ABOUT THIS BLOG
I shall post videos, graphs, news stories, and other material. We shall use some of this material in class, and you may review the rest at your convenience. You will all receive invitations to post to the blog. I encourage you to use the blog in these ways:
· To post questions or comments;
· To follow up on class discussions;
· To post relevant news items or videos.
There are only two major limitations: no coarse language, and no derogatory comments about people at the Claremont Colleges.
The syllabus is at http://www1.cmc.edu/pages/faculty/JPitney/gov106-fall15.html
Thursday, February 28, 2008
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
The article states:
The IRS has stepped up its monitoring of the political activity of nonprofit groups during the 2008 election. It is more common for individual congregations to be targeted, not entire denominations, but very large ministries have been investigated in the past.
The inquiries can take years. Punishments can range from a financial penalty to loss of tax-exempt status -- an outcome that church attorneys call the "death penalty" for nonprofits.
This investigation goes hand in hand with our recent discussions about the different types of organizations and the limits of their political actions and spending.
"The law was passed by Maine voters in a referendum in 1996 and came into effect in 2000. Candidates who demonstrate citizen support by collecting a set number of $5 qualifying contributions from voters within their districts (50 contributions for a State House race, 150 for the state Senate, and 2,500 for a gubernatorial race) are eligible for fixed and equal campaign funding from the Clean Election Fund. To receive their money, candidates must agree to forgo all private contributions (including self-financing), and limit their spending to the amount from the fund.
Participating Clean Money candidates are also given an additional one-for-one match if they are outspent by non-complying opponents or are the target of independent expenditures (such as ads produced by a group not associated with the opposing candidate). Candidates who reject the option of Clean Money or who fail to qualify are still free to collect private money under the existing system."
Same ad in Spanish:
PowerPAC is not a PAC but a 501(c)(4). It has run pro-Obama ads with a religious theme:
Some background on the religion, politics, and the IRS.
Kennedy speech to Greater Houston Ministerial Association:
Obama speech to the United Church of Christ:
In the current decade, as the reading explains, we have seen a clash of Catholic Answers Action and the Catholic Action Network for Social Justice.
See here and here (go to p. 37) for data on religion and electoral preference.
From the Politico:
The National Rifle Association endorsed Rep. Zack Space (D-Ohio) for re-election today, giving the freshman congressman key credibility among gun owners as he runs for re-election in a largely rural and solidly Republican district.I don't know how much the endorsement is going to help Space, but at the very least, it's a bad omen for Republicans living in Ohio's fightin' 18th: if the NRA is endorsing the Democrat in the race, it's doubleplusungood for the Grand Old Party.
"During just my first term in Congress, the NRA and I have already forged a strong working relationship as we both seek to protect the gun owners and sportsmen in the 18th Congressional District,” said Space in a statement.
“We are both committed to preserving the constitutional rights of gun owners and sportsmen everywhere as we work to end the continual whittling away of the Second Amendment by those opposed to gun ownership."
Republicans have had trouble recruiting credible candidates to challenge Space, despite the district’s Republican tilt. The four Republican candidates who have filed for the state’s March 4 primary have hardly raised any money in preparation for the campaign.
Space won election to Congress, fueled by voters’ disgust with the indictment of his predecessor, GOP Rep. Bob Ney. But Republicans had hoped that the district would return to its Republican roots, given the fact President Bush won 57 percent of the vote in 2004.
The NRA’s endorsement suggests that prospect for Republicans is increasingly unlikely, and that Space’s long-term prospects of holding the seat may be better than even he once expected.
Monday, February 25, 2008
Project Vote Smart collects interest group ratings.
The League of Conservation voters has a user-friendly scorecard.
It also offers a "hit list."
LCV, by the way, is a good example of an interest-group conglomerate.
LCV is a 501(c)(4). Thanks to the MCFL decision, it can do a limited amount of candidate activity. Here is an independent-expenditure ad:
See also The Club for Growth
Soft money still exists, albeit not "party" soft money.
In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled in FEC vs. Wisconsin Right to Life that the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) cannot ban corporate and union money from paying for election ads and communications 30 days before a primary and 60 days before a general election — as long as the ads do not directly advocate the election or defeat of a candidate or engage in the “functional equivalent."
Thursday, February 21, 2008
"During Mr. McCain’s four years in the House, Mr. Keating, his family and his business associates contributed heavily to his political campaigns. The banker gave Mr. McCain free rides on his private jet, a violation of Congressional ethics rules (he later said it was an oversight and paid for the trips). They vacationed together in the Bahamas. And in 1986, the year Mr. McCain was elected to the Senate, his wife joined Mr. Keating in investing in an Arizona shopping mall."I wanted to include the McCain campaign response too in order to be fair:
"For years, Mr. McCain complied. At Mr. Keating’s request, he wrote several letters to regulators, introduced legislation and helped secure the nomination of a Keating associate to a banking regulatory board. By early 1987, though, the thrift was careering toward disaster. Mr. McCain agreed to join several senators, eventually known as the Keating Five, for two private meetings with regulators to urge them to ease up."
"In 2001, he helped found the nonprofit Reform Institute to promote his cause and, in the process, his career. It collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in unlimited donations from companies that lobbied the Senate commerce committee. Mr. McCain initially said he saw no problems with the financing, but he severed his ties to the institute in 2005, complaining of “bad publicity” after news reports of the arrangement."
"Like other presidential candidates, he has relied on lobbyists to run his campaigns. Since a cash crunch last summer, several of them — including his campaign manager, Rick Davis, who represented companies before Mr. McCain’s Senate panel — have been working without pay, a gift that could be worth tens of thousands of dollars. In recent weeks, Mr. McCain has hired another lobbyist, Mark Buse, to run his Senate office. In his case, it was a round trip through the revolving door: Mr. Buse had directed Mr. McCain’s committee staff for seven years before leaving in 2001 to lobby for telecommunications companies.""
"In late 1999, Ms. Iseman asked Mr. McCain’s staff to send a letter to the commission to help Paxson, now Ion Media Networks, on another matter. Mr. Paxson was impatient for F.C.C. approval of a television deal, and Ms. Iseman acknowledged in an e-mail message to The Times that she had sent to Mr. McCain’s staff information for drafting a letter urging a swift decision. Mr. McCain complied. He sent two letters to the commission, drawing a rare rebuke for interference from its chairman. In an embarrassing turn for the campaign, news reports invoked the Keating scandal, once again raising questions about intervening for a patron."
“It is a shame that The New York Times has lowered its standards to engage in a hit-and-run smear campaign. John McCain has a 24-year record of serving our country with honor and integrity. He has never violated the public trust, never done favors for special interests or lobbyists, and he will not allow a smear campaign to distract from the issues at stake in this election.
“Americans are sick and tired of this kind of gutter politics, and there is nothing in this story to suggest that John McCain has ever violated the principles that have guided his career.”
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
- PACs stick with incumbents
- Economic sectors divide contributions differently
- Republicans had a hard-money advantage in the past.
- But so far, not this year.
Political parties consist of:
- Party in the electorate
- Party organization
- Party in government
Interest groups influence all three levels.
Unions do a good deal of phone banking:
Lobbyists can still finance convention activities.
As Dan's post suggests (below), Act Blue is very active.
Emily's List has had an impact on the Democratic Party:
Monday, February 18, 2008
As I mentioned at the end of class I would like to learn more and discuss ActBlue. Here are some interesting links and pieces of stories about it:
From the website FAQ:
For the purposes of contribution limits, are contributions made via the ActBlue web site counted separately from other contributions?
For federal campaigns, No. Contributions made via the ActBlue website are just like contributions through other means (e.g. on a candidate’s web site, through the mail, at a fundraiser). ActBlue just helps deliver your contribution to the candidate.
For state-legislature and executive campaigns, it depends. We’re in the process of writing up pages about the rules in every state. Until then, please contact us if you have questions.
From an article in the Wall Street Journal about a state legislative candidate receiving funds:
ActBlue was created as a political action committee in June 2004 by two Democratic activists from Cambridge, Mass., shortly after the presidential campaign of Howard Dean showed the power of online fund raising. The idea was to transfer that force to Democrats more broadly. Since its inception, ActBlue has raised more than $28 million for Democratic candidates, mostly by making it easy for supporters to bundle together small-dollar donations made via credit card. Mr. Edwards, for example, has raised more than $4 million online via ActBlue.Finally from a Politico article regarding ActBlue and the FEC:
The presidential public financing system provides up to $250 in taxpayer money for each donation from an individual. But it expressly excludes from matching funds contributions “drawn on the account of a committee.”
It’s unclear whether contributions processed by ActBlue, a pioneering force in online fundraising for Democrats, would be covered by that language. But the Edwards campaign was worried enough to ask the Federal Election Commission for a legal opinion.
The Humane Society is in the news.
The MPAA-PhRMA clash was an example of the lengths that associations go to in their quest to hire the right leader. Trade groups and other nonprofits are putting a lot of cash on the table -- and promising a stream of future benefits -- to the person they believe will deliver for their industry or profession in the nation's capital. "These are power brokers that make a difference," says Leslie Hortum, manager of the Washington office of executive search firm Spencer Stuart, which has placed a number of individuals, including Glickman, at top-paying associations. "They are rainmakers. They get their phone calls returned. And organizations are willing to pay."
Full story is here.
Friday, February 15, 2008
1. The page may be extinct, just as you soon could be, too, if you are still loading your plate with hamburgers, cheese pizzas, and other artery-clogging animal-based foods.
Apparently CRC has not noticed this problem yet, which is not surprising considering it hasn't updated its report on PETA since 2003.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Southern Baptist pastor Wiley Drake said Wednesday he is being investigated by the Internal Revenue Service for endorsing Mike Huckabee in a letter written on church stationery, and later in a church-related radio broadcast. The IRS has not commented on Wiley's statement. But news of the probe comes six months after Americans United for Separation of Church and State lodged a formal complaint with the IRS about Wiley's church activities. In a press release dated Aug. 11, Drake, the pastor of the First Southern Baptist Church of Buena Park, endorsed Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee and urged other Southern Baptist church members to support him as well, the complaint said. Americans United quotes Drake in the complaint saying, "I announce that I am going to personally endorse Mike Huckabee. I ask all of my Southern Baptist brothers and sisters to consider getting behind Mike and helping him all you can." (Full Americans United document here.)
Americans United is itself a 501(c)(3). The Capital Research Center takes a dim view of it.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Big-money donors do more than donate big money. They serve as fundraisers and spokespeople for their causes. See, for instance, Laurie David:
Autism Speaks, which has rapidly become the lead organization in the field, is very active in government affairs.
Click here for a list of the biggest foundations.
Click here for top corporate foundations.
Reported trends in a problem may affect public awareness. But the numbers are not always what they seem.
Monday, February 11, 2008
From the article:
"As for the money floating the blimp, Collette and Smith have developed a detailed business plan carefully structured to avoid Byzantine campaign finance laws. They shunned traditional mechanisms such as creating an independent non-profit group under section 527 of the IRS code — like Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and the other groups that spent millions on ads in 2004 — or a political action committee — like EMILY’s List. Instead, they went an almost unheard of route, establishing a for-profit company: Liberty Political Advertising. The name is a nod to Paul’s ideology and the website boasts the “legal arrangement offers the best of both worlds: no limits and virtually no regulations.” In other words, very libertarian. Instead of soliciting donations like a PAC or a campaign or a non-profit political group, Liberty says it’s “selling political advertisements that you can sponsor.” By Friday evening, Liberty had pulled in nearly $150,000. Each payment will fund a portion of the $350,000-a-month blimp rental fee and associated costs ($10 pays for 1-minute’s worth of advertising on the blimp, while $1 million buys 10 weeks, according to the website)."
Federal tax law defines different kinds of nonprofits. Most must file a Form 990 with the IRS. These forms are public information, and you may find them at sites such as http://www.guidestar.org/.
- 501 (c)(3) organizations include charitable, religious and educational groups. They pay no taxes on income, and contributions are tax deductible. To keep this status, these groups may not support or oppose candidates for public office. Nevertheless, they may take part in a limited amount of legislative lobbying. The Berry chapter in Cigler & Loomis mentions the 501(h) test.
- 501 (c)(4) organizations generally pay no taxes on income but contributions are not deductible. These "social welfare organizations" may conduct unlimited lobbying and may do partisan campaign work, but only as a secondary activity.
- A 527 political committee pays no tax on operating income, but does pay tax on investment income. Donations are not tax deductible. Its main purpose is to influence the selection of candidates for public office. Certain kinds of 527 groups do not have to file Form 990. See here for a list of exceptions.
The IRS sums up these categories and others in a handy table.
Also consider interest-group conglomerates that may include more than one of the above types as well as a political action committee. NOW is a good example.
Another is the National Rifle Association, a 501(c)(4). It also has:
- The NRA Institute for Legislative Action, a 501(c)(4);
- The NRA Political Victory Fund), a PAC;
- The NRA Foundation, a 501(c)(3).
Though Americans still favor certain firearm restrictions, NRA is happy with recent trends in public opinion.
More money is flowing into California's legislative campaigns than ever, despite contribution limits that voters approved eight years ago in an attempt to quash the influence of well-heeled special interests in state elections, according to an analysis by The Chronicle. Big-ticket donations have moved from candidate-run funds, where individual contributions are capped at $3,600 per election, into independent campaigns run by powerful groups to elect or defeat candidates. Special interests also use loopholes to funnel money to legislators by donating to funds that fall outside the law's limits, including legal defense funds, ballot measure committees or
lawmakers' favorite charities. As a result, watchdog groups say, it has become nearly impossible for the public to follow the money.
Friday, February 8, 2008
But his opponent could note that McCain's campaign is being led by Tom Loeffler, whose lobbying firm has made millions inserting earmarks into spending bills.The article also pointed out that McCain fought for $10 million for the University of Arizona. Public universities are an example of another kind of interest group. For McCain being so anti-lobbyist perhaps these run-ins with interest groups will be slightly more problematic than they would have been otherwise.
See article here.
Wednesday, February 6, 2008
In 2007, the number of workers belonging to a union rose by 311,000 to15.7
million, the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics reported
today. Union members accounted for 12.1 percent of employed wageand salary
workers, essentially unchanged from 12.0 percent in 2006. In1983, the
first year for which comparable union data are available, theunion
membership rate was 20.1 percent.
To give a quick summary, Gaylord Entertainment was planning to build a $1 billion convention center and hotel at Chula Vista's scenic bayfront area. The plan had already been fully approved at the city and county level, all that was left was for the developer to reach a deal with the unions before construction began. However, unions such as the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council, the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council, and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 569 demanded a project labor agreement from Gaylord in which Gaylord would commit to hiring only local union workers for the project. Gaylord refused to any legal commitment, and made some concessions to "give union contractors first dibs to bid on jobs, and preference to local workers" (see article in link 2), but the unions wanted a legal commitment. Without being able to reach some kind of agreement with the unions, Gaylord refused to begin construction and even backed out of the deal because of union threats of using negative publicity and bringing costly environmental suits to their doorstep if Gaylord continued the project without union approval.
So today, the project remains in limbo and I've actually not heard anything recently about the status of it now, as far as I know Gaylord will probably not continue with the project. From the point of view of the unions, they protected the rights and potential benefits of local union workers. From the point of view of nearly everyone else, a project that would have greatly benefited the City of Chula Vista economically and socially was lost.
There are links to two articles below describing basically what happened, the first link is for when talks between the unions and the developer were falling apart, and the second link is for when talks had pretty much ended without a solution.
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
Monday, February 4, 2008
Of course, the new and improved President Bush v2.0, who actually vetoed spending bills--see SCHIP--last year, an idea unthinkable during his first term, maintained his "tough" stance on spending by attacking Medicare, in addition to "effectively fr[eezing]" spending in the Dept. of Education:
Not having to run for re-election this year, Bush is more aggressive in proposing major savings from the two health programs most important to the elderly, poor and disabled: Medicare and Medicaid. The goal is to slow the rapid cost growth in both entitlements, but the president’s budget demands as much as $195.6 billion in five-year savings and $603 billion over ten.
All card-carrying members of the GOP under 60 should be wiping tears from their eyes as W stands against the spendthrift, nay, profligate, Democratic-controlled Congress in an effort to corral spending! Until, of course, we get to the part of the budget reserved for Republican politicians not named Ron Paul:
The core Pentagon budget - not counting emergency funds for wars overseas- would grow to $515.4 billion, a $35.9 billion increase over current funding.For those of you like me who cannot do math, I've painstakingly run the numbers and found this spending increase to be equal to just over 7%. A Republican President asks for more military funding even with military spending, at least in nominal dollars, at an all-time high? Nope--no surprises there. But this is more intriguing:
The National Science Foundation would grow to $6.85 billion, a 14 percent increase of $821 million.I'm sure someone is behind that. And by someone, I of course mean several groups allied to "get that money." My guess is that this sum is headed straight to R&D grants in sectors like Big PHARMA, of whom I'm a huge fan. But if anyone else can offer any insight on where this money is going, please do so.
But this last bit is my personal favorite:
But the Park Service snares a $161 million increase for operations and new money is provided for programs to try to prevent wildfires in the West. Among the new initiatives is a $9 million “Birds Forever” program in Interior to try to reverse the dramatic decline in wild birds in the U.S. in the last 40 years. [bold mine]I fear that the wild bird lobby has grown too powerful. We must move quickly if the Beltway Order is to survive.
Sunday, February 3, 2008
It’s making sweeping commitments to reduce America’s energy use and improve its health care system. It’s obsessively polling voters, boasting of a higher favorability rating than Congress. It’s even touting an “economic stimulus plan for American shoppers” in the form of steep price cuts made last week. (Four 12-packs of Pepsi? $10.)That last one may be slightly tongue in cheek — even discount retailers have a sense of humor — but the bigger message is not: after years of running afoul of the United States government on labor and environmental issues, Wal-Mart now aspires to be like the government, bursting through political logjams and offering big-picture solutions to intractable problems.
The article mentions that its rapid response to disaster has been good for business. See Katrina examples at http://video.walmartstores.com/video/ For a more recent case, closer to home, see below:
Saturday, February 2, 2008
1990 . . . . . . . . . . . 14.7m..................... 1.6m..................3.7m
2004. . . . . . . . . . . 20.6m..................... 2.5m.................5.6m
Percent of Households Owning Equities
- Exxon Mobil
- Conoco Phillips
Trade Associations: "The Gang of Six"
- U.S. Chamber of Commerce
- National Federation of Independent Business
- National Association of Manufacturers
- The Business Roundtable
- National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors
- National Restaurant Association
Professional Membership Organizations
Friday, February 1, 2008
From the article:
"The endorsement will bring him some money and some organization, and access to an e-mail list that includes more than 1.7 million people in Super Tuesday states alone. It also further solidifies his standing as the candidate of the Democratic left."