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.
A battle between leaders of the two parties over campaign finance rules intensified this week as Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) accused Republicans of flat-out threatening the Internal Revenue Service after they warned the agency not to tighten oversight of anonymous money groups misusing the tax code. The squabble is about how forcefully to crack down on groups approved under special 501(c)(4) tax status by claiming to primarily engage in “social welfare,” but which pour significant resources into political activities. Democrats want a strict cap on how much money they may spend for politics; Republicans prefer the ambiguity of the status quo. Beneath the issue is a sea of anonymous spending in which pro-GOP groups are drowning Democrats.... more »
We are happy to bring you another edition of our “Political Dispatch” podcast series from PoliticalBuzz.com. “PD” is a weekly series bringing you insight and analysis from the best political journalists and strategists as well as exclusive interviews with top politicians and campaign staffers.
This week we talked with… more »
The common thread in yesterday’s unbroken string of Democratic and progressive victories was the popular rejection of right-wing overreach. The series of elections held across the country yesterday weren’t supposed to yield a coherent narrative. Yet a common theme emerged: Radical-right Republicans hit a wall last night all over the country, even on a conservative social issue in what may be the most socially conservative state in the nation. So can Democrats take some hope from last night’s results? Provisionally; sort of. If Barack Obama can make next year’s election a choice between his ineffectual moderation and the Republicans’ wacked-out lunacy, the Democrats should do well. If next year’s election is a referendum on his stewardship of the economy the Democrats will likely get clobbered. It’s clear that Americans have had it with Republican extremism. Whether that will be a decisive issue in 2012 is not yet apparent.... more »
It's not that simple. A 2005 report by The Sentencing Project noted that while increased incarceration rates were accompanied by a decrease in crime between 1991 and 1998, crime rates had increased between 1984 and 1991, a period in which the rate of incarceration was even higher. The director of the Pew Center on the States recently wrote, "Rigorous studies show that increased imprisonment can claim credit for only 25 percent of the nation's crime drop over the past 15 years. The other 75 percent comes from a wide variety of factors, inside and outside the criminal justice system." Those factors include support for improved policing and community crime prevention programs—federal support for which was cut by the Bush administration. We already lock up a larger percentage of our population than any other country in the world. We need to invest more in the programs and techniques that we know prevent crime and lead to healthier communities.more »
Did a hack conservative judge just lay the groundwork for the end of the filibuster? The road begins not with last week’s D.C. Circuit Court decision, which if upheld would knock out virtually all recess appointments. There’s at least a fair chance that the Supreme Court will overturn this one. But there’s plenty of room for a creative ruling by the Court that would still make it impossible for Obama to use recess appointments for the remainder of his term. So the real question is: What should Obama and the Democrats do in return? The answer is pretty simple. They won the 2012 elections; if Republicans are willing to bust through the normal workings of the courts and the Senate in order to prevent the government from working with Democrats in office, then Democrats really have only one logical response: to threaten to eliminate supermajority requirements for, at least, executive branch confirmations.
Charles Spies has seen the future of American elections, and it is drenched with super-PAC cash—much of it aimed at getting single politicians elected. Super-PACs may have spent $635 million during the 2012 elections, but that's chump change compared to what they'll likely unload in the next presidential election. (Only 45 months away!) Ditto for the 2014 midterm elections compared to the 2010 midterms. Spies predicts at least 250 new super-PACs will spend serious money on races up and down the ballot in 2014. And he says voters should expect a lot of them to be devoted to promoting the fortune of a single House or Senate candidate, big-money bazookas firing away to nudge their preferred politician that much closer to Washington.more »
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At a time when the country is still reeling from the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the storm has reaffirmed progressive principles that have been under attack in recent years. Sandy has, in fact, brought together a trifecta of progressive policy vindications: the dangers of climate silence, the importance of a strong and responsive federal government, and the necessity of collective bargaining rights for workers.more »
Written with Bernard A. Weisberger. Originally published at BillMoyers.Com.
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.more »
Since forever, the Republican message is STILL "Dems take your money and give it to black people." Doesn't change. Doesn't have to. It's OUR fault.
"I want to be invisible. I do guerrilla warfare. I paint my face and travel at night. You don't know it's over until you're in a body bag. You don't know until election night." --- Ralph Reed
Mitt Romney has either stumbled into or gotten himself into a bit of a "sticky wicket," during his visit to Great Britain. Not only has he managed to offend his hosts, but that Daily Telegraph article. The article, which appeared in one of the U.K.'s leading conservative papers, quoted an unnamed Romney adviser suggesting President Romney would restore the special relationship between the U.S. and U.K., based on a shared "Anglo-Saxon heritage."
In remarks that may prompt accusations of racial insensitivity, one suggested that Mr Romney was better placed to understand the depth of ties between the two countries than Mr Obama, whose father was from Africa.
“We are part of an Anglo-Saxon heritage, and he feels that the special relationship is special,” the adviser said of Mr Romney, adding: “The White House didn’t fully appreciate the shared history we have”.
The Romney campaign has thus far limited its response to distancing itself from the quote and denying its veracity. Though it seems that such an offensive remark would require a much stronger response, the truth is Mitt Romney can't afford too much distance between himself and the ideas behind that quote.
Ask any magician and they’ll tell you that the secret to a successful magic trick is misdirection — distracting the crowd so they don’t realize how they’re being fooled. Get them watching your left hand while your right hand palms the silver dollar: “Now you see it, now you don’t.” The purloined coin now belongs to the magician.
Just like democracy. Once upon a time conservatives supported the full disclosure of campaign contributors. Now they oppose it with their might — and magic, especially when it comes to unlimited cash from corporations. My goodness, they say, with a semantic wave of the wand, what’s the big deal?: nary a single Fortune 500 company had given a dime to the super PACs. (Even that’s not entirely true, by the way.)
Meanwhile the other hand is poking around for loopholes, stuffing millions of secret corporate dollars into non-profit, tax-exempt organizations called 501(c)s that funnel the money into advertising on behalf of candidates or causes. Legally, in part because the Federal Election Commission does not consider them political committees, they can keep it all nice and anonymous, never revealing who’s really behind the donations or the political ads they buy. This is especially handy for corporations — why risk offending customers by revealing your politics or letting them know how much you’re willing to shell out for a permanent piece of an obliging politician?
That’s why passing a piece of legislation called the DISCLOSE Act is so important and that’s why on Monday, Republicans in the Senate killed it. Again.