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.

=====================

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 April 28, 2015 07:33 GMT

ECONOMY-THE DAY AHEAD

WASHINGTON (AP) -- There are two major economic reports on today's schedule, as the Federal Reserve policymakers begin a two-day meeting to set interest rates.

The Conference Board releases the Consumer Confidence Index for April this morning. March saw a rebound in confidence thanks in large part to an improving job market.

Also this morning, Standard & Poor's releases its S&P/Case-Shiller index of home prices for February.

The Fed's latest policy meeting comes after a harsh winter slowed activity in a number of sectors and the rising value of the dollar curtailed exports. Most economists expect the subpar growth and low inflation will keep interest rates at record lows at least until September. But analysts caution against expecting any specific guidance on the Fed's timetable for a rate hike after it wraps up its meeting tomorrow. For 6 1/2 years, the Federal Reserve has held its key interest rate near zero.

On the earnings front, Aetna, Ford, Merck, Pfizer and UPS all report quarterly financial results before the market opens this morning. Twitter reports after the market closes.

ARCTIC OFFSHORE DRILLING-SEC CHALLENGE

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) -- An ocean advocacy group and a university law clinic are petitioning the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for an investigation of Royal Dutch Shell PLC and what the group calls misstatements in regulatory filings regarding Arctic offshore drilling.

The petition was filed Monday by Oceana and the Abrams Environmental Law Clinic at the University of Chicago Law School.

The petition says Shell has not adequately disclosed risks of a catastrophic oil spill.

The petition also says the company claims litigation by drilling opponents threatens its Arctic drilling prospects but that the threat has not been fully disclosed to investors.

Shell hopes to drill this summer in the Chukchi (chuk-CHEE') Sea off Alaska's northwest coast with two drilling units.

Conservation organizations say Shell can't drill safely in the harsh, remote Arctic.

GMO LABELING

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) -- A Vermont law that could make the state the first in the country to require labeling of genetically modified food has been allowed to stand for now despite opposition by food industry groups.

U.S. District Court Judge Christina Reiss in Burlington on Monday ruled against the Grocery Manufacturers' Association and other industry groups in their request for a preliminary order to block the law from going into effect as scheduled on July 1, 2016.

The ruling comes nearly a year after Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin signed the law, under which Vermont is expected to become the first state to require genetically modified organism, or GMO, food labeling. Connecticut and Maine passed laws earlier but required that neighboring states follow suit before they would take effect.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association was joined by the Snack Foods Association, the International Dairy Foods Association and the National Association of Manufacturers as plaintiffs in the lawsuit, seeking to have Vermont's law declared unconstitutional.

GREECE-BAILOUT

ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- Greece's prime minister is ruling out early elections if ongoing bailout talks with the country's international creditors fail.

In an interview with private Star TV, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said early Tuesday that he has no reason to hold a snap vote.

Tsipras was elected just three months ago on a pledge to alleviate economic suffering in the financially struggling country.

But Tsipras did not exclude seeking a referendum on the issue, adding that he is confident the marathon talks will result in an agreement.

CONGRESS-BUDGET

WASHINGTON (AP) -- House and Senate GOP negotiators are sealing agreement on a budget blueprint that would enable Republicans to more easily target the Affordable Care Act while delivering an almost $40 billion budget boost to the Pentagon.

The emerging plan drops a controversial House proposal to radically overhaul the Medicare program. And, it eliminates the option of using a fast-track budget bill to target food stamps and Pell Grants. But the plan relies on deep cuts to domestic agency budgets and safety net programs for the poor to promise a balanced budget by 2024.

The measure is not yet finalized, but congressional aides familiar with its outlines say it'll likely be made official Monday or Tuesday and be ratified by House and Senate votes this week. The aides spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the record while talks are ongoing.

APPLE'S ENGINE

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- The iPhone is still the engine behind Apple's phenomenal success, even as its new smartwatch has gotten much of the attention in recent weeks.

While skeptics question whether the company's future is tied too much to one product, the iPhone's popularity was the reason Apple turned in another blow-out financial report Monday. Apple sold more than 61 million iPhones in the quarter, accounting for more than two-thirds of its $58 billion in revenue for the three-month period and the lion's share of its $13.6 billion in profit.

As expected, the numbers were down from the previous quarter, when holiday shoppers snapped up a record 74 million of Apple's new iPhone 6, 6 Plus and older models. But it was a 40 percent increase over the number of iPhones sold in the first three months of 2014.

Since it began offering models with bigger screens last fall, Apple has vied with South Korea's Samsung for the No. 1 position in the global smartphone market. By some estimates, Apple outsold Samsung in the quarter that ended in December, and analysts will be watching closely when Samsung reports its latest results this week.

VERIZON-ESPN

NEW YORK (AP) -- ESPN is suing Verizon in an escalating clash over how the popular sports channel is being sold in a discounted pay-TV package.

The complaint filed Monday in New York's state Supreme Court alleges Verizon is breaching its contract with ESPN, owned by Walt Disney Co., by unbundling the sports channel from the main programming line-up of Verizon's FIOS TV.

Verizon is allowing customers to subscribe to a bare-bones package of 35 channels for $55 per month, with the option of adding other two other tiers of programming such as a sports package that includes ESPN.

ESPN argues that the pay-TV contracts require its channel to be included in the main programming packages sold by cable and satellite carriers.

Verizon says it is honoring its obligations while giving customers more choice.

advertisement
Washington Times
advertisement