Saturday, June 12, 2010

From Public Citizen

an e-newsletter about the movement to curb corporate influence in politics and restore our democracy
Issue #16 • June 11, 2010

We hope you enjoy this issue of Public Citizen's e-newsletter about the intersection of money and politics. This is part of the campaign we developed following the disastrous Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which allows corporations to spend unlimited amounts supporting or attacking political candidates. We'll update you regularly with select news stories and blog posts, legislative developments and ways to get involved.

Stunning Statistic of the Week:
  • Number of financial industry lobbyists who used to work for members of the newly appointed financial reform conference committee: 56
  • Total number of lawmakers on the conference committee: 43
U.S. Supreme Court puts public funding of elections in Arizona on hold
Arizona's popular law providing public financing of elections has been put on hold by the U.S. Supreme Court. The purpose of the law is to provide a way for average citizens to run for office, rather than just limiting the field to the powerful and well-financed. Under the system, the state provides matching money for candidates who raise small quantities of money from ordinary citizens and adhere to fundraising limits. Six past and future candidates and two political action committees challenged the law's constitutionality, claiming that the law burdens their exercise of protected speech by punishing them for raising money. If they raise too much money, they trigger the release of matching funds to their opponent, which makes them curb their fundraising and thereby chills their speech, they claimed. A district court agreed, finding the law unconstitutional. The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed and reversed the ruling; the Supreme Court then intervened.

If Citizens United is a media company, than we're a mega-corporation
It's unbelievable but true: The Federal Election Commission voted 4-1 Thursday to give Citizens United, the conservative advocacy group based in Virginia, an exemption to campaign finance requirements. Citizens United argued that since it produced documentary films, it should be considered a media company and be exempt from disclosure requirements. Amazingly, the FEC agreed. This could have profound implications for future elections. For those of you keeping score at home, it's now Citizens United 2, Democracy 0.

DISCLOSE Act in trouble
Behind-the-scenes wrangling over the DISCLOSE Act continues. It isn't looking good for advocates of reform. The act is designed to let the public know which and how much money corporations are spending to influence elections. It was crafted in response to the Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, in which the court said corporations could spend unlimited amounts to elect or defeat candidates.

More Citizens United fallout: Minnesota complaint may not fly
Minnesota's Republican Party wants to file a complaint about a poll paid for by a corporation, which the party says constitutes an illegal contribution accepted by gubernatorial candidate Tom Horner. But the law on which the complaint is based was struck down in May, another casualty of the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling, which permitted corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money in elections.

Ohio state senator explains need for Citizens United legislative response
In a recent op-ed, Ohio state Sen. John Carey laid out the case for transparency in campaign spending. Legislation that Carey co-sponsored would require corporations to report all independent campaign expenditures of $500 or more and disclose the names of the donors. The bill, Senate Bill 240, has passed the Senate.

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