Transparency in campaign donations

Updated: Friday, November 22, 2013
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KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - One week ago today, the Michigan Senate passed a bill that protects the identities of those people who contribute large sums of money to fund those so-called 'issue ads' that flood the airwaves leading up to elections.

Tonight, in Tom's Corner, Tom Van Howe says it's another effort to let the wealthy and special interests funnel money secretly into the campaigns of the candidates of their choice.

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To put a slightly harder edge on it, it's a bill that allows the wealthy and special interests to buy elections without having to reveal who they are.

We know that it's largely true that whoever spends the most money on a campaign will win it.

Not always—there are exceptions. But almost always.

If this bill, Senate 661, manages to slide through the house, it'll be the crowning glory for the forces of darkness.

After years of courtroom maneuvering, Republicans four years ago convinced the Supreme Court of the United States, in a decision cynically called Citizens United, to allow corporations and special interest organizations with lots of money to give as much of it as they want to political campaigns.

No limits.

That was under the guise that corporations are people, too, and that spending big money on politics is an exercise in free speech.

And now the Michigan State Senate says money as free speech ought to be reduced to backroom whispers; that donors don't have to reveal to you, to me, or to anybody, who they are or how much they give.

There's a term for it—dark money. Are they embarrassed? Are they fearful that it might become apparent that some politicians  might get caught giving undue attention to one of those big donors?

I mean, who's going to get a political ear? Those of us who might throw a couple of hundred bucks to a candidate? Or those who toss in thousands, if not millions?

Who gets the attention?

We're not talking about the limited amount of money we give directly to a candidate.

That has to be limited and accounted for.

We're talking about money that goes to issue ads. Money spent on behalf of a candidate.

We're talking about money that is spent on ads that are inflammatory, smearing, misleading, and often inaccurate.

Ads that actually become central, if not dominant, in most campaigns. Ads over which the candidate shrugs and says he has no control.

At a time when we hear so much about the desire and need for more transparency, we instead get darkness and secrecy.

For the record, this new law was introduced in the Senate by the Majority Floor Leader, Arlan Meekhof of West Olive, just hours after Secretary of State Ruth Johnson announced that she intended to do the right thing—to require groups funding these "issue" ads to reveal who gave them the money.

He couldn't have that.

Right now, the bill is in a House committee where it will soon come up for a vote.

If it passes there we will have given up any hope for more transparency; for more accountability.

Only public pressure from those of us who don't want to turn things over to those who like to buy things will keep it from happening.

In this corner...I'm Tom Van Howe.

Business News

Last Update on July 06, 2015 17:13 GMT

GREECE-BAILOUT

ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- A top Greek official says the government is "moving immediately"" to reach a deal with its creditors "as soon as possible" in order to stave off economic collapse.

Government spokesman Gabriel Sakellaridis said Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has sought support from all political party leaders and that the government is "fully aware of how crucial the situation is."

Tsipras met with rival party leaders a day after Greeks soundly rejected a proposal by creditors for more austerity measures in exchange for rescue money.

Sakellaridis said the leaders couldn't ignore the people's message for a viable deal that would be fair to the poor, deal with Greece's massive debt and restore liquidity to the hobbled banking system.

GREECE-BAILOUT: IMF

ATHENS-Greece (AP) -- International Monetary Fund head Christine Lagarde says the fund stands "ready to assist Greece if requested to do so."

Her statement is the IMF's first reaction to Sunday's decision by Greek voters to reject further austerity measures in return for bailout loans.

Greece is in arrears to the IMF, having failed to pay a 1.5 billion-euro ($1.7 billion) loan due last Tuesday. The IMF said it couldn't get involved in a further bailout of Greece if the country remained in arrears.

The IMF last week also said that Greece would need debt relief as well as new financing worth more than 60 billion euros through 2018 to avoid financial collapse.

Greece is expected to meet with its creditors tomorrow.

GREECE-BAILOUT-REACTION

ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- On the streets of Athens, Greeks are proud of their toughness and defiance after Sunday's landslide "no" vote against creditors' demands -- but they acknowledge there's still plenty to worry about.

George Papadokostakis, a 34-year-old coffee shop owner, says he's very happy with the referendum result. He says "something happened last night with the Greek people. ... we were in a dead-end situation (but) with the `no' vote we believe there may be something better."

Shoe store worker Nicky Zachary thinks Greeks are tough and united in rejecting austerity. She says "we can live with very little and we can live through difficult situations. And I think after the referendum, the Greek people are united."

GREECE-BAILOUT-TSIPRAS

ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- Greece's defense minister says three opposition parties have signed a declaration backing Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (TSEE'-prahs) in bailout negotiations with creditors.

That makes a total of five parties behind the prime minister, who already had the support of his own Syriza (SEER'-ih-zah) party and the junior party in the governing coalition, the Independent Greeks.

Defense Minister Panos Kammenos says the support heralds a "new era" in Greek politics and would boost Athens' chances of reaching a deal with European and international creditors.

Tsipras convened a meeting of party leaders today, a day after winning a bailout referendum that rejected creditors' previous demands. Following the vote, Greece's finance minister resigned, and he's already been replaced.

GREECE-BAILOUT: FINANCE MINISTER

ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- The Greek government has named Euclid Tsakalotos as the country's new finance minister, a day ahead of an emergency meeting with creditors in Brussels.

The 55-year-old economist was Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' lead bailout negotiator in talks that halted last month before Tsipras called a bailout referendum. In that referendum, Greeks overwhelmingly voted against recent creditor proposals required for bailout cash.

Tsakalotos replaces fellow-economist Yanis Varoufakis who quit earlier Monday, saying his departure would help bailout negotiations reach an agreement.

GREECE-BAILOUT: FITCH

UNDATED (AP) -- Credit ratings agency Fitch says Greece's `no' vote in Sunday's austerity referendum "dramatically increases" the risk of the country leaving the eurozone.

Fitch said a deal between Greece and its creditors remains possible but that there's little time. The agency said the resignation of Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis signals the Greek government's desire to again start talking with its creditors.

It said creditors could make stronger commitments on easing Greece's huge debt but were unlikely to make big concessions on austerity measures. In addition, Fitch said the European Central Bank may find a way to provide hobbled Greek banks with additional liquidity while negotiations continued.

Markets steadied on the news of Varoufakis' resignation to not register further falls. Germany's DAX ended 1.5 percent lower, while the euro was up 0.8 percent on the day just below $1.11.

ECONOMY-SERVICES

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. service firms grew at a slightly faster pace in June, as business activity and new orders increased.

The Institute for Supply Management says its services index edged up to 56 in June from 55.7 in May. Any reading over 50 indicates that services firms are expanding.

Steady hiring over the past year has fueled a consumer spending rebound from a winter slump. Many economists say the economy will expand at an annual rate of 2.5 per cent in the second quarter, after shrinking during the first three months of 2015.

Still, the index's hiring component slipped in June to 52.7 from 55.3 in May, which indicates that the rate of job growth might slow.

JAPAN-HONDA

TOKYO (AP) -- Honda's new CEO is promising to take more time in product development, and to bring his company together as a team to avoid the quality lapses that have led to shrinking profits at the Japanese automaker.

Takahiro Hachigo, an engineer who has worked in the U.S. as well as China, talked to reporters today after his appointment was approved by shareholders and the company board.

Honda's brand image has suffered after a series of massive recalls for popular vehicles in Japan, as well as for defective Takata air bags in global markets.

Hachigo's promise to turn the company around centers on raising the efficiency of global manufacturing and delivering on what he calls Honda-like products. But he's been a little short on specifics.

SKINNY OREOS

NEW YORK (AP) -- These Oreos are for adults. That's what the parent company of the Nabisco treat is saying about the new "Oreo Thins."

Mondelez International says Oreo Thins still have the same cookie to cream ratio, but they're thinner. And each cookie is 140 calories as opposed to the 160-calorie regular Oreo cookie.

Mondelez calls Oreo Thins a "sophisticated" snack for grown-ups that isn't meant to be twisted or dunked.

The thinner cookie joins the permanent lineup of Oreo cookies starting next week in the U.S.

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