Saturday, September 27, 2014

Goddard's plan of attack on Dark Money

Arizona Public Service-owned Republican candidate Doug Little, campaigning for a seat on the state utility regulating Corporation Commission spoke this week to a Payson area Tea Party group.

The good news is that the Payson Tea Party group -- unlike in Fountain Hills -- can at least vigorously challenge a Republican candidate on ties to those who pay their campaign expenses.
The issue of campaign “dark money” overshadowed Arizona Corporation Commission Doug Little’s appearance recently before the Payson Tea Party.
Conservative Republicans normally get a friendly reception at Tea Party meetings, but Little found himself fielding politely phrased, tough-minded questions on the millions of dollars spent on his behalf by independent groups, including several linked to Arizona Public Service.
“I heard that some of the candidates in the primary were subsidized finally by APS,” said one questioner. “Is that possible?”
“There was a lot of misinformation in the primary for one reason, to avoid having to address issues that are important to the commission,” said Little, who ran on a ticket with Tom Forese. Independent expenditure groups spent $2 million on their behalf, but the law doesn’t require the groups to disclose their donors. Forese is an educational software executive and state House representative who chairs the House Commerce Committee. Little is a retired software-industry executive and gun range owner.
“So we have a lot of independent expenditure committees and we have absolutely zero control over what they do,” said Little. “There’s never been any factual information that APS was the source of the money. We could talk about it until the cows come home.”
He later said that he had no idea where the money came from and made no attempt to find out. He said he could think of no particular reason that APS would get him elected to the commission that regulates its rates. 
Mr. Little responded just as evasively as Kavanagh did at last week's Tea Party forum. Why? Because they CAN. Because they get away with it. They get away with it because if someone dares to boldly challenge them in a forum, that person gets escorted out of the building.

And don't even get me started on the milquetoast manner of corporate media.

Well, actually, I should emphasize the point about corporate media. When candidates are evasive, corporate media ignores the infraction rather than reporting "the candidate gave only tangential answers." Or something like that.

On the other hand, when somebody makes a provocative statement, like Americans for Responsible Solutions did with Martha McSally a week or two ago, editorial writers at the Republic who don't have to sign their name to it are all over it.

Now Gabby Giffords (founder of ARS) is somehow playing dirty.
The ad is a nasty piece of work. Demagoguery in heart-rending tones.
Horse shit. The Republic goes on,
The ad is meant to help Democratic incumbent Ron Barber in his bid for re-election. It is emblematic of a wave of tough new advertising the gun-control lobby pushed out after the slaughter of children and teachers at Newtown, Conn. did not result in meaningful gun-control legislation.
The anti-McSally ad is more than hardball politics. It is base and vile. It exploits a family's tragedy to score cheap political points.
"Cheap political points," really? THAT sounds more like demagoguery to me. When someone lives after being shot "through and through" the head in an assassination attempt, that's a pretty stiff price to pay. Not at all cheap. The Republic's lazy and highly offensive editorial writer, Doug MacEachern, is the likely author of that cheap shot. Because he rarely makes rational, sound, valid or even compelling arguments with any substance, the Republic is cheap.

From the actual content of the ad, by the way, it was meant to confront Republican Martha McSally regarding her position on the gun-show loophole. And the ad got McSally's attention.
Known as the "gun show loophole," most states do not require background checks for firearms purchased at gun shows from private individuals -- federal law only requires licensed dealers to conduct checks.
Under the Gun Control Act of 1968, federal law clearly defined private sellers as anyone who sold no more than four firearms per year. But the 1986 Firearm Owners Protection Act lifted that restriction and loosely defined private sellers as people who do not rely on gun sales as the principal way of obtaining their livelihood. 
But Gabby is now vile and cheap because Doug MacEachern is offended that her non-profit organization challenged McSally on this narrow point.


Anyway, one of the most, if not THE most pressing public policy issue of 2014 is Dark Money. There are numerous public policies that require attention and updating. But because of Dark Money, the voice of the people in those matters is overwhelmed and drowned out.
In January 2010, at least 38 states and the federal government required disclosure for all or some independent expenditures or electioneering communications, for all sponsors.
Yet despite disclosure rules, it is possible to spend money without voters knowing the identities of donors before the election. In federal elections, for example, political action committees have the option to choose to file reports on a "monthly" or "quarterly" basis. This allows funds raised by PACs in the final days of the election to be spent and votes cast before the report is due.
Citizens United attacked limits on campaign contributions but did not validate Dark Money.
Undisclosed donations poured into electoral politics after the Supreme Court's 2010 decision in the Citizens United case, which allowed corporations and certain tax-exempt charities to spend unlimited amounts to influence outcomes. Proposals to require disclosure, much less turn off the spigot, have gone nowhere.
But according to a new analysis by New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio* that was provided to HuffPost, more than half the states already have it within their power to start compelling disclosure from groups like Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS, which spent more than $70 million during the 2012 elections.
In March this year, Morrison Institute for Public Policy senior research fellow David Berman, authored the 9-page report Dark Money in Arizona: The Right-to-Know, Free Speech and Playing Whack-a-Mole. Berman quotes Dark Money god, Sean Noble,
I firmly believe that anonymous political speech is not a danger to our nation – it has played an important role throughout our history. Anonymity in political speech protects the speaker from retribution, but it also serves a greater good: it allows the public to listen to ideas without any bias toward the messenger. (emphasis mine)
There you have the bottom line. Sean Noble, who launders gazillions of dollars of Kochtopus campaign cash, spells out the purpose as being to avoid accountability for what they say and do.

Berman also said, "Meanwhile, efforts to get a handle on it have been controversial and thus far unsuccessful.

On the issue of APS intervening in political arenas by way of dark money,
In 2013, Arizona Public Service Company admitted having given two nonprofits close to $4 million to run ads concerning net-energy metering -- an issue in dispute between APS and the solar power industry. The two nonprofits -- 60+ and Prosper -- were also associated with [Sean] Noble.
Then there's Michele Reagan, who said,
I think it’s really important that we allow our citizens and voters to see (who’s) paying for different campaigns. I have to, as a candidate, disclose who’s contributing to me. It seems like a no-brainer that if a group is spending money that the citizens have a right to be able to see where that money’s coming from ... 
The key word there may just be "no-brainer." Sure, the Republican candidate for Secretary of State, known throughout Arizona as one of the authors of the Voter Suppression Bill, agrees that Dark Money is a bad thing. But what could she possibly do about it? There's your For me to trust a Republican on the issue of Dark Money, she (Ms. Reagan) will have to start sounding a whole lot more like Teddy Roosevelt. From the 1906 State of the Union speech,
I again recommend a law prohibiting all corporations from contributing to the campaign expenses of any party. Such a bill has already past one House of Congress. Let individuals contribute as they desire; but let us prohibit in effective fashion all corporations from making contributions for any political purpose, directly or indirectly.       
Which brings me to this. Democratic Secretary of State candidate Terry Goddard announced and posted his plan to stem the tide of Dark Money in Arizona. As a two-term former Arizona Attorney General, Goddard went after and successfully tracked down Drug Cartel money. He has knowledge and experience on how to address the problem. He speaks with authority and passion on how to get it done.

Goddard's plan, spelled out in a 5-page document, begins
Our Democracy is under threat from anonymous corporate interests determined to hijack our elections. Transparency is, of course, our best tool in fighting these shadowy organizations. But providing that transparency will require a hard-nosed commitment and a careful plan of attack – I have that commitment to provide transparency for all political contributions and in this memo, I give the outline of my plan. The outline is pretty complicated, but closing the enormous loopholes that allow Dark Money groups to operate so freely in our state will take multiple different actions. Arizona must enact a multi-pronged effort to require disclosure which has state and federal law components.
An effective strategy will include:
• Additional, beefed up disclaimers on all political communications
• A bright line distinction applying disclosure requirements to all political    communications 60 days before an election
• An expanded definition of doing business in Arizona
• An audit capacity to verify organizational filings
• A way to ‘peel the onion’ to determine the identity of the original source of all political contributions and expenditures
• Reenactment of charitable registration requirements
• A commitment to real-time disclosure of all political contributions and expenditures
• Presumptions to avoid uncertainty as to which contributors have to disclose.
Perhaps most importantly, Goddard is postured and prepared to leverage the legislature with his commitment to advancing a citizen initiative to implement these steps -- if (when?) the legislature balks at the plan.

Consider this tidbit of wisdom from the first President Roosevelt.
No people is wholly civilized where a distinction is drawn between stealing an office and stealing a purse.

* NOTE: Bill de Blasio, after the linked story was published, was elected Mayor of New York City.

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