Citizens United v. FEC

Mon, 2013-01-21 05:00Steve Horn
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They BuyPartisan: ExxonMobil Donates $260,000 to Obama Inauguration

President Barack Obama will be publicly sworn in today - on Martin Luther King Jr. Day - to serve his second term as the 44th President of the United States.

Today is also the three-year anniversary of Citizens United v. FEC, a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that - in a 5-4 decision - deemed that corporations are “people” under the law. Former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) - who now runs Progressives United (a rhetorical spin-off of Citizens United) - said in Feb. 2012 that the decision “opened floodgates of corruption” in the U.S. political system. 

Unlike for his first Inauguration, Obama has chosen to allow unlimited corporate contributions to fill the fund-raising coffers of the entity legally known as the Presidential Inaugural Committee. Last time around the block, Obama refused corporate contributions for the Inauguration Ceremony as “a commitment to change business as usual in Washington.”

But not this time. With a fundraising goal of $50 million in its sights, the Obama Administration has “opened floodgates” itself for corporate influence-peddling at the 57th Inaugural Ceremony. 

A case in point: the Obama Administration's corporate backers for the Inaurguation have spent over $283 million on lobbying since 2009, the Center for Public Integrity explained in a recent report

Thu, 2012-05-03 12:46Steve Horn
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B.C. Protest This Saturday to Stop Warren Buffett's BNSF Coal Trains

Warren Buffett, the third wealthiest man on the planet (net worth: $44 billion), often referred to as the “Oracle of Omaha,” is the target of a May 5 action called for by Stop Coal B.C. Well, not Buffett directly, but a rail company he owns through his massive holding company, Berkshire Hathaway: Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway.

BNSF Railway is the second largest freight rail company in the United States and the exclusive carrier of thermal coal from coal basins in the northwestern U.S. to docks in British Columbia, where the dirty coal is exported to the global market, primarily to Asia.

The action calls for activists to blockade BNSF's four coal-loaded freight trains from reaching their final destination for the day and in the process, risk arrest. It is part of 350.org's broader “Connect the Dots” event taking place on Saturday, with actions planned throughout the world.

The Stop Coal B.C. call to action reads,

Tue, 2011-01-11 18:27Brendan DeMelle
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David Koch Denies Climate Change, Appears Bewildered When Asked About Citizens United by ThinkProgress

Lee Fang from ThinkProgress had the chance to conduct an impromptu interview with billionaire polluter magnate David Koch of Koch Industries last week in Washington.  Despite the best efforts of Americans For Prosperity president Tim Phillips to end the interview by pestering Fang and his cameraman continously, Fang succeeds in getting Koch to answer several questions.  In part one, Koch acknowledges there are “some extremists” in the Tea Party, but that most of them are “normal people like us” - where “us” equals the handful of people worth $21.5 billion or more.

In part two, when asked about Americans For Prosperity’s work to confuse public understanding of climate change, and about his own grasp of climate change science, David Koch delivers a barely comprehensible response demonstrating his need to brush up on the usual climate denier arguments.

FANG: Why does Americans for Prosperity focus so much on the science of climate change? I’m just curious why they spread so much information that denies the existence of climate, of global warming?

KOCH: Well… I think it’s uh, regulating CO2 excessively is going to put — uh really damage the economy.

FANG: Do you believe in climate change yourself, Mr. Koch?

KOCH: Climate does fluctuate. It goes from hot to cold. We have ice ages.

FANG: But do you believe carbon pollution affects climate change? [Koch shrugs]

Watch:

Tue, 2010-11-16 14:17Brendan DeMelle
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Pittsburgh Bans Natural Gas Drilling Over Fracking Threat

The Pittsburgh City Council today unanimously adoped a first-in-the-nation ordinance banning corporations from drilling for natural gas within city limits, a direct response to the threats to drinking water and public health posed by hydraulic fracturing methods used widely by drilling companies to extract natural gas from the Marcellus Shale.

Pittsburgh City Council President Darlene Harris said her biggest concern about natural gas fracking involves the threat to people’s health posed by water contaminated by Marcellus drilling. She noted that the gas industry’s claims about creating the thousands of jobs isn’t worth the risk.

“They’re bringing jobs all right,” Harris told CBS News. “There’s going to be a lot of jobs for funeral homes and hospitals. That’s where the jobs are. Is it worth it?”

Beyond its innovative approach to fighting the fracking threat, the ordinance - drafted by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) - seeks to limit the claim of “personhood” by corporations and to elevate the rights of property owners and other living, breathing citizens above the interests of corporations.

According to Pittsburgh Councilman Doug Shields, who introduced the measure, “This ordinance recognizes and secures expanded civil rights for the people of Pittsburgh, and it prohibits activities which would violate those rights.  It protects the authority of the people of Pittsburgh to pass this ordinance by undoing corporate privileges that place the rights of the people of Pittsburgh at the mercy of gas corporations.”

Fri, 2010-11-12 09:51Mitchell Anderson
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Assessing the Midterm Damage in DC

As the dust settles on DC, many are now wondering what toll the midterm results will take on climate science and energy policy. The initial signs are ominous.

Rep. Joe Barton of Texas is angling for chairmanship of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee where he could further favor his friends in the fossil fuel industry. Barton strongly apposes Congressional efforts to cut carbon emissions, telling NPR last week, “There will be no cap-and-trade bill … It’s not just endangered, it’s extinct.” He also accepted almost $400,000 in contributions last year from electrical utilities and the oil and gas industry.

Barton embarrassed even some of his Republican colleagues when he apologized to BP CEO Tony Hayward during his testimony to Congress after the Gulf oil spill. If the optics of Barton chairing the energy committee are too odious, the runner up will likely be Fred Upton of Michigan - perhaps not a major improvement.

Both men voted against clean energy legislation. Upton has also vowed to kill the Congressional Select Committee on Climate Change, saying “the American people do not need Congress to spend millions of dollars to write reports and fly around the world. We must terminate this wasteful committee.”

But is Congress considering the implications of climate change really such bad investment? The climate committee cost about $8 million per year. This is less than one percent of what scientists believe climate change could cost the US economy - about $1.8 trillion per year - if we chose to ignore it.

Thu, 2010-11-04 14:02Brendan DeMelle
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Special Interests Enabled By 'Citizens United' Spent $186 Million To Influence U.S. Midterm Races

The success of GOP and Tea Party-backed candidates in the 2010 U.S. midterm elections was enabled by a massive influx of secretive spending thanks to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. FEC.

A new analysis by the Sunlight Foundation identified $126 million in unrestricted funds spent during this midterm without any disclosure of whose money it was. That figure represents more than a quarter of the total $450 million spent by outside groups on the midterms.

Sunlight Foundation notes that:

“Add the $60 million spent by groups that were allowed to raise unlimited money, but still had to disclose, to the undisclosed money and the total amount of outside money made possible by the Citizens United ruling reaches $186 million or 40 percent of the total spent by outside groups.”


The two leading GOP shadow groups, American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS - both founded and guided by GOP veterans Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie - are reportedly “gloating” over their influence on the elections. The two groups spent more than $38 million on attack ads and misinformation campaigns to defeat Democratic candidates.

NBC News reports that “a substantial portion of Crossroads GPS’ money came from a small circle of extremely wealthy Wall Street hedge fund and private equity moguls.”

Tue, 2010-11-02 13:29Brendan DeMelle
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Outcome of U.S. Midterm Election Already Clear - Polluters Win Again

While U.S. voters head to the polls today - and everyone from Fox to Politico to your uncle on Facebook becomes a pundit trying to predict the results - the outcome is already crystal clear: polluters have won again, handily.

With the advent of now limitless corporate donations polluting the democratic process thanks to the Supreme Court’s insane ruling on Citizens United, dirty energy interests, Wall Street fat cats and lobbyists will run America for the foreseeable future.

Corporations have long enjoyed the advantage of spending a tiny amount (compared to their enormous profits) to influence the entire political system, buying future access and favors that pay off for years to come, simply by driving contributions to their favored candidates in every contest from local zoning board races to governors to U.S. Senators.

But thanks to Citizens United, corporate influence is now far more invasive and impactful. Polluters can freely run attack ads and vicious smear campaigns against climate hawks, deploy their front groups to mislead voters on everything from health care to global warming, sponsor ballot initiatives to kill clean energy progress, and generally play fast and dirty with zero accountability for their actions. 

Wed, 2010-02-10 10:55Brendan DeMelle
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PolluterHarmony: A Match Made In Washington

Congressmembers, are you too busy being indentured servants to corporations to find love?

Lobbyists, did that pickup line about healthcare flop with your beloved Senator?  Well, have you heard the one about “clean coal” yet?

Polluters, are you too shy to admit the things you’d like to do to Rep. Joe Barton

Well, you are all in luck.  Today marks the launch of PolluterHarmony.com, a new online matchmaking service designed to help dirty polluters and their lobbyists find that perfect politician to live forever in holy mmm…

Fri, 2010-01-22 13:19Brendan DeMelle
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When Corporations Rule The World (thanks to the Supreme Court)

With its ruling in Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission (FEC), the Supreme Court has granted corporations even further unfettered access to destroy the fundamental Constitutional protections against corporate control of government.  The Chamber of Commerce and ExxonMobil must be thrilled.

The title of David Korten’s excellent 2001 book about the rise of corporate control in  America popped into my head as I read the depressing news about the Supreme Court’s gift to corporate America (as if they need another handout from U.S. taxpayers). 

Corporations, Wall Street and other special interests can now spend as much as they want on commercials and literature to call for the victory or defeat of federal political candidates.  Unlike previously acceptable “issue ads,” candidates can now be mentioned by name, as long as there’s no coordination with the candidates or campaigns.

The decision, a 5-4 vote, overturned a 20-year-old ruling barring such ads.

Fossil fuel interests, rejoice.  Working American families, not so much.  Efforts to create good-paying green jobs, transition to a clean energy future and ambitiously address global warming just got a lot harder.

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