Some thoughts on the news that Rep. Frank Guinta has reached an agreement with the Federal Elections Commission to pay a $15,000 fine and repay $355,000.
First thought: this is a really big deal. Fifteen thousand dollars is a pretty big fine for the FEC. In fact, it’s apparently the 24th-biggest fine the FEC has issued since 2000. It’s more than three times the fine for failing to return excess campaign contributions issued to the campaign committee for House Speaker John Boehner earlier this year.
Second thought: it’s a minor miracle this happened at all. The FEC has been mired in partisan gridlock for a long time now. As FEC Chairwoman Ann Ravel told the New York Times a couple of weeks ago, “The likelihood of the laws being enforced is slim.” FEC fines are at record lows. If the FEC was able to agree on this enforcement action, that says something about how serious it was.
Third thought: repay $355,000? How? According to the *ahem* latest FEC report, Guinta’s campaign only has $312,432 cash on hand. Which – I’m just guessing here – probably means the campaign is going to have to do some fundraising.
Fourth thought: the FEC itself has some real transparency issues. I spent quite a while trying to find this enforcement agreement on the FEC website – and never found it. I would have expected that large a fine would have merited a press release, but apparently I was wrong.
Fifth thought: does Guinta’s campaign even care about federal campaign laws? Earlier this year, news broke that Guinta’s campaign was in trouble with the FEC over 2014 campaign violations. Put this in context: even while the campaign committee was under FEC investigation, it didn’t pay close attention to the laws. That’s sort of like running a red light when you know there’s a police car pursuing you for speeding. Who does that? And, what does it say about respect for the laws?
A few other random thoughts:
Congratulations to the citizens of Newport! Yesterday, Newport became the 69th New Hampshire municipality to pass a local resolution calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and limit #MoneyInPolitics. (See the complete list here.) Special recognition to Robert Seavey and Robert Naylor for their work on the resolution.
If your town isn’t on that list – and you want it to be – click here for more information about how to pass a local resolution to #GetMoneyOut of politics.
Did you think 2012 was bad? This presidential election is shaping up to be a real doozy. In January, The Hill was predicting that the 2016 elections would cost about $5 billion (with a B) – or, about twice what was spent on the 2012 election. Now they’re guessing it will be $10 billion (with a B). How high will it go? Nobody knows.
Worth reading: Why are Corporate Lobbyists the Only Ones Heard? “Corporations and organizations representing corporations spent $2.6 billion on lobbying last year and labor unions spent $45 million.” That’s almost a 60-to-one spending ratio. When it came time to issue regulations to prevent another Wall Street meltdown, “among the lobbyists who had contacted the agencies, 78.2 percent represented financial institutions, 7.9 percent were law firms representing financial institutions, and 7.2 percent were financial trade association. Only 4.1 percent represented public interest and labor groups.”
I’m feeling old this morning. I’ve been working on #MoneyInPolitics since the 1980s, when we were all concerned about PACs. That seems positively quaint, in retrospect.
A quick trip down memory lane: 1984 was the first year that any presidential candidate raised the maximum contributions under the public financing system spending limits. That candidate was Ronald Reagan. That amount was about $10 million (with an M). The spending limit was $20.2 million (with an M).
Lessee. Accounting for inflation, that campaign spending limit that Ronald Reagan agreed to would be equal to about $46 million in today’s dollars.
And yes, that sea change in campaign spending is why “The US government does not represent the interests of the majority of the country’s citizens, but is instead ruled by those of the rich and powerful.”
There is some light on the horizon. People around the country are working toward a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United – and there has been a lot of progress made in a remarkably short time (particularly given the resistance from federal elected officials).
There are a whole lot of groups working on this.
And people are even having fun doing it. Watch this, from the “1% News Network”:
An organizing pitch: these days, I’m working for the Stamp Stampede — and I hope you will join us in our campaign to help #StampMoneyOut of politics.
The Stamp Stampede is tens of thousands of Americans legally stamping messages on our nation’s currency to #GetMoneyOut of Politics. As more and more stamped money spreads, so will the movement to amend the Constitution and overturn Citizens United.
You can get your own stamp online at www.stampstampede.org. Or, if you’re a member of CWA, you can get a stamp from your LPAT coordinator. The average stamped bill is seen by 875 people – which makes stamping a highly-effective way to get the message out about how money in politics is corrupting our government.
It’s time to #GetMoneyOut of politics and take back our government. Join the #MoveToAmend!