Elections America-Style: Show Me The Money!

The 2008 election cycle cost an estimated $5.3 billion. The 25% increase over the 2004 cycle was due largely to Barack Obama’s and the Democrats’ closure of the traditional funding gap with Republicans. The Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission struck down legislation designed to limit some contributions while making others transparent. In other words, there were laws written that helped we the voters know who the candidates were getting their money from.

The Supreme Court’s ruling effectively declared corporations to be citizens of the United States in their ability to fund campaigns. The United States Senate, recognizing the problems inherent to this new reality, moved on legislation designed to make transparency in donations universal, and make donations from foreign interests illegal. The Republicans in the Senate, apparently, don’t want this to happen. But I don’t want to draw the conclusions for you, so I have included Section 2 of the bill that every Republican (except John Ensign who missed the vote) voted against.

SEC. 2. FINDINGS.

    (a) General Findings- Congress finds and declares as follows:
    • (1) Throughout the history of the United States, the American people have been rightly concerned about the power of special interests to control our democratic processes. That was true over 100 years ago when Congress first enacted legislation intended to restrict corporate funds from being used in Federal elections, legislation that Congress amended in 1947 to expressly include independent expenditures. The Supreme Court held such legislation to be constitutional in 1990 in Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce (494 U.S. 652) and again in 2003 in McConnell v. F.E.C. (540 U.S. 93).
    • (2) The Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission on January 21, 2010, invalidated legislation restricting the ability of corporations and labor unions to spend funds from their general treasury accounts to influence the outcome of elections.
    (b) Findings Relating to Government Contractors- Congress finds and declares as follows:
    • (1) Government contracting is an activity that is particularly susceptible to improper influence, and to the appearance of improper influence. Government contracts must be awarded based on an objective evaluation of how well bidders or potential contractors meet relevant statutory criteria.
    • (2) Independent expenditures and electioneering communications that benefit particular candidates or elected officials or disfavor their opponents can lead to apparent and actual ingratiation, access, influence, and quid pro quo arrangements. Government contracts should be awarded based on an objective application of statutory criteria, not based on other forms of inappropriate or corrupting influence.
    • (3) Prohibiting independent expenditures and electioneering communications by persons negotiating for or performing government contracts will prevent government officials involved in or with influence over the contracting process from influencing the contracting process based, consciously or otherwise, on this kind of inappropriate or corrupting influence.
    • (4) Prohibiting independent expenditures and electioneering communications by persons negotiating for or performing government contracts will likewise prevent such persons from feeling pressure, whether actually exerted by government officials or not, to make expenditures and to fund communications in order to maximize their chances of receiving contracts, or to match similar expenditures and communications made by their competitors.
    • (5) Furthermore, because government contracts often involve large amounts of public money, it is critical that the public perceive that the government contracts are awarded strictly in accordance with prescribed statutory standards, and not based on other forms of inappropriate or corrupting influence. The public’s confidence in government is undermined when corporations that make significant expenditures during Federal election campaigns later receive government funds.
    • (6) Prohibiting independent expenditures and electioneering communications by persons negotiating for or performing government contracts will prevent any appearance that government contracts were awarded based in whole or in part on such expenditures or communications, or based on the inappropriate or corrupting influence such expenditures and communications can create and appear to create.
    • (7) In these ways, prohibiting independent expenditures and electioneering communications by persons negotiating for or performing government contracts will protect the actual and perceived integrity of the government contracting process.
    • (8) Moreover, the risks of waste, fraud and abuse, all resulting in economic losses to taxpayers, are significant when would-be public contractors or applicants for public funds make expenditures in Federal election campaigns in order to affect electoral outcomes.
    (c) Findings Relating to Foreign Corporations- Congress finds and declares as follows:
    • (1) The Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United case has provided the means by which United States corporations controlled by foreign entities can freely spend money to influence United States elections.
    • (2) Foreign corporations commonly own U.S. corporations in whole or in part, and U.S. corporate equity and debt are also held by foreign individuals, sovereign wealth funds, and even foreign nations at levels which permit effective control over those U.S. entities.
    • (3) As recognized in many areas of the law, foreign ownership interests and influences are exerted in a perceptible way even when the entity is not majority-foreign-owned.
    • (4) The Federal Government has broad constitutional power to protect American interests and sovereignty from foreign interference and intrusion.
    • (5) Congress has a clear interest in minimizing foreign intervention, and the perception of foreign intervention, in United States elections.
    (d) Findings Relating to Coordinated Expenditures- Congress finds and declares as follows:
    • (1) It has been the consistent view of Congress and the courts that coordinated expenditures in campaigns for election are no different in nature from contributions.
    • (2) Existing rules still allow donors to evade contribution limits by making campaign expenditures which, while technically qualifying as independent expenditures under law, are for all relevant purposes coordinated with candidates and political parties and thus raise the potential for corruption or the appearance of corruption.
    • (3) Such arrangements have the potential to give rise to the reality or appearance of corruption to the same degree that direct contributions to a candidate may give rise to the reality or appearance of corruption. Moreover, expenditures which are in fact made in coordination with a candidate or political party have the potential to lessen the public’s trust and faith in the rules and the integrity of the electoral process.
    • (4) The government therefore has a compelling interest in making sure that expenditures that are de facto coordinated with a candidate are treated as such to prevent corruption, the appearance of corruption, or the perception that some participants are circumventing the laws and regulations which govern the financing of election campaigns.
    (e) Findings Relating to Disclosures and Disclaimers- Congress finds and declares as follows:
    • (1) The American people have a compelling interest in knowing who is funding independent expenditures and electioneering communications to influence Federal elections, and the government has a compelling interest in providing the public with that information. Effective disclaimers and prompt disclosure of expenditures, and the disclosure of the funding sources for these expenditures, can provide shareholders, voters, and citizens with the information needed to evaluate the actions by special interests seeking influence over the democratic process. Transparency promotes accountability, increases the fund of information available to the public concerning the support given to candidates by special interests, sheds the light of publicity on political spending, and encourages the leaders of organizations to act only upon legitimate organizational purposes.
    • (2) Protecting this compelling interest has become particularly important to address the increase in special interest spending on election-related communications which Congress finds will result from the Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United case. The current disclosure and disclaimer requirements were designed for a campaign finance system in which such expenditures were subject to prohibitions that no longer apply.
    • (3) More rigorous disclosure and disclaimer requirements are necessary to protect against the evasion of those current rules that were not the subject of the Citizens United case. Organizations that engage in election-related communications have used a variety of methods to attempt to obscure their sponsorship of communications from the general public, including multiple transfers of funds between different individuals and organizations. Robust, enhanced disclosure and disclaimer requirements are necessary to ensure that the electorate is informed about who is actually paying for particular election-related communications, and that the shareholders and members of organizations are aware of their organizations’ election-related spending.
    • (4) Various factors, including the frequency of political campaigns that effectively begin long before election day, have also rendered the existing system of disclosure and disclaimer requirements (including the limited time periods during which some of those requirements currently apply) inadequate to protect fully the government’s compelling interests. Those interests include ensuring that the electorate is fully informed about the sources of election-related spending, and that shareholders, voters and citizens alike have the information they need to hold corporations and elected officials accountable.
    • (5) The pervasive nature of campaign advertising means that most Americans, even those who might not be otherwise engaged in the political process, will come into contact with campaign advertising. Moreover, the lengthy nature of most modern campaigns means that many Americans will be exposed to campaign advertising for an extended period of time prior to the actual election. Many of these Americans may lack ready access to the information provided through the existing disclosure requirements. For this reason, disclaimers on the campaign advertising itself are particularly important in improving the knowledge of the American people about who is funding independent expenditures and electioneering communications to influence Federal elections.
    • (6) Effective disclaimers enable the American people to assess advertisements as they see or hear them, making them aware of the sources of funding behind advertisements, and enabling them to use that information to help evaluate the persuasiveness of the advertisements. Effective disclaimers can also alert the electorate to connections between different advertisements, such as when different advertisements are supported by the same funding source. It is thus particularly important that disclaimers on all advertising be presented in a manner that can be quickly and easily understood, and is likely to be observed and retained, by those seeing or hearing the advertisement.
    • (7) The current lack of accountability and transparency with respect to special interest political spending allows that spending to serve as a private benefit for the officials of special interest organizations, to the detriment of those organizations and their shareholders and members.
    • (8) Election-related communications by not-for-profit charitable organizations raise certain additional, particularized issues. In the past, such organizations have sometimes been established in order to permit the actual sponsors of election-related communications to obscure their identities from voters and the general public. At the same time, other such organizations are familiar, established associations of persons dedicated to a common and transparent charitable, educational, or recreational purpose. The importance of enhanced disclosures of the sources of funding of a not-for-profit organization’s election-related communications is diminished where certain conditions are met. If an organization is long-established, the public is more likely to be familiar with the organization and its purposes, making it less important to require disclosure of the organization’s donors in order for the public to fairly understand and evaluate its communications. Similarly, national organizations with broad-based membership are likely to be better known, making enhanced disclosure of the organization’s donors less critical. Organizations that have a substantial membership, particularly a geographically dispersed and long-standing membership, are less likely to serve as conduits for a small number of donors who use the organization to express their own personal views in the guise of an organizational communication. Organizations that accept only limited funds from corporations and do not use any corporate funds to subsidize campaign-related activities are less likely to be used to obscure corporate sources of political communications. In rare cases where all of these characteristics describe a particular non-profit organization, the existing disclosure and disclaimer requirements will provide sufficient information to enable the public to understand who is actually speaking.
    (f) Findings Relating to Campaign Spending by Lobbyists- Congress finds and declares as follows:
    • (1) Lobbyists and lobbying organizations, and through them, their clients, influence the public decision-making process in a variety of ways.
    • (2) In recent years, scandals involving undue lobbyist influence have lowered public trust in government and jeopardized the willingness of voters to take part in democratic governance.
    • (3) One way in which lobbyists may unduly influence Federal officials is through their clients making independent expenditures or electioneering communications targeting elected officials.
    • (4) Disclosure of such independent expenditures and electioneering communications will allow the public to examine connections between such spending and official actions, and will therefore limit the ability of lobbyists to exert an undue influence on elected officials.

This is the definition of two things; the lengths to which Republicans will go to defeat anything proposed by Democrats and/or the President, and the lengths to which Republicans will go to ensure that corporate money is available to them without public disclosure. The GOP knows that if the public finds out; that they are denying climate change because oil and coal interests are paying them to do so; that they fought against health insurance and pharmaceutical reform because those industries were paying them to do so; that they challenged banking and Wall Street regulation because the money men told them to do so; if these things come to light, the GOP is finished.

We all know, as Americans, that you follow the money to find the answer. This trail is as plane as day, with no bread crumbs necessary. Ask yourself, after reading the Senate findings, whether this bill was a power-grab by Democratic elitists, or the work of honest Senators trying to pass something that benefits real citizens. I am sure that many Republican senators voted against this because they were told to do so by the Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell. If so, they have effectively sold out their constituents twice.

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Animated Balls: Election 2012

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Episode 2: Occupy Wall Street

Episode 3: 999! The Cain Train to Prosperity

Episode 4: Small Government

Episode 5: Newt is Forgiven

Episode 6: A Candidate with Big Balls

Episode 7: Why We Must Elect Rick!

Episode 8: Don't Make Me Use the "S" Word!

Episode 9: Santorum & Obamaville

Episode 10: Settle for Mitt!

Episode 12: Austerity and Obama's Debt!

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Episode 15: Mitt Romney's Taxes

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