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Money and Democracy Update: Under investigation, subpoenaed and spending out the wazoo — and we aren't just talking about Jack Abramoff

Stunning Statistics of the Week:

It’s not too late: Sign up to host a house party on Nov. 9!

It’s not too late to sign up to host a house party on Nov. 9! About 200 parties are planned. Have one in your community! What’s it about? Billions of dollars have started to pour the coffers of corporations and the super-rich 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 here.

Partisan deadlock renders FEC useless

The president must appoint new commissioners to the Federal Election Commission because the agency has been deadlocked in a partisan split since 2008, Public Citizen said at a press conference Thursday, just before a House of Representatives committee hearing on the FEC. A Public Citizen analysis shows an eight-fold increase in deadlocked votes on enforcement matters. Meanwhile, at the hearing, lawmakers gave the agency 10 days to turn over its enforcement guide, its formula for imposing penalties and other documents or face a subpoena.

Senators introduce constitutional amendment

Sens. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) are being praised for calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s damaging 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which gave corporations the ability to spend unlimited amounts of money from their treasuries to influence elections.

Boulder residents pass anti-corporate personhood amendment overwhelmingly

Nearly three-quarters of Boulder, Colo., voters who went to the polls this week approved a ballot measure saying they think the U.S. Constitution should be amended to abolish corporate personhood. The referendum measures, which are showing up on ballots throughout the country, are in reaction to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.

Outside GOP groups create highly organized campaign apparatus

Those outside groups you hear so much about do more than just run ads. The Republican groups are highly organized; they share polling and opposition research, lay plans for contacting voters in key states and coordinate the spending of tens of millions of dollars. This new campaign structure is attracting top players. Democrats, meanwhile, are behind.

Well, this is awkward

MF Global, a bankrupt investment firm run by former New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine – a prodigious fundraiser for Democrats – is under investigation by several federal agencies. MF Global executives, board members and traders have given $143,200 toward President Barack Obama’s re-election. This highlights a conundrum: Obama champions Main Street but gets a substantial amount of monetary support from Wall Street.

Citizens United – the organization – strikes again

Citizens United, the organization that brought the U.S. Supreme Court case that opened the doors to unlimited corporate spending in elections, is launching a major (six-figure) advertising campaign in Ohio. The goal: to limit state workers’ bargaining rights.

Speaking of ads …

Priorities USA, a Super PAC affiliated with a group of the same name, which was founded by a former Obama staffer, is spending $100,000 on ads targeting presidential GOP contender Mitt Romney. It hopes to raise $100 million for the election. Meanwhile, Make Us Great Again, the Super PAC backing GOP contender Rick Perry, is running a pro-Perry ad that is suspiciously like an ad launched the same day by the Perry campaign. It is against the law for a Super PAC to coordinate directly with a campaign.

Herman Cain staffer may be in some trouble

The chief of staff for presidential contender Herman Cain is in the hot seat after he made some iffy purchases to get Cain’s campaign up and running. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission alleging that Mark Block used money raised by his former nonprofit, Prosperity USA, on tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of iPads and chartered travel arrangements to get Cain’s campaign off the ground. The problem? Prosperity USA is a 501c3 nonprofit, which is absolutely prohibited from participating in electoral politics. This would make Block “the first person in the history of the Act to have both given and received the same illegal contributions,” CREW said.

Loophole found, travel junkets up

After the Jack Abramoff scandal, ethics rules were imposed to prohibit lobbyists from paying for lawmakers to travel. However, the rules said nothing about nonprofits. Seems as though nonprofit groups are now funding dozens of trips every month – so many that the number of travel junkets is creeping back up to pre-Abramoff days. Lawmakers took 415 privately funded trips between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30. That’s 75 percent more than the same period last year.

Outside groups jump into Arizona mayoral contest

Independent groups are increasingly getting involved in local elections. In Arizona, such groups – Arizona Citizens United, Concerned Citizens for Phoenix, Residents for a Better Arizona and others with similarly obscure names – have poured money into the mayoral race. They have spent about a third of the amount that the two candidates themselves have spent.

Lawmaker assumes powerful position on energy committee, rakes in more money

U.S. Rep. Fred Upton (R- Mich.) was named chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee a year ago. Since then, the number of energy companies that are Upton’s top donors has more than doubled.

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