In a presidential primary season marked by the rise of "Super PACs" and an explosion of corporate spending in elections, Vermont voters have raised their voices against special interest money in politics. On Super Tuesday, 63 out of a possible 65 towns in Vermont called on Congress to pass a constitutional amendment to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United v. F.E.C. and to address the issue of corporate personhood and money in politics.
The 2010 Citizens United decision, which Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders labeled "one of the worst decisions the Supreme Court has ever handed down," struck down bipartisan clean election laws and declared that Congress could not limit so-called "independent" spending. After Citizens United, the 2010 fall elections were the most expensive in U.S. history, with more spending by outside groups than from the candidates themselves. The 2012 election cycle is on track to be the most expensive yet.
While Mitt Romney came out ahead in New Hampshire, his front-runner status will soon be under the gun by some very deep pockets backing Newt Gingrich.
As previously reported by CMD, over $3 million dollars worth of ads cut by a Super PAC controlled by Mitt Romney's former aides, dropped Gingrich like a stone in Iowa. Gingrich sank from an overconfident front runner, who told ABC's Jake Tapper "I will be the nominee" on December 1, to an embittered candidate who placed fourth in Iowa a short time later.
After ineffectually whining about being totaled by Mitt Romney's "negativity" in the Iowa primary, Newt Gingrich may have decided that revenge is sweeter. A pro-Gingrich Super PAC is preparing to unleash a barrage of negativity on South Carolina voters.
Newt Gingrich's Baggage
The new Super PACs dominating the air wars in Iowa and New Hampshire were unleashed by the Citizens United revision of the First Amendment to allow individuals and corporations to give unlimited amounts of money to influence U.S. elections. Super PAC spending cannot be directly coordinated with a candidate, but provides candidates with an avenue for negative attack ads that they do not have to put their name on. (Numerous groups are calling for amending the Constitution to overturn the decision.)
The most omnipresent ad by the pro-Romney "Restore Our Future" Super PAC led with the line "You know what makes President Obama happy? Newt Gingrich's baggage." It then went on to detail a scorching list of allegations, including that Gingrich was paid $30,000 an hour by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, two organizations that "helped cause the financial crisis."
"I've been Romney-boated," Gingrich complained to the press in Iowa, referring to the ad campaign in 2004 launched by the group, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, that helped sink presidential candidate John F. Kerry. According to the Campaign Media Analysis Group, 45 percent of all TV ads in Iowa have been attack ads against Gingrich, including this no-hold-barred attack by Ron Paul's campaign. (Note that Paul does not hesitate to put his name right on the ad.)
The pro-Mitt Romney Super PAC massively outspent the candidate's official presidential campaign on advertising, reportedly spending $7 million to the candidate's official $5 million so far. While Romney dodged responsibility for the negative ads, Gingrich put is succinctly: "It's very hard to run $3.5 million of negative ads and pretend it's not yours and not have people think you're being dishonest."
"The Man that Destroyed Us"
Now, a pro-Gingrich Super PAC is getting ready to unleash a world of harm on the Romney campaign. According to the New York Times, billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson has cut a $5 million check to the "Winning Our Future" Super PAC. Adelson has long been a Gingrich supporter.
Winning our Future just released a devastating 30 minute film, When Mitt Romney Came to Town, in advance of the South Carolina primary ten days away. The Super PAC has reserved more than $3.4 million in advertising time in the state to air clips of the movie as ads.
The ads and the film claim that as CEO of Bain Capital, a venture capital firm, Romney bought American businesses simply to shut them down. Romney describes his tenure at Bain as one in which he created "100,000 jobs." But the ad characterizes Romney and Bain "as group of corporate raiders ... more ruthless than Wall Street" and intones, "For tens of thousands of Americans, the suffering began when Mitt Romney came to town." A woman put out of work by Bain, characterizes Romney as "the man who destroyed us," a potent message in a country that currently has 25 million unemployed or underemployed citizens.
Gingrich characterized Romney and Bain as "rich people figuring out clever legal ways to loot a company," but Gingrich of course has his own private equity supporters including Blackstone Group and KKR & Co. according to the Boston Globe.
As for the truth of the matter, an old Bain prospectus obtained by the Los Angeles Timesshows a stunning 88 percent average annual rate of return under Romney's leadership. But did the firm earn this money by creating jobs or destroying them? The Washington Post recently gave Romney three Pinocchios for his unsubstantiated job claims.
Following reports that Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman received tens of thousands of dollars of free legal services from the law firm that defended Governor Scott Walker's collective bargaining bill, the District Attorney who brought the original challenge may ask the Court to hear the case again without the justice's participation. Gableman has faced a series of ethical issues since taking office.
This is a guest post by Greg Colvin, partner at the firm Adler and Colvin, originally published at OurFuture.org.
There is a growing movement of people fed up with corporations-as-persons, money-as-speech, elections-for-sale in America. They are ready to amend the US Constitution as the only sure way to reverse the Supreme Court's decisions in Citizens United v. FEC and Buckley v. Valeo. But what's the best amendment? Sanders/Deutch or Udall/Sutton? Move To Amend or Free Speech for People?
Color of Change has launched a campaign encouraging corporations that rely on business from African-Americans to stop funding the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which promotes voter ID legislation that suppresses the black vote.
A federal appellate court has used the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United v. F.E.C. decision to strike down a Wisconsin law limiting how much a person can donate to "independent expenditure" political groups.
The NAACP is calling the wave of Voter ID laws passed in 2011 a "coordinated and comprehensive assault" on the right to vote for people of color and the poor, singling out the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) as the source of the outbreak. The organization is taking its case to the United Nations this week.
Rev. William Barber, President of the NAACP North Carolina State Conference, says "Jim Crow used blunt tools. James Crow, Esquire uses surgical tools, high paid consultants and lawyers to cut out the heart of black political power."
This is a guest op-ed by Greg Colvin, a partner at the firm Adler & Colvin, originally published at OurFuture.org.
As the struggle in the streets intensifies, and Occupy Wall Street refuses to remain silent, it's good to know there are champions in Congress who have stepped up to the challenge of amending the US Constitution. It's called OCCUPIED: Outlawing Corporate Cash Undermining the Public Interest in our Elections and Democracy, here.
This is a guest post on Citizens United by Greg Colvin, who is a partner at the firm Adler & Colvin. It was originally published on OurFuture.org.
We've seen the signs and heard the chants: "Abolish Corporate Personhood!"
I'm very sympathetic to the cause of reducing the power of big business corporations to control our government, our economy, our consumer culture, our society, and our lives. We can't have democracy without a major shift of power into the hands of the people.
But would an amendment to remove all rights of corporations from the US Constitution accomplish that? Would there be unintended consequences?
There are two problems with a constitutional amendment that abolishes corporate personhood. One, it does too much, and two, it does too little.
The effort to recall Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker begins today, and organizers and volunteers are readying their clipboards to begin collecting more than half a million signatures throughout the holiday season. But as volunteers celebrated the launch at midnight "recall-themed" pajama parties, the many challenges ahead were underscored by a deliberate, grinch-like cyber-attack on a key recall website.