Saturday, October 23, 2010

How to buy an election.

During the 2008 election primaries a group called Citizens United created a movie/documentary about Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.  'Hillary: The Movie' was a right-wing, scathing criticism of Mrs. Clinton and starred people such as:

Hillary: The Movie
Gary Aldrich - "a driving force in the 1998 impeachment of William Jefferson Clinton." - website for Hillary: The Movie
Dick Armey - Co-Founder of the conservative 'Freedom Works'  
Michael Barone - Conservative columnest for the Washington Examiner and frequent guest on Fox News. 
Ann Coulter - Controversial writer who is quoted as saying, among other things "I wouldn't kill an abortionist myself, but I wouldn't want to impose my moral values on others."
And many others including Barack Obama during the primary campaign.

Citizens United was told they were not allowed to air it within 30 days of the election because it amounted to a multi-million dollar campaign advertisement.  So they took it to court.

At issue was a provision in the McCain-Feingold bill aka Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) saying it was not lawful for broadcast ads that "name a federal candidate within 30 days of a primary or caucus or 60 days of a general election", and prohibited any ad paid for by a corporation (including non-profit issue organizations) .

United States District Court for the District of Columbia who heard the case upheld the key provisions of the McCain–Feingold Act prohibiting showing the movie.  So they appealed to the US Supreme Court.
The Supreme court 130 S.Ct. 876 (2010)  called the McCain-Feingold's bill.  " outright ban on speech, backed by criminal sanctions. "
Corporations now have the right of free speech.
As a result there are a number of groups popping up as non-profit organizations.  Some are headed by Carl Rove some by Freedom Works.  And since they are non-profit organizations, they don't have to report where they get their donations.  The problem with this is:
1) No one knows who is funding ads nor do we know the intention of that group or person.  

2) Companies that received bail-out money are giving money to organizations funding ads.  So, technically, you are paying for the ad.

3) A single person can fund 25 - 50k ads.  Robert Mercer, a hedge fund adviser, who lives in NYC is funding attack ads against DeFazio in Oregon.  DeFazio was one of the people who helped get wall-street reform to stop allowing the misrepresentation of money going in and out of banks in the form of... hedge funds.

4) While it is not legal for the company/person to coordinate with the candidate, it is legal for them to mention afterward that they were the ones who spent x amount of money to create the ads.  It is also legal for a company to ask if it is okay to donate money shortly before the commercial airs. This buys influence.

So recently there was a bill (H.R.5175 - DISCLOSE Act) submitted to require corporations to, at the very least, say where the money came from.  The stated purpose of the bill is "[t]o amend the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 to prohibit foreign influence in Federal elections, to prohibit government contractors from making expenditures with respect to such elections, and to establish additional disclosure requirements with respect to spending in such election."

This bill passed through the House of Representatives but failed a cloture vote by 1 in the Senate.  Yes, it takes 60 votes to pass anything these days since everything is met with a filibuster.

So, in this election there are some seriously extreme candidates who are getting attack ad support from . . who-knows-where - maybe you in the form of taxes. 



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