Tag Archives: citizens united

Billionaires Going Rogue – NYTimes.com

29 Oct

This is a fascinating article on the role of extraordinarily rich men in the political process, a role enabled by the disastrous Citizen’s United decision.

Unleashed by Citizens United, a handful of renegade billionaires made life miserable for Mitt Romney, the establishment candidate. More importantly, it only took four men — Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas and Macao casino mogul; Harold Simmons, a Dallas-based leveraged buyout specialist; Foster Friess, a conservative Christian and  successful investor; and William Dore, a Louisiana energy company C.E.O. – to stun traditional party power brokers during the first four months of 2012.

The millions of dollars these men put into the super PACs associated with two clearly marginal candidates, Newt Gingrich and the former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, turned the primary process into an open contest, giving full voice to the more extreme wings dominated by the Tea Party and the evangelical right.

The newly empowered billionaires are positioned to challenge the Republican Party at its point of greatest vulnerability, during the primaries. The three major party organizations — the Republican National, Congressional and Senatorial Committees – cannot, except in unusual circumstances, intervene in primaries. Those are to be decided by voters, not the party.

Some may think that this weakening of the traditional parties is a good thing. We at Truth  and Traditions have no love for the Republicrats. Nor do we have any love for narrow-minded billionaires.

Predictions are notoriously dangerous, given the multitude of possible outcomes. If the parties are eviscerated, the political system could adjust itself and regain vitality. But I doubt it. For all their flaws, strong political parties are important to a healthy political system. The displacement of the parties by super rich men determined to flex their financial muscles is another giant step away from democracy.

via Billionaires Going Rogue – NYTimes.com.


Here’s a Memo From the Boss – Vote This Way – NYTimes.com

27 Oct

Imagine getting a letter from the boss, telling you how to vote.

Until 2010, federal law barred companies from using corporate money to endorse and campaign for political candidates — and that included urging employees to support specific politicians.

But the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision has freed companies from those restrictions, and now several major companies, including Georgia-Pacific and Cintas, have sent letters or information packets to their employees suggesting — and sometimes explicitly recommending — how they should vote this fall.

via Here’s a Memo From the Boss – Vote This Way – NYTimes.com.

Is Your Boss Going to ‘Mine’ Your Vote? More Corporations Step Up Coercion | The Nation

20 Oct

I remember my father telling me that his company, the now defunct Bethlehem Steel Corporation, pressured him to contribute to the Republican Party. This was back in the 60s. They also discouraged their employees from buying foreign cars, such as Volkswagons, which is perhaps why Dad got one.

In recent weeks, a flurry of news coverage has focused on an undemocratic trend in workplaces around the country: employers telling their workers which politicians they should vote for. CEOs for Murray Energy, Koch Industries, ASG Software and Westgate Resorts have pressured their employees to vote for particular political candidates, like Mitt Romney.

The Nation has found that the phenomenon appears far more wide-ranging that previously known. Businesses throughout Washington State, along with a loose network of hundreds of coal and mining companies, are preparing to urge employees to vote for specific political candidates. Meanwhile, lobbyists in Washington are working furiously to encourage more corporations to adopt these tactics.

One of the lesser-known consequences of the Citizens United decision is how corporations gained the power to explicitly recommend candidates to their rank-and-file workers. Before, corporations were limited to mostly encouraging civic participation. Now, managers can make political appeals for a candidate in the workplace.

via Is Your Boss Going to ‘Mine’ Your Vote? More Corporations Step Up Coercion | The Nation.

Never Mind Super PACs: How Big Business Is Buying the Election

2 Sep

Though much media attention has been heaped on Super PACs—the new political action committees that can take unlimited contributions from nearly any source, such as Mitt Romney’s Restore Our Future—they haven’t caught fire within corporate America owing to their monthly (in some cases, quarterly) disclosure requirements. Most donations to Super PACs are from wealthy individuals, such as casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, making them not so different from the so-called 527 groups that proliferated in the immediate wake of McCain-Feingold. Among the eight largest Super PACs active during the Republican presidential primaries, 86 percent of their funding came from individuals, not corporations.

The real tsunami in corporate spending has come from nonprofits, in particular trade associations, which are classified as 501(c)(6) organizations under the tax code and are virtually fully funded by corporate cash. In 2010, 501(c)(6) trade associations and 501(c)(4) issue-advocacy groups outspent Super PACs $141 million to $65 million, according to the Center for Public Integrity and the Center for Responsive Politics.

After Citizens United, trade associations quickly moved to augment their traditional PAC spending with secret corporate cash. Take the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the pharmaceutical industry’s trade association. In 2008, PhRMA spent less than $200,000 on federal elections, using only money bundled from transparent individual contributions, mostly from drug company executives. The following election cycle, after Citizens United, PhRMA spent $10.36 million on federal elections, 98 percent of it from undisclosed corporate sources.

Likewise, the shift allowed the National Association of Realtors, already a heavy hitter when it came to PAC spending, to unleash an additional $1.1 million on federal elections from undisclosed real estate companies in 2010.

“What Citizens United has done, it has wholesale changed the landscape,” said Stefan Passantino, a partner at the law and lobbying firm McKenna, Long & Aldridge and a former Newt Gingrich campaign adviser. He was addressing a seminar in Atlanta, Georgia, on corporate political engagement in the 2012 election cycle. He recounted advising one corporate client on how to “engage in an issue where we’re not popular,” in this case to preserve certain tax loopholes. Passantino said businesses have enormous new opportunities for influencing elections without being detected. “We gotta keep our corporate logo out of the bull’s-eye,” he added.

via Never Mind Super PACs: How Big Business Is Buying the Election.

Resolve to Overturn ‘Citizens United’ Spreads Through the States | The Nation

14 Jun

People don’t want to see a repeat of Wisconsin, where more than $63 million was spent in the recall election ($50 million went to Walker)—much of it from out of state, including $24 million from outside groups. Local public officials also realize that they can’t raise the kind of resources a handpicked, corporate-favored candidate can now access. There is also an obscenely exorbitant presidential campaign on the horizon with a price tag expected to reach $2 billion or more, including hundreds of millions of dollars flowing in from wealthy and corporate interests. In May alone, conservative groups spent $20 million in just nine swing states and Michigan.

Legislators have clearly reached their own conclusion that there is an “appearance of corruption.” Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia have joined Montana in asking the Supreme Court to uphold the state’s ban on corporate expenditures. This coalition is a mix of red, blue, and purple states, including New York, Arkansas, California, Idaho, Kentucky, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, Utah, Vermont and West Virginia. Senators John McCain and Sheldon Whitehouse also filed an amicus brief in support of Montana, writing, “Evidence from the 2010 and 2012 electoral cycles has demonstrated that so-called independent expenditures create a strong potential for corruption and the perception thereof.”

via Resolve to Overturn ‘Citizens United’ Spreads Through the States | The Nation.

In Citizens United II, How Justices Rule May Be an Issue Itself – NYTimes.com

11 Jun

The Montana Supreme Court has decided that “that a state law regulating corporate political spending was constitutional notwithstanding Citizens United.” The US Supreme Court is expected to reverse that decision later this week. However . . .

The main question on Thursday, then, will be how the court will reverse the Montana decision. It could call for briefs, set the case down for argument in the fall and issue a decision months later. Or it could use a favorite tool of the court led by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. — the summary reversal.

Nine times so far this year, the court has issued an unsigned opinion ruling on the merits of a dispute without full briefing or oral argument. Such rulings have been the subject of criticism from practitioners and the legal academy. These critics say it is a mistake to resolve cases without adequate information and deliberation. It is also problematic, they add, to do so anonymously.

The latest critique arrived this month in The Tulane Law Review in an article by Ira P. Robbins, a law professor at American University. It was called “Hiding Behind the Cloak of Invisibility,” and it considered “per curiam” opinions, ones issued “by the court” without indication of authorship. “In the first six years of Chief Justice Roberts’s tenure,” Professor Robbins wrote, “almost 9 percent of the court’s full opinions were per curiams.”

Such opinions suggest that what they have to say is so simple and obvious that no serious judicial effort is needed. Yet not a few unsigned majority opinions have come with dissents. That combination — an unsigned majority decision and a signed dissent — was “an oxymoronic form, one that simultaneously insisted on both institutional consensus and individual disagreement,” Laura Krugman Ray, a law professor at the Widener University School of Law, wrote in 2000 in The Nebraska Law Review.

Prof Ray believes that this is a history-making case and that all “should sign on to what he or she subscribes to.” We agree. But we also fear that we are increasingly ruled by powerful cowards. We’ll see.

via In Citizens United II, How Justices Rule May Be an Issue Itself – NYTimes.com.

Should Corporations Have More Leeway to Kill Than People Do? – NYTimes.com

26 Feb

In Citizens United the Supreme Court held that corporations had rights heretofor restricted to humans. Now they are being asked to decide whether or not they have resposibilities.

The story behind the Kiobel case is compelling: The plaintiffs are members of the Ogoni people in Nigeria’s Niger Delta, where Royal Dutch Shell had extensive oil operations in the 1990s through contracts with the brutal military dictatorship that held power at the time. The region is widely considered a zone of calamity, in terms of both environmental and human rights. In the suit, Royal Dutch Shell was accused of assisting the Nigerian government in torturing and, through sham trials, executing Ogoni activists who had threatened to disrupt Shell’s operations because of the devastating health and environmental effects of unregulated drilling practices. The plaintiffs are either victims of torture themselves or had relatives who were executed. Esther Kiobel, the plaintiff after whom the suit is named, is the widow of a victim.

If the Supreme Court rules in favor of Royal Dutch Shell and against the plaintiffs, multinational corporations — particularly in mining and other extractive industries — could draw the lesson that it is now safer to forge alliances with autocratic regimes that have poor human rights records because they will not be judged culpable in the way individuals can be. …

A decision affirming that Shell should go unpunished in the Niger Delta case would leave us with a Supreme Court that seems of two minds: in the words of Justice John Paul Stevens’s dissent from Citizens United, it threatens “to undermine the integrity of elected institutions across the nation” by treating corporations as people to let them make unlimited political contributions, even as it treats corporations as if they are not people to immunize them from prosecution for the most grievous human rights violations.

via Should Corporations Have More Leeway to Kill Than People Do? – NYTimes.com.

The biggest threat to Citizens United – Campaign Finance – Salon.com

6 Jan

Montana has had on its books since 1912, which was passed by citizens initiative, a law called The Corrupt Practices Act. And what The Corrupt Practices Act did is essentially said that corporations cannot make expenditures or contributions in the political system. And we got there because our history was rooted in corporate domination of elections. It was in 1906 that a paper in Montana said, “the greatest living question of the day is whether corporations shall control the people or the people shall control the corporations.” And at the time the Copper Kings as they were called, those mine (owners) that mined copper in Montana literally owned our legislature, our judges, our local county planning boards. It was all throughout and it was at one point called “the Montana situation.”

So we have a real background in the unfortunate effects of unlimited corporate expenditures in elections and as a result when Citizens United came down dealing with federal law and federal elections it wasn’t something that I wanted to just give up on the last hundred years in Montana. We defended out laws, right before New Year’s Eve the Montana Supreme Court said that our ban on corporate expenditures remains constitutional.

via The biggest threat to Citizens United – Campaign Finance – Salon.com.