Just when I thought the political fruit cake couldn’t get any nuttier, I woke to the news that Hillary Clinton, in a discussion with Nancy Pelosi, shared her own conspiracy theory that President Trump called Vladimir Putin on the day of the riot at the Capital. I find myself going back and forth between being entertained by the moron platform (well used by both parties) to really pissed off that this is even in the news. Maybe it’s true, maybe it’s not? That’s why we wait for facts before holding public hearings. I don’t like Trump but I don’t like Biden either. I don’t like any of them and this is just another example of ‘why.’ Their intense, personal hatred of Trump comes first and foremost, well before issues that are affecting and destroying the American people on a daily basis. Vengeance is mine, says the Lord…and Hillary and Nancy. Don’t you wish they were that consumed with the fraudulent, student loan industry? Don’t you wish they spent their energy on campaign finance reform, or healthcare, or a distribution plan for the COVID vaccine? Don’t you wish all of them had their heads out of their asses and actually worked for the welfare of the American people? I do.
The next WTF moment came with two commercials on the networks; one was about TV news personality, Katie Couric, being interviewed by the news, about Trump. The other promo was about the news, interviewing CBS News White House correspondent, Major Garrett, on Trump. This is what we do now – the news interviews the news and makes it news when it’s not news at all. Again, I’m not defending nor supporting any of the politicians including Trump, but is it a surprise, to anyone in the country, how the mainstream news networks loathe Trump? I’m not saying they don’t have good reason – I’m saying they are news networks and not gossip tabloids (or shouldn’t be gossip tabloids). If you also loathe Trump do you need more loathing ammo? If you support Trump, does this ease your fears as we transition to a new Biden administration? Maybe try reporting on how much money from Super PACs go to which politicians? How about where the thousands upon thousands of lobbyists spend their time, and money, in Washington? How about using the power of the press to bring real, lasting change to a country desperately needing it, by real reporting and not a vendetta agenda. Do you understand that as you also seek your pound of old, white, flabby, flesh that you only create more mistrust in what you report on? The only difference between you and The National Enquirer is…nothing. Except I did see Elvis in an Asheville head shop so the Enquirer’s reporting on that was true.
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From the “If No One is Around When Democracy Dies, Does it Make a Sound?” Part 4
Super PACs empower the wealthiest donors, and the expansion of dark money through shadowy nonprofits that don’t disclose their donors. On the other hand, we know those being elected are well aware of who is making their donations and what they expect in return. They don’t sell their souls – they sell ours.
“Citizens United.” Doesn’t that sound like a great group to be part of? Doesn’t it sound so American? Baseball, hotdogs, apple pie and Citizens United. Their logo, an eagle head with the red and white flag stripes behind it. Americans united together, working together to the benefit of the people. But it was the exact opposite – the name, intentionally chosen to sound all-American, to keep your defenses down, to let it slide by while it’s intent was nefarious and to the control and destruction of the very people who were fooled by it.
In 2010 there were two landmark decisions that paved the way for the corporate control of our political system; one by the federal appeals court in Washington, SpeechNow.org v. Federal Election Commission, and the other, the U.S. Supreme Court ,Citizen’s United v. Federal Election Commission. Both ruled that the government cannot disallow corporations and unions from making “independent expenditures” for political uses. The Citizens United ruling also struck down FECA’s complete ban on corporate and union independent spending, originally passed as part of the Taft-Hartley law in 1947.
Their insane reasoning? Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote that it would violate their First Amendment right of free speech to limit political spending from corporations. Their decision was based on a complete lack of any type of understanding of human nature, and specifically politicians and the dirty systems they work in. The majority of justices assumed (and you know what happens when we ass-u-me) that independent spending would be transparent and could not be corrupted. They said that by corporations and unions raising and using money for to support campaigns, that it “did not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.”
(Uh, are you shitting me?) This essentially means that Pfizer Pharmaceutical is no different than you for campaign financing (except of course they have $50 billion more cash flow than you). Wait, wait, it gets better – Super PACs have no limit on donations so they can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money from individuals, corporations and unions to advocate for, or against candidates of their choice. Their goal is to influence the outcome of state and federal elections (to put their person in office, the person that will do what they tell them to do, the person that will vote how they tell them to vote). Wait a minute…isn’t that the people’s job? It used to be but we’re only for appearance now…like the Queen (have you been practicing your wave?). The dissenting opinion written by Justice John Paul Stevens stated, “At bottom, the Court’s opinion is thus a rejection of the common sense of the American people, who have recognized a need to prevent corporations from undermining self-government since the founding, and who have fought against the distinctive corrupting potential of corporate electioneering since the days of Theodore Roosevelt.” You don’t have to have a law degree or be a judge to understand that truth, and apparently even when you have those things it doesn’t give you anymore wisdom than the thug on the street.
This is part 4 of the “Democracy Dies” series, covering the corruption surrounding PACS, SuperPACs, and how candidates pay for votes.
If No One is around when democracy dies, does it make a sound? Part 3
By Alan J. Yeck, Founder
Coming out of the our recent election just days ago, the term PACs and SuperPACs need to be defined now as much as ever. What do these acronyms mean? And how are these groups contributing to the fall of American democracy?
Political action committees (PACs)
Traditional nonconnected political action committees –
are prohibited from accepting money from corporations, unions, and associations. These are tax-exempt organizations that raise money in support of candidates and/or specific legislation they want to see pass/defeated. Federal campaigns are regulated by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and State and local PACs are regulated by the State and local election boards. Nonconnected PACs are required to file quarterly reports with the FEC exactly who contributed the money and how the PAC spent the money. Individuals can donate up to $2,800 per election cycle (primary and general election) for a maximum of $5,600 a year.
A nonconnected committee does not have a “connected organization”—that is, no corporation or labor organization establishes, administers or raises money for a nonconnected committee.
All forms of support including money and other things of value received by a nonconnected committee from a sponsoring organization are considered contributions, which are subject to annual limits, prohibitions and disclosure requirements under the Federal Election Campaign Act.
A nonconnected committee may solicit contributions from anyone in the general public who may lawfully make a contribution in connection with a federal election.
Today the FEC has registered from January to the end of June, 2019, 6,785 federal PACs reporting total receipts of $958.2 million and disbursements of $818.7 million. I want to stress here that PACs themselves are not inherently bad or corrupt. PACs can be a group of social workers trying to improve situations for families or environmentalist concerned with ocean pollution. Nonetheless, there is plenty of room here for layers and manipulation in the political garden of evil. I am confident we can develop a better, completely transparent system of funding political campaigns that honestly informs the voters who exactly is writing the checks, why they’re supporting/defeating, and who they are connected to beyond current reporting requirements. NOTE – The Federal Election Commission who overseas campaign contributions is basically a non-functioning mess right now and it itself needs reform and rehabilitation.
Super PACs – Separate segregated funds (SSFs)
Federal election law refers to a corporate- or labor organization-sponsored political committee as a “separate segregated fund” (SSF), though it is more commonly called a “political action committee” or PAC. As the name implies, money contributed to an SSF is held in a separate bank account from the general corporate or union treasury. A corporation or union that sponsors an SSF is called the connected organization. While corporations and labor organizations are generally prohibited from making contributions in connection with federal elections, the Federal Election Campaign Act (the Act) and Commission regulations permit them to set up political committees, which may raise funds permissible under the Act in order to make contributions to and expenditures on behalf of federal candidates and other committees.
An SSF always has a sponsoring corporation or labor organization.
An SSF may generally receive unlimited administrative support from its connected organization, and such support is usually not subject to federal disclosure requirements. The connected organization may use its general treasury funds to pay the establishment, administration, and fundraising costs for the SSF.
An SSF may solicit only a limited class of individuals who have specific relationships with the connected organization (i.e., stockholders or members and certain employees of the connected organization and their families).
The connected organization may also exercise control over its SSF. Corporations and unions often adopt bylaws to govern their SSFs, though bylaws are not required under the law and do not have to be filed with the FEC except when requested.
This is part 2 of the “Democracy Dies” series, covering the corruption surrounding PACS, SuperPACs, and how candidates pay for votes.
The Tillman Act of 1907 was the first legislation in the United States prohibiting contributions from corporations and unions to national political campaigns. More regulations were added in 1910, with subsequent amendments in 1925, with the Federal Corrupt Practices Act. This was followed in 1943 with the Smith-Connally Act and again in 1947 with the Taft-Hartley Act. All were focused on regulating union and corporate spending in federal campaigns and public disclosure of donors. While all these Acts were on the books, there was never a government agency tasked with enforcement (similar to having a speed limit sign on a desert highway with no cops).
In 1971, Congress consolidated its earlier reform efforts in the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA), instituting more stringent disclosure requirements for federal candidates, political parties and Political action committees (PACs). This was later amended in 1974 to set limits on contributions by PACs, individuals, political parties, and also established the Federal Election Commission (FEC) – the first independent agency that would be tasked to enforce campaign finance Acts.
In 2002, Congress made major revisions to the FECA in the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, more commonly referred to as “McCain-Feingold.” However, major portions of McCain-Feingold were later struck down by the Supreme Court on constitutional grounds. In June 2008, the “millionaire’s amendment,” a section of the act that attempted to provide a fairness through increasing campaign contributions for candidates who were being substantially outspent by opponents using their own personal wealth, was overturned by the Supreme Court in Davis v. Federal Election Commission. Senator McCain consistently voiced concern over campaign practices and their funding.
“Questions of honor are raised as much by appearances as by reality in politics, and because they incite public distrust, they need to be addressed no less directly than we would address evidence of expressly illegal corruption…By the time I became a leading advocate of campaign finance reform, I had come to appreciate that the public’s suspicions were not always mistaken. Money does buy access in Washington, and access increases influence that often results in benefiting the few at the expense of the many.” Senator John McCain, 2002.
B-I-N-G-O! And 18 years later it’s only gotten worse.
For many years I took American democracy completely for granted like the sun rising every morning. I viewed it as impenetrable from outside influence, unbreakable from internal conflicts and impervious to the passage of time. I believed, unwavering, that we were a system of government by the whole population. That my voice, your voice, their voice, all mattered in how we would govern, be governed, and the future of our country. That the words Abraham Lincoln spoke at Gettysburg, “…that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth,” explained and justified how so many could sacrifice their lives for this idea of democracy. I love my country and the ideals of justice, and equality and freedom that I believed we were about. All of this is so tightly woven through my very existence as veteran, father, son, and American that to try and separate it from the rest of myself would cause me to break into a thousand pieces. Well, more like a thousand shingles falling from my eyes – and they did.
Communism, fascism, terrorist, extremists, racists, war, depression…none of these can destroy our democracy. The greater the threats the stronger we become – when we see them, when we understand them, we fight them and have never, ever lost. Only democracy, specifically when its citizens are manipulated by its government, can destroy democracy and that’s exactly what is happening. Those we elect to represent us have not only failed to uphold their vows to our Constitution but they have perverted it against us.
Let’s start with the individual – you, me, aunt Fran. There’s an issue that you feel strongly about; immigration, firearm ownership, racial justice, planned parenthood, the arts, taxes, veterans, student loans, healthcare, affordable housing…(insert issue here). We take our thoughts, values, concerns, and needs to the people that we voted to represent us. We receive the automated response to our email, thanking us for contacting them. Sometimes we even receive a letter thanking us for contacting them and that they are working on our behalf for (insert issue here). Thank God we have Senator Shayla and Congressman Cal working hard on our behalf. But it’s all a lie, a TV show, a bad game that we can never win. After we vote, we fall to the back of the line. There are only three things that matter in Congress; 1) money, 2) time in front of the TV cameras, and 3) money. If you’re not coming with a bag of cash, don’t waste your time. Unless it’s something that will embarrass them; if it’s something that would risk losing their power or money. Otherwise, we don’t matter.
Today’s Congress is probably the most corrupt in U.S. history with all those we elected, red and blue, actively participating in one way or the other (not fighting against corruption is participating in the corruption). This didn’t just happen, or happen with the last administration or the one before that, or the one before that…This series is a brief summary of campaign reform attempts and political action committees. There is much more, both depth and breadth, to be known about these but for our purposes now we will only be focusing on how they have facilitated, and accelerated bribery and corruption while hiding behind our current laws. I do urge you to do more research yourself. They are numerous, and sometimes complicated with plentiful law suits, court cases including the Supreme Court (questionable rulings).
Looking forward to sharing with all of you in the coming days and weeks. As always, should you want to share, please click on the “Submissions” page above and learn how you can contribute to AltRaged.
Global corruption rankings are a peculiar thing. The poorest of countries are the least concerned with deception or least equipped to deeply hide their crimes. Their leaders steal, are not accountable, the people know it – repeat every day. It’s happened so long that it isn’t even considered corruption but rather just how business is done, a part of their culture. The masses at the bottom have no way of protest without being imprisoned or murdered by the police and military, who in turn are given an extra bag of oranges for their loyalty to whoever is in change at the moment (even though they protect thieves and killers, they get to keep their guns and uniforms which gives them their own corrupt layer of power above the masses). Often times these leaders are in place for decades, others not so long but they take what they can while they are there, freely giving bags of oranges to the gangs in black riot gear until the new leader is in place. Corruption (and bags of oranges) flows from the top down. Always.
The Corruption Perception Index ranks 180 countries on the misuse of power for private benefit. The scale ranges from 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (June Cleaver clean). This year, over two-thirds of the countries scored less than 50 this year with the average being 43. Basically, we’re globally fucked (if you didn’t already know). As I said, corruption in many places is now just part of everyday life but the danger isn’t in corruption itself but the destruction of democracy and human rights. Corruption = weak democracy. Weak democracy = death of justice, freedom, opportunity, hope. It’s not a slippery slope it’s the express train straight to hell.
If you are globally aware, and if not put that on your ‘to do’ list please, when you think of Nigeria (you know, the place where the prince needed money he emailed you and in exchange would give you millions upon his departure) being corrupt, does it surprise you? How about Somalia (with a yo, ho, ho, and a trick-a-la-dee-do…)? Can you name the leaders in either country? Then there’s North Korea (Kim Jong-un), Soviet Union (Vlad the Putin), Syria (Ass-ad) and a cornucopia of other countries/leaders throughout the world that would not surprise you at all for being high on the corruption list. We don’t expect much from the ‘bad guys’ so we’re not surprised when they do terrible, inhumane things.
In the last Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2019: Global Scores, what surprised me is where the U.S. was ranked – 24. “We’re number 24, we’re number 24!” I’ve ordered a big foam hand with 24 fingers (and thumb) to show my pride when we can go back to ball parks.
This means there were 23 other countries that were perceived as less corrupt then us. These included the United Arab Emirates (where everything is completely controlled by a federation of absolute monarchies/sheiks) ranked at 21, and Hong Kong (completely controlled by the communist party of the People’s Republic of China) ranked at 19. Denmark took the top spot (cheese makes everything better).
One of the things I want you to understand is that for how many we have sent to die around this world in the name of freedom and democracy, we should be in the number one position – the least corrupt on the planet. Should we not?
When I say it surprised me, I don’t mean I thought we would be much higher on the ‘good guy’ list – I thought we would be much lower. Countries that have more resources are sometimes the most corrupt but possess the resources and experience to bury the corruption many layers down, between political rhetoric and gangs in black riot gear getting their own bags of oranges. It’s an intentional deception from those with the most power that our vote will change anything substantially. Whether it’s Kam, Bernie, Don, Mike, Alexandria, Amy, JoeJoe, Larry, Curley or Moe, their parties don’t matter. The system they operate in is broken, corrupt, greedy and neither mainstream group gives a rat’s ass about you or me and it is designed and protected to stay that way. It is bought, lock, stock and barrel by corporate dollars and their wants are at the top of all legislation. The only way to make the United States the place we want it to be is to remove corporate dollars from political influence.
So what do we do next?
1. Ask those running for office if they will either introduce or support a bill that outlaws corporate money donations to political campaigns.
1. This includes gifts, lunches, vacations, sponsorships…
2. Ask those running for office if they will either introduce or support a bill that outlaws meeting with lobbyists, outside of a public, recorded, published forum where all Americans can review the conversations.
If either of those happen then the elected official should be prosecuted with a heavy fines, jail time and removed from office. Fair? If you ask these questions and they answer no (of course it will be a much longer, twisted, answer in the hopes you forgot the original question by the time they get to the end of nonsensical, deceptive rant), then cast your vote to whomever says “yes.” We cannot allow the status quo in American politics to continue and expect anything to get better for anyone.
Our active duty military has not been called to our streets – yet – and I have the utmost faith that the military leaders would not support that. What I have seen my entire life, is the politicians using law enforcement under the guise of protecting the public when the truth is it’s about protecting them and their financial masters. We must stay vigilant, we must stay awake to see the truth and the ugliness and change it.
The average Nigerian may not have any understanding of what corruption is or how it destroys a democracy. But you do. Fight!
Smoking addiction kills 7 million people every year and has for generations. 50 million? 100 million? The number of dead is inconsequential – it’s the corporate bottom line that matters.
I remember watching in the mid-1990s, seven CEOs of the nation’s largest cigarette manufacturers testified to congress that they didn’t believe cigarettes were addictive. They lied their asses off, and were allowed to lie their asses off by the same congress they were testifying to. “A nod is as good as a wink to a blind bat.” It was just another show, just another hollow chocolate bunny to appear as if congress was truly looking out for the American people. Another day, another lie, another bag of cash in their desk drawers from the tobacco industry.
Meanwhile, their addicts filled hospitals until their damaged lungs could not long process one more breath. Then they died. Globally, tobacco causes more than 7 million death per year. Every year but it also generates over $130 billion dollars, net revenue, a year for those companies and their stock holders. $18,571 for every dead smoker
Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the world. Preventable being the key word but then we get into individual rights. It’s my right to smoke if I want to. Right? That’s the same horseshit excuse used to justify anything the government wants to justify. Let me expand on that a bit more and connect some dots on their pointed little heads.
25 years later and the only thing that has changed in the number of deaths and more money being made. Collectively these cigarette companies generate tens of billions of dollars yearly in revenue and their executives themselves makes tens of millions of dollars in salary with generous golden parachutes while a million Americans die each year of lung cancer from smoking. Not one of the seven CEOs, nor any of their children smoked. Tobacco company executives know they are creating addicts with their products, know they are killing people with their products but they are making a lot of money so why care? The US Government should have outlawed cigarettes (and now vaping) generations ago when studies showed the dangers of smoking. But because they were able to make so much money off of taxing cigarettes, plus the individual campaign contributions, plus all the other perks tobacco lobbyists bring to their congressional puppets.
Tobacco companies spent more than $56 million dollars last year to ensure their product would continue to be on the markets. 280 lobbyists with 221 one of those being revolving door lobbyists (where former government regulators, Congressional staff and even members of Congress taking new jobs with lobbying firms and private sector organizations that, in many cases, they used to oversee). All legal, because they wrote the laws while we were napping.
Health care expenses attributed to smoking-related diseases globally exceeded $400 billion dollars but when combined with productively losses due to illness/missing work or removed from the workforce the economic impact jumps to $1.5 trillion. Heroin isn’t legal and sold in stores and gas stations. Cyanide isn’t next to the aspirin so why do we allow cigarettes to be legal, marketed, easily obtained when we know…we know it’s killing us? Tradition? John Wayne (who died of lung cancer)? Progressing as a society requires these ‘smoker’s rights’ to be reviewed and addressed without the corporate money on the political tables. We always hear how much healthcare costs and how we cannot, as a country, cover everyone but perhaps if we were smarter on preventing illnesses we would find that we can in fact take care of our citizens and help them live a long, productive, non-brown-teeth-stained lives. Perhaps.
Top 20 Members Receiving Tobacco Money Contributions
Holding, George (R-NC)
Kaine, Tim (D-VA)
Tillis, Thom (R-NC)
McCarthy, Kevin (R-CA)
Cole, Tom (R-OK)
Walker, Mark (R-NC)
Aderholt, Robert B (R-AL)
Scalise, Steve (R-LA)
McConnell, Mitch (R-KY)
Rouzer, David (R-NC)
Blackburn, Marsha (R-TN)
Nelson, Bill (D-FL)
Roskam, Peter (R-IL)
Warner, Mark (D-VA)
Yoder, Kevin (R-KS)
Hudson, Richard (R-NC)
Sessions, Pete (R-TX)
McHenry, Patrick (R-NC)
Budd, Ted (R-NC)
Sinema, Kyrsten (D-AZ)
All donations took place during the 2017-2018 election cycle and were released by the Federal Election Commission on Monday, June 10, 2019. Center for Responsive Politics.