Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Under the Influence: Special Interest Money and Members of Congress is a report from Public Citizen. It breaks down the types of campaign contributions each incumbent for 2006 has raised, and compares them by rank. Follow the money for yourself!


Monday, October 16, 2006

Per a Center for Investigative Reporting newsletter, a four-part series on
and his grand history of money-raising for campaigns for himself and other Republicans will publish this week in the Lexington Herald-Leader.


Thursday, September 28, 2006

The fine folks at The Center for Responsive Politics is promoting transparency in US Senate campaigns. A bill is still in committee to mandate all senatorial candidates to file their financial reports to the FEC electronically. In addition to allowing the public to view campaign data in a timely fashion, it also saves the taxpayer hundreds of thousands of dollars!


Wednesday, September 27, 2006

In Washington, be reminded that it's not, "I do what I say" but "I do other than what I say." Yesterday's blog post was about the Republicans reviving the K Street Project; now it is the Democrats who are doing it. If the Democrats regain control of the House and or Senate, look for the darkening clouds of corruption to remain from the Republicans. Here's the details at the Campaign Legal Center blog.


Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Republican Congressional leadership is shaking down the lobbying industry in Washington, by warning that if they don't supply the big money to their candidates this fall and they eventually win, the uncontributing lobbyists will lose access and favor next legislative session. See the Campaign Legal Center blog entry for today, for the gory details.


Saturday, September 02, 2006

Heavy lobbying of the interest of financial corporations not only affects the morals of our nation's legislators receiving the treatment, but also the livelihoods of the people affected by the subsequent legislation. Campaign finance reform hits both incumbent and challenger candidates, but saves the pay-for-play legislation big money contributors demand.

Our very own soldiers in the US military are victims of recent bankruptcy legislation pushed heavily by financial companies. According to a USA Today article, a Pentagon report shows lenders positioned around military bases typically charge $15 to $25 per $100 loan for two weeks, and most loans are extended for several weeks. The report says the average loan is $350 and has an annual interest rate of 390% to 780%. The average borrower, it says, pays back $834 for a $339 loan. The report cites estimates 13% to 19% of servicemembers — at least 175,000 people — took out high-interest, short-term loans last year. It said nine out of 10 loans go to borrowers who take out five or more over a year.


Thursday, August 31, 2006

This is not right.. Pres. Bush is using Air Force One to jet around the country campaigning for others! Has he lost touch with the American taxpayer? What about the sense of right and wrong? I find myself using the term "conscience" to label the respect a public official has for his/her constituents. Pres. Bush shows no conscience here, hasn't yet for this problem and may never?

Source: Associated Press article

With all of the pork being spent on "bridges to nowhere", why can't Congress pay its own way for business travel? Have a travel fund established for business travel by Congressional members and their staff. Instead, businesses that have interests in travelers' legislation is paying for the trips-- this is from a recent Report of the Center of Public Integrity:

WASHINGTON, August 30, 2006 — Members of Congress and their aides accepted
more than $600,000 in free travel from pharmaceutical interests during a 5½-year
period in which drug company profits climbed, in part due to federal legislation
favorable to the industry.
Dozens of the trips were approved by lawmakers, who had significant
personal interests in the pharmaceutical industry or later worked with
drug-makers. Almost all of those same legislators voted in favor of the 2003
Medicare Prescription Drug Act, which led to a windfall of profits for the
"It's been a highly profitable trade-off" for pharmaceutical
companies, said James Love, a drug industry critic and the director of the
nonprofit Consumer Project on Technology. "They give out some free perks, hand
out some [rides on] private jets, sponsor some trips and give some campaign
donations. And in return, they make billions."

Some big money campaign donors are now pledging funds to candidates at fundraisers, instead of paying at the door. This abuses the disclosure laws that help voters and others determine who gives to whom and when. The Rest of Us has the details on yet another "beating the system" for personal gain.


Monday, August 28, 2006

The Emirates Economy calls
the most ethically-challenged person in her marriage while saving others the trouble of drawing attention to the skeletons in her closet; this of course includes former President Bill Clinton. According to the Corruption Chronicles, a Judical Watch blog, a scandal-ridden billionaire who pays Bill Clinton millions of dollars annually to be an “adviser” is one of Hillary’s major donors and fundraisers although the New York Senator often votes on legislation that affects his massive empire. Ron Burkle, the owner of Los Angeles-based equity firm Yucaipa, contributed millions of dollars to Bill Clinton’s campaigns, the Democratic Party and Bill’s longtime wife, Hillary. Burkle also paid a big chunk of the $11 million in legal bills Bill accrued during his presidential scandals and he is a huge benefactor of the Clinton Library in Little Rock. Look for Mr. Burkle to pull out his big money at times in the future if the past is any indication.


Thursday, August 24, 2006

The 2008 Presidential race is already heating up; in about a year from now, we will know a lot better who the leaders will be in each of the major parties. For about three decades, the presidential candidates have had the pleasure of public financing of their campaigns, to help them focus on the task of meeting with potential voters. Time and inflation has eroded the finance system's effectiveness, however; if Congress and the President doesn't pass into law soon an update for it, candidates may be forced to forego public financing for big money contributions. Congress needs to keep presidential campaigns clean, and vote in a new presidential public finance bill.


Wednesday, August 23, 2006

One of the main reasons for the BCRA (a.k.a. "McCain-Feingold law") was to rein in soft money ads right before an election. Soft money is of course money, beyond the campaign finance limits, from groups for attack ads to influence an election. Well, the Federal Election Commission will decide whether to open a large loophole in the law, so that these groups can again make the ads! And they are considering expediting the decision in time for this election season, even though the proposal was made last February! The Campaign Legal Center's website has a letter addressing this audacity.

If the FEC carries through with this and ok's the loophole, I will lose a lot of faith in its commitment to enforce this nation's campaign finance laws.


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

I thought the best way to campaign as an incumbent, was to tout your voting record and approval rating. Not so, if you are a Republican Senator in Pennsylvania-- even though President Bush's record is challenging 30% nationally, and he is unpopular in PA, he can serve up some campaign cash for
just by showing his face. This is from the Washington Times:

"The president isn't going around doing campaign rallies for people," Mr.
Santorum said. "What a president is best at doing for a candidate is one thing:
raising money. When you have the president at an event, people will pay money to
see him."

What an easy way to raise money as a candidate: be in the President's political party! Easy money!!


Monday, August 21, 2006

It's Clean Elections Week! Several national reform groups have established this present week, as a time for all constituents to call on their Congresspeople for cleaner financing of public elections, such as publicly-financed elections. More information about this week, and what each one of us can do, is at:


Chairmen of Congressional committees who provide oversight of companies attract big money from PACs whose companies are recipients of that oversight. The Journal News writes on
; she chairs the House Financial Services Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee. In her campaign for re-election so far, 54 percent of her contributions, or $766,942, came from political action committees. Most companies want to influence their federal regulator; this is their way of getting that influence. If , however, Congressional elections were publicly financed, committee chairmen wouldn't be overwhelmed with campaign handouts from those they oversee.


Sunday, August 20, 2006

The reform lobby is getting into high gear on saving our presidential public financing system. Since its inception after the Watergate scandals of the 1970s, it has aged and experienced abuses; it is time to pass an updated version. Longtime reformers Sen. Feingold and Reps. Shays and Meehan have written a new bill for such an occassion, and it is up to our Congresspeople to pass it for the 2008 presidential elections and afterwards. Unfortunately, given the lack of reform attitute displayed in both houses so far this year, it is not certain whether the bill will pass; if not, look out for big money checks flowing into an already corrupt executive branch.


Saturday, August 19, 2006

As a USA Today article reports, some Democratic Political Action Committees (PACs) are devoting their resources to Secretary of State races this 2006 election season. These PACs are serving the understandably nervous Democrats in states forecasted to be competitive in the upcoming 2008 Presidential race; the states spotlighted include Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada and Ohio. Secretaries of State control most voting regulations and influence state purchases of voting machines.


Friday, August 18, 2006

We have a new, major player in the wild and wooly big money campaign finance scene in a Limited Liability Corporation. Harold Ickes has founded a private firm called "Data Warehouse" that provides services to Democratic-oriented 527s, 501(c)s and PACs. The Campaign Finance Institute describes it in its August 2, 2006 Press Release titled "527 Political Organizations Raising Money at 2002 Pace, Down From 2004: Interest Groups Also Finance Efforts to Influence November Vote Via PACs, 501(c) Organizations and a Private Firm":

Joining in, and enhancing, the Democratic-oriented groups' electoral effort
is a new private firm, Data Warehouse, a Limited Liability Corporation. This
company is directed by Harold Ickes, a former head of the main Democratic 527s
in 2004, ACT and Media Fund, and longtime top Democratic Party strategist. Data
Warehouse receives support from its primary financier, who was the top donor to
527s in 2004, George Soros and other large investors associated with the
"Democracy Alliance," a wealthy donors' cooperative that finances
Democratic-oriented think tanks and advocacy efforts.5 Ickes stated6 that his
firm has a $10 million spending budget for 2006 (and $8.5 million for 2007) to
supply information to a wide range of "progressive" Democratic organizations
from a sophisticated national voter file, including e-mail addresses, historical
voting and commercial data. The company's budgetary costs are to be met by a
combination of its private capital contributions and nonprofit customer "user
fees"; the latter are not projected to be sufficient to enable the organization
to operate at a profit until 2010. Thus large private investment funds are
essential to help pay, on an ongoing basis, for the provision of voter files to
the customers, which include 527s, 501(c)s and PACs. Among the clients
specifically noted by Ickes were SEIU, AFL-CIO, League of Conservation Voters
and Sierra Club. Data Warehouse leases facilities to and is co-located in the
same office suite as America Votes Inc. and America Votes 2006, the two 527
organizations that are coordinating voter mobilization by the main
Democratic-oriented interest groups in 2006. Soros has also donated $1,490,000
to these organizations. America Votes has also paid Data Warehouse $125,000 to
subscribe to its service. This innovative joining together of private
investment, party expertise and the coordinated operations of nonprofit interest
group 527s, 501(c)s and PACs could mark yet another frontier of undisclosed but
effective campaign fundraising.

If this new enterprise is successful, you can bet the Republicans will follow suit in this continual big money race for major party electoral victories.

Instead of finding a non-political way to manage redistricting across the nation, the Democratic Party has joined up with a large union in order to place big money into fighting Republicans. An August 17, 2006 AP article breaks the news to dis-heartened citizens who will have no say in the state and national district deliberations:

One of the nation's largest labor unions, joining with other
Democratic-leaning groups, is forming a political committee to raise millions of
dollars for redistricting fights with the GOP. The committee is being
formed by AFSCME along with the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee and
the National Committee for an Effective Congress. It expects to spend
about $17 million over the next five years on redistricting at the state and
federal level, with more than half of that money provided by AFSCME, Scanlon
said Thursday.


Thursday, August 17, 2006

There is a Washington Post article today on the increase in hiring of Democratic lobbyists on K Street. Washington, DC lobbying firms believe that there is a good chance that Democrats will not only pick up a significant number of Congressional seats this year, but will also win a majority position in the House of Representatives. As lobbyists are hired to gain access to Congresspeople and their staff, they feel it is important that they have an equal proportion of lobbyists from those officials' own respective political parties.


Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Why should a U.S. Senatorial candidate receive most of her individual financial contributions from outside her own office's state? Probably the most blatant example is the campaign of Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York. Politicalmoneyline broke down the second quarter of 2006; these are the greatest contributing states making contributions, by individuals, to her current campaign for Senator:

New York + $1,500,074
California + $904,850
Massachusetts + $287,324
Maryland + $132,875
D.C. + $124,787
New Jersey + $117,410
Connecticut + $96,531
Pennsylvania + $84,376
Virginia + $80,630
Florida + $62,827

On August 8, 2006, three incumbents lost their seats in their primary elections. However, as Democrats try to pick up seats in both houses this November 7, 2006, the challengers of both major parties (in addition to third parties and independents) will have a big money disadvantage-- incumbents in tight races will be recipients of Leadership PAC contributions from friendly incumbents in their parties looking for party leadership positions.

So far in 2006, leadership PACs are the 7th most generous “industry” to campaigns, the Center for Responsive Politics has found. They’ve given more than $24 million, according to data available as of July 10. Republicans have received most of the money—72%.


Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Individuals who contribute within the limits of campaign finance laws of course include executives of companies. They will write checks outside of their respective companies' PAC contributions (but not all companies have PACs).

A Women's Wear Daily article lists some of the fashion industry's executives and their political contributions:

Donald Fisher, founder and chairman emeritus, Gap Inc.: $61,300Roger Milliken, chairman, Milliken & Co.: $54,100 Leslie H. Wexner, chairman and chief executive officer, Limited Brands Inc.: $45,000 Leonard Lauder, chairman, the Estée Lauder Cos.: $37,100Millard Drexler, chairman and ceo, J. Crew Group: $33,700 Evelyn Lauder, senior corporate vice president, Estée Lauder: $18,500Paul Charron, chairman and ceo, Liz Claiborne Inc.: $17,500Diane von Furstenberg: $13,200 Terry Lundgren, chairman, president and ceo, Federated Department Stores Inc.: $12,100 Myron E. "Mike" Ullman 3rd, chairman and ceo, J.C. Penney Co. Inc.: $10,000Paul Pressler, president and ceo, Gap: $9,500A.G. Lafley, president, chairman and ceo, Procter & Gamble Co.: $8,055Edward Emma, president and chief operating officer, Jockey International: $7,950 Allen Questrom, former chairman and ceo, J.C. Penney: $5,000 Oscar de la Renta: $5,000


Monday, August 14, 2006

U.S. Senator Harry Reid last year refunded a $3,000 check he got in 1999 from lobbyist Ben Barnes for his legal defense fund, after a public interest group revealed it was improper. The headline is that he's paid Barnes more than $1,600 in interest, according to recent filings with the Secretary of the Senate. More importantly in the AP story, the Ethics Committee noted that three quarterly reports for the defense fund had never been filed. You may remember that U.S. Senators do not have to file campaign finance reports electronically-- what makes the world's most exlusive political club exempt from being accountable to their constituents??


Sunday, August 13, 2006

The League of Women Voters has announced on their website "Seize the Moment"; they and other reformers send an invitation on an upcoming conference for advocates of public financing of campaigns.

September 8-10, 2006

Holiday Inn on the Hill, Washington, DC

Why do reformers often use the term "big money" when analyzing campaign contributions? An August 10, 2006 Institute on Money in State Politics report affirms this fixation on big money.

Among its findings (for state races only):
"Overall, candidates reported 5 percent of their receipts as unitemized [small] contributions, compared with 3.4 percent for state political parties and less than 1 percent for committees active on ballot measures."

The report concerns campaigns on the state level, not federal. However, the larger financial costs of larger district campaigns on the federal level would presume that big money contributions are all the more important.


Saturday, August 12, 2006

As National Press Secretary for the Reform Party USA back in 2004, I was well aware of Ralph Nader's presidential campaign attempt to relate to the American public of the amount of control corporations, even multi-national corporations, had of Congress and the Presidency. I am still becoming more convinced of it as I watch the money-in-politics scene on the internet this very day. For instance, on a post on Sirotablog, David Sirota recounts how the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) has been heavily financed by large corporations. Now, the DLC is not a group of Congressmen, nor a political party; yet, it is influential in the Democratic Party, and has in its caucus members of Congress. Where does big money end in Washington? I have yet to find out...

A lot of attention, for good reason, has been given to corporate PACs; however, very big campaign contributions year in and year out have come from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, a union within the AFL-CIO.

And according to an August 10, 2006 AP story, the AFSCME, with 1.4 million members, voted this week in Chicago to increase the dues paid by workers and the fees paid by local unions. It will raise $60 million from 2007 to 2009 with the increased fees and $60 million per year after that. It will also encourage a fourth of its members to contribute $100 or more to the union's political action committee.

The Christian Science Monitor is presently publishing a weekly series on Congressional earmarks, or "pork barrel projects"; the August 8th article talks of the process that average Americans use to acquire federal grants for local projects. They hire lobbyists in Washington, DC to forward their local project financial request into the legislative appropriations process. This is not right. Our representatives are there in Washington to do the business of the nation-- not of local handouts. When are our Congressmen going to stand up to all of these pay-to-play orders from their own districts?


Friday, August 11, 2006

In the first round of the fight to replace
Congressional candidacy with Joy Padgett, Ohio okayed Padgett; according to the Institute on Money in State Politics, her cash-on-hand after losing her primaries was $94,673. But the Ohio Democratic Party plans on challenging the ruling. Whoever may replace candidate Ney will probably receive at least some of the remaining funds held by his campaign. The Center for Responsive Politics' financial campaign data for Ney, for this election cycle, shows that he had $419,517 cash-on-hand as of June 30, 2006.

There is uncertainty about how many write-in candidates the Republican Party will support in
Texas Congressional District 22 race this fall; his June 30, 2006 cash-on-hand balance of $641,273 may still be up for grabs.

Since the replacement candidates in both Congressional races aren't incumbents, they will have to rely mostly on campaign contributions from individuals. It remains to be seen if 527 groups will take either or both races as very important to put their monies on.


Thursday, August 10, 2006

Based on most predictions so far, the Democrats will probably pick up a significant number of seats in both houses of Congress this year, if not retake the majority in at least one of them. For instance, a recent FOX News Poll has found the following, per a MyDD post :

FOX News/Opinion Dynamics Poll. Aug. 8-9, 2006. N=900 registered voters nationwide. MoE ± 3.
"Thinking ahead to this November's elections, if the congressional election were held today, would you vote for the Democratic candidate in your district or the Republican candidate in your district?" [7/11-7/12 results in parenthesis]
Democrat: 48 (42) Republican: 30 (34) Unsure: 22 (25)

As corporate and union campaign contributions have historically followed the most likely winning candidates, I predict that a lot of Political Action Committees (PACs) will place their bets on a greater number of Democratic Party Congressional candidates this election season.


Wednesday, August 09, 2006

If you wonder why third parties have a difficult time winning their candidates into federal office, please take a look at these recent findings from Political Moneyline. All concern the current two-year election cycle 2005-2006.

An eighteen-month tally of nationally oriented Section 527 organizations shows that they have raised $118 million. Those organizations gave more than $61.2 million to Democrat-oriented groups and $56.4 million to Republican-oriented groups.

For national party finances the Democrats have raised $ 289.3 million and the Republicans have raised $405.7 million in the first eighteen months of the 2005-2006 cycle.

Jared Kushner, the new owner of the New York Observer weekly newspaper, has been a regular political donor in federal politics. His donations have been to Democratic party committees and candidates.

In all House and Senate campaigns, PAC contributions totaled $232 million or 26%; PAC contributions increased by 23% over the previous election cycle.

Members of Congress transferred $23 million in excess funds to the Democratic Congressional Committee ($15 million) and the National Republican Congressional Committee ($8 million).

Bloomberg News reported that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce announced they would spend at least $10 million on advertisements this fall for issues and voter registration. Ads will begin today in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Ohio, and elsewhere, to thank Members of Congress for supporting a prescription drug benefit. Other efforts in the fall will focus on voter registration, especially in the districts of thirty pro-business Members of Congress.

How in the world can the Libertarian, Green, Reform and Constitution Parties possibly break into competitive Congressional races, when they are immediately brushed up against this moneyed system??

As we have seen with
, big loans by a candidate to his campaign can be helpful; but if one looks at the history of self-loans to Congressional campaigns, they do not always guarantee success. In the case of Ned Lamont, winner of yesterday's Connecticut Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, his self-loans were large. According to Political Moneyline, Edward (Ned) Lamont contributed $4,001,500 to his own campaign race. His Ned Lamont For Senate pre-primary campaign finance disclosure report covering activity through 7/19 showed he gave $2,501,000 and later contribution notices indicated he gave donations of $500,000 each on 7/21, 7/27, and 8/2. As there were several types of contributons to his campaign, however, we cannot say that self-loan was the only reason Lamont won.


Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The amount of money spent by Congressional candidates in their party primaries leaves many winners with a need to fundraise again, and immediately, for the general election and possible runoff. For example, an August 8, 2006 Jersey Journal article on the 13th District race in that state headlined that "foes spent $2.2M" up to June 30th of this year.

Including his recent $80,000 personal loan, Vas's campaign collected a total of $863,323 and spent $825,598, leaving Vas with $37,725 in cash on hand.
Sires, on the other hand, raised $1,383,841. His campaign spent $1,338,707 and had $45,134 on hand as of June 30. Sires ranked 18th in the nation for the amount of money spent as of June 30, according to the FEC.
"Campaigns are very expensive nowadays," Sires said. "We work hard to raise our money. Now, we'll have to raise more for the two elections in November - the regular one and the special election."
"Campaigns are getting to be a rich man's game. In the future, you'll have to be wealthy to run for office."


Monday, August 07, 2006

Although they seldom attract the mass media, perennial leaders in soft money campaign contributions have been government employee unions. Here is a spotlight on the influence commensurate with such big money financial favors.

From "Public Servants Enjoying Juicy Contracts" article Aug. 7, 2006 Human Events Online:

The amount of tax revenue coming into government coffers simply isn’t enough to sustain the pay and benefit packages being afforded to not only current government employees, but the army of government retirees, as well. The biggest problem is that most elected officials are scared to death to even talk about this coming budgetary Armageddon, let alone do anything about it. The unions have been very effective at using members’ dues for political, action. Meanwhile, most negotiating for government employee contracts is done in secret, so the public has no idea what back-room-deal they’re even agreeing to. Looked at another way, the average taxpayer who is paying the average government employee’s wages is making some $10,000 a year LESS than the government employee.

It is gratifying to political reformers, that voters are taking a serious eye on the last year's corruption scandals in Congress; just look at what has happened to leaders known to be steeped in corrupt activities: former U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay and former Georgia Lieutenant Governor candidate Ralph Reed. And now, today, U.S. Rep. Bob Ney has decided to drop out of his race as an incumbent because of ethics scandals surrounding him.

According to today's Reuters article, ,
first elected in 1994, is under federal investigation but has denied any illegal involvement with Abramoff, who has pleaded guilty to plying lawmakers with Super Bowl tickets, travel junkets and other gifts to win favors for his lobbying clients. Ney is under scrutiny for a golf trip to Scotland with Abramoff in addition to other activities that remain within the five-year statute of limitations. Ney's former chief of staff Neil Volz pleaded guilty in May and agreed to cooperate in the expanding political corruption investigation.


Sunday, August 06, 2006

From article:

Congressional campaigns raised a total of $893.6 million in the 18 months of the 2005-2006 election cycle ending June 30, an increase of 12% from the comparable period in the 2003-2004 campaign, according to a compilation by the Federal Election Commission. In all House and Senate campaigns, contributions from individuals totaled $554 million and continue to be the largest source of receipts for Congressional candidates, representing 62% of fundraising as of June 30. PAC contributions totaled $232 million or 26% while candidates themselves contributed or loaned a total of $75.5 million, 8% of all receipts. Contributions from individuals grew by 14% when compared with the same time period in the 2004 campaign, while PAC contributions increased by 23% while contributions and loans from candidates themselves were 22% below comparable 2004 totals. This story originally appeared on CQ's PoliticalMoneyLine.

A blog forwards a USA Today article on recent years' big money contributions of the Walton family. I'm sure they have a direct line to Republican fundraisers whenever the federal estate tax is debated.

The Walton family, large stock owners of Wal-Mart, spent $3.2 million on lobbying, conservative causes and candidates for last year's [sic] federal elections. That's more than double what it spent in the previous two elections combined, public documents show. Their largesse isn't limited to the national stage. In 2002-2004, the family gave $879,000 to state campaigns from California to Florida, says the Institute on Money in State Politics. The biggest gift, $250,000, went to the Republican Party of Florida, whose titular head is Bush's brother, Gov. Jeb Bush.
It is in the bitter fight over federal estate taxes that the family and Wal-Mart have the most at stake. The tax, now collected on estates worth more than $1.5 million, could force the Waltons to sell a chunk of Wal-Mart to pay billions in taxes when family members die. The top tax rate this year is 47%. The family made its single biggest political bet last August and October when Alice Walton poured a combined $2.6 million into Progress for America. Progress for America has become a big booster of Bush's drive for tax reform.


Saturday, August 05, 2006

Well, the race is on.. not what you think; I mean the race to support potential office holders. In the big money race level, labor unions, businesses and wealthy individuals are getting out their checkbooks and writing checks in the five figures, some a lot higher. The initial recipients of this money include 527 organizations, who turn around with the same money and help candidates.

The largest 527s right now are the National Governor's Association at $25.9 million and the Democratic Governor's Association at $17.9 million, for this two-year election cycle. Their totals outpace all other similar fundraising groups, including the $15.6 million raised by the Service Employees International Union and $11.6 million raised by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

To an increasing extent, sources of unethical Congressional campaign contributions are many lobbyists-- the same people who, in their normal line of work, consult lawmakers on issues up for legislation. According to a May 22, 2006 Public Citizen report, one way lobbyists contribute financially is directly to campaigns-- since 1998 individual lobbyists have donated at least $103.1 million to Congresspeople (most if not all of whom would be running for re-election.) Joan Claybrook, President of Public Citizen, notes "the campaign contributions lobbyists make from their own checkbooks, while significant, are just a fraction of the equation. This report also reveals that top lobbyist contributors coordinate lucrative fund-raisers for the lawmakers they hope to influence and bring in a steady stream of contributions from their corporate clients far greater than they alone give.”

Their report recommends publicly financing campaigns as the only real remedy to abuses and scandals. Public funding would pay for itself by saving billions wasted in lobbyist-brokered corporate giveaways.


Friday, August 04, 2006

Politicians in Washington have a long history of "beating the system" of campaign finance laws. This attitude has promoted the fueling of "Leadership PACs", which were originally used in the 1990's to help a few Congressmen get elected to party leadership positions.

According to the August 4th posting of the Campaign Legal Center Blog, leadership PACs are increasingly used to skirt existing laws on campaign contribution limits. Individuals are limited to contributing $4,200 per election cycle to the authorized campaign committee of a candidate for the House or Senate. However, an individual can separately contribute $5,000 a year ($30,000 over a six-year cycle) to a Senator's leadership PAC, though those funds cannot be used by the candidate for their own reelection. But, put another way, having a leadership PAC allows a Senator to solicit and receive $30,000 more than the Senator could otherwise take for his campaign committee. this evasion scheme could get much worse if the House leaders have their way. Twice already in the 109th Congress, House leaders have threatened to attach a rider to pending legislation that would allow incumbents to bypass existing campaign finance laws and shift around huge amounts of money from leadership PACs to the tightest Congressional races in the country, and even to their own campaigns. Under current law, leadership PACs are limited to donating $15,000 per year to party committees. The proposal would allow Members to make unlimited contributions from their leadership PACs to party committees, which could then turn around and apply those funds to the same Members' campaigns. Outside of politics that practice is generally referred to as "money laundering." With this measure, the campaign contribution limits that have passed U.S. Supreme Court muster would go right out the window. If successful, the proposed loophole would allow a Senator to take the $30,000 an individual gave to his leadership PAC and then by laundering contributions through party committees, effectively transfer those funds to his campaign committee. The $4,200 campaign contribution limit would mushroom to $34,200 ($4,200 individual limit plus $30,000 to the leadership PAC) - an increase of more than 800%.

In the "real world", money laundering would land you in jail. Obviously, leaders in Congress are saying to the people of this great country, "happy days are here again, contrary to your interests! I did not come here to better the lives of our children and grandchildren, but to live it up! And wait until I retire!".


Thursday, August 03, 2006

Public Campaign Action Fund is promoting a Voters First Pledge, asking Congressional candidates to run a clean campaign and to support public financing of campaigns. Already, Connecticut's four candidates for Senator has signed the pledge. Connecticut is also proud of the passage of the state's Clean Elections law last year. Encourage your Congressional candidates to go to the Voters First Pledge and sign on the dotted line-- you will enjoy more time seeing your candidates on the trail, and not in their coffers.


Wednesday, August 02, 2006

U.S. Representatives say from time to time that they are tired of the full-time fundraising they go through in their two-year election cycles (their terms are two years, too.) I believe that public financing, which idea is supported by three-fourths of the public, frees them to concentrate on their work. The rise in "earmarks" (pork), bill add-ons of local projects, are a symptom of the constant asking for campaign contributions by Congresspeople. It is time they clean up their act and devote their time to their high public office.


Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Over the last few decades, the percentage of uncontested general election (November) legislative and Congressional races has risen. This is understandable, as today's media reminds us often that our country is more polarized than ever before. The majority party has political advantages such as redistricting, big-money raising and lobbyist support because they have the most incumbents running-- the incumbents attract the most financial support because they have the best chance of winning. By having public financing of races, however, more ideas (candidates) have a chance of debating their platform during election season, thereby giving the potential voters more choices.


Monday, July 31, 2006

, (Republican) Majority Leader in the U.S. House, wants to increase the amount of money that Congresspeoples' Leadership PACs can give to Congressional campaign committees. Leadership PACs are bad all the way around in the first place. Individual members of the House and Senate have them in order to launder money from business, labor, ideological groups and wealthy individuals, to other members and campaign committees to increase their influence. Believe it or not, a major factor in determining who gains leadership positions in the House and Senate, is how much money a leadership candidate's Leadership PAC has doled out thus far. This is corruption at its root-- dirty money influencing owners of Leadership PACs, who with the same dirty money influence other members of Congress and candidates. Is this moral? What happened to serving the people this country?


Sunday, July 30, 2006

If you think that big-money financial support of Congressional campaigns only goes through PACs, 501c's and 527s, and political convention parties, think again. Anticipating a fight over votes from seniors this election season, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is launching a $10 million television and radio ad campaign thanking mostly Republican lawmakers who backed the Medicare prescription drug program. The business federation plans to air the ads in Connecticut, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Nebraska as well as other states. The money would be divided almost evenly between House and Senate races.


Saturday, July 29, 2006

The CATO Institute, a well-known libertarian think tank in Washington, DC, is against reformers; they think free speech equates with money. I believe the landmark US Supreme Court case that they validate that belief in, Buckley v. Valeo, is dead wrong. Speech is speech, in and of itself-- money is nothing but an extension of speech. Why should anyone individual or group have exclusive free speech as opposed to their American opponents only because they use more money?

Let's take campaign finance donations. Every candidate for public office in theory enjoys unlimited free speech. What does that role have anything to do with financial donations to his/her campaign? If a large district's candidates need to use commercial advertising services in order to speak to potential voters in order to be able to reach them, then an extension, e.g. money, is used.

What are the sources of the candidates' money that are valid, is another debate. I believe that since the electoral process is for offices that are public only, then the extension of free speech required to reach every one of the district's potential voters should be financed by government.


Friday, July 28, 2006

In a letter to the editor to my local, Abilene, Texas newspaper, I cynically suggested that businesses ought to vote in November with the rest of us, considering all of the money they are donating to our incumbent Congressman. My point was that we need public financing of campaigns because of such financial shaninigans that are currently going on, not to let them vote because they donated. Here is the letter:

An inspiration
Letter to the Editor
July 28, 2006

Here is a good reason to publicly finance Congression-al races - U.S. Rep. Randy Neugebauer.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, as a candidate for this election cycle so far, ending June 30th, he has raised $451,240 from political action committees - 87.6 percent of those funds from businesses!

Now how can we voters compete with that? If businesses are going to vote for U.S. representative with the rest of us, let them vote!

David Weller

It is at,1874,ABIL_7984_4876288,00.html


Thursday, July 27, 2006

As professional association and Better Business Bureau members offer their customers a Code of Ethics, why doesn't our federal legislative branch do the same? This would provide a foundation of responsible conduct on a continual basis, so that the abuse of their offices is not without an automatic deterrent. Something to consider...


Wednesday, July 26, 2006

If you are a Congressional candidate, it pays to have a few special interests in your platform. According to a recent Report by the Campaign Finance Institute and the Urban Institute, CFI analyzed a variety of data, including interviews, concerning the following interest groups: American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Americans for Job Security, Chamber of Commerce of the U.S.A., Club for Growth,, National Rifle Association, National Right to Life Committee, New Democrat Network, Planned Parenthood, Progress for America, Service Employees International Union, and Sierra Club. Among the findings:
eleven of the twelve interest groups had either PAC or 527 campaign financing organizations, but seven used both in federal elections, cumulating financial influence. Nine of the groups also mobilized their 501(c)(4) social welfare, (c)(5) labor union or (c)(6) business league “advocacy” organizations for elections; but only one group consistently reported its political expenditures to the IRS due to inadequate IRS guidance for and monitoring of reports.

A case called U.S. v. Valdes before the U.S. Circuit Court, involves a police officer who accepted cash to mine a database accessible only to law enforcement. A positive decision by the court could have far-reaching implications, further impeding prosecutors’ ability to convict public officials who accept gifts and favors from private parties. The ruling would open a wide window for the legal rewarding of public officials for performing actions available to them because of their position but lacking the “degree of formality” required to meet the statutory definition of official acts or the explicit quid pro quo required by the bribery statute.

In other words, if a public official receives money from a citizen for performing a particular act while on the job a court would deem outside the formal work of the official, it would not be against the law. This is a very weak position to take, especially for Congresspeople, for the loophole would be able to be abused very easily. Why should we allow an easy way to curry favor for an individual act from a public servant while on duty? That public servant is a representative of the people, not a favor for an individual citizen!


Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Several reform groups are urging the US House and US Senate to publicly announce their support for ending the use of leadership PACs by members of Congress and to support legislative efforts to ban leadership PACs, such as those contained in H.R. 5839, legislation introduced last week by .

I support this ban. What kind of leadership qualities for Congressional leadership positions is in giving money to other candidates' campaigns? If a major factor in voting for a leadership post in the House or Senate is how much money is dispersed to fellow party members, then we have a very small concern for personal values in the legislative branch.


Monday, July 24, 2006

Federal investigators are turning their attention from former US Rep. Duke Cunningham, convicted for political bribery charges, to . Apparently, the same people who bribed Cunningham may have done similar illegal dealings with Harris, and several other current members of Congress.

Accepting large campaign contributions from businesses and then earmarking federal contracts to those contributors later in Congress, may, however, be more prevalent than even the several officials in the present case. Many large companies and corporations give hundreds of thousands of dollars every election cycle to Political Action Committees (PACs), who turn around and give that money to Congressional and Presidential campaigns. And giving to PACs is just one way businesses directly support campaigns for higher office in this nation of, by and for the people.


Friday, July 21, 2006

Many of the corruption scandals we see in the newspapers originate in unethical people. When a Congressman is charged with a corrupt act, it is usually just one instance of an ongoing strain from the individual involved. That is why the recent Republican Leader position in the US House was so important-- that powerful party position is more susceptable to a person who already has a history of ethics abuses.


Thursday, July 20, 2006

Interested in supporting a local candidate for state representative this year? If you are rooting for the Democrat, be comforted in knowing that that local race may be financially influenced anyway by a 527 organization based in Washington, DC. A report from that covers the second quarter period of 2006 includes this 527:

"The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee reported raising $1,294,257 and spending $1,107,226. Major donors were Deborah Rappaport (CA) $100,000; Peter Lewis $65,000; SEIU $50,000; Jon Stryker $50,000; Harrah’s Entertainment $50,000; Int’l Union of Painters $50,000. "

I'll be since the Democrats have a fundraising committee for state legislative candidates, that the Republicans have one too! The game is to be the first one to find a loophole in our swiss cheese campaign finance laws, regulations and opinions among the states.


Wednesday, July 19, 2006


Of all the political "stuff" being thrown at the voters today, the most worthless are the polls. Today's polls, a mere snapshot of a moment, have no relevancy to the voter. The hourly and daily polls create media frenzy, but they are truly meaningless to the voter. ...

I agree-- the only poll on people's minds is several months in the future-- the general election in November, if they haven't had their primaries yet.

Ralph Reed, candidate for Georgia Lieutenant Governor, was defeated during the primary elections yesterday. He was targeted by Public Campaign and other reformers for his ethics abuses in the past in relation to his dealings with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Reformists are not concerned about ideology or to a great extent one's platform; they believe that public servants must earn the trust of their constituents, by conducting their official duties with high ethics and morals.


Tuesday, July 18, 2006

I just read a revolutionary article in the August 2006 National Geographic magazine. It was about the need for a new environmentalism to heal our earth's quickening global warming illness. The author convincingly stresses the urgent nature of our atmospheric condition, and convincingly stresses for a renewed medicine of closer community to help lower the amount of CO2 pollution from fossil fuels. The urgency is real, and I will do my part to move this change from individualism to community (farmers markets, smaller houses, less driving etc), the best way I know how (as a political reform libertarian for my new community/nation/world).


Monday, July 17, 2006

Just when our Congress passes the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law and some Congresspeople introduce new ethics legislation, word comes that an alliance of millionnaires and billionnaires wants to secretly financially contribute to left-leaning think tanks and activist organizations. I believe this is just another build up of the Democratic/Republican two-party system already seeped in the media, activist and governmental sectors of our nation. Most Americans are near the center of the political grid, and that grid is not just left and right, but upper and lower (authoritarian/libertarian). It scares me to think that this already red/blue nation as the two major parties see it becomes even more separate.


Sunday, July 16, 2006

Why do smaller political parties have a hard time raising money? They don't have name recognition like the Democrats and Republicans. The two parties raise money by hiring fundraising companies. As long as there are only red and blue newspapers, news networks, columnists, pollsters, radio stations and legislators, the two major parties will have the recognition status to hire private companies to call strangers on the phone and ask them for financial help. An example from

[For an unspecified period] The College Republican National Committee, a 527 organization, reported raising $359,708 and spending $1,248,855. The committee paid Infocision Management Corp (OH) $821,634 for fundraising.

They're floating in money not because of a performance or unit of work, but because they can rely on their party's recognition status.


Saturday, July 15, 2006

Doesn't everyone want honesty in government? Why does that sentiment change with many public officials once they open the capitol doors? The daily newspapers are rife with spin quotes from politicians-- here is an example from the OMB Watch Blog:

When the president repeats his mantra "cut the deficit in half by 2009", one could reasonably assume that the downward trend in deficits would continue past 2009 - as if "half in 2009" was a milestone of sorts. But, au contraire! The "half in 2009" is not a just a milestone but a turning point - the point where deficits start growing again. It’s right there in black and white in the president’s FY2007 budget, but it’s starkly absent in his speech.

Especially when it comes to statistics, it pays to be honest about the numbers!


Friday, July 14, 2006

The second quarter Federal Election Commission filings by Congressional candidates should be coming out soon to the general public in the form of information from a few money in politics websites. Don't look for much data coming soon from US Senate candidates, though, as they still don't have to report electronically! (Unless, of course, some of them feel their respective campaign's contribution numbers that quarter would advertise their campaigns.)


Thursday, July 13, 2006

There is just out a journal article on reforming some of our electoral system's great problems by adding amendments to the US Constitution. The author argues that the Founding Fathers wrote the constitution before political parties, organized on the state level, became prominent.

Issues such as the presidential primary race in the states and campaign finance reform can be considered nationally and debated with the certainty and continuity of a national constitution in mind.

I was discussing how much government should help large companies when in trouble, or should regulate them on pollution, etc. As important these issues are, the issue of corruption should be dealt with first, as the practice of very large campaign contributions by companies for favorable treatment legislatively muddies up the government/company relations questions. You have to clean up the system before you can conform it to the best interest of the nation.


Wednesday, July 12, 2006

From the Public Campaign Action Fund

Georgia's primary is six days away and Ralph Reed just loaned his campaign $500,000 from his personal accounts. Reed became wealthy from contracts he got through convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
Reed is pulling out all the stops, and so are we. Tomorrow we will air a new television ad that uses Ralph Reed's own words against him to expose who he really is.
Please consider helping us with a contribution today.
Reed spun his relationships with Christian organizations into personal gold by using them as fronts for Abramoff's sleazy clients. Now he's taking that money to try to buy an election. Let's not forget that his money came from lobbying for casinos and for the Northern Marianas Islands where employers forced their female workers to have abortions and to become prostitutes.
And that's exactly the message we will deliver to Republican voters in the TV ad that begins tomorrow. We've purchased 633 individual 30-second cable television spots in some of the most Republican counties in the state. Every $50 helps us buy another.
Please fund this effort to expose the real Ralph Reed.
Polls show many Republican voters are still undecided about their pick for the Lieutenant Governor nomination. Ralph Reed has sidestepped the tough questions all through his campaign, and he's hoping voters don't care. It's time to lay the facts bare.
Please give what you can to keep our ad on the air through primary election day.
Thanks in advance for your help.
David DonnellyNational Campaigns Director
P.S. If you'd prefer to send a check in the mail, send it to Campaign Money Watch, 1320 19th Street, NW, Suite M-1, Washington, DC 20036. Contributions are not tax deductible, and please include your employer and occupation with donations of $200 and above. Campaign Money Watch cannot accept anonymous contributions.
P.P.S. Mac users may have trouble accessing the links in this email. To make a donation please copy and paste the link into your browser window:

For a Christian disciple, the more faithful you are, the more is expected of you. The same is true for federal office-holders-- the more powerful a position you have in Congress, the more is expected of you ethically. Unfortunately, we see too often in the news headlines of members of the powerful House Appropriations Committee abusing their position for personal gain.

Recently, as Jonathan Weisman and Jeffrey Birnbaum report in the Washington Post, Congressman John Doolittle has paid his wife some $170,000 from his federal political committees over the last several years for fundraising. Julie Doolittle performs fundraising services for him; she gets paid for every single donation received by Doolittle's PAC. An analysis by TheRestofUs, a reform org., shows that nearly 60% of the donations for which Julie Doolittle received a commission in 2004-5 came from people or groups who were already Doolittle donors. More than half the battle in fundraising is finding donors.

The general public looks up to leaders in Congress; it is expected that those leaders look to their consciences from time to time in their daily public duties.


Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Libertarian Party just had their national convention last week for this election year, but most of the work conducted was party business, such as electing new party officers, updating the party platform and revising party bylaws. They and other third parties will conduct another convention in presidential election year 2008, where they will conduct the same business again, but also nominate their party's president/ vice-president ticket.

On the contrary, the Republican and Democratic parties are taking bids for their 2008 respective national conventions, which will be only campaign advertisements during that presidential election year.

Awaiting their choices are six cities bidding to host and the corporations that will sponsor what will be a multi-day campaign advertisement. Private contributions for these political party conventions have increased from $1.1 million in 1980, to an estimated $103.5 million in 2004.

Now tell me, which party's candidates would you vote for-- those whose parties conduct business using their own internal funds, or those whose parties conduct only political rallies for their candidate nominees paid mostly by outside sources?


Monday, July 10, 2006

There is a lot of talk on which companies, unions or rich individuals give large amount of money to individual candidates; not as much is said in the press about the billions of dollars that are spent each year by the lobby industry on just the White House and Congress in order to influence legislation and policy.

Do any of the of the names of the organizations listed below sound familiar from the political news we get every day at home? The reason they do is because of the very large amount of money they spend influencing your representatives in Washington, DC.

According to the 7/10/2006 report from

Federal lobbying of the legislative and executive branches totaled $1.2 billion ($1,201,255,222) during the last six months of 2005. This is the first period lobbying expenditures have averaged over $200 million a month. For all of 2005 the total spent was $2,363,102,190.

Top Industry Sectors:
Health Care $183,324,757
Communication/Technology $158,841,159
Finance/Insurance $155,734,737

Top Organizations Spending:
Chamber of Commerce of the US $10,540,000
General Electric $10,360,000
AT&T Inc & SBC $10,360,000
US Chamber of Commerce Inst. For Legal Reform $10,250,000
American Medical Assn $9,720,000
AARP $8,472,064
Northrop Grumman $7,507,000
PhRMA $7,220,000
American Hospital Assn $7,080,000
Southern Co $7,020,000


Saturday, July 08, 2006

At the Third Party Watch blog recently, Chris Rouhier interviewed a Reform Party USA National Committee Chairman Charles Foster. An ex- TCU man as myself, Charles follows the general ethics in the world mentality; that is why he is so passionately political right now. He has what I believe is, presently, an insurmountable task of returning the Reform Party to a leading third party. I served in the party locally, statewide and nationally for six years before leaving in 2005 due to major fracturing of the party nationally. I do see hope, however, for the Reform Party, but it will take some time before it speeds ahead. I believe having reachable goals against the current two-party system, and keeping the party's eyes on those goals without strong individualism, can rebuild that party. But it must come from a stable organization to start with-- Mr. Foster must work with his party members to establish that foundation.

Friday, July 07, 2006

The Nebraska Supreme Court ruled in a final step of an impeachment process that a state officeholder had violated one of its campaign finance laws. It is refreshing to see a government enforcing its campaign finance laws legally and legislatively.

Most states are behind in their fair campaign laws; states as diverse politically as Maine, Arizona and Nebraska say that levelling the playing field among candidates financially is possible in most states.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Public Campaign, a reform org., is organizing a petition drive to get Congressional candidates to sign their "Voters First" pledge. I am going to petition with them locally; you do too!

According to a USA Today/Gallup Poll conducted June 23-June 25, 2006, 85 percent of respondents said that corruption in government would be an extremely or very important issue to their vote for Congress this year. Corruption in government tied with the economy and ranked just below the situation in Iraq as the top rated issues in the poll.


Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Abilene Reporter News

Proportional representation

Letter to the Editor

June 21, 2006

We need more ideas represented in government to reflect the already present broad political spectrum of the general public.
For instance, many countries around the world engage in various forms of an electoral system called ''proportional representation.'' One includes a legislature in which political parties holding seats are proportioned by the votes cast for their candidates on Election Day. If Libertarian candidates receive five percent of the vote on Election Day, Libertarian representatives will hold five percent of the seats in the legislature. That way, bills up for a vote in Congress receive the consideration of the representatives of a broad segment of the people.
For more information on proportional representation, please go to ''Program for Representative Government,'' at

David Weller

From an old haggard political reformer, who believes in campaign finance reform such as public financing of campaigns:

All stops are pulled again this year for big money contributions by the corporations and wealthy, both in state races and federal. Unless you want war in money-raising by using FEC opinions, be prepared to be outflooded with mass media advertising by your opponents (and their supporters) this fall, especially close to election day; and look for dirtier stuff as November closes in (questionable campaign financial activity). Even if you decide to play the game, look for the big money to follow the most probable winner in the race revealed by this fall, so they can boost their candidates to the finish line first. The winners will thank their grassroots supporters, and turn around and reward their big money contributors with legislation. This will start a vicious cycle of pay-to-play full-time campaign financing activities by the officeholders to stay in power.