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Thursday, January 05, 2012

Will Republicans turn against the Citizens United ruling?

An interesting email popped into my box. It came from these people; they want an amendment which would overturn the Citizens United ruling which grants corporations unlimited rights to donate money to political candidates.
According to an NBC News-Marist poll, at the beginning of December, Newt Gingrich was the GOP front-runner in Iowa, with 26% of likely voters. However, after the Super PAC, Restore Our Future, spent $2.8 million on negative ads attacking Gingrich in Iowa, Gingrich’s Iowa support was cut in half to 13% percent by the end of the month, contributing to Gingrich’s lackluster fourth place finish in this week’s Iowa caucuses.

“By spending millions and millions of dollars without any form of accountability, Super PACs are now capable of completely changing the dynamic of our elections, shifting even more power to a wealthy elite and away from the voting public,” said John Bonifaz, director of Free Speech For People. “The GOP campaigns in Iowa present a clear example of the damage done by Super PACs, and they further demonstrate how important it is to overturn the Citizens United ruling and restore democracy to the people.”

“Who is funding these Super-PACs?” adds Bonifaz. “Who decides to "take out" a candidate and for what reasons? In the Citizens United world we all live in now, we're not allowed to know. All we can do is look ahead to New Hampshire and wonder how a few more million dollars worth of negative ads will effect the field.”
The counterargument is obvious: This is Newt Gingrich we're talking about here; he did himself in by...well, by being Newt Gingrich.

But Newt really is not the point, is he? The point is this: It is clear the Republican leadership wants Romney and that the rank and file wants someone, anyone else. So the leadership is willing to spend an agonizing amount of money to convince the hoi polloi to behave. Trouble is, these efforts are rather obvious, and they are bound to piss off a lot of people.

This issue goes way beyond Newt, and even beyond this particular election. We're talking about the possibility of bipartisan pressure to amend the Constitution.

And that possibility, my friends, is intriguing.

Fun fact: Did you know that the better-funded candidate wins 94% of the time? Everyone pretends to mistrust and dislike the media, yet everyone is far more open to media manipulation than they like to think. Our minds are clay sculpted by advertising. I'd like to see a new attitude take hold in this country: A vote for the underfunded candidate should convey an aura of cool.

Of course, if that view had held sway three-plus years ago, John McCain would be president.

The same batch of email also brought me a message from Free Press, which wants transparency in identifying attack ads.
These ads will swallow up more air time in 2012 than campaign coverage on local television newscasts. The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision unleashed countless millions of corporate dollars for spending on campaign ads. But broadcasters aren’t using this newfound revenue to beef up news operations and ensure in-depth coverage of candidates and election-year issues.

Instead, companies like News Corp., Viacom and the Sinclair Broadcast Group are lining their pockets with ad money from benevolent-sounding front groups like Concerned Taxpayers of America, Make Us Great Again and Citizens for a Responsible Government. And they rarely inform viewers about the wealthy individuals and corporations that fund these groups.

The FCC has proposed fixing that by requiring broadcasters to make this financial information available online. But the agency won’t act unless it hears from you:
The FCC already requires broadcasters to keep information about political advertising in "public inspection files" that people can examine. These files contain the names of groups that purchase political advertising time, the cost involved and the names of executives at these organizations. But these files are often tucked away in dusty cabinets at news stations and are difficult for the public to access. The FCC is now weighing whether to make broadcasters transfer this information to the Internet, where anyone can find the data.

Media companies are projected to rake in more than $3 billion in revenues from political ads in 2012. But they are reluctant to take this basic step toward transparency.1

In a recently filed comment to the FCC, the National Association of Broadcasters urged the agency to drop its effort to make it easy for the public to ferret out this information online. Another group of broadcasters warned the FCC against any effort “to stimulate such examinations” of public files...
In the past, before Citizens United, some Republicans offered a trade: Unlimited corporate and private donations in exchange for transparency regarding the donors. I always presumed that transparency did not offer much of a threat, because only political junkies would care about who funded what.

Maybe we're all political junkies these days...?
There aren't any great campaign funding reform proposals out there -- most decent systems can easily be routed by a high-spending break-the-bank plutocrat (Mayor 1% Bloomberg in '01, a one-man proto-Citizens United, spent $75 million to upend a Democrat who raised $10 million via a progressive 6 to 1 public finance program).

But ridding the political system of Cit United would improve a totally leprous system. Cuomo (who passed a marriage equality law against stiff Republican opposition last session) is proposing in NY a program that will come fairly close to $100 max contributions -- but short of free TV time, the rich will control the air attack.
Bonifaz leading this particular push was on Ratigan's show yesterday, commenting on the Montana Supreme Court's 5/4 decision, upholding the state's 100-year ban on direct corporate election funding. It could easily be the test case for Citizen's United. Ratigan is leading an effort of his own to pass an Amendment to 'get the money out.' Bernie Sanders is calling for the same rejection of Citizens United, offering an Amendment as well.

The only presidential candidates who have picked this up is Rocky Anderson [Liberty party] and Buddy Roemer [Republican]. But neither man has been given much time to voice the issue. At least not yet.

Interesting times we're living in.

Peggy Sue
A group of broadcasters is warning the FCC?

What Bizarro World have I awakened in?

It would be like Wall Street warning Obama not to push for tougher financial regulations ... er wait, they didn't have to do that.
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