Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission

images5thumbnail1.thumbnail.jpegAdam Cohen of the New York Times is a fairly astute writer on legal issues, and he has a new article up on the interesting case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The case involves the ability of corporations to further pollute elections in the United States with unregulated big money. From Cohen’s NYT article:

The founders were wary of corporate influence on politics — and their rhetoric sometimes got pretty heated. In an 1816 letter, Thomas Jefferson declared his hope to “crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country.”

This skepticism was enshrined in law in the early 20th century when the nation adopted strict rules banning corporations from contributing to political campaigns. Today that ban is in danger from the Supreme Court, which hears arguments next month in a little-noticed case that could open the floodgates to corporate money in politics.

The court has gone to extraordinary lengths to hear the case. And there are worrying signs that there may well be five votes to rule that the ban on corporate contributions violates the First Amendment.

If the ban is struck down, corporations may soon be writing large checks to the same elected officials whom they are asking to give them bailouts or to remove health-and-safety regulations from their factories or to insert customized loopholes into the tax code.

The entire article is not that long and well worth a read for the history and set up for the case at bar. Cohen is right that the ban is in jeopardy; and the Roberts court does seem to have a hard on for this issue, having taken extraordinary steps to wade into this case, which is not that well set up for a Supreme Court determination on such a critical and far reaching issue.

The Court did indeed take a case in which the ban on corporate political contributions was not a central issue and instructed the parties to brief on the ban’s constitutionality. The Court then accelerated oral argument on its calendar to a September date before the new SCOTUS term even starts. This sure looks to be the handiwork of Chief Justice John Roberts; anybody who says Roberts is not an "activist judge", and has no agenda, is nuttier than a fruitcake. Read more

Senator Al Franken!

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Makes me smile:

Five years after he put his money behind the Swift Boat ads that helped tank John Kerry’s presidential campaign, Senate Democrats gave T. Boone Pickens a warm welcome at their weekly policy lunch Thursday. 

Or at least most of them did. 

Kerry skipped the regularly scheduled lunch; his staff said the Massachusetts Democrat “was unable to attend because he had a long scheduled lunch with his interns and pages.” 

Sen. Al Franken managed to make time for the lunch — but then let Pickens have it afterward. 

According to a source, the wealthy oil and gas magnate and author of “The First Billion Is the Hardest” stepped up to introduce himself to Franken in a room just off the Senate Floor after the lunch ended

Franken, who was seated talking to someone else, did not stand when Pickens said hello. Instead, Franken began to berate him about the billionaire’s financing of the Swift Boat ads in 2004.

I’m happy with people who want to partner with Pickens. Fine.

But don’t do it at a party caucus lunch.

Don’t make your former Presidential candidate schedule lunches with his interns and pages!!

What’s in Feeney’s File on Rove?

In my post on the dead-enders doing Dallas, I briefly noted an exchange between Rove and a former Tom Feeney staffer. The eye-popping part was Rove’s admission that he has a file on Feeney’s perceived disloyalty to Bush.  But just as interesting was the staffer, Jason Roe’s reminder to Rove that Bush owed his presidency to Feeney, the speaker of the FL House of Representatives during the 2000 recount.

Roe walked over to the table, "I’m Jason Roe."

Rove: "Oh, the famous Jason Roe."

Roe: "I don’t know that I’m famous, but I’m Tom Feeney’s former chief of staff, and I’m offended by your comments on Fox about Tom. You guys wouldn’t be in the White House without Tom. And you made these really degrading comments about him that offended a lot of people."

(Sidenote: Tom Feeney was the speaker of the Florida House of Representatives during the whole Bush/Gore 2000 recount.)

Rove: "Well, I have a file on the things Tom Feeney said about George Bush."

Roe: "That says more about you than me that you kept a file on Tom Feeney. This guy was so restrained in his desire to criticize the president — even against this staff’s advice." 

Rove: "I have a file."

Along with a bunch of other people, I nagged Brad Friedman, who has covered allegations that Feeney contracted with asked a software company in 2004 to rig touchscreen voting machines, to comment on the Roe reference. Brad separated out Feeney’s known role in 2000…

But as to the "You guys wouldn’t be in the White House without Tom" line, we don’t have any hard evidence of anything newly nefarious in that, given what is already on the public record concerning Feeney’s helping hand to Bush during the FL 2000 democracy abortion.

Amidst the 36 day battle following Election Day 2000 in the Sunshine State, Feeney, who was then Speaker of the FL House and arguably the second most powerful politician in the state (after Dubya’s brother Jeb, who was Governor at the time), made it clear that he was prepared to pass legislation in the Republican Florida House to grant all of Florida’s electors to George W. Bush no matter what the U.S. Supreme Court ended up deciding. As the state’s Constitution grants the power to determine Presidential Electors to the legislature, and that power has been passed on by them to the voting electorate, Feeney was prepared to take that power back Read more

Steele and Boehner Go Gangsta

Well, you just knew that the GOP wouldn’t take the bonecrushing loss in last November’s elections to Rico Suave Obama and the too cool for school Dems lightly. They were, like an octogenarian on Viagra, going to get hip. Or a hip replacement. Whatever.

They started by electing the rootin tootin slick dick midnight mustache Michael Steele as RNC Chairman. When coupled with Boner John Boehner, their ultra- tanned sensitive Minority Leader, this is a clear cut recipe for the GOP surgarific return to power. Let’s check in on their street cred. From today’s CNN Political Ticker:

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele says his party is going to launch an "off the hook" public relations campaign that will update the GOP’s image by translating it to "urban-suburban hip-hop settings."

He added, jokingly, that “we need to uptick our image with everyone, including one-armed midgets.”

Steele described the new multi-platform PR offensive as “avant-garde, technically. It will come to [the] table with things that will surprise everyone — off the hook.” Asked whether that meant cutting-edge tactics, Steele demurred. “I don’t do ‘cutting-edge,’” he said. “That’s what Democrats are doing. We’re going beyond cutting-edge.”

Booyah. Get down James Brown and Fitty Cent take a backseat. Now let’s look in on the Steeley One’s partner in vice, Boner Boehner. Oooh, here he is jawing up the GOP stimulus position (yeah, okay, bad imagery) and his homeboy. What a twofer:

The stimulus has passed. In addition to voting against it, Republicans are all over the airwaves trashing it.

The leader of their pack is John Boehner, the man with a tan. According to him, the stimulus will not create jobs. According to Michael Steele, the new RNC Chair, if you work and earn money, you do not necessarily have a job. According to all Republicans who voted no, this bill, with terrible ideas such as helping states pay for Medicare, assisting our elders and our children, is a disaster for our country.

That’s right; the Tan With a Plan. Wow. What a dynamic duo. Crockett and Tubbs roll in DC. Oh yeah, and Sistah McKracka is going to take the toobz by storm. What could possibly go wrong?

Thank You Howard Dean, for Showing Us the Way!

ewpic2.JPGWhen I went to Cedar Rapids to work for Howard Dean in 2004 (when he was still leading in the polls), we moshed him outside of the Jeff-Jack Dinner. But I didn’t ask for a photo.

When I went to an ACLU fund-raiser with Dean later that year, I didn’t ask for a photo.

When I went to a another fund-raiser with him in MI, I didn’t ask for a photo.

When I saw him speak at YearlyKos, I didn’t ask for a photo.

Last night, I got my first photo with Dean (It’s a pity I look so crappy). 

It was at the Netroots Nation ball. I was coming out of the ladies room and someone ran up and said: Howard Dean is at the top of the steps!  Like he was a rock star … which, in this crowd, he is.

For some reason, I wanted a picture this time, with the man who got us to where we are today. I ran up the stairs (and promptly found my friend from MI, whom I met on the Dean campaign). We moved close to get a picture. But one after another person pulled him away to get a picture. A staffer of his started moving him towards the stage. Someone, I’m not sure who, was standing nearby with that staffer’s coat. "Give it to me," I said.

I went up, leaned over to the staffer, said, "I’ve got your coat. But I want to get a picture with Dean so I can put it on the front page of FDL." Dean started to turn around at that point–I don’t think Dean even heard the last bit … "so we can bitch about Rahm." 

In response to the first bit: "I want to get a picture so I can put it on the front page of FDL," Howard Dean said, "Oh, I’ve got time for that."

So, for FDL, this is my picture with the man who did so much to get us where we are today.

Thank you Howard Dean, for showing us the way forward!

McCain Was The Most Reprehensible Of The Keating Five And He Hasn’t Changed

McCain & Keating Bahama Buds

McCain & Keating Bahama Boondoggle

Teddy at the Campaign Silo pointed out yesterday, citing a damning new article in The New Republic, that John McCain was almost certainly the source for a set of illegal leaks during the Keating Five investigation — leaks that, if proven, would have been cause for his expulsion from the United States Senate for perjury, not to mention the underlying corruption and malfeasance from his relationship with Charlie Keating.

As The New Republic related:

One day in early March 1986, John McCain, an Arizona congressman, sat down to write a letter. McCain had heard that a long-time friend and donor, Charles Keating, was upset for being listed as a member of McCain’s campaign finance committee when a more prominent position would seem more appropriate. So McCain apologized. Needlessly it turned out, for "Charlie," as he signed his letter, would reply a few days later: "John, don’t be silly. You can call me anything…I’m yours until death do us part."

The entire article is a must read; it is a brutally clear exhibition of John McCain’s deeply ingrained, pathological, self serving dishonesty and soulless backstabbing lack of honor.

Now the thing that most, if not all, have overlooked here is the timing of Charlie Keating’s retort; it is not just that it was before McCain was sworn in as a United States Senator, it was right as Keating was pumping big money into McCain’s general election campaign for his first run at Barry Goldwater’s old Senate seat.

Charlie Keating wasn’t helping a friend, he was buying what he considered to be a future President. And they both knew it.

As Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Tom Fitzpatrick, who knew McCain intimately, both socially and professionally, presciently said back in 1989:

You’re John McCain, a fallen hero who wanted to become president so desperately that you sold yourself to Charlie Keating, the wealthy con man who bears such an incredible resemblance to The Joker. Obviously, Keating thought you could make it to the White House, too.

He poured $112,000 [amount later shown to be far greater] into your political campaigns. He became your friend. He threw fund raisers in your honor. He even made a sweet shopping-center investment deal for your wife, Cindy. Your father-in-law, Jim Hensley, was cut in on the deal, too.

Nothing was too good for you. Why not? Keating saw you as a prime investment that would pay off in the future.

So he flew you and your family around the country in Read more

John McCain Still Living The Keating Five Lush Highlife

John McCain was never the principled steadfast man his false front public image painted him to be; although it is true that he really has been in a downward spiral of dishonor and deception during this year’s campaign. Even many of his staunchest supporters in major media are starting to realize the brutal truth for what it is. Joe Klein, Andrea Mitchell, Chris Matthews, a host of journalists at ABC, Andrew Sullivan … each day brings a familiar voice admitting that they can no longer harmonize the McCain persona with the truth in front of them. Thank you to each and every one of them, and welcome to my world. As a native Arizonan I have been witnessing what you are now realizing since John McCain plopped his carpet bag down and set up shop here in our state.

John Sidney McCain III would have you believe his Charlie Keating Five Scandal days of corruption and influence peddling are all a thing of his distant past and that he is some sort of legendary reformer now. Nothing could be further from the truth, he is still hard deeply entrenched in the lavish, exotic trappings of swag and influence peddled by the modern day equivalents of Charlie Keating.

In fact, new reporting by Ari Berman and Mark Ames of The Nation, in their article The McCain-Follieri Love Boat, which just hit the presses at the end of last week details how McCain has spent yet another birthday, his 70th, vacationing with a criminal con artist, Hollywood celebrities and big money lobbyists on a yacht in Montenegro. It shows what Arizonans have known all along: McCain is still the same old glad handing, do anything to serve his own raw ambition, politician who celebrated his birthdays with Charlie Keating and other power brokers at Keating’s private Bahamas resort two decades ago.

Before we delve into the recent foray of John Sidney McCain III into political influence swag land, a refresher on McCain’s malfeasance in the Keating Five Savings & Loan Scandal is in order. From a Keating Five Scandal retrospective by The Arizona Republic:

McCain already knew Keating well. His ties to the home builder dated to 1981, when the two men met at a Navy League dinner where McCain spoke.

After the speech, Keating walked up to McCain and told him that he, too, was a Navy flier and that he greatly respected McCain’s war record. He met McCain’s wife and family. The two men became friends.

Charlie Keating always took care of his friends, especially those in politics. McCain was no exception.

In 1982, during McCain’s first run for the House, Keating held a fund-raiser for him, collecting more than $11,000 from 40 employees of American Continental Corp. McCain would spend more than $550,000 to win the primary and the general election.

In 1983, as McCain contemplated his House re-election, Keating hosted a $1,000-a-plate dinner for him, even though McCain had no serious competition. When McCain pushed for the Senate in 1986, Keating was there with more than $50,000.

By 1987, McCain had received about $112,000 in political contributions from Keating and his associates.

McCain also had carried a little water for Keating in Washington. While in the House, McCain, along with a majority of representatives, co-sponsored a resolution to delay new regulations designed to curb risky investments by thrifts such as Lincoln.

The first meeting, on April 2, 1987, in DeConcini’s office, included Ed Gray, chairman of the Federal Home Loan Bank Read more

Did Vicki Iseman “Steal Honor” in THREE Presidential Elections?

John McCain denies any honor was stolen–neither his nor Ms. Iseman’s. Or rather, he denies "the story," though it’s not clear whether he’s denying that his relationship with Iseman was inappropriate or that he did favors for her. So I guess I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether she stole McCain’s honor in both the 2000 and 2008 presidential elections.

For the moment, though, I’m more interested in the 2004 election–the one McCain didn’t run in. You see, I find it a mighty curious coincidence that two of the companies for which Iseman was lobbying John McCain in 1999 and 2000–the time of their potentially inappropriate relationship–also happen to be the two television companies that championed the Kerry smear, "Stolen Honor," in 2004.

Stolen Honor

Stolen Honor, you’ll recall, was a 45-long propaganda piece, repeating the allegations the Swift Boaters made against John Kerry. It came out in September 2004 (as Republicans have promised a smear against Hillary or Obama will come out at precisely the same time this cycle). Shortly thereafter, Sinclair Broadcasting ordered its stations to pre-empt normal broadcasting to play the "documentary." Sinclair also fired one employee who complained about the order.

After a blogswarm in response, Sinclair’s advertisers started pulling their advertising, which eventually led Sinclair to cut back its plans for the "documentary," showing clips of it as part of a program on Vietnam POWs on just 40 of its stations.

Friday night brings to a conclusion the fiercest media battle of the presidential campaign, when 40 of the Sinclair Broadcast Group’s 62 stations nationwide air a special program about the media and Vietnam War POWs. The show is likely to include generous portions of an anti-Kerry attack film, "Stolen Honor," that Sinclair executives had originally intended to air in its entirety just days before the election. In the face of lawsuits by stockholders, loss of advertising, questions about its abuse of the public airwaves and a falling stock price, however, Sinclair quickly cobbled together a revised program.

In the same time frame, Paxson Communications aired the entire "documentary" a number of times in the days leading up to the election, supported by NewsMax.

As FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein described, the two companies were two disturbing examples of politicized broadcast policies.

Read more

International Republican Institute Endorses Accuracy of Exit Polls

Congratulations Presidents Kerry and Gore, the State Department‘s-backed [see Redshift’s comment here; title changed accordingly] International Republican Institute has just belatedly declared you both President.

Or perhaps not. Perhaps the IRI has not released its exit poll from the Kenyan election precisely because doing so would suggest exit polls are an accurate measure of election fraud–and all that might imply for recent US electoral politics.

An exit poll carried out on behalf of a U.S. government-backed foundation indicated that Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki suffered a resounding defeat in last month’s disputed election, according to officials with knowledge of the document.

The poll by the Washington-based International Republican Institute — not yet publicly released — further undermines Kibaki’s claims of a narrow re-election victory. The outcome has sparked protests and ethnically driven clashes nationwide, killing hundreds.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga led Kibaki by roughly 8 percentage points in the poll, which surveyed voters as they left polling places during the election Dec. 27, according to one senior Western official who’s seen the data, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. That’s a sharp departure from the results that Kenyan election officials certified, which gave Kibaki a winning margin of 231,728 votes over Odinga, about 3 percentage points.

[snip]

It wasn’t clear why the International Republican Institute — which has conducted opinion polls and observed elections in Kenya since 1992 — isn’t releasing its data. A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Kenya confirmed that a poll was conducted but referred questions to the institute, where officials couldn’t be reached for comment.

[snip]

The senior Western official, who reviewed partial results of the poll, described them as credible. The survey included a sufficient sample of voters from around the country, and Odinga’s lead was comfortably outside the margin of error, the official said.

"What it tells me is there was an exit poll that had one candidate with a significant lead who, at the end of the day, was not declared the victor. That seems to me to be a little surprising," the official said.

It kind of makes you wonder how many more "credible" exit polls US government agencies are sitting on.

Why Rove Resigned? To Grant the Administration Immunity

There have been a flurry of stories depicting the degree to which the Bush Administration has politicized … everything. McClatchy described how Treasury and Commerce were making decisions based on the political value for the Republican party. And today, the WaPo describes how Interior and Labor were doing the same. And based on interviews and documents, the WaPo describes the whole process as more systematic than anything before.

But Rove, who announced last week that he is resigning from the WhiteHouse at the end of August, pursued the goal far more systematicallythan his predecessors, according to interviews and documents reviewedby The Washington Post,enlisting political appointees at every level of government in apermanent campaign that was an integral part of his strategy toestablish Republican electoral dominance.

[snip]

Investigators, however, said the scale of Rove’s effort is far broaderthan previously revealed; they say that Rove’s team gave more than 100such briefings during the seven years of the Bush administration. Thepolitical sessions touched nearly all of the Cabinet departments and ahandful of smaller agencies that often had major roles in providinggrants, such as the White House office of drug policy and the StateDepartment’s Agency for International Development.

Well, so what? What are you going to do about Read more

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