Saturday, February 25, 2012

Super PAC Disclosure Reports Reveal Out-of-Control and Corrupt System

Original Link:


The Super PAC disclosure reports being filed this week reveal an out-of-control and corrupt system that is doing enormous damage to our political system and to our democracy.

A relatively few super rich individuals and a number of corporations are making huge unlimited contributions to the Super PACs and are exercising magnified and undue influence in the 2012 presidential primaries.

These huge donors are also buying corrupting influence over the presidential candidates they are supporting and over government decisions in the event their candidate wins.
All of this is the result of the disastrous, misguided decision by the Supreme Court in the Citizens United case, along with a lower court decision in the SpeechNow case.

Congress needs to act this year to address the problems with Super PACs within the boundaries available under court decisions.

Congress needs to pass legislation that provides new disclosure requirements to ensure that secret donors financing campaign expenditures are disclosed and to solve the problem of untimely disclosure by Super PACs that has arisen in the 2012 presidential elections.

The Super PAC disclosures filed yesterday are already too late to provide voters in four key presidential nominating races with information they have a basic right to know. These reports, furthermore, show donors only through the end of December 2011, and do not show the donors who gave money in January during the presidential caucus and primaries last month. This information will not be reported until later in February.

According to published reports, at least one Super PAC, Priorities USA Action, received a contribution of more than $215,000 from Priorities USA, its affiliated 501(c)(4) tax-exempt group. Priorities USA Action is a candidate-specific Super PAC supporting President Obama's re-election. Priorities USA also is supporting President Obama's re-election.

Since 501(c)(4) groups do not have to report their donors, this amounts to a money-laundering scheme to hide the true sources of the money going to the Super PAC supporting President Obama, which is supposed to disclose its actual donors.

This too-little-too-late Super PAC reporting system must be fixed by new disclosure legislation.
The new legislation also needs to require corporations, including nonprofit tax-exempt groups, labor unions and Super PACs to have an official representative appear in their TV ads to take responsibility for the ads and to require the groups to list their top five donors in these TV ads.
The legislative effort in 2012 needs to focus on disclosure provisions only and not include the non-disclosure provisions that were part of the DISCLOSE Act in 2010.

It is essential for the legislative effort in 2012 to focus solely on the issue of "disclosure versus secrecy" in order to be a real effort and not merely a political exercise, and in order to build the support necessary to ultimately win this battle.

Democracy 21 is also preparing a legislative proposal to shut down the kind of candidate-specific Super PACs that are functioning for the first time in the 2012 presidential election.
The legislation would treat these candidate-specific Super PACs in legal terms as arms of the presidential campaigns, as they are in reality. The legislation would treat a candidate-specific Super PAC run by associates of the candidate as affiliated with the candidate's campaign and subject to the candidate's contribution limits.

It is important to recognize that the Super PAC problem cannot be solved by repealing the limits on contributions to candidates. Taking that destructive step would return us to historic campaign finance scandals of the past and a system of pure legalized corruption where donors could provide huge contributions directly to officeholders and candidates in exchange for their votes.

This would create nothing less than a system of legalized bribery of our elected representatives.

We need to know who funds these thinktank lobbyists

Original Link:

By George Monbiot

The battle for democracy is becoming a fight against backroom billionaires seeking to shape politics to suit their own interests

Shocking, fascinating, entirely unsurprising: the leaked documents, if authentic, confirm what we suspected but could not prove. The Heartland Institute, which has helped lead the war against climate science in the United States, is funded among others by tobacco firms, fossil fuel companies and one of the billionaire Koch brothers.

It appears to have followed the script written by a consultant to the Republican party, Frank Luntz, in 2002. "Should the public come to believe that the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly. Therefore, you need to continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate."

Luntz's technique was pioneered by the tobacco companies and the creationists: teach the controversy. In other words, insist that the question of whether cigarettes cause lung cancer, natural selection drives evolution, or burning fossil fuels causes climate change, is still wide open, and that both sides of the "controversy" should be taught in schools and thrashed out in the media.
The leaked documents appear to show that, courtesy of its multimillionaire donors, the institute has commissioned a global warming curriculum for schools which teaches that "whether humans are changing the climate is a major scientific controversy" and "whether CO2 is a pollutant is controversial".

The institute has claimed it is "a genuinely independent source of research and commentary" and that "we do not take positions in order to appease or avoid losing support from individual donors". But the documents, if authentic, reveal that its attacks on climate science have been largely funded by a single anonymous donor and that "we are extinguishing primarily global warming projects in pace with declines in his giving".

The climate change deniers it funds have made similar claims to independence. For example, last year Fred Singer told a French website: "Of course I am not funded by the fossil fuel lobbies. It's a completely absurd invention." The documents suggest that the institute, funded among others by the coal company Murray Energy, the the oil company Marathon and the former Exxon lobbyist Randy Randol has been paying him $5,000 a month.

Robert Carter has claimed he "receives no research funding from special interest organisations". But the documents suggest that Heartland pays him $1,667 a month. Among the speakers at its conferences were two writers for the Telegraph (Christopher Booker and James Delingpole). The Telegraph group should now reveal whether and how much they were paid by the Heartland Institute.
It seems to be as clear an illustration as we have yet seen of the gulf between what such groups call themselves and what they really are. Invariably, organisations arguing for regulations to be removed, top taxes to be reduced and other such billionaire-friendly policies, call themselves free-market or conservative thinktanks. But according to David Frum, formerly a fellow at one such group – the American Enterprise Institute – they "increasingly function as public relations agencies". The message they send to their employees, he says, is "we don't pay you to think, we pay you to repeat".
The profits of polluting or reckless companies and banks and the vast personal fortunes of their beneficiaries are largely dependent on the regulations set by governments. This is why the "thinktanks" campaign for small government. If regulations robustly defend the public interest, the profits decline. If they are weak, the profits rise. Billionaires and big business buy influence to insulate themselves from democratic control. It seems to me that the so-called thinktanks are an important component of this public relations work.

Their funding, in most cases, is opaque. When I challenged some of the most prominent of such groups in the UK, only one would reveal its donors' identity. The others refused. Disgracefully, their lack of accountability does not prevent some of them from registering as charities and claiming tax exemption.

The Charity Commission in England and Wales – negligent, asleep at the wheel – is becoming a threat to democracy. These organisations are not trying to restore historic buildings or rescue distressed donkeys. They are seeking to effect political change in highly contentious areas. The minimum requirement for all such groups – whether they are on the left or on the right – is that they should disclose their major sources of income so that we know on whose behalf they speak. The commission is providing cover for multimillionaires and corporations who are funding undisclosed campaigns to enhance their own wealth under the guise of charity, and obliging the rest of us to pay for it through tax exemptions. If that's charity, a police siren is music.

The use of so-called thinktanks on both sides of the Atlantic seems to me to mirror the use of super-political action committees (superPACs) in the US. Since the supreme court removed the limits on how much one person could give to a political campaign, the billionaires have achieved almost total control over politics. An article last week on TomDispatch revealed that in 2011, just 196 donors provided nearly 80% of the money raised by superPACs.

The leading Republican candidates have all but abandoned the idea of mobilising popular support. Instead they use the huge funds they raise from billionaires to attack the credibility of their opponents through television ads. Yet more money is channelled through 501c4 groups – tax-exempt bodies supposedly promoting social welfare – which (unlike the superPACs) don't have to reveal the identity of their donors. TomDispatch notes that "serving as a secret slush fund for billionaires evidently now qualifies as social welfare."

The money wins. This is why Republicans swept up so many seats in the mid-term elections, and why the surviving Democrats were scarcely distinguishable from their rivals. It is why Obama, for all his promise, appears incapable of governing in the public interest. What can he tell the banks: "Do what I say or I won't take your money any more"? How can he tax the billionaires when they have their hands around his throat? Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
This is plutocracy, pure and simple. The battle for democracy is now a straight fight against the billionaires and corporations reshaping politics to suit their interests. The first task of all democrats must be to demand that any group, of any complexion, seeking to effect political change should reveal its funders.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Politics of the Super Rich

Original Link:

By Ari Berman

At a time when it’s become a cliché to say that Occupy Wall Street has changed the nation’s political conversation -- drawing long overdue attention to the struggles of the 99% -- electoral politics and the 2012 presidential election have become almost exclusively defined by the 1%. Or, to be more precise, the .0000063%. Those are the 196 individual donors who have provided nearly 80% of the money raised by super PACs in 2011 by giving $100,000 or more each.

These political action committees, spawned by the Supreme Court’s 5-4 Citizens United decision in January 2010, can raise unlimited amounts of money from individuals, corporations, or unions for the purpose of supporting or opposing a political candidate. In theory, super PACs are legally prohibited from coordinating directly with a candidate, though in practice they’re just a murkier extension of political campaigns, performing all the functions of a traditional campaign without any of the corresponding accountability.

If 2008 was the year of the small donor, when many political pundits (myself included) predicted that the fusion of grassroots organizing and cyber-activism would transform how campaigns were run, then 2012 is "the year of the big donor," when a candidate is only as good as the amount of money in his super PAC. “In this campaign, every candidate needs his own billionaires,” wrote Jane Mayer of The New Yorker.
“This really is the selling of America,” claims former presidential candidate and Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean. “We’ve been sold out by five justices thanks to the Citizens United decision.” In truth, our democracy was sold to the highest bidder long ago, but in the 2012 election the explosion of super PACs has shifted the public’s focus to the staggering inequality in our political system, just as the Occupy movement shined a light on the gross inequity of the economy. The two, of course, go hand in hand.
“We’re going to beat money power with people power,” Newt Gingrich said after losing to Mitt Romney in Florida as January ended. The walking embodiment of the lobbying-industrial complex, Gingrich made that statement even though his candidacy is being propped up by a super PAC funded by two $5 million donations from Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. It might have been more amusing if the GOP presidential primary weren’t a case study of a contest long on money and short on participation.
The Wesleyan Media Project recently reported a 1600% increase in interest-group-sponsored TV ads in this cycle as compared to the 2008 primaries. Florida has proven the battle royal of the super PACs thus far. There, the pro-Romney super PAC, Restore Our Future, outspent the pro-Gingrich super PAC, Winning Our Future, five to one. In the last week of the campaign alone, Romney and his allies ran 13,000 TV ads in Florida, compared to only 200 for Gingrich. Ninety-two percent of the ads were negative in nature, with two-thirds attacking Gingrich, who, ironically enough, had been a fervent advocate of the Citizens United decision.

With the exception of Ron Paul’s underdog candidacy and Rick Santorum’s upset victory in Iowa -- where he spent almost no money but visited all of the state’s 99 counties -- the Republican candidates and their allied super PACs have all but abandoned retail campaigning and grassroots politicking. They have chosen instead to spend their war chests on TV.

The results can already be seen in the first primaries and caucuses: an onslaught of money and a demobilized electorate. It’s undoubtedly no coincidence that, when compared with 2008, turnout was down 25% in Florida, and that, this time around, fewer Republicans have shown up in every state that’s voted so far, except for South Carolina. According to political scientists Stephen Ansolabehere and Shanto Iyengar, negative TV ads contribute to “a political implosion of apathy and withdrawal.” New York Times columnist Tim Egan has labeled the post-Citizens United era “your democracy on meth.”

The .01 Percent Primary

More than 300 super PACs are now registered with the Federal Election Commission. The one financed by the greatest number of small donors belongs to Stephen Colbert, who’s turned his TV show into a brilliant commentary on the deformed super PAC landscape. Colbert’s satirical super PAC, Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow, has raised $1 million from 31,595 people, including 1,600 people who gave $1 each. Consider this a rare show of people power in 2012.

Otherwise the super PACs on both sides of the aisle are financed by the 1% of the 1%. Romney’s Restore Our Future Super PAC, founded by the general counsel of his 2008 campaign, has led the herd, raising $30 million, 98% from donors who gave $25,000 or more. Ten million dollars came from just 10 donors who gave $1 million each. These included three hedge-fund managers and Houston Republican Bob Perry, the main funder behind the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth in 2004, whose scurrilous ads did such an effective job of destroying John Kerry’s electoral prospects. Sixty-five percent of the funds that poured into Romney’s super PAC in the second half of 2011 came from the finance, insurance and real estate sector, otherwise known as the people who brought you the economic meltdown of 2007-2008.

Romney’s campaign has raised twice as much as his super PAC, which is more than you can say for Rick Santorum, whose super PAC -- Red, White & Blue -- has raised and spent more than the candidate himself. Forty percent of the $2 million that has so far gone into Red, White & Blue came from just one man, Foster Friess, a conservative hedge-fund billionaire and Christian evangelical from Wyoming.
In the wake of Santorum’s upset victories in Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri on February 7th, Friess told the New York Times that he’d recruited $1 million for Santorum’s super PAC from another (unnamed) donor and upped his own giving, though he wouldn’t say by how much. We won’t find out until the next campaign disclosure filing in three months, by which time the GOP primary will almost certainly be decided.

For now, Gingrich’s sugar daddy Adelson has pledged to stay with his flagging campaign, but he’s also signaled that if the former Speaker of the House goes down, he’ll be ready to donate even more super PAC money to a Romney presidential bid. And keep in mind that there’s nothing in the post-Citizens United law to stop a donor like Adelson, hell-bent on preventing the Obama administration from standing in the way of an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, from giving $100 million, or for that matter, however much he likes.

Before Citizens United, the maximum amount one person could give to a candidate was $2,500; for a political action committee, $5,000; for a political party committee, $30,800. Now, the sky’s the limit for a super PAC, and even more disturbingly, any donor can give an unlimited contribution to a 501c4 -- outfits defined by the IRS as “civic leagues or organizations not organized for profit but operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare,” and to make matters worse, that contribution will remain eternally secret. In this way, American politics is descending further into the darkness, with 501c4s quickly gaining influence as “shadow super PACs.”

A recent analysis by the Washington Post found that, at a cost of $24 million, 40% of the TV ads in the presidential race so far came from these tax-exempt “social welfare” groups. The Karl Rove-founded American Crossroads, a leading conservative super PAC attacking Democratic candidates and the Obama administration, also runs a 501c4 called Crossroads GPS. It’s raised twice as much money as its sister group, all from donations whose sources will remain hidden from American voters. Serving as a secret slush fund for billionaires evidently now qualifies as social welfare.

The Income Defense Industry

In his book Oligarchy, political scientist Jeffrey Winters refers to the disproportionately wealthy and influential actors in the political system as the “Income Defense Industry.” If you want to know how the moneyed class, who prospered during the Bush and Clinton years, found a way to kill or water down nearly everything it objected to in the Obama years, look no further than the grip of the 1% of the 1% on our political system.
This simple fact explains why hedge-fund managers pay a lower tax rate than their secretaries, or why the U.S. is the only industrialized nation without a single-payer universal healthcare system, or why the planet continues to warm at an unprecedented pace while we do nothing to combat global warming. Money usually buys elections and, whoever is elected, it almost always buys influence.

In the 2010 election, the 1% of the 1% accounted for 25% of all campaign-related donations, totaling $774 million dollars, and 80% of all donations to the Democratic and Republican parties, the highest percentage since 1990. In congressional races in 2010, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, the candidate who spent the most money won 85% of House races and 83% of Senate races.

The media loves an underdog story, but nowadays the underdog is ever less likely to win. Given the cost of running campaigns and the overwhelming premium on outspending your opponent, it’s no surprise that nearly half the members of Congress are millionaires, and the median net worth of a U.S. Senator is $2.56 million.

The influence of super PACs was already evident by November 2010, just nine months after the Supreme Court’s ruling. John Nichols and Robert McChesney of The Nation note that, of the 53 competitive House districts where Rove’s Crossroads organization outspent Democratic candidates in 2010, Republicans won fifty-one. As it turned out, however, the last election was a mere test run for the monetary extravaganza that is 2012.

Republicans are banking on that super PAC advantage again this year, when the costs of the presidential contest and all other races for federal posts will soar from $5 billion in 2008 to as high as $7 billion by November. (The 2000 election cost a “mere” $3 billion.) In other words, the amount spent this election season will be roughly the equivalent of the gross domestic product of Haiti.

The Myth of Small Donors

In June 2003, presidential candidate Howard Dean shocked the political establishment by raising $828,000 in one day over the Internet, with an average donation of $112. Dean, in fact, got 38% of his campaign’s total funds from donations of $200 or less, planting the seeds for what many forecast would be a small-donor revolution in American politics.

Four years later, Barack Obama raised a third of his record-breaking $745 million campaign haul from small donors, while Ron Paul raised 39% from small dollars on the Republican side. Much of Paul’s campaign was financed by online “money bombs,” when enthusiastic supporters generated millions of dollars in brief, coordinated bursts. The amount of money raised in small donations by Obama, in particular, raised hopes that his campaign had found a way to break the death grip of big donors on American politics.

In retrospect, the small-donor utopianism surrounding Obama seems naïve. Despite all the adulatory media attention about his small donors, the candidate still raised the bulk of his money from big givers. (Typically, these days, incumbent members of Congress raise less than 10% of their campaign funds from small donors, with those numbers actually dropping when you reach the gubernatorial and state legislative levels.) Obama’s top contributors included employees of Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, and Citigroup, hardly standard bearers for the little guy. For obvious reasons, the campaign chose to emphasize the small donors over the big ones in its narrative, as it continues to do in 2012.

Interestingly enough, both Obama and Paul actually raised more money from small donors in 2011 than they did in 2008, 48% and 52% of their totals, respectively. But in the super PAC era that money no longer has the same impact. Even Dean doubts that his anti-establishment, Internet-fueled campaign from 2004 would be as successful today. “Super PACs have made a grassroots campaign less effective,” he says. “You can still run a grassroots campaign but the problem is you can be overwhelmed now on television and by dirty mailers being sent out... It’s a very big change from 2008.”

Obama is a candidate with a split personality, which makes his campaign equally schizophrenic. The Obama campaign claims it’s raising 98% of its money from small donors and is “building the biggest grassroots campaign in American history,” according to campaign manager Jim Messina. But the starry-eyed statistics and the rhetoric that accompanies it are deeply misleading. Of the $89 million raised in 2011 by the Obama Joint Victory Fund, a collaboration of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Obama campaign, 74% came from donations of $20,000 or more and 99% from donations of $1,000 or more.

The campaign has 445 “bundlers” (dubbed “volunteer fundraisers” by the campaign), who gather money from their wealthy friends and package it for Obama. They have raised at least $74.4 million for Obama and the DNC in 2011. Sixty-one of those bundlers raised $500,000 or more. Obama held 73 fundraisers in 2011 and 13 last month alone, where the price of admission was almost always $35,800 a head.

An increase in small donor contributions and a surge of big money fundraisers still wasn’t enough, however, to give Obama an advantage over Republicans in the money chase. That’s why the Obama campaign, until recently adamantly against super PACs, suddenly relented and signaled its support for a pro-Obama super PAC called Priorities USA.

A day after the announcement that the campaign, like its Republican rivals, would super PAC it up, Messina spoke at the members-only Core Club in Manhattan and “assured a group of Democratic donors from the financial services industry that Obama won’t demonize Wall Street as he stresses populist appeals in his re-election campaign,” reported Bloomberg Businessweek. “Messina told the group of Wall Street donors that the president plans to run against Romney, not the industry that made the former governor of Massachusetts millions.”

In other words, don’t expect a convincing return to the theme of the people versus the powerful in campaign 2012, even though Romney, if the nominee, would be particularly vulnerable to that line of attack. After all, so far his campaign has raised only 9% of its campaign contributions from small donors, well behind both Senator John McCain, 21% in 2008, and George W. Bush, 26% in 2004.

In the fourth quarter of 2011, Romney outraised Obama among the top firms on Wall Street by a margin of 11 to 1. His top three campaign contributions are from employees of Goldman Sachs ($496,430), JPMorgan ($317,400) and Morgan Stanley ($277,850). The banks have fallen out of favor with the public, but their campaign cash is indispensable among the political class and so they remain as powerful as ever in American politics.

In a recent segment of his show, Stephen Colbert noted that half of the money ($67 million) raised by super PACs in 2011 had come from just 22 people. “That’s 7 one-millionths of 1 percent," or roughly .000000071%, Colbert said while spraying a fire extinguisher on his fuming calculator. “So Occupy Wall Street, you’re going to want to change those signs.”

Heartland Institute Exposed: Internal Documents Unmask Heart of Climate Denial Machine

Original Link:

By Brendan DeMelle

Internal Heartland Institute strategy and funding documents obtained by DeSmogBlog expose the heart of the climate denial machine – its current plans, many of its funders, and details that confirm what DeSmogBlog and others have reported for years. The heart of the climate denial machine relies on huge corporate and foundation funding from U.S. businesses including Microsoft, Koch Industries, Altria (parent company of Philip Morris) RJR Tobacco and more.

We are releasing the entire trove of documents now to allow crowd-sourcing of the material. Here are a few quick highlights, stay tuned for much more.

-Confirmation that Charles G. Koch Foundation is again funding Heartland Institute’s global warming disinformation campaign. [Update: Apparently even the Koch brothers think the Heartland Institute's climate denial program is too toxic to fund. On Wednesday, Koch confirmed that it did not cut a check for the $200K mentioned in the strategy memo after all. A statement released on and the states that "…the Charles Koch Foundation provided $25,000 to the Heartland Institute in 2011 for research in healthcare, not climate change, and this was the first and only donation the Foundation made to the institute in more than a decade. The Foundation has made no further commitments of funding to Heartland.”]
We will also pursue additional support from the Charles G. Koch Foundation. They returned as a Heartland donor in 2011 with a contribution of $200,000. We expect to push up their level of support in 2012 and gain access to their network of philanthropists, if our focus continues to align with their interests. Other contributions will be pursued for this work, especially from corporations whose interests are threatened by climate policies.”
-Heartland Institute’s global warming denial machine is chiefly – and perhaps entirely – funded by one Anonymous donor:
Our climate work is attractive to funders, especially our key Anonymous Donor (whose contribution dropped from $1,664,150 in 2010 to $979,000 in 2011 - about 20% of our total 2011 revenue). He has promised an increase in 2012…”
-Confirmation of exact amounts flowing to certain key climate contrarians.
funding for high-profile individuals who regularly and publicly counter the alarmist AGW message. At the moment, this funding goes primarily to Craig Idso ($11,600 per month), Fred Singer ($5,000 per month, plus expenses), Robert Carter ($1,667 per month), and a number of other individuals, but we will consider expanding it, if funding can be found.”

-As Brad Johnson reported today at ThinkProgress, confirmation that Heartland is working with David Wojick, a U.S. Energy Department contract worker and coal industry consultant, to develop a ‘Global Warming Curriculum for K-12 Schools.’

-Forbes and other business press are favored outlets for Heartland’s dissemination of climate denial messages, and the group is worried about maintaining that exclusive space. They note in particular the work of Dr. Peter Gleick:
Efforts at places such as Forbes are especially important now that they have begun to allow high-profile climate scientists (such as Gleick) to post warmist science essays that counter our own. This influential audience has usually been reliably anti-climate and it is important to keep opposing voices out.” (emphasis added)
Note the irony here that Heartland Institute – one of the major mouthpieces behind the debunked ‘Climategate’ email theft who harped about the suppression of denier voices in peer-reviewed literature – now defending its turf in the unscientific business magazine realm.
-Interesting mentions of Andrew Revkin as a potential ally worth “cultivating,” along with Judith Curry.
Efforts might also include cultivating more neutral voices with big audiences (such as Revkin at DotEarth/NYTimes, who has a well-known antipathy for some of the more extreme AGW communicators such as Romm, Trenberth, and Hansen) or Curry (who has become popular with our supporters).”
-Confirmation that skeptic blogger Anthony Watts is part of Heartland’s funded network of misinformation communicators.
We have also pledged to help raise around $90,000 in 2012 for Anthony Watts to help him create a new website to track temperature station data.”
Stay tuned for more details as DeSmogBlog and others dig through this trove of Heartland Institute documents. The Heartland Institute's legacy of evasion of this level of transparency and accountability has now been shattered.
Read the documents [all PDF (except one .doc)]:
January 2012 Confidential Memo: 2012 Heartland Climate Strategy
Minutes of January 17 board meeting (.doc)

Agenda for January 17, 2012 Board Meeting

Board Meeting Package January 17, 2012

Board Directory January 2012

Binder 1 (maybe overlap with above documents)

2012 Heartland Budget
2012 Heartland Fundraising Plan
2010 Heartland IRS Form 990 (public document)
Stay tuned… see also DeSmogBlog's Richard Littlemore's coverage.

2012 Climate Strategy.pdf96.54 KB
Minutes of January 17 meeting.doc50.84 KB
Board Meeting Package January 17.pdf7.47 KB
Board Directory 01-18-12.pdf12.51 KB
Agenda for January 17 Meeting.pdf8.49 KB
Binder1.pdf67.68 KB
(1-15-2012) 2012 Heartland Budget.pdf126.68 KB
(1-15-2012) 2012 Fundraising Plan.pdf91.32 KB
2010_IRS_Form_990.pdf2.7 MB

RADICALS FOR CORPORATE POLLUTION: The Koch Cartel & The Heartland Institute

Original Link:

By Mark Ames

Yesterday, our old friends the Koch brothers were back in the news. The DeSmog Blog exposed how some of the most rancid trolls in the world of climate change-denialism are on the payroll of the Heartland Institute, one of the Koch Cartel’s early propaganda mills set up during the Reagan Era.

Among the Heartland Institute’s disinformation projects: paying schools to spread pro-pollution lies to K-12 students by “providing curriculum that shows that the topic of climate change is controversial and uncertain.” Also memos exposed direct funding deals from the Heartland Institute to pseudo-contrarian “scientists” like S. Fred Singer, named one of America’s top climate change-denialists, who also serves in a variety of Koch propaganda mills like the Cato Institute, the Institute for Humane Studies and George Mason University.

The main thing to remember in any story involving the Heartland Institute is that it is a direct project of the Koch Cartel (you gotta admire the Kochs’ ability to generate so many bland names for their propaganda outfits, that blandness acts like a wizard’s cloaking power).

Heartland’s founder, David Padden, was an early member of the Koch Cartel. In 1977, when the Charles G. Koch Foundation of Wichita rebranded and renamed itself the Cato Institute, David Padden was a founding board member of the new Cato Institute. Padden headed a financial services firm in Chicago, Padden & Co. Chicago is the “heartland” of financial derivatives, the “financial weapons of mass destruction” that are screwing America and the world, so you can imagine the Kochs and Padden had plenty of work in Chicago. The Chicago Board is the largest financial derivatives exchange in the world—Koch sockpuppet Rick Santelli launched his Tea Party Rant while standing on the floor of the Chicago Board, blathering about “losers” who lost their homes. Another banker who was a founding board member of the Cato Institute was Sam Husbands, an executive at Dean Witter Securities, now part of Morgan Stanley. And of course, heading Cato was Charles Koch, heir to his father’s oil and chemicals fortune.

Yep, they were underdogs and rebels all right, these “radicals for corporate pollution.”

Like a lot of libertarians in the 70s and 80s, Padden styled himself as an anti-EPA hippie for capitalism, forming his own zany libertarian outfit called—get this—the “Loop Libertarian League.” Krazy Koch-heads, those guys! Of course, there’s a practical use for putting a hippie front-group on your resume: Gives the impression that when Padden and his Heartland Institute comrades promote climate change lies and pro-pollution corporate propaganda, what they’re really doing is “bucking The Establishment” and “stickin’ it to The Man.” Cuz you know, you environmentalists and anti-poison types are just so conformist, man—only a true rebel spends tens of millions of dollars poisoning the public’s minds, so that it’s easier for corporations to poison the environment.

In 1984, the Kochs expanded their corporate-hippie libertarian network with a handful of new propaganda mills.David Padden must’ve done something right at Cato because he was installed as the head of one of these new libertarian mills, The Heartland Institute, headquartered in Chicago.

Padden joined the board of another Koch libertarian propaganda mill set up that same year, “Citizens for a Sound Economy” (later renamed “FreedomWorks”). The Kochs installed Ron Paul as the first chairman of Citizens for a Sound Economy—yep, that Ron Paul, the “maverick” Ron Paul. Sorry, folks, but it’s true: Ron Paul and David Padden go way back too, as does Ron Paul with the Koch brothers.

Here’s a snapshot of an article from 1985 about Ron Paul, head of Citizens for a Sound Economy/FreedomWorks, as he’s putting together a campaign to try to convince Ronald Reagan to enact a flat tax. (Steve Forbes, who later became a major force in FreedomWorks, took up the flat tax issue in his presidential run. The Heartland Institute identified Forbes magazine as a pro-pollution propaganda mill that should be pressured to keep out any real science from its pages.)

Ron Paul, serving Master Koch, in May, 1985

Yep, read it ‘n’ weep. Remember this the next time some poor libertarian sucker tries telling you about how Ron Paul is so edgy and dangerous that the Kochs couldn’t handle him and banished him in 1981.

Cuz you know, all these “radicals for corporate pollution”—they’re all so goddamned principled. It’s all about Liberty, Freedom and fighting The Man. And it’s all made possible thanks to you, the little suckers.

Would you like to know more? Read Mark Ames’ article “The Koch Whore Archipelago” and Yasha Levine’s article “How Taxpayers Are Forced To Subsidize Billionaire Koch Brothers’ Right-Wing Libertarian War”.

Heartland Institute's 2009 Climate Conference in New York: funding history of the sponsors

Original Link:

Our research into the listed “sponsors” for the Heartland Institute’s upcoming “International Conference on Climate Change” finds that these organizations have received over $47 million from energy companies and right-wing foundations, with 78% of that total coming from the Scaife Family of foundations.
According to the Media Transparency project the Scaife Family of Foundations is, “financed by the Mellon industrial, oil and banking fortune. At one time its largest single holding was stock in the Gulf Oil Corporation. Became active in funding conservative causes in 1973, when Richard Mellon Scaife became chairman of the foundation. According to a recent article, ‘In 1993, the Carthage and Sarah Scaife Foundations…gave more than $17.6 million to 150 conservative think tanks.’”

Here’s the breakdown:
ExxonMobil (1998-2006): $6,199,000
Koch Foundations (1986-2006): $4,438,920
Scaife Foundations (1985-2006): $36,868,640

Grand Total: $47,506,560

Here’s the complete list along with the funding totals for each of the organizations.
Accuracy in Academia
No funding records from Exxon, Koch, or Scaife.

Accuracy in Media
No funding from Exxon.
Between 1985-2005 it received 4,375,000 from the Sarah Scaife Foundation and the Carthage Foundation (both Scaife Foundations).

African Center for Advocacy and Human Development
No funding information.

Alternate Solutions Institute
Received a $100,000 grant in 2008 from the Atlas Economic Research Foundation (see below).

American Policy Center
No funding records from Exxon, Koch or Scaife.

Americans for Prosperity
Received $1 million from Koch Foundations (David H. Koch and Claude R. Lambe) between 1986-2006.

Atlas Economic Research Foundation
Received $780,000 from ExxonMobil between 1998-2006
Received $2,595,000 from Scaife Foundations (Sarah Scaife and Carthage) between 1985-2006.
Received $68,500 from Koch Foundations (Claude R. Lambe Charitible Foundation and Charles G. Koch Foundation)

Australian Libertarian Society
No funding records.

Ayn Rand Institute
No record of funding from Exxon, Scaife, or Koch
In 2004, received $2,500 from Armstrong Foundation.

Business and Media Institute (used to be called the Free Market Project)
BMI is the sister organization to the large Media Research Center which has received $202,500 from ExxonMobil since 1998.

Carbon Sense Coalition
No funding records from Exxon, Koch, or Scaife.

Cascade Policy Center also known as Cascade Policy Institute
No funding records from Exxon, Koch, or Scaife.

Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change
Received $100,000 from ExxonMobil from 1998-2006.
Received $100,000 from Sarah Scaife Foundation from 1999-2003.

Climate Skeptics Party
No information on the party at all.

Climate Strategies Watch
No funding records from Exxon, Koch, or Scaife.

Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT)
Received $542,000 from ExxonMobil from 1998-2006.
Received $1,280,000 from Scaife (Carthage and Sarah Scaife) Foundations from 1991-2006.

Competitive Enterprise Institute
Received $2,005,000 from ExxonMobil between 1998-2005.
Received $666,420 from Koch Foundations (David H. Koch and Claude R. Lambe) between 1986-2006.
Received $2,100,000 from Scaife Foundations (Sarah Scaife and Scaife Family) between 1985-2006.

Congress of Racial Equality
Received $260,000 from ExxonMobil between 2003-2006.

Cornwall Alliance
No funding records from ExxonMobil, Scaife, or Koch.

Economic Thinking/E.Pluribus Unum FIlms
No funding records from ExxonMobil, Scaife, or Koch.

European Center for Economic GrowthNo funding records from ExxonMobil, Scaife, or Koch.

Freedom Foundation of MinnesotaNo funding records from ExxonMobil, Scaife, or Koch.

Free to Choose NetworkNo funding records from ExxonMobil, Scaife, or Koch.

Frontiers of Freedom
Received $1,182,000 from ExxonMobil between 1998-2006.
Received $75,000 from Koch Foundations between 2004-2006.
Received $135,000 from Scaife Foundations between 1996-2006.

George C. Marshall InstituteReceived $745,000 from ExxonMobil between 1998-2006.
Received $30,000 from Koch Foundations in 2004.
Received $3,182,000 from Scaife Foundations between 1985-2006.

Grassroot Institute of HawaiiNo funding records from ExxonMobil, Scaife, or Koch.
Here is a link to other funding.

F.A. v. Hayek Institute
No funding records from ExxonMobil, Scaife, or Koch.

The Heritage Foundation
Received $565,000 from ExxonMobil between 1998-2006.
Received $2,417,000 from Koch Foundations between 1986-2005.
Received $23,096,640 from Scaife Foundations between 1985-2006.

IceAgeNow.comNo funding records from ExxonMobil, Scaife, or Koch.

International Climate and Environmental Change Assessment Project (ICECAP)No funding records from ExxonMobil, Scaife, or Koch.

Initiative for Public Policy Analysis (Fomerly the Institute of Public Policy Analysis)
No funding records from ExxonMobil, Scaife, or Koch.

Institute for Private Enterprise No funding records from ExxonMobil, Scaife, or Koch.

Institute for Public AffairsNo funding records from ExxonMobil, Scaife, or Koch.

Instituto De Libre ImpresaNo funding records from ExxonMobil, Scaife, or Koch.

Instituto Juan De Mariana
No funding records from ExxonMobil, Scaife, or Koch.

Instituto LiberdadeNo funding records from ExxonMobil, Scaife, or Koch.

Instituto Bruno LeoniNo funding records from ExxonMobil, Scaife, or Koch.

International Climate Science Coalition
No funding records from ExxonMobil, Scaife, or Koch.

The Lavoisier GroupNo funding records from ExxonMobil, Scaife, or Koch.

Liberales Institut
No funding records from ExxonMobil, Scaife, or Koch.

Liberty InstituteNo funding records from ExxonMobil, Scaife, or Koch.
Here is a link to their other funding.

John Locke FoundationNo funding from ExxonMobil
Received $97,000 from Koch Foundations between 1995-2005.
Received $5,000 from Scaife Foundations.

Manhattan Libertarian PartyNo funding records from ExxonMobil, Scaife, or Koch.

Mannkal Economic FoundationNo funding records from ExxonMobil, Scaife, or Koch.

Minimal Government Thinkers
No funding records from ExxonMobil, Scaife, or Koch.

New Zealand Centre for Political ResearchNo funding records from ExxonMobil, Scaife, or Koch.

Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine
No funding records from ExxonMobil, Scaife, or Koch.

Public Interest Institute
No funding records from ExxonMobil, Scaife, or Koch.
Here is a link to other funding.

Science and Public Policy InstituteNo funding records from ExxonMobil, Scaife, or Koch.

Science and Envirionmental Policy Project
Received $20,000 from ExxonMobil between 1998-2000.

60 Plus AssociationNo funding records from ExxonMobil, Scaife, or Koch.

Sovereignty InternationalNo funding records from ExxonMobil, Scaife, or Koch.

Tennessee Center for Policy Research
No funding records from ExxonMobil, Scaife, or Koch.

Young America’s FoundationReceived $85,000 from Koch Foundations between 1996-1999.

Funding totals:ExxonMobil (1998-2006): $6,199,000
Koch Foundations (1986-2006): $4,438,920
Scaife Foundations (1985-2006): $36,868,640

Grand Total: $47,506,560

It's Official: Money Now Governs America

Original Link: 

By Jim Hightower

The rich are different from you and me, but the really, really, really rich are also different from the merely rich.

For example, the rich can buy caviar and Champagne, but the Triple-R Rich can buy entire presidential campaigns.

Take Sheldon Adelson, the moneybags who's pumped $11 million so far into Newt Gingrich's right-wing run. He has single-handedly kept Gingrich's White House ambitions alive. Without this one guy's money, The Newt would've been long gone. Thanks a lot, Sheldon.
But Adelson can easily afford to roll the dice on a far-out candidate. This global casino baron hauled in $3.3 million in pay last year. Not for a year — that's what his hourly take was. In other words, his $11-million bet on Newt, which altered the Republican presidential race, was nothing — less than three-and-a-half hours of one of Sheldon's workdays.

Even Rick Santorum, who's so far to the right that his left brain has entirely atrophied from lack of use, is actually in the running for the GOP nomination. He insists that people are flocking to him because of the power of his ideas. Sure, Rick — and the power of Foster Friess' money.

This little-known Wall Street multimillionaire has long been a partner in the Koch brothers' plutocratic cabal and a steady funder of right-wing Christian politics. Friess modestly claims that God is "the chairman of my board." I doubt that, but Friess definitely is Santorum's guardian angel, having kept his campaign of wackiness afloat with untold infusions of cash. When Friess was told that Santorum's recent caucus wins would prompt Mitt Romney's Triple-R Richies to counterattack, he was thrilled. I think that "is so exciting," he warbled.

So there you have it — American politics has developed into a game for the fun and profit of a few superrich narcissists.
And, that's why Barack Obama was right on target two years ago when he denounced the Supreme Court for allowing unlimited corporate cash to flood into our elections, calling it a "threat to democracy."

But, where did that guy go? Now that gushers of that money are pouring into this year's Republican presidential campaigns through super PACs, he has pivoted adroitly from condemning such corrupt funds ... to creating one of his own. Savvy, or cynical?

I call it sad. Not because Obama wouldn't stand on principle, but because his switch affirms that special interest money now governs us, too powerful for even the sitting president to resist. These super PACs, all of which are creatures of a handful of rich Americans, were already the biggest power in the Republican presidential contest. Front-runner Mitt Romney's last name is even an anagram that spells M-O-N-E-Y, and a $30 million super PAC financed chiefly by Wall Streeters is what has powered him to the front. They want to buy a president who'll undo Obama's financial reform law that restrains some of their greed. That's what our "democracy" has become. Sad.

Rather than taking the high road and rallying a public that's thoroughly disgusted by this, Obama now joins Romney, et al. on the money-slicked low road. His super PAC, named Priorities USA, is as corrupt as the Republicans'. All of them perpetuate the ludicrous legalistic fraud that the secretive funds operate independently of the candidates. Come on — hand puppets act with more independence than super PACs! While Obama piously says he won't work directly with the PAC, he has directed Cabinet officials and White House aides to rustle up big donors to fund it.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Report: 'Super PACs Are Kryptonite for US Democracy'

Original Link:

Today U.S. PIRG Education Fund and Demos released a new analysis of the funding sources for the campaign finance behemoths, Super PACs. The findings confirmed what many have predicted in the wake of the Supreme Court’s damaging Citizens United decision: since their inception in 2010, Super PACs have been primarily funded by a small segment of very wealthy individuals and business interests, with a small but significant amount of funds coming from secret sources.
Story continues below:


“Super PACs represent much of what is wrong with American democracy rolled neatly into one package,” explained U.S. PIRG democracy advocate Blair Bowie. “They are tools that powerful special interests can use to work their will by drowning out the voices of ordinary Americans in a sea of sometimes secret cash.” 

“Super PACs are like kryptonite for our democracy,” added Demos Democracy Counsel Adam Lioz. “They undermine core principles of political equality in favor of a bully-based system where the strength of a citizen’s voice depends upon the size of her wallet.”

Some of the most striking findings in the report are:
  • 17% percent of all Super PAC money in 2010 and 2011 came from for-profit business treasuries.
  • 6.4% of the itemized funds raised by Super PACs since 2010 was “secret money,” not feasibly traceable to its original source. A month-to-month analysis of spending in 2010 and 2011 suggests that the months leading up to the 2012 election will see an unprecedented surge in secret money.
  • Of all itemized contributions from individuals to Super PACs, 93% came in contributions of at least $10,000. Only 726 individuals, or 23 out of every 10 million people in the U.S., made a contribution this large to a Super PAC. More than half of itemized Super PAC money came from just 37 people giving at least $500,000.
In Auctioning Democracy, Demos and U.S. PIRG offer recommendations for pushing back on the influence of Super PACs, specifically tailored to the Federal Election Commission, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the White House, the United States Congress, State Legislatures and even Municipal Governments. 

“The Securities and Exchange Commission must act immediately to force publicly traded corporations to disclose their political spending,” said Ms. Bowie.

“Ultimately, the people must rise up and amend our Constitution to make perfectly clear that the First Amendment is not a tool for use by large corporations and wealthy donors to dominate the political process,” added Mr. Lioz.

Sunday, February 5, 2012


Original Link:

A group of billionaires and millionaires evdently think a Republican president will be more sympathetic to the needs and wants of the 1% club than a second term by President Obama.

At a private three-day retreat in California last weekend, conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch – widely credited with funding and starting the Tea Party movement through various thinks tanks, PACS and other groups they fund - and about 250 to 300 other high rollers pledged approximately $100 million to defeat President Obama in the 2012 elections, according to a report in the Huffington Post.

The report quotes a source that was in the room when the pledges were made as the basis for the story.

The report says Charles Koch pledged $40 million and his brother David pledged $20 million.

The event is a semi-annual invitation only meeting that reportedly attracts wealthy donors, Republican politicians and conservative activists.

This is the ninth year the Kochs have hosted the conference where traditionally the meetings adjourn after soliciting pledges of support from the donors to nonprofit groups favored by the Kochs, said the report.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Koch Brothers, Allies Pledge $100 Million At Private Meeting To Beat Obama

Original Link:

By Amanda Terkel, Ryan Grim

At a private three-day retreat in California last weekend, conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch and about 250 to 300 other individuals pledged approximately $100 million to defeat President Obama in the 2012 elections.

A source who was in the room when the pledges were made told The Huffington Post that, specifically, Charles Koch pledged $40 million and David pledged $20 million.

The semi-annual, invitation-only meeting attracts wealthy donors, Republican politicians and conservative activists. Last year, hundreds of activists gathered outside the walled-off resort to protest the meeting. This year, however, the conference went off quietly.

"Conference organizers and their guests successfully slipped in and out of the Coachella Valley without being detected, by buying out nearly all of the 500-plus rooms at the Renaissance Esmeralda resort in Indian Wells," reported The Desert Sun. "The resort closed its restaurants, locked down the grounds with private security guards and sent many workers home."

This is the ninth straight year the Kochs have hosted the conference. As Politico reported last year, the meetings often adjourn "after soliciting pledges of support from the donors -- sometimes totaling as much as $50 million -- to nonprofit groups favored by the Kochs."

The fact that the wealthy conservative donors pledged $100 million for the 2012 elections shows how intent they are on trying to get Obama out of office -- and previews how intense, and likely nasty, the general election will be.

There are limits on how much an individual can give to a political candidate. Therefore, much of the money pledged at the recent gathering will likely go to super PACs or nonprofits that can spend and accept unlimited amounts of funds. GOP primary voters have already gotten a glimpse of how the political system looks with super PACs around: record amounts of money spent on a large number of negative ads in the early primary states.
The source told The Huffington Post that they lamented the direction the conference has taken over the years. They said it used to be about "conservative strategy" and building a movement, but now it was mostly an "alpha male" spectacle focused on fundraising to beat Obama.

The Koch brothers have been the major donors behind many Republican candidates, the Tea Party movement and efforts to discredit the science around man-made global warming. Democrats frequently highlight the brothers to fundraise, and the first TV ad of the Obama reelection campaign invoked them as "secretive oil billionaires attacking President Obama with ads fact checkers say are not tethered to the facts."

Also at the conference was Ken Griffin, founder and CEO of the Citadel Investment Group. He supported Obama in 2008, leading his employees to contribute more than $205,000 to the campaign. By the time of the election, however, he had switched his allegiance to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). Since the election, he has openly discussed his "frustration" with Obama's policies, stating that he is "greatly concerned about the fiscal instability of the U.S." In the fourth quarter of 2011, Citadel employees completely abandoned Obama, contributing nothing to his campaign while giving $120,500 to presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

The Center for Public Integrity also reported that for the first time, Las Vegas casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson attended the conference. Adelson and his family are largely bankrolling Newt Gingrich's presidential run, with Adelson and his wife, Miriam, having given the pro-Gingrich super PAC Winning Our Future $10 million just this year.

Koch Industries did not return a request for comment.

Mitt Romney’s TOP FIVE Tax Giveaways to the Rich

Original Link:

By ThinkProgress War Room

The Loopholes & Giveaways Mitt Loves to Love

While much attention has focused on Mitt Romney’s own shockingly low tax rate — a 15 percent rate far lower than that paid by millions of middle class Americans, less attention has been paid to the details of his tax plan. It’s a plan that would slash taxes on the wealthiest Americans and corporations, while actually increasing taxes on the middle class. What’s more, as the Center for American Progress Action Fund’s Michael Linden and Seth Hanlon wrote last week:
Nowhere in Romney’s 59-point economic plan does he identify a single corporate loophole or tax break he’d eliminate.
Here’s a rundown of some of the most egregious tax loopholes and giveaways Mitt Romney preserves in his tax plan.
Mitt Romney’s TOP FIVE Tax Giveaways to the Wealthy
  • 1. The ‘Carried Interest’ Handout to Hedge Fund & Private Equity Managers. Cost: $15 BILLION (Fiscal Years 2012-2012)
This is one of the unfair tax loopholes that Mitt Romney himself both supports and personally exploits in order lower his effective tax rate to 15 percent — an option ”not available to the ordinary taxpayer.” Check out ThinkProgress Economy Editor Pat Garofalo’s recent column in the Atlantic for a complete explanation of how this egregious loophole works — and why it’s completely indefensible.
Yesterday, it emerged that Mitt Romney has millions or even tens of millions of dollars parked in widely known offshore tax havens like the Cayman Islands. The use of offshore tax havens to boost Bain Capital’s profits and Romney’s returns is legal; however, the tax revenue lost as a result forces larger deficits or deeper cuts to programs that benefit the middle class each and every day. This is yet another example of a tax avoidance scheme available to a small number of privileged Americans who are able to rig the game in their favor while the rest of us are left holding the bag.
  • 3. Taxing Capital Gains at a Lower Rate Than Ordinary Income. Cost: $256 BILLION (Fiscal Years 2012-2016)
In addition to the special “carried interest” loophole (#1 above) that Romney uses to lower his tax rate, he also takes advantage of the fact that capital gains are currently taxed at 15 percent instead of the top rate margin income tax rate of 35 percent. The Center for American Progress’ Seth Hanlon explains: “Because capital gains are concentrated at the highest levels of income and taxed at favorable rates, many of the most affluent taxpayers pay a lower effective tax rate than those beneath them on the income scale.”

How concentrated are capital gains at the top end of the income scale, you ask? The wealthiest 0.1 Percent of Americans make an astounding HALF of all capital gains. As we’ve pointed out, Romney’s plan to cut capital gains tax for those making under $200,000 would offer exactly ZERO benefit to the 73.9 percent of the middle class who have no capital gains, a move the New York Times today likened to “tossing crumbs.”

As we explained yesterday, capital gains rates are due to increase next year with the expiration of the Bush tax cuts. Romney, however, would keep this unfairly low rate in place, which is a big part of why his tax plan would cut his own taxes by more than 40 percent.
  • 4. Mortgage Interest Deduction on Second Homes & Yachts. Cost: $10 BILLION (Fiscal Years 2012-21)
While Mitt Romney doesn’t own a yacht, he and his wife do own multiple multi-million dollar homes. The mortgage interest tax deduction is meant to encourage home ownership, not enable the wealthiest Americans like Romney to lower their tax burden.
  • 5. Failing to Limit ‘Upside Down’ Itemized Deductions That Favor the Wealthiest Americans. Cost: $114 BILLION (Fiscal Years 2012-2016)
Since we haven’t seen Mitt Romney’s tax returns, we don’t know what kind of deductions he takes. In any case, limiting itemized deductions for the wealthiest taxpayers to bring them in line with the tax benefits enjoyed by other taxpayers – as President Obama has proposed to do — would eliminate a source of considerable spending through the tax code (which is what these giveaways really are — spending by another name), freeing up resources that can be used much more effectively elsewhere.
As you can see, just these five giveaways to the wealthiest Americans that Mitt Romney supports add up to a considerable sum of money — money that could be much better spent on targeted tax cuts for the middle class or on programs and services that benefit a large number of Americans and help create an economy that works for everyone.

It’s important to remember that these wasteful giveaways don’t just enrich a small group of Americans at a rate wildly disproportionate to everyone else, the revenue lost as a result either adds to the deficit or puts Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and programs and services that benefit all Americans on the chopping block instead — or both, in the case of Mitt Romney’s economic plan.

Evening Brief: Important Stories That You May Have Missed

Newt Gingrich pledges to repeal the Affordable Care Act on “day one”, but has also publicly praised several of its provisions — including the requirement that insurers allow young adults to remain on their parents’ health care plans.

The 1 Percent and that 15 Percent.

Chart of the Day: Republicans Don’t Trust Anyone (Except Fox News)
Michigan’s unemployment rate in December declined another half-percentage point to 9.3 percent, the state’s lowest rate since the 8.9 percent rate recorded in September 2008. GM also reclaimed its spot as the world’s largest automaker.

Married gay couple petitions an Ohio city for a family membership to a fitness center.
Enough already. It’s time to talk to the Taliban.

Newt Gingrich pledged to “defend traditional marriage between one man and one woman,” but his second wife, Marianne Gingrich, claim that her then-husband wanted an open marriage.
Former South Carolina GOP Chair Katon Dawson is calling on Mitt Romney to “do the right thing” and make his tax returns public.

The transition of power to North Korean leader Kim Jong Il’s son, Kim Jon Un, may offer an opportunity for rapprochement and engagement.

Romney’s Tax Giveaways to Himself and the Rich

Original Link:

By Michael Linden, Seth Hanlon

His Tax Plan Would Raise Middle-Class Taxes and Extend Loopholes for the Wealthy.

The release of former Gov. Mitt Romney’s tax returns is sure to spark a lot of interest in his personal wealth as well as the strategies he employs to pay a very low tax rate. But the real focus should be on how conservatives are promoting tax policies that allow millionaires like Romney to pay less in income and payroll taxes as a share of their income than most middle-class families.
Gov. Romney’s tax policy proposals would do nothing to address this fundamental imbalance, and would, in fact, skew the code even more in favor of the rich. In the accompanying charts we demonstrate how the average middle-class family fairs today under the current tax system compared to Romney, and how they would fair under his tax plan compared to how he would benefit. The comparisons are telling. (see charts)

How is it possible for Governor Romney’s taxes to be so low compared to families making one-five hundredth as much money? Because he benefits from a variety of special tax preferences that most middle-class families can’t take advantage of. These include:
  • Extra-low rate for investment income. Capital gains and dividends are taxed at just 15 percent, compared to a top rate of 35 percent for ordinary income. Most middle-class families earn all or nearly all of their income from wages and salaries, and so get taxed at ordinary rates. In 2010 less than a third of Romney’s income came from ordinary income. On the rest, he paid the special low rate.
  • The “carried interest” loophole. Making matters worse (or better, depending on your perspective), Romney gets to claim that millions of dollars in compensation from his work at Bain Capital is actually capital gains rather than ordinary income. So he pays only the extra-low capital gains rate instead of the higher ordinary rate. This is a break available only to the managers of investment partnerships like private equity and hedge fund managers.
  • Investment income exempt from payroll taxes. Most middle-class families pay 7.65 percent of their income in payroll taxes that go to support the Social Security and Medicare systems. Their employers pay another 7.65 percent. But investment income isn’t subject to the payroll tax. Because nearly all of Romney’s income came from capital gains or gets to count as capital gains, his payroll tax bill is next to nothing.
Romney wants to preserve all these special tax breaks and then create even more. Romney’s tax policies would save him millions of dollars every year. Here’s why:
  • Over the past two years, Romney appears to have personally benefitted by $2.6 million from the carried interest loophole, which Romney wants to preserve. Romney’s campaign said today that he received nearly $13 million in carried interest over 2010 and 2011, reportedly taxed at preferential capital gains rates. Had this income been taxed like regular salaries or wages, he would have paid about $1.5 million more in 2010 and about $2.6 million in total in those two years.
  • Based on the information in his 2010 return, we estimate that the Bush tax cuts, including historically low tax rates on capital gains and dividends and lower top marginal rates, saved Romney about $1.6 million in 2010.
  • Romney is also proposing additional tax cuts on investment income. Currently, only wages and other labor income are subject to the Medicare tax. But under current law, investment income will be subject to Medicare taxes starting next year. Romney would keep investment income exempt from the Medicare tax. Based on the income from his 2010 tax returns, this would amount to an $800,000 tax cut for Romney.
  • President Obama wants to end the Bush tax cuts for millionaires and close the carried interest loophole and other special breaks for the wealthy. As a result, millionaires who enjoy special tax loopholes would pay higher rates. Based on the income from his 2010 return, the difference between President Barack Obama’s plan and Gov. Romney’s plan would save Romney about $3.5 million.
What’s more, Mitt Romney’s tax plan would preserve and expand the special breaks that benefit only the very wealthy, shifting the tax burden toward the middle class. This would happen in at least three ways:
  • Romney’s plan preserves every single one of the special breaks described above that allow him and other millionaires to pay lower tax rates than most middle-class families, even those that are set to expire at the end of this year.
  • Romney adds new tax breaks for the superwealthy in the form of a huge corporate tax cut and the elimination of the estate tax.
  • Romney’s plan increases taxes on many middle-class families. His plan includes the repeal of several tax breaks for middle-class families that were enacted under President Obama. The result is higher taxes for more than 40 percent of families with children making under $100,000 a year.
The upshot: Gov. Romney benefits from a myriad of special breaks that reduce his tax rate to a level below that of a normal middle-class family. Instead of targeting these unfair breaks for reform, Romney’s tax plan actually preserves them and even adds several new ones. Mitt Romney’s tax returns reveal not only how much money he makes and how little taxes he pays, but how broken our tax code really is.