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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 September 19, 2014 17:24 GMT

ALIBABA-IPO

NEW YORK (AP) -- Alibaba's stock is surging as the Chinese e-commerce powerhouse begins its first day trading as a public company.

The stock opened at $92.70 on the New York Stock Exchange this morning, up 36 percent from the initial $68 per share price set Thursday evening.

At that price the company would be worth $228.5 billion, more than companies such as Amazon, Ebay and even Facebook.

On Thursday, Alibaba and the investment bankers arranging the IPO settled on a price of $68 per share. The company and its early investors raised $21.8 billion in the offering, which valued Alibaba at $168 billion in one of the world's biggest ever initial public offerings.

But after a two-hour trading delay due to strong demand, it opened much higher than that price. If the stock closes at $92.70, the IPO will have raised close to $30 billion.

LEADING INDICATORS

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A gauge designed to predict the economy's future health rose in August but at a much slower pace than in July.

The Conference Board says its index of leading indicators rose 0.2 percent in August, the seventh straight increase. But that was much slower than the revised 1.1 percent gain in July.

Conference Board economist Ken Goldstein says even with the slowdown in August, the index shows the economy is still gaining traction.

STATE UNEMPLOYMENT

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Unemployment rates rose in nearly half of U.S. states in August, even as employers in two-thirds of the states added jobs.

The Labor Department says unemployment increased in 24 states, fell in 15 and was unchanged in 11. Hiring picked up in 35 states, while it fell in 15.

Unemployment rates can rise even when hiring increases if more people start looking for work and don't immediately find jobs. The figures suggest hiring was broad-based across most regions of the country last month, even as nationwide job gains in August were the weakest this year.

Georgia reported the nation's highest unemployment rate, at 8.1 percent, followed by Mississippi at 7.9 percent. That's the first time Georgia has had the highest rate since the Great Recession ended.

BRITAIN-SCOTLAND-ECONOMY

LONDON (AP) -- Businesses and investors have reacted with relief to Scotland's decision to reject independence from the United Kingdom.

The No campaign won 55 percent of the votes cast in Thursday's referendum. The 10-point victory margin was wider than expected -- most opinion polls on the eve of the vote showed a narrower 4-point victory.

British stocks responded positively to the news Friday, with the FTSE 100 index up 0.3 percent. Royal Bank of Scotland shares were up, and the bank, which is majority-owned by the U.K. government, said it was "business as usual" for its customers.

Some had warned that if Scotland left, uncertainty over the future value of the British pound and government debt would have rattled the U.K economy.

In the currency markets, the pound was solid too, rising to a two-year high against the euro.

EXXON-RUSSIA DRILLING

IRVING, Texas (AP) -- Exxon Mobil says it will stop drilling an exploratory well in Russia's Kara Sea in compliance with U.S. sanctions against Russia over Russia's involvement in the Ukraine.

Exxon planned to drill the well between August and October. The latest round of sanctions called for the removal of U.S. workers on projects in the Russian Arctic by Sept. 26.

Exxon says it has received a license from the U.S. Treasury Department to wind down operations, but it is unclear whether the license will allow Exxon to stop drilling on the schedule it had already laid out. Exxon could not be immediately reached for comment.

PABST BREWING-SALE

NEW YORK (AP) -- The maker of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer is being sold to Russian company Oasis Beverages for an undisclosed sum.

In addition to its namesake beer, Pabst Brewing Co. makes Colt 45, Old Milwaukee and Schlitz. Pabst was acquired in 2010 by C. Dean Metropoulos & Co., which is known for investing in food brands.

Pabst Brewing, now based in Los Angeles, traces its roots back to 1844 in Milwaukee. Since purchasing it in 2010, Metropoulos has enlisted comedian Will Ferrell to market the company's beers. Pabst Blue Ribbon has also grown in popularity in part for its blue-collar appeal and cheap price.

Oasis is buying Pabst with TSG, an investment firm known for its work with consumer products companies. TSG Consumer Partners will take a minority stake in Pabst.

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