 38-year policy of requiring broadcasters to devote airtime to controversial public issues and to offer diverging viewpoints was obsolete because of the proliferation of cable TV stations. But the doctrine was not the panacea its champions believed it to be, and it wouldn’t cure what ails us today. Today, just a handful of media conglomerates hog both the TV and radio spectrum. And local TV news programming is shrinking, with enterprise reporting fading fast. Restoration of the Fairness Doctrine wouldn’t change this course. However, a move toward local ownership of broadcast media might bring us more information we need and a greater variety of meaningful voices and political sensibilities.
juancole.com — The Public Interest Group Education Fund and the NGO Demos released a study in early August on the financing of the presidential campaign. They found that nearly 60% of the almost quarter of a billion dollars raised by Super PACs from individuals derived from just 47 people, who gave at least $1 million each (obviously some gave much more). 47 people. That’s democracy? The Super PACs are turning this presidential election into a toxic slamming match beyond anything seen in the recent past. These extremely wealthy and arrogant people are not giving this money for their health. They are expecting something for it.