By Lorne Stockman for Oil Change International – Legislators in Virginia got 75% of the money as the state has lax campaign finance rules, with unlimited contributions from corporations and individuals. But every signatory has received something from one of these two companies over their electoral career; even those in West Virginia where contribution limits are the tightest. The proposed 600-mile pipeline, which would carry fracked gas from West Virginia over the Allegheny highlands through Virginia to North Carolina, has become a hotly contested project. Opposition along the pipeline route has flared up around the threat to mountains, rivers, local water sources, public safety, environmental justice, climate change and use of eminent domain for private gain. It’s even become an issue in Virginia’s upcoming gubernatorial race. Tom Perriello, who emerged earlier this year as a challenger to Democratic establishment favorite Ralph Northam, has distinguished himself in large part by his opposition to both the ACP and the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP).
By Ben Montgomery for Politico Magazine – Ruskin, Florida—Two years ago this week, Douglas Hughes, a slender, bespectacled mailman, age 61, climbed aboard a one-man flying machine called a gyrocopter on the narrow runway of a small airport in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. He wore a white helmet and blue postal jacket and his craft carried just enough fuel to reach Washington, D.C., about 60 miles south as the crow flies. He had strapped to the landing gear two mail trays containing 535 envelopes stuffed with letters over which he had had fretted, writing and editing until he had pared down his screed to two pages each, 837 words. He used three exclamation points, but the contents were short of explosive. “As I see it, campaign finance reform is the cornerstone of building an honest Congress,” he had written. “Erect a wall of separation between our elected officials and big money.” The first part of Hughes’ audacious, two-years-in-the-making plan—to penetrate protected airspace, buzz down the length of the National Mall and land his craft on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol—went off without a hitch. Somewhat miraculously he wasn’t shot down.
By Lee Fang and Nick Surgey for The Intercept – JUST HOURS BEFORE House Speaker Paul Ryan held a press conference to sell his health care overhaul legislation — using a PowerPoint presentation mocked for misrepresenting basic facts — he was doing something he’s much better at: fundraising. The two things were related. The Thursday morning breakfast fundraiser he attended was hosted by a lobbying firm working to unwind the Affordable Care Act on behalf of health insurance company Blue Cross Blue Shield, one of the big winners of Ryan’s proposed legislation. The breakfast, according to an invitation, was sponsored by McGuireWoods PAC, the political action committee for the lobbying firm McGuireWoods.
By Jon Schwarz for The Intercept – Jon McGahn, soon to be Donald Trump’s White House counsel, bears as much responsibility as any single person for turning America’s campaign finance system into something akin to a gigantic, clogged septic tank. From 2008 to 2013, McGahn was one of the six members of the Federal Election Commission, the government agency in charge of civil enforcement of campaign finance laws. While there, he led a GOP campaign that essentially ground enforcement of election laws to a halt. “I’ve always thought of McGahn’s appointment as an FEC commissioner as analogous to appointing an anarchist to be chief of police,” said Paul S. Ryan, vice president at Common Cause.
By Branko Marcetic for In These Times – Buried among the thousands of John Podesta’s emails released over the last week, you’ll find a short, revealing exchangebetween Hillary Clinton campaign chair John Podesta and Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress and Clinton advisor-in-waiting. “I saw Jon Grey [sic] today,” writes Podesta. “We both sang your praises.”
By Soo Rin Kim for Open Secrets – Four years after it began requiring TV stations to upload their records of political ad sales to a central government website, the Federal Communications Commission maintains a recordkeeping system that makes finding out who an ad’s sponsor is feel like a treasure hunt. In 2012, the FCC approved a rule requiring broadcast stations in the largest markets to upload the files showing who bought time for political ads
By Ed Pilkington for The Guardian – The pervasive influence of corporate cash in the democratic process, and the extraordinary lengths to which politicians, lobbyists and even judges go to solicit money, are laid bare in sealed court documents leaked to the Guardian. The John Doe files amount to 1,500 pages of largely unseen material gathered in evidence by prosecutors investigating alleged irregularities in political fundraising. Last year the Wisconsin supreme court ordered that all the documents should be destroyed, though a set survived that has now been obtained by the news organisation.
By Chris Kromm for Facing South – This week, a coalition of more than 50 organizations connected to the Black Lives Matter movement released a highly-anticipated policy agenda document, “A Vision for Black Lives.” Rooted in the cause launched in 2013 to protest the killings of African Americans by police, the document began to take shape at a gathering in Cleveland last year. According to the coalition’s website, it aims to “articulate a common vision and agenda” for the movement.
By Branko Marcetic for In These Times. Some of the nearly 20,000 Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails released by WikiLeaks illustrate a pervasive culture of pay-to-play within the Democratic Party, where wealthy donors are granted the type of unprecedented access to party officials and lawmakers that ordinary citizens can only dream of, all in the hope that doing so will unlock access to their checkbooks. In advance of this week’s Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, the DNC was engaged in a furious scramble for cash. In an April 25 email, one staffer sent Naomi Aberly, a vice chairwoman of the DNC’s national finance committee and major Democratic fundraiser, a list of donors to contact “who have maxed the past few years but have yet to max this year.” Part of this scramble involved selling special “convention packages” to big money donors that promised them ever more impressive perks the more money they gave or raised. One of the documents released by WikiLeaks outlines these packages. The top-tiered package, called “Rittenhouse Square,” promises any individual who either raises $1.25 million or gives $467,600 to the DNC by June 1 a variety of benefits. Along with “priority booking in a premiere hotel,” nightly access to VIP lounges and parties, and an exclusive photo opportunity, the package also tempts donors with seats at “an exclusive roundtable and campaign briefing with high-level Democratic officials,” and participation in various business roundtables and industry panels taking place throughout the event.
By Paul Blumenthal for The Huffington Post – WASHINGTON — The next front in the battle for campaign finance and lobbying reforms will likely be on the ballot in Washington state and South Dakota in November. Activists there have either succeeded or are well on their way to securing ballot positions for omnibus reform initiatives to change the states’ campaign finance, lobbying and ethics laws. The two ballot initiatives mark the continuation of a strategy pursued by national reform groups like Represent.Us
By David Turnbull for Oil Change International – The New York Times today has pulled together a list of all the individuals who have contributed over 1 million dollars in the 2016 election…and there’s some major fracking money hiding in plain sight. If you take a quick glance at the Times’ list of big contributors, you’ll see a hodgepodge of hedge fund managers, CEOs of major companies, and, of course oil industry executives. But, if you dig a little deeper, one family quickly emerges as a major player in the 2016 race: The Wilks family.
By Staff of Common Cause – A citizens’ movement to break the power of big money in politics with tougher disclosure laws, financing systems that elevate small dollar donors, and other reforms is winning important victories in states and localities across the country, Common Cause and several allied groups advocates argue in a report released today. “Our Voices, Our Democracy,” highlights calls by voters, state legislatures and local governing bodies in 16 states and more than 680 localities for a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. FEC
By Ellen Brown for The Web of Debt Blog – For at least a decade, think tanks, commissions and other stakeholders have fought to get Congress to address the staggering backlog of maintenance, upkeep and improvements required to bring the nation’s infrastructure into the 21st century. Countries with less in the way of assets have overtaken the US in innovation and efficiency, while our dysfunctional Congress has battled endlessly over the fiscal cliff, tax reform, entitlement reform, and deficit reduction.
By Nick Cahill for The Huffington Post – SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – California lawmakers can ask for voters’ opinions on campaign-spending laws after the California Supreme Court on Monday upheld the Legislature’s power to use advisory ballot measures. In a 6-1 decision, the Golden State’s high court ruled lawmakers have the power to place a nonbinding measure on statewide ballots asking voters if Congress should be spurred to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling on unlimited independent campaign donations. Writing for the state high court, Justice Kathryn M. Werdegar said lawmakers have a state constitutional right to ask voters about potential federal constitutional amendments.
By Staff of Occupy Wall Street – ASHEVILLE, NC — American roots music troubadours, Donna the Buffalo and Peter Rowan, are teaming up with Ben Cohen, Co-Founder of Ben Jerry’s, for a unique tour called “The Stampede.” It is a tour to raise awareness to the inappropriate use of corporate money in politics. With the upcoming election season, this is to help raise awareness of the power of each individual while enjoying a great night of entertainment. The Stampede is led by Ben Cohen, Co-Founder of Ben and Jerry’s.