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Money and Democracy update: Disclosure fight heats up, Dems launch Crossroads answer, more

Stunning Statistics of the Week:

$2.4 million: Amount Walmart spent on lobbying on federal issues in the first quarter, its highest amount ever and a 23 percent increase from the first quarter of last year.

$1.8 million: The amount Visa reported spending on lobbying in the first quarter. This is its highest amount ever.

$930,000: The amount MasterCard spent lobbying in the first quarter, an increase of 13 percent from a year earlier.

Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/lobbying-efforts-persist-long-after-health-care-financial-regulation-bills-passed/2011/04/21/AFMq0bXE_story.html

Chamber rhetoric heats up over executive order on disclosure

It’s a pretty basic notion: Companies that bid for government contracts should disclose their campaign spending to diminish the likelihood that contracts are a payoff for political expenditures. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is preparing for a knock-down-drag-out against it. “To quote what they say every day on Libya, all options are on the table,” a Chamber spokesperson said. Meanwhile, a group of senators on Thursday sent President Barack Obama a letter on Thursday urging him not to sign the executive order. In an odd interpretation of the concept of fairness, they said they were basing their request on the desire that government contracting is “conducted in a manner that ensures a fair process.” Also this week, Public Citizen launched a petition urging Obama to sign the executive order; as of Friday morning, it had garnered nearly 14,000 signatures.

Dems launch answer to GOP Crossroads

Two former White House officials have launched two groups whose aim is to raise $100 million between them to help President Barack Obama’s re-election effort. Called Priorities USA and Priorities USA Action, the groups are designed to counter similar outside groups co-founded last year by Republican strategist Karl Rove. Those groups, Crossroads GPS and American Crossroads, poured huge sums of money into the midterm elections to help corporate-friendly candidates.

Corporate political spending? Tennessee wants more

While many states have hurriedly moved to enact measures to mitigate corporate spending in politics after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling, Tennessee is going a different direction. Under a measure moving through the Tennessee Legislature, direct corporate donations to political candidates – now illegal – would be allowed. Also, the limit on individual contributions would be raised by roughly 40 percent. “More money is more free speech,” one of the bill’s sponsors claimed.

What constitutes a conflict of interest? U.S. Supreme Court to decide

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments this week in Nevada Commission on Ethics v. Carrigan, which will determine what kinds of relationships should prompt elected officials to recuse themselves from voting on an issue. The case comes about after a Sparks (Nev.) City Council member voted on a casino project; the developer had hired the council member’s friend and campaign volunteer.

Hedge fund managers switch to GOP

Hedge fund managers who supported then-candidate Barack Obama in 2008 are switching their financial allegiance to the GOP. For instance, one manager who was one of Obama’s biggest fundraisers, bundling $200,000 for the campaign, has given $468,000 to Republican candidates and the GOP.

Washington state gets stronger disclosure law

Washington’s governor has signed into law a measure that will increase public disclosure of the identities of those who fund political campaigns in the state. The new law reduces the dollar amount that triggers reporting of contributions and requires that political action committees list their sponsors, among other things.

Trump straddles both sides of aisle

He may be mulling a run for president on the Republican ticket, but real estate tycoon Donald Trump has given more money to Democrats than Republicans over the past few years, The Washington Post reported this week. Of $1.3 million he has given to candidates nationwide, 54 percent went to Democrats.

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