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Unlimited Money, Unlimited Political Corruption: Supreme Court's hail mary pass to entrench plutocracy

mccutcheon.jpgThe Supreme Court's ruling in McCutcheon v. FEC means that wealthy political donors are no longer restricted on how many candidates and party committees they can give to per election cycle ($123,000). But, it maintains restrictions how much a donor can give to a single candidate or to a party committee ($26,000).

JOSH GERSTEIN Josh Gerstein and Byron Tau write in Politico:

The Supreme Court on Wednesday delivered another blow to already rickety limits on campaign contributions, ruling that caps on the total amount of money an individual can give to political campaigns, PACs and parties are unconstitutional.

In the 5-4 ruling, the court’s Republican-appointed justices joined in overturning the so-called aggregate limits on the grounds that they violated the First Amendment, while the Democratic appointees dissented — insisting that the caps were constitutional as a means to guard against corruption and circumvention of the still-valid limits on donations to individual campaigns and political committees.

The sweeping ruling has the potential to once again reshape the campaign finance landscape — bringing more campaign money back under the control of political parties after four years of record spending by outside groups.

It’s the latest in a series of federal court rulings — most notably 2010’s Citizens United decision — that are loosening up the rules on campaign contributions. Wednesday’s ruling does not, however, strike down the court’s landmark holding in 1976 Buckley v. Valeo that upheld most contribution limits to individual candidates and committees. [MORE]

Some have argued that wealthy donors who would like to contribute to campaigns and political parties openly can now do so in an unlimited way, and, that this is an improvement over what we had before McCutcheon, when those who wished to donate amounts higher than the aggregate limits were required to use shady Super PACs which did not have as much downside as candidates and political parties do when it comes to dishonest campaign advertising, for instance. 

Chris Cilizza explains in his "Winners and losers" breakdown for The Washington Post that the winners include:

Party committees: The competition among party committees -- Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee vs. the Democratic Congressional Committee vs. the Democratic National Committee, for example -- is over.  Instead of competing to be the recipient of the $32,400 an individual donor could contribute to a national party committee each year, now the committees are each free to collect $32,400 each from a major giver willing to write that sort of check. To the extent they can find donors willing to write those checks -- there were fewer than 700 people in the 2012 cycle who would have affected by McCutcheon -- that's a financial boon for the party committees.

Big donors:  Wealthy individuals are now able to spend more of their own money on more candidates and more campaign committees. If you wanted to spread your wealth around to, say, every Republican candidate running for Senate this year, you can now do it. [MORE]

The outcome was predictable enough that Represent.us had waiting in the wings the video below, mocking the decision in the format of a tech gadget commercial. The video does seem to have gotten one thing wrong in its prediction — donation limits to any single donor are still in place, so, the scenario in which a wealthy person seeking public money for a private venture can make donations to an important member of Congress "only limited by the amount of money I have in my bank account" is not legal under McCutcheon.

Represent.us writes:

The supreme court’s ruling in McCutcheon v. FEC allows for nearly unlimited political contributions. Before McCutcheon, the most any one person could give to federal candidates in a given election cycle was $123,000 — That’s more than twice what the average American family makes in an entire year. The McCutcheon ruling means that now, one person can write a multi-million dollar check to buy influence with candidates.

McCutcheon puts unprecedented power in the hands of the 646 people (0.0002% of the U.S. population) who were affected by the aggregate cap in the last election.  MORE at http://unlimitedcorruption.com/

And:

  1. People want to help fix it. So please spread the word about McCutcheon, get people riled up and ready to do something about it. Sharing this video and telling Congress to pass Anti-Corruption laws is a great place to start.

  2. America is with us. Over 430,000 people support bold anti-corruption reforms and a recent poll shows that 97% of Americans are with us on this. Send people right to our home page where they can add their name and help us get to our goal of one million.

  3. You can act locally. Volunteers are organizing local events all over the country as part of the Money Out/Voters In coalition. Click here to find an event near you.

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Reflections for the Obamacare Deadline by a Romneycare Nurse

margaret-reeve-pahani.jpgI am Margaret Reeve Panahi, am a nurse, and live in Massachusetts. I was working as a nurse practitioner as a primary care practitioner (PCP) in a public health center when Romneycare was established. I can say that it helped tremendously, both for access to care for the patients, and fewer tragically overwhelming cases for the practitioners that could have been prevented, or lessened, if the patients had been able to come in earlier. It was heartwarming to see the changes. 

I am no longer practicing because my husband has a serious genetic illness that has led to many surgeries, unpredictable and serious hospitalizations, including a kidney transplant about five years ago. He now has Medicare, but still needs to buy supplemental insurance for both hospitalizations and prescriptions. We applied for ACA insurance and have been given subsidies for both of his non-Medicare insurances, and my individual insurance, as well. At this point, we are saving about $1,000.00 per month in medical bills, with insurance and co-pays together. We are very grateful. More grateful than we can say. The process is not done yet though because Massachusetts had bad problems with the technological aspects of the system, so we are on temporary care, until a final enrollment can be done. We will need some of the resources and information listed below when we make our enrollment decision. 

romney-obamacare.jpgOur state is working on further reforms to the original Romneycare law. We are looking to improve it and learn from what has happened with cost and patient health care outcomes. As we continue to refine our system we have realized that access to care is necessary and thus we continue to study and make choices moving forward. Some groups are working for a single-payer system to be enacted here, like what went into law in Vermont recently. We also have a large health care for profit lobby from the high-tech medical devices companies, private insurance and pharmaceutical groups who work to protect their interests. This is the same debate that we went in with while into forming the ACA. 

My experience is that the world did not collapse when we increased health care access, and in fact, health care has been improved. The information below is for finding out about how to know what Obamacare does and doesn’t do, and what that will mean you and your loved ones.

Information about the ACA: how to get it, how to choose it, and other questions about “Obamacare”.

The final date to enroll is today, March 31, 2014. You can only enroll online at this point, it is too late to apply with a paper application. Exceptions will be made for people who create profiles on the site by midnight tonight, but cannot complete the application due to technical or personal reasons beyond your control. 

The primary government ACA site from is https://www.healthcare.gov

Basic intro about how to choose a plan

The easiest and simplest way to understand what is involved is to go to the CVS web site. It has calculators from the Kaiser Family Foundation to do some math calculations and then links directly to the ACA site. I have no financial or any other connection with CVS, I just found the pamphlet and thought That I would pass on the info. In the article from the Washington post, the writers also recommend the Kaiser tools. 


Specific questions:


1. For people under 26 if you parents have insurance, in college, working individuals who want a catastrophic basic coverage plan.

"Nearly 6 in 10 uninsured Americans can pay less than $100 per month for Marketplace coverage. 2/3 of uninsured young adults can pay less than $100 per month. You may even find health insurance for as little as $50 per month. See what you can save." 

2. What to do if your state doesn’t have expanded medicaid? How to find out if your state has not expanded, and how to get insurance anyway. 

3. How to find local help in your state, by state, city, and zip code. Check with local community health centers, and your state’s healthcare marketplace site. 

4. How to find insurance in your state if you don’t want to be in the marketplace, or you want to compare prices of insurances inside and outside the ACA.

5. What if you don’t sign up and what are the fees? This also shows alternative plans that are exempt and acceptable as coverage such as Medicare and VA insurance.

Other sources for information:

A1. Medical Bills Are the Biggest Cause of US Bankruptcies: Study by DAN MANGAN, CNBC 


A2. Obamacare subscribers: Beware of high deductibles by WENDELL POTTER, Center for Public Integrity 


A3. Everything you need to know about life under Obamacare  by SARAH KLIFF and EZRA KLEIN, The Washington Post 

 

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The Passing of Tony Benn and Other Lessons from Parliament

Tony_Benn_picture_black_and_white.jpgMy journey to the UK last week coincided with the death of a legend.  Tony Benn was a father, statesman, prolific author, and tireless champion of democracy of, by, and for The People.  And as I watched the numerous clips of speeches and interviews given over the course of a lifetime of service I noticed something totally amazing.  Tony Benn was on the right side of virtually every issue.

In the 80’s, he decried the devaluation of skilled labor in favor of financiers that added no real value to the economy.  In the early 90’s, he correctly predicted that when ready, America would make [up] a clear case for waging  war against Iraq and then pursue that course without regard for its allies.  And up until his retirement in 2001, he railed against the unfettered free markets, tax cuts for the rich, and austerity measures that inflicted tremendous pain on the common man while increasing the fortunes of the wealthy.  He also called out his government for its continuous infringements on civil rights.  And throughout his 47 years of dedicated service to The People, he continually condemned a corrupt national government that routinely usurped power from local jurisdictions that were much more concerned with serving their constituents instead of special moneyed interests.  

Now there are two fairly obvious lessons to be learned from Mr. Benn’s life story.  The first is just how similar the plights of the British and U.S. commoner (the 98%) have been over the past four decades.  But the second and much more important conclusion is actually one of omission -- specifically, the omission of any such voice coming from anywhere across the U.S. political landscape. 

Of course, the very obvious explanation to this quandary can be found within our country’s prevailing two-party system.  This is in stark contrast to Great Britain’s, which currently finds no less than 12 parties holding seats within Parliament.   More pointedly, Tony Benn held office under the banner of the Labour Party -- a party that simply has no equivalent in the U.S. and never will as long as we allow the corpatocracy to rule.  If a better example exists for why we need at least one more choice other than a -D or -R, I certainly don’t know what or who it is. 

So, in the name of transpartisanship I would ask each of you to take time out to research the life, musings, and political philosophies of Tony Benn and then ask yourself, where is this most essential of voices in American politics?  

PS  No, Elizabeth Warren doesn't even come close.

 

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4 things we've missed about the metadata/privacy debate

metadata.jpgAfter reading the Brennan Center for Justice article, The Third-Party Metadata Idea Is Fourth-RateI was struck by what I didn’t read in it.

Perhaps I just haven’t seen articles that have covered some of the issues I think about when it comes to data gathering. To be sure, it also seems crazy for me to even appear to be second-guessing people with the credentials of Ms. Cordero and Ms. Goitein, but here’s what they and others don’t seem to be talking about in the metadata debate.

1. The data is already with private corporations

Where do we think the metadata for our telephone and Internet traffic comes from, government agencies? Comcast keeps serving me ads for a previous employer because I paid that employer’s web site a visit a few weeks back, and Verizon Wireless knows whether or not I’m getting close to exceeding my monthly cell usage voice or data limits.

2. Competitors don’t like to share

The idea that AT&T or Verizon or Comcast or anyone else is going to agree to submit their metadata to any of their competitors or some other third party chosen through a bid process by a collection of government agencies has all the same likelihood of President Obama pardoning Edward Snowden and inviting him over to the White House for lunch.

3. Security risks

Seriously? These learned authors are suggesting that private corporations are not as good as government agencies at securing data? I have another perspective based on some industry experience – no one is good at it. Ask Target or First Data or any other corporation that has been breached if they weren’t motivated and spending lots of money to keep hackers out. Now ask yourself if you really believe that the government is more motivated than a profit-driven private corporation to do anything.

4. Financial motivations

This might be the one place where I’m in complete agreement with the authors. A private corporation being paid what we have to anticipate could easily run into the hundreds of millions of dollars isn’t going to ever give that up, and they’ll do everything they can to corrupt present and future elected officials to keep telling us how afraid we must be and that we must allow all this unwarranted data collection to continue (while, no doubt, the private company or companies make tidy donations to each party, to relevant candidates, and to all the right super PACs.)

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Republicans, NAACP join forces to prevent 'medical desert' in coastal NC

The U.S. Dept. of Justice has offered mediation to Vidant Health and the North Carolina NAACP to resolve a Title 6 complaint under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Rev. Dr. William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP, has travelled to Belhaven, NC three times this year to join in local efforts to prevent the closing of Vidant Pungo Hospital, which was purchased by Vidant Health two years ago.

In part 2 of our video series, and, in more detail in here, Rev. Barber explains the complaint, citing Title 6 of the Civil Rights Act which prohibits entities that receive federal funds from spending them in ways that discriminate against minorities. Whether intended or not, Vidant's decision to close the Belhaven hospital would have a disproportionate impact on African Americans, thousands of whom have lived in the region since emancipation.

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More proof that poor people can't be blamed for federal deficit

If news entertainment programming was produced and disseminated by poor people, I wonder if it would be the rich who are blamed by most media consumers when it comes to our federal deficit. According to a new Senate Report, a Swiss bank called Credit Suisee has helped wealthy clients defraud the American people of billions of dollars over the course of many years, and, refuses to cooperate with Justice Department to bring the tax evaders to justice.

Danielle Douglas reports for The Washington Post:

"Swiss banking giant Credit ­Suisse helped wealthy Americans hide billions of dollars from U.S. tax collectors for several years and federal prosecutors have done little to hold violators accountable, according to a U.S. Senate subcommittee report due out Wednesday.

"The allegations were particularly stunning in the face of the budget cuts and deficits that the United States faces, lawmakers said. The report casts the Justice Department as a hapless enforcer that has dragged its feet in getting Credit Suisse to turn over the names of some 22,000 U.S. customers."

Join the discussion at Join the Coffee Party Movement

sinking_ship_wall_street_bonuses.jpg

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Imagine a Super Bowl Ad to fight money in politics

Imagine a Super Bowl ad to fight money in politics. That's how this amazing new video plays. Nice job, Represent.Us!

Meanwhile, Public Campaign has created a fabulous website to raise public awareness about the Government By the People Act.

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Genesis of Debt

In the beginning the earth formed, and people arose upon the earth, and it was good.cold-coin.jpg

The people hunted and gathered food to feed their families. They built shelters and tools, and they sang, and danced, and worked and played together in small groups, tribes, and villages, and it was good.

Some groups had plenty, others suffered shortages, so the people were happy to share and help one another. Everyone could remember a time when they had suffered shortages and others generously shared, and it was good.

Some people were naturally better at hunting, some better at gathering, some better at making tools, and still others better at using tools. They were happy to share among each other, and it was good.

Great explorers brought back stories of other people, living in strange and distant lands, with their own ways and their own skills and their own things. The adventuresome and the curious visited. We gave them our gifts, and they gave us their gifts. Culture flourished, and it was good.

As the territory expanded the exchanges became too many to remember, so they began a tally to record each gift. Some used small stones, others gathered distinctive shells, some used beads, and still others recoded the tally as notches carved on animal bones. These records helped the people remember each exchange, and it was good.

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Five years ago I really wanted to stay in the GOP

DR_Tucker.jpgAround this time five years ago, I actually believed that the newly-elected RNC chair Michael Steele would make a sincere effort to reach beyond the old-straight-fundie-white-guy demographic, and that his selection as RNC chair was a powerful symbol of the GOP realizing that it had to deal with the reality of American life in 2009, as opposed to 1959.

I recognize today that Steele's selection was a powerful symbol of something else (tokenism), but at the time I truly thought that he would be able to take the party in a different direction. On January 31, 2009, I wrote the following for Human Events Online — you can see the flawed passion all throughout this piece. And if you think this is bad, you should have seen the piece I wrote for my now-defunct blog several weeks later, defending Steele's remarks about reaching out to so-called "urban-suburban hip-hop settings." 

steelernc.jpgHope Makes a Comeback

by D.R. Tucker, Jan. 31, 2009
Whoooooo! Now we go to school. 
 
The election of Michael Steele as the new chairman of the Republican National Committee is a stimulus package for the GOP—a stimulus that will actually work. For the first time since Newt Gingrich left Congress, the Republican Party has a real leader.
 
I’m embarrassed to admit that I didn’t think Steele could pull it off. I figured that he would be doomed by allegations that he wasn’t really conservative enough for the position, and that a candidate like Ken Blackwell or Saul Azunis would get the gig. Thank goodness I was wrong. Yesterday, Steele showed that anything is possible in America.
 
Steele is a committed conservative, a gifted speaker, a big-picture thinker. He admires Reagan, but he recognizes that we are not in Reagan’s time, and that the country needs a new conservatism for a new era. Under Steele, the GOP could reach heights it hasn’t seen since the 1980s.
 
The last two months have been distressing for conservative Republicans. (I would argue that the last eight years have been distressing for conservative Republicans because of the former President’s fetish for big government, but that’s for another day.) We lost the White House by running a weak, old, ideologically incoherent candidate against the most politically skilled Democrat in ages. Our Vice Presidential candidate was smeared in a manner similar to the way Robert Bork was treated in 1987. The GOP began to morph into a rump party as blacks, Latinos, Asians and young whites washed their hands of the Republicans, seemingly for good.
 
Can Steele reverse this trend? If he can’t do it, it cannot be done. Luckily, Steele has the talent necessary to make things work.
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What does it take to be an Active Citizen

political_office2.jpegDo you ever wish you could muster the courage to call a Senator or visit your Representative? Do you wonder what kind of person can do such things? Do you fear you lack the skills (whatever they may be)? Are you worried about how you will be treated by your elected? This week’s LUNCH WITH LOUDEN guest, Kathleen, faced just that and lived to tell the tale! Enjoy her story as an active citizen. Join us live on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 646-929-2495, or stream live or later at http://tobtr.com/s/5938531.

But first, enjoy Kathleen’s story.

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Kathleen’s laughter is contagious as she happily explains her use of the word, “chatty,” as part of her email ID.  She’s one of the most genuinely engaging people I’ve had the pleasure to talk with thanks to CoffeePartyUSA and the Coffee Party BlogTalkRadio shows, and it’s my privilege to tell her story about her visits to her state legislators’ offices.

Kathleen is too modest to say this, but I will. She’s a model citizen. She shows us all how powerful we as citizens can be. And without intending to (and without wanting any fanfare for it), she offers lessons on how we all can have an impact and more influence in our government.

Kathleen (yes, she’s too modest to let me use her last name) emphasizes throughout our conversation that she’s not some Constitutional expert. She says, “I’m just following my conscience.”

She loves animals, volunteers at an animal shelter and, not surprisingly, has adopted a few! She hosts an annual cleanup of a local beach, and is so genuinely modest that when she bakes desserts around the holidays and delivers them to the local firehouse “just because it’s the right the thing to do,” she won’t even give the fire chief her name.

You can tell by talking with her that Kathleen stays well-informed. She talked about always voting in elections, but says that that was the extent of her involvement with government until recently. Like many of us, she, too, had begun to lose faith in politics, politicians, and in our government.   

That was until Facebook and her discovery of groups like Coffee Party USA and Wolf PAC. In fact, she credits a Coffee Party BlogTalkRadio show interview with Michael Monetta, Director of Organizing for Wolf PAC, a grass roots organization intent on reversing the 2010 Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court, for changing her perspective about what needs to change and how she could be part of that change.

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