Money and Democracy Update: Good government groups call on Obama to sign disclosure executive order, condemn left's money-making machine

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

  • $117.1 million: Amount the Republican Governors Association raised during the 2010 election cycle
  • $55.3 million: Amount the Democratic Governors Association raised during the 2010 election cycle

22,000 and counting

The American people understand that money buys influence, and transparency can help stave off corruption. What’s more, they care a lot about it. In just five days, Public Citizen gathered 22,000 signatures on a petition urging President Barack Obama to sign an executive order requiring any company vying for a government contract to disclose details of its political giving On Wednesday, Public Citizen delivered those signatures to the White House and participated in a press conference with other public interest groups.

Good government groups condemn new left-leaning money machines

We told you last week about two new groups being formed by former White House officials to raise money to sway the upcoming elections. The idea is to take a page from the conservative playbook, which launched several notable money machines to influence the 2010 midterm elections. Good government groups are crying foul and saying that’s it’s not okay to do it just because the other guys are doing it. Public Citizen wants Obama to condemn the groups. And Democracy 21 told a reporter that good government groups may ask the IRS to investigate a potential tax status violation.

Five huge companies with biggest tax breaks are biggest political spenders

The top five recipients of large federal corporate tax breaks in 2009 also are among the biggest spenders in the U.S. political system. Those companies collectively contributed $7.86 million to campaigns during the 2010 elections. New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio is calling on the companies to verify that no taxpayer money will be used for election spending in the future. The companies are ExxonMobil, Bank of America, General Electric (GE), Chevron and Boeing.

Some individuals contribute hefty sums, too

A disproportionate voice in politics may be coming from lobbyists and the corporate elite. Less than one-quarter of 1 percent of Americans made itemized contributions to political campaigns in 2010, but they accounted for more than 90 percent of the money raised Lobbyists and other Washington, D.C., donors gave more than $300 million – a total larger than the bottom 32 states combined, wrote Alan Simpson, a former Wyoming senator, in a column for The Washington Post. He said that the Fair Elections Now Act may help to remedy this problem.

Roemer challenges GOP presidential hopefuls to a clean campaign

GOP presidential candidate and former Gov. Buddy Roemer (R-La.) scolded not only corporate lobbyists and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, but also the entire American system for allowing elections to be bought rather than earned. “Right now, too often the political debate has become about the money and not about the issues. And those who have the money have a vested interest in the results, and you never know who they are. I have full disclosure, and I challenge my opponents to do the same,” Roemer said in an interview.

Coalition defends Montana’s ban on corporate money in elections

A coalition has filed a friend-of-the-court brief to help defend Montana’s longstanding ban on corporate money in elections. The 1912 law is being challenged in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which gave corporations the green light to spend unlimited sums to sway elections. The coalition includes Free Speech for People, the American Sustainable Business Council, the American Independent Business Alliance, Mike’s Thriftway (a Montana supermarket business); and Home Resource Center, Inc. (a nonprofit Montana corporation).

White House correspondents dinner raises ethical questions

Corporations woo politicians – and reporters cover that wooing with gusto. But what happens when reporters are similarly wooed by those they cover? It happens annually at the White House correspondents dinner. This year, for instance, Quinn Gillespie lobbyists feted White House reporters at the offices of the Washington Gas Association. It’s all rather unseemly, says Dana Milbank, Washington Post columnist. Kudos to him; he made other plans for the weekend.

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