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National Memo Editor-in-Chief Joe Conason joined host Mika Brzezinski, reporter Nicholas Confessore, and MSNBC political analyst Richard Wolffe on MSNBC’s Morning Joe today to discuss how corporations are donating millions of dollars secretly to tax-exempt groups — as highlighted by Confessore  in a front-page New York Times report on Sunday. 

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According to Confessore and his co-author Mike McIntire, major corporations such as American Electric Power, Aetna, Prudential Financial, and Dow Chemical are choosing to donate to tax-exempt “social welfare” groups that face no disclosure requirements, in order to hide their donations. They release political ads supposedly for the purpose of “educating the public,”  but critics see their real intention as seeking to influence elections.

In the video clip, Conason refers to Republican Karl Rove’s definition of “social welfare” as “attacking President Obama over taxes on TV” —  alluding to Rove’s Crossroads GPS group, a tax-exempt nonprofit that launched a $25 million ad campaign to attack President Obama over taxes and deficits

Conason notes that the Citizens United case, in which Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy ‘s decision dismissed the notion that corruption will arise from unlimited corporation political campaign contributions because all such money will be disclosed. “Citizens can see whether elected officials are ‘in the pocket’ of so-called moneyed interests …and disclosure permits citizens and shareholders to react to the speech of corporate entities in a proper way,” the majority opinion reads. “This transparency enables the electorate to make informed decisions and give proper weight to different speakers and messages.”

But the “transparency” promised in the court’s majority opinion has been thwarted by Republicans in the Senate and House, who have refused to pass legislation mandating disclosure.

“Now, ” Conason points out, “they [corporate donors] don’t want full disclosure, and maybe we should worry about corruption when you see the kind of corporate money that is flowing into these campaigns.” 

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