Money and Democracy Update: New ethics quandary arises, mysterious donation sparks controversy

"Public Citizen Money and Democracy Update"Stunning Statistics of the Week:

  • 22: The number of companies represented on the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) “private enterprise board” in 2010
  • $38 million: The amount that board members spent on state politics during the 2009-2010 election cycle
  • 2,000: The number of state legislators that are currently members of ALEC
  • 180: The number of ALEC’s model bills that are enacted in at least one state every year

Budget-slicing lawmakers should stop fundraising, groups say

Public interest organizations are calling for the lawmakers who make up the “super committee” that will decide how to slice the budget to stop fundraising and disclose to the public information about their meetings with lobbyists. More than two dozen groups, including Public Citizen, Common Cause and MoveOn.org, sent a letter to lawmakers this week.

New ethics quandary: when city council members hire lobbyists to represent them

Is it kosher for city council members to hire high-powered city lobbyists to personally represent them? That’s what has happened in the District of Columbia. Not only is it legal, but the money paid to the attorney/lobbyist need not be disclosed. That creates all kinds of sticky ethical questions, such as, if the attorney who got you acquitted in an ethics charge comes back a month later to lobby for a new development, will your vote be colored? The situation is troubling, Public Citizen’s Craig Holman told The Washington Post.

It’s really coming  . . . 8.11.11. Are YOU ready?

Public Citizen and partners want you to know it’s time to make a choice– which is it going to be– Dollars or Democracy? Do you know a celebrity or someone who runs a nonprofit? Are you on Twitter or Facebook? If you answered yes to any of these questions please email us at engage (at) citizen dot org to find out how you can help us make a difference on 8.11.11!

Mysterious donation to pro-Romney group

It’s the case of the mysterious campaign contribution. On April 28, a company called W Spann LLC donated $1 million to the pro-Romney Super PAC, Restore Our Future. Here’s where things get sticky. The group was founded on March 15, dissolved on July 12 and nobody remembers the company existing at the address listed in the filing. Curious. Now, there are calls for the Justice Department to investigate.

Record amount being spent on recall elections

Nearly 30 registered groups, many national in scope, have spent more than $12.5 million to influence the nine recall elections in the Wisconsin Senate—three times the amount the groups spent in all of the 2010 legislative elections. Taking into consideration the numerous unregistered groups that haven’t reported spending, the total could be twice that amount, according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. Citizens United, the group that launched the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case last year that upended the nation’s campaign finance laws, reportedly is pouring $300,000 into the races. Total spending is estimated to hit $20 to $25 million for the elections.

Birthday bucks for the president

High-level donors in Chicago helped President Barack Obama ring in the big 5-0 this week at a $35,800-a-head fundraiser. He should raise as much money as possible for the 2012 race, some campaign finance experts say, to combat the expected onslaught of corporate money following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which allowed corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections.

Congress kowtows to special interests, despite need to raise federal funds

As Congress settled on a compromise to cap the nation’s debt limit, it seemed to be playing hardball in all the wrong places. On the table for discussion were limiting funds for Medicare and student loans, yet Congress never touched on the billions of dollars in tax subsidies for Big Oil. Why not? Big Oil doles out a whole lot in campaign cash.

In the fight for cash, it’s a battle of the Super PACs

In the right corner of the political ring, we have Restore Our Future, a Super PAC formed to boost former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s 2012 race, which brought in $12.2 million in the first six months of the year. In the left corner, we have Priorities USA Action, a Super PAC that aims to solicit money to re-elect President Barack Obama, which raised $3.1 million so far this year. Super PACs in general have raised a combined total of $26 million in the first six months of the year. Compare that to the more than $60 million the first crop of Super PACs raised last year.

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