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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Few Washington operatives know the ins and outs of election and finance laws as well as the former chairman of the Federal Election Commission, Trevor Potter. Now at the Campaign Legal Center, a nonprofit he founded, he has continued the fight for campaign finance reform by tracking legal cases related to the issue at all levels of government.

So when Potter, a Republican, claims Citizens United and McCutcheon have created an “open invitation to corruption, absolutely,” attention must be paid. Especially now that a potentially unprecedented amount of money can be funneled into the upcoming midterm elections without being tracked — despite what the conservative majority of the Supreme Court may argue.

“By now, you’d really have to be in a coma not to have understood that all this money goes in secretly and is not disclosed, et cetera. So this is really odd,” Potter said of the McCutcheon decision in an interview with The National Memo last Friday.

These untraceable donations by corporations were made possible by the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, which essentially gave corporations the same First Amendment right to speech in politics as individual citizens. To defend this decision, the majority argued there are protections to ensure that this “speech” (meaning money) is not a corrupting influence in politics, because it is fully disclosed and available to citizens and shareholders.

According to Potter, this defense has been proven incorrect. The idea that a U.S. citizen will be able to discern who is paying for a campaign ad and, in turn, be able to judge whether the ad is affecting the behavior of an elected official is indefensible, he said.

“Corporations by and large do not disclose, at all, their political spending in terms of which nonprofits they give to,” said Potter, “even if those nonprofits are running campaign ads.”

So now, with the recent McCutcheon decision, the boundaries of where these untraceable donations may go are expanded.

The challenge before the Court in McCutcheon v. FEC was to void the federal aggregate contribution limit, first instituted after the Watergate scandal. The contribution limit stated that an individual may not, in the entire election cycle, give more than $123,200 to all federal candidates, party committees and political action committees (PACs) combined.

In effect, the aggregate limit capped major donors from giving money to every candidate, party or PAC they wished. But with McCutcheon, the court overthrew the aggregate limit in a 5-4 vote.

According to Potter, this decision is unlikely to encourage donors to give to thousands of politically active groups. Instead, he foresees candidates and party committees joining together to cash in on the new law.

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  • Dominick Vila

    The influence of money in our electoral process, policy making, and public opinion, facilitated by the purchase of much of the U.S. media by the wealthiest members of our society whose interests they must protect and advance, have turned our democratic values, principles, and aspirations into mockery.
    The political process and freedoms that were once the envy of the world are raidly becoming a semblance of the feudal socio-economic system of yesteryear. It may be benign, compared to the old, but it is just as pervasive inasmuch as it foster political complacency, and acceptance of a status quo design to benefit a few at the expense of many. Mitt Romney’s statement about 47% of Americans characterized what is happening in our country, while most of us remain fixated on Idol and Dancing with the Stars, happy to make enough money to buy the latest cell phone, while those who already own 2/3 of our national wealth accumulate much of what is left. The days of the company store are not as far fetched as some people may think.

    • CPAinNewYork

      Your posting is absolutely accurate. In my opinion, absent a violent revolution, the rich are going to win this battle. Then, the American democratic “experiment” will come to an end.

    • Independent1

      “Mitt Romney’s statement about 47% of Americans characterized what is happening in our country, while most of us remain fixated on Idol and Dancing with the Stars, happy to make enough money to buy the latest cell phone, while those who already own 2/3 of our national wealth accumulate much of what is left.”

      Dominick, posters on the NM really need to bring up the article: “15 things that everyone would know if there were really a liberal media” via the link below – just to check out America’s wealth inequality in a map of the U.S. drawn up to show the disparity”.
      It’s really startling when you see that the bottom 40% of Americans own little more than a tiny red dot down towards Brownsville, Texas. (Unfortunately, the map is in html and disqus won’t display it here):

      • Dominick Vila

        The Daily Kos illustration highlights what is happening in the USA. The fact that our media is ignoring the widening wealth gap between the elite, the dwindling middle class, and the poor is incredible. I guess bad news don’t sell…

    • Independent1

      I just got done watching episode one of a ShowTime series intitled: “Years of living dangerously”; which is an absolute must see.

      There’s nine episodes that will be broadcast on Sunday evenings to highlight climate change. It never had occurred to me that the Syrian revolution may well have been prompted by an unprecidented drought that displaced thousands of Syrians whose farms had been ruined with the Assad Regime doing little to help the devastated farmers. And that destroying the rain forests in Indonesia could well be one of the biggest culprits to exacerbating global warming.

      Here’s the link to episode 1 which lasts over an hour and stars Harrison Ford:

      • Dominick Vila

        Thanks. I suspect out of control deforestation in Brazil is not helping either.

        • Independent1

          Actually, I believe the episode video says Brazil is the country that’s done the most to combat deforestation.

          • Dominick Vila

            The government of Brazil has taken a very active role in controlling and reducing deforestation. Unfortunately, rogue companies are ignoring their mandates, continue to destroy forests, and are impacting the livelihoods of the indigenous people. Part of the problem is the high demand for rare woods.

    • Independent1

      For Dominick and other NM posters who may not have seen this from Harry Reid – it’s something you may want to take about 10 minutes and watch- Harry absolutely trashes the Koch Bros. in this piece:

  • disqus_ivSI3ByGmh

    You know, when a Republican laments “black money financing” it’s really gotta be bad.

    • Kansan

      Trevor Potter is a “traditional Republican.” Fiscal conservative, social liberal. He appears regularly on the Colbert Report to satirize how the court has damaged the essence of democracy.

      Unfortunately, “traditional Republicans” are a dying breed, put on thr endangered species list thanks to the Court, the “Christian” Coalition and the Koch brothers.

  • option31

    Like the corruption already isn’t there… LOL The solution is NOT limiting campaign funds the solution IS TRANSPARENCY! Left the $ caps BUT make it mandatory that ALL every penny – donations are on the web in 24 hours, no excuses, no exception, name and dollar amount. I just want to know who is buying who. These campaign donation laws have driven both sides money into the dark, for one to complain about the other is disingenuous at best, ignorant at worst.

    • raginyank

      I agree 100%; got to know who is buying who.

      • longtail

        I disagree. I would like to see bribery laws tightened by putting a cap of $100. on campaign contributions, no corporations, no unions, full disclosure.

        • Sand_Cat

          They should be capped at ZERO.
          How many people can navigate all the ingenius ways these crooks can come up with the obstruct disclosure. The so-called transparency is a load of CRAP.

    • Independent1

      Explain to me why anyone should be able to donate more than say $100 to a political candidate. I don’t care whether it’s disclosed or not. Why should being wealthy give someone a right to have more of an influence over who gets elected to govern our country than someone who’s poor? We’re all citizens; and all citizens should have the same right to attain to political office and/or decide who gets elected. Money should not be allowed to influence elections. Lifting the campaign finance caps by the SCOTUS was an absolute travesty and needs to be reversed!!!

      • option31

        The problem with the $100.00 limit is that buys virtually nothing for ads, signs, tv or radio let alone office space. You have people like McCain whining that we need reform then they write reform that keeps them in power. Heck it won’t even buy two tanks of fuel! I’ve run for office and the costs are mind blowing – even 1988 when I ran. I raised and spent less than $1000.00 to avoid the paperwork blizzard because of campaign laws. Then you have the papers, magazines, etc left, right, center that only puff up their candidate and trash the other ones – how much is that worth? So you’re saying the Kochs could buy a majority of the news papers and puff their favs and that doesn’t count? Government financing does not work as that eliminates 3rd parties, since the two majors control the purse. Look at what the limits have done, they have driven the money into dark holes – both sides. The limits were NOT lifted for individuals just parties is my understanding. Again lift the limits but have a 24 hour deadline to list who’s buying who that we could all see. No exceptions, no excuses, treble the donation in fines if it is 24 hours 1 second.
        Two solutions #1 take the power ( stop making all these laws that protect big business and hurt small business )of these bozos hands to determine winners and losers in the market place and this money would disappear. #2 12 year lifetime limit total, local, state and federal office combined and NO job ever as a lobbyist or working for a lobby firm. These people screw us for years and then leave for a cushy overpaid job as a lobbyist.

        • Independent1

          Wait a minute, this is $100/donor; many candidates raise hundreds of thousands of dollars today with an average of less than $50/donor.

          The problem with going too much higher, is that suddenly you get into the position where a handful of donors can get together and start spending thousands on attack ads based on lies and distortions. If candidates were a little cash strapped they would have to concentrate more on selling themselves and not using lies and distortions to destroy their opponent – which is what I think is the problem with todays very high spending.

          Most of the time when I get emails asking for more and more donations, it’s not to pay for promotional material for the candidate I’m supporting, it’s to pay for rebuttal ads to combat the lies his or her opponent is throwing at them. We simply have to cut down the amount of money political candidates can spend on trying to destroy
          other candidates reputation.

          And I’m not tied into the $100, but there also has to be some amount of public funding available for some of the stuff you’re bringing out so no-so-wealthy candidates can run and all our politicians don’t have to be wealthy in their own right; which is another of our problems. A great majority of the people we have governing us, don’t understand the true problems facing the lower middleclass because of their own wealth.

        • stcroixcarp

          What a relief that would be! The political ads are so pervasive and so mean, I for one would be happy to see them gone from the airwaves or limited to two weeks before any election.

  • ps0rjl

    As I have said before, Will Rogers once said we have the best congress money can buy. It looks that is also true for the Supreme Court. The Robert’s court will totally shred the Constitution and democracy as we know it. The next thing it will do is rule is that a minimum wage law is unconstitutional under the commerce clause of the Constitution. The only reason the powerful and wealthy will have us minions round is to serve them and fight their wars.

    • 1standlastword

      Actually I envisage a time when many will refuse to fight “corporate wars” because the wise among a disenfranchised future youth will notice that the wars and their blood only purchase more power and freedom for the oppressor wealthy class.

      As for now the wealthy are enjoying the benefits of our children’ ignorance and the profits from generations of very effective propaganda machinery (media) that exploits the patriotism and stimulates the innate pleasure to destroy stuff that’s been imbedded in the American psyche for generations resultant of socializing young men into a culture of violence found in almost every aspect of entertainment

  • Gary Graves

    Don’t the republicans realize the damage this will do to our country, Outside money from other countries can controll our political system. A way for terrorist to take controll of our elections.

    • Sand_Cat

      THEY WANT THE DAMAGE TO OUR COUNTRY because they assume they’ll be the ones doing most of it.

    • stcroixcarp

      the republicans really don’t care if they damage our country as long as they don’t have to pay taxes or living wages and can be the ones who are raping the earth.

  • Sand_Cat

    So, if I openly offer to bribe an elected official, that makes it legal?


    Big donors, don’t make those donations without an expectation of getting something in return, and the things they want in return, rarely benefit ordinary Americans. Why is it so hard for the Supreme Court to grasp this very elementary concept?

  • Angel Perea

    Something significant is taking place in California State Politics! It’s called
    a movement for needed Disclosure and Transparency in political advertising taking place in California! Really and Truly! Our California Clean Money Campaign and the California DISCLOSE Act, shows voters who really pays for political ads! We thank the authored by Senators Mark Leno and Jerry Hill and the other legislators that have taken responsible positions to support the California Money Campaign to bring openness and disclosures to prevent special interests from hiding behind fake names on. Ads as well as display their major funders with these disclosures be displayed ads. Since it addresses any constitutional concerns, it stands on unquestionably firm constitutional ground. If you wish to be part of a team to take a significant step towards strengthening our democracy that is truly of, by, and for the people in California and will serve as a model for others across the country! Go to trent.lange FYI . Message from a Native Californian and independent thinking Democrat.

  • dpaano

    Is there a way, ANY WAY, that our President can overturn the Supreme Court rulings? This, and Citizen’s United, are so stupid that it’s repulsive!!! We, the people who pay their salaries, will have NO say in who will be elected, which, in turn, will mean more people will give up voting because they don’t think their vote counts, and then we know what will happen!!! The roosters will take over the hen house and make a total mess of it! Something has to be done by our President, if anything is possible.

    • Kansan

      You asked: “Is there a way, ANY WAY, that our President can overturn the Supreme Court rulings?”

      No, that’s what separation of powers is all about.

      I wish they would separate the Koch brothers owning of legislative majorities at the same time they’re meeting in secret with Uncle Thomas and Scabby Scalia.