Money & Democracy Update: We The People Campaign, Maine lost and creepy corporations

Stunning Statistics of the Week:

  • $100 million: The 2011 fundraising goal set by Priorities USA, an outside group formed by a former aide to President Barack Obama to raise cash and elect Democrats
  • $5.2 million: The amount Priorities USA raised in the first half of the year

Watchdogs criticize insider influence-peddling over Keystone oil pipeline project

Campaign finance watchdogs are criticizing the Obama campaign for hiring a former lobbyist for the Keystone XL pipeline while the administration is finalizing its decision on the project. “The Obama campaign’s decision to hire a former lobbyist for TransCanada highlights again the troubling connections between government officials and the company seeking to build the Keystone XL pipeline, currently under consideration at the State Department,” said a statement from the groups, which included Public Campaign Action Fund, Common Cause, Public Citizen and US PIRG.

We the People campaign launches

A coalition of progressive groups, including Public Citizen, is launching a combined effort to remove corporate money from elections. The We the People campaign is led by The Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel, former Texas Agriculture Commissioner Jim Hightower (a Public Citizen board member) and former Mother Jones publisher Jay Harris.

Weiner out of office, but still spending

Former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) was the fourth-highest campaign spender of all U.S. representatives from New York City in the third quarter of the year. The thing is, he was out of office at the time, having resigned in June amid a Twitter sex scandal. Yes, this is legal.

Did Bachmann PAC donation violate the law?

U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), a GOP presidential candidate, gave $5,000 to the Iowa County GOP in August through her leadership PAC – which may be a violation of campaign finance law because it appears the money may have benefited her own campaign — a no-no for leadership PACs.

Public funding of elections was working well in Maine until Citizens United

Public funding of elections was working well in Maine until the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which let corporations spend unlimited sums to influence elections. The waitress who was elected with public funding? She was swept out of office in a cash-swamped battle, as were four of her colleagues.

We may get disclosure of ad funders after all

Most agree: We need to know who is paying for all those campaign ads you see on television. That might happen – via the Federal Communications Commission, which is moving toward requiring the source and cost of ads to be disclosed.

Venture capitalists hope money will persuade lawmakers to ease medical device rules

Congress is considering fees for medical device makers, and those manufacturers want less rigorous safety reviews before devices to come to market. They have an unusual ally: venture capitalists, who are throwing money at lawmakers’ campaigns in hopes of swaying them.

Studies: Outside groups spend more in judicial races, while more companies disclose

Two new studies are out; one found that nearly a third of the money spent last year on state judicial elections came from outside groups, which is a new phenomenon. The second study finds that most S&P 100 companies do disclose corporate political spending, and many limit or ban it.

Do as I say, not as I do

Remember how President Barack Obama pledged not to take money from lobbyists? The New York Times reports that Obama has relied on people active in the lobbying industry to raise millions for his re-election. “It’s a legitimate concern,” Public Citizen’s Craig Holman told the Times.

Arizona campaign groups audited

Arizona’s Secretary of State, Ken Bennett, said he will audit three outside campaign groups to make sure they aren’t violating campaign finance laws. The groups are Citizens United for Progress, Residents for a Better Arizona and Americans for Responsible Leadership. They will be asked to show that they spent most of their money doing something other than trying to influence elections.

This Halloween, frighten some corporate ghouls

There’s plenty to be scared of on Capitol Hill. The fate of $1.5 trillion rests in the hands of 12 members of the super committee tasked with slashing our national deficit. This committee has been operating in the shadows, where deep-pocketed and powerful corporate interests, creepy corporations and other things that go bump in the night are whispering in their ears. Join our friends at the Sunlight Foundation by helping make the Super Congress more accountable this Halloween. While you’re at it, check out this funny video with a rather scary message, courtesy of our friends at Common Cause.

Sign up to host a house party!

Billions of dollars have started to pour from corporate coffers 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 to let us know you’re interested in hosting a house party this November, on the day after Election Day.

Visit DemocracyIsForPeople.org to learn more!

Get the Money & Democracy Update delivered to your inbox! Sign up here.