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Federal law designates the secretary of state as “responsible for the continuous supervision and general direction of sales” of arms, military hardware and services to foreign countries. In practice, that meant that [Hillary] Clinton was charged with rejecting or approving weapons deals — and when it came to Clinton Foundation donors, Hillary Clinton’s State Department did a whole lot of approving. While Clinton was secretary of state, her department approved $165 billion worth of commercial arms sales to Clinton Foundation donors. That figure ... is almost double the value of arms sales to those countries during the same period of President George W. Bush’s second term. The Clinton-led State Department also authorized $151 billion of separate Pentagon-brokered deals for 16 of the countries that gave to the Clinton Foundation. That was a 143 percent increase in completed sales to those nations over the same time frame during the Bush administration. The 143 percent increase in U.S. arms sales to Clinton Foundation donors compares to an 80 percent increase in such sales to all countries over the same time period. American military contractors and their affiliates that donated to the Clinton Foundation — and in some cases, helped finance speaking fees to Bill Clinton — also got in on the action. Those firms and their subsidiaries were listed as contractors in $163 billion worth of arms deals authorized by the Clinton State Department.
Note: If you can not access this article at the link above, it is also available here. If you look at war and global politics from the point of view of war profiteering, you can see why despite popular opposition to war, it never stops. Read an excellent essay by a top US general exposing how war is a racket.
The world’s biggest and most profitable fossil fuel companies are receiving huge and rising subsidies from US taxpayers, a practice slammed as absurd by a presidential candidate given the threat of climate change. A Guardian investigation of three specific projects, run by Shell, ExxonMobil and Marathon Petroleum, has revealed that the subsidies were all granted by politicians who received significant campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industry. “At a time when scientists tell us we need to reduce carbon pollution to prevent catastrophic climate change, it is absurd to provide massive taxpayer subsidies that pad fossil-fuel companies’ already enormous profits,” said senator Bernie Sanders, who announced on 30 April he is running for president. Sanders, with representative Keith Ellison, recently proposed an End Polluter Welfare Act, which they say would cut $135bn of US subsidies for fossil fuel companies over the next decade. “Between 2010 and 2014, the oil, coal, gas, utility, and natural resource extraction industries spent $1.8bn on lobbying,” according to Sanders and Ellison. Globally in 2013, the most recent figures available, the coal, oil and gas industries benefited from subsidies of $550bn, four times those given to renewable energy. In 2009, President Barack Obama called on the G20 to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies but since then US federal subsidies have risen by 45%. Every single well, pipeline, refinery, coal and gas plant in the country is heavily subsidised.
Former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers has formed a new pressure group ... to serve as the “premiere national security and foreign policy organization during the 2016 debate” and to “help elect a president who supports American engagement and a strong foreign policy.” Roger’s group, Americans for Peace, Prosperity, and Security, is hosting candidate events and intends to host a candidate forum later this year. A look at the business executives helping APPS steer presidential candidates towards more hawkish positions reveals that many are defense contractors who stand to gain financially from continued militarism. Rogers may have a conflict of interest as well. Explaining the goals of his group to a news outlet in Indiana, Rogers lamented the lack of “surveillance capabilities” and warned of increasing threat of cyberwarfare. “It’s not unusual for the arms industry to use front groups to press for a more aggressive foreign policy,” says William Hartung, director of the Arms & Security Project at the Center for International Policy. “It sounds a lot more credible when a group called ‘Americans for Peace, Prosperity and Security’ calls for a policy shift than if the same argument comes out of the mouth of an arms executive or lobbyist whose livelihood is tied to the spread of tension and conflict,” Hartung said.
Note: Read a powerful essay by a top US general exposing the war machine titled "War is a Racket." For more, see concise summaries of deeply revealing electoral process corruption news articles from reliable major media sources.
The leader of the Federal Election Commission, the agency charged with regulating the way political money is raised and spent, says she has largely given up hope of reining in abuses in the 2016 presidential campaign. “The likelihood of the laws being enforced is slim,” Ann M. Ravel, the chairwoman, said in an interview. “People think the F.E.C. is dysfunctional. It’s worse than dysfunctional.” Her unusually frank assessment reflects a worsening stalemate among the agency’s six commissioners. They are perpetually locked in 3-to-3 ties along party lines on key votes because of a fundamental disagreement over the mandate of the commission, which was created 40 years ago in response to the political corruption of Watergate. The F.E.C.’s paralysis comes at a particularly critical time because of the sea change brought about by the Supreme Court’s decision in 2010 in the Citizens United case, which freed corporations and unions to spend unlimited funds in support of political candidates. Experts predict that the 2016 race could produce a record fund-raising haul of as much as $10 billion, with the growth fueled by well-financed outside groups. On their own, the conservative billionaires Charles G. and David H. Koch have promised to spend $889 million through their political network.
Note: Read about how Citizens United paved the way for billionaire oligarchs to become their own political party. For more, see concise summaries of deeply revealing electoral process corruption news articles from reliable major media sources.
Computer security experts have warned for years that some voting machines are vulnerable to attack. And this week, in Virginia, the state Board of Elections decided to impose an immediate ban on touchscreen voting machines used in 20 percent of the state's precincts, because of newly discovered security concerns. The problems emerged on Election Day last November. "One machine would go and crash. They'd bring it back up. Another one would crash," said Edgardo Cortes, the state's elections commissioner. State auditors investigated. While using their smartphones, they were able to connect to the voting machines' wireless network, which is used to tally votes. Investigators easily guessed the system's passwords - in one case, it was "abcde" - and were then able to change the vote counts remotely without detection. Jeremy Epstein is co-founder of Virginia Verified Voting and one of many computer experts who had warned about the security flaws. He's not at all surprised by the state's findings. Epstein said the vulnerabilities could be used to create a lot of mischief, "to change the list of races, change the list of candidates, change the votes that have been recorded, change the totals recorded, things like that."
Note: Read more on the major problems with electronic voting machines in the US. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing elections corruption news articles from reliable major media sources. Then explore the excellent, reliable resources provided in our Elections Information Center.
Big Wall Street banks are so upset with U.S. Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren's call for them to be broken up that some have discussed withholding campaign donations to Senate Democrats in symbolic protest. Representatives from Citigroup, JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs and Bank of America, have met to discuss ways to urge Democrats, including Warren and Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, to soften their party's tone toward Wall Street. Citigroup has decided to withhold donations for now to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee over concerns that Senate Democrats could give Warren and lawmakers who share her views more power, sources inside the bank told Reuters. The Massachusetts senator's economic populism and take-no-prisoners approach has won her a strong following. Warren, a former Harvard Law professor who joined the Senate Banking Committee after taking office in 2013, has accused big banks and other financial firms of unfair dealings that harm the middle class and help the rich grow richer. In a Dec. 12 speech, she mentioned Citi several times as an example of a bank that had grown too large, saying it should have been broken apart by the Dodd-Frank financial reform law. In January, Warren angered Wall Street when she successfully blocked the nomination of a banker Antonio Weiss to a top post at the Treasury Department. She argued that as a regulator he would likely be too deferential to his former Wall Street colleagues.
The political network overseen by the conservative billionaires Charles G. and David H. Koch plans to spend close to $900 million on the 2016 campaign, an unparalleled effort by coordinated outside groups to shape a presidential election that is already on track to be the most expensive in history. The spending goal ... would allow their political organization to operate at the same financial scale as the Democratic and Republican Parties. It would require a significant financial commitment from the Kochs and roughly 300 other donors they have recruited ... to influence legislation and campaigns across the country, leveraging Republican control of Congress and the party’s dominance of state capitols to push for deregulation, tax cuts and smaller government. The [increased budget] reflects the rising ambition and expanded reach of the Koch operation. In 2012, the Kochs’ network spent just under $400 million, an astonishing sum at the time. The $889 million spending goal for 2016 would put it on track to spend nearly as much as the campaigns of each party’s presidential nominee. The Kochs are longtime opponents of campaign disclosure laws. Their network is constructed chiefly of nonprofit groups that are not required to reveal donors.
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Congressional liberals rebelled Wednesday against a must-pass spending bill that would ... roll back critical limits on Wall Street and sharply increase the influence of wealthy campaign donors. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a popular figure on the left, led the insurrection with a speech on the Senate floor, calling the $1.01 trillion spending bill “the worst of government for the rich and powerful.” Meanwhile, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said, “I don’t think the vast majority of Democrats or even Republicans are going to look too kindly on a Congress that’s ready to go back and start doing the bidding of Wall Street interests again.” On the Senate floor, Warren said the changes in the spending bill “would let derivatives traders on Wall Street gamble with taxpayer money and get bailed out by the government when their risky bets threaten to blow up our financial system.” She added: “These are the same banks that nearly broke the economy in 2008 and destroyed millions of jobs.” Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), who opposed the 2013 bill, said he would vote against the new spending measure in its current form. The change to Dodd-Frank coupled with the campaign finance provision makes for a toxic blend, he said. Van Hollen was one of the few Democrats willing to risk a government shutdown by blocking the bill. Pressed by reporters, even Warren would not make that commitment.
The end-of-year spending bill deal crafted by congressional leaders Tuesday would dramatically expand the amount of money that wealthy political donors could inject into the national parties, drastically undercutting the 2002 landmark McCain-Feingold campaign finance overhaul. The language – inserted on page 1,599 of the 1,603-page bill – would allow ... a donor who gave the maximum $32,400 this year to the Democratic National Committee or Republican National Committee ... to donate another $291,600 on top of that to the party’s additional arms -- a total of $324,000, ten times the current limit. In a two-year election cycle, a couple could give $1,296,000 to a party's various accounts. "These provisions have never been considered by the House or Senate, and were never even publicly mentioned before today," said Fred Wertheimer, president of the advocacy group Democracy 21. Adam Smith, spokesman for the group Every Voice, said in a statement, “Very few people can write checks almost twice the size of the country’s median income, but that’s what this provision will allow. It gives the biggest donors another opportunity to influence politics and buys them more access to politicians.” Campaign finance experts were taken aback by the scope of the measure, rumors of which first surfaced Tuesday, hours before the deal was finalized.
Attorneys general in at least a dozen states are working with energy companies and other corporate interests, which in turn are providing them with record amounts of money for their political campaigns, including at least $16 million this year. The Times reported previously how individual attorneys general have shut down investigations, changed policies or agreed to more corporate-friendly settlement terms [for] campaign benefactors. But the attorneys general are also working collectively. Out of public view, corporate representatives and attorneys general are coordinating legal strategy and other efforts to fight federal regulations, according to a review of thousands of emails and court documents and dozens of interviews. Attorney General Scott Pruitt of Oklahoma [used his post] to help start what he and allies called the Rule of Law campaign. That campaign, in which attorneys general band together to operate like a large national law firm, has been used to back lawsuits and other challenges against the Obama administration on environmental issues, the Affordable Care Act and securities regulation. The most recent target is the president’s executive action on immigration. Coordination between the corporations and teams of attorneys general involved in the Rule of Law effort also involves actual litigation to try to clear roadblocks to energy projects, documents show.
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Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren -- not Hillary Clinton -- is the top progressive choice for president in 2016, according to a new poll. Forty two percent of respondents favor Warren, and Vermont Independent Senator Bernie Sanders also edges out Clinton with 24% compared to her 23%, according to results from the 2016 Presidential Pulse Poll commissioned by progressive grassroots organization Democracy for America. These results come amid a groundswell of activism from the Democratic party's more liberal wing, which has called for a contested 2016 primary and has often questioned Clinton's financial ties to Wall Street. "Elizabeth Warren won by a large margin because she inspires Democrats by valiantly fighting for populist progressive policies to address income inequality in the face of Wall Street resistance -- and because she regularly engages with the grassroots base of her party," said Charles Chamberlain, the group's executive director, in a release of the poll. He noted, however, that the poll's biggest finding is not that support for Warren among liberal voters is widespread, but that progressives want to make sure that the Democratic nomination process is a "contest, not a coronation." Warren repeatedly told CNN's Gloria Borger in an interview that she has no intention of running for president.
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The most disturbing trend in the financing of American political campaigns is not the magnitude of the money being spent. It’s that more and more of that money is not going through the campaigns themselves — where donations must be disclosed and limited — but from nonprofit groups that are being set up for the express purpose of frustrating any attempt to identify their funders. This infusion of “dark money” all but obliterates the post-Watergate notion that Americans have a right to know who is behind ... candidates. In this new world order, various players are operating under different sets of rules — and some seem to be creating their own, aware that this Supreme Court seems disinclined to stop them. We know, for example, that billionaire investor Tom Steyer spent $74 million on behalf of Democratic candidates who were committed to doing something about climate change. There is no exact figure on how much was spent at the other end of the spectrum by the Koch brothers, the conservative oil barons who funnel much of their donations through nonprofits that are not required to list their funding sources under the tax code. A memo by the Koch brothers’ main political arm, leaked to Politico in May, forecast a budget of $125 million in this election. Such obfuscation is becoming more commonplace. The average voter is left without knowing who really is behind these campaigns. But make no mistake: Our elected officials are well aware of their benefactors and their expectations.
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There is a certain genius in how we snug Election Day up against Halloween on the calendar. We scare each other for fun and profit on the last day of October every year. In even-numbered years ... we scare each other on the first Tuesday thereafter, too. This year, the closing argument from the Republican side is a whole bunch of ghastly fantasies: Ebola, the Islamic State, vague but nefarious aspersions about stolen elections and a whole bunch of terrifying fantasies about our border with Mexico. On the other side, Democrats want to keep control of the Senate, so their best fear pitch is that if Republicans take over, things in Washington will suddenly get worse. That’s a little hard to take as we coast into the closing days of what is literally the least productive Congress in the modern history of Congress. For all the politicking on the threat posed by the Islamic State, Congress decided to neither debate nor vote on the U.S. military fight against the group in Iraq or Syria. As the president announced expanded military deployments in the region, Congress cancelled its remaining workdays in October and November, until after the election. Congress thinks it’s more advantageous to run ads about how scary the Islamic State is than to face the real threat of actually taking a vote on what to do about that threat. Halloween is over, but the most deeply craven, vacuous political season in years has followed down its ghostly trail.
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Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission in 2010 tossed aside decades of legislative restrictions, freeing corporations and unions to spend as much as they wished. Six months ago, the Supreme Court took its Citizens United decision further. In McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, it struck down long standing caps on what an individual may contribute to all federal candidates, collectively, in any two-year election cycle. With conservative justices dominant, the court expanded the concept that money is equivalent to speech, protected by the First Amendment. Corporations, it said, enjoy the same political rights as individuals. A study by the Sunlight Foundation, an advocate for government transparency, found that 31,385 people — that is 1 percent of 1 percent of the United States population — accounted for 28 percent of all disclosed contributions in the 2012 elections. This year, an analysis by The New York Times shows, more than half of broadcast advertising in the midterm elections has been paid for by groups that reveal little or nothing about their donors. Overwhelmingly, the main beneficiaries have been conservative organizations.
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Before 2002, parties could accept unlimited donations from individuals or groups (corporations, labor unions, etc.). The McCain-Feingold law, as it came to be known, banned soft-money contributions, and it also prohibited political groups that operate outside the regulated system and its donation limits from running “issue ads” that appear to help or hurt a candidate close to an election. In 2010, the Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court effectively blew apart the McCain-Feingold restrictions on outside groups and their use of corporate and labor money in elections. That same year, a related ruling from a lower court made it easier for wealthy individuals to finance those groups. What followed has been the most unbridled spending in elections since before Watergate. In 2000, outside groups spent $52 million on campaigns, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. By 2012, that number had increased to $1 billion. The result was a massive power shift. With the advent of Citizens United, any players with the wherewithal, and there are surprisingly many of them, can start what are in essence their own political parties, built around pet causes or industries and backing politicians uniquely answerable to them. No longer do they have to buy into the system. Instead, they buy their own pieces of it outright. “Suddenly, we privatized politics,” says Trevor Potter, an election lawyer who helped draft the McCain-Feingold law.
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Addicted to each other’s power and money, the political parties and their corporate donors are constantly trying to enlarge their relationship out of sight of the American public. An accidental Internet disclosure last month showed that the stealthy form of political corruption known as “dark money” now fully permeates governor’s offices around the country, allowing corporations to push past legal barriers and gather enormous influence. This has been going on nationally for several years ... after wealthy interests claimed that a series of legal decisions allowed them to give unlimited and undisclosed amounts to “social welfare” groups that pretended not to engage in politics. (The tax code prohibits these groups from having politics as a primary purpose.) Now it turns out that both the Republican and Democratic governors’ associations have also set up social welfare groups ... with the purpose of raising secret political money. Thanks to the computer slip ... we now know some of the people and corporations that secretly contributed. Companies that gave at the highest level (more than $250,000) included Exxon Mobil, the Corrections Corporation of America, Pfizer and the Koch companies. In exchange for their private donations, “members” of [one key] group were invited to a symposium last year [where] they were allowed to meet with (and lobby) some of the highest-ranking officials and regulators in states with Republican governors. Big donors are given “the greatest opportunity possible to meet and talk informally with the Republican governors and their key staff members.” The Democratic Governors Association does exactly the same thing, regularly providing access to top state executives in exchange for large contributions. Both parties are routinely selling access to the nation’s governors and their staffs to those with the most resources.
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Together, Charles and David Koch control one of the world's largest fortunes, which they are using to buy up our political system. The Kochs [have] cornered the market on Republican politics and are nakedly attempting to buy Congress and the White House. Koch-affiliated organizations raised some $400 million during the 2012 election, and aim to spend another $290 million to elect Republicans in this year's midterms. Koch ... is larger than IBM, Honda or Hewlett-Packard and is America's second-largest private company. Brothers Charles and David are each worth more than $40 billion. But what they don't want you to know is how they made all that money. The company's stock response to inquiries from reporters: "We are privately held and don't disclose this information." The company's troubled legal history – including a trail of congressional investigations ... civil lawsuits and felony convictions ... combine to cast an unwelcome spotlight on the toxic empire. The company has paid out record civil and criminal environmental penalties. According to the University of Massachusetts Amherst's Political Economy Research Institute, only three companies rank among the top 30 polluters of America's air, water and climate: ExxonMobil, American Electric Power and Koch Industries. Koch Industries dumps more pollutants into the nation's waterways than General Electric and International Paper combined. Koch has profited precisely by dumping billions of pounds of pollutants into our waters and skies. The Koch brothers get richer as the costs of what Koch destroys are foisted on the rest of us – in the form of ill health, foul water and a climate crisis that threatens life as we know it on this planet.
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Republicans and Democrats, and groups sympathetic to each, spend millions on sophisticated technology to gain an advantage. But sometimes, a simple coding mistake can lay bare documents and data that were supposed to be concealed from the prying eyes of the public. Such an error by the Republican Governors Association recently resulted in the disclosure of exactly the kind of information that political committees given tax-exempt status usually keep secret, namely their corporate donors and the size of their checks. The documents, many of which the Republican officials have since removed from their website, showed that many of America’s most prominent companies, from Aetna to Walmart, had poured millions of dollars into the campaigns of Republican governors since 2008. “This is a classic example of how corporations are trying to use secret money, hidden from the American people, to buy influence, and how the governors association is selling it,” said Fred Wertheimer, the president of Democracy 21. The trove of documents, discovered by watchdogs at the Democrat-aligned Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW, sheds light on the secretive world of 501(c)(4) political groups, just as the battle over their future intensifies. The tax-exempt Republican Governors Public Policy Committee is not required to disclose anything, even as donors hit the links, rub shoulders and trade policy talk with governors and their top staff members. In a tit for tat, the Republican association unearthed documents from the Democratic Governors Association that also name corporate donors and the benefits.
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Zephyr Teachout took only 34 percent of the vote in [2014's] Democratic primary against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, but she succeeded in bringing her old-fashioned populist platform to the attention of the media and a broad audience of voters. Outside of New York, of course, it's still only a few people who have had exposure to Teachout's unusual political views. The Fordham University law professor has consistently argued -- on the stump and in her academic work -- that the government should do more to ensure free competition, both in elections and in the economy. She is calling for more aggressive government in these areas, but to the end of decentralizing political and financial power. Public financing of campaigns was one of two main planks in her platform. The other plank was a renewed commitment to preventing monopolies and oligopolies in business. She argues that in industries from health care to banking to meat processing, policies adopted during the Reagan administration have permitted mergers and acquisitions resulting in the concentration of market power in the hands of a few firms. As a result ... consumers pay higher prices and workers are paid less, and large firms can lobby in a coordinated way for legislative protection from would-be competitors. As Democrats decide on a compelling agenda to rally voters in 2016 ... the ideas Teachout has advocated could be appealing.
Note: Learn how Teachout spent 1/40th of what her opponent did in the elections, yet she still gained over 30% of the vote. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing elections news articles from reliable major media sources.
Wall Street is one of the biggest sources of funding for presidential campaigns, and many of the Republican Party's potential 2016 contenders are governors. And so, last week, the GOP filed a federal lawsuit aimed at overturning the ... law that bars those governors from raising campaign money from Wall Street executives who manage their states' pension funds. In this case, New York's and Tennessee's Republican parties are represented by two former Bush administration officials, one of whose firms just won the Supreme Court case invalidating campaign contribution limits on large donors. In their complaint, the parties argue that people managing state pension money have a First Amendment right to make large donations to state officials who award those lucrative money management contracts. With the $3 trillion public pension system controlled by elected officials now generating billions of dollars worth of management fees for Wall Street, Securities and Exchange Commission regulators originally passed the rule to make sure retirees' money wasn't being handed out based on politicians' desire to pay back their campaign donors. The suit comes only a few weeks after the SEC issued its first fines under the rule - against a firm whose executives made campaign donations to Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican, and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, a Democrat. In a statement on that case, the SEC promised more enforcement of the pay-to-play rule in the future. The GOP lawsuit aims to stop that promise from becoming a reality.
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