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Democratic Election Groups Taking Secret Donations From Corporate PACs and Lobbyists

(photo: val.pearl)

Two new Democratic groups, Priorities USA and Priorities USA Action, will spend up to $100 million in the Presidential election cycle to defend President Obama, and in so doing will accept undisclosed donations:

The Priorities companion committees will have one that discloses donors — and one that doesn’t, a practice Obama hammered during last year’s election cycle as undermining the democratic process.

The Priorities group also is jettisoning an Obama rule aimed at limiting the influence of special interests by welcoming unlimited contributions from lobbyists, labor unions, corporations and political action committees — sources that are still banned from giving to the president’s reelection campaign, organizers said.

“While we agree that fundamental campaign finance reforms are needed, Karl Rove and the Koch brothers cannot live by one set of rules as our values and our candidates are overrun with their hundreds of millions of dollars,” said Bill Burton, a former White House spokesman and co-founder of the organization.

I don’t totally disagree with the principle that one side shouldn’t tie one hand behind their backs if the current rules don’t meet their standards. But this looks pretty terrible, especially the part about unlimited corporate PAC donations. And Russ Feingold had the proper response: “Democrats who mirror the right-wing tactics of Karl Rove and David Koch do our nation no favors. Our democracy is best served by rejecting the fundamentally corrupt strategy of embracing unlimited corporate influence.”

There’s a middle ground here that shouldn’t be a problem, given the type of groups that Priorities USA wants supporting them: just disclose the contributions. Chris Van Hollen asserted that belief today:  [cont’d.]

“I think we need a requirement that all groups should be required to disclose their donors,” Van Hollen said on ABC’s “Top Line.” “I think if you’re a Republican-leaning group or a Democrat-leaning group you should be required to disclose [who your donors are].” […]

Van Hollen said the main problem with groups like Americans Crossroads and Crossroads GPS is that they don’t have to disclose who their donors are. He blamed Republicans for obstructing reform that would require that all groups, liberal and conservative, have to disclose donor names.

“The way to deal with this in a uniform and effective way is to pass the law, and unfortunately it’s the Republicans that continue to object that all these groups — Democrat-leaning and Republican-leaning — disclose this information,” Van Hollen said.

It’s easy for Van Hollen to say this, because Republicans hold the House and they won’t move the bill. But Priorities USA could pretty easily put this into action. And if they don’t, everyone will have to wonder what corporations are donating to this and what they’re getting for their money.

CommunityThe Bullpen

Democratic Election Groups Taking Secret Donations From Corporate PACs and Lobbyists

Two new Democratic groups, Priorities USA and Priorities USA Action, will spend up to $100 million in the Presidential election cycle to defend President Obama, and in so doing will accept undisclosed donations:

The Priorities companion committees will have one that discloses donors — and one that doesn’t, a practice Obama hammered during last year’s election cycle as undermining the democratic process.

The Priorities group also is jettisoning an Obama rule aimed at limiting the influence of special interests by welcoming unlimited contributions from lobbyists, labor unions, corporations and political action committees — sources that are still banned from giving to the president’s reelection campaign, organizers said.

“While we agree that fundamental campaign finance reforms are needed, Karl Rove and the Koch brothers cannot live by one set of rules as our values and our candidates are overrun with their hundreds of millions of dollars,” said Bill Burton, a former White House spokesman and co-founder of the organization.

I don’t totally disagree with the principle that one side shouldn’t tie one hand behind their backs if the current rules don’t meet their standards. But this looks pretty terrible, especially the part about unlimited corporate PAC donations. And Russ Feingold had the proper response: “Democrats who mirror the right-wing tactics of Karl Rove and David Koch do our nation no favors. Our democracy is best served by rejecting the fundamentally corrupt strategy of embracing unlimited corporate influence.”

There’s a middle ground here that shouldn’t be a problem, given the type of groups that Priorities USA wants supporting them: just disclose the contributions. Chris Van Hollen asserted that belief today:

“I think we need a requirement that all groups should be required to disclose their donors,” Van Hollen said on ABC’s “Top Line.” “I think if you’re a Republican-leaning group or a Democrat-leaning group you should be required to disclose [who your donors are].” […]

Van Hollen said the main problem with groups like Americans Crossroads and Crossroads GPS is that they don’t have to disclose who their donors are. He blamed Republicans for obstructing reform that would require that all groups, liberal and conservative, have to disclose donor names.

“The way to deal with this in a uniform and effective way is to pass the law, and unfortunately it’s the Republicans that continue to object that all these groups — Democrat-leaning and Republican-leaning — disclose this information,” Van Hollen said.

It’s easy for Van Hollen to say this, because Republicans hold the House and they won’t move the bill. But Priorities USA could pretty easily put this into action. And if they don’t, everyone will have to wonder what corporations are donating to this and what they’re getting for their money.

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David Dayen

David Dayen