My Brother Russ

By Nancy Feingold   ·   February 12, 2014

My little brother Russ is the apple of my eye. I saw, even when he was young, that fighting for progressivism was just in his blood. He was born for this fight. I saw it when he campaigned for his classmates' ability to wear jeans back when he was in high school. I saw it when I watched him argue his first case in front of the Wisconsin Supreme Court as a young lawyer in Madison. And I saw it when he fought for civil rights as a Wisconsin state senator.

So, I was just thrilled when Russ founded Progressives United in February of 2011. It's a true continuation of the work he's done all his life: fighting for the greatest good for the greatest number of people. He's always known our government can't be held in the back pocket of corporations and the ultra wealthy.

Nancy and Russ

I'm so proud of the work we all have done with Russ to bring a vision of honest American government to life. You may not know this, but Su‌nday is the third anniversary of the launch of Progressives United, and our support now is more important than ever. Cole told me Progressives United needs 2,000 grassroots contributions by its anniversary on Su‌nday, and I knew right away that I wanted to help.

I made a contribution to start them off. Join me and contribute $5 today to be one of the next 1,999 grassroots supporters.

I'm a fairly cynical person by nature, and sometimes it's hard to watch as right-wing forces in our country try to undo my brother's work by buying our elections and corrupting the laws passed in Washington. But one of Russ's greatest abilities has always been to hold a true sense of optimism -- by finding ways to fight for his values, with real hope, even in the face of great odds.

Together, we've done that with him for the past three years. We've taken the lawless, corrupting Supreme Court decision of Citizens United and turned it into a positive movement -- by electing new progressive champions, changing the conversation in Washington, and growing into a force to be reckoned with.

So now, on the third anniversary of the wonderful organization we've all built together, let's grow that movement of hope.

Join me to make a contribution of $5 on the third anniversary of this wonderful organization, and let's grow that movement of hope even more in year four.

To me, Russ's optimism, his sense of hope, and his fight are what progressivism is all about. Let's make him proud.

Thanks for uniting as a progressive,

Nancy Feingold

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Ending "Too Big to Fail"

By Josh Orton   ·   October 25, 2013

We know there's still a lot of work to be done to rein in Wall Street and prevent another disastrous collapse. And we've seen what happens when big banks are trusted to oversee themselves: They gamble recklessly with other people's money. And if they lose, we take the biggest hit.

Congressmen Conyers and Grayson are proposing regulations that would shorten Wall Street's leash and make it less likely that our government has to bail them out ever again. We're joining with our friends at CREDO to co-sign a letter from Reps. Grayson and Conyers asking federal banking regulators to adopt their strict new proposal.

Read CREDO's message about this important letter below and add your name as a co-signer today.

Thanks for uniting as a progressive,

Josh Orton
Political Director
Progressives United


CREDO Action
 
Help Reps. Alan Grayson and John Conyers end "Too Big to Fail."

Two progressive champions, Reps. Alan Grayson and John Conyers, are taking on “Too Big to Fail” banks and they need your help. Click here to co-sign a public comment to federal banking regulators from Reps. Grayson and Conyers to make sure big Wall Street banks can’t gamble with taxpayer money.

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Dear Friend,

End Too Big to Fail

Twenty percent of America's net worth was destroyed in the 2008 financial meltdown. And two progressive champions, Reps. Alan Grayson and John Conyers, are taking on the problem of “Too Big to Fail” banks to make sure it never happens again.

The “Too Big to Fail” banks, the biggest banks in the country, are able to make immensely dangerous and deeply irresponsible bets in the Wall Street casino knowing that taxpayers (fearing that a bank failure will send the economy into a death spiral) will bail out the banks no matter what.

In essence, they’re gambling with our money. The top banking executives whose bonuses depend on high returns have every incentive to make the biggest, riskiest bets they can because they’ll get rich if the bets pay off. And if not, they can stick taxpayers with the bill.

Reps. Grayson and Conyers want to put a stop to this, and have asked for your help reining in “Too Big to Fail” banks.

Click here to co-sign a public comment from join Reps. Alan Grayson and John Conyers and tell federal banking regulators to make sure the big banks can’t gamble with taxpayer money.

Federal banking regulators have recently proposed a rule that would make it harder for banks to take on more risk than they can bear.

The proposed rule would require the eight largest banks, the ones deemed to be “Too Big to Fail” (in official jargon, the banks deemed to be “Systemically Important Financial Institutions”), to keep a combined $89 billion on hand to cover unforeseen losses.

This money would help ensure that “Too Big to Fail” banks that make bad investments can cover their losses without going broke, which insulates taxpayers from the fallout when banks wind up on the wrong side of their risky bets.

Not only would the proposed rule require the banks to hold onto more money, it would also require the banks to hold onto higher amounts of capital before they can give out executive bonuses.

By forcing banks to eat their losses and tying executive bonuses to their ability to do so, the proposed rule provides a serious disincentive for excessively risky behavior.

Unsurprisingly, the banks are screaming bloody murder and trying to weaken the standard.

But Reps. Grayson and Conyers are asking the banking regulators to not only stand strong, but to vastly increase the amount the banks need to hold onto.

Put simply, we need much more than an $89 billion buffer between us and another devastating bailout.

In addition to asking for higher standards, Reps. Grayson and Conyers have asked federal banking regulators for simpler standards that are less prone to manipulation by bankers and less subject to the whims of future regulators.

They have written a long letter to regulators, which you can read here. But it boils down to a statement they have asked CREDO members to co-sign. Namely:

“Big banks shouldn't gamble with our money. Twenty percent of America's net worth was destroyed in the 2008 financial meltdown -- that should never happen again. I am co-signing the Grayson-Conyers letter to make sure big banks stop gambling with my money."

Click the link below to co-sign this statement and Rep. Grayson will submit your signature as a public comment along with the Grayson-Conyers letter.

http://act.credoaction.com/letter/grayson_conyers_tbtf/?source=progressivesunited_20131023_graysonconyers

Thank you for speaking out.

Matt Lockshin, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets

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News Roundup 11/08

By Sam Schoenburg   ·   November 08, 2012

Blue team aided by small donors, big bundlers; Huge outside spending still comes up short
Center for Responsive Politics
President Barack Obama clinched a second term last night relying on many of the same campaign finance tools he used in his pre-Citizens United victory in 2008: party support and an in-house campaign finance operation that turned to individual donors and a web of elite bundlers to expand its reach. He received comparatively little help from outside spending groups.

But that's not to say super PACs and secretive nonprofit groups had no influence on the election: Although they heavily favored conservative candidates, many of whom lost, they created an arms race that helped drive the cost of election to record levels.

And whether the money came from outside groups or was raised by campaigns themselves using old-fashioned pre-Citizens United methods, the candidates with the most cash on their side of the equation frequently prevailed. According to an analysis of congressional races, candidates who had the most money on their side (from their campaign and from outside sources) won 92.7 percent of House races, but only 63.6 percent of Senate races. In total, there were 460 winning candidates last night, but only 43 of them had less money on their side than their opponents. READ MORE

Four House races where outside money may have pushed the needle
Sunlight Foundation Reporting Group
Outside spending can have its biggest impact in smaller races. And in a number of contests for congressional seats where there was a significant money advantage for one side, independent expenditures seemed to help push the needle.

Here are four members of the 113th Congress whose chances of winning increased after receiving a significant boost from outside nonprofits and super PACs attacking their opponents or praising them. 

At some point in the fall, for each of these winners, the non-partisan Cook Political Report shifted its ratings to these candidates' favor. In each case, the shift came after the winning candidate got a significant boost in outside money. READ MORE

An anti-super PAC super PAC had a good year
Washington Post
A super PAC opposed to super PACs had a good election this week.

Friends of Democracy, formed to support candidates who favor limits on big money in politics, says that at least six of the eight candidates it supported won their races. A seventh race is headed for a recount with the group’s favored candidate slightly ahead.

Financier Jonathan Soros, who helped launch the group with $100,000 in start-up funding, said in an interview that the results suggest reforming the nation’s bloated campaign finance system can be a powerful message for politicians. READ MORE

Brown-Warren pledge made for cleaner campaign in super PAC era
Boston Globe - Editorial
As expensive and tense as it was, this year’s Senate contest in Massachusetts provided a national model for how other high-profile campaigns can keep outside interest groups from hijacking a campaign. Republican incumbent Scott Brown and Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren waged the second-most costly Senate race in the country; only Virginia’s involved more total spending. But because of the “people’s pledge” that Brown and Warren signed at the outset of the campaign, super PACs and other outside spending entities stayed off TV airwaves — and the two Massachusetts rivals kept control over their own messages.

Under the pledge, one side had to pay a penalty to charity if an outside ad supported it or attacked the other side. Beyond thwarting TV ad blitzes by unaccountable groups, this pledge encouraged would-be donors to give directly to the Democratic and Republican nominees. In Virginia, where the race produced $82.4 million in spending, the bulk came from outside groups. In Massachusetts, Brown and Warren together raised the overwhelming majority of the $76.7 million spent on the race — and far out-raised their counterparts in other high-profile Senate races.

There were scattered violations of the pledge. And there were loopholes, of course; the pact didn’t prohibit outside spending on mailers, so supporters of both candidates went wild with them. Even so, Massachusetts voters got more transparency and a more civil race. READ MORE

Posted In: Today's News

News Roundup 10/31

By Sam Schoenburg   ·   October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween everyone!

Head of Crossroads GPS once a McConnell aide, now his political ally
Washington Post
After more than a decade working side by side, the two men rarely talk these days. But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Steven Law, his trusted former aide, remain a powerful combined force in Washington.

Law heads American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, conservative groups whose $300 million budget has allowed them to outspend every other interest group in this election, as well as the Democratic National Committee. Together, the two groups have matched the Romney campaign in running anti-Obama ads, and in the past two months, they have put $35 million into 10 Senate races around the country — more than the Republican Party itself. READ MORE

Why House races need small donors
Politico - Opinion
It’s well documented that super PACs and other outside spenders are crucial in the race for the White House. Less well known is that they may also decide control of the House of Representatives.

According to a recent analysis of the 25 toss-up races identified by the Cook Political Report, outside group spending through the first two weeks of October was on par with party committees’ in the two dozen races most likely to determine control of the House in the 113th Congress…

There is cause for concern when candidates in the races that will decide who controls Congress stand on the sidelines watching unaccountable groups flood the airwaves with attack ads. But there’s another troubling trend in the campaign finance figures from these toss-up races: that candidates rely heavily on big money, while small donors play an exceptionally small role in funding congressional races — even the most competitive ones. READ MORE

Mitt Romney would be toast without this man
MotherJones
Charlie Spies is not a household name. He prefers it that way. But this DC lawyer and longtime ally of Mitt Romney's has left his mark on the 2012 presidential race as much as any one political operative could hope to. His super-PAC steamrolled the competition during the wacky Republican primary, and it kept Romney alive at his most vulnerable point in the general election. If Romney wins next week, Spies could be rewarded with a prominent role in the Romney administration as a top aide or a trusted counsel. He may not stay little-known for long.

Spies—together with strategist Carl Forti and veteran ad-maker Larry McCarthy—co-founded Restore Our Future, the pro-Romney super-PAC. The group has blown its rivals out of the water in the money chase: it's raised a record $131.6 million and spent a record $107 million. On Tuesday, in the final stretch of the 2012 election, Restore Our Future unveiled a weeklong, $20 million ad blitz—the largest-ever single-race buy by a super-PAC, according to Spies. And when the Romney campaign found itself pinched for cash at the end of the summer, Spies and Restore Our Future spent $30 million throughout August on ads to blunt the Obama campaign's attacks on Romney. "In the month of August, we were one of the key factors keeping Governor Romney afloat," Spies says. "That's the time period that traditionally the underfunded candidate gets knocked out." READ MORE

Nonprofits, shell corporations help shield identity of ad backers
Center for Responsive Politics
In the 2012 election, nonprofits have been the preferred vehicle for donors who prefer to keep their identities secret. But with the right lawyers, super PACs, which are supposedly transparent about their donors, can accomplish the same feat.

Social welfare nonprofits, known as 501(c)(4)s by the Internal Revenue Service, file tax returns with the IRS. The names of their top donors are revealed to the IRS -- but not to the public.

Super PACs, on the other hand, do report their donors. In some instances, though, those donors are nonprofits. Or the funds might come from shell corporations, which have passed through millions of dollars to the political organizations from unidentified donors in this election. READ MORE

Congressional candidates draw one-campaign super PACs
Center for Responsive Politics
Candidate-specific super PACs, once exclusively associated with presidential hopefuls, have moved down-ticket and are now supporting candidates in congressional races this election.

Super PACs devoted solely to supporting a congressional candidate spent $28 million in the 2012 election with about $22 million going toward helping conservative candidates, according to a Center for Responsive Politics analysis of campaign data.

Federal Election Commission rules prohibit "coordination" between a candidate and an outside spending group, but many super PACs have gotten around those rules by hiring operatives who previously worked for the campaign or the candidate. READ MORE

Pro-Romney super PAC to spend $20M on final ad barrage in swing states
The Hill
The super-PAC that supports Mitt Romney plans to spend $20 million on its final ad barrage against President Obama before the election.

Restore Our Future, which has spent tens of millions of dollars to help Romney's campaign, will close out its efforts with an ad that says Obama has caused the economy to flatline…

The super-PAC is airing the ad in Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin — all swing states with the potential to tip the election. The $2.1 million investment in Pennsylvania is notable since it's the first major buy in the state from either side in weeks. READ MORE

Jack Gerard, top oil lobbyist, positioned to be key player in a Romney administration
Huffington Post
Several dozen of K Street’s powerful trade group leaders and lobbyists flocked early this summer to the American Petroleum Institute's offices for a fundraising and political powwow with several top Mitt Romney campaign officials, including finance chairman Spencer Zwick, transition chief Michael Leavitt and political director Rich Beeson.

Jack Gerard, president of the American Petroleum Institute (API) and longtime Romney backer, spearheaded the previously unreported conclave, which included business powerhouses like the National Association of Manufacturers and the National Federation of Independent Business, according to two attendees…

Jack Gerard is not just another big-shot oil lobbyist with ties to a GOP campaign. He's in a class by himself. A fellow Mormon, Gerard is close friends with Romney and widely considered one of his most trusted allies in Washington. Ann Romney acknowledged the lobbyist’s sizable help by mentioning Gerard’s name after the Super Tuesday primaries, and Gerard and his wife shared a box with the would-be first lady earlier this year during an event at DAR Constitution Hall in Washington. Gerard’s son, Jack Jr., is a press aide with the campaign. READ MORE

Millions pouring into tight Senate races
Washington Post
With the Senate majority potentially in the balance, tens of millions of dollars have poured into more than a dozen states for the final push in an unusually large cluster of competitive races.

Each side committed several million dollars more to tight Senate campaigns that had been anticipated battlegrounds since last year, particularly Virginia, Wisconsin and Montana, but late movement in several races forced the hand of some groups to finance ads in states where the race had long ago seemed settled.

Nowhere is that more emblematic than Nebraska, the deep-red state where state Sen. Deb Fischer (R) had been holding a very large lead over former senator Bob Kerrey (D) in the race to succeed retiring Sen. Ben Nelson (D). Kerrey, however, has closed that gap somewhat by sharply criticizing Fischer’s lawsuit against her neighbors over a ranching dispute. READ MORE

Posted In: Today's News

We're holding senators accountable

By Sam Schoenburg   ·   October 30, 2012

Members of Progressives United have some big questions for key legislators -- and they've been demanding answers.

Right after the election on November 6, Congress will come together in a lame-duck session to decide the fate of a series of consequential issues that could affect the lives of millions of Americans: Will Congress gut benefits from Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security? Will they allow millionaires and billionaires to continue paying lower tax rates than their secretaries?

Members of Congress tend to be least accountable right after an election. That's why progressives in target states have been calling their representatives and senators now, before November 6, to get them on the record about the looming decisions they will make regarding crucial benefits and tax fairness.

Our plan worked: progressives have put two current senators on the spot with these tough questions.

Senator Scott Brown (R-MA)

Bernard got through to a staffer at Sen. Scott Brown's office and got a (sort of) clear answer:

A male staffer said that Sen. Brown was opposed to raising taxes on anybody, that he favored keeping Medicare as is, and that there was no "updated" statement on Social Security so he did not know Brown's position.

Another caller got some straightforward answers, especially on benefit cuts:

Staffer…said that Senator Brown does not support Medicare vouchers, or privatization of either Medicare or Social Security. I had asked about and pressed on cuts. Sen. Brown does want to take $500 billion from Medicare. I rejoined that it was $716 billion. The staffer's prompt sheet said $500 billion. Staffer indicated that Medicare and Social Security were financially shaky - I forget his precise words. I told him that Social Security was solvent. Senator Brown does believe in repealing the objectionable (not specified) parts of the Affordable Care Act.

Senator Dean Heller (R-NV)

Sen. Heller seems to prefer not answering tough questions like these in his office. His staff told both of the callers who left comments that they will receive a letter response -- one that is likely to arrive after the election.

Here's what Janice told Sen. Heller's office:

Heller will send me a letter addressing my issues. I told them that while I am not on Medicaid there is an abundance of folks needing Medicaid. I told him that my husband and I are retired with social security and a small retirement income. If he votes to reduce social security or Medicare it would be a disaster for us. I told him I need to know before I vote.

And Thomas cut to the chase with Sen. Heller's staffer:

I spoke to the woman on the phone and asked her if the senator was going to cut funds or lessen support for [M]edicare, [S]ocial [S]ecurity and [M]edicaid - also commenting that I knew his mother in grammar and high- school and she very much depends on these programs - the person on line agreed. I also mentioned that the idea of cutting taxes, when they have never been so low for millionaires, seems totally irresponsible, given the debt, we are in. She asked for my address and said I would receive a letter in the mail.

This is the power of progressives when we come together and unite: We hold our legislators accountable -- because their jobs depend on their constituents. It's safe to say these two senators will want to think twice before betraying the expectations of the folks back home when they return -- in victory or defeat -- to the Senate in the lame-duck session. 

Posted In: Our values, Progressives United

News Roundup 10/29

By Sam Schoenburg   ·   October 29, 2012

Secret money thrives in presidential, high-profile congressional contests
Center for Public Integrity
When Crossroads GPS went up with an ad last week accusing Democrat Tim Kaine of wanting to raise taxes, it wasn't the first time he'd heard that claim from a conservative group. Nor was it the first time the Virginia candidate for U.S. Senate had been the subject of an attack ad -- far from it.

And it sure wasn't the first time he'd been pilloried by a group that won't say where it gets its money.

That has become increasingly common in the 2012 political landscape. Outside spending so far this election cycle, by super PACs and other groups, has eclipsed that in all previous cycles combined at this point, going back to 1990. And in that universe, money spent by groups that don't disclose their donors is playing a far bigger role than it ever has. READ MORE

Mysterious docs found in meth house reveal inner workings of dark money group
Frontline and ProPublica
The boxes landed in the office of Montana investigators in March 2011.

Found in a meth house in Colorado, they were somewhat of a mystery, holding files on 23 conservative candidates in state races in Montana. They were filled with candidate surveys and mailers that said they were paid for by campaigns, and fliers and bank records from outside spending groups. One folder was labeled “Montana $ Bomb.”

The documents pointed to one outside group pulling the candidates’ strings: a social welfare nonprofit called Western Tradition Partnership, or WTP. READ MORE

Here's a memo from the boss: Vote this way
The New York Times - Opinion
Imagine getting a letter from the boss, telling you how to vote.

Until 2010, federal law barred companies from using corporate money to endorse and campaign for political candidates — and that included urging employees to support specific politicians.

But the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision has freed companies from those restrictions, and now several major companies, including Georgia-Pacific and Cintas, have sent letters or information packets to their employees suggesting — and sometimes explicitly recommending — how they should vote this fall. READ MORE

Handful of megadonors dominate campaign money chase
USA Today
Five individuals and couples have contributed more than $10 million each to super PACs, the new independent political groups responsible for the record amounts of outside money gushing through this year's presidential and congressional elections.

Together these super-wealthy donors account for 20% of the $644 million raised by super PACs through Oct. 17, a USA TODAY analysis of new campaign-finance reports shows.

All but one, Chicago media executive Fred Eychaner, donated to conservative groups. Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and his physician wife, Miriam, surged to the top of the list early in the Republican presidential primary season and haven't turned off the spigot since, propelling them to an unprecedented $57.2 million in donations to a constellation of conservative groups. READ MORE

Obama is even in TV ad race despite PACs
The New York Times
Maybe the “super PACs” were not so super after all.

Despite repeated warnings from President Obama and his party that a flood of unrestricted donations from conservatives to outside groups would swamp them, the White House and its allies are at least holding their own. Over the last month, the pro-Obama forces have run more ads and, more critically, have reached audiences in roughly the same numbers as Mitt Romney and the group of well-financed conservative super PACs working to elect him.

A review of data from the last 30 days from Kantar Media/CMAG, which tracks political ad placements, shows that 160,000 commercials supporting the president have run, compared with 140,000 for Mr. Romney. And the Obama campaign and its supporters have broadcast more ads during the morning news and prime-time periods when television viewership is highest. READ MORE

Liberal mega-donors embrace super PACs
Politico
The hand-wringing is officially over: Democrats have joined the super PAC game.

They might not be the Koch brothers or Sheldon Adelson, but wealthy donors on the left are finally answering the call in force and giving big bucks to Democratic groups such as Priorities USA Action and House Majority PAC…

Whatever the reason — President Barack Obama’s attacks on big money donors and Wall Street, the 2004 failure to beat Bush or simply philosophical concerns about unlimited money in politics — rich Democrats simply weren’t flocking to the super PACs and outside nonprofits the way Republicans embraced groups like Karl Rove’s American Crossroads or the pro-Mitt Romney super PAC Restore Our Future. Those two groups have already raised about $164 million this cycle, and conservatives are expected to spend $1 billion in efforts to elect Republicans this year. READ MORE

TV political files disappoint public interest groups
AdWeek
hen the Federal Communications Commission required TV stations in the top 50 markets to move their political disclosure files online just in time for the election, public interest groups were elated. Finally, they had a way to track the spending of all those PACs and special interest groups that were unleashed by the Citizens United case.

But the files haven't been all that easy to use as a tracking tool, the Sunlight Foundation discovered. The Washington, D.C. group, which took the time and effort to save all the files on a document cloud, found that about 2,100 (about 6 percent) of all 35,300 records have been taken down.

Now, before everyone races to point fingers at the TV stations, the Sunlight Foundation says the stations aren't the problem. Rather, it's pointing the finger at the FCC's lack of clarity about what files the TV stations should keep online. READ MORE

Posted In: Today's News

President Obama: Explosion of money "is ridiculous"

By Sam Schoenburg   ·   October 26, 2012

President Obama sat down with Brian Williams of NBC Nightly News between campaign stops yesterday, and he made a forceful rebuke of the explosion of money in this election and its proximate cause, the Supreme Court's lawless decision in Citizens United:

I think that the amount of money that is being spent in my campaign and Mr. Romney's campaign, and the super PACs that are out there, is ridiculous. And as you will recall, when the Citizens United decision came out, I took a fairly unusual step of saying this was bad for our democracy, in a State of the Union speech. I continue to believe that…

I believe we can interpret the Constitution in a way that allows for some commonsense restrictions on the amount of money spent and the manner in which it's spent, because for us to have folks writing 10 million dollar checks undisclosed, having huge sway in this election, and just the sheer amount of waste that could be used more profitably in other areas, doesn’t make much sense.

So this is an issue that, in a second term, I'll raise.

We can be sure that if President Obama is reelected, we'll have someone in the White House who understands the corrupting impact that money has had on our elections and government, and will use his office to fix the broken system.

Don't look for any such assurances from the president's opponent, Mitt Romney, who has called for letting "people make whatever contributions they want" to campaigns.

Romney has certainly been a beneficiary of unlimited money this year. The largest donor to the so-called "independent" super PAC supporting Romney, Sheldon Adelson, has pledged upwards of $100 million to bolster the GOP ticket. In return, Romney has let Adelson enjoy nearly unfettered access to the Republican nominee. The billionaire has said he's spoken personally with Romney "many, many, many times," and even accompanied the former Massachusetts governor on a swing through Israel this summer.

We need a president who stands up for hardworking Americans -- not just the wealthy few who let money work for them.

Watch the clip of the president's interview:

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Posted In: Citizens United, Our values, Super PACs

News Roundup 10/26

By Sam Schoenburg   ·   October 26, 2012

Obama, Romney and their parties on track to raise $2 billion
The New York Times
President Obama and Mitt Romney are both on pace to raise more than $1 billion with their parties by Election Day, according to financial disclosures filed by the campaigns on Thursday.

From the beginning of 2011 through Oct. 17, Mr. Obama and the Democrats raised about $1.06 billion, and Mr. Romney and the Republicans collected $954 million, including some money for the party’s Congressional efforts, setting up 2012 to be the most expensive presidential campaign in history.

But the sources of that money, raised over the course of a deeply polarizing campaign, echo the sharp divisions between the two men and their parties over issues like abortion rights, the role of government in regulating industry and the country’s economic future. READ MORE

Crossroads machine drops combined $78 million this month -- so far
Sunlight Foundation
Blowing away the competition, the GOP-aligned independent groups American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS have now dropped a combined $78 million in October alone to influence the 2012 election.

That’s about double what the official Republican party committees have spent on independent expenditures so far this month.

Among outside givers, the conglomerate founded by longtime Republican strategists Ed Gillespie and Karl Rove, are in a class all their own. You would have to total the October spending of the next eight biggest spending GOP outside groups to surpass the Crossroads machine – from the pro-Romney Restore Our Future’s $31 million to the anti-tax Club for Growth’s $3.6 million. READ MORE

Obama: Campaign cash 'ridiculous'
Politico
President Obama blasted the current state of campaign finance, saying that the amount of money being spent on elections was "ridiculous."

On the same day that his reelection effort and allies officially passed the billion dollar mark, Obama offered his thoughts on the breakneck pace of campaign fundraising and spending.

"I think the amount of money that is being spent in my campaign and Mr. Romney's campaign and in the super PACs that are out there is ridiculous," Obama said in an interview with NBC's Brian Williams. READ MORE

Political TV ads shatter records
AdWeek
Tired of all those political ads on TV? Brace yourself. The past few months were only a warm-up for the coming days leading up to Nov. 6, when about one-third of all the political advertising for the entire election cycle will air.

More than 915,000 presidential ads have aired on broadcast and national cable through Oct. 21, a 44.5 percent jump from the 637,000 ads that aired in 2008, according to the Wesleyan Media Project.

But unlike 2008, the ads have been concentrated in nine states, far fewer than in 2008. READ MORE

Chevron donates $2.5 million to elect House Republicans
Public Campaign Action Fund
Oil giant Chevron donated $2,500,000 to the Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC whose sole purpose is to elect House Republicans, according to a new filing with the Federal Election Commission (FEC).

The donation appears to be the largest from a publicly-traded corporation in the post-Citizens United era. The corporate donation is double what the company’s PAC and employees have already donated to federal candidates and committees this cycle, according to analysis of data from the Center for Responsive Politics.

The group also received $50,000 from Stephen Chazen, the president and CEO of Occidental Petroleum. READ MORE

Tax-exempt Crossroads GPS airs first direct 'vote Mitt Romney' ad
NPR
Karl Rove's tax-exempt Crossroads GPS group just months ago said it was interested only in advancing issues, not engaging in electoral politics.

This week, it began running a minute-long ad telling viewers to vote for Republican Mitt Romney — and it doesn't mention at all those very issues it had been saying were central to its mission…

Crossroads GPS is a so-called social welfare group seeking IRS tax exempt status under section 501(c)(4), which would allow it to keep its donors' names secret. But that law also restricts the group's ability to engage in electoral politics. IRS rules do not specify exactly what percentage these groups can spend on politics. They require only that their primary goal must be "social welfare" and not politics. READ MORE

Shadow money's top 10 candidates
Center for Responsive Politics
When Crossroads GPS went up with an ad last week accusing Democrat Tim Kaine of wanting to raise taxes, it wasn't the first time he'd heard that claim from a conservative group. Nor was it the first time the Virginia candidate for U.S. Senate had been the subject of an attack ad -- far from it.

And it sure wasn't the first time he'd been pilloried by a group that won't say where it gets its money…

Kaine ranks No. 3 on our list of the 10 candidates who have attracted the most spending by these groups whose funding streams are a mystery. Shadow money organizations like Crossroads GPS -- which GOP operative Karl Rove helped start, and for which he still raises funds and strategizes -- have spent $11.4  million attacking him, nearly two-thirds of the more than $18 million in outside money that's been spent against him (not including spending by political parties). Crossroads is responsible for a staggering $8 million of that. READ MORE

Outside spending pours into House races
The New York Times - Caucus Blog
Late spending on Congressional races from outside groups is nothing new, but the combination of redistricting and the proliferation of “super PACs” has helped to drive a recent explosion of money into competitive House districts around the nation.

In some cases, races that had seen little activity now find themselves flooded with advertisements, while others have had by a steady increase. In New Hampshire’s First District, for example, Representative Frank Guinta, a Republican, is trying to hold off a challenge from the woman he ousted in 2010, the Democrat Carol Shea-Porter. After a few relatively quiet weeks in early September, interest groups and national party committees spent nearly $2 million through Oct. 21 trying to influence voters. Most of the money was spent in the past two weeks. READ MORE

Barack Obama super PAC raises $13 million from Silicon Valley, unions, George Soros
Huffington Post
Silicon Valley has supported President Barack Obama with huge contributions to the super PAC backing his reelection in the final month before the election.

Priorities USA Action, the super PAC supporting Obama, raised $13 million in the first half of October, according to a report filed on Thursday. That included three $1 million checks from first-time donors from Silicon Valley, including Zynga's Mark Pincus, Sun Microsystems co-founder Vinod Khosla, and LinkedIn's Reid Hoffman.

The super PAC also pulled in $1 million checks from some usual suspects, including hedge fund billionaire George Soros and the International Union of Allied Painters and Allied Trades. Sidney Kimmel, the chairman of Jones Apparel Group, which owns brands Nine West, Dockers and Easy Spirit, among others, also gave $1 million. READ MORE

Posted In: Today's News

Workplace political intimidation rampant, encouraged by Romney

By Sam Schoenburg   ·   October 25, 2012

This year's campaign season has been awash in cash from corporations working furiously to buy the electoral outcomes they desire. But corporate influence has not only been rampant on the airwaves in favor of preferred candidates. A broad spectrum of workers has also been subject to intimidation and coercion from their bosses.

As Roll Call's Eliza Newlin Carney wrote in her column today, corporations have been freed to launch full-on campaigns within the confines of their businesses -- sometimes forcing the hands of their powerless employees:

Some employers appear to have jumped right in. Recent news reports have detailed emails to employees from CEOs at companies including Koch Industries’ Georgia-Pacific, Westgate Resorts, Lacks Enterprises and ASG Software Solutions warning that a vote against GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney would, essentially, lead to layoffs.

Just today, new reports of employee intimidation in Milwaukee have surfaced. The head of a major manufacturing firm sent an email to his employees this week alleging that their pensions could be in danger if President Obama were reelected, a tactic clearly designed to scare workers into voting for the candidate chosen by their CEO.

According to the piece from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Mike White, the chairman and owner of Rite-Hite, a major Milwaukee manufacturer of industrial equipment, told employees in an email this week that all employees "should understand the personal consequences to them of having our tax rates increase dramatically if President Obama is re-elected, forcing taxpayers to fund President Obama's future deficits and social programs (including Obamacare), which require bigger government."…

As a result [of supposedly higher corporate taxes under an Obama administration], White said the company's profits would not be reinvested. Instead, he wrote, "the money will be sent into the abyss that is Washington, D.C. So, on top of the burden of having your personal taxes increase dramatically, which they will, your RSP contributions and healthy retirement are also at risk, all for the sake of maintaining an over-sized government that borrows 42% of every dollar it spends."

No employee should be subject to this kind of brazen power play. Nor, as Carney pointed out, is Mr. White the only perpetrator. Just a couple of weeks ago, David Siegel, CEO of timeshare company Westgate Resorts, sent an email to his staff of several thousand, saying, "If any new taxes are levied on me, or my company, as our current President plans, I will have no choice but to reduce the size of this companyThis means fewer jobs, less benefits and certainly less opportunity for everyone."

This is corporate meddling in elections at its worst. But protections against such treatment also have a rich history. As Carney noted in her column, workplace safeguards against political coercion have been in place for centuries, even before the United States became a country. "As early as the 1700s, laws in several colonies and states barred any 'attempt to overawe, affright, or force, any person qualified to vote, against his inclination or conscience,'" she wrote.

The freedom to think and act without fear or coercion is fundamental to the success of our democracy. But there's one candidate running for president who is all in favor of such employee intimidation: Republican nominee Mitt Romney. Governor Romney has actively encouraged this brand of bullying (from Roll Call):

Romney appeared to encourage such talk when he addressed business owners on a conference call with the National Federation of Independent Business. “I hope you make it very clear to your employees what you believe is in the best interest of your enterprise and therefore their job and their future in the upcoming elections,” he said.

So, would Romney stand behind the tactics a number of CEOs have used to scare their employees into voting for him? According to his goading statements, he'd like such intimidation to be the norm.

Posted In: Corporate Pandering, Our values

News Roundup 10/25

By Sam Schoenburg   ·   October 25, 2012

Workplace intimidation becomes murky in post-Citizens United era
Roll Call
The specter of voter intimidation in all its guises, from sensational billboards to aggressive poll watchers to threats from employers, hangs over the 2012 elections…

Workplace intimidation, in particular, has raised alarms in the wake of the Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. That decision not only permitted unrestricted spending by corporations and unions on independent campaign activities, but also freed them to more actively educate workers about elections through voter guides, get-out-the-vote activities and other tools.

Some employers appear to have jumped right in. Recent news reports have detailed emails to employees from CEOs at companies including Koch Industries’ Georgia-Pacific, Westgate Resorts, Lacks Enterprises and ASG Software Solutions warning that a vote against GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney would, essentially, lead to layoffs. READ MORE

U.S. Chamber dominates election spending by business groups
The Business Journals
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has money to burn on the 2012 election -- the latest example is a slickly produced 2-minute video urging Americans to "vote for jobs" on Election Day.

The video doesn't explicitly say to vote for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney -- the chamber contends it stays out of presidential politics. But the video's message of "less government" and "lower taxes" makes it clear the chamber is no fan of President Barack Obama.

The chamber has spent at least $32 million on the 2012 election so far, mostly to help Republican congressional candidates, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. Only $305,000 has been spent on behalf of Democrats -- Rep. Jim Matheson of Utah and John Barrow of Georgia were the only Democrats deemed pro-business enough to merit the chamber's support. READ MORE

Outside groups spent $60M in one day
Washington Times
The super PAC supporting Mitt Romney made an enormous $18 million ad buy Tuesday, the largest independent expenditure ever reported to the Federal Election Commission. The amount is more than the super PAC, Restore Our Future, had on hand as of Oct. 1, meaning it may have received significant contributions in the days before the election.

In all, $60 million dollars were spent by independent groups on Tuesday alone, with the Karl Rove-linked Crossroads groups spending $12 million. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spent $9 million, the Obama super PAC, Priorities USA, chipped in $4 million, and Majority PAC, a Democratic Senate super PAC, spent $3 million. READ MORE

The 8 campaign funders Romney would be most beholden to
ThinkProgress
Will Rogers reportedly once said “politics has become so expensive that it takes a lot of money even to be defeated.” Between his campaign — which has raised at least $283 million to date — and the more than $90 million raised for his “independent” super PAC, calling the amount going to elect Mitt Romney “a lot” would be an understatement. While Romney will owe the top donors and bundlers to his campaign a great personal debt of gratitude even if he loses in November, should he win, those who bankrolled his campaign will likely expect access and influence.

A ThinkProgress review of the top donors to Restore Our Future Inc. and top “bundlers” (supporters who volunteer to collect large bundles of campaign contributions for the former Massachusetts governor) identified by USA Today and the Sunlight Foundation, finds eight have done the most for Romney’s campaign. Each has raised large sums for the campaign and also contributed at least $500,000 to the pro-Romney super PAC. READ MORE

GOP's big guns trained, Elizabeth Warren fights back
Huffington Post
Outside groups are spending big to defeat progressive Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren. With little time left before Election Day, Karl Rove, Grover Norquist and a Koch brother are taking advantage of a loophole in her anti-super PAC pledge with Republican Sen. Scott Brown to pour at least $1.6 million into the tight race so far.

Warren is hoping to turn that spending into an advantage. She said in an interview with The Huffington Post that the outside money helps clarify the race and that it's telling of how Brown, who has painted himself as an independent, would really vote if reelected. READ MORE

Q&A: Sherrod Brown vs. the Citizens United volcano
Esquire
Calling from the road earlier this week between one campaign stop in Ohio and another, Senator Sherrod Brown wanted to talk about money, but his attention was briefly drawn by something he saw along the roadside.

"Hey, it's one of those nice billboards that the Koch Brothers are paying for all over the state," he exclaimed. "That's a really nice one."…

Sherrod Brown has been the primary target of the new, weaponized corporate money. An unabashed economic populist — he's actually as tough on China as Romney pretends to be — Brown has made the power of corporate money the centerpiece of his career, and the centerpiece of his fight against that power this year in Ohio. In that effort, he has been aided by the basic incompetence of Josh Mandel, his Republican opponent, the current state treasurer, who looks like the son that the Bradys kept in the attic. (According to the most recent RealClearPolitics average of the polling in this race, Brown has maintained a solid five-point lead over Mandel.) However, Brown also has been aided by his own unapologetic defense of his own record. That has made him able to link the power of corporate money in our elections to the power of corporate money in our government to the power of corporate money to cover up the crimes and malfeasance that almost blew up the world. READ MORE

The only way to revive real democracy
The New York Times  - Opinion
If we’re serious about restoring government of, by and for the people, we need to get big money out of our elections.

From the Watergate era through the early 2000s, Congress and state legislatures passed campaign finance laws designed to limit the influence of corporations and wealthy donors on elections and public officials. The system was less than perfect, but it has been decimated in recent years by Supreme Court rulings like Citizens United v. F.E.C. that give corporations and unions the same constitutional rights as human beings, and equate spending an unlimited amount of money on politics with free speech.

The money now flowing into our politics isn’t free speech; it’s paid speech. In this presidential campaign alone, a handful of deep-pocketed supporters of Governor Romney and President Obama are in the process of spending well over $1 billion carpeting the airwaves with mostly negative advertising. READ MORE

Posted In: Today's News