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Money and Democracy Update: Corporate ban on direct contributions struck down, FEC is worse than toothless

Stunning Statistics of the Week:

$800,000: Amount former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, now a presidential contender, raised at a recent fundraising event

$10.25 million: Amount former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who is mulling a presidential bid, raised in a single day recently

Source: http://www.opensecrets.org/news/2011/05/ceo-5-25-2011.html

Virginia Judge rules that corporate ban on direct contributions to candidates is unconstitutional

U.S. District Judge James C. Cacheris has struck down a longstanding ban on direct corporate contributions to candidates. The ruling is contrary to what the U.S. Supreme Court has said and applies only to corporations in northern Virginia. (In contrast, the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision gave corporations the green light to spend money independently to promote or attack candidates.) The case is expected to make its way to the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, in Tennessee, lawmakers approve direct contributions to state candidates

The Tennessee Legislature has sent to the governor a bill that would allow corporations to give directly to state candidates. The sponsor called it a “free speech issue.”

FEC commissioner admits: Agency is worse than toothless

The Federal Election Commission, which is responsible for policing and enforcing campaign finance laws, has become less aggressive over the past few years, Commissioner Ellen Weintraub said at a recent meeting. Not only has the average fine imposed by the agency dropped precipitously (from $180,000 to $42,000), but the number of conciliation agreements has dropped sharply also. “Back in ’06 and ’07, they said we were ‘feckless’ and ‘toothless,’” Weintraub said. “I am not sure what the adjective would be today.”

Crossroads GPS, other independent groups may owe the tax man big time

Could those independent groups that were created solely to raise money to influence elections be in trouble with the IRS? They could if they dived into their activities before their nonprofit tax status was granted. For instance, Crossroads GPS, a group co-founded by Republican strategist Karl Rove, is still awaiting a final ruling on its applications to be a 501(c)4 organization. If the IRS denies it, the groups could be liable for tens of millions of dollars in fines.

Symposium Saturday in Virginia on Citizens United

If you’re in the Arlington, Va., area Saturday, come and hear experts talk about the effects of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision on our democracy. A symposium will be held from 2-4 p.m. at George Mason University, Founder’s Hall 134, 3351 Fairfax Drive, and will feature U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) as well as representatives from Public Citizen, the AFL-CIO, People for the American Way and Coffee Party USA. Can’t make it? Sign a petition calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.

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