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Who is buying the U.S. midterm elections? 2010-Oct-06 at 12:16 PDT

Posted by Scott Arbeit in Blog.
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We don’t know.  Thanks to the Citizens United ruling – the one that President Obama criticized in his State of the Union speech, where we saw Justice Alito mouth the words "not true" when the Supreme Court was called out – we now have a system where any group can spend any amount of money on any "issue" they want… which is in practice an unlimited supply of money to get particular people elected.

From Midterm campaigns, brought to you by . . . ?, by Eugene Robinson, 5-Oct-2010:

According to The Post, $80 million has been spent on midterm election campaigns by these shadowy "independent" groups — as opposed to just $16 million at this point in the 2006 midterm cycle.

I put "independent" in quotes because this spending is anything but. Officially, groups such as Americans for Job Security and American Crossroads are not allowed to spend on behalf of specific candidates; rather, they are supposed to confine themselves to such anodyne activities as highlighting issues and advocating policy positions. In practice, however, this gives them the latitude to attack one candidate — a Democrat, say — for his or her position on health care, financial reform or whatever.

The Supreme Court made all this possible with its ruling early this year, in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which legalized unlimited campaign spending by corporations, unions, trade associations and other such entities. And the independent-expenditure groups with the patriotic names are often structured as nonprofits, which means they are not required to disclose their donors publicly.

I’m afraid I don’t know enough about the specifics of the ruling to know how much latitude Congress has to create a narrower statute that reinstates disclosure or limitation of funding.  It may not have any.  Even if it does, I don’t have any confidence that Congress has the political will to turn off the funding trough it feeds at.

Once again… term limits solves these problems.


“He was going to go down fighting.” 2010-May-23 at 08:07 PDT

Posted by Scott Arbeit in Blog.
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Specter Legacy Is Study of the Perils of a Switch, by Katharine Q. Seelye, 22-May-2010

At the time, Mr. Specter said candidly that he could not win re-election in a Republican primary because his party had moved to the right.

“I am not prepared to have my 29-year record in the United States Senate decided by the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate, not prepared to have that record decided by that jury,” he said.

And so we have the ungraceful end of an over 40-year career in the Senate.  And it took us watching the slow-motion train-wreck of a transparent and desperate switch in political parties, followed by a bitter and cynical primary fight, to get to the end of it.

Is the United States demonstrably better for having people in office for over four decades?  Haven’t we seen, over and over, the machinations of those who seek re-election more than they seek to improve the way this nation is governed?

Now, imagine with me a world with congressional term limits.  Imagine a world where this kind of pathetic sight didn’t happen.  Imagine the simple, graceful turnover of congressional seats, election after election, as roughly 1/6th of Congress would be an open seat.  Imagine the new perspectives coming in, every two years.  Imagine the old guard, giving their advice about survival and “how things work in Washington” to newer members who never intended to do things that way in the first place, and then imagine the newer members politely humoring the older ones and then doing what they think is right anyway.  And imagine the old guard, no doubt still in Congress from grandfather clauses in the term limits amendment that exempt current members (the only way we’d get one), finally leaving in confusion about “the way these new people act around here”, or actually just waiting to die in office.

Imagine the day when the very last senator still serving under that grandfather clause leaves, and every single member of Congress will serve no more than twelve years: two terms in the Senate, or six terms in the House.

Imagine the kind of bold, imaginative legislation we’ll get when that happens… far less influenced by special interests or lobbying.  Younger, more energetic, more in tune with what we need at any given time.

And imagine when the average human life span grows past 100 years… and then past 120 years… and then past 150 years… all of which is coming in the 21st Century, and realize how important it is to get term limits into place as soon as possible.  If we don’t, we’ll see the first senator to serve 100 years in the Senate during the 21st Century, and that’s not a good thing, from where I sit.

And imagine when we won’t ever again hear lines like:

“Maybe there comes a time when people think, ‘Should I run anymore — is there a time to bow out gracefully?’ ” Mr. Harkin said. “But that’s not Arlen’s style. He’s a fighter. And he was going to go down fighting.”

That’s a day to look forward to.