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Friday, April 19, 2013

Money in politics: A history of legalized corruption & the new Gilded Age: Draft.

            Of all of the important political and social issues that plague our nation and our world today, almost all of them share a commonality. There is an old biblical saying “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. -1 Timothy 6:10.”  Such can be summed up by the state of our political system. The faith of the people when it comes to our elected officials is at its lowest point ever recorded. According to a recent Gallup Poll, Just 13% of people polled approve of the job our congress is doing on our behalf. (Newport, 2013) A person can easily speculate into why public opinion is so low. They can cite ideological differences, partisan bickering, watered down legislation, the amount of vacation days taken by our officials, and even the inability to pass something that 90% of the American people want, but when it comes down to it do our representatives really represent us? Or do they represent someone else?

There is another old saying: “money talks.” If money talks then it must have a voice and if it has a voice then somewhere someone is going to listen to that voice. If money is power, and has a voice, then those who possess that money also have that power and that voice. As the influence of those with that money increases so does their representation. It’s their interests that are served because they have the loudest voice.  So what happens to those without that money; the low wage server, the factory worker, the cashier, the poor, sick, elderly, what happens to their voices? Wages for those groups of people have stagnated, and in many sectors declined over the last forty years. (Greenhouse, 2013) How do these stats and others tie into the idea that money is corrupting our political system? In order to really understand the effect that money plays in the political system and how everything ultimately leads back to it one must understand first what it has done in the past. Money corrupting the political system is not a new thing. It’s not even a new thing in America; in fact America has had a history of moneyed interests paying politicians to do their bidding. All of human society can be looked at as going through cycles, such the same with political campaign spending, and to understand where we are, we have to look at where we have been.

The earliest use of money in politics in America comes as early as an election which in involved a young Colonel George Washington in the year 1758. Washington’s campaign for the House of Burgesses paid for votes in a sum equal in today’s dollars of $8,000 worth of booze and food. (Weaver) This of course led to a rule to be passed by the House of Burgesses which “provides that no one should be qualified to hold a seat in that house, who should, before his election, either himself or by any other person or persons on his behalf and at his charge, directly or indirectly give, present or allow any person or persons having voice or vote in such election any money, meat, drink, entertainment or provision, or make any present, gift, reward, or entertainment, &c., &c., in order to be elected." (Weaver) So we already have a good demonstration of vote buying and the first rules against it, however there are a lot more examples of political corruption leading up to the current situation we find ourselves in today.

Going forward into the 19th century and to a time that was fondly known as the “gilded age” there were many occurrences of political corruption related to both money and power. The 1800’s were a time of corporate domination, political scandal, and corruption. It’s started with the spoils system advocated by President Andrew Jackson that rewarded political allies with positions in office and stated “to the victor go the spoils of the enemy.” (Asawin Suebsaeng, 2012) Such a system of rewarding political allies was not just wrong, but further allowed for the use of cronyism in our political system. The issue with the spoils system is that it allowed those with deep pockets that were able to finance political campaigns to get a return on investment in those campaigns, often leading those donors into positions of power that allowed them to be able to crush their competition, enact legislation to further their own interests, and shut out the voices of regular people.

Nonetheless the spoils system remained for over 50 years from 1829-1883. (Asawin Suebsaeng, 2012) During that time large donations from railroad magnates like Jay Cooke were funneled into the Republican Party in the year 1872 to the tune of $50,000. At the time that equaled a quarter of the entire budget of the Republican Party and was used to help secure the win of President Ulysses S. Grant. An unnamed historian was quoted as saying “Never before was a candidate placed under such great obligation to men of wealth.” (Asawin Suebsaeng, 2012) Obligated they are. When money is given to a candidate for elections the donors expect something in return. Grant’s presidency was marred with scandal after scandal from corrupt political appointees and even the vice President. These scandals included Black Friday, Credit Mobilier, Whiskey Ring, and the Indian Ring. (Grant Administration Scandals) Credit Mobilier was one of the greatest scandals of the 19th century because of how it was set up to benefit congress as well as the leader of the company Congressman Oakes Ames. It begins when the Union Pacific Railroad was hired to build the first transcontinental railroad in America. Two men, one named Thomas Durant, and George Train set up a new company called Credit Mobilier to basically be the one to build the railroad while being able to profit from government money related to its construction. It’s important to note that Thomas Durant was also the vice president of the Union Pacific Railroad. The fraud was simple, Union Pacific made contracts with Credit Mobilier to build the railway, paid through check. Credit Mobilier used those checks to buy stock in Union Pacific. While this practice was technically legal it was still using taxpayer funds in order to line the pockets of wealthy individuals by doing things like inflating the prices of actual construction in order to create more profit and adding nine extra miles of track onto the project in order to reap extra profits without the risk. The government corruption angle came into play when Thomas Durant was replaced by Congressman Oakes Ames in 1867. Ames offered members of congress shares of its stock at a discount under market value. Those members of congress were able to sell those shares for enormous profit, and as they were congressmen, they were also able to vote for more appropriations to the corporation in which they owned shares. (Kennedy, 2001) It was a great example of a grand larceny of taxpayer money going right back into the pockets of our politicians.

This is the core of what happened in the gilded age. Another example of the depths of corruption in the halls of congress was the Salary Grab of 1863. This scandal which was once again legal had congressmen many of whom we’re voted out already and finishing up the lame duck session of congress voted themselves a retroactive pay raise of 50% back to the first day of the congress! (Lee J. Alston, 2006) The majority of congressmen participating in this salary grab were some of the same ones that were a part of the Credit Mobilier scandal that had a massive public backlash during the elections. It was this scandal and many others like it that led to progressive reforms in subsequent years. One of these reforms is was that signed by president Chester A. Arthur that ended the spoils system. However there were many more problems that needed to be addressed for truly progressive reform. Although civil servants could no longer be solicited for campaign contributions, that didn’t stop corporations from being able to dig into their massive profit margins to prop up business friendly candidates. An example of this was a campaign manager named Mark Hanna that was able to successfully solicit campaign contributions from many of the nations’ largest corporations for William McKinley’s’ presidential campaign. Those donations he added would be "according to [their] stake in the general prosperity of the country." (Asawin Suebsaeng, 2012) There has been speculation on how much was raised by Mark Hanna for the McKinley campaign; some studies cite it somewhere around $3,000,000 to $16,000,000 (Chandler, 1998) either way this shows a massive amount of money spent on McKinley’s political campaign. No one is really sure how much of that came from corporate spending, but one can safely assume that at least a fairly large amount came in the form of corporate donations to the Republican Party. Not so long after the McKinley campaign did another scandal erupt involving a very large political donation from the New York Life Insurance company, this secret donation was equivalent to $1.25 Million in todays’ dollars and went straight into the pockets of the Republican Party because as the Vice President of New York Life Mr. George Perkins put it “We felt that the assets of the New York Life Insurance Co. would be jeopardized by Democratic success.” (Asawin Suebsaeng, 2012) Reformers were even more determined after the revelation of the secret donations and the rampant corruption of the last few administrations and the oversized representation that was given to those donors.
Remember all of this took place during the gilded age, where massive wealth inequality existed. The average American workers wages did not compare at all to the excesses of corporate privilege. In fact workers’ wages were not enough to even support their families, they worked in terrible unsafe conditions, and no longer worked beside their employers as it was in times past but were separated.  (The War Between Capital and Labor, 2011) Worker protections were near non-existent, and child labor was rampant. Injuries and deaths related to work in the factories were incredibly high “around 1900 25-35,000 deaths and 1 million injuries per year occurred on industrial jobs.” (The War Between Capital and Labor, 2011) Injured workers or families of deceased workers were unable to hold factory owners accountable and because of the massive corporate and business campaign donations to Congress as well as presidential races and bought courts, those workers were not represented by the government. Strikes were often met with violence, often from state governments sending militias out to deal with strikers and even the National Guard. (The War Between Capital and Labor, 2011) It was the rampant inequality and lack of representation for the worker that led to the progressive reforms of the 20th century.

While the 19th century was filled with scandal, inequality, corporate donation, and wage slavery, the first half of the 20th century made a lot of progressive reforms especially when it came to campaign contributions and voter representation. Starting in 1904 in response to accusations of fundraising impropriety (Asawin Suebsaeng, 2012) President Theodore Roosevelt called for a ban on all corporate contributions for all political purposes. Called the Tillman act it prohibited corporate campaign contributions but did not require disclosure of any campaign records. (Primer on Disclosure and Electronic Filings, 2010) Further limits on campaign spending were enacted in 1910 with the Federal Corrupt Practices Act that created limits on individual campaign spending, however its limit on House and Senate candidate spending was overturned by the Supreme Court. (Asawin Suebsaeng, 2012) The legislation itself was not strong nor was it was really enforced until its revisit in 1925. Despite the strong new limits placed on corporate and individual contributions there was a strong interest in the ability by these organizations to be able to make political donations in return for endorsing favorable legislation. That led the creation in 1940 of the first Political Action Committee, or PAC. PAC’s were able to skirt past the rules on political campaign spending because it collected campaign money outside of standard dues. It’s interesting to note here that this PAC, called the Congress of Industrial Organizations was actually a labor advocacy PAC created to get around the fact that unions were also unable to by law contribute to political campaigns. (, 2005)

Even these limits on campaign financing from unions, corporations and individuals were not enough to stop corruption of the political system. PAC’s were able to do an end run around the laws and still contribute to political campaigns in secret. Senator Richard Nixon famously had to defend $18,000 in secret campaign gifts as well as a dog given to him in which his daughter named “Checkers.” (Asawin Suebsaeng, 2012) Later on then President Nixon also ran into more trouble by collecting over $20 Million in secret campaign donations for his reelection bid, some of that is speculated to have went to fund the Watergate break-in. (Asawin Suebsaeng, 2012) It also estimated that $700,000 of that money was in cash, and all of it was collected before a law that would require discloser statements be issued from campaigns would take effect. The Watergate Scandal was indeed a turning point in campaign finance law that led to two important changes. One important change was to update the Federal Election Campaign Act or FECA, those changes become the modern bedrock of campaign finance law, and the other change was that the Federal Election Commission was created to oversee campaign spending. These changes really represent the last truly progressive step in campaign finance laws. The issues that came after the era of progressive reform ends up leading into some of our modern campaign spending and corruption problems.

It’s important to note that during the time of the all progressive reform when it came to limits on campaign financing, a large number of very progressive policies were enacted, and that economic growth had soared. The New Deal policies during that time period ensured that workers had representation in the workplace and the limits on campaign spending made sure that voters had representation in congress. Taxation was progressive and income inequality was at a lower level than it is even today. (Krugman, 2007) The social safety net provisions in the New Deal would not have been possible without the limits on corporate contributions. Corporations are by their very nature profit making machines, and lower taxes increase profit margins. So that in order to maximize profits, it only makes sense to influence those that have control over passing tax policy.

However with the laws that were in place during the 1970’s it was very difficult to get past those hurtles especially with FECA the law of the land. In 1975 Senator James Buckley challenged the constitutionality of FECA in a landmark court case. In fact the very next day the amendments to FECA were signed into law is when Senator Buckley along with Presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy and the New York Civil Liberties Union filed suit against Francis R. Valeo, the Ex Officio member of the FEC. (Court Case Abstracts) This suit essentially maintained that the limits on campaign contributions were unconstitutional under the first amendment. The plaintiffs argued that “limiting the use of money for political purposes constituted a restriction on communication violative of the first amendment, since virtually all meaningful political communications in the modern setting involve the expenditure of money.” (Mares, 1996) The outcome of this case that was decided in 1976 by the Supreme Court was that some of the rules put in place by FECA were upheld, for example the limits on individual and committee contributions to candidates were kept in place. The limits in a candidate spending his or her own money, as well as independent expenditures, and limits on total campaign spending were overturned by the Supreme Court. Those rules were considered violations of free speech and therefore protected under the first amendment. Money now equaled speech.  However a rule that that did limit campaign spending was put into place that was dependent on if the candidate voluntarily accepted public financing of his or her campaign. The decision of Buckley v. Valeo is still the law of the land and is still disputed by various groups today as perpetuating a climate of inequality. It also begs the question, if money is speech, and by law it is. Do people with more money have more speech rights than those with less money? Another important question to ask is in an age of growing income inequality, with more and more money flowing to the top, has the political power of the poor been overtaken by the wealthiest individuals and corporations that are able to exercise more “political speech”?

Despite this monumental success for those who wanted more influence in the political system using money to “buy their way in” it didn’t seem to be enough. The 1980’s saw the increased use of “soft money”.  Soft money is unregulated, undisclosed, and unlimited campaign contributions. (Asawin Suebsaeng, 2012) Both the Democrats and Republicans raised $45 Million in soft money in 1988. It didn’t get better in the 1990’s. Campaign contributions caused senators to back a failing savings and loan company run by Charles Keating. In a senate investigation several senators including still serving Senator John McCain received $1.3Million in contributions. McCain advocated to the senate on behalf of Keating, one can safely assume why. (Asawin Suebsaeng, 2012) The following year the use of soft money saw a 91% increase since 1988. Both Democrats and Republicans raised $86 Million that year alone. The reason that soft-money was legal is because it wasn’t given to a specific candidate, and often went to expenditures such as buildings as well as going out to the states for local get-out-the-vote drives. (Jasperse, 1992) A Vice President of common cause in 1992, Susan Marnes was quoted saying “we basically have a Federal Election Commission which has written regulations which allow this money to come in through the back door.” “Common Cause estimates that Republicans and Democrats each raised $25 million in soft money during the 1988 presidential campaign. The group says Republicans have raised $45.5 million and Democrats $15.7 million in soft money since then.” (Jasperse, 1992) At the time Republicans on average tended to raise more in soft money than Democrats. Despite the advantage, Bill Clinton was elected in 1996, it wasn’t so much the funding, but it’s how that money was used, and Bill Clinton used his $122Million in soft money to purchase “issue ads” to great effect over the Republican contenders $144Million in soft money. (Asawin Suebsaeng, 2012) However those donations came at a price, rides on Air force 1, coffee with the President, and sleepovers at the White House were just several of the perks given to those donors who gave to the DNC. (Kroll, 2012) Not only that, but it was later found that the DNC also illegally received $65,000 from wealthy donors through an L.A. area Buddhist Temple.

Those events caused a political upheaval of the senate in 1994, and the Republicans took control. However an unlikely pair of bipartisan senators, Democrat Russ Feingold, and Republican John McCain, who decided to become a reformist after the Keating scandal, teamed up in order to reform the system. (Kroll, 2012) The McCain-Feingold bill banned soft money; it also banned the use of union and corporate funds to be able to make ads about a candidate. Earlier drafts of the bill also attempted to ban PACs; however it was dropped in order to focus on soft money. It took nearly seven years to be able to get McCain-Feingold passed. The two senators faced many amendments that would’ve handicapped the bill, and a House that narrowly let the bill go through by a 51 vote margin, however with much luck and little ceremony the final bill was signed on March 27, 2002. The day McCain-Feingold was passed it was immediately challenged. The National Rifle Association had already drawn up the paperwork to challenge the new bills’ constitutionality and had a staffer from a law firm waiting for the courthouse to open. (Kroll, 2012) However the NRA wasn’t the first challenger to the McCain-Feingold bill. Senator Mitch McConnell, who serves now as a Senate Minority leader for Alabama, ended up filing his case McConnell vs. FEC in a deal with the NRA to team up while swapping his name with the organizations. (Kroll, 2012) His entire argument against the banning of soft money was based on the premise that: “[It] constitutes the most threatening frontal assault on core First Amendment values in a generation." As Buckley v. Valeo had established years earlier, political money was speech, protected under the first amendment, and so according to McConnell and his lawyers, any limits on campaign financing are unconstitutional under the precedent set by the Buckley decision. McConnell had a history of trying to eliminate campaign finance laws; however he focused on the FEC, while he couldn’t challenge the laws themselves, he could defund the agency and therefore make them unable to enforce that regulation. Another tactic used by McConnell to fight campaign finance regulation was to influence nominations to the agency so that the agency would be filled with “ideologues hostile to campaign finance law.” One such appointee, Donald McGahn literally told a group of student that he would just not enforce the laws he was hired to enforce. He just wouldn’t do his job. In the real world, if someone wouldn’t do their job, they would be fired. If someone had an ideological opposition to what he/she was supposed to do for a living, they would not be there long. However government does not work that way, and in within the last six years the McConnell strategy severely crippled the FEC’s effectiveness. Almost half of all groups that were supposed to disclose donors did not do so during the span of 2004-2010. (Kroll, 2012) However much to the dismay of Mitch McConnell, all of McCain-Feingold was upheld in the 2003 by the Supreme Court with a 5-4 decision.

However even with the victory of McCain-Feingold that was seen a great victory for campaign finance reformers, opponents of campaign finance reform, and proponents of legalized bribery through campaign donations finally achieved their greatest victory yet. Citizens United vs. FEC. A great deal of reform was eliminated with this decision handed down by the Supreme Court. In 2008 during the Democratic Primaries, a conservative non-profit group named “Citizens United” produced a movie called “Hillary: The Movie”. It was a critical documentary on candidate Hillary Clinton. Due to its political nature, and the fact that they planned on airing it using an on-demand video service on cable TV, the video ended up being subject to the rules governed by the FEC involving “electioneering communication” as well as limits on who can fund these types of ads. (Money in politics)Citizens United sued the FEC first in federal court, and lost, and then appealed that decision with the Supreme Court. In a 5-4 decision Citizens United had won its case, and also won far more. The decision allows corporations, unions, and other special interest groups to be able to spend unlimited money to advocate for the election or defeat of electoral candidates. The decision essentially gives corporations and unions individual first amendment speech rights protected under the constitution. That protected speech comes in the form of political campaign spending. An important part of the dissenting opinion of the court is as follows: “In the context of election to public office, the distinction between corporate and human speakers is significant. Although they make enormous contributions to our society, corporations are not actually members of it. They cannot vote or run for office. Because they may be managed and controlled by nonresidents, their interests may conflict in fundamental respects with the interests of eligible voters. The financial resources, legal structure, and instrumental orientation of corporations raise legitimate concerns about their role in the electoral process. Our lawmakers have a compelling constitutional basis, if not also a democratic duty, to take measures designed to guard against the potentially deleterious effects of corporate spending in local and national races. 

The majority’s approach to corporate electioneering marks a dramatic break from our past. Congress has placed special limitations on campaign spending by corporations ever since the passage of the Tillman Act in 1907.” (Legal Information Institute, 2010)  Citizens United removed many of those limitations, and increased the influence of corporations and special interest groups on elected officials. After the Citizens United decision was rendered, America saw the formation of something called a Super-PAC. Recall that a PAC, or Political Action Committee, was created to skirt existing campaign finance laws and provide funding for advocacy for or against a candidate. Super-PACs take this idea to an extreme. They’re known as independent expenditure groups that are able to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money from corporations and wealthy donors. Unlike PACs, Super-PACs are unable to donate directly to a candidate. However they can run issue ads for or against candidates. (Politics, 2013)There are also groups known as 501c4 nonprofit “social welfare groups” that are able to raise and spend unlimited money on political ads so long as they were “primarily engaged in enhancing social welfare.” (Barker, 2012) The rules governing the use of 501c4 nonprofit organizations are extremely unclear, although they are supposed to promote social welfare through advertising, there are no clear rules on what counts as social welfare. 501c4 groups are also not required to disclose donors to the FEC, effectively concealing the identities of those who fund these groups. The rise of the Super-PAC also coincided with the rise of election costs during the 2012 election. In total Super-PACs alone spent nearly half a billion dollars on presidential, and congressional elections. (Vine) Keeping true with historical trends, the Republican Party ended up raising and spending more money on congressional races than their Democratic opponents. Restore our Future; the Super-PAC that supported Mitt Romney outspent Barack Obama’s Super-PAC Priorities USA Action by at least two-to-one. (Vine) $142,097,462 spent to support Mitt Romney, compared to just $64,799,242 spent to support Barack Obama.

The 2012 election was the most expensive election in our nations’ history, totaling somewhere around $6 Billion, (Hudson, 2012) most of that was spent by, PACs, Super-PACs, 501c4 “social welfare groups” and independent organizations. With that said, the questions posed earlier in this paper can now be answered. With all of the money now being spent, by corporations and wealthy donors in the political system, and with money being treated as free speech, and corporations being treated as individuals possessing free speech, it’s safe to assume that corporations have more speech rights (money) than the cashier, the factory worker, and the elderly person on a fixed social security income. Since those corporations and wealthy donors possess more speech, they are heard more loudly than others with little speech. This has led to a situation where our congress now represents the wealthy and special interests instead of the American people. Also with all of the money being spent on elections, the price of being able to win an election has also increased. The average cost of winning a House seat, is $1.4Million, whereas the average cost to win a Senate seat, is $8.5Million. (Gilson, 2010) A recent study also shows that on average at least four hours of the day of a typical Congressman is spent raising money. (Grim & Saddiqui, 2013)That’s at least twenty hours a week on the phone soliciting for campaign money, and that doesn’t count time spent at fundraisers. The easiest way to get that money is to reach out to wealthy donors, corporations and special interests, which then expect a return on investment if the congressman wins his or her election. So this is where America is at, wealthy donors now control the high cost of running for office, and demand returns on their investments, those returns include lucrative government contracts, relaxed regulation, and lower taxes on their businesses, and personal incomes. Tax rates for the wealthiest Americans are at the lowest point they’ve ever been. (Gilson, Plutocracy Now, 2013) While corporate profits have soared. (Schwartz, 2013) However workers have seen almost none of the gain, because the politicians no longer represent the workers.

There is hope however, throughout our history reformers have fought the corrupting influence of money in politics and have won stunning regulatory victories. There are groups of reformers at this moment working within the system to stop the corruption. There are even Super PACs out there that have been created to fight Citizens United by raising money, raising awareness and bypassing the bought and sold congress and going directly to the states. To what end? To fight for a constitutional amendment that bans corporate personhood, reverses citizens united, and overturns the Buckley decision. These groups include the “Get Money Out Campaign” “Wolf PAC”, and “Represent US.” Already some states have introduced resolutions that will call for a constitutional convention to amend the constitution with these new provisions. Enshrining the ban on money in politics is certainly a difficult endeavor, however with the help of volunteers and local representatives alike, they may be able to finally end the corrupting influence of money in our political system and take the government back from the wealthy corporations, and back to the people.

Works Cited

Legal Information Institute. (2010, January 21). Retrieved from Cornell Law:
Primer on Disclosure and Electronic Filings. (2010). Retrieved from Public Citizen:
The War Between Capital and Labor. (2011, December 26). Retrieved from Academic American History:
Asawin Suebsaeng, A. K. (2012, August 9). 250 Years of Campaigns, Cash, and Corruption . Retrieved from MotherJones:
Barker, K. (2012, August 18). How Nonprofits Spend Millions on Elections and Call it Public Welfare. Retrieved from
Chandler, A. D. (1998). A short note on the expenditures of the McKinley campaign of 1896. Presidential Studies Quarterly, 88-91.
Court Case Abstracts. (n.d.). Retrieved from Federal Election Commission : (2005). Political Action Commitee. Retrieved from West's Encyclopedia of American Law:
Gilson, D. (2010, September). The Price of Admission to the House and Senate. Retrieved from MotherJones:
Gilson, D. (2013, April 18). Plutocracy Now. Retrieved from MotherJones:
Grant Administration Scandals. (n.d.). Retrieved from United States History:
Greenhouse, S. (2013, January 12). Our Economic Pickle. Retrieved from New York Times:
Grim, R., & Saddiqui, S. (2013, January 8). Call Time For Congress Shows How Fundraising Dominates Bleak Work Life. Retrieved from Huffington Post:
Hudson, J. (2012, November 6). The Most Expensive Election in History, by the Numbers. Retrieved from The Atlantic:
Jasperse, P. (1992). Givers' 'soft money' helps keep political parties fueled. Milwaukee Journal, A8.
Kennedy, R. C. (2001, February 19). On This Day. Retrieved from New York Times:
Kroll, A. (2012, August). Follow The Dark Money. Retrieved from MotherJones:
Krugman, P. (2007, September 18). The Conscience of a Liberal. Retrieved from New York Times Opinion:
Lee J. Alston, J. A. (2006). Who Should Govern Congress? Access to Power and the Salary Grab of 1873. Journal of Economic History, 674.
Mares, R. (1996). Money as "free speech": Buckley v. Valeo explained. Environmental Action, 37.
Money in politics. (n.d.). Retrieved from Common Cause:
Newport, F. (2013, March 11). Congress Approval Stagnant at low level. Retrieved from Gallup Politics:
Politics, C. F. (2013, April 11). Super PACs. Retrieved from Open Secrets:
Schwartz, N. D. (2013, April 8). Recovery in U.S. Is Lifting Profits, but Not Adding Jobs. Retrieved from The New York Times:
Vine, J. S. (n.d.). How much are Super PACs spending? Retrieved from The Wall Street Journal:
Weaver, J. C. (n.d.). The first election of Washington to the House of Burgesses. Retrieved from New River Notes:

Saturday, April 6, 2013

TYT Community Live: 4/6/13 9PM EST

Subjects today are the Arkansas Oil Spill, The Monsanto Protection Act, and a GA school still has segregated proms. Tweet us at #TYTCommunity for live feedback.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Turn Texas into a blue state? One man is trying.

Jeremy Bird is trying the impossible, he's trying to turn Texas into a blue state. His site is called .Battleground Texas and his aim to get minority and democratic voters to the polls to put Texas on the list of so called battleground states. Now of course he faces many challenges. On our second part of Saturdays TYT Community show broadcast, our panel featured independent journalist Brad Friedman from to discuss GOP voter suppression in states like Texas as well as the future of the GOP.

Why sequestration is bullshit designed to distract America

Last night I had the great opportunity to sit down with Brad Friedman from on TYT Community to talk about sequestration. That $85 Billion a year we're cutting is a drop in the bucket compared to what we're really wasting in military fraud and waste. As well as fraud and waste in the federal reserve.

These Republicans are not conservative, they are pigs at the trough of our tax dollars, and as long as their friends profit, they will waste your money all day.

So what is sequestration? It's a made up crisis that was used to slash domestic spending, and while it does cut defense, it's not what the beltway, mainstream media is portraying it as.

Here is the discussion:

Make sure to subscribe to our channel

And definitely check out for more of Brad's expert analysis. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Sequestration: Another manufactured crisis designed to take your money

All this week you're going to be hearing about the sequester. The spending cuts from both defense and domestic spending. But what you wont hear about is the truth. The sequester crisis was made up as a way to force cuts to social security and medicare.

They will say we need to cut those to protect defense spending, but it's not until you look at the absolute waste in the pentagon that you realize that their argument is bullshit.

For one, the sequester leaves funding alone for spending required for any active wars we are currently in. This whole plan will save the defense contractors that have absolutely defrauded the taxpayer (YOU) and still get contract deals.

In this video I spell out everything you need to know about the sequester:

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

President Obama's minimum wage increase proposal. (video)

Our Panel talks about the need for an increase in the minimum wage as well as common conservative myths surrounding the idea of raising it.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

No, I'm not gone

However I have been doing other projects. In addition to full time school I have been collaborating with a couple of friends to revive the TYT Community show, the first new episode should be up on the web soon.

I have also been editing, producing, and starring (not sure if that's the right word) in YouTube videos discussing current issues. It's like my blog, but without all the reading.

You can find it here:\JCWaldorf

Please like and subscribe to my channel to help me continue to be independent.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Presidents gun plan, common sense gun control

So today president Obama released a 23 point plan of executive actions he can take to help curb gun violence. While calling on congress do pass legislation such a ban on assault weapons and high capacity magazines.

The freakout from the right is amazing. Going so far as to target Obama's kids.

This is an ad released from the NRA that calls president Obama an "Elitist Hypocrite" for not wanting to put guns in school.

The whole is premise of this dumbass ad is to say "well Obama's kids get secret service guards so we should get guards too."

This is stupid, for one the president gets over 30 death threats a day, thirty!

I don't know any person that gets thirty death threats a day. Is it such a stretch that someone would threaten his family? OF COURSE! Of course they would, there are some crazy people out there.

Speaking of crazy, NRA president David Keene went on Mike Huckabees radio show and said this about the 23 executive actions
“Make no mistake about it: Overall, this is an anti-gun agenda pushed by an administration that is a committed anti-gun administration,”
And Mr. Wayne LaPierre had this to say:

 “It’s not about protecting your children. It’s not about stopping crime. It’s about banning your guns … PERIOD!” 
So here we ago again. Yes president Obama proposed that congress pass an assault weapons ban, but I don't think he or the NRA have anything to worry about. Not with this congress.

The political reality is that congress will not pass an assault weapons ban, it's not even on their radar. Sure you have Diane Finestein calling to put a ban on the floor, but come on. Do you really expect the Republicans to pass this? I'd be amazed if they even put it on the floor for a vote.

Well at least without massive public pressure.

You can bet the NRA and the gun lobby will be fighting any legislation tooth and nail, so if progressives want to see action on assault rifles and high capacity magazines, get ahold of your congressmen and let your voices be heard.

The president has done all he can do.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Why anything but very modest gun control is out of reach.

Yesterday I talked about Alex Jones and his pro-gun rant on CNN. I mentioned that gun control laws are not likely to be passed.

 I want to explain here why I think that is, despite the continued use of guns in violent crime, the increase of mass shootings, the outrage primarily from the left and the polling data that shows that a great deal of Americans are open to some reform.

USA Today/Gallup Poll. Dec. 19-22, 2012. N=1,038 adults nationwide. Margin of error ± 4.

"Please say whether you favor or oppose each of the following: A law which would require background checks before people -- including gun dealers -- could buy guns at gun shows."
"Please say whether you favor or oppose each of the following: A law which would ban the sale and possession of high-capacity ammunition clips that can contain more than 10 bullets."

We still have a deep partisan divide over the issue of 2nd amendment rights.

Pew Research Center. Dec. 17-19, 2012. N=1,219 adults nationwide. Margin of error ± 3.4.
"What do you think is more important -- to protect the right of Americans to own guns, or to control gun ownership?"
right to
own guns

And there is the fact that the words gun control are always mistakenly linked to the idea of banning all guns, which is NOT what gun control means.

Nonetheless, according to the Pew Research polling data more people feel safe with guns in the home.

"Do you think that gun ownership in this country does more to protect people from becoming victims of crime, or does more to put people's safety at risk?" Options rotated
Put safety
at risk

Despite the data showing otherwise.

"Compared to homes without guns, the presence of guns in the home is associated with a 3-fold increased homicide risk within the home. The risk connected to gun ownership increases to 8-fold when the offender is an intimate partner or relative of the victim and is 20 times higher when previous domestic violence exists."

"Family and intimate assaults with firearms are 12 times more likely to result in death than nonfirearm assaults. This research suggests that limiting access to guns will result in less lethal family and intimate assaults."
-John Hopkins Bloomberg school of public health

And then you also have stories like this one. Also this one.

You also have the NRA now having a negative approval rating because it's stance on arming teachers which is proving to be unpopular. 

The NRA now has a negative favorability rating, with 42% of voters seeing it positively while 45% have an unfavorable view. That represents a 10 point net decline in the NRA’s favorability from the week before the press conference when a national poll we did found it at 48/41. Its image has taken a hit with both Democrats (from 29/59 to 22/67) and Republicans (71/19 to 66/18).
The NRA’s focus on putting more guns in schools is likely what’s driving the decline in the organization’s image. Only 41% of voters support the organization’s proposal to put armed police officers in schools across the country, with 50% opposed. Democrats (35/57) and independents (38/51) both oppose the push and even among Republicans only a narrow majority (52/39) supports it.
On the broader issue of giving teachers guns, only 27% of voters are supportive with 64% opposed. There’s bipartisan opposition to that concept with Republicans (35/50), independents (31/59), and Democrats (19/77) all standing against it. Gun owners (37/52) oppose it as well.
The holidays and the fiscal cliff took a lot of the spotlight off gun control measures, but in general 53% of Americans say they support stricter gun laws with 40% opposed.

So despite all this why do I continue to think that there will be little action on gun control laws? Well for one we have divided government. We could hardly get a deal on the fiscal cliff passed in time, and that had a deadline where all Americans were going to be hit with tax increases. 

Gun control legislation however does not have any imposed deadline, so the congress can continue to push it off until the general public forgets about it. That has essentially been the position of congress every time we have a mass shooting. Remember Columbine? Tuscon? Aurora? Wisconsin? Now Sandy Hook. 

Now President Obama and Joe Biden do promise some action on gun control, but Obama has also promised to close Gitmo, raise taxes on people making over 250k a year, and not put entitlements on the table in order to deal with the deficit. So excuse me if I don't have faith in his ability to do what he says he will do when you look at his track record. 

Another reason, and I'm going all philosophical on you now, is because we have a culture of fear. We have a media that sensationalizes tragedies to get ratings. We also have people like Alex Jones, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Fox news spreading fear. Fear of the government, they often use Hitler and Mao as examples as to why any regulation is bad. Some Americans also fear minorities, Blacks and Latinos. Trayvon Martin is a great example of this, I think if Trayvon had been a white teenager in a hoodie there is a good chance Zimmerman would have let him be. There is sense of needing protection from the government and other Americans, as Alex Jones demonstrates during many of his paranoid rants

So back to government, the gun manufacturers have a vested interest in making money, they are after all corporations, and with money they have the ability to spend that money on elections, influencing candidates. In 94% of congressional elections money determines the outcome. Gun manufacturers give money to the NRA, and the NRA uses it to give money to pro-gun politicians. If you take a stand on any type of gun control, your NRA funding is gone. 

With all of these factors, and the efforts of many conservatives and libertarians alike that do not want to see any restrictions on their right to bear arms and contribute to the NRA, I'm convinced and saddened that right now, we may only only see token reform. 

My advice to fellow progressives, if you want to see any movement on common sense gun regulation, you have to get the money out of politics so the people can decide, if a majority continues to want some tougher gun regulation than that is the only way. 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Why the bad fiscal cliff deal will lead to a worse debt ceiling deal.

So the full details of the Fiscal Cliff Curb deal are now known. I broke it down on my YouTube channel a few days ago. It's basically a long list of giveaways to the rich, and enshrining the Bush tax cuts into law for 97% of Americans forever.

Key Provisions include:

That's not really a great deal. This whole fiscal cliff was designed to help solve our deficit. This deal adds $4 Trillion to our deficit over the next 10 years. 

However, the unemployment extension is a great thing, and sorely needed because of the economic activity it provides, but it's merely scraps tossed out to the people who need it most. The clear winners of this deal are the corporations and the rich. 

This deal not only failed to raise any revenue or provide stimulus, it's also chock full of corporate socialism. Yes I said Socialism, you know the kind we don't like. 

These subsidies include some of the following:
  • $43 Million in tax breaks for NASCAR
  • $165 Million for Railroads to maintain their tracks. (Shouldn't the railroad companies be doing that?)
  • $150 Million for Hollywood studios.
  • Tax incentives for mining companies to buy safety equipment and train employees to mine safely. (Once again why are we paying the companies to not kill their workers?)
  • $1.6 Billion to Goldman Sachs in tax free financing from a 9/11 liberty bonds program. 
  • $9 Billion Off-shore financing loophole for banks. Encouraging outsourcing and keeping money in foreign banks
And the list goes on while the cost to taxpayers goes up. Remember this is our money. Taken right out of our pocket and given to Goldman Sachs. While the CEO Lloyd Blankfein, referring to Social Security told CBS,
 "You're going to have to do something, undoubtedly, to lower people's expectations of what they're going to get." 
While he rakes in a whopping $16.1 Million salary from Goldman Sachs and was the recipient of Federal bailout money under TARP. This is absolutely insane. The wealthy and corporations are robbing us blind and they're buying our politicians to do it.

The reason I bring up Lloyd Blankfein and Social Security is because of the coming debt ceiling fight. Remember we've kicked the sequester down the road and raised taxes, now comes the part where we really get robbed. The part where Republicans demand spending cuts, and where Obama will give it to them. The fight has already started with threats of a government shutdown.

Now the president could use the 14th amendment to raise the debt ceiling as many democrats have been calling for, but Obama himself has balked at the idea.

This leads to me think, based on Obama's record of folding on negotiations where he has the leverage, that we are going to end up with deep cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and other social programs for the poor.

I'd love to be wrong about this, I really would, but with the horrible Fiscal Cliff deal, the fact that Obama has already said to have put Medicare on the table for cuts, and the fact that during the fiscal cliff negotiations he offered changes to social security benefits. I am really skeptical that we're going to get anything short of a grand larceny from the poor and middle class.

So if you think the fiscal cliff deal was a win for democrats because we got some tax increases, than you haven't been paying attention to the details.

When it comes to politics, always read the fine print.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Fiscal Cliff Fiasco

The Senate has voted on a bill to avert the fiscal cliff, and as I write this the House is debating it on the floor.

Now I mentioned that there are some Democrats and Republicans that don't like this deal. But now it seems there might be enough support in the House for it to pass. It also looks like Joe Biden is the one that was able to make a deal with McConnel as opposed to Harry Reid, I'll get into the details tomorrow, it's awesome.

The reason congress has been in such a rush to get a deal now is because of the markets, they open tomorrow and they want a deal.

This shows the priorities that this congress has. Take the farm bill, congress just didn't want to make a new deal for another five years, instead they just kinda sat on it until finally to coming to an agreement to extend the 2008 farm bill. But when it comes to the demands of wall street, they work the entire holiday to hammer out a deal that ends up favoring the defense contractors and the Republicans anyway.

and they call this compromise?

It's very indicative of just who the politicians are really working for.

It's another cave by the president to the right wing extremist party and a set up to cut spending even more in the upcoming debt ceiling fight. After all how could the Republicans not be cocky when every time the president says he wont budge, he ends up folding.

Bottom line, the coming debt ceiling fight is going to be awful. If you're like me and think this is a bad deal, just wait. The worst is yet to come.