Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Money Here, Jobs There

Some say payback is a b_ _ _ _. But for Republicans, it is proving very, very sweet.

In late July, Democrats fell three votes shy, 57-41, of cloture, thereby failing to bring to a vote in the U.S. Senate the Democracy is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections Act. Aside from Majority Leader Reid (who voted against cloture to preserve an opportunity to bring the bill to a vote later) and the absent Joe Lieberman, all Democrats voted in favor of the DISCLOSE Act and all 40 Republicans voted against it. Really, those Republicans did not vote against the bill, but rather against even the effort to allow debate on the measure. In its summary of the DISCLOSE Act, open explained

This is the Democrats' response to the Supreme Courts' recent Citizens United v. FEC ruling. It seeks to increase transparency of corporate and special-interest money in national political campaigns. It would require organizations involved in political campaigning to disclose the identity of the large donors, and to reveal their identities in any political ads they fund. It would also bar foreign corporations, government contractors and TARP recipients from making political expenditures. Notably, the bill would exempt all long-standing, non-profit organizations with more than 500,000 members from having to disclose their donor lists.

Unilateral and unanimous opposition to this legislation attempting to bring transparency to campaign contributions was, as has been the case with much of the GOP's Bring Down The Nation effort, strategically brilliant.

In mid-July, the Dodd-Frank bill passed the Senate 60-39 with the support of only three Republicans. (One Democrat, Wisconsin's Russ Feingold, said that he voted "no" because the bill did not go far enough. Which it didn't.) This financial reform legislation, as The Washington Post described it,

establishes an independent consumer bureau within the Federal Reserve to protect borrowers against abuses in mortgage, credit card and some other types of lending. The legislation also gives the government new power to seize and shut down large, troubled financial companies -- like the failed investment bank Lehman Brothers -- and sets up a council of federal regulators to watch for threats to the financial system.

Under the new rules, the vast market for derivatives, complex financial instruments that helped fuel the crisis, will be subject to government oversight. Shareholders, meanwhile, will gain more say on how corporate executives are paid.

Apparently, Senators Snowe and Collins of Maine and Brown of Massachusetts never got the memo. reports (as indicated by its graph, below)

In both the first and second quarters of this year, the broad finance, insurance and real estate sector has favored Republican candidates and committees in its political giving, a Center for Responsive Politics analysis finds. The same holds true for both the more narrow commercial banking and securities and investment industries., the blog of the pro-Democratic Center for American Progress, found earlier this month

The largest attack campaign against Democrats this fall is being waged by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a trade association organized as a 501(c)(6) that can raise and spend unlimited funds without ever disclosing any of its donors. The Chamber has promised to spend an unprecedented $75 million to defeat candidates like Jack Conway, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Jerry Brown, Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA), and Rep. Tom Perriello (D-VA). As of Sept. 15th, the Chamber had aired more than 8,000 ads on behalf of GOP Senate candidates alone, according to a study from the Wesleyan Media Project. The Chamber’s spending has dwarfed every other issue group and most political party candidate committee spending. A ThinkProgress investigation has found that the Chamber funds its political attack campaign out of its general account, which solicits foreign funding. And while the Chamber will likely assert it has internal controls, foreign money is fungible, permitting the Chamber to run its unprecedented attack campaign. According to legal experts consulted by ThinkProgress, the Chamber is likely skirting longstanding campaign finance law that bans the involvement of foreign corporations in American elections.

In response, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce sent an e-mail to Politico claiming

AmChams are independent organizations and they do not fund political programs in the United States. We have a system in place for ensuring that they are not government-controlled entities.

The Chamber is proud to have global companies among our membership. We’re careful to ensure that we comply with all applicable laws. No foreign money is used to fund political activities.

Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs commented "If I was an enterprising reporter…I might ask the Chamber of Commerce to let me see their donors.” The Chamber has not revealed its donors- remember defeat of the DISCLOSE Act?- and still maintains that the money from foreign sources is kept separate from political activities because it goes to its general fund, then to its international division. (Interestingly, the Chamber refers to "foreign" money- but what if the money is first converted to dollars?)

But, ThinkProgress has listed 83 foreign companies and the annual dues they pay to the Chamber's 501(c)(6)- which it is using to run partisan, anti-Democratic ads in its pursuit of a GOP-controlled Congress.

But, to borrow a cliche from the late Robert F. Kennedy, in the last analysis it is all about jobs. When it announced its (successful) opposition to the Creating American Jobs and End Offshoring Act (crafted to bring jobs back to the U.S.A.), the Chamber of Commerce claimed, increduously, "replacing a job that is based in another country with a domestic job does not stimulate economic growth or enhance the competitiveness of American worldwide companies." Keeping jobs abroad and away from American shores is the real aim of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce- and of Rush Limbaugh, Michelle Malkin, Michelle Bachmann, and the other Republicans who have so vigorously defended it without regard to the facts.

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