Category Campaigns: Financing & Voting

GOOD NEWS FROM THE 2016 ELECTIONS

Believe it or not, there was quite a bit of good news in the 2016 elections. While I imagine many of us feel that the election of Donald Trump as president was bad news for our country, the frustration that fueled his election has positive aspects. First, the election of Trump and the surprising success […]

BIG CAMPAIGN SPENDING AT STATE-LEVEL FLIES UNDER THE RADAR

With all the focus on the Presidential and Congressional elections, the enormous amounts of money spent on state-level races and ballot questions has gone largely unnoticed. Coverage by the mainstream corporate media is minimal, in part due to cuts in budgets for reporting that increase corporate profits. But that’s a whole other topic. According to […]

HOW CAMPAIGN DONOR SECRECY IS MAINTAINED AND WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT

Republicans in Congress, and particularly Senate leader Mitch McConnell, have made preventing increased disclosure of campaign donors a top priority. They have refused to act on the DISCLOSE Act that would require disclosure of donors to political spending by outside groups. They have added riders to must-pass bills prohibiting the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) […]

CAMPAIGN DONOR SECRECY IS ESCALATING

The disclosure of who is giving money to candidates for public office has long been a basic tenet of our elections. Even with the rise of outside spending, (supposedly) independent of candidates’ campaigns, disclosure of donors was assumed. In the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision (which ruled that wealthy individuals, corporations, and other organizations […]

HOW OUR ELECTIONS ARE RIGGED

Donald Trump has been claiming that our elections are rigged. He’s right. They are rigged – but not in the manner he suggests. Our elections are rigged to benefit wealthy interests and Republicans in three ways: Campaign finance laws allow unlimited and even secret spending by wealthy interests, States have made voting more difficult for […]

UNLIMITED, UNACCOUNTABLE CAMPAIGN SPENDING EXPLODES

Traditionally, campaign spending has been done by a committee set up and overseen by a candidate running for election. A candidate’s campaign committee is governed by state or federal laws depending on the office for which the candidate is running. These committees are required to publicly report donors and the size of contributions is limited. […]

CAMPAIGN SPENDING GROWING BIGGER AND DARKER

Campaign spending on the 2016 presidential and Congressional elections will exceed $7 billion, beating the previous record from 2014 by about $1 billion. This will continue the trend of ever increasing campaign spending. Unfortunately, the three forums (or “debates”) for the presidential candidates included no meaningful discussion of campaign financing, despite strong and broad-based concern […]

BLUNTING THE IMPACT OF BIG AND SECRET MONEY IN OUR ELECTIONS

Big money and secret money in our election campaigns undermines democracy. They can prevent voters from knowing who, with what interests, is trying to influence their votes. They can also unduly influence the decisions of our elected officials and lead to outright corruption. (See my previous posts here and here for more detail.) There are […]

SECRET MONEY IN STATE AND LOCAL ELECTIONS FACILITATES CORRUPTION

The growth of secret money in state and local elections means that voters know less and less about who is working to influence their votes and the outcomes of their elections. Secret money is money spent by organizations that do not have to report their funding sources. Therefore, it is referred to as “dark” money. […]

BIG MONEY, BIG IMPACT IN STATE AND LOCAL ELECTIONS

Big money may have a bigger effect on state and local elections than federal ones. Most of my past posts on campaign finance have focused on spending on races for federal offices (here, here, here, and here). However, state and local races are less expensive and get less media attention, so some big money can […]

MORE EFFECTS OF MONOPOLY POWER AND CRONY CAPITALISM

Huge corporations with monopolistic economic power not only affect economic outcomes, but also political and policy outcomes. As my previous post described, economically, corporate power results in higher prices, lower quality service, depressed wages, fewer jobs, increased profits, higher CEO pay, and a redistribution of income upward to big corporations, their executives, and big shareholders. […]

SOLUTIONS TO THE PROBLEMS ELECTIONS CREATE FOR JUDGES

State court judges are facing unprecedented challenges to their ability to deliver fair, impartial justice due to growing campaign spending, including the rapid increase in unlimited spending by outside groups and individuals. There are two policy solutions to this problem: Appoint judges using a good, non-partisan process with reasonably long or lifetime terms (with a […]

HOW JUDICIAL ELECTIONS AFFECT CRIMINAL SENTENCING

My previous post outlined the challenges to the impartiality and integrity of state judges due to the growing spending on judicial elections. It highlighted civil cases where campaign money has the potential to influence (or appear to influence) judges’ decisions and to create conflicts of interest. In criminal cases, there is statistical evidence that the […]

IS JUSTICE FOR SALE IN STATE COURTS?

There is widespread recognition that a fair and impartial judiciary is essential to the maintenance of public trust and confidence in our court system and our democracy. In 39 states, at least some judges are elected; in aggregate, 87% of state judges nationwide run in elections. (In some states and for the federal judiciary, judges […]

ILLEGAL COORDINATION BETWEEN CANDIDATES AND “INDEPENDENT” CAMPAIGN SPENDING

As I described in my last post, one of the Supreme Court’s justifications for its decisions allowing unlimited spending by outside groups in our elections was that their spending would be independent of any candidate’s campaign. Therefore, as Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote in the Citizens United decision, such expenditures “do not give rise to […]

UNLIMITED DONATIONS AND SPENDING ARE CORRUPTING OUR ELECTIONS

The unlimited donations to and spending by Super PACs and non-profit “social welfare” groups [aka 501(c)(4)s] allowed by the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United and other decisions have changed the whole pattern of funding for our presidential campaigns. These supposedly independent, “outside” entities are the dominant players in this election. Every one of the major […]

DEMOCRACY IS AWAKENING, BUT NOT IN THE CORPORATE MEDIA

One of the goals of this blog is to provide information on policy and politics that the mainstream corporate media fails to provide. One of the most blatant examples of news ignored by the corporate media is last month’s Democracy Awakening protests. The Democracy Awakening protests were undertaken to highlight the issues of money in […]

$200,000+ CHECKS ARE BEING GIVEN DIRECTLY TO CANDIDATES

In 2014, the Supreme Court, in a decision known as McCutcheon, ruled that it is unconstitutional to limit how much an individual can give in aggregate to all candidates’ campaigns and political parties during an election cycle. This ruling affects contributions that go directly to candidates, whereas the better known Citizens United decision allows unlimited […]

THE YEAR-END SPENDING BILL: A BIG WIN FOR SPECIAL INTERESTS, WHILE KEEPING GOVERNMENT OPERATING

The year-end spending bill that Congress passed on December 18 was loaded with riders that had nothing to do with the budget. For example, it lifted the 40-year-old ban on crude oil exports from the US, just as the climate summit in Paris concluded that emissions from burning fossil fuels must be lowered to address […]

STOPPING THE SECRET MONEY IN OUR ELECTIONS

ABSTRACT: Dark money organizations – non-profit, tax exempt groups that do not have to disclose their donors – are spending tens of millions of dollars every year in our election campaigns. This means that when voters go to vote they don’t know who paid for the dark money funded ads, mailings, and other political activity […]

SECRET MONEY FOR THE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES

ABSTRACT: The fastest growing and perhaps the most troublesome of the four main avenues for presidential campaign fundraising and spending are the “dark money” organizations. These are non-profit organizations that can accept unlimited amounts of money and keep their donors secret. They are social-welfare groups that are supposed to work exclusively to further the common […]

BIG MONEY FOR THE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES

ABSTRACT: Tracking the tons of money already flowing into the 2016 presidential campaign is not easy. There are four main avenues for presidential campaign fundraising and spending today, when as recently as 2008 there was really only one major one – the candidate’s official campaign committee. A candidate’s official committee is limited to donations from […]

BIG MONEY IN ELECTIONS IS CORRUPTING OUR DEMOCRACY

ABSTRACT: The 2016 elections, for President, Congress, and in the states, will be the most expensive elections ever by far. All the national and gubernatorial candidates (with perhaps a couple of exceptions) will be dependent on wealthy donors and will repay them with access and favors. The policies of the winning candidates will, therefore, reflect […]

IMPORTANT ISSUES FOR THE 2016 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN

ABSTRACT: There’s no shortage of important issues facing the U.S. today. As candidates announce their intention to run for president, it will be interesting to see which issues they make priorities and which issues the mainstream corporate media decide to cover. Many candidates and the mainstream media are likely to avoid the issues of the […]

WHY ECONOMIC INEQUALITY CONTINUES TO GROW AND WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT

ABSTRACT: Despite many indicators that our economy is strong, most Americans are experiencing economic insecurity. Over half of US households have less than one month’s income in regular savings and median household income continues to decline. Low-wage workers at Walmart, McDonalds, and elsewhere are so poor they are receiving $45 billion in public assistance. This […]

OUR ELECTIONS ARE ALL ABOUT THE MONEY

ABSTRACT: Although the next presidential election is over 20 months away, there is already media attention focused on who can and who is raising the most money. The top lobbyists / bundlers raise over $1 million for candidates’ campaigns. If this isn’t a blatant way of buying influence, I don’t know what is. A Washington, […]

PROGRESSIVE VALUES ARE ALIVE AND WELL IN THE U.S.

ABSTRACT: Despite Republicans taking over control of the U.S. Senate, progressive values are alive and well in the U.S. In a recent poll of likely 2016 voters, over 70% supported the following policies: Medicare should be allowed to negotiate drug prices Student loans should have lower interest rates Pre-kindergarten and Medicare should be available to […]

CORPORATIONS ARE NOT PEOPLE AND MONEY IS NOT SPEECH

ABSTRACT: Many millions of dollars are being spent by special interest groups on our political campaigns. This level of spending makes it clear that wealthy special interests – individuals, corporations, unions, and non-profit organizations – are taking over our elections. The only way to stop this undemocratic spending is through an amendment to the U.S. […]

PROGRESSIVE SUCCESSES IN THE 2014 ELECTION

ABSTRACT: Perhaps surprisingly, in the context of Republican and conservative candidates’ victories in the 2014 election, many ballot initiatives that were decidedly liberal or progressive passed. Democrats running clearly progressive campaigns for the US Senate won in 3 states. The Republican victories in many very close races were made possible by very low voter turnout. […]

2014 ELECTION RETROSPECTIVE PART 1: THE MONEY

ABSTRACT: In the 2014 election, the influx and impact of huge amounts of money was clearly evident and the growth of “dark money” – money where the actual contributor is unknown – was a very significant factor. This was the most expensive non-presidential election ever – estimated at $3.7 billion. Outside spending, that is money […]

VOTING MATTERS

ABSTRACT: Election Day is just over a week away. Although it’s easy to look at the dysfunction in Washington and the huge amounts of money being spent on campaigns and feel that voting and participating in the election doesn’t matter, that would be wrong. There will be lots of close elections this year all across […]

DEMOCRATIZING CAMPAIGN FINANCING

ABSTRACT: We need to change our system of financing political campaigns. Candidates need to be able to run viable campaigns based on the financial support of average voters, and without the support of the small number of wealthy donors who dominate current campaign funding. Many people who would make great elected representatives don’t even run […]

POLITICAL MONEY AND INFLUENCE OF THE WEALTHY GROWS AND GROWS

ABSTRACT: The political money and influence of the wealthy grows and grows. Wealthy donors making large contributions of up to $2,600 directly to Congressional candidates’ campaigns represent the great majority of candidates’ funding. There had been an overall limit of $123,200 on the grand total any individual could contribute in a two-year federal election cycle. […]

THE RISE OF DARK MONEY IN CAMPAIGNS

ABSTRACT: An increasing amount and proportion of election spending is coming from non-profit organizations that do not disclose their donors. This so-called “dark money” keeps voters in the dark about who is trying to influence their votes. Legislation to require disclosure of donors to “dark money” groups has been introduced at the federal level and […]

THE RISE OF SUPER PACs AND THE DEMISE OF DEMOCRACY

ABSTRACT: The rise of Super PACs (Political Action Committees) in the last four years and their ability, along with that of wealthy individuals and organizations, to spend unlimited amounts of money in US political campaigns are dramatically reshaping our politics. This is a new version of a very old game  –  pay to play – […]

A SUPER PAC TO END SUPER PACs – YOU CAN HELP!

ABSTRACT: We need to elect US Senators, Representatives, and ultimately a President who will support an end to Super PACs and unlimited money in our political campaigns. Lawrence Lessig is undertaking an innovative and counter-intuitive strategy to do so: creating a Super PAC to elect Congress people who will support the needed changes in our […]

HOW MONEY IS CORRUPTING OUR POLITICS

ABSTRACT: Huge contributions and expenditures from wealthy special interests were front and center in the 2012 campaigns because of the unlimited spending allowed by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. The 32 biggest donors to Super PACs spent as much money as the total of all the donations by the 3.7 million Americans who made […]

STOPPING THE CORRUPTION OF MONEY IN POLITICS

ABSTRACT: There’s good news on multiple fronts in the effort to stop the corruption of big money in US political campaigns. In the US House, the Government by the People Act (HR 20) has been introduced. It would match small donations – up to $150 – from individuals 6 to 1 so that, for example, […]

ENDING THE CORRUPTION OF AMERICAN DEMOCRACY

ABSTRACT: Whatever your politics – Democratic, Republican or independent; conservative, moderate, or progressive – most people are frustrated that issues they believe are important aren’t being addressed by Congress. The fuel that is really driving this paralysis is Big Money in our political campaigns. It is distorting the operation of government and corrupting our democracy. […]

SUPREME COURT UPDATES

ABSTRACT: Here are three quick updates related to the US Supreme Court. First, issues with the conduct and ethics of a couple of the Justices have arisen in part because Supreme Court Justices are not covered by the Code of Conduct that applies to all other US judges. A Supreme Court Ethics Act of 2013 […]

MOVING FORWARD ON CAMPAIGN FINANCE

ABSTRACT: A serious effort for campaign finance reform is moving forward in New York State. The citizen / public campaign financing system that is in place in New York City is a great model for the state’s efforts and others. We need campaign finance reform because, for example, in the 2012 federal election campaigns over […]

SHAMEFUL FAILURE TO ADDRESS GUN VIOLENCE

ABSTRACT: A filibuster in the US Senate just blocked passage of a law to require background checks on most gun buyers, despite the fact that 90% of Americans support these background checks; even 74% of National Rifle Association (NRA) members support them! This reflects the power of money in politics – the money of the […]

CAMPAIGN SPENDING: THE FUTURE

ABSTRACT: The huge sums of money in our political system are corrupting it, in subtle and not so subtle ways, and are undermining the promise of democracy of, by, and for the people. We the people need to work to blunt the impact and eventually stop the flow of these huge amounts of money. Steps […]

WHY LIMITED SUCCESS FOR CAMPAIGN SPENDING

ABSTRACT: So why were all the outside money and all the advertising it bought less effective than was anticipated in the recent election? First, the great bulk of the outside money was spent on advertising, largely negative advertising. Voters were overwhelmed and simply tuned them out. The advertising lost effectiveness and experienced diminishing returns. Second, […]

THE IMPACT OF ALL THE CAMPAIGN SPENDING

ABSTRACT: Roughly $6 billion was spent on the 2012 elections for federal offices. Although complete data isn’t yet available, an unprecedented $1.3 billion plus of this amount was “outside” money. Roughly a quarter of this outside money was “dark” money – money where the actual source of the money cannot be identified. About 80% of […]

CAMPAIGN FUNDRAISING: BIG VS. SMALL CONTRIBUTORS

ABSTRACT: Although every campaign likes to tout the importance and number of its small contributors, it’s large donors who give the bulk of the money. A few big contributors (0.1% of all contributors) give more than the millions of small contributors (90% of all contributors). As of June, 26% of the $469 million raised for […]

CAMPAIGN FUNDRAISING: THE PERFECT STORM

ABSTRACT: The unprecedented spending and the unprecedented secrecy in the current election campaigns are creating the perfect storm and it’s battering our democracy. They are the result of three factors: 1) great concentration of wealth, 2) unlimited campaign contributions, and 3) secrecy through weakly regulated non-profit organizations. Non-profit organizations don’t have to report contributors and […]

CAMPAIGN FUNDRAISING: WHO RUNS FOR OFFICE

ABSTRACT: Because of the way we fund campaigns, we have two elections every cycle, the money election and the voting election. For Congressional races, fewer than 1 in 400 people contribute $200 or more to a campaign. This one-quarter of 1% of the population determines who will show up on the ballot for the voting […]

CITIZENS UNITED ACTION (Part 2)

Here’s issue #29 of my Policy and Politics Newsletter, written 5/9/12. It continues from the previous issue the arguments supporting local resolutions calling for the overturning the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. With the 2012 election season underway, the consequences of the Citizens United decision are becoming clear. The unlimited, super political action committee or […]

CITIZENS UNITED ACTION (Part 1)

Here’s issue #28 of my Policy and Politics Newsletter, written 5/6/12. It describes an action step – local resolutions – being taken around the country to work toward overturning the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. As you probably remember, in January 2010, the US Supreme Court, in a five-to-four decision on Citizens United v. Federal […]

MONEY IN OUR ELECTIONS (Part 5): HIGHLIGHTS, HOPE, AND CONCLUSIONS

Here’s issue #17 of my Policy and Politics Newsletter, written 1/29/12. The campaign fundraising issue is a complex and critically important one. Here’s one final piece – for now – on this topic. First, a little more information on where all the money comes from: Wall Street’s big donors, those who give over $10,000, dominate […]

MONEY IN OUR ELECTIONS (Part 4): THE IMPACT OF CITIZENS UNITED

Here’s issue #16 of my Policy and Politics Newsletter, written 1/25/12. Having taken a look at the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision generally, I’ll now describe a specific example of its impact. First, a mea culpa. I was wrong when I wrote in the last issue: “These PACs currently have no requirement to disclose their contributors […]

MONEY IN OUR ELECTIONS (Part 3): THE CITIZENS UNITED DECISION

Here’s issue #15 of my Policy and Politics Newsletter, written 1/15/12. Having examined campaign fundraising amounts and sources in the previous two issues, now I’ll look at the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. The previous two issues documented the large amounts of money spent on political campaigns and that a small number of very wealthy individuals give […]

MONEY IN OUR ELECTIONS (Part 2): WHERE DOES IT COME FROM?

Here’s issue #14 of my Policy and Politics Newsletter, written 1/8/12. The previous issue examined the total dollar amounts for federal election campaigns overall and on a per office basis. Now, I’ll start to take a look at where all the money comes from. The money contributed to federal election candidates comes from 5 sources: Large […]

MONEY IN OUR ELECTIONS (Part 1): HOW MUCH IS SPENT?

Here’s issue #13 of my Policy and Politics Newsletter, written 1/1/12. Having taken a look at voting, I now turn to campaign fundraising. This is a complicated story and will require multiple issues of the newsletter. The amount of money spent on election campaigns in the United States is staggering. This is due to many […]

WHY THE RESTRICTIONS ON VOTING? (Part 2)

Here’s issue #12 of my Policy and Politics Newsletter, written 12/18/11. This newsletter continues looking at the issue of voting, exploring who is affected by the changes in voting laws and why they are happening. The new hurdles to voting and registering to vote that have recently been put in place in various states (see […]

WHY THE RESTRICTIONS ON VOTING? (Part 1)

Here’s issue #11 of my Policy and Politics Newsletter, written 12/16/11. This newsletter addresses the issue of voting – an issue that has been simmering in the background but is coming to the forefront. The ability and right to vote is a foundational principle of our democracy. From the end of the Civil War, through […]