Anonymous Donors and Corporate Power

For those concerned about transparency in campaign finance, recent times have been very frustrating.

Congress recently passed a bill that would make it illegal for the government to make laws requiring campaign donors to be revealed. 18 Democrats (mainly blue dogs, but Peter Defazio, someone who is popular with many progressives, also voted yes) voted with the Republicans. Peter Defazio’s largest contributorin the 2010 elections was Warren Buffet’s hedge fund Berkshire Hathaway. His largest industry contributor is transportation unions, but he also raised $35,850 from lobbyists. Some key donors to well known quarterback-turned-Blue Dog Heath Shuler include General Contractors ($36,800), Lobbyists ($27,200), Pharmaceuticals/Health Products ($43,650), AT&T Inc ($10,000), CNG Financial ($10,000), Wal-Mart Stores ($10,000), Berkshire Hathaway ($7,000), and the National Rifle Assn ($8,450). It is not hard to see why either voted with Republicans on the bill.

Ken Vogel of Politico reports “The full extent of the anonymous giving is by definition impossible to know. But the recent disclosures as well as interviews with fundraising sources suggest that Republican-allied independent groups are outpacing Democratic ones in collecting undisclosed contributions to fund their political advertising, just as they did in 2010. But, perhaps more significantly, they show that Democrats, who vociferously attacked that kind of fundraising last year, have set aside their qualms and are now active competitors in the anonymous donor arms race.”

To add further fuel to the anonymous donor fire, A US district court struck down a West Virginia law that required donors to be made public. President Obama still hasn’t signed that executive order requiring contractors to reveal campaign donations, despite promising to do so some months back. The “Shareholder Protection Act” has been introduced in both Chambers of Congress, and would make companies get shareholder approval before donating to elections. This has, predictably, gone nowhere.

The mega-donor Chamber of Commerce is telling representatives that they will no longer support candidates that get behind any legislation that causes political donations to be more transparent.

In November of this year, voters in Boulder, Colorado will be able to vote on an issue that is central to the subject of campaign finance and anonymous political donations, corporate personhood. Perhaps ironically, expect lots of independent expenditures to be spent on this election.

Noam Chomsky writes:

” Corporate power’s ascendancy over politics and society-by now mostly financial-has reached the point that both political organizations, which at this stage barely resemble traditional parties, are far to the right of the population on the major issues under debate.”

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