Tag Archives: Citizens United

Chris Hayes explains why Citizens United is the real scandal behind the IRS scandal

Chris Hayes screenshot

 

The Raw Story

MSNBC host Chris Hayes on Monday night explained how the Supreme Court’s controversial Citizens United ruling lead to the current IRS scandal.

The IRS on Friday admitted that it had targeted tea party groups applying to be social welfare nonprofits with extra scrutiny.

Hayes said the Citizens United ruling obscured the line between political organizations and social welfare organizations, such as the American Civil Liberties Unions and volunteer fire departments. Political organizations have been categorized under section 527 of the federal tax code, while social welfare organizations fall under section 501(c)(4).

“Citizen’s United said essentially any organization of any kind can spend money out of its general treasury to run political ads,” Hayes said, “and that decision brought about a pivotal moment for politics and taxes and campaign spending in this country and we’re still dealing with the fallout.”

Republican strategist Karl Rove and Democratic strategist Bill Burton used the Citizens United ruling to their advantage ahead of the 2012 elections. Both used social welfare nonprofits to run overtly political ads, allowing them to intervene in political campaigns without disclosing their donors. Hayes remarked that their example obviously inspired others to do the same.

“Suddenly, the IRS starts getting a flood of new applications from other political groups and strategists saying, ‘Oh, oh, it turns out I too want to set up a social welfare organization that just so happens to be focused on taking the country back from Barack Hussein Obama,’” he said. “Now, here is the thing the IRS appears to have done unequivocally wrong, that we all agree was absolutely inexcusable. They reacted to all this by targeting one part of the ideological spectrum in looking at whether this flood of new applicants passed the smell test. Being skeptical about a new wave of wolves in sheep’s clothing invading the nonprofit game was entirely appropriate.”

Watch video, courtesy of MSNBC

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Would A $15 Minimum Wage Work?

Jobs Cityscape   -   http://mariopiperni.com/

Seems there’s no real concern for “the people”…just “the corporations”.  Ask the SCOTUS Justices who voted to allow Citizens United.

Mario Piperni

Diana McGinness believes so.

“Cut, cut, cut entitlements!”

“Reduce the debt!”  We need to broaden the base (i.e more taxes on the 47%)!

“Reduce the size of government!”

Turn on any cable news network and that’s all you’ll hear.

And the only answers the politicians have are:  raise more taxes and/or cut entitlements (not defense, of course) or both.

We hear the GOP wants to cut food stamps and other programs that help the poor.  That something must be done with SS and Medicare because they’re going broke and Medicaid needs to be cut back, too, because we just don’t have the money.  And the Democrats refuse to let these programs take a hit.

People are tired of paying taxes to help the “lazy 47% who don’t pay taxes, is the complaint.

The economy is too sluggish, it’s not growing!

So we’re in gridlock as usual with no answers that either side is willing to accept.

Is there an alternative?  Maybe.

What if we could add  $169,260,000,000 to the economy?

Add $25,389,000,000 to the treasury each year in the form of taxes (without increasing anyone’s taxes.  Over 10 years, that’s $2.5 trillion add to the Treasury that could be earmarked to reduce the debt/deficit.

Reduce the costs of programs providing food stamps, housing vouchers, and the big one – Medicaid?

Collect $10,494.120,000 more annually in FICA premiums to shore up Social Security and Medicare.  That’s over $1 trillion in 10 years, that would surely strengthen each of these programs for the coming years without making major changes in the program.

How, you ask?

Increase the minimum wage to $15.00.

Using 2010 numbers, the poverty level for 1 person under 65 was $11,344.  That’s someone making $218.15 per week, or $5.45 an hour.  The working poor receive assistance in the form of housing vouchers, food stamps, and Medicaid and pay little, if anything in the form of federal taxes.

Using the federal minimum wage in 2010 of $7.25 and the then number of working people making poverty level or less in wages of 10,500,000 you can extrapolate those numbers as follows:

10,500,000 x $7.25 per hour for 40 hours @ 52 weeks = $158,340,000,000 in wages annually. FICA at 6.2% for these workers would contribute $9,817.080.000 to SS/Medicare. Of course, some of these are part-time jobs, so this is merely an example.  But for every person who can be removed from government assistance, that’s less tax dollars needed to support them.

And if you think a person flipping burgers doesn’t deserve $15 per hour, consider how much of your tax dollars are going to subsidize their wages so they can be paid $7.25 to flip those burgers.  One way or the other, the consumer/tax payer is paying a considerable amount to get that burger flipped.

Now change the minimum wage to $15.00 per hour and extrapolate the numbers:

10,500,000 x 15.00 per hour 40 hours @ 52 weeks = $327,600,000,000 in wages annually.  FICA would be a contribution of an additional $10,494,120,000.  Over 10 years that would be over $1.4 Trillion dollars.

With a 15% tax rate, those wages would contribute $25,389,000,000 annually in revenue to the Treasury and could be targeted to directly reduce the debt.  Over 10 years that would be a $2.5 Trillion deduction, in addition to the reduced expenditures for food stamps, housing vouchers, and Medicaid.

Add an additional $169,260,000,000 increased purchasing power to the economy.

Increasing the minimum wage would also add to the treasuries of states in the form of sales tax, income tax, among other taxes these dollars would generate.

A two-person working household could generate $30 per hour providing them income to save and possibly purchase a home.

The counter-argument will be that increasing the minimum wage will reduce jobs.  There are many studies that disprove that argument. There are several papers (links here) that refute that argument.

The other counter- argument will be that the cost of everything will go up and the jobs will move overseas.

First, these are service industry jobs…now 7 out of 10 in the U.S.  - it’s going to be hard to ship them overseas.  Are you going to order your burger from the McDonald’s in China and have it flown over to the pick up window?  I think not.  Nor is the Wal-Mart worker going to be shipped over there either so you can restock the shelves yourself.

As for the cost…two things to consider.  Are you going to pay $15-30 for a McDonald’s Big-Mac?  I think not.

Prices are determined based on the floor (the lowest price a seller can sell a product for) and the ceiling (the highest amount a consumer is willing to pay), and on competitor pricing.

And while the prices may go up — if the consumer is willing to pay and competitors are not competing — the consumer/taxpayer is already paying.  If the end game allows your taxes to be reduced and you, the consumer, have the freedom to choose where you will make your purchases — based on competitive prices and your willingness to pay and the fact that you have more money to spend then haven’t we all won?

When you look at the trillions of dollars that are currently not being invested in our economy via our workers, but are sitting on the shelf waiting to invest…the only question I have is is – who better to invest in than the workers and our economy?

An interesting idea but my concerns would be the impact a $15 minimum wage would have on American competitiveness in global markets. Diana addresses this point.

Yes, that is an argument for manufacturing jobs – but most of those are gone already – some are coming back because, in part, the Chinese are demanding higher wages.

But the service industry jobs are what I’m referring to – they can’t take those overseas.  And with so many of our jobs now in that category (7 out of 10) and these being the lowest paying jobs out there, it’s a place to begin.

Your thoughts?

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Allen West plagued by scam PACs

A Matt Wuerker cartoon is shown. | Matt Wuerker

Oh well, sounds like karma to me…

Politico

It’s the inevitable, if unsightly, convergence of the Internet, tea party, the post-Citizens United campaign-finance era and the presence of a Democrat in the White House who is despised by many conservatives. Political operatives can create a PAC and corresponding website on the cheap, drop some cash to rent an email list and, voilà— in come the small-dollar contributions from grass-roots Republicans eager to support any effort aiming to turn out President Barack Obama or reelect the fiery West.

Except those chunks of $25 and $50 don’t often find their way to any serious campaigns to beat Obama or boost West.

“The vast majority of the groups that we know are engaged in this have done nothing for West,” said Jill Holtzman Vogel, the congressman’s campaign attorney.

And, with the outfits that have given to West, those contributions pale in comparison to the money they’ve raised using the freshman Republican’s name.

According to media trackers and West campaign officials, none of the many conservative super PACs purportedly raising money for the congressman is airing TV ads on his behalf.

The Florida Republican’s campaign has sent cease-and-desist letters to a number of the groups and filed complaints with the Federal Election Commission, copies of which the campaign shared with POLITICO. But the organizations have been only mildly deterred and some continue to raise funds for themselves with marketing that would suggest they represent the actual campaign.

One organization, CAPE PAC, has a Google ad headlined, “Allen West in 2012: Join our Campaign & Help Us.” The URL goes even further: It is “www.allenwest2012.co.”

Yes, that’s “.co,” not “.com.”

A click on the link takes the reader to CAPE PAC’s main home page, something that a spokesman for the group said was a concession to the West campaign’s demands. Previously, the link directed readers to a CAPE PAC Web page meant to look like West’s actual campaign site.

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CNN’s Soledad O’Brien confronts director of Citizens United’s anti-Obama film

Soledad O'Brien screenshot

The movie is based on a book by Dinesh D’Suza called The Roots of Obama’s Rage.  It was debunked by several news organizations including Media Matters.

The director Steve Bannon, who was interviewed by CNN’s Soledad O’Brien, feels no obligation to correct any of the dis-information associated with the movie.

The Raw Story

CNN host Soledad O’Brien on Monday questioned Steve Bannon of Breitbart.com over falsehoods in his new movie The Hope and The Change.

The film, a project of the conservative group Citizens United, highlights 40 Democrats and Independents who voted for President Barack Obama in 2008 but no longer support him. One person in the film complains that taxes have gone up, while another complains about the bank bailout. However, tax rates have actually gone down and the bank bailout occurred under President Bush.

“Voters can be low information voters,” Bannon said. “They can be mid-information voters. We went and took a pool of voters, right, who voted for President Obama who are active in the voter pool, registered voters who are likely to vote. Some said they are not going to vote because they may not vote for President Obama. But we got their feelings. And some of them had information that’s not absolutely perfect. I mean, a lot of them don’t know a lot about Obamacare.”

“It sounds like it doesn’t matter to you if the information of the voter is accurate,” O’Brien replied.

“No, it matters but when they’re talking about their own personal beliefs, some of that is in there, absolutely,” Bannon said in defense.

“But taxes going up isn’t a personal belief, it’s a fact, right?” O’Brien shot back.

“It was a belief of hers,” Bannon answered.

Watch video on CNN.

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Filed under U.S. Politics

Coal miners say they were forced to attend Romney event and donate

Mitt Romney speaks to coal miners

This sort of thing has gone on for years, so from that perspective, there’s no surprise there.

However, with the Citizens United decision to allow private donors to give any amount they want, why are employers (mostly in right to work states) asking/forcing their employees to give to the politician of the company’s choice?

The Raw Story

A group of coal miners in Ohio feel they would have been fired if they did not attend an Aug. 14 event with presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and contribute to his campaign — and to make matters worse, they lost of day of pay for their trouble.

In phone calls and emails to WWVA radio host David Blomquist, employees at the Century Mine in Ohio said they feared retaliation if they did not attend the Romney event.

“Yes, we were in fact told that the Romney event was mandatory and would be without pay, that the hours spent there would need to be made up my non-salaried employees outside of regular working hours, with the only other option being to take a pay cut for the equivalent time,” the employees told Blomquist. “Yes, letters have gone around with lists of names of employees who have not attended or donated to political events.”

“I realize that many people in this area and elsewhere would love to have my job or my benefits,” one worker explained. “And our bosses do not hesitate in reminding us of this. However, I can not agree with these callers and my supervisors, who are saying that just because you have a good job, that you should have to work any day for free on almost no notice without your consent.”

“We do not appreciate being intimidated into exchanging our time for nothing. I heard one of your callers saying that Murray employees are well aware of what they are getting into upon hire, or that they are informed that a percentage of their income will go to political donations. I can not speak for that caller, but this is news for me. We merely find out how things work by experience.”

Murray Energy Chief Financial Officer Rob Moore told Blomquist that the charges were untrue.

“There were no workers that were forced to attend the event,” Moore said. “We had managers that communicated to our work force that the attendance at the Romney event was mandatory, but no one was forced to attend the event. We had a pre-registration list. And employees were asked to put their names on a pre-registration list because they could not get into the event unless they were pre-registered and had a name tag to enter the premises.”

“What about not getting paid for an eight-hour day?” Blomquist wondered. “If the mine was shut down for the visit, I understand, but wouldn’t it be fair — let’s use the word ‘fair’ — to still pay these individuals for that day? I mean, it wasn’t their fault they weren’t working.”

“Our management people wanted to attend the event and we could not have people underground during Romney’s visit,” Moore insisted.

“But why not still pay then their wage for that day?” Blomquist pressed.

“By federal election law, we could not pay people to attend the event,” Moore replied. “And we did not want anyone to come back and see where anyone had been paid for that day.”

Continue here…

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Bernie Sanders Exposes the 26 Billionaires who are Buying the 2012 Election

These guys never wanted to be exposed.  Thank you Senator Sanders for ignoring their shady requests…

Politicus

In his new report, America For Sale: A Report on Billionaires Buying the 2012 Election, Sen. Bernie Sanders named names and called out the billionaires who using Citizens United to buy our democracy.

In front of a Senate panel today, Sen. Bernie Sanders outed the 26 billionaires who are members of 23 billionaire families that are using Citizens United to buy elections.Sen. Sanders estimated that these 26 billionaires are the tip of the iceberg. “My guess is that number is really much greater because many of these contributions are made in secret. In other words, not content to own our economy, the 1 percent want to own our government as well.”

[...]

Sen. Sanders also did the last thing the billionaires wanted. He called them out by name.

According to the report, America for Sale: A Report on Billionaires Buying the 2012 Election, here are the 26 billionaires who are trying to buy your government:

1). Sheldon Adelson, owner of the Las Vegas Sands Casino, is worth nearly $25 billion, making him the 14th wealthiest person in the world and the 7th richest person in America.

2. The Kochs (David, Charles, and William) are worth a combined $103 billion, according to Forbes. They have pledged to spend about $400 million during the 2012 election season. The Kochs own more wealth than the bottom 41.7 percent of American households or more than 49 million Americans.

3. Jim Walton is worth $23.7 billion. He has donated $300,000 to super PACs in 2012.

4. Harold Simmons is worth $9 billion. He has donated $15.2 million to super PACs this year.

5. Peter Thiel is worth $1.5 billion. He has donated $6.7 million to Super PACs this year.

6. Jerrold Perenchio is worth $2.3 billion. He has donated $2.6 million to super PACs this year.

7. Kenneth Griffin is worth $3 billion and he has given $2.08 million to super PACs in 2012.

8. James Simons 
is worth $10.7 billion and he has given $1.5 million to super Pacs this year.

9. Julian Robertson is worth $2.5 billion and he has given $1.25 million to super PACs this year.

10. Robert Rowling is worth $4.8 billion and he has given $1.1 million to super PACs.

11. John Paulson, the hedge fund manager who made his fortune betting that the sub-prime mortgage market would collapse, is worth $12.5 billion. He has donated $1 million to super PACs.

12. Richard and J.W. Marriott
 are worth a combined $3.1 billion and they have donated $2 million to super PACs this year.

13. James Davis is worth $1.9 billion and he has given $1 million to super PACs this year.

 14. Harold Hamm is worth $11 billion and he has given $985,000 to super PACs this year.

15. Kenny Trout is worth more than $1.2 billion and he has given $900,000 to super PACs this year.

16. Louis Bacon is worth $1.4 billion and he has given $500,000 to super PACs this year.

17. Bruce Kovner is worth $4.5 billion and he has given $500,000 to super PACs this year.

18. Warren Stephens is worth $2.7 billion and he has given $500,000 to super PACs this year.

19. David Tepper is worth $5.1 billion and he has given $375,000 to super PACs this year.

20. Samuel Zell is worth $4.9 billion and he has given $270,000 to super PACs this year.

21. Leslie Wexner is worth $4.3 billion and he has given $250,000 to super PACs this year.

22. Charles Schwab
 is worth $3.5 billion and he has given $250,000 to super PACs this year.

23. Kelcy Warren
 is worth $2.3 billion and he has given $250,000 to super PACs this year.

The thing that these billionaires love most about Citizens United it is that it allows them to operate in total darkness. The American people couldn’t fight back because the billionaires were giving their money anonymously. This same cloak of invisibility is what made ALEC so effective for years. The conservative billionaire cabal works best in private, behind closed doors, far away from curious eyes.

Continue here…

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Filed under U.S. Politics

The Selling of American Democracy: The Perfect Storm

As usual, Professor Robert Reich gets it right…

The Huffington Post

Who’s buying our democracy? Wall Street financiers, the Koch brothers, and casino magnates Sheldon Adelson and Steve Wynn.

And they’re doing much of it in secret.

It’s a perfect storm:

The greatest concentration of wealth in more than a century — courtesy “trickle-down” economics, Reagan and Bush tax cuts, and the demise of organized labor.

Combined with…

Unlimited political contributions — courtesy of Republican-appointed Justices Roberts, Scalia, Alito, Thomas, and Kennedy, in one of the dumbest decisions in Supreme Court history, Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, along with lower-court rulings that have expanded it.

Combined with…

Complete secrecy about who’s contributing how much to whom — courtesy of a loophole in the tax laws that allows so-called non-profit “social welfare” organizations to accept the unlimited contributions for hard-hitting political ads.

Put them all together and our democracy is being sold down the drain.

With a more equitable and traditional distribution of wealth, far more Americans would have a fair chance of influencing politics. As the great jurist Louis Brandeis once said, “we can have a democracy or we can have great wealth in the hands of a comparative few, but we cannot have both.”

Alternatively, inequality wouldn’t be as much of a problem if we had strict laws limiting political spending or, at the very least, disclosing who was contributing what.

But we have an almost unprecedented concentration of wealth and unlimited political spending and secrecy.

I’m not letting Democrats off the hook. Democratic candidates are still too dependent on Wall Street casino moguls and real casino magnates (Steve Wynn has been a major contributor to Harry Reid, for example). George Soros and a few others have poured big bucks into Democratic coffers. So have a handful of trade unions.

But don’t be fooled. Compared to what the GOP is doing this year Democrats are conducting high-school bake sales. The mega-selling of American democracy is a Republican invention, and Romney and the GOP are its major beneficiaries.

And the losers aren’t just Democrats. They’re the American people.

You need to make a ruckus. Don’t fall into the seductive trap of cynicism. That’s what the sellers of American democracy are counting on. If you give up on our system of government, they win everything.

This coming Monday, for example, the Senate has scheduled a cloture vote on the DISCLOSE ACT, which would at least require that outfits like the Chamber of Commerce and Karl Rove’s “Crossroads GPS” disclose who’s contributing what. Contact your senators, and have your friends and relatives in other states — especially those with Republican senators (who have been united in their opposition to disclosure) — to contact theirs. If the DISCLOSE ACT is voted down, hold accountable those senators (and, when and if it gets to the House, those House members) who are selling out our democracy for the sake of their own personal ambitions.

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Breaking: Supreme Court Upholds Individual Mandate

CNN first reported that the SCOTUS “killed individual mandate.”  Happily, they declared that report was an error.  I turned to MSNBC to find out in fact it was an error.  So my emotions ran the gamut within three minutes.  The bottom line was that The Court did not make a political decision as they had with Bush v. Gore or Citizens United but as Chris Matthews pointed out, it was indeed a moral decision.

Think Progress

The Supreme Court has upheld the individual mandate in Obamacare, paving the way for full implementation of the law in the states and ensuring that millions of uninsured Americans haves access to affordable coverage. The court upheld the provision as a tax. The Medicaid expansion is limited, but not invalidated, the court found. In short: “the entire ACA is upheld, with the exception that the federal government’s power to terminate states’ Medicaid funds is narrowly read.” Roberts joined Sotomayor, Breyer, Ginsburg, and Kagan.

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Health Care Ruling Looms As High Court Meets

Health Care Ruling Supreme Court

I read somewhere this morning that the Supreme Court’s integrity will be on the line when the decision to quash Health Care or maintain it is handed down.

One cannot help but think  the Court is being political given the several 5-4 decisions handed down in the last few years.  With cases like Citizens United and the earlier Bush v Gore rulings,  it appears  that this particular court is not as impartial as past Supreme Courts have been.

The Huffington Post

The Supreme Court is meeting Monday to issue opinions in some of the handful of cases that remain unresolved.

As the justices enter what is looking like their final week, President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul and Arizona’s immigration law top the list of undecided cases. The court also still has to decide cases on lying about military medals, juvenile sentencing and real estate kickbacks.

Monday is the court’s last scheduled meeting until the fall, but it is unlikely to be the final session. As the justices leave the bench, Marshal Pamela Talkin will announce the court’s next meeting.

Then, on the next-to-last day, Chief Justice John Roberts will say that its next meeting will be the last.

Such word could come Monday or, more likely, later in the week.

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McConnell calls Obama ‘thuggish’ over opposition to Citizens United

Mitch McConnell speaks to Faith and Freedom Coalition

Apparently they’ve stopped hiding their true feelings about President Barack Hussein Obama.

The Raw Story

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Friday accused President Barack Obama’s administration of using “thuggish” tactics to promote campaign finance reform.

During a speech to the Faith and Freedom Coalition conference, McConnell said that liberals were using “bullying” and “intimidation” to thwart the free speech rights of conservatives.

“The administration’s most prominent effort to limit speech is the so-called DISCLOSE Act, a bill the grew out of the president’s very public and unseemly rebuke of the U.S. Supreme Court in early 2010,” the Kentucky Republican explained. “An attempt to get around the court’s decision in Citizens United, this proposed law would compel grassroots groups to disclose the names of their supporters.”

“This administration claims that the goal of this bill is transparency, but the enthusiasm with which it has embraced the thuggish tactics of the left suggests that its true goal is to silence critics,” he added. “A growing number of people on the political left and now within the government itself have appeared to have concluded that they can’t win on the merits. So, they’ve resorted to bullying and intimidation instead.”

“When you’ve got an administration that’s willing to throw core constitutional protections out the window for the sake of an election — whether its religious freedom or the freedom to speak without fear of intimidation — we’re in very dangerous territory.”

The Democracy is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections Act or DISCLOSE Act was first introduced by Democrats in 2010 after the Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. FEC ruling that allowed unlimited contributions and corporate funds to flow into political campaigns.

The legislation aims to amend the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 by prohibiting government contractors from making expenditures in elections, banning foreign influence in U.S. elections and forcing corporations to disclose campaign expenditures.

Democrats in the House passed the measure in 2010, but it was blocked by Republicans in the Senate. Democratic senators introduced an updated version of the bill in March of this year.

Watch this video from CNN, broadcast June 15, 2012. (Bottom of page)

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