Film: Dark Money

I’m looking forward the summer release of this documentary film, Dark Money, on the history campaign finance reform in Montana from the 1880s to Citizens United.

Watch the film trailer here.

A century ago, corrupt money swamped Montana’s legislature, but Montanans rose up to prohibit corporate campaign contributions. Today, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision — which allows unlimited, anonymous money to pour into elections nationwide — Montana is once again fighting to preserve open and honest elections. Following an investigative reporter through a political thriller, DARK MONEY exposes one of the greatest threats to American democracy.

Watch an interview with the director here.

I’m shocked, shocked politicians doing the bidding of their campaign contributors

When politicians and political appointees are overly influenced by industries rather than the people who elected them, what do we call that?  — corrupt?

You all remember the famous lines of faux incredulity from Casablanca?

 

We all know that corporations make campaign contributions to gain access to elected officials and “have their voice heard.”  An Energy Dept photographer caught exactly what “being heard” means in photos that were leaked to the press.  The below images show the memo handed to the Secretary of Energy, Rick Perry, with a list of Murray Energy wishes to protect their coal business, including:

  • Cut the staff of the US Environmental Protection Agency at least in half
  • Replace members of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
  • Replace members of the Tennessee Valley Authority Board of Directors
  • Replace members of the National Labor Relations Board

 

Murray Energy photos - NYT 2018-01-17

Murray Energy has a long running list of coal mine safety violations and is aggressive in denying their responsibility for mine accidents, such as the Crandall Canyon disaster.  See a bio of the owner here and a safety violations tracker here.

When regulators are overly influenced by the industries they regulate, they are called “captured.”

When politicians and political appointees are overly influenced by industries rather than the people who elected them, what do we call that?  — corrupt?

Read the full story here.

 

Hogs at the Trough…

Fund-raisers held by members of the conference committee during the tax reform debate were hot tickets for tax lobbyists, who eagerly forked over a few hundred — or even a few thousand — dollars for face time with lawmakers who controlled the fate of valued loopholes.

Hogsfeeding_Fotor

Some sadly business-as-usual quotes from a Times article on the behind the scenes efforts of Washington lobbyists around the Republican 2017 tax bill.

 

In all, more than half of the 11,000 registered lobbyists in Washington reported working on tax-related issues through the first nine months of the year, according to a report released this month by the nonprofit group Public Citizen.

No matter how convincing the policy analysis or how steady the constituent pressure, though, personal and financial connections to policymakers remained among the most important currency on K Street during the tax debate, as has been the case in legislative battles for decades.

Fund-raisers held by members of the conference committee during the tax reform debate were hot tickets for tax lobbyists, who eagerly forked over a few hundred — or even a few thousand — dollars for face time with lawmakers who controlled the fate of valued loopholes.

Mr. Portman has held fund-raisers in recent weeks, and has another one scheduled for next week at the fashionable Charlie Palmer Steak restaurant across the street from the Capitol. Attendees are being asked to donate $1,000 each through their political action committees or $250 in personal funds, according to an invitation, which bills the event as a “birthday breakfast” for Mr. Portman, whose birthday is the day before the event.

A Republican who attended a fund-raiser late last month for another member of the conference committee, Senator John Cornyn of Texas, said several lobbyists asked the senator about tax reform. Mr. Cornyn kept his responses vague, telling attendees that he was hopeful that the process could be completed before Christmas.

Source: NYTimes 12/16/17.