Citizens United and Political Corruption

Human Freedom
Human Freedom

Citizen’s United and Political Corruption

Josh Silver: Discovered: A Cure for Political Corruption

This is the strategic foundation of Represent.Us, the campaign in support of the American Anti-Corruption Act. The campaign was launched November, 2012 by the organization I run. Along with the voucher proposal, the Act would:

1) Prevent members of congress from soliciting and receiving contributions from any industry or entity they regulate;
2) Prohibit all fundraising during Congressional working hours;
3) Apply the existing $5,000 PAC contribution limit to superPACs based on the fact that they are coordinating with candidates in contradiction of the Court’s rationale (this is a potent solution to Citizens United-created spending);
4) Close the revolving door between Capitol Hill and the lobbying industry by extending the waiting period to 5 years for members and their senior staff;
5) Expand the definition of and register all lobbyists to prevent them from skirting the rules;
6) Limit the amount that lobbyists can contribute to $500, instead of the current $2,500;
7) Disclose all contribution “bundling”;
8) Strengthen the Federal Election Commission’s independence, as well as the congressional ethics enforcement process;
9) Clamp down on 501c organizations’ political spending; and 10) make all political spending fully transparent as proposed in the current DISCLOSE Act.

Why must the Act take on so many issues? This strategy recognizes that the influence of money in politics is endemic to our current system of government. We cannot fix this by patching the holes in democracy through which money seeps in. We are already flooded. We have to recognize that the influence of money has changed the way our lawmakers think about what is possible. It shapes institutions, limits expectations, and constrains the options for decision-makers. Real change must come with a comprehensive approach that reconfigures the incentives, the pressures, and the circumstances for public governance to reflect more directly the democratic interests of the people.

Josh Silver: Discovered: A Cure for Political Corruption

I think Josh Silver has some good ideas here. But whatever you think of these particular ideas, I suspect you will agree that the system is broken and no longer serves the public interest. The infusion of money, political speech according to a truly wacky Supreme Court, has drowned out the voices of the American people and left us as helpless political onlookers. It’s time for change.

James Pilant

From around the web –

From the web site, More of Dave:

The 2010 Citizens United decision opened the floodgates and allowed millions of dollars of corporate money to flow into campaign coffers. Costs for the 2012 presidential campaign were 6 billion dollars, up more than 7% over the 2008 election.

As far as I know, not a single banker or Wall St. financier has stood trial for his/her role in the 2008 financial crisis. When there are no consequences for bringing the world economy to its knees, we are already living in an oligarchy. That is why every person of every political persuasion has an interest in getting money out of politics as much as possible, and this begins by turning back the Citizens United decision. …

From the web site, Wendy Phillip’s Blog:

In its Opinion, the Court side-stepped the issue and refused to make a ruling on whether foreign corporations would be able to influence our political process by funding election ads.  Instead, the Court stated that there is no need to answer the question, and referred to the fact that 2 U.S.C 441(e) bans contributions and expenditures by foreign nationals. This may be true, but the operative word in 441e is “nationals”. How can this Court say that the question of whether foreign organizations can influence our Nation’s political process is best answered by 441e when 441e applies only to foreign nationals or individuals, and not corporations?  This creates a loophole for foreign corporations.  It will be interesting to see what foreign corporations will do to capitalize on this blunder by the Court.

From the web site, Citizens for Truth:

To give proper deference to legislatures, the Court could have ruled on a narrow issue. In Washington State Grange v. Washington State Republican Party (2008), the Court had emphasized judicial restraint by stating that courts should not “formulate a rule of constitutional law broader than is required by the precise facts to which it is to be applied.” However, without regard for judicial restraint, the Court in this decision “operates with a sledge hammer rather than a scalpel when it strikes down one of Congress’ most significant efforts to regulate the role that corporations and unions play in electoral politics. It compounds the offense by implicitly striking down a great many state laws as well.”

This ruling will “cripple the ability of ….. Congress and the States to adopt even limited measures to protect against corporate domination of the electoral process.” Justice Stevens quotes Burroughs v. United States (1934), “To say that Congress is without power to pass appropriate legislation to safeguard … an election from the improper use of money to influence the result is to deny to the nation in a vital particular the power of self protection.” Therefore, both federal and state legislatures should be allowed to pass laws that regulate corporate political spending.


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Gun Research Limited by NRA

back-fGun Research Limited by NRA Sympathetic Legislators

From the New York Times:

The amount of money available today for studying the impact of firearms is a fraction of what it was in the mid-1990s, and the number of scientists toiling in the field has dwindled to just a handful as a result, researchers say.

The dearth of money can be traced in large measure to a clash between public health scientists and the N.R.A. in the mid-1990s. At the time, Dr. Rosenberg and others at the C.D.C. were becoming increasingly assertive about the importance of studying gun-related injuries and deaths as a public health phenomenon, financing studies that found, for example, having a gun in the house, rather than conferring protection, significantly increased the risk of homicide by a family member or intimate acquaintance.

Alarmed, the N.R.A. and its allies on Capitol Hill fought back. The injury center was guilty of “putting out papers that were really political opinion masquerading as medical science,” said Mr. Cox, who also worked on this issue for the N.R.A. more than a decade ago.

Initially, pro-gun lawmakers sought to eliminate the injury center completely, arguing that its work was “redundant” and reflected a political agenda. When that failed, they turned to the appropriations process. In 1996, Representative Jay Dickey, Republican of Arkansas, succeeded in pushing through an amendment that stripped $2.6 million from the disease control centers’ budget, the very amount it had spent on firearms-related research the year before.

One of the ways industry protects itself is by destroying or limiting research. The gun industry uses its political clout to make sure that evidence that it might find offensive is never done. This is very similar to using the government to eliminate competition or gain subsidies. Are any of these ethical? It depends on the circumstances. All over the world, trains (public transportation) are subsidized because of the many benefits they provide to society. And I could go on. But it seems unlikely that the kind of research that this legislation killed was inaccurate or unfair.

At a time when we need accurate information about the effects of guns in our society, one of the chief players in the controversy has worked hard to take facts off of the table. Gun research is a legitimate field of inquiry by the CDC. It is a public health crisis. It will continue to be.

James Pilant

Some fascinating quotes from around the web –

This is from the web site, Fundamentally Connie! (This is a very fine article and I strongly recommend it.)

Only modestly mentioned in weekend media coverage is attention to the effect of a tragedy such as this upon emergency responders. This is PTSD at its worst. I am a teacher; a researcher by choice; a parent, grandparent, a spouse, and with enough experience to clearly envision the horror they came upon; the classroom scene, the aftermath of devastation suffered by those whose call was answered. Few have mentioned the unimaginable job of the veteran Medical Examiner, working through the long and difficult night to categorize, identify, and document the extent of catastrophic bullet wounds suffered by tiny, innocent sons and daughters, grandchildren, parents, brothers and sisters; playmates silenced forever and removed quietly; …”attired in cute children’s clothing”, he noted, when asked.

From digiphile

My Facebook feed is full of people offering prayers, voicing anger and frustration, and, happily sharing pictures of their own children. One of my friends announced the birth of his first child. Amidst grieving, new life and joy.

As the reality of this tragedy settles in, this moment may still be too raw to decide exactly what the way forward should be. In the wake of dozens of mass shootings in the past several years, there’s more interest in doing something to prevent them.

What, exactly, we should do to prevent more mass killings should be up for debate, but losing 18 children like this is unbearable. What science says about gun control and killings is not clear, though the literature should inform the debate.

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What’s a Little Corn Syrup Between Friends?

When I developed high blood pressure, I had to start eating healthy. It was a shock to find out how much it cost to eat healthy. The food in the supermarket was laden with high fructose corn syrup or salt. Once I had eliminated food that wasn’t good for me, there were a lot fewer choices and with a few exceptions (frozen vegetables), they cost more. One of the most important things I did was to drop soda pop from my diet. That helped a lot with my weight.

It seems to me that the way food is made and marketed in the United States is inimical to having a healthy diet. That a few large companies control food distribution in the nation does not surprise me.

There is something bizarre in the fact that costs more to eat healthy than badly.

James Pilant

Willie Nelson: Why We Must Occupy Our Food Supply

What does this matter for those of us who eat? Corporate control of our food system has led to the loss of millions of family farmers, the destruction of soil fertility, the pollution of our water, and health epidemics including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and even certain forms of cancer. More and more, the choices that determine the food on our shelves are made by corporations concerned less with protecting our health, our environment, or our jobs than with profit margins and executive bonuses.

This consolidation also fuels the influence of concentrated economic power in politics: Last year alone, the biggest food companies spent tens of millions lobbying on Capitol Hill with more than $37 million used in the fight against junk food marketing guidelines for kids.

Willie Nelson: Why We Must Occupy Our Food Supply

High Fructose Corn Syrup & Obesity

King Corn

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