Category Archives: Elected Officials

Time for Democrats to Pay Their Dues

Source: James Thindwa, In These Times, February 6, 2013

For too long organized labor has failed to ask the Dems, ‘Which side are you on?’…Democratic leaders who think their party can survive without labor are grossly mistaken. Who will turn out the base—…The fact is, the success of the American labor movement has always depended upon a welcoming policy environment facilitated by an allied political party. While many forces are contributing to labor’s decline, we can no longer ignore a central one: The once-reliable Democratic Party has abandoned the cause. However, the party remains heavily dependent on labor for financial and organizational infrastructure….

Billion-Dollar Democracy: The Unprecedented Role Of Money In The 2012 Elections

Source: Adam Lioz, Blair Bowie, Dēmos and U.S. PIRG Education Fund, January 2013

From the summary:
This report offers a comprehensive analysis of the fundraising and spending in federal races in the 2012 elections. The primary goal is to provide a quantitative analysis to describe tangibly what the vast majority of Americans already understand: political power in America is concentrated in the hands of an elite fraction of the populace—threatening the very concept of government of, by, and for the people. … But, more important than the total amount spent in any election is where all this money comes from. If candidates for federal office were mostly raising money in small contributions from average citizens, and if outside spending groups were organizing these average citizens to give them a louder voice in the political process, the sheer volume of money raised and spent might not present such a troubling problem. Unfortunately, if unsurprisingly, this is not the case. Spending on modern U.S. elections is dominated by a small minority of special interests and wealthy donors who use their economic clout to amplify their preferred messages and drown out the voices of ordinary citizens in the public square. The wealthy translate their greater electoral role into increased influence over public policy in two basic ways: by helping elect candidates who share their values, and by limiting the range of acceptable policy positions that candidates may take if they want to remain competitive—effectively shaping the agenda in Washington and state capitals across the country.

Congressional Salaries and Allowances

Source: Ida A. Brudnick, Congressional Research Service, CRS Report for Congress, RL30064, December 4, 2012

This report provides basic information on congressional salaries and allowances.

First, the report briefly summarizes the current salary of Members of Congress, limits on their outside earned income and honoraria, available life and health insurance, and retirement benefits.

Second, the report provides information on allowances available to Representatives and Senators to support them in their official and representational duties. These allowances cover official office expenses, including staff, mail, travel between a Member’s district or state and Washington, DC, and other goods and services.

Third, the report lists the salaries of Members, House and Senate officers and officials, and salary limits for committee staff.

The Bain Legacy

Source: David Moberg, In These Times, Vol. 36 no. 9, September 2012

Will Mitt Romney’s job-destroying past be our future?…Despite Romney’s claim to be a job creator (the honorary title Republicans bestow on all rich people), that world is one where the extra dollar in a millionaire’s pocket is always worth more than someone’s job…. It’s hard to imagine what evidence Romney could muster to defend modern capitalism. The results of the past 30 years have not been inspiring. They include an immense shift in wealth from the working class to the very rich, near-record inequality and, for the majority of Americans, declining social mobility and growing economic insecurity. In addition, these decades have been punctuated by frequent and increasingly serious financial scandals, abuses and crises….

Open States

Source: Sunlight Foundation, 2012

Discover politics in your state. Find your legislators, see how they’ve voted and browse upcoming legislation and events.

While Open States is in beta this site is only available for Alaska, Arizona, California, District of Columbia, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Montana, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Ohio, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin.

We gather legislative data from all 50 states, Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico, and then make it available in a common format via our API and bulk downloads.

2012 National Survey of County Elected Officials: Opinions from the Front Lines of Local Government

Source: National Association of Counties, July 2012

In this ninth iteration of the National Survey of County Elected Officials a random sample of 501 county elected officials was polled on issues related to the economy, budgets, and politics. This report explores the viewpoints of county elected officials today to understand how these leaders feel about the changing circumstances.

Some of the major findings from the 2012 survey include the following:
• Two thirds of county elected officials believe that the political direction of the United States is generally on the wrong track.
• Although a plurality of county elected officials does not believe that fees ‐for‐service is an appropriate model for funding county services, a larger majority favors providing services through contracts with private sector firms.
• County officials seem generally upbeat about careers in county government. While they are divided about how concerned they are that they will be able to replace the skills of retiring county employees, a vast majority say that they would encourage young adults to seek careers in local government.
• County elected officials have become more Republican over the past 5 years, from 40 percent in 2007 to 52 percent in 2012.

Million-Dollar Megaphones: Super PACs and Unlimited Outside Spending in the 2012 Elections

Source: Adam Lioz, Blair Bowie, Dēmos & U.S. PIRG Education Fund, August 2, 2012

From the summary:
Although each major party presidential candidate will likely break previous fundraising records, the big story of the 2012 election has been the role of Super PACs, nonprofits and outside spending generally.

Demos and U.S. PIRG Education Fund analysis of Federal Election Commission (FEC) data and secondary sources on outside spending and Super PAC fundraising for the first two quarters of the 2012 election cycle reveals:

Outside spending by organizations that aggregate unlimited contributions from wealthy individuals and institutions is playing a significant role in the 2012 election cycle, and much of it is not disclosed.
– Outside spending organizations reported $167.5 million in spending to the FEC. Of this, $12.7 million (7.6% of the total) was “secret money” that cannot be traced back to an original source.
– But, because of gaps in reporting requirements, spending reported to the FEC is only part of the picture. When all types of outside spending on television ads related to the presidential race are taken into account, just over 50% of the spending has been by “dark money” groups that do not disclose their donors. According to Kantar CMAG data, the top four 501(c)(4) spenders on the presidential race have spent $43.3 million through July 1st on advertising in the presidential race alone, but our analysis shows these same groups have only reported $418,920 in spending collectively on all races to the FEC through June 30th. This means that these groups are currently reporting less than 1% of their total spending.

– The Top 5 outside spending groups have accounted for 58.5% of all outside reported spending in the 2012 cycle.

Super PACs continue to be tools used by a small number of wealthy individuals and institutions to dominate the political process.
– Just over 57% of the $230 million raised by Super PACs from individuals came from just 47 people giving at least $1 million. Just over 1,000 donors giving $10,000 or more were responsible for 94% of this fundraising.
– Sheldon and Miriam Adelson have given a combined $36.3 million to Super PACs in the 2012 cycle. It would take more than 321,000 average American families donating an equivalent share of their wealth to match the Adelsons’ giving.
– For-profit businesses contributed $34.2 million to Super PACs, accounting for 11.0% of their fundraising. There are reasons to suspect business are contributing much more to nonprofit organizations and trade associations that do not disclose their donors.
See also:
Charts & Graphs
Auctioning Democracy: The Rise of Super PACs and the 2012 Election

Unions, Corporations, and Political Opt-Out Rights after Citizens United

Source: Benjamin I. Sachs, Columbia Law Review, Vol. 112, No. 4, May 2012

From the abstract:
Citizens United upends much of campaign finance law, but it maintains at least one feature of that legal regime: the equal treatment of corporations and unions. Prior to Citizens United, that is, corporations and unions were equally constrained in their ability to spend general treasury funds on federal electoral politics. After the decision, campaign finance law leaves both equally unconstrained and free to use their general treasuries to finance political spending. But the symmetrical treatment that Citizens United leaves in place masks a less visible, but equally significant, way in which the law treats union and corporate political spending differently. Namely, federal law prohibits a union from spending its general treasury funds on politics if individual employees object to such use – employees, in short, enjoy a federally protected right to opt out of funding union political activity. In contrast, corporations are free to spend their general treasuries on politics even if individual shareholders object – shareholders enjoy no right to opt out of financing corporate political activity. This article assesses whether the asymmetric rule of political opt-out rights is justified. The article first offers an affirmative case for symmetry grounded in the principle that the power to control access to economic opportunities – whether employment or investment-based – should not be used to secure compliance with or support for the economic actor’s political agenda. It then addresses three arguments in favor of asymmetry. Given the relative weakness of these arguments, the article suggests that the current asymmetry in opt-out rules may be unjustified. The article concludes by pointing to constitutional questions raised by this asymmetry, and by arguing that lawmakers would be justified in correcting it.

The Influence of Federal Spending on Presidential Elections

Source: Douglas L. Kriner, Andrew Reeves, American Political Science Review, Vol. 106 no. 2, May 2012
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Do voters reward presidents for increased federal spending in their local constituencies? Previous research on the electoral consequences of federal spending has focused almost exclusively on Congress, mostly with null results. However, in a county- and individual-level study of presidential elections from 1988 to 2008, we present evidence that voters reward incumbent presidents (or their party’s nominee) for increased federal spending in their communities. This relationship is stronger in battleground states. Furthermore, we show that federal grants are an electoral currency whose value depends on both the clarity of partisan responsibility for its provision and the characteristics of the recipients. Presidents enjoy increased support from spending in counties represented by co-partisan members of Congress. At the individual level, we also find that ideology conditions the response of constituents to spending; liberal and moderate voters reward presidents for federal spending at higher levels than conservatives. Our results suggest that, although voters may claim to favor deficit reduction, presidents who deliver such benefits are rewarded at the ballot box.