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Super-PACs and Dark Money: ProPublica’s Guide to the New World of Campaign Finance

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Republican presidential candidates stand together before the CNN debate on June 13, 2011. The 2012 presidential election is gearing up to be yet another 'most expensive election in history.' (Darren McCollester/Getty Images)

The nation is gearing up for yet another "most expensive election in history," the quadrennial exercise in which mind-numbing amounts of money pour into the political system. But this year promises more than just record spending—more money will be flowing from more players with more opportunities to hide the source.

Emboldened by recent court decisions, groups such as Crossroads GPS (formed by Republican strategist Karl Rove), Priorities USA (formed by former aides to President Obama) and Americans for Prosperity (formed by libertarian billionaire David Koch) have been busy raising huge sums from wealthy donors freed from old contribution limits.

The chief umpire in this game—the Federal Election Commission—is still struggling to write the rules for the hodgepodge of strange-sounding groups feeding the system. 527s? Super-PACs? Even Super-Duper PACs? ProPublica decided a guide is in order.

How We Got Here

Campaign finance changed dramatically after the Watergate scandal, when Congress set up the FEC, tried to eliminate hidden donations and limited contributions to federal candidates and political action committees, or PACs.

The next major change came in 2002. The McCain-Feingold law banned political parties from collecting “soft money,” or unlimited contributions from corporations, unions and others, and limited the ability of special-interest groups to run so-called “issue” ads that in reality attacked or supported candidates.

Courts and the FEC almost immediately started gnawing at the new law. And in recent years, three court decisions rolled back many of the limits on special-interest groups and potentially opened the door to foreign governments or corporations spending freely on campaigns through U.S. corporations they control. (FEC regulations ban foreign nationals from contributing, but they say nothing about a foreign corporation donating money through a U.S.-operated subsidiary.)

In September 2009 a federal appeals court, in EMILY’s List v. Federal Election Commission, struck down FEC regulations and opened the door for political nonprofits like EMILY’s List, which backs female Democrats who support abortion rights, to spend significantly more money on campaign activities.

In January 2010, the Supreme Court dealt a major blow to McCain-Feingold. Ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the court said that the government cannot prevent corporations and unions from spending unlimited money to support or criticize specific candidates.

Drawing on this decision in March 2010, a federal appeals court ruled in SpeechNow.org v. Federal Election Commission that political committees making  independent expenditures—that is, spending not coordinated with or directed by a candidate’s campaign—could accept donations of unlimited size.

Together, the rulings super-charged some existing fundraising groups and paved the way for new ones. The FEC, deadlocked for months on issues of disclosure and foreign money, has not yet written new rules interpreting the court decisions. That’s left the field open for political strategists and lawyers.

“We’re in very dangerous territory,” said Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, a campaign-finance watchdog group. “There’s one word to describe what’s going on in the campaign-finance area: The word is ‘obscene.’ And it’s going to result in scandal and corruption and, eventually, opportunities for reform.”

Advocates say the changes are needed to protect the First Amendment rights of corporations and certain nonprofits.

“Campaign-finance laws inhibit free speech,” said Sean Parnell, president of the Center for Competitive Politics, which views most campaign-finance laws as government meddling.  “The First Amendment is not a guarantee that all voices will be heard as often or as effectively as all other voices. It’s just a guarantee that the government won’t step in and say, ‘OK, you’ve spoken enough.’”


Super-PACs: Sky’s the Limit

In the old days there were just PACs—political action committees that could accept donations of up to $5,000 from individuals and pass the money along to the candidates and parties they chose.

Now, there are Super-PACs—committees that, thanks to the court decisions, can raise and spend unlimited sums of money from individuals, corporations, unions and other groups. Known officially as “independent expenditure-only committees,” they can’t donate directly to candidates but can promote them and attack their opponents, so long as they don’t coordinate with any candidate or political party.

Super-PACs are still new, having debuted by spending more than $80 million on the 2010 midterm elections. Republicans pioneered the groups, but Democrats jumped in, too. Many of these new entities have innocuous-sounding names that make it hard to guess their true political intent: Concerned Taxpayers of America, Citizens for a Working America, We Love USA. (And then there’s comedian Stephen Colbert’s new Super-PAC: Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow.) More than 100 are now registered with the FEC.

Like ordinary PACs, Super-PACs must disclose their donors. But because of time lags in reporting, months can go by before the identities of million-dollar donors are revealed; some weren’t disclosed until after the 2010 midterm elections. Loopholes can also allow donors to stay hidden, such as when money comes from a nonprofit that doesn’t have to disclose how it’s funded.

Last month, the campaign-finance watchdog group Center for Responsive Politics found five Super-PACs that attributed a vast majority—and in some cases all—of their funding to affiliated nonprofits that are not required to reveal donors.

Most PACs will file their first fundraising reports of the year Friday, but two Super-PACs that had to file early reported raising more than $4.6 million. American Crossroads, formed by Rove to support Republican candidates, raised $3.8 million. The House Majority PAC, aimed at reclaiming the Democratic majority lost in 2010, raised $800,000.
 

527s: Yesterday’s Super-PACs

Named for the tax code governing them, “527” groups were sort of a precursor to Super-PACs.

Historically, 527s had a choice—they could register as PACs and give directly to candidates under FEC limits, or they could focus on issues, allowing them to raise and spend unlimited amounts. These issue-oriented 527s were not supposed to promote or attack candidates directly, and they often focused on hot-button topics such as guns or abortion.

Strict 527 groups first played a major role in the 2004 election, blurring the line between advocating for an issue and a candidate. Three paid fines for breaking laws barring them from directly supporting or criticizing candidates.

Because of the recent court rulings, some 527s have decided to become Super-PACs so they can both raise unlimited amounts and advocate for candidates.

That said, 527 groups still played an important role in the 2010 mid-term elections, spending more than $415 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
 

501(c)’s: The Invisibles

Also named for their section in the IRS tax code, these tax-exempt organizations include charities, civic leagues and unions. (Leave it to the IRS to make their descriptions resemble algebra homework.)

Charities that fall under the 501(c)(3) heading are not allowed to be involved in political campaigns, but other 501(c) organizations are allowed to, at least to a certain extent. That includes 501(c)(4) “social welfare” organizations, a class that includes groups like the AARP and the NAACP; 501(c)(5) labor unions, like the Teamsters; and 501(c)(6) trade associations, like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

These groups could always pursue political activities while raising unlimited funds and without disclosing donors – but only if their primary purpose wasn’t politics. The Sunlight Foundation described them as “perhaps the most opaque political players since pre-Watergate days of anonymous cash contributions to candidates.” 

The best-known of these groups is the Tea Party-supporting Americans for Prosperity, a 501(c)(4) group cofounded by billionaire David Koch, who with his brother Charles is credited with pioneering some of the bolder new campaign fundraising tactics.

Why donate anonymously, when influence is the goal? Experts say that secret giving can shield corporations from blowback when supporting controversial causes, and it can make a corporate-funded effort appear to be grassroots. Plus, no rule prevents donors from telling politicians directly about their support if it suits their needs.

“Say I gave a million dollars to Crossroads GPS,” said Rick Hasen, a law professor at the University of California-Irvine who runs Election Law Blog. “You can tell the whole Republican leadership that. ProPublica can’t find it, but the people you are trying to influence can find it.”

So, to review: Super-PACs focus only on politics but must disclose their donors. The 501(c) groups must not have politics as their primary purpose but don’t have to disclose who gives them money.

But it gets even more interesting when the two groups combine powers.

Say some like-minded people form both a Super-PAC and a nonprofit 501(c)(4). Corporations and individuals could then donate as much as they want to the nonprofit, which isn’t required to publicly disclose funders. The nonprofit could then donate as much as it wanted to the Super-PAC, which lists the nonprofit’s donation but not the original contributors.

This isn’t just hypothetical. Karl Rove set up this model with the Super-PAC American Crossroads and the nonprofit Crossroads GPS. While some Democrats complain about the influence of so-called “dark money,” others have started to follow in his footsteps.

Now the IRS seems to be stepping in—or thinking about it. The IRS in May warned major funders of 501(c)(4) groups that their donations could be subject to gift taxes, but the agency announced last week that it would hold off on enforcement while it studies the issue.  

More debate is likely. A few Democrats have already sued the FEC to try to force the disclosure of donors.
 

Up Next: The Super-Duper PAC?

If that’s not complicated enough, several groups are pushing PACs and Super-PACs into uncharted territory by creating what’s been unofficially called “Super-Duper PACs.” They’re so new there’s no agreed-upon definition—and in fact, at this point, there are at least two.

Mother Jones used the term “Super-Duper PAC” in May when reporting on a plan by Republican attorney James Bopp to recruit candidates to solicit unlimited funds for Super-PACs, which could then spend money promoting that candidate.

The FEC gave that plan the partial smackdown last month, ruling that candidates can ask donors to give to a Super-PAC, but only  up to $5,000.(Probably not coincidentally, $5,000 is the most individuals can donate to PACs that give directly to candidates.)

Nonetheless, Bopp—the lawyer behind Citizens United—has claimed it as a victory, maintaining that the $5,000 limit is “meaningless.” Why? Because though a candidate might only ask for that much, anyone could donate more.

Following their conservative counterparts, Democrats such as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid now have started soliciting supporters for donations to Democratic Super-PACs.

Some campaign-finance watchers have referred to the “Super-Duper PAC” as a combination of a Super-PAC and a traditional PAC that’s not officially tied to a candidate, party, corporation, union or trade group.

Making the case for this super hybrid, the National Defense PAC, which supports Republican and Tea Party-backed veterans running for office, has sued the FEC and argued that it should be able to donate to candidates (which traditional PACs can do but Super-PACs cannot)and raise unlimited funds for independent expenditures (which Super-PACs can do but traditional PACs cannot).

A federal judge agreed, granting a preliminary injunction last month against the FEC. The judge said the two types of activities could be performed by one Super-PAC—so long as the bank accounts are kept separate and the money going to directly candidates is within regular PAC contribution limits.

The matter still awaits a definitive ruling, but Dan Backer, the lawyer representing the National Defense PAC, predicts that by the end of the year, more Super-PACs will be moving in this direction.

It is really no different than it has been for a very long time. The best government that money can buy. Would you like fries with that?

Does anyone expect a government that’s owned by banks, corporations and Wall Street to treat them as the felons they are?

It is up to the people to empower ourselves as peace officers and arrest, try and punish all the treasonous thieves in government, corporations, Wall Street and banks.

The more they get away with the more confident of their immunity and impunity they become as they escalate their criminality.

All of that is too obvious.

Huh … nothing on any of Soros’s PAC’s. I guess ProPublica wont bite the hand that feeds them.

Barry Schmittou

July 11, 2011, 2:28 p.m.

This helps explain how the Obama and Bush administrations have protected deadly insurance company organized crimes as seen at http://www.5typesofdeadlyinsurancecompanycrimes.blogspot.com

You’ll see quotes from numerous Judges that prove doctors paid by insurance companies ignore brain lesions, Multiple Sclerosis, cardiac conditions and much more.

I believe this is treason being committed within the U.S.

U.S. Code requires that treason evidence be sent to the President or a U.S. Judge, and I have just submitted this evidence to Obama’s top directors and will also file it with U.S. Judge Aleta Trauger in the U.S. District Court in Nashville.

Please notice that in bullet point four of the website listed above a ProPublica article is quoted where T.Christian Miller wrote this about the DOL’s failure to protect injured war zone contractors :

Workers fought long battles for medical care, including such things as prosthetic devices and treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder. The Labor Department seldom took action to enforce the law. One official called the system a “fiasco.”

Hi Mike H,

A few points of clarification.

I believe the organization you’re referring to is House Majority PAC, which we do mention in the article. George Soros did not start it, so it wouldn’t be accurate to say it’s his PAC. However, he is a donor and recently gave $75,000.

ProPublica discloses that Soros’ Open Society Foundations is a supporter. (See more: http://www.propublica.org/about/supporters/) Our most recent tax return shows that in 2010, ProPublica got 1.3 percent of its funding from OSF.

—Marian

Campaign money has cemented the oligarchic plutocracy in place to be the super government of the USA.  Money governs elections and the elected mind their masters, for they can get them “un-elecected: next time if they follow their own conscience, by supporting a more pliable candidate who will vote as he is told.
  Democracy is dead, plutocracy is in command, money rules the world - badly.

What is the solution? Jefferson once said that another revolution may be needed now and then to set matters right. Read your history: 1776 in America, 1789 storming of the Bastille (France), 1848 in Europe, 1917 in Russia, 1918 in Germany, 1949 China…..

The causes were usually the same: government in fiscal difficulties, oppression by a class, the mass of citizens want greater equality.

In my opinion it is all over for the US.  Our government is a bought government, both sides are at fault.  I pray that a leader will come forth to lead us out of this mess.  Maybe our lawmakers need to look out their windows and think they are in Greece!

Gimmie your money please or not to please.
  The fall of the roman empire was followed by fuedal aristocracies.

I am of the generation that balked when Gore’s hanging shads were not counted. At the time I asked “would the Democrats do the same had they the chance?” Now we have ProPublica ignoring the heavy backdoor financing and lobbying that keeps an issue like “same-sex marriage” off the popular ballot, where it loses each and every referendum in every state—-even in California. Why isn’t the PAC headed by the millionaire Tim Gill, priding itself on its stealth tactics (see “They Won;t Know What Hit Them” by Joshua Green in the March 2007 Atlantic Monthly). If the people vote to allow same sex marriage, that’s democracy at worklatures throughout the country to keep the issue off the ballot, isn’t this a Super PAC worthy of note in your article?  If not, why not?

2nd corrected version
I am of the generation that balked when Gore’s hanging shads were not counted. At the time I asked “would the Democrats do the same had they the chance?” Now we have ProPublica ignoring the heavy backdoor financing and lobbying that keeps an issue like “same-sex marriage” off the popular ballot, where it loses each and every referendum in every state—-even in California. Why isn’t the PAC headed by the millionaire Tim Gill, priding itself on its stealth tactics (see “They Won;t Know What Hit Them” by Joshua Green in the March 2007 Atlantic Monthly). If the people vote to allow same sex marriage, that’s democracy at work yet if a Super PAC lobbies and donates to state legislatures throughout the country to keep the issue off the ballot, isn’t this a Super PAC worthy of note in your article?  If not, why not?

TO END THE CHARADE THAT POSES AS DEMOCRACY…WE MUST ENMASSE REFUSE TO VOTE IN FEDERAL ELECTIONS..VOTING GIVES AUTHENTICITY TO A CORRUPT PROCESS..THROWING AWAY A VALUABLE HEIRLOOM THAT IS A VOTE IS POLITICAL LITTERING..OBAMA IS THE POSTER CHILD OF A VOTE GONE SOUR…

ee mann; while this is off topic to the original article, it is important to make a point.  Gay rights are not a popular vote issue.  Democracy is not majority rules.  Democracy is one person, one vote.  Our society is defined by the rule of law.  The rule of law protects us from the tyranny of the majority and of the plutocracy.  Or, at least it should if it isn’t dismantled by greed and treason as it is today. 

In a rule of law, all humans are granted equal rights.  States should NOT be putting human rights on the ballot for popular approval any more than they should be putting slavery back on the ballot for popular approval. 

Equal gay rights are granted by God, by nature or by whatever force one believes governs human dignity.  We simply need to get the corrupt bought and paid for US government and corrupt Supreme Court to enforce the rule of law.  All people in America should have equal human dignities and rights under the law.  That includes same sex marriage.

I often wonder how much I would have to donate to my congressman/senator in order for one of them to take my phone call or personally answer my letter. If anyone knows please let me know. Thanks

H:  I suppose, if you have to ask, you haven’t donated enough.  Sad but true. 

You could go to the FEC website and find out how much money he received in donations and then search through the list to see how much was a big donation.  That can be a pretty long list, but if you download the list and sort by $$ amount to get an estimate of what the big donor’s paid.

If you read the Ensign Senate Ethics report / saga, in that document, it described how a particular company could always get through to the Ensigns Chief of Staff and sometimes to Ensign.  That might be a realistic jump off point.

Many of us are in the same boat.  In my case, the calls always go to voicemail and then I’m told the voicemail box if full.  When I write, 2+ months later, I get a “donotreply” thanks for contacting the office, but never get a reply.  Maybe they have a donor list and don’t bother with us little folks.

In the instance where donors funnel (launder?) contributions through non-profits, does that mean that the contributions are tax-deductable?

A very good article, and an excellent primer on why the GOP - on paper a minority party based on demographics and ideology - is desperately trying to help the rich stay rich.  The first (and perhaps decisive) round of this fight to undermine our republic was lost when John Adams lost re-election to that champion of political factions, Thomas Jefferson.  Add a few second rate thinkers like Antonin Scalia to the mix and here we are, buried in PACs bankrolled by billionaires.  Jefferson, of course, got the big monument in D.C. and Adams, who saw the danger and said so, does not.

More money is spent advertising beer than is spent on political campaigns, which is more important to our republic? We have few restrictions on corporations advertising in an attempt to persuade us to buy their products. Why should a corporation be restricted in informing us about government actions that will harm the corporation. We are still free to vote for whom we think best.

But then campaign finance laws are written with the intent of controlling who can be heard during an election campaign thereby controlling who wins. In the old Soviet Union and modern Iran the ruling elite selected the candidates. Our campaign finance laws are an attempt to control the political process and control the government. The free and open exchange of ideas is too unpredictable for the ruling elite.

In practice campaign finance laws silence the small grassroots groups, it takes a lot of time money and knowledge to comply with the laws and a small error can result in significant fines bankrupting small groups. The rich and powerful hire the best lawyers to assure that they jump through all the right hoops, but even when they make a mistake they can afford to pay the fines.

PACs and FEC were justified by unions’ ability to raise money. Simultaneously while allowing attacks on unions during 1980s-90s, SCOTUS allowed PACs to grow in political money power now dwarfing unions. This logic in that back story needs to be in the ProPublica storyline too…Kim Philips-Fein at NYU wrote the book on the conservative “collectivization” movement to counter unions in the 1970s and ProPublica better bone up! They can’t have one without the other. Drag Roberts’ nose in it! None of these rulings exist isolation. The absolutist terms about free speech need to be seen in context of balance of power which is founder’s precedent. The point of mechanisms to balance power between wage earners and unearned income earners needs to come to the forefront here in our minds and in our discussion about this issue. Until balance is forced back into the system, the majority will be squashed by the moneyed minority…just like in King George’s England of 1776!

James B Storer

July 12, 2011, 9:05 a.m.

K Parker, M Wang, This is a great report, providing a wealth of “PAC” information to serve as a reference for months to come.  Comments here have tended toward fears concerning the status of our nation.  A current ProPublica report concerning the phone hacking scandal also drew similar comments.  I submitted there a comment stating my position in blunt terms, and below is abbreviated version, and then I’ll continue with my opinion of the state of the ballot box as relates to corporatism, which is the root of your “PAC” report.
  Politically, the nation is in shambles.  It began a century and a half or so when corporations were awarded permanent status (formerly charters were temporary and valid only until completion of a specific project).  Corporations began begging for special considerations, and today they do not beg; they demand that government accede to their wants (which is granted by return mail) because they now own the government.
  Today all three branches are completely hamstrung, being lackeys to corporatism.
Dictatorial corporatism controls and basically owns our yoyo economic system, and also the vast U. S. military including its mercenary hangers-on (the military being obedient to the White House and the legislature).  It is acceptable for you to call me subversive, unpatriotic, seditious, or whatever, but I believe the situation says emphatically that we are controlled by fascism.  I believe conditions fit that definition absolutely, and we are politically a fascist nation.
  The ballot box is the only thing corporatism lacks direct access to, but its concentrated stash of money gives it the major voice in naming and campaigning political candidates.  The inscrutable PACs are corporatism’s baby, for the most part, I believe, from a practical viewpoint.
  The ballot box is our (the electorate’s) only constitutional tool (aside from boycotts, marches, etc), and the final results of the 2000 and the 2004 presidential elections rather show it to be on shaky ground.
  Skartishu, Granby MO

Just wondering, how does a concerned citizen, who is not wealthy, get to talk to their representative?

Max wrote: “Just wondering, how does a concerned citizen, who is not wealthy, get to talk to their representative?”

Seriously, Max? You simply write a letter or show up at a town meeting. Millions do it all the time.

There is nothing corrupt about spending money to express an opinion about politics.

And that’s all that is happening.

Citizen’s United, despite all the horrible reporting you’ve heard, did not change limits on contributions to candidates or parties. They are intact. The term “Super PAC” is misleading - these PACs don’t give to candidates.

Citizen’s United also did not declare corporations to be persons. It simply said that the First Amendment doesn’t protect persons, or corporations, or anyone else - it protects speech. The source of the speech is irrelevant.

The idea that spending money on speech is corruption is absurd and dangerous. It may not appear to be “fair” but the last thing we need is the government deciding to limit speech based on what it thinks is fair or not.

Underlying all this is the terribly anti-democratic idea that we the people are too stupid to handle hearing political messages and are just zombies who do whatever the ads tell us. If that’s true, it’s a reason to just abolish elections, not limit speech. I have more respect for myself and my fellow voters to suggest that.

James B Storer

July 13, 2011, 1:55 p.m.

Yelling “Fire” in the crowded theatre is the classic “speech” expression universally branded as an illegal criminal act.  This is so regardless the source of the act.  It is the use of it that is subject to “free speech” judgment, not its source.  That culprit (source) will be dealt with later, (where he may or may not claim free speech defense).  This example may apply to understanding our individual opinions with respect to a corporation’s right to free speech allowances and protections.
  On the one hand, an expression may be judged irregardless the source.  Ordinarily, this is the proper stance to take.  There is great argument, though, among us commoners, as to whether the source is part of the judgment when the source is a corporation.  Judgment then becomes a matter of where, when, and other elements of context surrounding the distribution of the article.  The current interest stems from a poor economy and our late discovery that the heavyweight on the block is “corporatism” (a super-galactic collection and control of ordinary massive corporations”).
  Corporatism appears to own our economic system and government (including the military), and skews the ethics and morality of elected officials.  A few generations ago, similar fears attended the group actions of labor unions (that really were only asking for decent working conditions and hours, and decent wages), but today’s situation is many times more omni-faceted, greedy, unethical, and serious.  Today the super corporations have gotten into influencing day-to-day government operations.  A million citizens giving ten buck apiece to gain representation is no match for the corporation, whose single large bucket of money is access, and access influences legislation greatly.
  Due to the situation, I believe it is totally sensible and correct to place restrictions upon corporate free speech which unduly influences political and government operations.  Corporate operations also are devastating the environment without remorse, and this is so true that I do not even want to hear arguments that this is not so.
An inanimate object such as a corporation should not be given greater influence upon the political course of a nation than the ordinary citizen.  It may be too late to balance the situation, but I believe the comment that maybe armed revolt is in order is an utterly impossible and dangerous tack (you will challenge the U.S. military juggernaut?)  besides being against conscience.  Conflict has been settled through war throughout history, and no net good has resulted.  So, where do we go from here with real hope for a positive outcome?
Skartishu, Granby MO

James B:  I ALWAYS agree with you when you comment on Pro Publica’s articles.  You always hit the nail on the head.  Our government is no longer “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”  It’s owned and operated by corporations, and because of this, NOTHING will ever be done to benefit those of us who are considered to be lower and/or middle class!  We cannot compete with the corporations when it comes to campaign funds, etc.  We can’t even afford to put forth a candidate that is NOT paid for by a corporation unless that candidate has billions of his/her own money to spend (like Whitman in California, who lost despite all her money).  Even our Supreme Court is bought and paid for by corporations….look how many rulings have come down that have been pro-corporation….and until we do something radical to stop this….it will continue on and on.  We no longer have ANY say in what goes on with “our” government, but it’s still OUR taxpayer money that pays their salaries!!

to smart e: Have you written to your representative?  Do you get a specific response? Or just a form response?  I would like to know how large a “donation” is required before he/she will actually pick up the phone when you call.

It’s all about the money. Unless and until a constitutional amendment overturns Buckley v Valeo and Citizens United v FEC, our country will continue on the road to plutocracy. In Buckley v Valeo (1976), the Supreme Court held that a political contribution is an act of political speech, not an attempt to buy influence. Once the extremists got that, the rest was gravy. Political speech is given the highest protection under the First Amendment. It’s that simple. Will the American people somehow obtain the “righteous might” that FDR talked about when asking Congress for a Declaration of War against the Empire of Japan, to force the passage of a congressional amendment to reverse Buckley v Valeo, Citizens United v FEC and the others to return our government to the people? Lincoln spoke at Gettysburg: “a government of the people, by the people and for the people, shall not perish from this earth.” Well, we haven’t had that yet, but if we take back government from the plutocrats by stating that a political contribution is not an exercise of First Amendment rights and is subject to regulation by Congress and the states, we can!

Stop Using the Word Dark in a Negative Way

Oct. 24, 2011, 1:05 p.m.

Please do not use the word dark as a negative. We need to stop thinking that dark is bad. Dark is the great mother earth, most of the people on this planet are of a shade of “dark” brown and in the womb dark is warm and secure and safe.
You article is spot on but your title is way off…

I agree with a lot of the posters about this subject, yet, yet, as with everything in life, when people or group abuse the rules, for the express purpose of distorting the privileges, step need to be taken to re-align.
  We now need strict, “top-down rules”, and regulations to help keep it reasonable, and control unfair distortions( Karl Rove}. But since the voting public, has recently been absent, in any intellectual decision department, I don’t see it getting better, anytime soon.

Ellen Heltzel

Nov. 21, 2011, 6:17 p.m.

Federally funded elections may be the only answer. We the taxpayers foot the bill so that the political class starts listening to its constituents and not the too-powerful, be they corporations or unions. The pathetic performance of the “super committee” underscores the point that our current system is dysfunctional, and each side is dug in less as a matter of ideology than in response to who greases their palms. A matter of principle? Spare me.

Speech is Free, but the Constitution does not imply that it is or should be tax-deductible. I don’t take a deduction when I use my time to write this message (though employees of Super PACs are paid by tax deductible money to do the same basic thing). How many people would part with a million dollars if it came entirely from their taxable income? A lot fewer than do now.
Along with political speach, advertising and entertainment expenses should also be taxed as straight up costs that come from the bottom line. Among many things, that will make dinner and a sporting event about 70% cheaper for the average schmoe.

People are living in a snake pit where brothers and sisters can be snakes without noticing it. Well, USA are a precipitate. With good reactives it could radically become something better.
Thank u propublica for pointing out that ethics is one of these reactives.

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