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Transparency in campaign donations

Updated: Friday, November 22, 2013
Transparency in campaign donations story image
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 October 23, 2014 07:29 GMT

ECONOMY-THE DAY AHEAD

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Labor Department will report today on the number of people who applied for unemployment benefits last week. Economists forecast that weekly applications increased 16,000 to a seasonally adjusted 280,000.

Also today, Freddie Mac will report on average mortgage rates for this week. Last week, the average for the 30-year loan slid to 3.97 percent.

The Conference Board will release its index of leading indicators for September as well. In August, the index - a gauge designed to predict the economy's future health - rose but at a much slower pace than the previous month

On the business side: Southwest Airlines, United Continental, American Airlines, Union Pacific, 3M, Comcast, General Motors and Caterpillar will report quarterly financial results before the market opens.

Amazon and Microsoft will report earnings after the market closes.

APPLE PAY GLITCH

SAN JOSE, CALIF. (AP) -- Bank of America is apologizing for double-billing customers who made purchases using Apple's new mobile payments service.

A bank spokeswoman said Wednesday that the glitch involved about 1,000 transactions and that all duplicate charges will be refunded.

Some customers who used Apple Pay with debit cards issued by Bank of America have complained they were charged twice for a single transaction.

Apple says it was aware of the glitch, which it said affected "a very small number of Apple Pay users." The Cupertino, California-based company has not disclosed how many customers have used Apple Pay since it became available Monday.

HARVARD-STAPLES-POSTAL WORKERS

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) -- The American Postal Workers Union called upon Harvard University's president to oppose a deal between Staples Inc. and the U.S. Postal Service, or resign her seat on the office supply company's board.

Staples, based in Framingham, Massachusetts, began providing postal services at some of its stores last year, under a partnership with the financially-struggling Postal Service.

The union, which represents some 200,000 workers, took out a full-page ad Wednesday in the Harvard Crimson, the Ivy League school's student newspaper, saying President Drew Gilpin Faust should use her position on the board to push for an end to the deal or resign from the company board. The union says Staples is using poorly-trained workers to handle mail in a low-security environment.

Neither Faust nor Staples responded to requests for comments.

YAHOO-CEO AT CROSSROADS

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Signaling her reign has reached a pivotal juncture, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer is trying to convince restless shareholders that the long-struggling Internet company is heading in the right direction.

Mayer staunchly defended her strategy during a Tuesday presentation that addressed recent criticism leveled by activist investor Starboard Value LP, a New York hedge fund with a history of leading shareholder mutinies.

Starboard contends that since Mayer became CEO in July 2012, Yahoo has been wasting money on ill-advised acquisitions and a bloated payroll while mismanaging its lucrative stake in Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba Group.

In her rebuttal, Mayer described the $1.6 billion spent her more than 30 acquisitions as smart investments that have made Yahoo more competitive in the increasingly important mobile-device market. She also highlighted cost-cutting measures.

And she insisted that Yahoo wouldn't have been in a position to make as much money as it has on its Alibaba holdings if she hadn't taken steps to ease "years of tension and hard feelings.

CHINA-ZUCKERBERG

Zuckerberg speaks Chinese; Beijing students cheer

BEIJING (AP) -- China may ban Facebook, but not its co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, and he entertained an audience of students with a 30-minute chat in his recently learned Mandarin Chinese at a prestigious Beijing university.

There was no explicit discussion of the ban or any Facebook effort to enter the China market during Wednesday's question-and-answer session at Tsinghua University.

But Facebook CEO Zuckerberg noted during his talk that the social media giant already helps some Chinese companies gain customers abroad. He cited computer maker Lenovo's ads on Facebook in India.

Zuckerberg married Chinese-American Priscilla Chan in 2012 and said he was learning Chinese.

His pronunciation was far from fluent, but he maintained the conversation for a half hour and the students responded with warm cheers for his effort and laughter at his humor.

CHINA-MANUFACTURING

BEIJING (AP) -- A gauge of the health of China's manufacturing industry inched higher in October but factory output was at a five-month low in a sign of slowing domestic and foreign demand.

HSBC said Thursday the preliminary version of an index based on a survey of factory purchasing managers rose to 50.4 from 50.2 in September. Figures above 50 on the 100-point scale indicate expansion.

HSBC's chief China economist says manufacturing likely stabilized in October but the "economy continues to show signs of insufficient effective demand."

Earlier this week, China reported economic growth in the third as growth based on trade and industrial investment runs out of steam.

WORLD SERIES-RATINGS

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- A World Series opener involving the San Francisco Giants set a record low TV rating for the second time in three seasons.

San Francisco's 7-1 win over Kansas City drew a 7.3 rating and 12.2 million viewers Tuesday night on Fox, according to fast national ratings by Nielsen Media Research.

That broke the previous low of a 7.6 rating and 12.2 million for the Giants' 8-3 victory over Detroit in 2012. San Francisco's 11.7 win over Texas in the 2010 opener got an 8.9 rating.

The rating for this year's opener began with a 6.9 from 8:05-8:30 p.m. EDT and peaked at 8.5 in the half hour starting at 9 p.m. With the Giants scoring three runs in the first inning and leading 5-0 by the fourth, the rating ended at 5.7 from 11:30-11:41 p.m.

Still, Fox said Wednesday it expects to win the prime-time night and have its best Tuesday night since February 2012.

Fox Deportes averaged 273,000 viewers, a record for Spanish-language World Series coverage.

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