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 March 06, 2015 08:26 GMT

ECONOMY

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A survey of economists ahead of the official Labor Department employment report due out today is predicting another good month, following the best three-month burst of hiring in 17 years.

Economists in the FactSet survey have forecast a job gain of 240,000 and a drop in unemployment to a near-normal 5.6 percent from 5.7 percent. That would be evidence of a job market that continues to outshine others around the world.

A bright outlook among employers has translated into a robust average of 267,000 jobs added monthly over the past 12 months. That means there are 3.2 million more Americans earning paychecks now than at the start of 2014. That additional income, along with sharply lower gas prices, has left more Americans able to spend.

The steady hiring may also finally be forcing wages up.

ECONOMY-DAY AHEAD

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Labor Department releases its February jobs report today.

Even though harsh winter weather may have discouraged some hiring, economists foresee a solid job gain of 240,000 and a drop in unemployment to a near-normal 5.6 percent.

Also this morning, the Commerce Department releases international trade data for January. And this afternoon the Federal Reserve will have January consumer credit data.

FED-BANK STRESS TESTS

WASHINGTON (AP) -- All of the nation's 31 largest banks are adequately fortified to withstand a severe U.S. and global recession and keep lending, the Federal Reserve says.

Results of the Fed's annual "stress tests" show that as a group, the 31 banks are stronger than they have been at any time since the 2008 financial crisis struck, thanks to a steadily recovering economy. The results build on positive outcomes from last year's tests.

The Fed will announce next week whether it will approve the banks' plans to issue dividends or repurchase shares.

The banks tested included JPMorgan Chase & Co., Bank of America Corp., Citigroup Inc. and Wells Fargo and Co. -- the four biggest U.S. banks by assets.

The Fed has conducted stress tests of the largest U.S. banks since 2009.

GOOGLE-AUTO INSURANCE

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Google is helping California drivers shop for car insurance as part of a new service that could foreshadow the Internet company's latest attempt to shake up a long-established industry.

The feature unveiled Thursday compares auto insurance quotes from up to 14 carriers that are participating in the comparisons. The policies can then be bought online or through an agent. Google will receive a cut from the insurance sales. The Mountain View, California, company says the size of the commissions won't influence how it ranks the price quotes.

Google Inc. plans to provide car insurance quotes in other states, too.

A Forrester Research analyst suspects Google is trying to learn more about the auto insurance industry so it can possibly begin underwriting and selling policies on its own.

FDA-ANTIBIOTICS IN MILK

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A new Food and Drug Administration study shows little evidence of antibiotic contamination in milk after surveying almost 2,000 dairy farms.

The agency in 2012 took samples of raw milk on the farms and tested them for 31 drugs, almost all of them antibiotics. Results released by the agency Thursday show that less than 1 percent of the total samples evidenced illegal drug residue.

Antibiotics and other drugs can end up in milk when they are used on dairy cows to keep them healthy. Small levels of drugs are allowed in milk, but residues that go beyond certain thresholds are illegal.

The FDA said the agency will use the findings to try and reduce the drug contamination even more.

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