Money and Democracy Update: PACMEN invade elections, Dems solicit money from Koch Brothers, and Koch subsidiary's illegal contributions

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

  • $22.1 million: The amount raised by the Republican Governors Association in the first half of 2011, more than the group raised during all of 2007, the last comparable election year
  • $16.2 million: The Republican Governors Association’s cash on hand, twice the amount it was at this time last year

IRS drops investigation of nonprofits’ political contributions

We told you earlier how the IRS was examining the many 501(c)4 organizations that popped up during the 2010 election cycle to see if they should pay taxes on their campaign contributions. The IRS just dropped the investigation for now, but said that it will continue to look into the issue.

PACMEN take issue with influence of PACs

Enraged by the influence that corporate political action committees have in our elections, two Massachusetts men took action and founded their own PAC, comically named PACMEN, or “People Against the Corporate Manipulation of Elections and News.” The group, which has just $450 cash on hand, takes issue with the shift in power now that elections can be decided by billionaires and corporations.

Committee of corporations will look into disclosure

A new committee made up of Fortune 500 companies – including Microsoft, Exelon, Campbell Soup, Merck and Pfizer – will try to advance issues regarding disclosure and accountability of corporate political spending. Corporations need a framework for disclosing their campaign spending in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the committee said. Citizens United gave corporations free rein to spend unlimited amounts of money in elections.

Disclosure becomes law in Iowa

A federal judge has upheld key parts of a new Iowa law that requires corporations and unions to disclose their campaign spending, saying the rules increase transparency while protecting the right to free speech. The law, which was one of the first state measures responding to the Citizens United decision, requires businesses and unions to disclose within 48 hours any spending of more than $750 either supporting or opposing candidates.

Romney, the other half of the story

While many in the media have focused on Romney falling short of his campaign fundraising goals, Chris Good of The Atlantic reports, “When he [Romney] announces his campaign fundraising totals, that’s only half the story.”  While Romney’s official campaign coffers may not be as full as expected, the coffers of his SuperPAC, Restore Our Future, has his back with $12 million in the bank and counting.

How much can politicians solicit from Super PACs? It depends

The Federal Election Commission ruled last week that politicians can solicit money for Super PACs, but only for amounts up to $5,000. This decision is “meaningless,” said James Bopp Jr., the lawyer who represented Citizens United in the landmark Supreme Court case last year. Why? While politicians can legally only ask for donations of $5,000, there is no limit to what donors actually can give. So it could easily turn into a wink-wink-nudge-nudge situation.

Dems try to squeeze money out of the Koch Brothers

While Democrats have criticized the Koch Brothers for their channeling gobs of money into political campaigns, that hasn’t stopped them from trying to get in on the action. That’s right. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee reportedly has called Koch Industries to ask that it renew its $30,000 donation from last year. Koch Industries president Philip Ellender shot a letter back to DSCC chair Sen. Patty Murray highlighting the hypocrisy.

Koch foreign subsidiary admits it’s made illegal donations

Speaking of Koch Industries, a Luxembourg-based subsidiary of the company admitted this week to the Federal Election Commission that it has made illegal campaign contributions to political candidates and committees. Between Nov. 2005 and Oct. 2009, the subsidiary INVISTA has made 12 contributions totaling $26,800.

7-26-11: It’s coming. Stay tuned.

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