Sunday, January 29, 2012

Mitt ‘Tax Haven’ Romney Is The Poster Boy For Economic Inequality

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Mitt Romney must have thought he could run for president without being vetted financially. Or he’s just so steeped in privilege that he had no idea Americans would be upset by revelations that he has millions in offshore accounts that are used primarily by investors in order to avoid paying income tax, even at the lower rate of 15% offered for investment income. Romney’s team denies that he has avoided his tax responsibilities and claims the millions in the Cayman are just there to attract foreign businesses.

Romney is the poster boy of all that’s wrong with the current tax system and indeed, all that Occupy Wall Street is protesting.

It is, after all, the lower investment income tax rates that have helped push America into her current deficit problem. And while Wall Street and Republicans tell working class Americans that they need to share in the sacrifices by giving up their collective bargaining rights, their healthcare and pensions, what they don’t tell you is that they are the problem, not you.

Offshore accounts cost America billions every year in lost revenue. Billions.

ABC News reports:
Tax experts agree that Romney remains subject to American taxes. But they say the offshore accounts have provided him — and Bain — with other potential financial benefits, such as higher management fees and greater foreign interest, all at the expense of the U.S. Treasury. Rebecca J. Wilkins, a tax policy expert with Citizens for Tax Justice, said the federal government loses an estimated $100 billion a year because of tax havens.

Blum, the D.C. tax lawyer, said working through an offshore investment vehicle allows the investor to “avoid a whole series of small traps in the tax code that ordinary people would face if they paid tax on an onshore basis.”

Wilkins agreed, saying the “primary advantage to setting those funds up in an offshore jurisdiction like the Cayman Islands or Bermuda is it helps the investors avoid tax.”
“It helps U.S. investors avoid U.S. tax,” said Wilkins, “it helps foreign investors avoid taxes in their home country, so it’s not illegal or improper to set those funds up in a foreign jurisdiction, but it makes it more attractive to investors because it helps them avoid paying taxes on that income.”
When it comes to shared sacrifices, I think most Americans would agree that the wealthy should at least pay the lower tax rate of 15% on their income. And even that rate is part of the problem that led to the deficit. It was under Bush that the tax code was changed extensively to benefit investors.

Ironically this was sold as a way to encourage investment in American companies and yet Romney’s team is now justifying his Cayman investments as being a good way to attract foreign companies.
Either way you look at it, Mitt Romney is the poster boy for what Republicans stand for and for the economic injustice plaguing Americans today.

As I mentioned last night on Politicus Radio, Romney claimed he paid “about” 15% in taxes.
Listen to Sarah discuss Mitt Romney:

“About” means not quite in Republicanese. And if we factor in his offshore accounts, who knows just how little he actually pays on his income. I also referred to Romney as the poster boy for what’s wrong with our current tax system, and this morning I was delighted to read that Washington tax experts agreed.

This shouldn’t be a partisan issue, but it has become one because the Republican Party has chosen to do and say anything to justify theft from our government in order to benefit the 1%. That they then blame the poor and middle class for our economic woes is morally unconscionable. Republicans have been using the word “entitlement” to denigrate the poor on food stamps and Medicaid, but the truth is that the Republicans have been giving 100′s of billions in entitlements to the 1% and it is this that has contributed to our deficit (along with their unfunded wars). No business would try to operate without revenue or allow the people in charge to steal from it as the wealthy, tax-haven prone have been stealing from our government.

Mitt Romney is the poster boy for the gross economic injustice under which the average American tries to survive. He’s so entitled that he apparently thinks he shouldn’t have to disclose his tax forms for even one year, but now conceded that if we want to see them, he might show them in April, which of course would be after the Republican nomination is sewn up.

Republicans will have to hope that their only electable candidate doesn’t have any major problems on his tax returns and that he using the interim time to adjust the previous year’s filing. Or maybe he’s only going to show us the filing he has yet to complete, in which case he can make good on his campaign’s suggestion that he pays taxes on those millions he has in the Caymans. Remember, Romney has only offered to show us one year of his returns, and that only if we insist. You’re supposed to just trust him. Father knows best and you little peons shouldn’t ask the great job creator/businessman questions about things you can’t understand.

In an election year in which economic justice will be a cornerstone of the campaign for many Americans, Mitt Romney is shaping up to be a disaster for the Republicans. But he’s all they have, unless they want to run Newt the cheater and ethics violator. Meanwhile, poor Rick Santorum was swiftly shown the establishment knife when it turned out that he had won Iowa but the Republican Party has decided to call it a tie, essentially protecting their chosen one, Mitt the Cayman Romney.

Mitt Romney is the 1% of the 1%. He’s so entitled that he doesn’t know that he’s entitled. If he had a clue about what the average American was going through, he would have foreseen this problem and addressed it with amended returns long before it became an issue, but Romney suffers from a bit of Palinese Republicanism; he thinks he gets to determine what we deserve to know and ask of him.

Romney is going to serve as the perfect foil against President Obama’s consistent calls for economic fairness and in so doing, will draw attention to the vast ways our system is set up to benefit the 1%.

Romney Team Spins of the Positives of Cayman Island Accounts

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By  Anne Landman

Mitt Romney's 2010 tax returns show that in 2010, Romney and his wife, Ann, paid an effective tax rate of 13.9 percent on $21.6 million in income -- much lower than the 35 percent the country's top wage-earners pay -- and hold millions of dollars in multiple offshore accounts in the Cayman Islands, a notorious tax haven. The official spin is that the Cayman accounts provide no particular tax advantage, that they pay higher interest rates and help "attract foreign investors." Romney's campaign counsel, Ben Ginsburg, assured journalists that Romney was in full compliance with U.S. tax laws, and Brad Malt, who operates the Romneys' blind trust, said Romney's Cayman funds are fully taxable and reported to the IRS. That may be so, but Rebecca Wilkins, a tax policy expert with Citizens for Tax Justice, points out that the federal government loses about $100 billion a year to just such foreign tax havens. Wilkins affirmed that the primary advantage to investors of setting up funds in places like the Cayman Islands is to help people avoid taxes. Jack Blum, a Washington, D.C. attorney who specializes in offshore banking and tax enforcement, said offshore investment vehicles allow investors to "avoid a whole series of small traps in the tax code that ordinary people would face if they paid tax on an onshore basis."

The real Romney tax return scandal – It’s all legal

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By Matthew Westfall

In this tough economic environment, former Massachusetts Governor and GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney has shown an inability to relate to voters on their financial struggles and fears.

Experts have analyzed Romney’s communication strategies and rhetoric, questioning his struggles in identifying with voters and their financial concerns.

The real answer is obvious — Romney has no financial struggles or fears.

After enduring weeks of criticism from GOP challengers and the media alike, Romney finally released his tax returns Tuesday — all two years’ worth, providing only a partial snapshot to his vast personal wealth.

Romney chose not to follow the example of his father, who, as a presidential candidate in 1968, released 12 years of returns.

The release of Romney’s tax returns revealed no surprises. Romney’s personal finances only reinforce him as a poster child of what’s wrong with the American tax system.

The disclosure shows Romney had an adjusted gross income of $21.6 million in 2010 and an estimated $20.9 million in 2011, largely all of it profits, dividends or interest from investments.
No income was reported from earned wages, as Romney collected millions in capital gains from a myriad of investments, as well as stock dividends and interest payments.

In 2010, Romney and his wife, Ann, paid about $3 million in federal taxes to the IRS on their adjusted gross income, for an effective tax rate of 13.9 percent. And for 2011, Romney estimates he will pay about $3.2 million, for an effective rate of 15.4 percent — significantly lower than rates paid by President Obama and Romney’s biggest GOP challenger, Newt Gingrich.

How can this be possible? Very simple.

Romney has taken advantage of tax loopholes that are a direct reflection of the archaic American tax system.

The most glaring loophole in current law that Romney has taken advantage of is the treatment of “carried interest.”

Romney and his wife earned $7.4 million in so-called carried interest in 2010 and $5.5 million in 2011, reflecting his share of profits from the private equity firm Bain Capital, which he co-founded in 1984 and retired from in 1999.

That money is currently taxed at the rate normally reserved for long-term capital gains — the 15 percent top capital gains rate rather than the 35 percent top rate for ordinary income earned by people providing personal services.

Managers of private equity funds, such as Bain Capital, don’t receive a salary but take a percentage of the fund’s profits, which is taxed as capital gains at 15 percent, even though it’s a personal service.
In an interview with ABC, Rebecca Wilkins, senior counsel for federal tax policy at Citizens for Tax Justice, noted “most of the income is capital gains, which comes through Bain, all of which is probably carried interest.”

The unethical matter is that the carried interest should be taxed at the rates which normally apply to earned income, which tops out at 35 percent. If Romney’s carried interest income in the last two years had been taxed at that higher rate, he would have owed about $4.8 million in federal taxes, almost $2.6 million more than under the current tax code.

Romney’s investments in foreign entities, some located in Luxembourg, Ireland and the Cayman Islands, are all famous tax havens. Bain Capital, as well as Romney’s individual retirement account, have significant holdings in funds based in the Caymans and other low-tax countries to take advantage of these loopholes.

These offshore accounts have provided Romney and Bain Capital with various potential financial benefits, such as higher management fees and greater foreign interest, all at the expense of the U.S. Treasury.

Many of the steps that Romney has taken in his returns are measures that are effectively available only to the wealthy, which brings to light just how crooked the American tax code is.
The progressive ideals that the tax code was designed under — the more you earn, the more you are supposed to pay — have carried no weight with millionaires such as Romney.

And while Romney slithers his way to personal tax breaks, the middle class foots the bill.
If Romney were elected president, the media would have far more to talk about than an election outcome — most notably, the death of the middle class.

On Social Security, Romney Just as Dangerous as Other GOP Candidates

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By Scott Hochberg

No matter how fatigued the rest of the country is with the endless Republican debate schedule, Mitt Romney must be looking forward to tonight’s face-off in New Hampshire. Despite reports that he is losing ground in some states to Herman Cain and others, Romney knows he has nothing to fear in New Hampshire. Pundits expect him to continue his above-the-fray act while letting his challengers duke it out for King-of-the-Right-Wing. That the media has latched onto this narrative so tightly is disappointing, since even a glance at the candidates’ records shows them often to be apples from the same tree, differing more in rhetoric than actual substance. Case in point: Social Security.

Romney has repeatedly claimed that he is the man to “save Social Security,” insisting that the real danger to the program would come through turning the program into a “Perry scheme.” Yet the policy differences between Romney and Perry are actually not so deep. While Romney does not refer to Social Security explicitly as a Ponzi scheme (Perry’s language), he does compare it to a “criminal fraud,” and suggests if a bank account had been managed in the same way as Social Security, those bankers should go to prison.

Romney has also supported the creation of private retirement accounts, both in years past (when the public was busy rejecting that idea in 2005) and even today, though he is more careful about his language these days. In his book written just last year, he wrote that “individual retirement accounts would encourage more American to invest in the private sector that powers our economy.” And the last time he was running for President, he endorsed President Bush’s push for privatized accounts as a “good idea.” What’s more, Romney would also consider raising the retirement age and means testing Social Security as a way to close the program’s modest shortfall. Romney is full of ideas which may sound reasonable, but are at their base are fundamental, structural changes to Social Security.

Some have doubted the fairness of attacking Romney for statements made four years ago, or even of citing sections from his book to make those claims. After all, he’s evolved as a candidate since then – maybe his views have changed, right? But Romney himself doesn’t play by those rules. He often quotes verbatim from Gov. Perry’s book to score points on Social Security; why isn’t it legitimate for him to be confronted in the same way? Also, Romney’s book in which he airs out many of his policy ideas was published in 2010 as a campaign manifesto, clearly intended to be the platform for his Presidential bid. If that isn’t fair game, what is?

Don’t be fooled by all the maneuvering on Social Security that will no doubt happen tonight and in future debates. As much as Romney wants to play Social Security’s savior to Perry’s menace, the truth is that there’s really not much separating the two at all.

Mitt Romney Has Consistently Supported The Privatization Of Social Security

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By Travis Waldron

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) set aside his front-running strategy at last night’s Republican presidential debate, attacking the race’s new front-runner, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, on a variety of issues, including Perry’s repeated assertions that Social Security is a “Ponzi scheme” that won’t exist for younger Americans. In his 2009 book, Perry also questioned the constitutionality of Social Security, another issue with which Romney’s campaign took exception.

After the debate, Romney campaign adviser Stuart Stevens told reporters that Perry’s desire to “abolish Social Security” was a “disqualifying position.” But in 2007, when Romney was also campaigning for the Republican nomination for president, he supported his own radical change, repeatedly advocating for the privatization of Social Security, a plan pushed by Republicans and former President George W. Bush that failed in 2005.

At one debate, Romney was asked where he stood on privatization. Regarding Bush’s plan, Romney said, “That works“:
ROMNEY: Currently, we’re taking more money into Social Security that we actually send out. So our current seniors, their benefits are not going to change. For people 20 and 30 and 40 years old, we have four major options, for instance, for Social Security. One is the one Democrats want: raise taxes. It’s the wrong way to go.

Number two, the president said let’s have private accounts and take that surplus money that’s being gathered now in Social Security and put that into private accounts. That works.
But Romney’s support of private accounts was hardly a one-time utterance at a single debate. Throughout that campaign, he touted the plan:
June 2007: When a college student asked Romney how he, as president, planned to solidify Social Security’s future, he endorsed private accounts: “One thing that the president proposed [on Social Security] that is a good idea is to take some of that money, or all of that surplus money and allow people to have a personal account. So they can invest in things that have a higher rate of return than just government debt. They can invest in things like our stock market or the world’s stock market…so that they can get a better return, and maybe that would make up for some of the shortfall. That’s a good idea.”

October 2007: At a town hall, Romney said there were “two major paths” lawmakers could take to shore up Social Security. The first, he said, was “to raise taxes on people, which I don’t want to do. And the other is to allow some portion of people’s money that they’re now having taken out of their salaries to be invested in Social Security.” When an attendee told him his plan was “privatization,” Romney replied, “You call it privatization. I call it a private account.”
Romney did not abandon his support for privatization when his first presidential campaign ended. On page 160 of his book, No Apology, published in 2010, Romney again hinted at support for privatization:
“Individual retirement accounts offer a fourth option, one that would allow today’s wage earners to direct a portion of their Social Security tax to a private account rather than go entirely to pay the benefits of current retirees, as is the case today. [...] Owners of these individual accounts would invest in a combination of stocks and bonds and – presuming these investments paid a higher rate of return than new treasuries – the return on these investments would boost the payments to seniors. I also like the fact the individual retirement accounts would encourage more Americans to invest in the private sector that powers our economy.”
What is shocking about Romney’s embrace of private accounts in his book is that it was published after a financial crisis that would have devastated retirement accounts for millions of Americans had the push for privatization succeeded. According to a Center for American Progress analysis, an October 2008 retiree would have lost $26,000 in a private Social Security account, and that report was done before the market bottomed out in 2009. Millions of Americans who already save in some sort of private account — a 401(k), for instance — lost nearly everything in the crisis, and Social Security is the only source of retirement income they have left. Yet Romney still offered privatization as a potential “fix” for the program, acknowledging but ignoring the easiest way to make Social Security solvent for the next 75 years.

Perry’s position that Social Security is unconstitutional is without a doubt, as veteran GOP strategist Karl Rove put it, “toxic.” But the argument Romney’s campaign has pushed is that by taking a position Americans don’t support, Perry is unelectable and incapable of beating President Obama in a general election. That stance, however, ignores Romney’s own support for a radical position that has been repeatedly proposed by Republicans and subsequently rejected by the American people.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Koch brothers not fooling America

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By Dave Starr

In his recent letter, Joseph Schillmoeller got one thing right: Americans aren’t being fooled anymore. The rest of his letter misses. The Keystone XL Pipeline has Big Oil and union support but is an environmental disaster (think of fracking and the Gulf of Mexico disaster). A huge water supply lies under the proposed pipeline, and the floor of the Gulf is dead forever. Nothing will ever live there again.

Saying that the majority of union dues goes to Democratic candidates is absurd. All private sector unions together will not donate anything close to the Koch brothers’ payments to their Republican puppets through Karl Rove.

Union members get to vote on a portion of their dues going to political parties. Do you really think the Koch brothers allow their employees to vote on their payments to Republicans?

The biggest omission is what the Republicans demanded in return for passing the one-year tax break. They wanted to add a two-year wage freeze on all federal workers in addition to the two-year freeze in place passed by President Barack Obama. They wanted to lay off hundreds of thousands of federal workers. I realize that federal workers don’t matter to Republicans, nor do other groups like the poor, disabled, elderly, blacks, immigrants, Latinos and many others.

It’s amazing how many people Republicans pretend don’t exist.

Eleven Shocking Facts About Campaign Finance

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By George Zornick

It’s been two years since the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, allowing a torrent of secret money to flow into the political process.

To be clear, the corrupting influence of big money was distorting the democratic process for years before that decision. But it unquestionably made the problem worse, exacerbating both the volume and secrecy of campaign donations.

Here’s eleven disturbing facts about the extent to which money is playing an increasing role in our politics:
    The amount of independent expenditure and electioneering communication spending by outside groups has quadrupled since 2006. [Center for Responsive Politics]
    The percentage of spending coming from groups that do not disclose their donors has risen from 1 percent to 47 percent since the 2006 mid-term elections. [Center for Responsive Politics]
    Campaign receipts for members of the House of Representatives totaled $1.9 billion in 2010—up from $781 million in 1998. [Committee for Economic Development]
    Outside groups spent more on political advertising in 2010 than party committees—for the first time in at least two decades. [Center for Responsive Politics]
    A shocking 72 percent of political advertising by outside groups in 2010 came from sources that were prohibited from spending money in 2006. [Committee for Economic Development]
    In 2004, 97.9 percent of outside groups disclosed their donors. In 2010, 34.0 percent did. [Committee for Economic Development]
    In 2010, the US Chamber of Commerce spent $31,207,114 in electioneering communications. The contributions for which it disclosed the donors: $0. [Committee for Economic Development]
    Only 26,783 Americans donated more than $10,000 to federal campaigns in 2010—or, about one in 10,000 Americans. Their donations accounted for 24.3 percent of total campaign donations. [Sunlight Foundation]
    Average donation from that elite group was $28,913. (The median individual income in America is $26,364) [Sunlight Foundation]
    Amount the Karl Rove–led Crossroads GPS says it will spend on the 2012 elections: $240 million. [On the Media]
    Amount that President Obama has raised from the financial sector already for his 2012 re-election: $15.6 million [Washington Post]

How Fox News Is Destroying the Republican Party

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By Eric Boehler

Wannabe kingmaker Roger Ailes is facing an open revolt.

More and more despondent conservatives are expressing alarm over the unfolding Republican primary season and what they see as the party's dwindling chances of defeating President Obama in November. Spooked at the general elections prospects facing frontrunners Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich (especially Gingrich), members of the so-called Republican Establishment seem to want to reboot the election season and try their nominating luck again.

Sorry, it's too late.

If the current state of concern transforms into a larger, enveloping blame game, Fox News chairman Ailes ought be a looming target. True, conservatives in recent years have shown virtually no interest in critiquing, let alone trying to rein in, Ailes' empire. Still, it's becoming increasingly clear that Fox's programming and the radical, fear-based agenda it's setting for Republicans is now doing lasting damage to the Grand Old Party.

That's because Fox News isn't simply offering a rightward take on the day's events, or innocently providing Republican-friendly commentary, of course. It's leading an exhausting, day-in, day-out attack campaign against Obama, Democrats and all their liberal allies. (Real or imagined.) Its relentless, paranoid crusade falls well outside the mainstream of American politics, which is why the Republican primary season, so proudly sponsored by Fox News, is shaping up to be such an embarrassment.

Make no mistake, kingmaker Ailes has made sure his channel's profoundly un-serious stamp permeates this year's GOP contest. For more and more spooked Republicans though, it's a stamp of failure and looming defeat.

For Ailes and company, that slash-and-burn formula works wonders in terms of super-serving its hardcore, hard-right audience of three million viewers. But in terms of supporting a serious, national campaign and a serious, national conversation? It's not working. At all.

As Fox News has moved in and essentially replaced the RNC as the driving electoral force in Republican politics today, and with Ailes ensconced in his kingmaker role, candidates have had to bow down to Fox in search of votes and the channel's coveted free airtime. That means campaigns have been forced to become part of the channel's culture of personal destruction, as well as its signature self-pity.

The truth is, the Republican Establishment all but ceded control of the party, or at least the public face of the party, to Fox News (and Rush Limbaugh) in January, 2009. Party leaders, demoralized by John McCain's electoral landslide defeat, faded into the background and obediently followed Fox News' often-hysterical lead as Rupert Murdoch's cable channel unveiled an unprecedented effort to demonize and delegitimize the newly elected president. (In the Fox-led world, it's conventional wisdom that Obama's a foreign, race-baiting Marxist who undermines Israel and is determined to destroy the American way of life.)

With Fox News at the irresponsible helm, the conservative movement in America, including the emerging Tea Party, became first and foremost a media movement, and one that gleefully cut ties with common sense and decency. (See: Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh.)

As blogger Andrew Sullivan noted this week:
The Republican Establishment is Rush Limbaugh, Roger Ailes, Karl Rove, and their mainfold products, from Hannity to Levin. They rule on the talk radio airwaves and on the GOP's own "news" channel, Fox.
With media outlets setting the conservative agenda, as well as raising campaign funds and boosting GOP candidates, it was Fox News that quickly transformed itself into the Opposition Party. It was Roger Ailes who, officially or unofficially, began to wear two hats: Program Director at Fox News, Chairman of the RNC.

In terms of whipping up bouts of anti-Obama hysteria, the crass Fox approach enjoyed some short-term success. However, that same media movement is now three long and rhetorically repetitive years into its Obama crusade and trying to nominate a presidential candidate via an extended national campaign. According to more and more worried conservatives, the results on display are disastrous.

Of course, conservatives should have thought that through before handing over the reigns to Ailes and his misinformation minions. Indeed, none of this is unexpected. It's all entirely predictable. It's what happens when a mainstream political movement embraces a radical media strategy like the one being promoted by Fox News; the movement marches itself off a cliff.

Conservative leaders themselves have freely adopted Fox News' profoundly un-unprofessional rhetoric about Obama, claiming just this week he's "pro-poverty" and his politics are "almost un-American." That's the Fox-ification of the GOP.

As Andrew Sullivan noted this week, the current GOP "purges dissidents, it vaunts total loyalty, it polices discourse for any deviation." That sounds a lot like Fox News.

Two years ago, despondent conservative and former Bush speechwriter David Frum, noting the sweeping power that Ailes was accumulating, observed that, "Republicans originally thought that Fox worked for us, and now we are discovering we work for Fox."

As the Republican primary unfolds, I wonder if more and more poll-weary conservatives would like to fire their new boss.

We must stop this corporate takeover of American democracy

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By Bernie Sanders

Unless we can reverse the supreme court's dreadful Citizens United decision, US politics will become a plutocrats' plaything

The corporate barbarians are through the gate of American democracy. Not satisfied with their all-pervasive influence on our culture, economy and legislative processes, they want more. They want it all.

Two years ago, the United States supreme court betrayed our Constitution and those who fought to ensure that its protections are enjoyed equally by all persons regardless of religion, race or gender by engaging in an unabashed power-grab on behalf of corporate America. In its now infamous decision in the Citizens United case, five justices declared that corporations must be treated as if they are actual people under the Constitution when it comes to spending money to influence our elections, allowing them for the first time to draw on the corporate checkbook – in any amount and at any time – to run ads explicitly for or against specific candidates.

What's next … a corporate right to vote?

Don't laugh. Just this month, the Republican National Committee filed an amicus brief in a US appeals court contending that the natural extension of the Citizens United rationale is that the century-old ban on corporate contributions directly to candidates and political parties is similarly unconstitutional. They want corporations to be able to sponsor candidates and parties directly while claiming with a straight face this would not result in any sort of corruption. And while, this month, they take no issue with corporations being subject to the existing contribution limits, anyone paying attention knows that eliminating such caps will be corporate America's next prize in its brazen ambition for absolute control over our elections.

The US Constitution has served us very well, but when the supreme court says, for purposes of the first amendment, that corporations are people, that writing checks from the company's bank account is constitutionally-protected speech and that attempts by the federal government and states to impose reasonable restrictions on campaign ads are unconstitutional, our democracy is in grave danger.

I am a proud sponsor of a number of bills that would respond to Citizens United and begin to get a handle on the problem. But something more needs to be done – something more fundamental and indisputable, something that cannot be turned on its head by a rightwing supreme court.

That is why I have introduced a resolution in the Senate (introduced by Representative Ted Deutch in the House) calling for an amendment to the US Constitution that says simply and straightforwardly what everyone – except five members of the United States supreme court – understands: corporations are not people with constitutional rights equal to flesh-and-blood human beings. Corporations are subject to regulation by the people. Corporations may not make campaign contributions – the law of the land for the last century – or dump unlimited sums of money into our elections. And Congress and states have broad power to regulate all election spending.

I did not introduce this lightly. In fact, I have never sought to amend the Constitution before. The US Constitution is an extraordinary document that, in my view, should not be amended often. In light of the supreme court's Citizens United decision, however, I see no alternative. The ruling has radically changed the nature of our democracy. It has further tilted the balance of power toward the rich and the powerful at a time when the wealthiest people in this country have never had it so good.

At a time when corporations have more than $2tn in cash in their bank accounts, make record-breaking profits and swarm Washington with their lobbyists 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for the highest court in the land to suggest that there is just not enough corporate "speech" in our system defies the bounds of reason and sanity. The ruling already has led to plans, for example, by industrialist brothers David and Charles Koch to steer more than $200m – potentially much more – to conservative groups ahead of election day 2012. Karl Rove has similar designs.

Does anybody really believe that that is what American democracy is supposed to be about?
I believe that the Citizens United decision will go down as one of the worst in our country's history – and one that demands an amendment to our Constitution in order to restore sovereign power to the people, as our nation's founders intended.

If we do not reverse it and the culture of corporate dominance over our elections that it has exacerbated, there will be no end to the impact that corporate interests have on our campaigns and our democracy.

Two Years Later: Showdown With 'Citizens United'

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By Katrina vanden Heuvel

On December 30, the Montana Supreme Court delivered a New Year’s gift to the nation, upholding a century-old ban on corporate political expenditures in state elections. The decision has gone underreported amidst the hoopla of the Republican primaries—even as Super PAC spending skyrockets and there is an emerging understanding of its corrosive impact—but the Montana case sets up the first direct challenge to the disastrous Citizens United decision as we approach its second anniversary.

Free Speech For People—a national nonpartisan campaign challenging the fabrication of corporate rights under the US Constitution—filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the Montana case. It led a coalition that included the American Sustainable Business Council, a network of more than 70,000 businesses across the country; the American Independent Business Alliance; and a local supermarket business and nonprofit corporation.

Jeff Clements is the author of the coalition’s brief. Co-founder and general counsel of Free Speech, Clements did two stints as assistant attorney general in Massachusetts, litigating in the areas of civil rights, environmental protection, healthcare, insurance and financial services, antitrust and consumer protection, and taking on the tobacco industry. He’s also the author of a new book, Corporations Are Not People: Why They Have More Rights Than You Do and What You Can Do About It. This is a book that anyone who cares about taking back our democracy of, by and for the people must check out.

Clements tells a vivid story of how some of the largest corporations organized to take over our government and Constitution, culminating with the Citizens United decision. He also lays out a vision of how we can return democracy to the people.

As Bill Moyers notes in the book’s Foreword, this isn’t the first time a Supreme Court has served as a “procorporate conservative fortress”: in 1905 it killed a New York state law limiting working hours, and a prohibition against child labor about a decade later; it ruled against a minimum wage law in 1923, and early New Deal recovery acts in 1935 and 1936.

“But in the face of such discouragement, embattled citizens refused to give up,” writes Moyers. “Every day citizens researched the issues, organized public events to educate their neighbors, held rallies, made speeches, petitioned and canvassed, marched and exhorted. They would elect the twentieth century-governments that restored ‘the general welfare’ as a pillar of American democracy.”

Clements book, writes Moyers, describes “how to fight back”—as our forebears have done so many times before—in this case, through a constitutional amendment declaring what Clements calls “the simplest of propositions: corporations are not people.” (Clements also calls for corporate accountability, and corporate charter and election law reform, including increased public funding.)
Citizens United is a corporate power case masquerading as a free speech case,” writes Clements. “We do not have to live with this. We can put the American project back together.”

Campaigns for constitutional amendments demand patience and a great deal of tenacity, since they must first secure supermajority support from both houses of Congress and then win ratification by three-quarters of the states. But as Maryland State Senator Jamin Raskin, professor of constitutional law and the First Amendment at American University’s Washington College of Law, says, “American citizens have repeatedly amended the Constitution to defend democracy when the Supreme Court acts in collusion with democracy’s enemies, whether they are slavemasters, imposing poll taxes on voters or the opponents of woman suffrage.”

It’s a long haul, and groups working towards that end—including Public Citizen, the Center for Media and Democracy, Move to Amend, Common Cause, People For the American Way and others—would be smart to agree on exactly what the amendment’s language is and make it simple, clear, and appealing. After all, it’s tough to organize a united front around the country when there are multiple versions of the same amendment.

Raskin and some of his colleagues in the Maryland General Assembly are sending a letter to Congress urging that it swiftly pass a constitutional amendment and send it out to the states for ratification. Lawmakers and activists will rally in front of the State House on Thursday to ask that every Assembly member sign on. The hope is that this effort will kick off a national movement at the state level to press the amendment case.

Other local jurisdictions are also pursuing that strategy, including the city councils of Los Angeles, Oakland, New York, Albany, Duluth and Boulder, which have all passed resolutions opposing Citizens United. In Congress, a number of representatives have introduced resolutions seeking a constitutional remedy, including: Donna Edwards; Senator Tom Udall and Representative Betty Sutton; Representative Ted Deutsch and Senator Bernie Sanders; Representative Jim McGovern; Representative John Yarmuth and Republican Representative Walter Jones; Representative Keith Ellison and others. Kudos to these senators and congressmen for their good proposals, and—as with the pro-democracy advocacy organizations—the more they are able to agree on the language of an amendment, the more easily citizens will be able to rally around it.

But as undisclosed corporate money continues to flood our elections and drown out the voices of ordinary Americans, it’s important to remember that we need to walk and chew gum at the same time, and not solely focus on the amendment fight. That means building on successful public campaign financing systems already on the books in places like Arizona, Connecticut, Maine and North Carolina, bringing those models to other states. In Congress, the Fair Elections Now Act would allow federal candidates to run for office without relying on Big Money as well—force Republicans and conservative Democrats to go on record opposing it, and if it eventually passes and the Supreme Court shoots it down that will only galvanize the public.

With the Montana Supreme Court decision and public anger toward a political and economic system devoted to serving the 1 percent, this is a moment to dig in and organize for a cleaner, more democratic way. On January 20 and 21 activists across the country are organizing to protest Citizens United and urge a constitutional amendment. Will you join in the effort?

How Can Ordinary People Fight Citizens United?

Original Link:

By Bill Moyers

Many of you have asked what you can do to fight back. Here are some thoughts. First, take yourself seriously as an agent of change. The Office of Citizen remains the most important in the country.

Second, remember, there’s strength in numbers. Find others like you in your neighborhood, apartment building, community – and act together. The old African proverb is still true, “If you want to walk fast, walk alone; if you want to walk far, walk together.”

They’re proving this, for example, in Missoula, Montana. Last November, by a majority of 75 percent people voted to call on the state legislature and congress to approve an amendment to the United States Constitution. It says it loud and clear, “Corporations are not human beings and do not have the same rights as citizens.” That same month, voters in Boulder, Colorado, approved a similar measure by a similar big margin. And two counties in Wisconsin have voted by whopping majorities to call for, quote, "An end to corporate personhood…" and "The legal status of money as speech."

Don’t worry if you’re called naíve. Don't worry about cynics who mock you or fatalists who declare that a constitutional amendment is impossible. That’s nonsense. We’ve amended the constitution 27 times in our history. Back in 1971, the amendment to lower the voting age to 18 was the quickest to be ratified in U.S history, four months following its passage by Congress. And after 13 years without a drink, in 1933, Americans okayed the amendment to repeal prohibition faster than a saloon’s swinging door.

So look around for organizations you can join or contact for information. There’s a national coalition already at work named Move to Amend it’s called and a group leading the fight called And see you here next time.

Super PAC ads give wealthy loud voice in campaigns

Original Link:


Four years ago, candidate Barack Obama reshaped the presidential campaign by raising more money from donors who gave less than $200 than any candidate in history.

But analysts say the 2012 campaign will be dominated by wealthy corporations, unions and individuals who can anonymously spend as much as they want in favor of a candidate - thanks to how the Supreme Court decided the Citizens United case two years ago today.

The decision gave birth to a new type of political action committee, the super PAC. As thousands of Occupy Wall Street demonstrators in San Francisco and elsewhere protested the ruling Friday, analysts said it is enabling wealthy interests to be able to shape the political system like never before.
The millions of dollars spent fueling this winter's bloodbath of attack ads in the Republican presidential primary is probably just a sneak preview of a stream of ham-fisted political advertising expected this year - all the way down to congressional races. The super PAC war could be especially intense in California, where a redrawing of the state's political districts has put formerly safe congressional seats into play.

Through organizations with names like Winning Our Future, wealthy interests can furtively fund the type of nasty TV ads that torpedoed then-surging Newt Gingrich before the Iowa caucuses and later carpet-bombed South Carolinians with commercials calling Mitt Romney a job-killing "corporate raider" when he led the Bain Capital private equity firm.

At the same time, presidential aspirants can claim that they had nothing to do with the attacks because the presidential campaigns can't legally communicate with the super PACs doing the dirty work.
Still, the super PACs in favor of Gingrich and Romney are run by the candidates' former top associates, political pros familiar with their thinking and strategy. Plus, nothing is stopping the candidates from raising money for a super PAC that supports them.

In South Carolina, where today's GOP primary will be held, super PACs spent $6.9 million, while the campaigns of five major candidates spent a total of $5.4 million, according to the nonprofit Public Citizen.

The political carnage has so far been accomplished by just a handful of super PACs, which have spent $30 million to date, according to federal campaign filings. Nearly 300 super PACs from across the political spectrum have formed and are idling, waiting to spend untold millions.
Once it is clear who the Republican presidential nominee is, analysts said super PACs supporting Obama will kick into action.

"You will not be able to turn on a TV and not see political advertising," said Bill Allison, editorial director of the Sunlight Foundation, a nonpartisan group that aims to make government more transparent.

"It will be a sewer," warned Palo Alto Democratic Rep. Anna Eshoo, who has been at the forefront of urging Obama to sign an order that would require corporations doing business with the federal government to disclose their donors. He's balked.

Congressional races

Neither Obama, who could raise up to $1 billion for his re-election, nor the Republican nominee will have problems rustling cash or media attention. But the super PACs also could vastly increase spending in congressional races.

"Where I think you'll have a bigger impact are in the Senate and House races, where you'll see the super PACs raise more than the candidates lifted," said Richard Briffault, a professor of law at Columbia University and a campaign finance expert. "And you're going to see it sooner than ever before."

In Southern California, three super PACs are backing Rep. Howard Berman, a Democrat who is locked in a tough, redistricting-inspired battle against Rep. Brad Sherman, also a Democrat, for a San Fernando Valley House seat.

Some analysts predict that political ads this year could be as tough as in 2004, which is best remembered for hard-hitting ads from the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. The independent group ran ads saying Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry was "unfit to serve" because he distorted his war service.
Federal law then barred such groups from directly advocating for or against Kerry. Citizens United changed that.

Now, "it's whoever has the biggest benefactor wins," said Kate CoyneMcCoy, executive director of the National Coalition for Accountability in Political Spending, a nonpartisan group.

Gingrich's campaign was in tatters after the Iowa caucus. But then his longtime friend and political donor, billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, contributed $5 million to a super PAC supporting Gingrich so the former House Speaker could make it to New Hampshire, where he finished fourth, and South Carolina, where polls say he has a shot to win.

Under current election rules, Adelson could give only $5,000 directly to Gingrich's campaign.

Free speech issue?

One of Citizens United's defenders said the ruling expands free speech rights. Now, if you want to say something directly about a candidate, you can spend as much as you want doing it.

"A lot of people don't want to give money to a political party because they may not agree with everything the party says," said Steve Simpson, an attorney who argued vs. FEC, a lower-court ruling decided two months after Citizens United that allowed independent groups to accept unlimited contributions from an individual.

Over the next few days, several organizations will be discussing ways to reform the system, from a constitutional amendment to increasing disclosure requirements. But while there is doomsday talk about the impact of Citizens United, Congress and the White House have done little so far to change it.

"We're disappointed," said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen, "at how the president and Congress haven't led on this."

Koch Brothers – The Evil Thing

Original Link:


The Koch brothers, for those of you who don’t know, were the driving force and the financiers of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. A decision where the court found that money = free speech, and corporations = people so not allowing corporations to spend corporate money freely in our elections was abridging their right to “free speech”. Yes, corporations are protected under the First Amendment so they can buy our elections.

The Koch brothers are also the ones who financed and promoted the fake grassroots group, the “Tea Party”; or as everyone else calls them an “astroturf group”. Without the Koch brothers financing them, (renting buses to bring people to the rallies and providing them food), and FOX News’ heavy promoting of them, the so-called Tea Party would not exist. The group was made up out of thin air by the Koch brothers and FOX News. Then they found people to stock the Tea Party; mostly the far right wing or as it used to be known, “the John Birch Society wing”. These people used to be pariahs in the Republican Party because their views were too extreme. It shows you how far to the right the Republican Party has moved when they are embracing those they used to shun. Not only embracing, but taking direction from as well.

This is the second little video, (The first video is here “I’d Like To Buy the World…”) that was modeled after the “I would like to buy the world a Coke” commercial, which was taken from the song, “I would like to teach the world to sing”. All very complicated. :-)
Koch Brothers; The Evil Thing:


Are the Koch brothers teaching you?

Original Link:

By Robert Greenwald

What’s happening to academia in Florida demands national attention. Billionaires Charles and David Koch are infringing on intellectual freedom and independence in colleges and universities. It’s an old fashioned quid pro quo where the Koch brothers get allied professors who’ll preach Ayn Rand, supply side economic policies and the values of the 19th century Guilded Age to students and the college gets some funding.

Every year, thousands of individuals move through the Koch-supported classes, lectures and fields of study, which in their totality amount to an ideological assembly line bought and paid for by the Koch brothers. There are Koch-funded agreements at more than 150 American colleges and universities.
“The Koch brothers have paid tens of millions of dollars to get their point of view instilled in classrooms, amongst faculty members and in students,” said Cary Nelson, President of the American Association of University Professors. “Programs they start tend to be one point of view only.”

Help us expose the Kochs by tweeting and asking our friend Ed Schultz to expose the Koch brothers’ psycho talk!

The Koch brothers’ business has annual revenue that are about 200 times the size ($100 billion) in one year than the entirety of Florida State University’s endowment ($423 million). At a time when governors like Florida Gov. Rick Scott are slashing spending on education, colleges and universities are virtually forced into restrictive and ideological funding agreements with questionable sources to meet students’ demands. Instead, they’re meeting the Koch brothers needs and the students are paying the intellectual price.

Enter the Charles Koch Charitable Foundation, which has given more than $14.39 million in grants to universities like Florida State, Auburn, Clemson, West Virginia and Utah State. All five campuses are in financial agreements with Koch-supported groups requiring the university to hire candidates who adhere to defined ideological guidelines. In some cases, the Koch-supported groups recommend candidates to the faculty or have sway over the college’s hiring committee.

Conflicts of interest of this magnitude cannot be ignored, and Florida State students and professors didn’t swallow the Koch agreement willingly. There was an uproar on campus when the Koch brothers began infringing on academic freedom.

A campaign to organize the campus against the Koch brothers and wealthy so-called “philanthropists” who seek to use their wealth to influence academia is under way. Student leaders are fanning out across Tallahassee to organize against the Koch brothers and their ilk who would infringe on academic independence if given the chance. If the students are successful, they’ll have earned enough support to take action against the Koch brothers’ influence.

Their work deserves national exposed. We can do our part if we all tweet @ Ed Schultz and ask expose the Koch brothers’ psycho talk.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Koch Brothers Financed 'Research' Institute Steps Up Misleading Obamacare Attacks

Original Link:

By Rick Ungar

Sally Pipes, the President & CEO of the Koch Brothers funded Pacific Research Institute (which also received or currently receives hefty amounts of cash from corporations such as PhRMA, Pfizer and Exxon Mobile), recently shared her view of the findings of a Deloitte survey of America’s physicians, offering the study up as the latest proof of how Obamacare is destroying the nation’s health care system.

The article, entitled “Doctors Say Obamacare Is No Remedy For U.S. Health Woes“, published right here on, is just the latest entry in the stepped up efforts by opponents of the healthcare reform law to bring the issue back to the fore as we enter the election season.

Having reviewed the survey prior to reading Ms. Pipes’ article, I came away from the Pipes piece wondering if I had, somehow, misread the results of the Deloitte poll. Or, I wondered, was it possible that Ms. Pipes was simply cherry-picking the data to continue her ever-escalating tirade against the Affordable Care Act? Such a move would hardly come as a shock given the Pacific Research Institute’s history of questionable studies such as those presented in their failed effort to get rid of California’s clean air regulations or the Institute’s early efforts to fabricate research in support of the tobacco companies (although the highly suspect relationship with Phillip Morris began prior to Ms. Pipe’s arrival at the Institute.)

I also could not help but notice that Pipes never actually linked to the report she had chosen to write about so that readers could review the findings on their own – often a sure sign that the author might be a little uncomfortable with all the data included in such a study.

To be clear, I am not suggesting that Ms. Pipes did not accurately represent the findings she chose to include in her piece. I am, however, saying that her report stops well short of conveying all of the findings in the survey—findings that cast the study’s results in a much different light.

Now that I have provided a link to the actual study (see above), I whole-heartedly suggest that interested readers take a look at the results so that you might achieve a more well-rounded point of view as to what our doctors really think about Obamacare – both good and bad. It is an easy study to review and well worth a look.

But for those who may not enjoy reading such data, allow me to add a few details that somehow escaped Ms. Pipes’ discussion—

To conduct the poll, Deloitte sent out 16,537 invitations to physicians asking them to participate in the survey. Of those invited, 501 responses were included in the findings (the target amount of data the researchers were seeking) with an additional 352 doctors responding but whose replies did not make it into the final results.

When the response to such a wide mailing is this limited, there is always a bit of concern for the validity of the data as those who choose to participate tend to be among the most virulent in their opinions (whether for or against) and may not represent a particularly good cross section of the physician community as a whole.

Nevertheless, the results are interesting and revealing— particularly the information Ms. Pipes chose not to share.

For example, there is the finding that 44 percent of the physicians surveyed believe that the ACA is a ‘good start’ to reforming our health care system while an equal number believe it is a step in the wrong direction, leaving 12 percent who just don’t know what to think.

Yet, Ms. Pipes writes –
Few people know more about our healthcare system than doctors working on the frontlines. Policymakers should pay heed to their indictment of Obamacare and revisit the disastrous law.
What Pipes must have meant to say is that policymakers should pay heed to the indictment of the 44 percent surveyed who believe the law is taking us in the wrong direction while completely ignoring the other 44 percent whose verdict does not jive with the political agenda of the Pacific Research Institute and its funding sources.

If these numbers—which clearly represent a highly divided point of view—sound familiar to you, it may be because they so closely mirror the general public’s feelings about the law. And when you consider that the survey results indicated that 71 percent of those participating considered themselves to be only “somewhat informed” as to what is contained in the ACA, this all begins to make even more sense.

The results get even more interesting when you break down those who were supportive or opposed to the health care reform law by medical practice types.

Forty-four percent of primary care physicians believe that Obamacare was a move in the right direction as compared to 39 percent who do not. Non-surgical specialist also came to this conclusion by a margin of 53 percent to 36 percent. Other physicians (those who do not fit into the categories of primary care, non-surgical specialist or surgical specialist) are overwhelmingly supportive of the notion that the ACA was a good beginning by a ratio of 68-32.

Indeed, the only category of physicians where we find more physicians believing that the ACA was a step in the wrong direction are the surgical specialist who believe the law is bad news by a wide margin of 60 percent to 28 percent.

Another piece of data that somehow escaped Ms. Pipes’ attention was the overwhelming agreement (60 percent were supportive) among the physicians surveyed that evidence-based medicine as a national standard would improve the quality of care in America.

I’m just guessing, but this might have something to do with the Pacific Research Institute’s professed belief that evidence-based medicine, particularly when used as a national standard for practicing medicine, is a part of the whole death panel scenario and an evil to be avoided at all costs. Thus, when the doctors who will be subject to this practice support the idea, this certainly can’t be a good thing for those who share Ms. Pipes’ perspective, particularly the pharmaceutical companies who fill the coffers of the Pacific Research Institute.

Pipes’ rendition of the Deloitte Survey only serves to reinforce what we all should recognize as one of the greatest threats to our nation’s health care system—- gross politicization of the issue for the benefit of the special interests. While Pipes is absolutely correct in her acknowledgment that the opinion of the nation’s physicians should hold a special place in the debate, what good is that opinion when writers like Sally Pipes twist and skew what these physicians have to say to better fit a political agenda?

So do yourself a favor and read the Deloitte survey.

You may, ultimately, see some of the data as a condemnation of the Affordable Care Act or, like me, you might conclude that the data highlights the areas where we need to continue our focus to meet the challenges that remain in front of us while recognizing that a significant number of physicians view the law as an important step forward in effort to help more Americans access the care they need.

However you interpret the data, the fact remains that the longer we continue to form our opinions on health care policy based on ideology and the care and feeding of special interests, the longer it will take to come up with a system that can actually work for all Americans.

That is still the point, isn’t it?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Responding To Koch Attacks, First Obama Campaign Ad Hits ‘Secretive Oil Billionaires’

Original Link:

By Brad Johnson

The Obama re-election campaign has launched its first advertisement of the 2012 election, responding to an attack ad from the petrochemical billionaire Koch brothers. The Koch’s political front group, Americans For Prosperity, accused Obama of “cronyism” over the Solyndra solar company in a $6 million ad campaign launched this week. Obama’s rapid response, hitting the “secretive oil billionaires” and touting the growing clean-energy economy, is running in Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, and Wisconsin:
NARRATOR: Secretive oil billionaires attacking President Obama, with ads factcheckers say are “not tethered to the facts.” While independent watchdogs called this president’s record on ethics “unprecedented.” And America’s clean energy industry? 2.7 million jobs and “expanding rapidly.” For the first time in 13 years our dependence on foreign oil is below fifty percent. President Obama kept his promise to toughen ethics rules and strengthen America’s energy economy.
Watch it:

Interestingly, the re-election campaign has chosen to describe Obama’s energy record in a way that explicitly ignores the existence of climate change. New fuel economy standards that are designed to fight greenhouse gases are described only in terms of how they reduce oil consumption. Clean energy investments are promoted as job creators. Using oil and gas industry language, the Obama campaign touts the administration’s record on “domestic energy production,” promoting the surge in oil and natural gas drilling during his presidency.

Americans for Prosperity Standing up for Big Oil, not the Middle Class

Original Link:

By Paul I. Tascoupe

Following is a statement from Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Mike Tate on the new attack ad placed by the Koch Brothers' group, Americans for Prosperity:

“Today, Americans for Prosperity, a questionable group that takes undisclosed donations, has released ads in Wisconsin distorting the President’s record while pandering to the interests of big oil companies. The big oil special interests running this group are trying to slander a clean energy economy. We know the only reason they attempt to tear the President down is to promote GOP candidates like Mitt Romney who will protect the tax breaks and loopholes for the wealthiest individuals and biggest corporations. Wisconsinites will not be fooled by this shady group’s support for corporations and the wealthy over hard-working, middle class Americans trying to get by in this economy."


The Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity is out with another false attack to distort President Obama’s record in order to protect big oil. The truth is Americans for Prosperity is founded by David and Charles Koch, the leaders of one of the largest oil and gas conglomerates in America. The Koch brothers have spent millions of dollars to oppose President Obama, who is working to grow the economy by investing in clean energy and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. All the while they protect tax breaks for oil companies that have reaped billions in profits.


David Koch: “My Brother Charles And I Provided The Funds To Start The Americans For Prosperity.” “Americans for Prosperity, or AFP, has long been rumored to be financed by David Koch, of the family that owns Koch Industries. That's one of the biggest privately held companies in America, and the family has a long history of underwriting conservative causes. David Koch confirmed the rumors at an AFP convention last fall. ‘Five years ago my brother Charles and I provided the funds to start the Americans for Prosperity. And it's beyond my wildest dreams how the AFP has grown into this enormous organization,’ David Koch said, according to audio from the online news site The Washington Independent.” [NPR, 2/19/10]

The Kochs Are Worth $21.5 Billion As A Result Of Their Stakes In Their Oil And Chemical Company, Koch Industries.

“The Kochs – each of whom is worth a reported $21.5 billion as a result of their stakes in Koch Industries, the family owned oil, chemical and consumer products business – have been donating millions of dollars to small-government conservative causes and candidates for decades.” [Politico, 3/28/11]
  • Koch Industries Is The Second Largest Privately Held Company In The United States With $100 Billion In Annual Sales From Its Stake In Industries Like Oil And Gas Exploration, Fuel Pipelines, And Coal Trading. “Koch Industries is the second-largest privately-held company in the United States, a conglomerate of more than twenty companies with $100 billion in annual sales, operations in nearly 60 countries and 70,000 employees. Koch’s industry areas span petroleum refining, fuel pipelines, coal supply and trading, oil and gas exploration, chemicals and polymers, fertilizer production, ranching and forestry products.” [Greenpeace report, March 2010]

Americans For Prosperity And Koch Industries Target Politicians Who Will Protect Their Bottom Line. “Earlier this year, the Los Angeles Times noted that Koch Industries and its employees together were the largest single oil and gas donor to members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, contributing $279,500 to 22 of the committee's 31 Republicans, and $32,000 to five Democrats. Gardner is on the committee, along with Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., who the Kochs don't sponsor. The CATO Institute, which Charles Koch founded and continues to fund, is a consistent critic of climate science and its senior fellows are regularly interviewed on talk shows and in newspapers. Nine of the 12 new Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee signed a pledge distributed by Americans for Prosperity to oppose legislation designed to regulate greenhouse gases. […] ‘It's hard to prove quid pro quo but clearly businesses - whether it is Koch Industries or other businesses - aren't making these donations out of altruism,’ said Steve Ellis, vice president for Taxpayers for Common Sense. ‘They are trying to either sway someone's position or get people re-elected who already support their position. That's the challenge when you look at these issues: Is it the chicken or the egg? Clearly they aren't going to give to someone that doesn't support their interests. The Kochs are certainly not naïve to the way the game is played. And they're not alone.’” [Colorado Independent, 10/31/11]

Koch Industries Spends Millions Lobbying To Protect Tax Breaks For Oil And Gas. “Koch Industries, the oil and industrial conglomerate run by the conservative-activist Koch brothers, has multiplied its spending to lobby for tax breaks and lax environmental regulation in recent years, according to a report published Wednesday. The report, from the Washington-based Center for Public Integrity (CPI), says Wichita, Kansas-based Koch raised its lobbying budget by more than 23-fold between 2004 and 2008, when it spent $20 million. That year marked a major push by Koch to convince Congress to limit EPA's mandate to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, the report said. ‘(T)he company's lobbyists and officials sought to mold, gut or kill more than 100 prospective bills or regulations,’ CPI reported, drawing on public lobbying disclosures and other sources. Koch declined comment for the report, CPI said. […] Since 2008, Koch has cut its direct lobbying budget to an average $10.25 million a year, the report said. But the Koch brothers have spent additional millions to back anti-regulation U.S. lawmakers and politicians, and to fund groups whose lobbying dovetails with Koch's money-making agenda, CPI said.” [Reuters, 4/6/11]
  • Koch Industries Lobbied To Extend Tax Breaks For Oil And Gas Production. “In the oil patch, Koch has lobbied for the United States to maintain some tax breaks and credits for oil and gas producers that the Obama administration wants to end, CPI said. As a major trader of financial derivatives, Koch has also lobbied against regulations that could curb derivatives trade.” [Reuters, 4/6/11]
Koch Industries Lobbies To Protect Subsidies And Accounting Loopholes For Oil And Gas Producers. “Koch lobbyists spend much of their time, according to their disclosure reports, fighting attempts by members of Congress to curb price-gouging, windfall profit-taking and speculation in the oil industry. To this same end, Koch officials worked to dilute a 2009 Federal Trade Commission rule governing manipulation of the energy markets. Meanwhile, Koch has lobbied to preserve some of the oil industry’s coveted tax breaks and credits. One benefit is known as the Section 199 deduction, approved by Congress several years ago to help the hard-pressed U.S. manufacturing sector. In light of the oil and gas industry’s hearty profits, the Obama administration and members of Congress have sought to end the Section 199 subsidy for energy firms and save the U.S. Treasury $14 billion over 10 years. But Koch lobbyists and trade associations have worked to preserve the deduction. Another industry tax break that drew the support of Koch representatives is the venerable ‘LIFO’ (last-in, first-out) accounting rule. It allows energy companies effectively to raise the value of their existing inventory (and thus pay lower taxes on profits from sales) when the price of oil soars. Under LIFO, the oil in a company’s inventory, no matter what it actually cost, is valued at the cost of the last-acquired (usually highest-cost) barrel. The LIFO rule has been a target in recent years for both Democrats and Republicans in Washington, who would like to raise revenue without raising taxes.” [iWatch, 8/25/11]

Americans For Prosperity President Tim Phillips Said Their Influence Led To Lawmakers Doubting Climate Science. “Among the most influential of the new breed of so-called super PACs is the tea party group Americans for Prosperity, founded by David and Charles Koch, the principal owners of Koch Industries, a major U.S. oil conglomerate. As Koch Industries has lobbied aggressively against climate-change policy, Americans for Prosperity has spearheaded an all-fronts campaign using advertising, social media, and cross-country events aimed at electing lawmakers who will ensure that the oil industry won’t have to worry about any new regulations. Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity, says there’s no question that the influence of his group and others like it has been instrumental in the rise of Republican candidates who question or deny climate science. ‘If you look at where the situation was three years ago and where it is today, there’s been a dramatic turnaround. Most of these candidates have figured out that the science has become political,’ he said. ‘We’ve made great headway. What it means for candidates on the Republican side is, if you … buy into green energy or you play footsie on this issue, you do so at your political peril. The vast majority of people who are involved in the [Republican] nominating process—the conventions and the primaries—are suspect of the science. And that’s our influence. Groups like Americans for Prosperity have done it.’” [National Journal, 12/2/11]

The Koch Brothers Have Fought To Preserve Tax Breaks For Big Oil Companies. “Oil is the core of the Koch business empire, and the company’s lobbyists and officials have successfully fought to preserve the industry’s tax breaks and credits, and to defeat attempts by Congress to regulate greenhouse gases.” [iWatchNews, 4/6/11]

Americans For Prosperity Used The Solyndra Scandal To Attack A Plan To Boost Deployment OF Natural Gas Vehicles. “Conservative groups are using the Solyndra controversy as a weapon against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) new legislation that provides tax credits to boost deployment of natural-gas-powered vehicles. More than a dozen groups — including Americans for Prosperity, Heritage Action for America and the Club for Growth — sent a letter to lawmakers Monday criticizing the legislation that Reid is championing alongside billionaire energy magnate T. Boone Pickens. ‘If we’ve learned anything from the Solyndra debacle it’s that politicians do a terrible job trying to prop up their favored energy industries,’ the letter states.” [The Hill, 11/21/11]

Politifact Rated Americans for Prosperity’s Earlier Solyndra Ad “Mostly False.” “A new TV ad airing in Florida and other states portrays President Barack Obama as a politician who showered millions of taxpayer dollars on ‘his friends at Solyndra,’ a once-hot solar company now in bankruptcy court. Americans for Prosperity, a group that works closely with tea party activists and has been funded by the conservative Koch family, released the ad, which uses news clips and e-mail snippets to support an ominous voiceover. […]The TV ad says ‘(President Barack Obama gave) half a billion in taxpayer money to help his friends at Solyndra, a business the White House knew was on the path to bankruptcy." Some of this is correct, while some isn't supported by the existing evidence. First, the money wasn't Obama's to give. Solyndra's request predated his administration, and career Energy Department officials handled the deal. Second, e-mails so far don't show an administration pushing through a loan to help Obama's ‘friends at Solyndra.’ Rather, it appears the administration asked the Energy Department officials to hurry the regular process, so the administration could burnish its stimulus efforts. Third, while e-mails raised doubts about Solyndra's liquidity as the Energy Department finalized the loan, those questions were answered by an official who argued investors would step in to protect the project — red flags, yes. But awareness in the White House the company would dissolve? No. The government wasn't the only blindsided investor — private investors put up far more, and stand to lose more, than taxpayers. The Solyndra story might be one of the poor design of the Energy Department's loan guarantee program — something the Government Accountability Office has pointed out since 2008. And with the congressional investigation ongoing, we may learn more about the Obama administration's role in the loan program — perhaps better supporting the ad's claims. For now, though, information in the public record does not support the ad's claim that the Obama White House is a pay-to-play cash machine for the politically well-connected. We rate this ad's claim Mostly False.” [PolitiFact, 11/15/11]

10 Reasons Obama Rejecting the Keystone XL Was a Good Decision

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OK, we all love top 10 lists, right? Obama’s decision to shut down the permitting process for the Keystone XL oil pipeline was a good one… I’m sorry, a great one! Here are 10 top reasons why:

10. The pipeline has received extremely little actual government oversight. “[T]he Department of State allowed a contractor with a financial arrangement with TransCanada, which seeks to build the Keystone XL pipeline, to conduct the Department’s environmental review mandated under federal law as part of its consideration of TransCanada’s proposed pipeline,” a 2011 investigation discovered. And as I mentioned in a long, November post on that investigation and other matters, “for years, the State Department’s Keystone XL review body was only one, junior-level staffer. This is a $7-billion-dollar project! One staffer?”

9. Oil pipelines leak. And this one could leak all over the U.S. “One tar sands pipeline operated by the same company behind the Keystone XL project experienced 35 leaks in the U.S. and Canada its first year of operation and had to be temporarily shut down by the U.S. Department of Transportation,” France Beinecke of the NRDC writes.

8. Did I mention that oil pipelines leak and are risky. Well, from someone who supports oil pipelines in general, an oil pipeline inspector and engineer, said this one should not be built. “Mike Klink is a former inspector for Bechtel, one of the major contractors working on TransCanada’s original Keystone pipeline, completed in 2010. Klink says he raised numerous concerns about shoddy materials and poor craftsmanship during construction of the pipeline, which brings tar sands crude from Canada to Midwestern refineries in the U.S. Instead of actually addressing the problems, Klink claims he was fired by Bechtel in retaliation…. Klink, who says he’s speaking as an engineer and not an environmentalist, has just published a scathing op-ed in the Lincoln Journal Star criticizing Keystone XL….’As an inspector, my job was to monitor the construction of the first Keystone pipeline. I oversaw construction at the pump stations that have been such a problem on that line, which has already spilled more than a dozen times. I am coming forward because my kids encouraged me to tell the truth about what was done and covered up…. Let’s be clear — I am an engineer; I am not telling you we shouldn’t build pipelines. We just should not build this one.’” (Much more from Klink via the links above.)

7. The oil isn’t even for the U.S.! “Here in the United States, oil companies trumpet false job claims and promise a secure supply of oil. But in the Canadian press, oil companies talk freely about using the pipeline to export oil to Asian markets and charge more money for the oil they do sell in the U.S.,” France Beinecke writes. “In Congressional testimony, TransCanada refused to support a condition that the oil in Keystone XL would be used in the United States…. Claims that the pipeline would have delivered a secure supply of oil to America were also wildly overblown. The Keystone XL pipeline would have been an export pipeline. By rerouting tar sands oil out of the Midwest and into the “Foreign Trade Zone” in Port Arthur, Texas, companies could ship it anywhere in the world. Indeed, companies get incentives to export from there.”

6. Jobs schmobs! While the oil industry and its bought politicians and media lie to us repeatedly by telling us that the pipeline would create tens of thousands of jobs, the company developing the pipeline, TransCanada, stated (when on record) that it would only create “hundreds” of permanent jobs. Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department had that number at 20. And, a thorough, independent analysis from researchers at Cornell said it could even cost the U.S. jobs in the long term!

5. We don’t create energy independence by focusing our efforts and money on further oil production. We get much more bang for the buck by putting all of that into clean energy vehicles and clean power options. Bottom line.

4. Obama is listening to and supporting citizens (i.e. doing his job). Over 10,000 people got off their couches and encircled the White House in November to oppose this project. Over 1,000 got arrested last summer in opposition to it. This tremendous show of concern and passion came about for a reason — the project was bad for the American people.

3. Republicans in congress and the oil industry tried to bully Obama into approving the pipeline without even adequately reviewing its environmental impacts (even sending a public email to him stating that rejecting the pipeline would result in “huge political consequences.”). That’s plain stupid (unless you know that a good review will result in pipeline rejection and all your money is on the pipeline going through). Standing up for the millions or even billions of people who rely on clean water and a livable climate by not rushing a full review is the right thing to do.

2. Tar sands development and the Keystone XL pipeline that would enable a ton of that was essentially “the fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the planet.” Tar sands oil is 3 times worse for the global climate than conventional crude oil. Goodbye, livable climate, in other words.

1. The U.S. would get practically nothing from the project. On the other hand, it would face numerous risks and problems. Additionally, the world would suffer tremendously from it. In other words, all of the above.

What can you do to thank Obama for this decision and encourage more like these?

You can send a message to President Obama telling him that you support him on the environment – either a basic message on the White House website, or by sending a donation via the ActGreen PAC page on Today of all days, you can show your support for the greenest President we’ve seen in a generation – and by donating via ActGreen, you’re reinforcing the message that it’s not just big oil that supports candidates with their donations… it’s also people who care about the environment!