Money and Democracy Update: SEC likes disclosure? Revolving door flourishes

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

$100 million: The amount billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson said he may give to support Newt Gingrich’s presidential bid, or another candidate

$11 million: The amount he and his wife already have given to support Gingrich

$25 billion: Adelson’s net worth

0.044 percent – The percentage of Adelson’s fortune that $11 million represents

SEC commissioner calls for disclosure of corporate political spending

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is now receptive to Public Citizen’s call to require publicly traded companies to disclose their political spending. At a Friday conference, “SEC Speaks,” Securities and Exchange Commissioner Luis Aguilar loudly championed the key reform of political spending disclosure, saying that “investors are not receiving adequate disclosure, and as the investor’s advocate, the commission should act swiftly to rectify the situation.”

Via Super PACs, a handful of people are exerting influence over 2012 presidential races

Using Super PACs, just a handful of mega-wealthy powerbrokers are exerting outsized influence over the 2012 presidential races, numerous analyses have found. USA Today concluded that one of every four dollars spent since Jan. 1, 2011, came from five people. The Associated Press discovered that $33 million of the $60 million collected by candidate-connected Super PACs came from just two dozen people. Every single candidate has a donor who has given at least $1 million to a Super PAC dedicated to helping that candidate.

This is unusual even for a Super PAC …

Suppose you had a Super PAC that had just one backer and was devoted to promoting one presidential candidate. Now suppose that superrich donor made a small fortune touting a special business strategy. Suppose the candidate touted that strategy repeatedly while on the campaign trail. What would that be called? “Kind of amazing,” “mutually beneficial” and “quid pro quo” are some phrases used in this unusual arrangement. The candidate? Newt Gingrich. The man behind the strategy? Mike George. Although he sold his strategy and doesn’t profit from it anymore, the arrangement shows yet another way for wealthy donors to use elections as PR tools.

 

Don’t let the door hit you

Nearly 400 former U.S. House of Representatives staffers have gone on to be lobbyists, a Sunlight Foundation analysis has found. More than two in five went to a lobbying firm, while one in five went to work for a for-profit corporation and another one in five went to work for a business or trade association.

U.S. Supreme Court puts Montana law on ice

In the ongoing challenge to the Montana Supreme Court’s decision upholding the state’s regulation of corporate political activity, the U.S. Supreme Court has stepped in to halt enforcement of the law pending further review. The state law has been challenged as unlawful by those who say it conflicts with the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Montana justices recently said they would allow the state’s ban to continue; opponents went to the U.S. Supreme Court, which late last week stayed the law while it decided whether to hear the case. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg signaled that she thinks her colleagues should reconsider Citizens United altogether.

Three companies agree to disclose political spending

The New York State Comptroller has reached an agreement with three California companies – Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), Safeway and Sempra Energy. The companies will disclose political expenditures made with corporate money. In addition, PG&E has pledged to disclose information about the company’s policies and procedures regarding political lobbying.

Dollars and Cents …

U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and 10 colleagues are urging the Federal Election Commission to require more disclosure of political spending …

… Speaking of letters, Franken was among eight senators who sent a letter to another agency, the Federal Communications Commission, urging it to require broadcasters to post online the names of those paying for political ads …

… About 100 people rallied in front of the U.S. Supreme Court this week, demanding that it overturn Citizens United

… the founders of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream have launched a “Get the Dough Out” campaign against Citizens United

… House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi appeared on comedian Stephen Colbert’s show this week, making the case for disclosure of the identities of those paying for political ads and other expenditures. Tell Congress to pass the DISCLOSE Act …

… Comedian Bill Maher has given $1 million to Priorities USA Action, the Super PAC supporting President Barack Obama …

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