Bipartisan Consensus: Unlimited $ Leads to Corruption

New Poll: Super PAC Spending Has Produced Widespread Perceptions of Corruption

By significant margins, Americans believe new rules allowing individuals, corporations, and unions to donate unlimited amounts to SuperPACs will lead to corruption.

These beliefs are held equally by both Republicans & Democrats.

  • 69% agreed that “new rules that let corporations, unions and people give unlimited money to Super PACs will lead to corruption.” Only 15% disagreed.  Notably, 74% of Republicans and 73% of Democrats agreed with this statement.
  • 73% agreed that “there would be less corruption if there were limits on how much could be given to Super PACs.” Only 14% disagreed.  Here, 75% of Republicans and 78% of Democrats agreed.
  • Only about 1 in 5 Americans agree that average voters have the same access to candidates (and influence on candidates) as big donors to Super PACs.  Two-thirds of Americans disagree.

Broad Bipartisan Majorities Believe Elected Officials Favor the Interests of Super PAC Donors over the Public Interest

Large majorities of Americans believe that members of Congress will favor the interests of those who donate to Super PACs over those who do not — and that Super PAC donors can pressure elected officials to alter their votes.

  • More than two-thirds of all respondents (68%) — including 71% of Democrats and Republicans — agreed that a company that spent $100,000 to help elect a member of Congress could successfully pressure him or her to change a vote on proposed legislation.  Only one in five respondents disagreed.
  • More than three-quarters of all respondents — 77% — agreed that members of Congress are more likely to act in the interest of a group that spent millions to elect them than to act in the public interest.  Similar numbers of Republicans (81%) and Democrats (79%) agreed.  Only 10% disagreed.

The Perception that Super PACs Have Excessive Influence over Government Threatens Grave Consequences for Participatory Democracy

An alarming number of Americans report that their concerns about the influence of donors to outside political groups make them less likely to engage in democracy.  Communities of color, those with lower incomes, and individuals with less formal education are more likely to disengage due to concerns about how much influence is wielded by Super PAC donors.

  • Two in three Americans — 65% — say that they trust government less because big donors to Super PACs have more influence than regular voters.  Republicans (67%) and Democrats (69%) uniformly agree.
  • One in four Americans — 26% — say that they are less likely to vote because big donors to Super PACs have so much more influence over elected officials than average Americans.
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Coming to a Town Near You!: SuperPACs and Local Races

If you like what dark-money groups are doing to national politics, you’ll love what they can do in a local race.

How much further does $10,000 or $100,000 go at the state level? According to a Pew Center on the States analysis, in the mid-2000s the average cost of a winning state Senate campaign was anywhere from $5,713 (North Dakota) to $938,522 (California). In Arizona it was $36,696; in Wisconsin, $140,287; in North Carolina, $234,031. By contrast, the average cost of a US Senate seat in 2010 was $9.2 million.

Super-PACs playing at the state level don’t need to drop millions to make a big impact, says Neil Reiff. In a crowded state-level or congressional primary with three or four candidates, a little money goes a long way. “If you’ve got a field with little or no name recognition,” Reiff says, “you can drown out everyone else.” …

“If super-PACs are going to play at the state level, we’re not going to find out until later, and it will probably happen in a very different way than in congressional or presidential races.”

Republicans, Independents, Democrats Agree: It Undermines Democracy

New polling reveals an increasing number of voters concerned about the role of money in politics.

The poll found the majority of Republicans, Democrats and independents in agreement with the following statement:

“Given what I see in the presidential race,

I am fed up with big donors and secret money that controls which candidate we hear about.

It undermines democracy.”

Campaigns and Elections, Jan. 2012

Meet the Media Companies Lobbying Against Transparency

Meet the Media Companies Lobbying Against Transparency

by Justin Elliott ProPublica, April 20, 2012, 10:50 a.m.

News organizations cultivate a reputation for demanding transparency, whether by suing for access to government documents, dispatching camera crews to the doorsteps of recalcitrant politicians, or editorializing in favor of open government.

But now many of the country’s biggest media companies, which own dozens of newspapers and TV news operations, are flexing their muscle in Washington in a fight against a government initiative to increase transparency of political spending.

The corporate owners or sister companies of some of the biggest names in journalism 2014 NBC News, ABC News, Fox News, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Politico, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and dozens of local TV news outlets 2014 are lobbying against a Federal Communications Commission measure that would require broadcasters to post political ad data on the Internet.

As we have recently detailed, political ad data is public by law but not easy to get because it is kept only in paper files at each station. The FCC has proposed fixing that by requiring broadcasters to post online the details of political ad purchases, including the identity of the buyer and the price. Continue reading

April 11: Boston College Law – Forum on Citizens United (in Jamaica Plain)

Citizens United Forum Presented by Students of Boston College Law School

A collaborative of Boston College graduate students will be hosting a panel on the subject of Citizens United and campaign finance reform in Jamaica Plain on April 11 at 7pm.

Panelists will include State Senator Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton), President of the New England Legal Foundation Martin Newhouse, constitutional law scholar Professor Lawrence Friedman and WGBH journalist and former Washington Post reporter Ibby Caputo.

Admission to the forum is free and residents of Boston and the surrounding communities are encouraged to attend and learn the reasoning behind this important Supreme Court decision and the rationale of the opposition.

“People should care about the Citizens United decision because it is having an effect on the way democracy is practiced in this country, about the way elections work and who gets elected and why,”

said Professor Lawrence Friedman, a professor of Constitutional Law at New England Law | Boston and a panelist for the forum. Continue reading