More People, Less Money

Adam Lioz of the Policy Shop (Demos Blog) wrote a really fantastic piece connecting money in politics to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that we think everyone should read. It was based off a recent Senate Judiciary Committee hearing called "The Citizens United Court and the Continuing Importance of the Voting Rights Act."

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What $1 Million Could Buy

The companies and unions below have each spent* over $1 million during this election alone, trying to buy influence and access on the national level.  All but 2 have given to both Republicans and Democrats. If these groups weren't so busy trying to buy our politicians, think of the good that money could do instead....

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Campaign Finance Reform on CO State of Mind

Are we in a campaign finance crisis? What is McCain-Feingold? Is there a difference between "access" and "influence?"

In case you missed it, here's Founder Ken Gordon and others on Colorado State of Mind discussing all the aspects of campaign finance:

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Actions Speak Louder Than Words

A party platform is basically a list of issues that a political party supports, opposes, and/or will act on in some way. Last week, we told you about the Republican Party Platform stating their opposition to disclosure when it comes to money in politics. Well, the Democratic Party Platform came out on Monday night, so we checked it out.

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Happy Colbert Friday!

It's Friday, and you know what that means (well, sometimes)...

A Colbert clip!

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A New Low

Over the last 20 years, as I have worked to reduce the influence of money in politics, I have often confronted opponents (from both major parties) who argued that the answer is more disclosure. “We should just make all the candidates and independent expenditure groups disclose their contributors so that the voters can see where the money is coming from,” they would say. They then argued against any restrictions on the amount of contributions or expenditures.

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Special Interest Money Taken by CO Lawmakers

Below is a list of word clouds illustrating the contributions CO federal lawmakers have received from special interest groups/Political Action Committees (PACs) this election cycle. The lawmakers are as follows: Mike Coffman (Republican, CD 6), Dianna DeGette (Democrat, CD 1), Cory Gardner (Republican, CD 4), Doug Lamborn (Republican, CD 5), Ed Perlmutter (Democrat, CD 7), Scott Tipton (Republican, CD 3), Michael Bennet (Democrat, Senator), Mark Udall (Democrat, Senator). This information was retrieved from OpenSecrets.org. To see the list of contributions, including the amounts, please click on the image.

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Text to Give

In the same way that you vote for American Idol or give to The Red Cross or other nonprofits, you can now contribute to the Obama campaign via text. The new program had to go through a few hoops with the Federal Election Commission to be sure it followed campaign finance laws. Now that it has been approved though, it allows for an easy way for every American to contribute to campaigns. It’s a great way to increase grassroots support.

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The Investors (Part Two)

 Via data compiled by the Center For Responsive Politics’ Open Secrets website, what follows here is part two of a list of some of the country's longtime big political spenders who are pouring on the PAC contributions in 2012 to political candidates and parties. (A list of the groups and companies making the biggest independent expenditures over the last twenty years can be found here.)

These corporations and groups have historically hedged their bets for special treatment by spreading their money around.  All have spent nearly $1 million or more in PAC contributions already to candidates in both parties this year.

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Everything Counts In Large Amounts: Current Special Interest Spending in Colorado State House Races

The outcomes of local and state elections can often have a surprising impact on national politics. In a crucial swing state like Colorado, the effects local elections have on the national discourse can be powerful indeed.

So with that in mind, and the general election nearly upon us, it may be a good time to start looking at what groups are not only in competition for favors from Colorado state government, but could conceivably end up making an imprint on a regional or even national stage. Here’s a breakdown of the hot House races where these PACs and political issue committees are putting their money, the most active PACs and political groups, and the most “bi-partisan” PAC that’s sending to checks to politicians on both sides of the aisle.  We’ll start with information from the latest reports with the Secretary of State.

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Equal Rights for Corporate Shareholders

Corporate shareholders do not have equal rights under the law. Yes, when it comes to having an equal voice in how their money is spent, corporate shareholders do not have the same freedoms as union members.

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The Investors (Part One)

There's a powerful argument that what American political parties really represent are different wings of American industry. The focus of the parties-in-power isn't to legislate for voters, but to continue to make things easier for their "investors."

“The fundamental market for political parties usually is not voters,” writes Thomas Ferguson in his essential study, Golden Rule: The Investment Theory of Party Competitions and the Logic of Money-Driven Political Systems. Rather,

The real market…is defined by major investors, who generally have good and clear reasons for investing to control the state…Blocs of major investors define the core of political parties and are responsible for most of the signals the party send to the electorate.

Some businesses, however, are intent on making sure that regardless of who is running, the pols stay "invested."

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Could Foreign Money Influence Our Elections?

What if a foreign corporation or business person wanted to hand-pick the U.S. president? There’s probably a lot in it for them: more money, more business, maybe less trade regulation. Thanks to our new campaign finance system, that scenario may no longer be the imaginings of some conspiracy theorist.

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Thursday Chart: A Helluva Lot of Noise

57-percent-mojo-chart-demos-report.jpgThe tidal wave of money that's crashed into our elections has officially broken into the mainstream - Time's cover story for the week of Monday August 13 is titled, "How to Buy the White House." According to a follow up blog by Time writer Michael Scherer, "the little guy is no longer king."

But it's a lot worse than that.

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Video: How a Bill(ionaire) Becomes a Law(maker)

Like-minded organization, unPAC, brings you this amusing video on the power that money has in our democracy.

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There Was Candy...

Last week, I went over to the Common Cause office to help verify signatures for the initiative they are doing with CoPIRG and Fair Share Alliance. This is the initiative that instructs elected officials to support changes to the United States Constitution to allow the regulation of money in politics.  

There were a dozen volunteers also doing the tedious work of making sure that each petition was notarized properly, that the signatures, addresses, dates and verifications were correct and then logging the number of signatures into the computer. There was nothing glamorous, exciting or uplifting about the exercise, although there were candy and donuts. It was just grunt work, inside, at a computer going through endless stacks of petitions. The ones I worked on were from Montrose and Ridgway.

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So It's Not a Video Game?!

A new poll by The Washington Post shows most Americans haven’t even heard of Super PACs and aren’t sure what they are.

When given choices for the definition of the term “Super PAC,” only 40% correctly answered “a group able to accept unlimited political donations.” One percent of respondents even thought a Super PAC referred to a game for a smart phone. It gets worse: ¾ of respondents had heard very little or nothing at all of increased spending by outside groups in this election.

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Senate Subcommittee Takes On Super PACs and Citizens United

If you're a history nerd like me there's nothing in the world like a batch of new primary source documents. And primary source documents on Citizens United and campaign finance? Oh, come to Poppa.

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American Thinkers vs. Big Money

You may think that the debate over big money in politics is a new one. This is not so. It’s a debate that has been prevalent in political discourse since the conception of our country. 

A number of prominent American political thinkers and politicians over the past few centuries –including numerous founding fathers– have denounced the effect of big special interests. Thomas Paine, Andrew Jackson, Grover Cleveland, and Theodore Roosevelt are among such people; Thomas Paine being one of our most important founding fathers.

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There Are Some Things You Can't Hide

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There's a clever scene in Steven Spielberg's 2003 film Minority Report when Tom Cruise's character, disgraced police chief John Anderton, on the run from his former colleagues, ducks into a mall in order to escape. But Speilberg's setup here is that at the same time, wall-mounted optical sensors repeatedly scan his eyes and ID him, then project holographic ads so specific and personalized they use his name ("John Anderton! You could use a GUINESS right about now!"). As he gets further into the mall, and more floating ads shout his name, his anonymous getaway looks less and less likely.

Futuristic, right? Wrong. Much in the same way John Anderton had ads calling out to him and him alone, Super PACS are placing highly targeted ads on specific web sites for news junkies like yourself says the investigative news site ProPublica.

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