Sunday, May 15, 2011

Who is controlling our America?

Executive order on disclosure is modest, necessary
A proposed executive order relating to disclosure of political spending is both necessary and modest, Public Citizen’s David Arkush explains in the Huffington Post. Still, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is waging a war of intimidation to stop it. And Republicans held a hearing this week to highlight their dislike for the idea. (Irony alert: U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who chaired the hearing, formed a transparency caucus last year.) The order would require companies that vie for government contracts to disclose details of their political spending. Small business representatives held a press conference to support it. Want to help? Sign a petition to the president urging him to sign the order.

IRS investigating donations to groups
The IRS has sent letters to five people who gave large sums to 501(c)4 nonprofits, saying that the donations may be subject to gift taxes. The agency didn’t reveal the names of the donors but noted that it had opened investigations and asked recipients to send records about all donations made in 2008. The inquiry comes in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which gave corporations a green light to spend as much as they want to influence elections. Since then, many nonprofits have been formed solely to gather huge sums of money to funnel into elections. Some experts say the IRS action is an attempt to deter that kind of giving as the 2012 election season heats up. The investigation appears to be consistent with the IRS’s longstanding position that large gifts to 501(c)(4) organizations are subject to the gift tax regardless of whether the organization engages in political activities.

New York congressional race attracting big, national bucks
The race to fill the seat of former U.S. Rep. Chris Lee’s (R-N.Y.) – the lawmaker who trolled for women on Craigslist and sent a cellphone pic of his shirtless torso to one of them – is attracting lots of money. American Crossroads, one of the groups co-created by Republican strategist Karl Rove after Citizens United, is pouring $650,000 into broadcast ads. That apparently prompted the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to buy $250,000 worth of ads. As one watcher noted, “This may turn into an arms race.”

Romney sweeps up Wall Street money
While mulling whether to run for president, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has been asking people to promise him money – in particular from Wall Street and other financial interests. Romney was in Las Vegas recently, raising eye-popping sums.

Issue #61 • May 13, 2011

“Money and Democracy Update” is Public Citizen’s weekly e-newsletter about the intersection of money and politics. It is part of our ongoing campaign to track the results of — and ultimately overturn — the U.S. Supreme Court’s reckless decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which allows for-profit corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money to support or attack political candidates. We’ll update you regularly with select news stories and blog posts, legislative developments and ways to get involved.

Stunning Statistics of the Week:
41: The percentage of congressional staffers who said in response to an informal Public Citizen survey that the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling has “strengthened the influence of lobbyists in the policymaking process.”
57: The percentage of Democratic respondents, nearly three in five, said Citizens United has strengthened the influence of lobbyists.
0: Number of Republican staffers who said they believed that Citizens United has strengthened lobbyists’ influence or that they personally feel a need to respond differently to lobbyists.

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