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 30, 2015 17:35 GMT

CONSUMER SPENDING

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. consumers spent slightly more in February following two straight monthly declines and their income rose by a healthy amount, a development that economists hope will keep boosting spending in coming months.

The Commerce Department says consumer spending edged up a tiny 0.1 percent last month following declines of 0.2 percent in both January and December. The result reflected a 0.4 percent increase in nondurable goods such as food and energy after three straight months of declines that stemmed from falling gasoline prices. Durable goods were down 0.1 percent, a drop that reflected weaker auto sales.

Income grew a solid 0.4 percent in February, matching January's rise. Economists are hopeful that continued strong income gains will lift consumer spending, which accounts for 70 percent of economic activity.

PENDING HOME SALES

WASHINGTON (AP) -- More Americans signed contracts to buy homes in February, evidence that the spring buying season could open strong after sluggish sales for much of the winter.

The National Association of Realtors says its seasonally adjusted pending home sales index climbed 3.1 percent to 106.9 last month, the highest reading since June 2013.

Buying activity jumped in the Midwest and West, while dipping slightly in the Northeast and South. The gains suggest that housing should overcome the recent hurdles of freezing weather and blistering snowstorms, as both buyers and potential sellers return to the market.

Pending sales are a barometer of future purchases. A one- to two-month lag usually exists between a contract and a completed sale

UNITEDHEALTH-CATAMARAN ACQUISITION

UnitedHealth to buy pharmacy benefits manager Catamaran

The nation's largest health insurer, UnitedHealth, is staking a bigger claim in pharmacy benefits management with a plan to buy Catamaran Corp. for more than $12 billion in cash.

UnitedHealth said Monday that it will spend $61.50 on each share of Catamaran in a deal it expects to close during the fourth quarter. That's a 27 percent premium to Catamaran's closing price Friday, and shares of the pharmacy benefits manager, or PBM, are climbing sharply in early morning trading.

Pharmacy benefits managers process claims and run prescription drug plans for insurers, employers and other customers. They help negotiate prices customers and insurers pay for drugs.

UnitedHealth Group Inc. already has a PBM business named OptumRx that fills about 600 million prescriptions annually.

Catamaran expects to fill 400 million this year.

JETBLUE-DELAYS

NEW YORK (AP) -- JetBlue says a computer outage that has caused delays for its passengers has been resolved.

JetBlue Airways says that it has fixed a systemwide computer problem that has caused delays because the airline had to manually check in passengers.

NBC News reports that the airline had to issue handwritten boarding passes to passengers at many airports.

JetBlue did not immediately respond to inquiries on how long it would take to work through delays and get operations back to normal.

GENERAL MOTORS-IGNITION SWITCH DEATHS

DETROIT (AP) -- Families of at least 77 people killed in crashes caused by defective General Motors ignition switches will get compensation from the company.

Attorney Kenneth Feinberg, who was hired by GM to compensate victims, updated the total Monday. It was up from 74 last week.

An additional 141 injured people also are eligible for compensation.

The fund received a total of 4,342 claims by the Jan. 31 deadline. Of those, 1,263 are still under review. Feinberg says more than half are ineligible or lack documentation.

GM knew about problem switches in Chevrolet Cobalts and other small cars for more than a decade but recalled them only last year. They can slip out of the "on" position, which cuts off the engine, knocks out power steering and turns off air bags.

TOYOTA-INEXPENSIVE SAFETY

DETROIT (AP) -- Those high-tech systems that automatically stop or slow your car if it's about to run into something are getting a lot cheaper.

Toyota says it will offer lower-cost versions of the safety features in new Lexus and Toyota SUVs it's introducing this week at the New York auto show. The cheaper devices will spread across most of the company's models by the end of 2017.

Currently, the systems cost $2,000 or more and are found mainly on luxury cars or high-end versions of mainstream vehicles.

Often to get the equipment, buyers have to pay for a package including items like a sunroof or leather seats. But Toyota says that on the 2016 RAV4, Lexus RX and some other models, the equipment will be available at about $300 to $635.

VOLVO-PLANT

DETROIT (AP) -- Volvo Cars is planning to build an assembly plant in the U.S.

The $500 million plant will be Volvo's first car plant in North America.

The Swedish automaker says it has a short list of possible locations, but didn't reveal them Monday. Spokesman Russell Datz says Volvo will announce the location in about a month.

Volvo has been owned by Chinese automaker Geely Holding since 2010. It currently has two plants in Europe and two in China.

Volvo CEO Hakan Samuelsson said the decision to open a U.S. plant highlights Volvo's long-term commitment to the U.S. market. The brand hopes to almost double its U.S. sales to 100,000 over the next few years.

Datz says the new plant will also reduce shipping costs and insulate Volvo from currency fluctuations.

STUBHUB-LAWSUIT

NEW YORK (AP) -- StubHub is suing Ticketmaster and the Golden State Warriors, alleging it unfairly required fans looking to resell tickets to use Ticketmaster's resale exchange.

The online ticket marketplace and division of San Jose, California-based eBay Inc. alleges that the organizations prevent fans from deciding how they want to resell tickets and artificially drive up ticket prices.

Specifically, StubHub said Ticketmaster and the Warriors cancelled fans' regular-season and playoff-game tickets when those fans used StubHub and other exchanges to resell tickets. In other cases, the complaint says, Ticketmaster and the Warriors' front office broke the law by threatening fans with cancellation to force them to use Ticketmaster's resale exchange.

Ticketmaster is a unit of Beverly Hills, California-based Live Nation Entertainment Inc. A representative for the company could not immediately be reached.

RADIOSHACK-BANKRUPTCY

NEW YORK (AP) -- RadioShack creditor Salus says it won't improve its bid as it fights with another buyer for the electronics chain, hedge fund Standard General.

Salus had failed to win an auction for the assets of the Fort Worth, Texas-based electronics retailer, which filed for bankruptcy in February. RadioShack instead chose a $160 million bid from hedge fund Standard General that consists mostly of credit on debt it is owed.

That proposal would keep 1,743 stores open and preserve about 7,500 jobs.

In a letter filed with the bankruptcy court in Delaware, Salus says it changed its mind on improving its offer after learning of unspecified new developments.

Salus plans to argue in court Monday why its offer, which included a $271 million cash payment, is better than Standard General's bid.

PLAYSTATION-SPOTIFY MUSIC

NEW YORK (AP) -- Spotify's music service is coming to PlayStation game consoles and replacing Sony's own Music Unlimited.

Spotify hits the PlayStation 3 and 4 on Monday, with a new app adapted for large television screens. Sony says partnering with Spotify brings a music service to more countries, as well as better tools for playlists and music discovery.

Spotify's music app is available on some Internet-connected TVs and set-top boxes, but Spotify says it worked closely with Sony to optimize its service for the PlayStation. Among the notable features: the ability to listen to music while playing a game and still listening to sound effects.

The service is free with ads, or costs $10 a month for a premium ad-free version.

MCDONALD'S-ALL-DAY BREAKFAST

NEW YORK (AP) -- McDonald's is going to start testing an all-day breakfast at some locations in the San Diego area starting next month.

The company said in a statement on Monday that the test is in response to customers who have said they'd like to eat breakfast foods outside the typical morning hours that they are served.

The test will include a partial menu and feature some of McDonald's breakfast sandwiches and hash browns.

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