The oil and gas industry, one of the most powerful corporate forces in American politics, has spent more than $200 million over the past year and a half to stop Congress from slashing carbon emissions as evidence of their catastrophic impact—from deadly heatwaves to massive wildfires—continues to accumulate in stunning fashion. That topline estimate of the fossil fuel industry's lobbying outlays and congressional election spending in the U.S. was calculated by Climate Power, which provided its findings exclusively to Common Dreams. Nearly 80% of the industry's campaign donations during the time period examined went to Republican candidates, according to Climate Power, whose analysis draws on data from OpenSecrets.
Money in Politics
Popular Information focuses a lot of attention on the activities of corporate PACs, even though the dollar figures involved are relatively small. Corporate PACs can contribute a maximum of $5,000 per election to a federal candidate. For a typical candidate that has a primary and general election, that's $10,000 per cycle. So why do we spend so much time tracking this spending? Because corporate PACs are one of the few aspects of corporate political spending that is fully transparent. All of the money donated by corporate PACs to federal candidates is reported to the FEC. Things are a bit more complex on the state level, but it's a similar dynamic. Most states also have fairly regular disclosure of corporate PAC donations. Some states allow corporations to donate directly to candidates but those donations still must be disclosed.
On April 26, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case that could unmoor decades of transparency laws, even as dark money spending by special interests continues to rise. The court’s new majority is being asked by billionaire Charles Koch’s nonprofits to expand on the notion that “money is speech” by ruling that the First Amendment bars disclosure laws that may chill large donors from giving more money to nonprofits. On the surface, the case, known as Americans for Prosperity Foundation v. Bonta, is about whether a state can require a nonprofit group to reveal a list of its donors who give $5,000 or more. That data is not public, but a glitch in California’s electronic filing system inadvertently made it searchable to other filers for a short period, which Koch’s Americans for Prosperity Foundation discovered.
A short squeeze frenzy driven by a new generation of gamers captured financial headlines in recent weeks, centered on a struggling strip mall video game store called GameStop. The Internet and a year off in this shut down to study up have given a younger generation of investors the tools to compete in the market. Gerald Celente calls it the “Youth Revolution.” A group of New York Young Republicans who protested in the snow on January 31 called it “Re-occupy Wall Street.” Others have called it Occupy Wall Street 2.0. The populist uprising against Wall Street goes back farther, however, than to the 2010 Occupy movement. In the late 19th century, the country was suffering from a depression nearly as severe as the Great Depression of the 1930s.
In 2019, 613 million Indians voted to appoint their representatives to the Indian parliament (Lok Sabha). During the election campaign, the political parties spent Rs. 60,000 crores (around US $8 billion), 45% of which was spent by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the governing party; the BJP won 37% of the vote, which translated into 303 of the 545 seats in the Lok Sabha. A year later, a massive $14 billion was spent on the US presidential and congressional elections, with the winning Democrat Party dominating the spending. These are massive amounts of money, whose grip on the democratic process is quite clear by now.
How can you tell if you’re living in a democracy? The answer can get rather complicated. Simple yardsticks can often confuse more than clarify. Take the notion that you have democracies where you have elections. Ballots over bullets. Sounds good. But authoritarians have been brazenly manipulating elections — to cement their rule — for generations. The deadliest example: the plebiscite Adolf Hitler staged in 1934 to lock in Nazi power. Stormtroopers at polling stations would ensure Hitler an overwhelmingly “victory.” How about free speech as the most indispensable indicator of democracy’s presence? If people can get up on a soapbox to speak their minds, if they can publish whatever they have to say, you have a democracy. But this simple formulation turns out to be less than universally revealing.
A coalition of four current and former district attorneys called on the State Bar of California on Monday to ban law enforcement unions from funding district attorney campaigns, saying the contributions represent a conflict of interest that must be urgently addressed in the wake of recent police killings of Black men and women. In a letter to the state bar association, the reform-minded district attorneys said their colleagues cannot ethically prosecute police officers if they are receiving funds and endorsements from unions that finance those officers’ legal expenses. “District Attorneys will undoubtedly review use of force incidents involving police officers,” San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin said in a statement. “When they do, the financial and political support of these unions should not be allowed to influence that decision making.”
The Iron Workers Union endorsed Joe Biden last week, citing his dedication to “defend rights and jobs of American workers”, and calling him “a friend to union ironworkers”. The union endorsement marks one of many that Democratic candidates are fighting for by unveiling detailed labor plans and promising to overturn “right-to work laws” that weaken unions.
Climate scientists predict climate change will have catastrophic effects in the coming decades if drastic action to reverse it is not taken immediately. Some members of Congress, including Green New Deal resolution sponsors Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), are gravely concerned about the mounting threat, but overall, Congress has not met the crisis with the urgency that scientists say is necessary to avoid global tragedy.
The vineyard owners, Craig and Kathryn Hall, have given $2.4 million to Democratic candidates, party campaign committees, and PACs since the 1980s. But, on this occasion, the disclosure that the Halls served $350 bottles of cabernet sauvignon under a chandelier with 1,500 Swarovski crystals drew the populist wrath of Senator Warren.
Today, in a historic ruling, the non-profit group Equal Citizens obtained a judicial ruling that, for the first time since Citizens United, could restore limits on donations to Super PACs and independent groups. The case was brought by a cross-partisan group of three Alaska citizens—Donna Patrick and Pat Lambert of Fairbanks, and James Barnett of Anchorage—who jointly challenged Alaska’s 2012 decision to abandon enforcement of strict limits on donations to independent political groups.
A new report shows that three-quarters of the money that individuals donated to pro-Democrat outside spending groups in 2018 came from finance founders and executives. In the 2018 midterms, Democrats benefited more than Republicans from election spending by outside groups for the first time in recent history. Now, thanks to a new report from Public Citizen, we have a better understanding of where much of that money backing Democrats came from: wealthy individuals who earn their livings as hedge fund founders, bank executives, and other key positions in the financial industry.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Washington) recently rolled out House Democrats’ version of a Medicare for All proposal that would ensure all Americans have guaranteed healthcare. The bill (H.R. 1384) has an impressive 106 co-sponsors, and has been called “the most ambitious Medicare-for-All plan yet” by Vox, which also reported the benefits the House bill contained were even more significant than the companion bill Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) first introduced in his chamber. Grit Post calculated that donors in the insurance and pharmaceutical industries gave a combined $43,740,947 in career campaign donations to the 130 House Democrats who have not yet signed on as co-sponsors to Rep. Jayapal’s bill.
Senate Commerce Chairman Roger Wicker (R-MS) who was scheduled to hold hearings on a an Internet privacy bill abruptly canceled a fundraiser the night before the hearings with the telecom industry when word got out the fundraiser would be protested. Politico reports: "Senate Commerce Chairman Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) today said a controversial fundraiser the telecommunications industry planned to hold for him has been canceled.
So-called “dark money” contributions come from a diverse cross-section of the American landscape. Suburbs, big cities and even small towns are home to corporations created primarily to conceal the true source of money flowing to super PACs that spend millions of dollars to influence elections. One dark money trail leads to Carter Lake, Iowa, population 3,785. Technically, the town is on the Nebraska side of the Missouri River in Omaha, and its horseshoe-shaped lake was once an oxbow bend of the river itself. Flooding changed the course of the river in 1897 leaving a two-mile square piece of Iowa forever marooned in Nebraska.