U.S. Government

Events Marking Second Anniversary of "Citizens United"

January 20 marks the second anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's disastrous decision in Citizens United v. F.E.C., where a narrow majority of the Court asserted that the Constitution prevents Congress from limiting the amount of money that can be spent influencing our elections. A series of events are planned this week to mobilize opposition to the decision and to generate support for a constitutional amendment to reverse it.

Vengeance is Mine, Sayeth Newt Gingrich

While Mitt Romney came out ahead in New Hampshire, his front-runner status will soon be under the gun by some very deep pockets backing Newt Gingrich.

As previously reported by CMD, over $3 million dollars worth of ads cut by a Super PAC controlled by Mitt Romney's former aides, dropped Gingrich like a stone in Iowa. Gingrich sank from an overconfident front runner, who told ABC's Jake Tapper "I will be the nominee" on December 1, to an embittered candidate who placed fourth in Iowa a short time later.

After ineffectually whining about being totaled by Mitt Romney's "negativity" in the Iowa primary, Newt Gingrich may have decided that revenge is sweeter. A pro-Gingrich Super PAC is preparing to unleash a barrage of negativity on South Carolina voters.

Newt Gingrich's Baggage

The new Super PACs dominating the air wars in Iowa and New Hampshire were unleashed by the Citizens United revision of the First Amendment to allow individuals and corporations to give unlimited amounts of money to influence U.S. elections. Super PAC spending cannot be directly coordinated with a candidate, but provides candidates with an avenue for negative attack ads that they do not have to put their name on. (Numerous groups are calling for amending the Constitution to overturn the decision.)

The most omnipresent ad by the pro-Romney "Restore Our Future" Super PAC led with the line "You know what makes President Obama happy? Newt Gingrich's baggage." It then went on to detail a scorching list of allegations, including that Gingrich was paid $30,000 an hour by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, two organizations that "helped cause the financial crisis."

"I've been Romney-boated," Gingrich complained to the press in Iowa, referring to the ad campaign in 2004 launched by the group, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, that helped sink presidential candidate John F. Kerry. According to the Campaign Media Analysis Group, 45 percent of all TV ads in Iowa have been attack ads against Gingrich, including this no-hold-barred attack by Ron Paul's campaign. (Note that Paul does not hesitate to put his name right on the ad.)

The pro-Mitt Romney Super PAC massively outspent the candidate's official presidential campaign on advertising, reportedly spending $7 million to the candidate's official $5 million so far. While Romney dodged responsibility for the negative ads, Gingrich put is succinctly: "It's very hard to run $3.5 million of negative ads and pretend it's not yours and not have people think you're being dishonest."

"The Man that Destroyed Us"

Now, a pro-Gingrich Super PAC is getting ready to unleash a world of harm on the Romney campaign. According to the New York Times, billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson has cut a $5 million check to the "Winning Our Future" Super PAC. Adelson has long been a Gingrich supporter.

Winning our Future just released a devastating 30 minute film, When Mitt Romney Came to Town, in advance of the South Carolina primary ten days away. The Super PAC has reserved more than $3.4 million in advertising time in the state to air clips of the movie as ads.

The ads and the film claim that as CEO of Bain Capital, a venture capital firm, Romney bought American businesses simply to shut them down. Romney describes his tenure at Bain as one in which he created "100,000 jobs." But the ad characterizes Romney and Bain "as group of corporate raiders ... more ruthless than Wall Street" and intones, "For tens of thousands of Americans, the suffering began when Mitt Romney came to town." A woman put out of work by Bain, characterizes Romney as "the man who destroyed us," a potent message in a country that currently has 25 million unemployed or underemployed citizens.

Gingrich characterized Romney and Bain as "rich people figuring out clever legal ways to loot a company," but Gingrich of course has his own private equity supporters including Blackstone Group and KKR & Co. according to the Boston Globe.

As for the truth of the matter, an old Bain prospectus obtained by the Los Angeles Times shows a stunning 88 percent average annual rate of return under Romney's leadership. But did the firm earn this money by creating jobs or destroying them? The Washington Post recently gave Romney three Pinocchios for his unsubstantiated job claims.

Supremely Unseemly Conduct by Supreme Court Justices Spurs Call for Mandatory Ethics Rules

Madison, WI, January 9, 2012—The Center for Media and Democracy today joined a coalition of public interest organizations in calling for the United States Supreme Court to agree to follow the Code of Conduct for U.S. judges.

Justice Clarence Thomas and his wife, Ginny (photo via FTWP)CMD joined the Alliance for Justice, American Association of University Women, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Common Cause, Communications Workers of America, CREDO Action, Equal Justice Society, League of United Latin American Citizens, National Employment Lawyers Association, People for the American Way Foundation, and U.S. Public Interest Research Group in a letter to Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts. The letter calls on the Court to "take it upon itself to agree to be bound by the Code," and "do so unequivocally and publicly." (The coalition's letter to Chief Justice Roberts is uploaded down below.)

Colvin on How to Choose a Constitutional Amendment

This is a guest post by Greg Colvin, partner at the firm Adler and Colvin, originally published at OurFuture.org.

There is a growing movement of people fed up with corporations-as-persons, money-as-speech, elections-for-sale in America. They are ready to amend the US Constitution as the only sure way to reverse the Supreme Court's decisions in Citizens United v. FEC and Buckley v. Valeo. But what's the best amendment? Sanders/Deutch or Udall/Sutton? Move To Amend or Free Speech for People?

Views on the OCCUPY Amendment

This is a guest op-ed by Greg Colvin, a partner at the firm Adler & Colvin, originally published at OurFuture.org.

As the struggle in the streets intensifies, and Occupy Wall Street refuses to remain silent, it's good to know there are champions in Congress who have stepped up to the challenge of amending the US Constitution. It's called OCCUPIED: Outlawing Corporate Cash Undermining the Public Interest in our Elections and Democracy, here.

CMD Opposes Gutting of Telemarketing Regulations

The Center for Media and Democracy is asking Congress to reject a bill that could "open up everyone's cell phones, land lines, and business phone numbers, without their consent, to a flood of commercial, marketing and debt collection calls," according to a letter signed by the Center and a number of public interest groups. The Mobile International Call Act of 2011 amends the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), a statute that regulates telemarketing and limits telephone solicitations and robo-calls. The bill purportedly makes sensible updates to the TCPA to allow consumers to be notified about fraud, appointment cancellations, drug recalls, late payments, and the like. However, other provisions of the bill would allow businesses to make pre-recorded robo-calls "for any commercial purpose that is not a solicitation." This applies to any consumer's cell phone, even for those that have placed themselves on the Do-Not-Call list. The bill also exempts modern automated predictive dialers from the TCPA, "permitting repetitive 'phantom' calls to cell phones doctor's offices, hospital rooms and pagers."

The Supreme Court Will Uphold Health Care Reform, and Here's Why

Opponents of the Affordable Care Act who believe the Supreme Court will declare the law unconstitutional are going to be disappointed next year when a majority of the nine justices vote to uphold it. It will likely be a 5-4 decision, but moderate conservative Anthony Kennedy will, I'm confident, recognize that without the law, the free-market system of health insurance, so highly valued by conservatives, will implode, sooner rather than later.

Supreme Court healthcareThe high court announced earlier this week that it will hear oral arguments on the constitutionality of the law next March. A decision is expected in June, just a few weeks before the parties hold their conventions. Regardless of which way the justices go, the decision will ensure that health care reform will be as contentious a campaign issue as it was in 2008.

Business Leaders Call for Election Spending Transparency

Saran wrapExecutives from major American corporations are calling for greater transparency in election spending, alleging the shadowy, secretly-funded groups that spent hundreds of millions on the 2010 elections are distorting the democratic process. Groups like Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS, they say, will spend an increasing amount in future elections and political scandal will follow. Meanwhile, Wisconsin leaders promote even greater election secrecy.

Nurses Take the Message "Heal America Tax Wall Street" to 60 Congressional Offices

Heal AmericaAcross the country on September 1, nurses will converge on local congressional offices to demand a tax on Wall Street financial speculation, a move they say is a step towards healing the nation, trimming the deficit, and preserving social programs.

National Nurses United (NNU) is planning a day of action in over 60 congressional offices in 21 states. In Wisconsin, the group is sponsoring a soup kitchen outside of Rep. Paul Ryan's Janesville office "to provide residents with the sustenance they are not getting from Paul Ryan," says NNU spokesman Charles Idelson.

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