Jun 16 2012

Trevor Potter via Alternet

Not that it’s a reliable source.

How I Became Stephen Colbert’s Lawyer — And Joined the Fight to Rescue Our Democracy from Citizens United

Trevor Potter, Alternet

May 25, 2012

The Colbert Report coverage is so successful because it accurately describes a campaign finance world that seems too surreal to be true.  A system that claims to require disclosure of money spent to elect or defeat candidates, but in fact provides so many ways around that requirement as to make disclosure optional; a system that says that “independent expenditures” cannot be limited as a matter of Constitutional law because they cannot corrupt because they are “totally independent” of candidates and parties-when the daily news reports about these supposedly “independent” groups show that candidates raise money for them, candidates’ former employees run them, and candidates’ polling and advertising vendors advise them.  And the major donors to these “independent” groups are often also official fundraisers for the candidate.  Other major donors have private meetings with the candidates, or travel with them on campaign trips!

How did we get here? It is often forgotten, but for long periods of the previous Century, we had a pretty well functioning campaign finance system.  In 1904 President Roosevelt called for public funding of the political parties, and a ban on corporate contributions.  In 1907 he got one of those with the passage of the Tillman Act, which banned corporate contributions in federal elections, Congress extended contribution and expenditure restrictions to unions in 1947, and rewrote the laws following Watergate to ensure disclosure, set new individual contribution limits to candidates and parties, and create for the first time a public funding system for presidential elections and establish the FEC as an enforcement and disclosure agency.

In the last two years, the Supreme Court has allowed unlimited corporate and labor spending in all elections in the U.S., overturning 60 year old federal laws and some older laws in 26 states.  It has declared unconstitutional as a restriction on speech the Arizona public financing system, because it provided additional public funds for more speech to candidates participating in the public funding system, triggered if their opponents spent that amount. The DC Circuit has declared unconstitutional the longstanding $5,000 contribution limit to independent-expenditure only political action committees, which decision has resulted in the creation of what we know as SuperPACs-like Stephen Colbert’s Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow.

1 comment

  1. ek hornbeck

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