The Biggest Price-Fixing Scandal Ever | Politics News | Rolling Stone

See on Scoop.itDidYouCheckFirst

The Illuminati were amateurs. The second huge financial scandal of the year reveals the real international conspiracy: There’s no price the big banks can’t fix

Greg Russak‘s insight:

And the hits just keep on coming. How many more scandals and how much more proof will we need before we realize that unregulated bankers pose the greatest threat to our society? Did we learn nothing from the original Gilded Age? And bad news for all the “small government” lovers. The big bad government is NOT who is rigging the system and reaping all the benefits from the destruction of entire economies. They’re mostly pawns, biding their time in the minor leagues while waiting for the revolving door to move them into pay days in the private sector. We need Citizens United to be overturned, public financing of elections, term limits, restraint on all securities trading by elected officials while in office and for something like 5 years after they leave, and more people like Elizabeth Warren who are asking regulators and bankers all the right – and tough – questions.

See on www.rollingstone.com

Lawrence Lessig: We the People, and the Republic we must reclaim | Video on TED.com

See on Scoop.itDidYouCheckFirst

There is a corruption at the heart of American politics, caused by the dependence of Congressional candidates on funding from the tiniest percentage of citizens.

Greg Russak‘s insight:

If you’re still wondering what the issue is with Citizens United and what it’s doing to our Republic, invest 18 minutes with this video.

See on www.ted.com

Ask Your House Rep & Senators to "Be A Leader" on Overturning Citizens United

Coffee Party USA has launched a campaign called “Be A Leader” to get our House Reps and Senators in DC to go on record with their plans for overturning the disastrous Citizens United v FEC ruling.

They even have some very simple suggested text to use:

Dear Representative or Senator,
It has been three years since the disastrous Citizens United decision.  As a legislator, you are in a position to fix this bad decision, but I don’t see anything on your web site about your plans to do so.  Will you please be a leader and post your plans on your web site?  
Your constituent,

 

Below is what Senator Toomey‘s office sent to me in response to my inquiry. It’s clearly a canned response, and it never actually answers the simple question posed.

I’ve also copied in my reply. I think it’s important that our elected leaders hear from us when our questions and concerns go unanswered.

Below the email is additional research and my personal thoughts on Senator Toomey and his position on other issues I feel are important and which influence how I feel about him and his party.

Trust me, I’m not so naive as to believe that he or even a staffer will read my email or feel compelled to respond to it. If they do, I will share it here. I just want the Senator and his staff to know that ordinary citizens are paying attention; very, very close attention.

From: “Senator Pat Toomey”
To:
Sent: Wednesday, January 23, 2013 9:04:01 AM
Subject: Reply from U.S. Senator Pat Toomey

January 23, 2013
Dear Mr. ,
Thank you for contacting me about campaign finance reform. I appreciate hearing from you.
As you may know, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, overturned a federal ban on independent political advocacy by corporations and unions. I understand your concerns regarding this decision and political activities by outside groups and businesses. That said, the Supreme Court has long upheld that political speech, including the funding thereof, is protected by the First Amendment and is an integral part of our constitutional democracy. It is important that Congress be mindful of these constitutional principles, although I understand your concerns about this issue. Please be assured that I will keep your views in mind as Congress continues reviewing changes to campaign finance laws. 
Thank you again for your correspondence. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future if I can be of assistance.
Sincerely,
 
Signature
Pat Toomey
U.S. Senator, Pennsylvania

——

Dear Senator Toomey:

Thank you for your response.

With all due respect, your attempt to characterize the Citizens United vs FEC ruling as upholding the rights and protections afforded to actual citizens by the First Amendment is insulting and disingenuous. It’s insulting because you and those who defend the activism of the conservatives on the Court seem to believe that you can dupe all of us into believing your partisan framing of that ruling. I humbly remind you that we are not all “low information voters.”

Those of us who oppose Citizens United know that it is not about free speech. It is not even about political speech. It is about money. It is about “dark money” and the inordinate influence so much of it is having from too few sources on you and your fellow elected leaders who are supposed to be representing all of us, not just wealthy donors and corporations. (Again and with all due respect, please spare me any rhetoric on trickle down economics. We both know that it’s a failed economic theory.)

You have chosen not to answer my question directly about publishing your plans for overturning Citizens United. Given your past role as president of The Club for Growth and the $2.7million they spent on your behalf on attack ads to win you your seat 51% to 49%, I can’t say that I’m surprised. I’m left to conclude, therefore, that you are in favor of that disastrous Supreme Court ruling. I invite you, of course, to please write back immediately to correct me and to share your plans if I’ve come to the wrong conclusion. Nothing would please me more.

Once more and only with the greatest respect, it seems to me that you have a choice to make, Senator. You can follow – and even lead – the GOP’s steady decline into political oblivion with everyone except the aging white male evangelical demographic (your tea party base), or you can be part of a more modern, thriving, and progressive (it’s not a dirty word, by the way, and is considered by most to be the opposite of ‘regressive’) Republican party.

My humble and sincere recommendation is that you start by taking a stand against the corrupting influence of big and dark money in our political system by publishing your plan to combat and overturn Citizens United. I realize that that may seem antithetical to your past role as leader of a tea party PAC, but that’s not who you’re supposed to be representing in the Senate.

Who knows? You might even win back registered Non-Partisan voters like me.

Sincerely,

—-

While not part of the above email, here’s some research and conclusions on why ordinary citizens should oppose Senator Toomey (and similarly positioned Republicans).

Energy (the closest “issue” the Senator lists when it comes the Environment and Climate Change)

  • Senator Toomey wants to further loosen restrictions on an already under-regulated fossil fuel industry, wants to expand mining and drilling of dirty fossil fuels, and is completely silent on renewable energy. http://www.toomey.senate.gov/?p=issue&id=32

(Affordable) Health Care

  • Senator Toomey co-sponsored S.192, the “Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act,” a petty partisan and Bachmann-esque bill that reveals how much more he values the interests of big money from insurance carriers, pharmaceuticals, health care providers, and corporations than he does the actual health and welfare of poor, unemployed, and under-employed people. http://www.toomey.senate.gov/?p=issue&id=34

Life, Family and Marriage (Inequality)

  • Senator Toomey seems to have more in common with Rick Santorum than he does with the majority of Americans. Anyone who isn’t in support of gay marriage is, in my opinion, a hateful bigot. Period. There is no middle ground and no compromise when it comes to civil liberties, equality, and justice for the LGBTQ community in this country. http://www.toomey.senate.gov/?p=issue&id=33

The GOP: A Party in Decline
It no longer comes as any surprise to me that the GOP is a party in steep decline. This last election was very telling. Beyond older white religious men, Mr. Romney had weak and diminishing appeal(1). And while the GOP kept control in the House, they lost seats in both houses of Congress, and there were fewer votes for House Republicans than there were for House Democrats(2). The GOP’s only real appeal now seems to be with a shrinking older, whiter, and more fundamentalist demographic. Oh, and big money.

GOP’s Desperate Measures to Rig Elections and Deny Voters Their Rights
This decline in popularity and appeal is undoubtedly part of the reason why Governor Corbett and Republican state legislators all over the U.S. want to change the Electoral College rules so that under-populated and gerrymandered GOP districts have the same Electoral College weight as the overall voting population.

Isn’t it ironic? One would think that Libertarians, Teapublicans, and ordinary Republicans everywhere would be staunch supporters of winner-take-all, right? Instead, it looks like the new mantra is, “Since we can’t beat the Democrats fairly, we’ll rig the system.” To whom does this strategy appeal if it’s not the white rural evangelical voter; that subset of the party’s base who seems intent on voting against their own economic self interests time and time again?

The voter ID law is, of course, another prime example of a party who refuses to face reality. It’s nothing more than empty fear-mongering over a problem that simply does not exist except in the minds of Republican politicians and Fox News commentators. To claim that measures must be taken to stop rampant in-person voter fraud is to insult the intelligence of anyone paying attention to the realities of how rare it is for someone to impersonate anyone on election day(3).

Money in Politics
I cling to the belief that politicians are supposed to work for me. My belief was stronger before the Citizens United ruling.

Now it seems all too clear that Senator Toomey and his colleagues on both sides are far more beholden to the Sheldon Adelsons, Harold Simmonses, Karl Roves, and all the Super PACs(4) than they are to you, me, our fellow Pennsylvanians, and ordinary Americans.

To be fair to Senator Toomey, he’s presumably most beholden to his biggest donor, the Tea Party SuperPAC, The Club for Growth, According to OpenSecrets,they have contributed $848,033 to him over the course of his political career(5). They also spent $2.7million in negative ads to help their former president to win his seat 51% to 49%(6).

This is what Democracy looks like?

It will take a long and hard struggle to get Citizens United overturned. It’s not impossible, and I believe that it’s up to us – ordinary citizens – to be united in our unending and unbending effort to understand which politicians agree with us and which don’t. I think it’s obvious what we need to then do with that information.

Get involved. It only takes a few minutes to let your elected leaders know what you think.
http://www.coffeepartyusa.com/ask_your_representative_to_be_a_leader

—–
Sources:
(1) CNN Politics; http://www.cnn.com/election/2012/results/race/president
(2) Bloomberg, Republicans Can’t Claim Mandate as Democrats Top House Vote; http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-11-16/republicans-can-t-declare-mandate-with-more-democrat-house-votes.html
(3) The Wall Street Journal, Voter Fraud: Hard to Identify; http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390443864204577621732936167586.html
(4) ProPublica, Who are the Super PACs’s Biggest Donors; http://projects.propublica.org/pactrack/contributions/tree
(5) OpenSecrets.org, Senator Pat Toomey, Top Contributors (Since 1989); http://www.opensecrets.org/politicians/contrib.php?cycle=Career&cid=N00001489&type=C
(6) The Boston Globe, Tea Party super PAC pours fund into congressional races; http://www.bostonglobe.com/news/nation/2012/06/05/tea-party-super-pac-pours-funds-into-congressional-races/GrJs2J4PKl7A2L3t4BQWjM/story.html

The Economist: Network Neutrality Problems In The U.S.

http://www.economist.com/node/17800141

Isn’t the question of what is fair and reasonable for both the corporation and the citizen simply a question of “fair and balanced” regulation of those markets by elected officials?

If Communism’s complete control of an economy is a bad thing, isn’t it possible that a purely free and unregulated capitalist economy can be bad at some level, too?

Isn’t our political system some evidence of the benefits and righteousness of “checks and balances”, and that those checks and balances ought to extend to citizens and corporations alike?

So why this love affair by some with complete and total deregulation?

To expect “benevolent” corporations driven purely by profit, shareholder value, and led by people we don’t elect and can’t control to regulate themselves is, IMHO, dangerously naive. Where’s the proof that they have the proper incentive to put society’s collective long-term interests ahead of their own immediate personal gain?

History has proven to me that we can’t trust the people who run corporations to regulate themselves properly. (For an interesting treatment of incentives, I would recommend a book I’ve just started reading, Freakonomics. Pretty interesting and not what I was expecting.)

What confounds me so completely is how so many in the middle class appear so blindingly naive to the reality of unregulated corporations and the people who benefit from them. They seem blissful in their intentional ignorance and dismissal of the facts that insufficient regulation has proven again and again to be disastrous to our economy, our environment, and our safety. They cling to the false promises of trickle down economics and tax breaks for the wealthy, neither of which has ever worked and which still don’t, while the economic malaise of the last 10 years continues, unemployment remains high, and Wall Street bonuses are at record levels.

I don’t understand why some people warn against FCC regulations while, in the same breath, profess to completely and utterly trust these same companies to benevolently use their near-monopoly positions to do the right thing as they control not just *how* but even *what* we access. It’s crazy.

Monopolies are never good except for those who control them. Keeping monopolies from forming, and controlling companies who would gladly be a monopoly if they could, needs to be a function of government officials we elect and the people they then appoint to manage regulatory agencies. I trust those I can “fire” through frequent and regular elections – as badly corrupted as that process can and will continue to be without meaningful campaign finance reform and the repeal of the travesty that is the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling – much more so than the people running corporations whom I can’t fire and who see me only as a potential revenue source to be squeezed for maximum value on a financial quarter-by-quarter basis.

Those of us old enough to remember the break up of AT&T know what it meant for competition. Speaking only for myself, I believe I have that break up to thank for a career that includes working for companies who trace their very existence to the government stepping in and breaking up AT&T. Innovation comes from competition, not from monopoly. Competition is supposedly a cornerstone of free markets. I vigorously support that principle. I have spent the better part of my career helping companies to compete and win business, and hope to do so again soon.

However, the price we pay and the risk to us as citizens for that innovation needs to be part of the discussion. I really don’t think we can trust corporations to do anything more than what is best for their shareholders. That is, after all, the mission of a for-profit corporation. I have no problem or issue with that. I simply have been around enough CxOs, boards of directors, and a few angel investors and VCs to know that when it comes to choosing between money and people, money wins every time.

That’s not to say that these are bad people. It *is* to say that given free rein, the incentives built into our capitalist system drives these John Galts to thinking only about their own short-term personal gain and wealth even if it has to come at the expense of and to the detriment of everyone else.

All of today’s belly-aching by big corporations and their paid-for (mostly) GOP mouthpieces about needing to control their networks without government interference while they simultaneously don’t open those networks to competition is all the evidence I need to support greater and not less regulatory oversight of network access providers (some of whom I’d like to be working for right now).

What’s lacking, especially in the Democratic party, is political will. It takes political will to stand up to these corporations and to their terribly misguided, misinformed, and naive supporters in the middle class.

I’m more than a little surprised and happy to see The Economist essentially conclude the same thing when it comes to political will.