Archive for the ‘Campaign Contributions’ Category

The best way to sift the Trump-Russia allegations

March 7, 2017

The best way to deal with the suspicions and charges that the Trump election campaign colluded with Russians is to appoint a bi-partisan commission of respected individuals to investigate.

This commission should have full authority to read secret transcripts collected by U.S. intelligence agencies and any other classified information relevant to the case, and authority to publish such information as can be done with jeopardizing sources and agents.

It should have full authority to subpoena witnesses and require  testimony under penalty of perjury.

It is a federal crime for a foreign national to contribute to a candidate in a U.S. election, or for anyone to solicit or accept such a contribution.   This would most definitely include the contribution of secret intelligence information.

If a Presidential candidate knowingly accept foreign help, I would say it is an impeachable offense.

The charter of the bi-partisan commission should be to determine whether there is any evidence that the Trump administration violated federal election law.

Evidence would include transcripts of communications of Russian agents and testimony by Americans regarding secret meetings of Trump operatives and Russian agents, or documents and records in the Trump campaign acknowledging Russian help, or testimony of Trump campaign operatives.

Routine contacts between Trump supporters and Russian diplomats or business people, especially if in public or in front of witnesses, would not be evidence of violation of election laws.

Even past business relationships of Trump operatives or even Trump himself with corrupt Russian oligarchs or business operations would not be such evidence—although very interesting to know.

I think it important that such an investigation be carried out by respected individuals in a bipartisan commission, and not by a special prosecutor who would consider himself or herself a failure if they didn’t find grounds to indict somebody.

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The billionaire behind Bannon and Trump

February 2, 2017

An interesting behind-the-scenes look at the Donald Trump election campaign, which I just now got around to watching.   Click on this for a transcript.

The trouble with corporate personhood

October 3, 2016

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One victory Bernie Sanders has already won

May 23, 2016

160321221404-bernie-sanders-israel-aipac-the-final-five-election-special-5-00011615-large-169The most significant thing that Bernie Sanders has done is to prove that it is possible to carry out a credible national political campaign without depending on corporate and billionaire donors and without being rich himself.

This deprives establishment politicians of their excuse that they have no choice but to cater to big-money donors.   It also shows other progressive that they don’t have to compromise with the donor class in order to win.

Even if Sanders loses, which now seems likely, he has shown the way for future, better-prepared candidates.

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Front-runners in the money primary

April 16, 2016

The first third of your campaign is money, money, money.

The second third is money, money, money.

The final is votes, press, and money.

Source: Rahm Emanuel

In American presidential nominating process, there are two primaries.  One is to determine who can get the most votes.  The other is to determine who can raise the most money, it is virtually impossible to campaign for votes without money.

Bruce Plante Cartoon: Hillary, Bernie and TrumpI visited the Open Secrets web site to learn how the candidates are faring in the money primary, and where their money support is coming from, which is a better indicator of where they stand than their campaign rhetoric.

Hillary Clinton is the front-runner in the money primary, having raised $222.6 million as of the end of February.  She received $48.7 million from just 20 donors, representing a range of financial institutions, labor unions and charitable foundations.

Her top contributor was Soros Fund Management, headed by the billionaire speculator George Soros, which gave her campaign $7 million.

Organizations aren’t permitted to give directly to candidates.  The Soros donation, and all the organization donations I mention in this post, are totals of donations by Political Action Committees and by officers, employees and their families.

Bernie Sanders is the runner-up.  He raised $140.2 million, of which $92.6 million came from small donations, which are defined as donations of $200 or less.

His top contributor was Alphabet Inc. (formerly known as Google).  Sanders doesn’t accept PAC money, so Alphabet’s $254,614 contribution was all from officers and employees.  His other top contributors were the University of California, Microsoft, Apple and Amazon.

Ted Cruz is the front-runner among Republicans.  He raised just under $120 million.  Just three companies contributed $36.1 million of that.  His top contributor was Wilks Brothers, a fracking company, which gave $15,069,000.  Its owners are strong supporters of the religious political right.

Donald Trump hasn’t bothered much with fund-raising so far.  He received $36.7 million, which included a $24.7 million loan – a loan, not a gift – from his personal funds.  His top contributor was Manchester Financial Group, a real estate developer, which gave $50,000.

John Kasich raised $22 million, including $1 million from the Boich Companies, a coal marketing and trading business.

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Hillary Clinton’s basic conflict of interest

February 15, 2016

What's Not Happening In Hillary's MeetingsHillary Clinton asks her supporters to believe that there is no contradiction between accepting big campaign contributions from Wall Street, the private prison industry and the oil and gas industry, and promising to crack down on Wall Street, private prisons, fracking and greenhouse gas emissions.

Hillary Clinton says it is possible to take a donation to an interest group and not be captive to it.  That is true.  But it is harder to ask an interest group for money and still vote against its interests.  In any case, it is something you can only do once, and Clinton has been around for a very long time.

Either her fat-cat donors are being fooled, or her supporters are.  I wouldn’t vote for a candidate based on a hope that he or she is telling me the truth and misleading somebody else.

Hillary Clinton says she hasn’t done anything that President Obama hasn’t done.  That is true.  That is why I voted for Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, when Obama ran for a second term.

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Bernie Sanders breaks fundraising record

December 22, 2015

Bernie_Poster_Large_Web_Graphic_72dpiBernie Sanders has broken the fundraising record for most contributions at this point in a presidential campaign, surpassing 2.3 million donations.

According to a Dec. 20 post on Sanders’ campaign website, the previous record-holder was Barack Obama, who had logged 2,209,636 donations by Dec. 31, 2011 during his reelection bid.

Many of these contributions are from small donors: according to the Sanders website, the average donation that came in during the third Democratic debate on Saturday was less than $25.

Sanders raised more than $26 million in the third quarter of 2015, according to the New York Times.

Source: TIME

Hillary and Jeb are the bankers’ favorites

November 18, 2015

AB111015CAMPAIGN_BAB111015CAMPAIGN_A

Source: Who Are Bankers Backing for President? by Victoria Finkle for The American Banker.

Election 2016: small money vs. big money

October 19, 2015

hillary-example-01

BernieSandersScreen+Shot+2015-10-18+at+6.50.17+AMBloomberg Business had an interesting set of charts, showing how much money the different candidates received in small donations (under $200) versus large donations.

Bloomberg’s bar for small donations was lower than for some of the other charts I’ve published on this web log.  Some of what the writers consider “large” donations aren’t all that large.  Nevertheless, Boomberg’s figures give a general figure of which candidates raise significant amounts from the general public and which depend on the wealthy.

The only Democratic candidate supported mainly by small donations is Bernie Sanders.  Among Republicans, Ben Carson, Donald Trump and Mike Huckabee all received more in small donations than large.

GOPcandidatesScreen+Shot+2015-10-18+at+6.57.29+AMThe figures are as follows:

Bernie Sanders

Large donations: $6.02 million.

Small donations: $20.19 million.

Ben Carson

Large donations: $8.29 million.

Small donations: $12.43 million.

Donald Trump

Large donations: $1.04 million

Small donations: $2.78 million

Mike Huckabee

Large donations: $500,000

Small donations: $730,000

These figures don’t include contributions from Political Action Committees, or the amounts that the candidates spend out of their own money.  Those are particularly important in the case of Donald Trump.

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The rise of the Money Power

October 18, 2015
donors

Click to enlarge.

This chart shows how both Republicans and Democrats have become dependent on wealthy donors during the past 30 or so years.

In 1980, both political parties received well over half their donations from small donors—those who gave less than $1,500 in 2012 dollars.  In 2012, they both received more than a quarter of their contributions from mega-donors–people who could afford to give more than $5,616.

Mega-donors are expected to account for an even larger share in the 2016 election.   So far 158 families, who’ve contributed more than $250,000 each, have contributed $176 million to the campaign.   Together with 200 additional families who’ve given more than $100,000 each, that is more than half the reported campaign contributions.

But, as Ben Carson shows among the Republicans and Bernie Sanders among the Democrats, big money is not invincible.   A sufficiently popular candidate can raise as much in small donations as their rivals can obtain from a few super-rich people.

LINKS

How Did the Democrats Become Favorites of the Rich? by Thomas B. Edsall for The New York Times.

The Families Funding the 2016 Presidential Election by Nicholas Confessore, Sarah Cohen and Karen Yourish for The New York Times.

Why is there no real party of the people?

October 12, 2015

A conservative Christian writer and blogger named Rod Dreher is disgusted with how the Republican Party serves the interests of Wall Street and the military-industrial complex.  But he won’t vote for the Democrats because he is opposed to gay marriage and abortion rights.

He wonders why there can’t be a party that represents the interests of the common people on economics and the views of the common people on social issues?

The reason why economic and social issues are aligned the way they are is the power of big money in politics.

Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton and the other Democratic leaders are strongly pro-business.  But they can never be as pro-business as George W. Bush, Mitt Romney or the other Republican leaders.

So in order to appeal to rich people, the Democratic leaders have to differentiate themselves on non-economic issues.  A Wall Street banker or Silicon Valley CEO who was gay or female or an immigrant or a marijuana user, or had relatives or friends who were, would prefer Democrats to Republicans unless the Democrats were an actual threat to their wealth and power—which Democrats have not been for decades.

Social issues work the other way for Republicans.   Abortion, gun rights, immigration and gay marriage are issues that enable the GOP to appeal to middle-income voters who might otherwise vote Democratic.  And, in fact, many Democrats would prefer to campaign on these issues than press for raising the minimum wage, breaking up the too-big-to-fail banks or preserving Social Security and Medicare.

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The Election 2016 money race so far

October 10, 2015

fundraising54888Shot-2015-10-09-at-11-55-34-AM

Preliminary figures on campaign fund-raising indicate that:

  • Hillary Clinton has so far raised more money than any other candidate of their party.
  • Bernie Sanders has so far raised more money than any Republican candidate.
  • Ben Carson has so far raised more money than any other Republican candidate.
  • Ted Cruz has so far raised more money than Jeb Bush.

Now these figures are incomplete because the candidates have until October 15 to report the totals.  When they do, the Republican candidates’ totals may well exceed the Democrats’ totals.   The figures also omit supposedly independent Political Action Committees.

Still, I think it is significant that Bernie Sanders and Ben Carson have been able to raise so much from small donations.   Sanders and Carson (whom I do not support) show that a middle-class person can run for President without having to beg for money from the super-rich.

LINK

Bernie Sanders is raising more money than every Republican candidate by Rick Newman for Yahoo News.  Source of the chart.  (Hat tip to naked capitalism)

Bernie Sanders Is Awash In Cash From Individual Donors by Emily Atkin for ThinkProgress.

Ben Carson raising millions to become fund-raising juggernaut by CBS News / Associated Press.

The GOP Establishment’s Sneaky Ben Carson Fundraising Ploy by Russ Choma for Mother Jones.  An indication of Dr. Ben Carson’s grass-roots appeal.

Jeb Bush and his mega-rich donors

August 7, 2015

150305-jeb-bush-has-a-brilliant-idea

Most contributions went to “outside” pro-Bush groups that supposedly and in law are independent of his campaign.

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Pro-TPP companies, groups bankroll Clinton

August 7, 2015

CLQEBW4XAAAMhhvSource: LittleSis.

Hillary Clinton in her book, Hard Choices, endorsed the Trans Pacific Partnership.  If she makes any statements appearing to back off from that position, I’d read them like a lawyer looking for loopholes.

She’s been paid more than $2.5 million—actually, more than $2.7 million—in speaking fees by companies and organizations that lobby in favor of the TPP.

Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley, two other Democratic candidates for President, are opposed to the TPP, as are Republican candidates Mike Huckabee and Donald Trump.

Republicans Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Rick Perry support the TPP.

I think the TPP is a terrible idea because, based on information now available, it appears to lock in a corporate wish-list as international law.  International corporations, but no other entities, would have the right to appeal to a special tribunal against laws they deem unfair, and the tribunal would have authority to fine governments for allegedly unfair laws.

At the very least Congress should have time to discuss and debate it fully rather than having it rushed through on fast track.

LINKS

Groups lobbying on trade paid Hillary Clinton $2.5 million in speaking fees by Julianna Goldman for CBS News.

TPP Agreement: Where Do 2016 Presidential Candidates Stand on the Trans Pacific Partnership? by Howard Koplowitz for International Business Times.

Donald Trump slams Pacific free trade deal by CNN Money.  Trump appears to be right for wrong reasons.  Like some TPP supporters, he talks as if the TPP is mainly about free trade.

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The passing scene – August 5, 2015

August 5, 2015

Here are links to interesting articles I’ve come across recently.  I may add links during the day.  The comment thread is open to general and off-topic comments.

Businesses Flee Catalonia, Foreign Investment Plunges as Confrontation With Spain Comes to a Boil by Don Quijones for Wolf Street.

The Mother of All Storms Builds Over Catalonia’s Independence by Don Quijones for Wolf Street.

A coalition of parties in Catalonia say they will declare independence from Spain if they win the provincial elections September 27.   Madrid will not recognize the results if the vote is “yes”, so the worst case possibility is a new Spanish civil war.

Want to Know How the Banks Got Greece to Surrender? Explaining Bank Power 101 by Ellen Brown for the World of Debt blog (via Alternet)

ECB’s economic hitmen on the unbalanced evolution of homo sapiens web site.

The Costs of Accountability by Jerry Z. Muller on The American Interest.

Governments justify turning over decision-making to central banks on the grounds that they are thereby substituting objective metrics, benchmarks and performance indicators for fallible human judgment.  But at best, these metrics are human judgement once-removed and, at worst, masks for covert human agendas.

Who is Jeremy Corbyn? An international reader’s guide to the British politician by James Walsh for The Guardian.

Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters aren’t mad – they’re fleeing a bankrupt New Labor by Owen Jones for The Guardian.

Jeremy Corbyn, the emerging new leader of the British Labor Party, seems a lot like Bernie Sanders.  He is an aging, formerly obscure member of Parliament who wants to return the party to its original principles.   His strong grass-roots support surprises and alarms the entrenched party leaders.

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How PACs control candidates

August 3, 2015

Four PACS – supposedly independent Political Action Committees – have raised $39 million on behalf of the presidential candidacy of Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.

fatcatBut only a trickle of that money has been released to the Cruz campaign.  Why would a PAC collect money and hold it back?

One answer is that it is a way to keep the candidate in line.  Act in a way that is pleasing to the millionaires and billionaires who give to the pact, and you get your money.  Displease them, and your campaign is cut off.

I can only speculate as to what Ted Cruz has done to displease his political benefactors—whether he has been acting too crazy, or not crazy enough.

But if campaign financing law continues as it is, I think political campaign funders are going to become more obvious in the way they exert control over candidates.

LINKS

Ted Cruz’s Super Stingy Sugar Daddies by Betsy Woodruff for The Daily Beast.

Small Pool of Rich Donors Dominates Election Giving by Nicholas Confessore, Sarah Cohen and Karen Yourish for the New York Times.

Million-Dollar Donors in the 2016 Presidential Race by the New York Times.

The New Holy Grail of Republican Primaries by Rick Perlstein for the Washington Spectator.

Sanders gets the bulk of Obama donors so far

July 27, 2015

obama.bernie-1Source: U.S. News

A new analysis shows that Bernie Sanders has received more donations from former Obama donors than Hillary Clinton has.  And Marco Rubio so far has a bigger share of former Romney donors than any other Republican candidate has.

Crowdpac, a political research organization cited by U.S. News, reported that, out of the 9,302 Romney donors who have contributed to 2016 candidates so far, 2,891 made contributions to Rubio, 1,840 to Ted Cruz, 1,562 to Jeb Bush, 511 to Ron Paul and—get this!—280 to Hillary Clinton and 276 to Bernie Sanders.

This is an interesting omen—no more than that.   Neither Sanders nor Rubio is winning either the overall money race or the public opinion race.

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Bernie vs. Hillary

July 10, 2015

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‘They vote against their economic interests’

July 8, 2015

Liberal Democrats like to talk about the foolishness of rank-and-file Republicans who vote against their economic interests.

But I think this is no less true of liberal Democrats themselves.  The Obama administration, as much or more than the Bush administration, is committed to furthering the interests of Fortune 500 CEOs and Wall Street bankers at the expense of the general public.

And a Hillary Clinton administration, based on her record and her sources of support, would be no different.

Just one example, out of many, is Obama’s and Clinton’s support for the Trans Pacific Partnership and other trade agreements that limit the ability of governments to legislate to protect labor, public health and the environment.

Source: Center for Responsive Politics

Source: Center for Responsive Politics

The chart from the Center for Responsive Politics shows the affiliations of her top campaign contributors from 1999 to the present.

They are all connected with Wall Street banks, corporate law firms and Fortune 500 companies, except for Emily’s List, which supports women and feminist candidates.

She is a rich woman because of six-figure fees she received from Wall Street financial firms for giving speeches.  I don’t think they would have paid such fees except in gratitude for favors rendered in the past and expectations of more favors in the future.

Now she has expressed concern about economic inequality and concentration of wealth at the top, but I think her associations, her sources of campaign funding and her record are better guides to her thinking than her campaign rhetoric.

This is not to say that there are no disagreements between Democrats and Republicans on economic policy.  But I think these disagreements reflect disagreements among the corporate elite.

The Koch brothers have a different political philosophy than Bill Gates.  Some members of the economic and financial elite are willing to do things to alleviate economic distress, and others aren’t, but neither will tolerate a candidate that threatens their economic and political power.

I make this argument to my fellow liberal Democrats, and the answer I get is, “Nobody’s perfect.”

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Politics and the 1 percent of the 1 percent

June 3, 2015

2015_0601ls3Hat tip to occasional links and commentary.

The top 1 percent of the top 1 percent of the U.S. population—fewer than 32,000 people—are increasingly the gatekeepers of American politics.  As elections grow more costly, super-rich campaign contributors grow more powerful.

Last year, according to a report by the Sunlight Foundation and the Center for Responsive Politics, this small group of people accounted for 29 percent of all campaign donations.

Within this group, there were 135 who gave $500,000 or more, 63 who gave $1 million or more, and three who gave $10 million or more.  The top giver was Tom F. Streyer, a liberal San Francisco hedge fund manager and environmentalist, who put more than $73 million into anti-Republican PACs.

While most individuals gave mainly to one political party or the other, the elite donors are fairly bipartisan as a group, as the chart above shows.

Wealthy lawyers, environmentalists and executives of non-profit institutions give mainly to Democrats, while oil and gas industry employees give mainly to Republicans.  Wall Street gave more than any other industry, with substantial amounts to both parties but more to the Republicans..

LINK

The Political One Percent of the One Percent in 2014: Mega Donors Fuel Rising Cost of Elections by the Center for Responsive Politics and the Sunlight Foundation.

Americans are sick to death of both parties

December 23, 2014

Americans are increasingly disillusioned with both Democrats and Republicans.  That’s why only 36 percent of registered voters cast ballots this year—a drop of 22 percentage points from 2012.

The national turnout was the lowest in 70 years in spite of the fact that more money was spent in the campaign than in any off-year election in American history.

fatcatPolitical scientists Walter Dean Burnham and Thomas Ferguson said Americans have good reason for their disillusionment.

They explained in an article on Alternet how neither Democrats nor Republicans can represent the interests of working Americans because they are financed a tiny elite of wealth, and Americans are starting to catch on to this.

The Democrats rely instead on appeals to cultural liberalism, the grievances of women and minorities and memories of the New Deal.  The Republicans rely on appeals to cultural conservatism and prejudice, a big turnout of upper-income voters and hindrances to voting by lower-income voters.

But neither party has a convincing program for dealing with globalization, financialization, de-industrialization and the erosion of good jobs.

Average Americans may not understand the subtleties of economic policy, but they understand what is happening to them.  As John Dewey once wrote, you don’t have to be a shoemaker to know your shoes are a bad fit.

Burnham and Ferguson didn’t speculate as to what will happen if this goes on indefinitely.  My own opinion is that the USA will experience an upheaval worse than the labor violence of the 1890s and 1930s.

The militarization of American police and NSA surveillance of ordinary Americans then will be used by government in league with corporations to protect the social order from the masses.

Radical change would not necessarily be change for the better.  If there is a public uprising, it is likely to be led by someone like Huey Long or Joe McCarthy as by a great statesman.  But I don’t see how things can go on as they are.

∞∞∞

Here are key paragraphs of Burnham’s and Ferguson’s article.

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The most costly off-year election in U.S. history

November 7, 2014

Some $3.67 billion was spent on the 2014 U.S. election campaigns up until 60 days before the election.  When the final figures are in, it will be more than $4 billion—making 2014 the most expensive mid-term election year in history.

Political scientist Thomas Ferguson, an expert on money in politics, explained the significance of that fact in an interview for the Real News Network.  My takeaways from the interview:

  • The big money went predominantly to the Republicans, but Democrats got a lot, too.
  • Republicans benefited from the low voter turnout, which was the lowest in many years.  They won with the support of probably 18 to 20 percent of American voters.
  • The low turnout reflected disillusionment with both parties, but also, to an unknown degree, artificial difficulties in voting aimed at minorities, young people and poor people.
  • The right-of-center Democratic leaders are Republicans light, and are more concerned with keeping control of the Democratic Party than defeating the Republicans.
  • The election was a rejection of the failed economic policies of the Obama administration, but the result will be a return to the similar but more extreme failed policies of the George W. Bush administration.
  • Americans are disillusioned with both parties.  American politics is due to get weird.

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Old white guy power, and other election topics

November 4, 2014

Who’s Buying the Election? A Bunch of Old White Guys by Zoe Carpenter for The Nation.

Speaking as an old white guy, I do not feel represented by the rich people who finance the election campaigns.  And I can say the same is true of my old white male circle of friends.

The problem with our system of campaign financing is that it is dominated by a tiny group of super-rich people, less than 0.1 percent of the population, whose economic interests run counter to the rest of us, including the vast majority of us elderly white males.

Making this elite more diverse will not change this.  What’s needed is to reduce its power.

Two Charts on Why the Obama Economy Sucks by Ian Welsh.

Ian Welsh points out that the percentage of working-age Americans with jobs fell and remained low all through the Obama administration, as did median household income.  Although the election is influenced by many factors, Republicans would not have a shot at controlling the Senate if economic conditions were better for most Americans.

Now the Democrats did not create the recession, nor are they responsible for the fact that it is much worse than a normal economic downturn.  And it is true they face obstruction from Republicans in Congress and on the Supreme Court.  But what have they done, or tried to do, or talked about doing, aside from a modest economic stimulus plan, that would make things better?  It seems to me they’ve swallowed the meme that reducing the budget deficit takes precedence over putting Americans to work.

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Does the Constitution protect corruption?

August 27, 2014

The Supreme Court ruled in the Citizens United case that campaign contributions are a form of free speech protected by the First Amendment.   On April 2, the Supreme Court ruled, in McCutcheon vs. Federal Election Commission, that Congress does have the right to legislate against corruption in campaign financing, but, as Jill Lepore pointed out in an article in The New Yorker, only against certain forms of corruption.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the opinion for the five-to-four majority. “The right to participate in democracy through political contributions is protected by the First Amendment, but that right is not absolute,” he began. 

040614newcoletoonCongress may not “regulate contributions simply to reduce the amount of money in politics, or to restrict the political participation of some in order to enhance the relative influence of others.”  But there is “one legitimate governmental interest for restricting campaign finances,” he explained: “preventing corruption or the appearance of corruption.”

That said, the Court’s understanding of corruption is very narrow, Roberts explained, echoing a view expressed by Justice Anthony Kennedy in McConnell v. F.E.C., in 2003: “Congress may target only a specific type of corruption—‘quid pro quo’ corruption.”

Quid pro quo is when an elected official does something like accepting fifteen thousand dollars in cash in exchange for supporting another politician’s bid to run for mayor of New York.  The only kind of corruption that federal law is allowed to prohibit is out-and-out bribery.  The kind of political prostitution that the Moreland Commission was in the middle of attempting to document—elected officials representing the interests not of their constituents but of their largest contributors—does not constitute, in the view of the Supreme Court, either corruption or the appearance of corruption.

via Zephyr Teachout’s Anti-Corruption Campaign.

The Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption was appointed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in April, 2013, to investigate corruption in New York state.

The commission was given 18 months to do its work, but in March of this year, Gov. Cuomo shut it down.  He said it was supposed to investigate the legislative branch, not the executive branch.

In the meantime, the commission made a series of preliminary recommendations, including closing loopholes regarding limited liability laws, mandating disclosure of outside spending, instituting public finance and creating an independent election-law enforcement agency.

As Lepore noted, these recommendations, except maybe for public campaign financing, would have had little effect in the light of Citizens United and McCutcheon.

 Zephyr Teachout, who opposes Gov. Cuomo in the coming Democratic primary, is a law professor who says the Supreme Court’s decision is contrary to the intention of the authors of the Constitution.  Even if she’s right, this doesn’t change anything.

Maybe it is necessary to amend the Constitution, as was done after the Supreme Court ruled that slavery was protected by the Constitution and later when the Supreme Court ruled that a federal income tax was unconstitutional.

How big money keeps populism at bay

January 24, 2014

The Democratic Party is in deep trouble going into the 2014 elections, and it’s not solely due, or even mainly due, to gerrymandering, voter suppression or other dirty tricks by Republicans.

Thomas Ferguson

Thomas Ferguson

Their main problem is that the Obama administration is five years old, and there has been no economic recovery for the vast majority of Americans.  While Democrats can justly claim that the economic crash is due to the policies of the Bush administration, voters have a right to expect that by now, the Obama administration would have offered an alternative.

Recognizing the problem, President Obama has started talking about income inequality, and trying to re-energize the Democratic base of support — union members, working women, Hispanic-Americans and African-Americans.   The problem for the President and for Democrats generally is how to do this without jeopardizing their support from big-money donors whose contributions they need to win.

This is a tightrope that Obama has been able to walk so far.  The question is how long he can get away with it.

Political scientist Thomas Ferguson, who is known for his “investment theory” of political parties, and fellow academics Paul Jorgensen and Jie Chen recently published an analysis which concluded that the 2012 elections were basically a contest between different factions of the upper 1 percent of income earners.

Nearly two-thirds of itemized contributions to the Obama campaign and more than 70 percent of itemized contributions to the Romney campaign came from donors who contributed $10,000 or more.  Roughly the same breakdowns held for the proportions of total contributions in amounts of $500 or more.  Obama received more small donations than Romney, but both got the bulk of their funds from big donors.

That’s not to say nothing was at stake.  Republican candidates tend to get the support of the oil and gas industry; Democrats the telecommunications and computer industry.  Wall Street shifts back and forth between the two parties, but exercises strong influence over both.

The 2014 congressional elections will be the same, only worse, Ferguson, Jorgensen and Chen predicted, since recent court decisions have removed the last vestiges of restrictions on campaign contributions.

Thomas Frank wrote an eloquent article recently in Harper’s magazine, indicting college-educated progressive Democrats for their passivity and their disconnect from the concerns of working people.  He wrote that they are waiting for the Republican Party to be destroyed by the Tea Party movement, just as in earlier eras they waited for the GOP to be destroyed by George W. Bush, Newt Gingrich, supply-side economics, Watergate and Barry Goldwater.

The Democrats’ problem is not just the power of money.  It is that, for many Democrats, the power of money is not an issue.

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