Money & Democracy Update: Super Committee lobbying, public funding under fire, Starbucks CEO says "enough!"

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

Contributions and cuts

Members of the “super committee” created to find $1.2 trillion to cut from the budget have received $64.6 million from political action committees and other industry groups representing the health care industry, financial industry, defense contractors and more. It’s hard to imagine that campaign money won’t affect the super committee’s recommendation, which is even more of a reason that the committee members should stop fundraising while they do their work, as two dozen public interest groups have called for.

Nebraska’s public funding law said to be likely unconstitutional

Nebraska’s law regarding public funding of campaigns is likely unconstitutional in light of a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling regarding a similar Arizona law, Nebraska’s attorney general says. Public funding of elections is designed to curb the influence of large corporations and donors over the political process.

Another ballot measure on corporate personhood?

A Missoula City Council member is pushing her colleagues to place a referendum on the next ballot that asks voters if they want to urge the state and U.S. Congress to support a constitutional amendment to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision and declare that corporations are not people. That’s the ruling that said corporations can spend as much as they want to influence elections. Two towns in Wisconsin have held similar votes, with voters overwhelmingly saying that corporations aren’t people (no matter what Mitt Romney may think), and Boulder, Colo., is slated to do so later this year.

A step in the right direction for New York

For a state that has made national headlines with its political corruption, strides were made when Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a new ethics law on Monday establishing a 14-member Joint Commission on Public Ethics. The commission will oversee lawmakers, lobbyists, and executive branch and legislative employees, and crack down on the registration and conduct of lobbyists. Will this boost integrity in New York politics? Only time will tell.

But … as long as prices go up, the sky’s the limit on political contributions in New York

The price of everything is going up, it seems. The New York state elections office wants to keep up. There, contribution limits go up every four years along with the consumer price index. Caps on the amount you can give party committees and candidates just rose again. Now, for instance, individuals or legal partnerships may give $102,300 to a party committee, up from $94,200.

Starbucks CEO calls for halt on political contributions

Disgusted with the deficit reduction negotiations, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz is calling on members of the New York Stock Exchange and NASDAQ to stop making political contributions until Congress and the president “deliver a fiscally disciplined, long-term debt and deficit plan.”

You can’t make this stuff up: the latest Colbert PAC development

The treasurer of comedian Stephen Colbert’s mock Super PAC is leaving to go to a real campaign. Salvatore Purpura, who has been treasurer of Colbert’s Super PAC, Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow, is now treasurer for presidential candidate Rick Perry.

If it walks like a lobbyist and talks like a lobbyist, it probably is a lobbyist

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a Minnesota group that connects corporations with state lawmakers to draft model legislation, should register as a lobbyist under state law, experts say. “The fact that ALEC … does these direct activities to meet with lawmakers in Minnesota and to proselytize this model law and then help them draft it into actual state legislation, that crosses the line,” said Public Citizen’s lobbying expert Craig Holman. ALEC is stubbornly maintaining that it is not a lobbyist and merely takes a policy position.

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