Campaign finance

Updated: Friday, April 4, 2014
Campaign finance  story image
KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) – On Thursday the Supreme Court, in a five to four decision, opened the door to nearly unlimited political campaign contributions.

The old federal law limited a single donor to $123,000 in any given two-year election cycle. Now the high court has ruled that those same donors, in the name of free speech, can pump in as much as $3.5 million.

It’s a case called McCutchen vs the Federal Election Commission.

In this installment of Tom’s Corner, Tom Van Howe says you can score another one for the rich guys.

- - -

This is a frightening turn of event.  What the court basically said yesterday, in furthering its notion that money and free speech go hand in hand, is that if you are very, very rich, you have the right not only to spend, but to be heard.

And if you are not rich, you also have the right to spend, but ought to know from the get go that you will very likely not be heard, that it will be highly unlikely that you’ll have the ear of the voters.

You can yell as loud as you want, but whatever you say will be drowned out by the thunderous avalanche of big money.

By virtually doing away with what remained of our election finance laws, the court has simply tipped the scales in favor of the rich, and without any balance left, any sense of civic equality is gone.

Our democratic legitimacy is in danger.

I don’t know what air the five justices breathe in their high court of chancery, but it’s different stuff than what you and I are accustomed to.

In writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts said he understands that politicians who are blessed with these newfound millions will be grateful to the donors and might be compelled to please them.

But that’s okay he said, that’s not corrosive, that’s not corruption, that’s our system proudly at work.

These rich people, Roberts said “supports candidates who share their beliefs and interests, and candidates who get elected can be expected to be responsive to those concerns.”

Really? A narrow, almost Boy Scoutish, ‘Mr. Smith Goes to Washington’ stamp of approval on what most of the rest of us think is all wrong about what goes on in Washington.

In other words, on the ground level, if you or I write or call a legislator with a suggestion or a complaint, we’re apt to get a form letter in response, but if one of the exalted ones makes that same phone call it’s perfectly acceptable if the legislator responds by chartering a jet to make things right.

This isn’t about free speech, it’s about who comes up with the biggest wad of cash.

Upon hearing what the court did yesterday, Senator John McCain expressed his disappointment.

“I predict again,” McCain said, “there will be major scandals. There’s too much money washing around.”

Justice Stephen Breyer, dissenting from the bench, said the ruling “eviscerates our nation’s campaign finance laws,” and “fails to recognize the difference between influence resting upon public opinion and influence bought by money alone.”

“Where money calls the tune,” Breyer said, “those ideas, representing the voices of the people will not be heard.”

In the weeks, months and years ahead, we’ll be hearing a lot of music that we’ll find disparagingly familiar, unpleasant music made perfectly acceptable by five members of the United States Supreme Court.

The rich guys have won another one. Can anyone say ‘plutocracy?’

In this corner, I’m Tom Van Howe.

Business News

Last Update on August 03, 2015 17:19 GMT

CONSUMER SPENDING

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Consumer spending in June rose by the smallest amount in four months as shoppers cut back on purchases of cars and other big-ticket items.

The Commerce Department says consumer spending edged up 0.2 percent in June, the poorest showing since a similar increase in February.

The modest advance followed a sharp 0.7 percent rise in spending in May. The increase had been driven by heavy spending on autos. But in June, auto sales slowed.

Overall purchases of durable goods, the category that covers autos, fell 1.3 percent in June.

Personal income rose 0.4 percent for a third straight month, reflecting strong employment gains.

Economists believe steady employment gains will boost consumer spending and drive faster economic growth in the second half of this year.

AUTO SALES

DETROIT (AP) -- Summer deals and big demand for SUVs and luxury vehicles kept U.S. auto sales strong in July.

Sales of new cars and trucks were expected to rise 3 percent to nearly 1.5 million, according to car shopping site TrueCar.com.

Fiat Chrysler's U.S. sales rose 6 percent over last July, while Nissan's U.S. sales were up 8 percent. Both companies benefited from surging sales of small SUVs. Sales of Nissan's new Rogue jumped 51 percent, and Nissan says sales of its trucks and SUVs set a July record.

Other automakers will report July sales later today.

CONSTRUCTION SPENDING

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. construction spending increased in June by the smallest amount in five months as a big drop in nonresidential building activity offset a third straight increase in home building.

The Commerce Department says construction spending edged up a slight 0.1 percent in June following a 1.8 percent increase in May and a 3.8 percent rise in April. Even with the June slowdown, construction spending advanced to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1.06 trillion, the best pace in seven years.

Residential construction was up 0.4 percent. But nonresidential building slipped 1.3 percent in June, with the category that covers shopping centers falling 4.4 percent. Spending on government building projects was up 1.6 percent as a solid increase at the state and local levels offset a drop in federal projects.

ECONOMY-MANUFACTURING

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. factories were a little less busy last month.

The Institute of Purchasing Managers' manufacturing index slipped to 52.7 last month from 53.5 in June. Economists had expected the index to remain unchanged. Any reading above 50 indicates growth.

Exports are contracting, partly because a strong dollar makes U.S. goods more expensive. Hiring slowed at U.S. factories last month, but production and new orders rose.

The Commerce Department reported last Monday that orders to U.S. factories for big-ticket goods rose sharply in June, though the gain was driven by a surge in demand for commercial aircraft -- a volatile category.

The U.S. economy is plugging along. It grew at a 2.3 percent annual pace from April through June, rebounding from a bitter winter. Unemployment fell in June to 5.3 percent, lowest in seven years.'

GREECE-BAILOUT

ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- Greece's top companies lost billions in market value in a matter of minutes today, when the stock exchange plunged upon reopening after a five-week closure and investors worried over a dramatic new drop in the economy.

The main stock index shed more than 22 percent soon after the open, as traders got their first opportunity since late June to react to the latest twists in the country's economic drama.

The index closed 16.2 percent lower, with bank shares hitting or nearing the daily trading limit of a 30 percent loss.

Evangelos Sioutis, financial analyst and head of equities at Guardian Trust says, "There's a sense of panic." He says some traders are selling stock merely to raise cash because there is so little liquidity in the Greek economy.

Markets in the rest of the world, however, were largely unaffected, a sign that investors outside Greece have now largely cut off ties with the country after years of crisis there. European shares closed higher.

PUERTO RICO

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) -- Puerto Rico's government is at risk of defaulting on at least part of its $72 billion in public debt.

Nearly 10 years into a deep economic slump, Puerto Rico is no closer to pulling out, and, in fact, is poised to plummet further. The unemployment rate is above 12 percent. Some 144,000 people left the U.S. territory between 2010 and 2013, and about a third of all people born in Puerto Rico now live in the U.S. mainland. Schools and businesses have closed amid the exodus. The population of 3.5 million is expected to drop to 3 million by 2050.

The government has tried to boost revenue by hiking the sales tax to 11.5 percent, higher than any U.S. state, and closing government offices. Its debt-burdened power utility already charges rates that on average are twice those of the mainland, and is under pressure from bondholders to raise them higher.

A $58 million bond payment due Saturday went unpaid. If defaults continue, analysts say Puerto Rico will face numerous lawsuits and increasingly limited access to markets, putting a recovery even more out of reach.

TOY GUNS-SETTLEMENT

NEW YORK (AP) -- Retailers including Walmart, Sears and Amazon have agreed to keep realistic toy guns off their shelves in New York as part of a settlement with the state.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman tells The New York Times that the retailers also have agreed to pay more than $300,000 in penalties.

Schneiderman's office found that more than 6,400 toy guns sold from 2012 to 2014 violated New York laws. New York is among a handful of states that introduced legislation in 2015 to create or amend toy gun laws.

The push to regulate toy guns has increased since a Cleveland police officer fatally shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice in November as the boy was holding a realistic airsoft gun.

New York state law prohibits the sale of black, blue, silver or aluminum toy guns. New York City requires that imitation guns be brightly colored or translucent.

NOKIA-AUTOMARKERS-MAP UNIT SALE

BERLIN (AP) -- A consortium of German automakers says it's buying Nokia Corp.'s HERE map business in a deal that values the unit at 2.8 billion euros ($3.1 billion). The deal involving Audi, BMW and Daimler secures their access to technology that could eventually be used for driverless cars.

Nokia, based in Finland, has refocused its business on producing equipment for wireless networks after selling its mobile phone handset operation to Microsoft Corp. The company says it expects to receive a little more than 2.5 billion euros from the sale, with the purchasers being compensated for HERE liabilities totaling nearly 300 million euros.

The deal is expected to close in next year's first quarter.

DISHWASHER EXPANSION DEAL

FITCHBURG, Wis. (AP) -- The kitchen appliance manufacturer Sub-Zero Group is planning a $62 million expansion south of Madison, Wisconsin.

The Wisconsin State Journal reports that the maker of Sub-Zero and Wolf appliances chose last month to expand its Fitchburg facility over a planned site in Kentucky.

The 400,000-square-foot expansion will more than double its current footprint in Fitchburg and churn out upscale dishwashers and ranges.

The new facility is slated to open in fall 2016.

At least $5 million in state and local incentives are part of the deal, including state tax credits for creating an estimated 300 new jobs and meeting wage requirements.

SEARS-SALES

HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. (AP) -- Sears Holdings Corp. says a key sales figure fell sharply in the second quarter, dragged down especially by weakness at its namesake stores. It's at least the 10th straight quarter that the metric has declined.

The company says that sales at stores open at least a year dropped 10.6 percent for the quarter to date.

This figure is considered an important measurement of a retailer's operating performance because it excludes results from stores recently opened or closed.

At Sears stores, the metric declined 13.9 percent. It fell 6.9 percent for Kmart locations.

Sears says that soft consumer electronics sales hindered its performance. Excluding that business, sales at stores open at least a year fell 9.1 percent, with a 5.4 percent decline at Kmart stores and a 12.5 percent drop at Sears locations.

EARNS-TYSON FOODS

SPRINGDALE, Ark. (AP) -- Tyson Foods Inc. is reporting a fiscal third-quarter profit of 32 percent, but it's still short of expectations.

Net income for the quarter reached $343 million, or 83 cents per share. Earnings, adjusted for non-recurring gains, came to 80 cents per share.

Tyson CEO Donnie Smith says beef "under-delivered our expectations by $84 million." He says there was also an excess of beef on the market, forcing sales at lower prices, and a labor dispute at West Coast ports also disrupted business.

Tyson is also being hammered on exports with bans in some countries following a U.S. outbreak avian influenza, as well as a strong dollar.

advertisement
Washington Times
advertisement