Money and Democracy Update: Occupy, Bain Capital donations, Wolf PAC, donor contact selling & more!

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

  • $34,000: Amount presidential candidate Mitt Romney has received this year from employees of Bain Capital, a private equity firm he co-founded
  • 18: Number of employees who donated that amount to Romney
  • $76,600: Amount President Barack Obama and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) have collected from Bain employees
  • Three: Number of donors who gave that amount to Obama/DNC

Bill Moyers encourages activists to keep fighting for the people, despite corporate hijacking of our elections

Journalist Bill Moyers helped Public Citizen ring in the big 4-0 this week by headlining the organization’s 40th anniversary gala. His keynote address touched on the capture of our political system by the ultra-rich and how activists can engage in dedicated citizen action to combat it. Check out these highlights from his speech.

Hey, what’s your number? Political campaigns may share it

It seems like political campaigns would do anything to make an extra buck, now apparently including selling donors’ contact information to outside groups, a Roll Call study has found. As a result, campaigns have raked in millions of dollars from donors’ personal information. Privacy advocates say that while renting out these contact lists may be lucrative, campaigns should inform their potential donors that their digits may be shared.

The newest candidate Super PAC in town

Herman Cain, a Republican hoping to unseat President Barack Obama, is the latest candidate to form a super PAC to help the campaign’s bottom line. What’s original about Cain’s? It doesn’t even try to hide the group’s purpose in the name: Americans for Herman Cain. In fact, the similarity of the names might be a violation of election law, The Washington Times reports.

Speaking of Herman Cain …

Herman Cain may be in a bit of hot water. Multiple news organizations have reported that the presidential candidate has been using campaign funds to buy copies of his own book – from himself. As Public Citizen’s Craig Holman told Talking Points Memo, “The appearance that a presidential candidate may be personally benefiting from the campaign, particularly if public funds are at stake, can be potent fodder for the campaign’s opponents,” he said.

A Super PAC of a different stripe

Why not launch a Super PAC to fight money in politics? Why not indeed. That’s what Former MSNBC host Cenk Uygur did this week. He announced at an Occupy Wall Street protest in New York City the launch of Wolf PAC, designed to push a constitutional amendment to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision. “Every single issue gets decided by who gives the most donations,” Uygur told The Huffington Post. “We have, in a sense, lost our democracy.”

Why even have candidates at this point?

Although candidates were required to disclose their third-quarter earnings by last week’s deadline, The Atlantic magazine wrote that in the Super PAC era, the candidates’ filings alone don’t indicate the viability of their campaigns. Why? Outside groups can now raise and distribute more money than the candidates themselves. As one Republican strategist said in the story, “You’re going to see candidates having a smaller voice in their own campaigns.”

Both sides of the aisle agree on something: Corporations aren’t people

‎Nearly two-thirds of likely Republican voters in New Hampshire, a critical swing state, disagree with the U.S. Supreme Court that political spending by corporations and unions is a form of free speech protected under the First Amendment, a new poll has found. Public Citizen’s Lisa Gilbert lays out ways to mitigate the damaging effects of Citizens United and why everyone should care about it.

‘Occupy’ movement purposely has no single, set demand

While the Occupy Wall Street movement has been criticized for not offering a clear set of demands, the protesters actually have been eloquent in rejecting the idea that they produce “one demand,” and in articulating in broad terms what they want, Public Citizen President Robert Weissman writes in U.S. News and World Report. One idea to address the country’s crisis: Overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United with a constitutional amendment and re-establish the principle that corporations exist to serve the people, not the other way around.

Lawmakers call on SEC for disclosure rules

In response to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, 43 House Democrats sent a letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission, urging the agency to require public companies to disclose the political contributions they make. While some companies already disclose their political activity, there are no uniform rules requiring it, and 85 percent of shareholders believe there is a lack of transparency surrounding corporate political activity, The Wall Street Journal reports.

A fundraising solution or blatantly buying access?

It’s well known that lawmakers spend an exorbitant amount of their time trying to raise money. So, one member of Congress has a solution. U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.) invited his supporters to the one and only fundraiser he planned each quarter. In exchange for attending, fundraisers attendees would be granted a meeting with Westmoreland at their convenience.

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Billions of dollars have started to pour from corporate coffers into the 2012 elections. We’re responding by ramping up support for a constitutional amendment to reverse Citizens United, the U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowing corporations to spend as much as they want influencing elections. We need your help! Sign up to let us know you’re interested in hosting a house party this November, on the day after Election Day.

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