Friday, February 19, 2010

How Your Money Can Influence An Election Without Anybody Knowing About It

When anyone donates to a political campaign the disclosure rules require that your generosity to the candidate or cause of your choice be made public. That way everybody knows where that campaign money came from, something that is often a better indication of where a candidate stands than anything his campaign is putting out in the way of literature or press releases.

A really good indication of how that money issue can influence an election was with the rhubarb over Measure V in 2007. Those opposed to the passing of this ordinance, while claiming they were doing it in order to save the trees and the mountains and the little baby birds, found themselves rather embarrassingly exposed when it turned out that $10s of thousands of dollars were pouring into their coffers from various concerned statewide building and real estate lobbies. And in a lot of ways the "No on V" campaign became known more by that money than anything else. Their hoped for message, meager as it was, became quite lost despite the blizzard of mail they were sending out.

However, under the new political order created by the United States Supreme Court's recent ruling that corporations and their ilk can no longer be limited in the amount of dough they can contribute to any campaign or cause, such things might not be so readily apparent anymore. And were the Measure V election taking place now we might never have found out exactly where all that money from the big boys was coming from.

There is a great article about this topic on a site called TPM Muckraker, which has just been added to our "Sites of Interest" list. And what they discuss is how lobbies in Washington - and presumably Sacramento as well - are now advising their clients on the possibilities for making practically anonymous donations to their most favored candidates. (In the spirit of fairness here, the Chamber of Commerce they're discussing here is the national one, and not our local folks.) Check it out:

Lobby Firm Tells Clients How To Sway Elections While Avoiding 'Public Scrutiny' - In the wake of last month's Citizens United ruling, a powerhouse Washington lobbying firm is informing its corporate clients on how they can use middlemen like the Chamber of Commerce to pour unlimited amounts of money into political campaigns, while maintaining "sufficient cover" to avoid "public scrutiny" and negative media coverage.

A "Public Policy and Law Alert" on the impact of the Supreme Court's ruling, prepared by two lawyers for K&L Gates and posted on the firm's site last Friday, notes that, thanks to disclosure rules, corporations could alienate their customers by spending on political campaigns -- especially because they could become the target of negative media coverage.

Being responsible for funding campaign efforts that at least some of the public is not exactly in love with can be a marketing dilemma. I mean, how would you reconcile your expensively created image of being, let's say, "the company that cares about the environment," with the shoveling of large amounts of campaign cash to a candidate who advocates mountaintop mining in Yosemite National Park for its uranium deposits? That would be a clash of images no company would willingly want to take on. And could cause certain folks to take their business elsewhere. TPM continues:

So, what's a corporation looking to advance its political goals to do? According to the alert, written by K&L lawyers Tim Peckinpaugh and Stephen Roberts:

"Groups of corporations within an industry may form coalitions or use existing trade associations to support candidates favorable to policy positions that affect the group as a whole. While corporations that contribute to these expenditures might still be disclosed, this indirect approach can provide sufficient cover such that no single contributing entity receives the bulk of public scrutiny."

So there you go. I suspect this could lead to the flowering of many new and wonderful sounding organizations all over America. The Coalition for Natural Splendor, which, of course, would funnel oil and power producer money to candidates that ain't exactly in love with trees. Or the Our Town Preservation Society, an organization dedicated to empowering the political needs of wrecking ball developers looking for new places to build large housing tracts that look just like the ones they're building everywhere else. How about Citizens United for Clean Energy? A group quietly supported by coal burning electricity giants wanting to fund candidates that won't say a peep about their unpopular polluting habits?

The possibilities are now endless.


  1. This strategy is a perfectly corrupt one, a win-at-all-costs Genghis Khan kind of tude.
    What intrigues me is how candid the lawyers and other organizations are in the phrasing presented to their clients: "How To Sway Elections While Avoiding 'Public Scrutiny" and "Strategies for Fighting the Slow Growth Movement at the Local Level." To my way of thinking they are saying "How to Beat the Good Guys."
    It is peculiar that they just spit it out so baldly, and then are so good at twisting language to hide their real intentions by the time they get to the marketplace.
    Twisted. And they obviously have no fear of the public reaction.

  2. The Hillside and Downtown Preservation Investment Club for the Preservation of Our Investments in Sierra Madre

  3. Anonymost of the timeFebruary 19, 2010 at 8:55 AM

    Of course they want to keep their names and companies out of it. They're doing bad things and they don't want anybody to know about it.

  4. Hey Joe, My Dog is for Rent for Photo OpsFebruary 19, 2010 at 9:01 AM

    hopefully, after Joe Mosca, Measure V and John Buchanan, nobody in Sierra Madre will be stupid enough to automatically believe a campaign flyer, campaign statement or not following the money

    the problem is that most are lazy and follow repetivtive advertising promises, even bold face lies as they are given and when Joe says the same bullphooey over and over again and then Susan the liar Henderson publishes the same manure in her rag, people tend to accept it

  5. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Allito as guided by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia will be credited with setting in motion the most destructive forces asulting our democtracy since the Supreme Court was founded. Atlas has Shrugged!

  6. Hey Joe, My Dog is for Rent for Photo OpsFebruary 19, 2010 at 9:18 AM

    let me rephrase, I didn't mean to call people "stupid, even though I consider myself somewhat stupid for beliveing Joe when he lied to me a few years ago. I meant that I hope nobody in Sierra Madre is blind or niave to automatically believe a campaign flyer or not to question the money trail

    fact is, Joe Mosca is pandering down to Siera Madre citizens again by taking credit for his minimal role in the city, he ignores that he ignored the city and rarely attended SCAG meetings (until he got busted)

    then we have Josh Moran who is a realtor, who is on recorded publically bashing local businesses and advocating a economic boycott of Sierra Madre businesses, just because they advertised in a newspaper that reported the positived aspects of Measure V. Plus, Josh has a financial incentive for himself, his family and his business associates to be on the Council and push a high densisty development agenda on the city. if he was elected, Josh would have to recluse himself from a majority of council decision, plus the dude moved out of Sierra Madre and then established residency a couple days before he submitted papers as a candiate.

    reminds me of Joe Mosca who researched cities for his political agenda, saw Sierra Madre as an opportunity for himself, exploited the honesty of Sierra Madre and hasn't done anything for the city, except to push a development agenda. Joes ambition and ego is Sierra Madre's downfall, plus the lame head used a dog as a prop, guess he does think we are stupid or we need to "get a life", like he publically insulted a senior citizen.

  7. Believe me, the word is out on Joe. People know. And judging by the look on his puss lately, Joe knows it, too.

  8. I am interested in finding out which candidates Alverno is funding. They need the council to give them a permit to run their nightclub business and build their dance hall and soccer field. Any council member who votes for this is obviously not for preservation, only money. Somehow, some way, the council is in Alverno's pockets.

  9. Dump the losers, Mosca, Walsh and Moran.
    One's dangerous to our city (Joe) the other two are lightweights, not qualified to be on the council, besides being under the control of Bart Doyle and John Buchanan.

    Stick with the WINNING TICKET:

    DON (our hero) WATTS
    John (our beloved journalist and super guy) CRAFORD
    PAT ALCORN, a qualified and dedicated volunteer in this community for many years. Always on the right side of real preservation. Pat will fight Sacramento takeover, just as DON and JOHN CRAWFORD have been doing for the past few years.

  10. How does one find out where the candidates stand on other issues not mentioned here? Is there a forum or something planned where citizens can ask questions or speak directly with the candidates?

  11. has dates and times on the front page for several opportunities to view candidates in action! Be there or be square.

  12. March 8, City Hall. Sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce and the League of Women Voters. Broadcast live on SMTV3.

    Bring popcorn, 10:02.

  13. 9:54 The Council is not in Alverno's pocket...the city is. The city clearly has a direct conflict of interest with the pending TUP. The city uses the Villa for dinners, meetings, and even the Library fundraiser tonight. No one the council should be able to vote on that issue. The school and neighbors need to work this problem out among themselves. This is a neighborhood issue. Once they have worked it out, then come to the city council and ask for those conditions for the TUP. Remember if Alverno can not afford to stay in busines, it will become the next housing tract. Maybe even low income housing per SB 375 and RHNA.

  14. It is amazing to me that our government, which is supposed
    to work for us, does not. It's almost like the country has been
    occupied by something that is not us.

  15. The Coalition for Enlightened Living - A group which donates copious amounts of money to candidates willing to back new condo projects.

    The Federation for a Greener America - A group which funds candidates who are partial to new football stadiums.

  16. This country's always been that way. Remember the famous Warren Buffet comment about "when the tide goes out you see who's not wearing a bathing suit"? Well, the tide's waaaaaaaay out, and I don't see a heck of a lot of bathing suits. Now the towels are all getting whipped out, to be discarded when the tide comes back in...

  17. Pardon me for sounding negative, but this Supreme Court decision is the death knell of citizen based democracy. That means we have to be more vigilant than ever.

    Watch carefully for a reinvention of the BIA. You've identified all the different themes that can manifest themselves in the form of new contributors.

    Something important to note is that while campaign contribution limits have been removed, much of the law that effects our local government doesn't limit the spending, it just requires reporting.

  18. Very true Laurie, and yet somehow the good persists.

  19. You, negative, Dr. S.?
    Nah, realistic.

  20. I agree with Dr Staccato. This is a terrible thing.

  21. When you go to other countries, there's fairly open talk about "black money" that heavily influences the system (government), the corruption is pretty blatant, and nobody tries to fight it. In this country, it's also a big factor, but we pretend it's not there, partly because it has never been accountable - it goes through patronage systems. I've seen it here in SGV, so have a lot of other folks.

    Now the Supreme Court is evidently taking the view that the big corporations should be able to do it, too, without public scrutiny. That's just an open door to more black money, which makes it harder to keep the system transparent. Of course it's a lousy decision and a totally political one. But it really all started when the US made corporations legally into "persons". Prior to that, they had to abide by a charter to act in the public good, since the US government was allowing them to exist. Been downhill ever since.

  22. Hey, Sierra Madre!

    Check your mailboxes! Card from John Crawford.

    I understand the candidate himself will be at the Wine Tasting party tonight.

  23. THAT's where the moderator went....

  24. The moderator is in bed with the flu. And instead of wine he's drinking Benadryl.

  25. We'll drink to your health! We'll drink to your election to City Council!! And we'll drink to a campaign that sweeps Don Watts and Pat Alcorn to victory as well! We'll miss you tonight and we'll raise a glass to you often.

  26. Where would Alverno High School go and reopen as a high school if it did not get its wish list accomplished here? Where could they afford another such large plot of land and school building? Nowhere. They own the land, they have a school here that they can continue operating a school. It is a red herring to suggest that if they don't get all their operating schemes in place (school expansion and wedding venue) they will go somewhere else and houses will be build there. Not remotely likely. Let them threatened. Call their bluff.

  27. It's not that they'll go somewhere else but that they will be unable to continue to operate the school. The revenue from the Villa underwrites Alverno as a high school. Let's hope the attornys find a way to effect a compromise that is fair to residents and to Alverno.

  28. Maybe all formal city functions should be moved to the Buccaneer Lounge.

  29. John you must not be feeling well, I got something in the mail today from you and there wasn't one mention of Joe or John, don't worry, you'll get better!

  30. With all due respect, I suggest those interested read the Supreme Court decision. I believe the decision has been mis-characterized by many and is actually going to be good for us.

    Currently, Unions and Corporations hide behind favorable sounding PAC's - something like Families for Fairness or such, when voters have no idea that the ads are really being sponsored by Union X or Corporation Z.

    This ruling will change that. In addition, the ruling specifically states that Congress/Government has every right to implement rules related to disclosure. While the Corp/Unions can run ads, they must disclose that they are the sponsors vs. some hidden PAC.

    I believe, as this blog site illustrates, citizens are interested and engaged in the election process......they will digest these ads and decide for themselves what makes sense for them.

    As always, just my 2 cents.

  31. the Alverno controversey needs the citizens help. The neighbors who live/have bought there have known they were buying near a school in a neighborhood. They should have known that there were weddings/films made at the VILLA or they were not told by the REALTORS when sold the homes. Realistically, the cost of education keeps soaring and PUSD gets worse (this conversation has been very "popular" on this website!

    The school will be celebrating 50 years of educating young women. I have heard many complaints about drunken people driving out on Sat nites which agreeably should be enforced with "friends do not let friends drive" and the wedding party closing the Wilson gate and hiring a Police Officer to maintain PEACE at the Michillinda.

    There are many things which can be done to control the social situation. This is not the only place in a suburban area where weddings/formal occassions are held and neighbors have not had to compromise. Alverno cannot close, it is a family of education where there are success stories of well rounded girls who grow into women who produce in society.

    If we allow Alverno to be closed, we will not only have a huge overgrown housing unit,and traffic jam, but even worse: less opportunity for formal education in the San Gabriel Valley.

  32. ....and the tearing down of a beautiful replica of a 500 year old Italian Villa on a beautiful piece of property which is another part of Sierra Madre's uniqueness'...


  33. Joe, 5:53? You mean the guy who made our mountains what they are today?

  34. I've come to the conclusion that there are some people who want to drive Alverno out of business so they can develop the property. If you took the Villa and built a condominium complex around it, you'd have quite a little thing going. Alverno provides a good education for kids whose folks don't have a lot of money.

  35. gilman at 6:32

    Thanks for your post.
    You're 100% correct as usual.

  36. The problems Alverno has with it's neighbors come from shoddy management. Any well run organization can have effective security that prevents wandering drunkenness, and worse. Alverno is so busy pointing the accusatory finger at the neighbors for being hypocriticial and fussy that it shows itself to be an irresponsible monitor. I too hope they can work it out, because the dense housing is not a red herring, but an actual outcome if the school goes belly-up, but the school needs to get it's act together and control what happens and when it happens on its campus.

  37. Gillman, Perhaps you should dig a little deeper into the door the Supreme Court has thrown open. Corporations and Unions have billions in profits / dues to throw into their Lobbiests' bribes for votes. These two entities will "Own" the TV, Radio, Newspaper, and Mailer (space and times), and will buy the votes they want from our "hands out legislators" Just who do you think can compete with what's about to happen?

  38. maybe Alvrerno should raise it's tuition, add a few more students or cut some programs so it doesn't have to sublet it's facitlities to parties and weddings year round

    i'd rather Alverno than a couple hundred houses crammed into the space.

  39. Anonymous@5:08

    Rest assured that I have read the Supreme Court decision and researched it's impact.

    Yes Corporations and Unions have large sums of money to throw around and have done just that for years. And as you opine, they have been very willing to direct those funds to our "hands out legislators". Unfortunately, we have usually not known the source of these funds and have often been duped into thinking the support was coming from some well meaning grass roots group.

    That will now change. Corps/Unions will have limits on their donations made directly to elected officials. Instead they will be able to run their own ads that must be accompanied by a full disclosure that they are running the ad.

    Instead of a spurious ad promoting "smart urban development" being run by a group entitled "average citizens for better living", the ad will now have to disclose it is run by the National Association of Realtors.

    I trust the electorate and think they will be able to make much smarter choices with this knowledge.