The Washington Post reports on a study that says a majority of Fortune 500 companies now either disclose their political spending or else have sworn off giving political contributions. In the era of Citizens United, a touch of disclosure seems the least the moneybags can do. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce naturally is adamantly opposed to transparency, much like Republican politicians, to be redundant about the seamless joining of corporate America and the Republican Party.
This link takes you to the Center for Political Accountability, which did the study. You'll see that Walmart scores at the bottom of the ranking of the 200 biggest companies on board oversight and disclosure practices on political spending.
Gold stars to IBM, Colgate-Palmolive, Goldman Sachs and Praxair for not making political expenditures from their treasuries and directing trade associations not to use their payments for political work.
THE DARK SIDE: The dark side of the corporate world is embodied in the American Legislative Exchange Council, a corporate (think Kochs, particularly) lobby that has co-opted mostly Republican legislators into a political juggernaut masquerading as a research institution. Bill Moyers is on the case:
This week, we report on the most influential corporate-funded political force most Americans have never heard of — ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council. A national consortium of state politicians and powerful corporations, ALEC presents itself as a "nonpartisan public-private partnership". But behind that mantra lies a vast network of corporate lobbying and political action aimed to increase corporate profits at public expense without public knowledge.
In state houses around the country, hundreds of pieces of boilerplate ALEC legislation are proposed or enacted that would, among other things, dilute collective bargaining rights, make it harder for some Americans to vote, and limit corporate liability for harm caused to consumers — each accomplished without the public ever knowing who's behind it.
We explore ALEC's self-serving machine at work, acting in a way one Wisconsin politician describes as "a corporate dating service for lonely legislators and corporate special interests."
It's always worth a reminder that the Republican Party of Arkansas is prepared to jam the ALEC agenda through our General Assembly if given a majority.
The Republican quest for bipartisanship — at least nominally — is not hard to explain. A New York Times/CBS News poll conducted last week and released this weekend showed that 44 percent of Americans see Republicans at fault for gridlock in Washington, compared with 29 percent who blame President Obama and the Democrats. Nineteen percent said both were to blame. That imbalance has persisted at almost exactly those proportions since last year.
Democrats have noted Republicans’ efforts to present themselves as agreeable, and say they will try to beat them back.
You need only look at the record — from goose-step vote after vote at the state and national level to pledges of fealty to the Kochs and Grover Norquist to extremist state and federal platforms — to understand that believing this newfound compromising spirit is to believe Lucy will let Charlie Brown kick the football. Notes the Times:
With less than two months until Election Day, some House races may turn on whether the incumbent Republicans can shake the Tea Party label that Democrats are eager to press to them like flypaper.
Arkansas, being typically the last to join trends, is still in Tea Party thrall in many precincts. The old and poor will soon pay for that. Elsewhere, more voters are beginning to understand the challenge the Republican Romney/Ryan ticket represent to popular Medicare and to less popular, but still vital to working class elderly, Medicaid.
Before Arkansas was even a state, in 1820, a defense attorney for one Thomas Dickinson argued that his client was innocent of rape because the woman he was said to have raped became pregnant.
Dan Greenberg, writing at the Arkansas Project, quotes from the court ruling against the defense: “The old notion that if the woman conceive, it could not be a rape, because she must have in such case have consented, is quite exploded.
Not surprisingly, the latest poll numbers in Missouri don't look so good for Akin.
It's hard to believe that in this day and age, there are men who believe that women who are raped don't get pregnant because of some magical chemical that kicks in and makes sperm go bad. It was bad enough when Fay Boozman said
"God's little protective shield" (see below) kept women who'd been raped from getting pregnant and then went on to become head of the Arkansas Department of Health. Now we have a U.S. Congressman on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology saying "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down." Todd Akin: Another misogynist crawls out of the rot.
But then, the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology isn't really about science. Check out its website, using taxpayer money to promote Republican propaganda. Here's what you'll read there: "Republicans Examine Billions in Taxpayer Dollars Spent on Advanced Vehicle Subsidies" / "Republicans Press Administration on Escalating Energy Prices" / "Republicans Question President’s Science Policies and Priorities" / Witnesses Detail Potential of America’s Vast Oil Resources.
It's a new day in America, and a dark one.
Correction: John Brummett coined the "God's little protective shield" phrase attributed to Boozman and has posted on that here. Boozman did say that women were unlikely to become pregnant by a rapist because of fear or some such chemical protection, and later recanted, saying the statistics weren't there to prove it.
How does the GOP respond? Well, lie, for one thing. The Romney/Republican lies about Medicare, which Ryan would end as a single-payer insurance program, are a start.
Another good way to paper over Paul Ryan is to attack the Democratic vice president Joe Biden. He does stick his foot in his mouth now and again, so the soundbite game is easy to play..
I think that's at least part of what's at work in a popular Republican talking point this week.
Type the words "Obama to drop Biden" into Google and you'll get a flood of links. Again and again, they are links to speculative stories from the likes of Fox, Weekly Standard, Daily Caller and other right-wing organs and blogs. The rare links to mainstream media are to articles quoting experts like Sarah Palin on the advisability of dropping Biden from the ticket. Got it. Message; "Our guy is better than your guy. And Hillary Clinton is better than all of them, but your presidential nominee is a black Muslim from Kenya, too stupid to give her a rightful place at the top of the ticket."
Cagey attack ploy. Careful what you wish for, though.
Citizens United was a bad thing. But the flow of corporate money in Super PACs, bad as it could be, at least has a shred of accountability in financial disclosure.
Not so the laundering of corporate money through nonprofit groups that work to elect friendly politicians, defeat unfriendly ones and otherwise push a corporate agenda in secrecy. This money passes through groups that enjoy nonprofit status and thus a taxpayer subsidy of their activities. (See, for illustration of this secret agenda setting, the billionaire Koch Bros. and such affiliates of the Arkansas chapter of Americans for Prosperity, which pushes Arkansas Republican candidates while opposing taxes and environmental regulation, even to the local level in its fight against protection of the Lake Maumelle water supply.)
The New York Times examines this process today.
The review found that corporate donations — many of them previously unreported — went to groups large and small, dedicated to shaping public policy on the state and national levels. From a redistricting fight in Minnesota to the sprawling battleground of the 2012 presidential and Congressional elections, corporations are opening their wallets and altering the political world.
Some of the biggest recipients of corporate money are organized under Section 501(c)(4) of the tax code, the federal designation for “social welfare” groups dedicated to advancing broad community interests. Because they are not technically political organizations, they do not have to register with or disclose their donors to the Federal Election Commission, potentially shielding corporate contributors from shareholders or others unhappy with their political positions.
“Companies want to be able to quietly push for their political agendas without being held accountable for it by their customers,” said Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which has filed complaints against issue groups. “I think the 501(c)(4)’s are likely to outweigh super PAC spending, because so many donors want to remain anonymous.”
Some irony here. The corporate Republican U.S. Supreme Court majority recently legislated that unions could not take non-union member dues for spending on political issues with which the non-members disagreed. Do you think for a minute the Roberts-Alito-Scalia-Thomas-Kennedy court would say corporations could not spend political money in ways with which minority stockholders disagreed?
The Times story notes, among others, $1 million donated by American Electric Power to a group pushing for limited government. This is the country's biggest coal burner, owner of the greenhouse gas-spewing new power plant in Hempstead County. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is a major player (don't forget it lists the leaders of Arkansas's largest local chambers, including Jay Chesshir of Little Rock, in its higher echelon.)
The 501c4s — the organizations at the root of the Times story — are active in Arkansas in many ways, at every level. The idea is to leave a voter not knowing what hit them.
Max mentioned this morning that Arkansas native Chad Griffin is in town. In 1992, at age 19, Griffin became the youngest person to hold a staff position in the White House. Recently he was named president of the
Los Angeles Washington-based Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the largest LBGT civil rights organization in America.
In 2010 Griffin astounded everyone by convincing Theodore Olson, who represented George W. Bush, and David Boies, who represented Al Gore, in Bush v. Gore, to form a legal team and federally challenge the constitutionally of California’s Proposition 8 (legislation that overturned an earlier California Supreme Court ruling giving same-sex couples the right to marry). It was the first time that same-sex marriage rights had been challenged under the federal justice system. Olson and Boies won the case in Federal District Court, in the U.S. Court of Appeals and in a second Court of Appeals. They’re prepared to fight in the U.S. Supreme Court.
“Someone suggested that Ted Olson might be on our side of the issue, I didn’t believe it. In fact, I was quite remiss that I didn’t have anything in common with Ted Olson. And I probably still don’t except for this issue…I found out that Ted Olson is a long-time supporter of marriage equality, not despite being a conservative, but frankly because he’s a conservative,” Griffin said, in a lunch talk at the Clinton School that was moderated by Arkansas’s first publicly gay state legislator, Rep. Kathy Webb.
In this bizarro world, Lt. Gov. Ted Dewhurst, and his leading backer, Gov. Rick Perry, are considered squishy. Too moderate.
We saw this in some Arkansas Republican Senate primaries. The extremist Republicans won every time.
We got another taste of this coming Republican tsunami this morning in a Democrat-Gazette article that raised a question of whether there's fraud in the qualification process for ARKids, the Arkansas program to provide medical coverage for children of the working poor. House Minority Leader Bruce Westerman seems sure there must be fraud. He has no proof. He just assumes with money at issue somebody must be up to no good. As with Mike Huckabee's lifelong obsession with material goods, this presumption of fraud says more about Westerman than it does about others. Westerman's feint on fraud is analagous to the Republican voter fraud noise machine. Vote fraud must exist. In Bizarro World, an absence of proof is proof.
There is, of course, no aspect of human endeavor in which fraud or impropriety doesn't occur. But, because people cheat on their income tax deductions, I don't hear the Bruce Westermans of the world calling for an end to tax deductions for, say, church contributions.
Of course, rooting out fraud is not the aim of these time-tested Republican strategies. It is the message-tested way to achieve more damaging goals:
1) HEALTH CARE FOR KIDS: Westerman and his ilk want to reduce the amount we spend on providing health insurance for poor kids. Nice guy. And pound-foolish, given the costs of untreated basic needs when left to fester. (More here on ARKids, a triumph of the Huckabee years, ironic given Republican aims to slash it.)
2) VOTING: Republicans — Rep. Nate Bell, the Mena extremist noisiest among them —- want it to be harder to vote because they don't want the Democratically inclined, particularly student, elderly, poor and minority voters, to be counted.
UPDATE: How extreme are Republicans these days? Jeb Bush says his father and Ronald Reagan couldn't win Republican primaries today.
The New York Times has written a good explanation of the core legal question in the John Edwards case. Was money paid to support his mistress a political contribution? If not, it could open to the door to all kinds of monetary support to candidates from wealthy people. If so, on the other hand, it could potentially criminalize legitimate behavior.
The jury is in its fourth day of deliberation and continues to ask to review more exhibits.
How ugly will the presidential campaign get? You can't imagine. Check out this story on a billionaire's plan to go after President Obama with Jeremiah Wright and every other race-baiting trick he can think of to take down the "metrosexual Abraham Lincoln."
If there's money to be spent on such as this, can putative "nice guy" Mike Huckabee be far behind? Of course not.
Here is the Huckster, doing a testimonial for Citizens United, a letter talking about the "morally repugnant political whores" surrounding President Obama. Nice guy. Later, Huckabee denied the letter — a copy of which is available on his letterhead — was his, but, as you can see, this is one smelly kettle of fish. Huckabee DOES work with Citizens United and its repugnant leader David Bossie, whose dirty tricks in the Clinton era are legendary (and who worked side-by-side in dirty tricksterdom on a congressional committee with future Congressman Tim Griffin. More about that later.) Huckabee deserves to scratch for lying down with these dogs.
After his defeat yesterday by a Tea Party candidate, Republican U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar issued a statement defining the state of politics nationally. The Republican Party is increasingly dominated by a my-way-or-highway orthodoxy. Compromise means only that others accede to the very specific and rigid ideology dictated for the party by message masters, Kochs and "religious" conservative lobbies. It provides an instant definition of the party and the candidates.
I'd still like to believe that this agenda is too extreme for swing voters, but the combined appeal of a fruit basket full of cherry-picked issues designed to motivate this or that niche voter may prove a national winning strategy. Gov. Mike Beebe's cautious moderation — heavily dosed with populism but with plenty of solicitude for corporate lobbies — is the model for the other side, but few Democratic politicians and precincts have mastered it as he did. From Talking Points Memo's report on Lugar's statement about the man who beat him, Richard Mourdock (emphasis supplied):
He and I share many positions, but his embrace of an unrelenting partisan mindset is irreconcilable with my philosophy of governance and my experience of what brings results for Hoosiers in the Senate. In effect, what he has promised in this campaign is reflexive votes for a rejectionist orthodoxy and rigid opposition to the actions and proposals of the other party. His answer to the inevitable roadblocks he will encounter in Congress is merely to campaign for more Republicans who embrace the same partisan outlook. He has pledged his support to groups whose prime mission is to cleanse the Republican party of those who stray from orthodoxy as they see it.
The statement specifically namechecked FreedomWorks and the Club For Growth, the conservative groups that paid for negative ads tearing down Lugar in the closing weeks of the primary.
This is at work in some Republican primary legislative races in Arkansas, particularly in Northwest Arkansas.
The Republican budget choppers in the House — fully supported by the Arkansas congressional Republicans, particularly Rep. Tim Griffin of Little Rock — are set to return to war on the American people.. Says Reuters:
Republicans in the House of Representatives on Monday will fire their first shots of the next deficit-reduction battle, advancing legislation to cut nearly $380 billion largely from social programs while protecting defense spending.
The cuts to food stamps, child tax credits and Medicaid healthcare for the poor [and elderly in nursing homes], among others, are certain to stall in the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate.
Yes, absolutely. The New York Times editorializes today in favor of a national database on political ad spending. Federal law now requests stations to open books on spending, but it is a laborious process.
A national database would make all the spending instantly available and searchable.
Anyone could know, by hitting their home computer, which groups were spending how much for which candidates.
I'm reminded again of the little-known fact that a fellow from Arkansas who went on later to a new residence in federal prison pumped $145,000 into ads in the South Carolina presidential primary in 2008 in support of favorite son Mike Huckabee. It came to light last week by utter happenstance.
The databases would shed more sunlight sooner where it sometimes doesn't penetrate at all.
Major media companies are howling about the supposed burden of this proposed rule from the Federal Communications Commission, which will vote today.
But why stop at the federal level? Let's require this in state races, too. What say Republican Party? Here's another good government idea — such as the Regnat Populus 2012 campaign — to which you could devote your growing strength and convince some people that you really do care about more than lower taxes and a litany of conservative religion social issues. (OK, there could be obstacles to state-mandated reporting, as opposed to FCC mandates, but we sure could have better on-line and searchable databases than are currently available in Arkansas for both candidates and issues.)
Expert witness in the NY Times article: U.S. Rep. Mike Ross, who's fleeing Congress, perhaps to run for governor (where he'll lose the Democratic primary) if he can't first get a high-dollar job as a lobbyist catering to DINOs like himself.
“In civics class in high school, you learn there are 435 members of Congress, and every one of them could lose in the next election. Now we’re down to less than 100 who can ever get beat in a general election,” lamented Representative Mike Ross of Arkansas, a Blue Dog co-chairman who is retiring from Congress this year. “So the Democrats run to their corner. The Republicans run to their corner, and as a result the country is being run by the extremes.”
“Redistricting,” he added, “has been bad for the country.”
With the defeat of Mr. Altmire and Mr. Holden, a Blue Dog coalition of conservative Democrats that peaked in 2010 at 54 dipped prospectively to 23. To advocates for Mr. Critz and Mr. Cartwright, the election showed that Democratic voters are in a fighting mood, and that progressive views are again at the leading edge of the party.
Mr. Cartwright pummeled Mr. Holden for his votes against the health care law. The League of Conservation Voters joined in, highlighting the veteran’s support for Bush-era energy policies that favored oil and gas extraction, and his opposition to Mr. Obama’s effort to cap greenhouse gas emissions.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has joined Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Kraft and Intuit in dropping financial support of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). This is the corporate lobby which masquerades as a state legislative educational organization. In fact, it gins out template legislation to achieve anti-tax, anti-regulation, anti-public school, pro-gun and similar marching orders for state legislators like the rising Republican claque in Arkansas.
Not to worry Rep. Bell and Sen. Irvin. The Koch brothers will pay the whole bill if need be to keep feeding y'all instructions and sending down "expert" witnesses to testify in your behalf.
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