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Sunday, November 3, 2013

We're beginning to win some small battles


Yes, we "Populists" and "Progressives" and just the middle and lower classes seem to be beginning to win some battles.  Documented here, today in The New York Times:


TORONTO — HERE’S the puzzle of America today: the plutocrats have never been richer, and their economic power continues to grow, but the populists, the wilder the better, are taking over. The rise of the political extremes is most evident, of course, in the domination of the Republican Party by the Tea Party and in the astonishing ability of this small group to shut down the American government. But the centrists are losing out in more genteel political battles on the left, too — that is the story of Bill de Blasio’s dark-horse surge to the mayoralty in New York, and of the Democratic president’s inability to push through his choice to run the Federal Reserve, Lawrence H. Summers. 
      
All of these are triumphs of populists over plutocrats: Mr. de Blasio is winning because he is offering New Yorkers a chance to reject the plutocratic politics of Michael R. Bloomberg. The left wing of the Democratic Party opposed the appointment of Mr. Summers as part of a wider backlash against the so-called Rubin Democrats (as in Robert E. Rubin, who preceded Mr. Summers as Treasury secretary during the Clinton administration) and their sympathy for Wall Street. Even the Tea Party, which in its initial phase was to some extent the creation of plutocrats like Charles and David Koch, has slipped the leash of its very conservative backers and alienated more centrist corporate bosses and organizations.
 
As proof, here is but one additional example of how we've won lately:
 
 
A group of wealthy donors wanted to give millions to two right-wing California political campaigns last year, but didn’t want anyone to know their identities. They came up with a scheme that any money-launderer would be proud of, funneling the cash through a convoluted series of independent spending groups that were allowed to collect unlimited dollars. By the time the donations had been used to buy advertising, the original money trail had been erased. 
      
Or so they thought. California has one of the best laws in the country requiring disclosure of political donations, and officials at the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission suspected that the bulk contributions were obscuring the true donor groups. A yearlong investigation revealed the nature of the scheme, and the groups were accused of violating state law.
      
A few days ago, as part of a civil settlement, the state imposed $16 million in penalties and fines on the groups, a record in a campaign finance case. Though it’s not clear how much of those penalties will ever be collected, or even who many of the original donors were, the effort demonstrates the importance of state disclosure laws and aggressive enforcement, particularly since Congress has refused to pay attention to abuses on a national level.
      
The California commission, in fact, has done the political world a favor by exposing the secretive network of conservative groups that have aggressively taken advantage of the unlimited donations allowed by the Supreme Court, as well as the ability to hide donors that is permitted by the Federal Election Commission and lower courts. The network centers on groups with close ties to the Koch brothers, whose huge donations have played such a large role in electing Tea Party candidates around the country.
 
The commission suspected something fishy was going on when an Arizona group called Americans for Responsible Leadership donated $11 million to a California effort to pass a ballot measure limiting the political power of unions. Some of the money was also spent in opposition to another measure to raise state taxes. The group had no history of political activity in California, and the commission sued last October to find the hidden money source. Just before the November election, the group announced that it had received the money from the Center to Protect Patient Rights, which in turn had gotten it from Americans for Job Security.
      
The “patient rights” group actually has nothing to do with patient rights, and was described by the commission as “the key nonprofit in the Koch Brothers’ dark money network.” The job security group spent more than $15 million attempting to defeat President Obama last year, much of which came from the patient rights group. The patient rights group itself made a $4 million contribution to the California campaign, funneled through another intermediary. The Koch brothers deny contributing to the effort, and the full list of donors to the groups has not been made public, largely because Congressional Republicans have refused to pass the Disclose Act, which would require disclosure of the names of all donors giving more than $10,000 to independent groups. That makes state enforcement all the more important. Currently only 13 states have laws as strong as California’s; the success of this investigation should encourage others to take a stronger stance against secret money.

Finally, there's this:


The overall amount spent by various interests on federal lobbying declined yet again in the third quarter of the year, a new analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics shows -- a continuation of the trend that's been going on for several years.

Organizations filing federal lobbying disclosure forms reported spending $760.3 million between July 1 and Sept. 30, the lowest amount in a single quarter going back to at least 2010. Additionally, the reports listed 10,048 active registered lobbyists, the lowest number in at least as long, and far below the 10,878 active registered lobbyists in the third quarter of 2012.

(Pharmaceutical companies, in this report, still gave an increase in lobbying payouts, not surprising, given our current controversey with "Obamacare.")
 
So there are successes for us out there, for "we the people", for the working man and woman of America, thank goodness.
 
But the fact is, the facts are, we haven't "won" nearly enough, first, and second, we aren't winning quickly enough. As we know, the wealthy and corporations keep piling on more and more wealth while the rest of America, that same middle- and lower-class---most of us, most of America---are losing.
 
So once again, I go back to the other fact that we need to fight to end campaign contributions so we can take back America, so we can get back our representatives and government for the people.
 
Do what you can to help the fight. Write your State and Federal representatives in both the respective Houses of Representatives and Senates and tell them to support the elimination of campaign contributions.
 
As I keep saying, we need to get the big, ugly, corrupting influence of the money from the wealthy and corporations out of our government, once and for all.
 
And the sooner the better.


 

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