Dear Commons Community,
The New York Times has a lead article today on corporate giving to various groups in order to influence elections and public policy at all levels. As if Super PACs were not enough, large corporations are trying to influence campaigns by donating money to tax-exempt organizations that can spend millions of dollars without being subject to the disclosure requirements that apply to candidates and parties. The article states:
“The secrecy shrouding these groups makes a full accounting of corporate influence on the electoral process impossible. But glimpses of their donors emerged in a New York Times review of corporate governance reports, tax returns of nonprofit organizations and regulatory filings by insurers and labor unions.
The review found that corporate donations — many of them previously unreported — went to groups large and small, dedicated to shaping public policy on the state and national levels. From a redistricting fight in Minnesota to the sprawling battleground of the 2012 presidential and Congressional elections, corporations are opening their wallets and altering the political world…
“Companies want to be able to quietly push for their political agendas without being held accountable for it by their customers,” said Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which has filed complaints against issue groups. “I think the 501(c)(4)’s are likely to outweigh super PAC spending, because so many donors want to remain anonymous.”
Because social welfare groups are prohibited from devoting themselves primarily to political activity, many spend the bulk of their money on issue advertisements that purport to be educational, not political, in nature. In May, for example, Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, a group co-founded by the Republican strategist Karl Rove, began a $25 million advertising campaign, carefully shaped with focus groups of undecided voters, that attacks Mr. Obama for increasing the federal deficit and urges him to cut spending.”
Among the companies mentioned in the article are: AETNA, American Electric Power, Prudential, Dow Chemical and Merck. One of the largest recipients of these funds is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a tax-exempt trade group that has pledged to spend at least $50 million on political advertising this election cycle.
Isn’t it time that someone in our government clean up this cesspool of influence peddling.