Elections News ArticlesExcerpts of Key Elections News Articles in Media
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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The political network backed by the Koch brothers, already spending tens of millions of dollars this year to boost Republicans’ chances of retaking the Senate, is expanding its national playbook as part of a long-term strategy designed to strengthen conservatives heading into the 2016 presidential campaign. The effort, part of an overall budget that organizers expect to total nearly $300 million this year, includes broadening outreach to veterans, viewed as an energized constituency in the wake of the recent Veterans Affairs scandal, and messages tailored for Latinos and young people, long considered core Democratic constituencies. The strategy for 2014 includes a new super PAC that can pour all its money into overt election activity. The plan underscores the huge reach of the Koch-backed operation, a singular force in American politics that has functioned outside the traditional campaign finance system. The Koch-backed network, a coalition of nonprofit organizations not required to disclose their donors, raised $407 million in the 2012 cycle, a presidential election year in which outside spending increased greatly on both sides of the aisle. This year, the network is likely to outstrip other organizations on both the left and the right with spending on television ads and on-the-ground organizing. Its main political organ, the free-market advocacy group Americans for Prosperity, has 240 full-time employees in 32 states, more than double the size of its 2012 staff.
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Charles and David Koch wrapped up their annual summer seminar on June 16. [Their] combined net worth is more than $100 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. The highly secretive mega-donor conference, called “American Courage: Our Commitment to a Free Society,” featured a who’s who of Republican political elites. 300 individuals—worth at least a billion each—were present. The explicit goal was to raise $500 million to take the Senate in the 2014 midterms and another $500 million “to make sure Hillary Clinton is never president.” The Koch network raised an estimated $407 million in the 2012 presidential election, according to an analysis by The Washington Post and the Center for Responsive Politics. Intriguing in its ambiguity was the “Energy: Changing the Narrative” session, presumably meant to change the narrative of climate change to one of energy independence. The Kochs are investing large sums in “a new energy initiative with what looks like a deregulatory, pro-consumer spin” to combat President Obama’s new regulations on carbon dioxide emissions and liberal billionaire Tom Steyer’s $100 million commitment to fight climate change. It is not hard to see why the Kochs, as the owners of a large carbon-based energy conglomerate with interests in oil, natural gas and coal, are some of the most vocal climate deniers. In 2013, Forbes listed Koch Industries as the second largest privately held company in the country. This conclave of billionaires is determined to roll back Obamacare and carbon restrictions. In an America where money equals speech, Koch is king.
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Democrats have been staggered by a $20 million advertising blitz produced by Americans for Prosperity, the conservative advocacy group organized and financed by the Koch brothers, billionaire industrialists. The ads take aim at House and Senate candidates for re-election who have supported the health law, and blame them for the hyped-up problems with the law’s rollout that now seem to be the sole plank in this year’s Republican platform. In 2012 ... the Koch network raised $407 million, which was secreted among 17 groups with cryptic names and purposes that were designed to make it impossible to figure out the names of donors the Kochs worked with. As one tax expert told [The Washington Post], “it’s designed to make it opaque as to where the money is coming from and where the money is going.” The Democrats have smaller versions of these operations, though they are more focused on building a super PAC to collect unlimited donations supporting Hillary Rodham Clinton in 2016, and they lack the resources to compete with the Kochs at this stage. The clandestine influence of the Kochs ... would be much reduced if they were forced to play in the sunshine. The Internal Revenue Service and several lawmakers are beginning to step up their interest in preventing “social welfare” organizations and other tax-sheltered groups from being used as political conduits, but they have encountered the usual resistance from Republican lawmakers. Considering how effectively the Koch brothers are doing their job, it’s easy to see why.
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Karl Rove and his investors were the biggest losers on Election Day. The Republican strategist created the model for outside money groups that raised and spent more than $1 billion on the Nov. 6 elections -- many of which saw almost no return for their money. Rove, through his two political outfits, American Crossroads and Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, backed unsuccessful Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney with $127 million on more than 82,000 television spots. Down the ballot, 10 of the 12 Senate candidates and four of the nine House candidates the Rove groups supported also lost their races. The Election Day results showed Rove’s strategy of bringing in huge donations from a few wealthy benefactors and spending that money almost completely on television advertising failed. The Center for Responsive Politics estimates the two Crossroads groups spent about $176 million, making them the top non-candidate and non-party spender of the election. Rove has bragged of raising more than $300 million for his groups. American Crossroads, a super-political action committee, discloses its contributors and spending to the Federal Election Commission. Its affiliate, Crossroads GPS, is organized as a nonprofit social-welfare group that conceals its donors and reports only a fraction of its political activities. The return on investment for American Crossroads donors was 1 percent, according to an analysis by the Sunlight Foundation, a Washington-based group that advocates for open government.
Note: This article fails to mention Rove's highly disturbing involvement in clandestine manipulation of the vote count, which has been documented by excellent researchers such as Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman. For more on this most important news that never got reported in the major media, click here and here. And for an excellent, incisive essay showing how the elections integrity movement helped to protect the recent U.S. elections, click here.
The secret vote was, in its time, a great idea. Before the secret ballot was popularized, it was standard practice to intimidate and threaten voters. But few know that America hasn't always had secret ballots. Indeed, the secret ballot didn't even originate in the US – the system we use is known, actually, as the "Australian ballot". The majority of US states did not move to that system – in which publicly-provided, printed ballots with the names of the candidates are marked in secret – until after 1884. By now, reams of solid reporting have documented the aberrations, high jinks, missing hard drives, voting machines that weirdly revert to one candidate, voting machines owned by friends of the candidate of one party, and other aspects of systematic corruption that attend America's voting. Solid reporting on the war on voting, and on the corruption of the voting infrastructure, continues to mount. It is crazy to ask Americans to have pure faith that the system is incorruptible, and to ask them to just drop their votes into a black hole and trust in the Lord – or Diebold. Here is my modest proposal: let us end the secret ballot, because we have reached a point, with the internet, in which transparency and accountability is more important than absolute secrecy. The votes get tallied and posted – with their corresponding numbers – online on a public site, and major media reproduce the lists. And I can check my number (unidentifiable to anyone else) to check whether my vote was correctly registered. This would allow, in one sweep, all citizens to watch the watchers.
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The [electronic voting] machines used in Hamilton County, Ohio — the county home of Cincinnati — are supplied by Hart Intercivic, a national provider of voting systems in use in a wide variety of counties scattered throughout the states of Texas, Oklahoma, Hawaii, Colorado and Ohio. A test conducted in 2007 by the Ohio Secretary of State revealed that five of the electronic voting systems the state was looking to use in the upcoming 2008 presidential election had failed badly, each easily susceptible to chicanery that could alter the results of an election. As reported in the New York Times, “At polling stations, teams working on the study were able to pick locks to access memory cards and use hand-held devices to plug false vote counts into machines. At boards of election, they were able to introduce malignant software into servers.” It turns out that Hart Intercivic is owned, in large part, by H.I.G. Capital — a large investment fund with billions of dollars under management — that was founded by a fellow named Tony Tamer. H.I.G. employees hold at least two of the five Hart Intercivic board seats. Tony Tamer, H.I.G.’s founder, turns out to be a major bundler for the Mitt Romney campaign, along with three other directors of H.I.G. who are also big-time money raisers for Romney. Two of those directors — Douglas Berman and Brian Schwartz — were actually in attendance at the now infamous “47 percent” fundraiser in Boca Raton, Florida. Two members of the Hart Intercivic board of directors, Neil Tuch and Jeff Bohl, have made direct contributions to the Romney campaign.
Note: The author of this article was attacked by National Review Online for this piece. To see his rebuttal, click here. To sign a petition to launch an investigation on this critical matter, click here. For deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources on serious problems with the US elections system, click here.
Voter fraud has a shocking new meaning in eastern Kentucky [where] major cocaine and marijuana dealers admitted to buying votes to steal elections. "We believe that drug money did buy votes," Kerry B. Harvey, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky, said. He described a stunning vote-buying scheme that includes "very extensive, organized criminal activity, involving hundreds of thousands of dollars, and in many cases that involves drug money." He says the problem is rooted in economic woes, which is why votes are routinely for sale. In that part of the state, jobs are scarce and poverty is high. Controlling local government means controlling jobs. â€śThese folks go out and hijack the local elections for their own purposes and then they use those jobs to enrich themselves and their confederates. It really is a terrible problem and it has to be stopped,â€ť Harvey explains. In Clay County, according to court testimony, some of the funds to purchase votes came from massive cocaine and marijuana drug trafficking operations. â€I always bought votes,â€ť Kenneth Day testified. The 60-year-old was serving 18 years in federal prison for multimillion-dollar drug trafficking. Prosecutors say he dealt in "millions of dollars in drugs, marijuana, cocaine, and methamphetamineâ€ť and â€śhad developed one of the most successful drug trafficking businesses in the whole entire region.â€ť He also dealt in votes. Day was not only an admitted drug trafficker, but he also had served as the longtime Clay County Republican commissioner of the Board of Elections.
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For all the superheated rhetoric of yet another election cycle, it's as clear as ever that the Republican and Democratic parties in Washington pretty much support the same economic policies. Indeed, any honest perusal of congressional votes proves that the party establishments are roughly the same when it comes to financial deregulation (less of it), job-killing free trade (more of it), bailouts (more of them) and corporate taxes (less of them). Politicians and partisan media outlets deny this obvious reality, of course. But they do so because they have a vested interest in the red-versus-blue "polarization" narrative from which they generate campaign contributions and ratings, respectively. It's also why more Americans are tuning out of politics. Pretending this is some big divide is a farce. Both parties are proposing to enrich the already rich while hiding the two-headed monster behind a mask of conflict.
Note: For a powerful essay revealing the deeper agenda behind largely fabricated polarizations, click here.
Nearly 70 percent of voters think super PACs should be outlawed, and more than half “strongly” do. We can hardly believe that the billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch will spend more this year than John McCain’s entire presidential campaign raised in 2008. We can’t stand the constant flood of negative ads on every channel or the ominous anonymity of the interests behind them. The Roberts Court sees all this and refuses to acknowledge that it “give[s] rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.” Fortunately, if on the question of campaign finance the Supreme Court is immune to the court of public opinion, progressives are fighting through other avenues to transform today’s corrupt system into one that is fair, transparent and participatory. In [the] state of New York, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has launched a path-breaking investigation of tax-exempt groups that might be fraudulently funneling funds into politics, including a “charitable foundation” affiliated with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Meanwhile, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is partnering with Protect Our Democracy ... to apply the same successful, grass-roots pressure they used in getting same-sex marriage passed to our campaign finance system. They have joined with citizen activists who are looking to New York City’s successful, multiple-match public financing system. A Brennan Center for Justice study showed that this system promoted diversity among candidates and donors and reduced the influence of corporate money.
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The Montana Supreme Court issued a stunning ruling Dec. 30 that rejected arguments that the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark ruling in Citizens United vs. FEC applied to Montana's century-old ban on corporate election spending. The 5-2 ruling overturned a lower court and reinstated Montana's Corrupt Practices Act, a citizen initiative passed to confront some of the most overt corporate corruption in American history. Citizens United struck down a federal law that prohibited corporations from directly spending company funds to advocate for or against political candidates. Justice Kennedy's majority opinion in Citizens United ... asserted that "independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption." That astounding claim promptly birthed super PACs, which can accept unlimited donations to support their favored candidate and attack his or her opponents. By the time the public knows the people or corporations behind the super PAC attacks, four primaries will be complete and the winner may be apparent. The Montana ruling is cause for celebration, but its value can only be realized if other states and courts follow. An appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court is likely and, without far more visible public advocacy for the democratic republic promised by our Constitution, the Roberts court is unlikely to veer from its agenda of steadily enlarging corporate privilege.
Note: For illuminating analyses from reliable sources of the threats to democracy from corporate money in the US elections, click here.
With a single, disastrous 5-to-4 ruling, the Supreme Court has thrust politics back to the robber-baron era of the 19th century. Disingenuously waving the flag of the First Amendment, the court’s conservative majority has paved the way for corporations to use their vast treasuries to overwhelm elections and intimidate elected officials into doing their bidding. Congress must act immediately to limit the damage of this radical decision, which strikes at the heart of democracy. As a result of Thursday’s ruling, corporations have been unleashed from the longstanding ban against their spending directly on political campaigns and will be free to spend as much money as they want to elect and defeat candidates. The ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission radically reverses well-established law and erodes a wall that has stood for a century between corporations and electoral politics. The founders of this nation warned about the dangers of corporate influence. The real solution lies in getting the court’s ruling overturned.
Note: The crux of the argument used by the Supreme Court is that under US law, corporations are treated as persons and therefore given Constitutional rights meant for people. Should we then give them the right to vote? For many key articles from reliable sources on serious flaws in the electoral process in the US, click here.
Diebold Inc. has sold its money-losing U.S. election-systems business, just seven years after acquiring it amid hopes of rising demand for voting technology upgrades in the wake of the 2000 presidential election fiasco. Diebold [said] it sold the voting-machine unit to privately held Election Systems & Software Inc. for $5 million, about one-fifth of what it paid in 2002. "There were assumptions we made in that space that didn't materialize," Diebold spokesman Mike Jacobsen said. Diebold, which was the industry's biggest maker of electronic voting machines heading into the 2004 presidential election, was in the spotlight as concerns increased about the reliability and security of the electronic systems. Diebold also suffered from a perception problem when the company's then-Chief Executive Walden O'Dell very publicly supported and fundraised for President George W. Bush in his re-election campaign.
Note: This article fails to mention that the merger of Diebold and ES&S creates a major monopoly on US voting machines in the hands of companies owned by staunch conservatives. For more vital information on this and the suspicious death of the principal witness related to Karl Rove in an key Ohio elections case, click here.
Voting rolls, which are maintained by local election officials, are one of the weakest links in American democracy and problems are growing. Republicans have been pressing for sweeping voter purges in many states. They have also fought to make it harder to enroll new voters. Voting experts say there could be serious problems at the polls on Nov. 4. A number of states — including the battleground state of Florida — have adopted no match, no vote rules. Voters can be removed from the rolls if their names do not match a second list, such as a Social Security or driver’s license database. But (like the U.S. mail) lists of this kind are notoriously mistake-filled, and one typo can cause a no match. In Ohio, Republicans recently sued the secretary of state, demanding that she provide local officials with a dubious match list. As many as 200,000 new voters could have been blocked from casting ballots. The Supreme Court rejected the suit, but Republicans are still looking for ways to use the list on Election Day. For this election, voters need to be prepared to fight for their right to cast a ballot. They should try to confirm before Nov. 4 that they are on the rolls — something that in many states can be done on a secretary of state or board of elections Web site. If their state permits it, they should vote early. If voters find on Election Day that their names are not on the rolls, they should contact a voters’ rights group like Election Protection, at 1-866-OUR-VOTE.
Note: A recent report in Rolling Stone by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Greg Palast details many of these tactics to eliminate voters from the rolls. To watch a related video by Greg Palast click here. For many disturbing reports from major media sources on threats to free and fair elections in the US, click here. And for a powerful, five-minute video showing both the ways your vote can disappear and what you can do about it, click here.
An audit of last November’s general election in the Cleveland area has found that hundreds of votes were lost, that others were recorded twice and that software used to count the ballots was vulnerable to data problems. In a state that was pivotal to President Bush’s election and re-election, Cuyahoga County, which includes Cleveland, has seen more than its share of recent election troubles. Lines at polls there were hours long in the 2004 general election. And in the primaries last May, the county’s first experience with electronic voting, poll workers were absent or poorly trained, computer cards on which votes had been recorded were lost, and one polling place opened hours late. The audit found that some batches of ballots registered in optical scan machines had been scanned twice, producing a double count of those ballots. Other ballots were deleted because of flawed data and, owing to human error, were not rescanned, the committee found. The optical scan and touch-screen machines used in the county were made by Diebold Election Systems Inc. The audit committee said Microsoft’s JET file-sharing database system, which Diebold used, was known to have previously had problems that could result in corruption of the database. The audit committee was allowed only a limited review of the data collected by Diebold. The panel tried to gain access to the raw data, but Diebold claimed that the information was proprietary. Barbara Simons, a ... past president of the Association for Computing Machinery, said: “There is no excuse for Diebold’s having used such an insecure and unreliable database. There were far more reliable databases available over 20 years ago.” The committee called for extensive changes to ensure the integrity of future elections, among them streamlining the process by eliminating either optical scanner or touch-screen machines.
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Three county elections workers conspired to avoid a more thorough recount of ballots in the 2004 presidential election, a prosecutor told jurors during opening statements of their trial Thursday. Witnesses testified that, two days before a planned recount, selected ballots were counted so the result would be determined. "The evidence will show that this recount was rigged, maybe not for political reasons, but rigged nonetheless," Prosecutor Kevin Baxter said. "They did this so they could spend a day rather than weeks or months" on the recount, he said. Defense attorneys said in their opening statements that the workers in Cuyahoga County didn't do anything out of the ordinary. "They just were doing it the way they were always doing it," said defense attorney Roger Synenberg, representing Kathleen Dreamer, a ballot manager. Charged with various counts each of election misconduct or interference are Jacqueline Maiden, the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections' coordinator, who was the board's third-highest ranking employee when she was indicted last March; Rosie Grier, assistant manager of the board's ballot department; and Dreamer. Baxter said testimony in the case will show that instead of conducting a random count, the workers chose sample precincts for the Dec. 16, 2004, recount that did not have questionable results to ensure that no discrepancies would emerge. "This was a very hush operation," Baxter said. There were allegations in several counties of similar presorting of ballots for the recounts that state law says are to be random.
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By the 2008 presidential election, voters around the country are likely to see sweeping changes in how they cast their ballots and how those ballots are counted. New federal guidelines, along with legislation given a strong chance to pass in Congress next year, will probably combine to make the paperless voting machines obsolete. Motivated in part by voting problems during the midterm elections last month, the changes are a result of a growing skepticism among local and state election officials, federal legislators and the scientific community about the reliability and security of the paperless touch-screen machines used by about 30 percent of American voters. Various forms of vote-counting software used around the country ... will for the first time be inspected by federal authorities, and the code could be made public. Last year, New Mexico spent $14 million to replace its touch screens. Other states are spending millions more to retrofit the machines to add paper trails. Because some printers malfunctioned last month, election commissioners in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, which includes Cleveland, said last week that they were considering scrapping their new $17 million system of touch-screen machines. Under changes approved by the Election Assistance Commission yesterday, voting machine manufacturers would have to make their crucial software code available to federal inspectors. The code is now checked mainly by private testing laboratories paid by the manufacturers.
Note: How is it possible that the government allowed voting machine companies to keep their software secret even from the government? We may never know how many votes were manipulated. For more, click here.
Some of electronic voting's loudest defenders have been state and local election officials. Many of those same officials have financial ties to voting machine companies. Former secretaries of state from Florida and Georgia have signed on as lobbyists for Election Systems and Software and Diebold Election Systems. When Bill Jones left office as California's secretary of state in 2003, he quickly became a consultant to Sequoia Voting Systems. His assistant secretary of state took a full-time job there. The list goes on. Even while in office, many election officials are happy to accept voting machine companies' largess. Forty-three percent of the budget of the National Association of Secretaries of State comes from voting machine companies and other vendors. State governments in a growing number of states...have pushed through much-needed laws that require electronic voting machines to produce paper records. But these groups have faced intense opposition from election officials [who] argued that voter-verifiable paper trails...are impractical. While they may sincerely think that electronic voting machines are so trustworthy that there is no need for a paper record of votes, their views have to be regarded with suspicion until their conflicts are addressed.
Tax-exempt nonprofit organizations supposedly devoted to “social welfare” can spend large amounts of money to influence elections without publicly disclosing the identities of their donors. But instead of cracking down on the use of “dark money” for political purposes, the Internal Revenue Service has decided to stop requiring these groups to reveal even to the government the sources of their funding. On Monday, the IRS and the Treasury Department announced they would no longer require 501(c)(4) groups ... to supply the government with the identities of donors who gave more than $5,000 in a single year. It’s a step backward that could make it easier for money from foreign sources to find its way into U.S. elections. But while this week’s policy change may not affect what the public may learn about political spending by so-called social welfare groups, it could make it more difficult for the government to police laws against spending by foreigners on U.S. elections. Fred Wertheimer, president of the campaign reform group Democracy 21, warned that, with the end of the reporting requirement, “there is no way to determine if a 501(c)(4) advocacy group that is spending money to influence federal elections is taking that money from [a] foreign interest.”
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The nation’s largest voting equipment vendor has for at least nine years coaxed state and local elections officials to serve on an “advisory board” that gathers twice annually for company-sponsored conferences, including one last year at a ritzy Las Vegas resort hotel. The arrangement could compromise the integrity of the officials' decisions. As many as a dozen election officials attended the March 2, 2017 Las Vegas meeting, with a number of them accepting airfare, lodging, meals and, according to one participant, a ticket to a show on the Strip from their voting systems vendor, Nebraska-based Election Systems and Software (ES&S). The unusual practice, which has not previously been reported, offers a glimpse of one way in which a voting equipment manufacturer has sought to cement relationships with government officials, some of whom play roles in the award of millions of dollars in contracts. Ethics experts and election watchdogs say the company's hospitality and hobnobbing with government officials is potentially corrupting. Many states are continuing a shift to voting systems that produce paper backup ballots, so vote counts can be verified in post-election audits. ES&S is peddling electronic ballot-marking devices that produce paper ballots to be fed into optical scanners – equipment that critics contend should be limited to use by disabled voters. Paper ballots, they say, are far less expensive and can be scanned and quickly tabulated.
Note: Why all the focus on Russia manipulating US elections, when this alone shows how US elections are being manipulated by internal groups? For undeniable evidence that elections have been manipulated for years by political groups in the country, see our Elections Information Center.
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