Appearances, Publications & Speeches
- Jun 28, 2012
Disclosure about money in politics is as American as apple pie. When Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis wrote, “Sunlight is the best disinfectant,” he expressed the fundamental notion that American democracy is best served by having citizens who are informed about the message and the messenger.
Currently, the problem in our political system is too little disclosure. Groups such as Crossroads GPS (run by Republican operative Karl Rove) and Priorities USA (run by Democratic operative Bill Burton) are spending massive amounts to influence the outcome of the 2012 elections. Yet they are able to keep the sources of their money hidden, providing donors with anonymity.
- Jun 27, 2012
When it comes to changing his tune on disclosure, the rank hypocrisy of Senator Mitch McConnell is not that surprising. The audacity of it is breathtaking, but the swing was predictable. After all, Senator McConnell is first and foremost a politician who, as Senate Minority Leader, is doing everything he can for his party to gain control of the government. If anonymous funding appears at this point to benefit his party, disclosure is bad. If the shoe were on the other foot - if the Democrats seemed to be gaining advantage at the moment from opaque spending - you can be assured he would be harping against secret money.
- Jun 19, 2012
On the surface, a Constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United might seem like a golden ticket for those who were stunned by the Court's decision. An amendment would appear to respond to the problem of huge corporate expenditures and contributions often made with anonymous funds, and would place such restrictions beyond the reach of the heavy-handed Roberts Court. But while an effort the likes of Rep. Schiff’s is admirable, it is not necessarily the best answer.
It is certainly understandable why many favor a Constitutional amendment to counter Citizens United, which overturned nearly 100 years of laws. But Constitutional amendments are nearly impossible to pass - according to C-SPAN, up to 200 amendments are proposed every term of Congress - and even once that mountain is scaled, are often possible to circumvent.
- Jun 14, 2012
Has the coverage of super PACs, and Adelson's donation specifically, been warranted? Absolutely! Citizens United and its progeny, SpeechNow, have created an Orwellian world in which money is speech and corporations are people. it defies common sense.
New avenues created by Citizens United allow billionaires like Adelson to spend unlimited money to influence candidates -and the elections themselves. This avenue for big money-influence is nothing less than a seismic shift in the democratic process.
Before 2010, gifts to PACs (groups that influence federal elections) had limits. If Sheldon Adelson wanted to give to organized political entities, there were caps in place to limit his personal influence. Individuals could make independent expenditures, but they had proved both cumbersome and had limited effectiveness for a number of reasons.
- Jun 1, 2012
Super PACs are a blight on America's political landscape. They provide a means for very wealthy individuals and corporate special interests to evade anti-corruption laws that have been on the books for decades.
The courts have long recognized that large contributions to political candidates can corrupt and reduce public confidence in our democratic system. So courts have upheld limits on how much individuals may contribute to candidates, as well as outright bans on corporate and union contributions to candidates. But today, Super PACs are operating as de facto campaigns unrestricted by such limits.
Super PACs have the ability to both distort the political process and to affect the outcome of a federal election. Super PAC spending buys access and influence for the Super PAC funders.
- May 29, 2012
The jury considering the charges against former Senator John Edwards has already surprised many observers by taking more time to consider the case than it took the Edwards lawyers to put on their defense. There is speculation that the case will be appealed if Edwards is convicted, raising questions about the judge’s instructions to the jury about the evidence and applicable standards of law.
One of the most interesting aspects of the case has been the disagreements about whether the case should have been brought in the first place - disagreements that are not falling along party or ideological lines. Those speaking out against the prosecution include Melanie Sloan of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), and former Federal Election Commissioner Scott Thomas, who testified in the case (with the jury out of the room).
- Mar 14, 2012
Usually Members of Congress compete with each other to claim the mantle of “pro-law-enforcement politician.” But when it comes to laws that might be used by prosecutors to hold Members of Congress accountable, the House leadership’s pro-law-enforcement stance apparently flags. That is the message being sent by its decision to strip out the anti-corruption provisions included by unanimous vote in the Senate-passed Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act. These provisions should be restored in a House-Senate conference committee on the bill.
- Sep 21, 2011
Attack ads will once again be a primary source for public information in the 2012 election. Just as the new media conglomerates are putting their pieces in place for their election teams, a new report commissioned by the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission concludes that the media scene is increasingly bereft of real investigative journalism, especially at the local level.
- Sep 7, 2011
Congressional Republicans are shedding “crocodile tears” about the supposed politicization of government contracting that could result from a draft executive order requiring contractors to disclose political contributions.
Since this spring, the White House has let the leaked executive order twist slowly in the wind and done little to counter the bogus claims being made about it.
- Jul 22, 2011
There is good news and bad news today in the House's vote to defeat the amendment offered by Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.) to gut the funding of the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE). The good news is that it went down to defeat with 302 Members voting against it. The bad news is that there are at least 102 Members who are totally clueless about public perception and apparently about the facts of what has been occurring in the House ethics process.