Money and Democracy Update

kristy SRI/ESG News

A publication of Public Citizen

an e-newsletter about the movement to curb corporate influence in politics and restore our democracy

Issue #57 • April 15, 2011

“Money and Democracy Update” is Public Citizen’s weekly e-newsletter about the intersection of money and politics. It is part of our ongoing campaign to track the results of — and ultimately overturn — the U.S. Supreme Court’s reckless decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which allows for-profit corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money to support or attack political candidates. We’ll update you regularly with select news stories and blog posts, legislative developments and ways to get involved.

Stunning Statistics of the Week:

$4.9 million: The amount raised by the Florida GOP in the first quarter of the year
$1.2 million: The amount raised by the Florida Democratic Party in the same period
Pass FENA; elections shouldn’t be left to auctioneers
Our elections are too important to leave to auctioneers and well-financed special interests. That’s why Congress should pass the Fair Elections Now Act, which offers a system for financing campaigns that relies on public funds matching small private donations. So said Public Citizen on Tuesday, the day of a hearing on the proposed act. At the hearing, former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.) was brutally honest about the negative aspects of his prior job: “If you talk to someone who likes to beg for money, you’re talking to a delusional man. … We’re stuck in a trough of raising bucks. … We cannot legislate if we have to fund-raise day and night.”

Maryland passes broad disclosure measure
The Maryland Legislature has passed a broad campaign finance disclosure measure. Not only does it require disclosure of who pays for election ads, but corporations that spend money to sway Maryland elections must report that to their shareholders.

Feingold PAC raises $1 million in six weeks
The political action committee (PAC) launched by former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) raised $1 million between mid-February and the end of March. The group is designed to be an answer to Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the January 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that gave corporations the go-ahead to spend as much money as they want to sway elections.

Another potential victim of Citizens United: the tax system
More Citizens United fallout: Because of that controversial U.S. Supreme Court decision, it may be harder to change the tax system. Why? Because corporations that like their tax breaks can exert more influence over Congress to block reform.

N.C. state senator trying to end public financing of elections in that state
A North Carolina state lawmaker who benefited from a millionaire donor is trying to dismantle the state’s clean elections system. State Sen. Jim Davis is pushing a bill that conservatives had called a top priority. It would do away with public financing of elections, now in place for certain judicial and state races in North Carolina.

Major donor to Wisconsin governor pleads guilty to campaign finance violations
William Gardner, the president and CEO of Wisconsin & Southern Railroad Co., has agreed to plead guilty to exceeding campaign contribution limits and funneling donations through his employees. Prosecutors are recommending two years of probation.

Colbert can’t have a PAC after all – or maybe he can …
In March, comedian Stephen Colbert told viewers he was going to form a political action committee called Colbert PAC. But a lawyer for Comedy Central’s parent company Viacom this week said “no can do.” Colbert was all ready to tear up his PAC creation forms. But then former Federal Election Commission Chair Trevor Potter went on the show and told Colbert he can create a “Super PAC” instead. So now the Colbert PAC is back on.

Barbour says lobbyist past is a plus
Can being a former lobbyist make you more appealing to voters? Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour thinks so. Before becoming governor, Barbour started a powerful lobbying shop in Washington, D.C. He represented foreign governments on trade issues, a fuel additives association and more. His spin? “When I became governor, I became lobbyist for the taxpayers of Mississippi. And if I become president, I’ll become the advocate for the policies and interests of America.”

The final vote: Wisconsin residents say corporations shouldn’t have constitutional rights
We told you recently about how voters in Madison, Wis., and Dane County, Wis., voted on nonbinding referenda asking whether the U.S. Constitution should be amended to state that “only human beings, not corporations, are entitled to constitutional rights.” The results are in. Madison voters approved it by 84 percent; Dane County voters did so by 78 percent.

New campaign: “U.S. Chamber doesn’t speak for me”
The climate change organization has launched a new campaign called “The U.S. Chamber Doesn’t Speak for Me.” The idea is to emphasize that the U.S. Chamber – which has an outsized presence in Washington, D.C., thanks to enormous contributions from mega-corporations – doesn’t represent small business interests. Volunteers are asking owners of local businesses, such as bakeries, florists and beauty salons, to sign a statement saying the U.S. Chamber doesn’t speak for them.

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