Squaring the Culture

"...and I will make justice the plumb line, and righteousness the level;
then hail will sweep away the refuge of lies,
and the waters will overflow the secret place."
Isaiah 28:17

02/11/2010 (10:52 pm)

Why The Unions Didn’t Applaud


About two weeks ago, the US Supreme Court published their decision in the case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, and the left went berserk. The Court declared that preventing corporations and unions from running ads on their own within two months of a national election or a month of a primary created an unconstitutional restriction on free speech. Henceforth, corporations and unions are free to run ads about candidates to their heart’s content. Leftists decried the demolition of barriers to “corruption,” the unconscionable bypassing of precedent, and the sheer, unnecessary activism of the conservatives on the Court, and predicted a flood of corrupt corporate money in elections (see here, here, and here for examples.) The President huffed,

…the Supreme Court has given a green light to a new stampede of special interest money in our politics. It is a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans…

You’d think the unions would have applauded the decision, since unions, like corporations, were restricted from running ads, but are now permitted. You’d also think the Democrats would have shrugged their shoulders and accepted the change, since unions, which have extraordinarily deep pockets and are nearly 100% in the Democrats’ camp, would offset whatever advantage Republicans might have in the corporate world. But they didn’t.

And if you had any doubt why they didn’t accept it, this week you got your answer. It seems that despite the law, unions have been pouring their vast sums into elections all along. What a surprise.

Joseph Abrams at FoxNews.com published an exposé about a web site called TheTeaPartyIsOver.org, which claims to be a grassroots organization aimed at countering the effects of the burgeoning Tea Party movement with legislation. Only, Abrams discovered that it’s not really a grassroots organization at all. The site is one of several created by a pair of Washington attorneys that funnel money from union bank accounts into local political races, bypassing campaign finance restrictions by laundering the money. The maneuver appears to be legal, but hardly ethical; it clearly utilizes a loophole in the campaign finance restrictions, allowing forbidden union funds to be spent in the guise of local, grassroots activism far from the source of the funds. Abrams uncovered donations from the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Union (AFSCME) numbering in the millions of dollars, and directed into state political campaigns.

We’ve known for years that unions have been engaging in similar actions. Apparently McCain-Feingold (formally know as BCRA, for “Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002”) did not really stop the flow of “corrupting” cash into elections, it just redirected it for those who were prepared to play the system. Democrats claiming that removing the restriction on corporate spending will ruin the election process are just posturing for the camera; what they really oppose is Republicans getting in on the act.

The President was particularly disingenuous on the topic during his State of the Union address. Recall the passage that had Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito mouthing “Not true” from his second-row seat:

With all due deference to separation of powers, last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that, I believe, will open the floodgates for special interests, including foreign corporations, to spend without limit in our elections. I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests or, worse, by foreign entities…

“Law Professor” Obama was talking out of his nether parts. The restriction overturned by the Court was less than 20 years old, not a century old, and the decision had no effect whatsoever on rules restricting foreign entities from participating in elections. Worse, though, was the irony of President Obama decrying foreign participation after Candidate Obama deliberately removed normal checks on credit card donations to permit a veritable flood of illegal foreign contributions into his own campaign.

HillaryTheMovieThe Citizens United decision was a significant blow to the Obama effort to stack future elections in favor of Democrats. If you recall, the case was the result of partisan activism on the part of the Federal Election Commission (FEC,) which stepped in to halt David Bossie’s group from advertising its documentary “Hillary: The Movie” during the 2008 primary campaign season. The FEC declared that “Hillary: The Movie” was “express advocacy,” which made it a violation of section 441b of the BCRA: there was no reasonable interpretation other than that the film was an appeal to vote against Hillary Clinton. The partisan nature of the action was clear to those of us who recalled Michael Moore’s release of “Fahrenheit 911” during the 2004 election cycle, about which the FEC made not the slightest peep; there was no reasonable interpretation other than that the film was an appeal to vote against George W. Bush.

Citizens United appealed to the DC District Court but was not granted a stay, the DC Court noting that Citizens United used funds from corporate sponsors to market the movie. CU had to restrain its marketing effort pending appeal to the Supreme Court. The Court, in an opinion written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, overturned the decision from a 1990 case called Austin v Michigan Chamber of Commerce, in which the Court had permitted an exception to the first amendment, granting the government power to restrict the speech of corporations in order to prevent “distortion” caused by amassed corporate wealth. Today’s court, finding no other acceptable reason to permit CU to market its film, declared the reasoning in the 1990 decision faulty, recalling Justice Scalia’s dissent from that case: “The government cannot be trusted to assure, through censorship, the ‘fairness’ of political debate.” The Court left in place restrictions on the amounts corporations can donate directly to candidates, and requirements that the sources of funds be exposed publicly.

While caterwauling over the end of their monopoly on the use of amassed funds, Democrats have commenced extorting funds from corporations for use in elections. That extortion also became evident this week, as the Obamateur President announced exceptions to his own administration’s purported outrage over “unconscionable” executive bonus payments, stupidly admitting to Bloomberg BusinessWeek that he “does not begrudge” huge bonuses for the CEOs of Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan Chase. Those two investment banking firms, just by coincidence, are the firms from which employees contributed the most to his campaign of any corporations in America. Apparently the vicious assaults on ordinary corporate practice only apply to those firms that forgot to feather the Good President’s nest. He quickly backpedaled as the blogs took note, but too late.

Expect legislative action to restore the ban on corporate spending. Expect the legislation to neglect to include the ban on union spending. It hardly matters, though. Democrats decry the presence of money in politics — and then ignore the law. It’s their way.

11/05/2009 (6:37 pm)

Buying Office

Newt Gingrich has his own post-election musings over at Human Events, which include this thoughtful reminder concerning how badly the Democrats (with John McCain’s help) have broken the campaign finance system:

It is an inescapable conclusion that Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) would not have been reelected without having spent $90 million of his own money buying New York City Hall from the voters.

It is also obvious that Governor Corzine of New Jersey would not have been competitive without having spent $30 million (bringing his total purchase of elected offices to $120 million for one Senate and two gubernatorial races).

The current campaign finance rules create the real danger of an oligopoly of rich people buying office.

We need to replace current campaign laws with a simple system that allows everyone to raise unlimited money from individuals as long as it is reported on the internet every night.

This simple system will allow middle-class candidates to raise the money to match rich candidates and level the playing field.

Recall that Corzine set spending records with his governorship campaign four years ago, dumping some $40 million of his own funds into the race. Recall, also, how John McCain demonstrated for us all just how badly the public financing rule works.

There is no reason on God’s green earth why individuals willing to donate large sums should be prevented from doing so. The current law favors rich individuals, incumbents, and those who have the backing of the press. Make donations public and available, and have at it.

03/28/2008 (6:00 am)

And Another Democratic Governor…

In what seems to be becoming a weekly event, another Democratic governor was indicted yesterday. Governor Aníbal Acevedo Vilá of Puerto Rico and a dozen others were indicted for an alleged scam to bypass campaign finance limits. The specific charges included conspiracy to violate federal campaign law, conspiracy to defraud the IRS, wire fraud, filing a false tax return, and using campaign funds for a personal vacation.

Vilá immediately started beating the drum of the Bush Justice Department and its scheme to assault Democrats (another weekly event), with the help of McClatchy newspaper reporters, who reliably repeat Democrats’ talking points. There have been so many high-profile Democrats indicted lately that I started questioning the investigation pattern myself, but, no, this is actually part of a legitimate investigation that began in Philadelphia, back when I was living there. In 2004, Federal investigators indicted attorney Ronald White, a close associate of Mayor John Street, along with City Treasurer Corey Kemp and a dozen others for their role in a pay-for-play scam that ran Philadelphia with an iron fist. The investigation uncovered ties to Puerto Rico, as political fund-raisers in Philadelphia had met with Governor Vilá and made large contributions to his campaign, according to this story from the Philly Inquirer. Four Philadelphians were indicted yesterday along with Vilá, including Democratic financier Robert Feldman, who raised money for Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell and Senator Robert Casey as well.

One of the interesting side notes on this story is that Vilá is a Superdelegate to the Democratic convention. So is Kwame Kilpatrick, Mayor of Detroit who was indicted earlier this week for perjury and obstruction of justice. So is Eliot Spitzer, New York governor who resigned a few weeks ago after an investigation of money laundering turned up his predilection for prostitutes. Think they’ll set up a penalty box for delegates visiting from the slammer?

Hot Air associates the story with Norman Hsu as another Democratic campaign scam, and also notes that this story ties yet another corrupt financier to Barack Obama (though it does not accuse Obama of doing anything wrong).

How badly will that hurt the Democrats? For one thing, it brings up the whole Norman Hsu story all over again. Hillary Clinton’s big fundraiser turned out to be a fraud, and now the Democrats have another crook. This follows on the heels of Eliot Spitzer’s hooker obsession and the misuse of public funds by his successor David Paterson. In terms of optics, the footage of Acevedo’s frog-march into federal custody will remind voters of the culture of corruption — and have the Democrats struggling to convince voters that they cleaned up politics.

It will impact Obama the worst, however. He loses a superdelegate in Acevedo, but more problematic, he has once again been associated with election crimes and corruption. He had just gotten past his Tony Rezko problem, and now the proximity of another money-launderer will call into question just how naive or worse the unvetted Obama may be.

It almost seems as though the willingness to engage in corruption is part of the requirement for rising in the Democratic party.

01/11/2008 (4:32 pm)

Political Advertising For Whom?

“Hillary: The Movie” is getting a shakedown from federal judges, who seem likely to ban the film’s advertising within 60 days of an election.

Citizens United, a conservative advocacy group, is challenging the nation’s campaign finance laws, which require disclaimers on political advertisements and restrict when they can be broadcast. The group argues “Hillary: The Movie” and related television advertisements are not political advertising even though the New York senator is in the presidential race.

The movie is being sold on DVD and will be screened in theaters, neither of which are regulated by the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 — McCain-Feingold. However, the advertising for the film is likely to be restricted. (View the trailers for the film here.)

The suit was brought by Citizens United, the makers of the film, objecting to the Federal Election Commission’s requirement that they include political disclaimers in the ads for the film if displayed during the 60-day blackout period before the national election. They would also be required to name their contributors, if the movie were found to be political advertising under McCain-Feingold. Citizens United is claiming that the ads are commercial ads, which are exempt from restrictions.

Citizens United is the brainchild of David Bossie, one-time Whitewater prosecutor and investigator for Rep. Dan Burton (R, In).

Independent blogger-filmmaker Evan Maloney at Brain-Terminal.com observes that Michael Moore was not restricted in the same manner when he ran Fahrenheit 9/11 in the months preceding the 2004 presidential election. Moore had to remove all mention of President Bush from his advertising, but was not required to issue a disclaimer or disclose his contributors.

Excellent legal analysis here by one Jonathan Turley, Prof. at George Washington University Law School.

My question is, if it’s a political ad, for whom is it advertising?

The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 has already been tested before the Supreme Court, and incorrectly found to be Constitutionally valid. It constitutes an assault on the First Amendment, and should be repealed by an act of Congress.