How the 1%-of-1% spends its political dollar

Nicko from the Sunlight Foundation sez, "The Sunlight Foundation published a very detailed analysis of campaign contributions from the 2010 cycle with accompanying infographics and profiles of the top political donors that show just who holds the power in U.S. electoral politics. Our analysis reveals a growing dependence of candidates and political parties on this 'One Percent of the One Percent, resulting in a political system that could be disproportionately influenced by donors in a handful of wealthy enclaves. Sunlight's examination also shows that some of the heaviest hitters in the 2010 cycle were ideological givers, suggesting that the influence of the One Percent of the One Percent on federal elections may be one of the obstacles to compromise in Washington.

"How does their giving compare to the average American's wealth? In the 2010 election cycle, the average One Percent of One Percenter spent $28,913, more than the median individual income of $26,364. Additionally, Sunlight's analysis shows that lobbyists make up between 15 and 20% of The One Percent of the One Percent."

The Political One Percent of the One Percent (Thanks, Nicko!) Read the rest

58 donors responsible for 80% of SuperPAC funding

With the Citizens United ruling, the Supreme Court turned money into a form of political speech, paving the way for enormous influxes of cash from the American ultra-elite one-percent-of-one-percent, and, to a lesser extent, organized labor (money given to the GOP by big business dwarfs labor's contribution to the Dems by a factor of about 2.5). The extent to which this has distorted American politics is only now becoming apparent, as statistics about SuperPACs and their "donations" are gathered and published. In this Salon report, Justin Elliott publishes some eye-opening figures about the new political reality in money-as-speech America.

Especially concerning: 80 percent of the money sloshing around in America's SuperPACs' warchests came from just 58 donors.

The Super PACs are not paragons of transparency, but what has been disclosed gives a sense of where the money is coming from and the interests of those giving it. Based on the donors and the origins of these groups, we can already discern what messages the Super PACs will generate in the home stretch of the campaign.

Red money, blue money: The making of the 2012 campaign Read the rest

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Money is the dark matter of American elections: visualizing political donations since Citizens United

Mike from Mother Jones sez, "For our upcoming "dark money" print package, we chartified the known galaxy of outside political spending groups by their size. As you can see, we ended up with red giants and blue dwarfs."

If Citizens United was the Big Bang of a new era of money in politics, here's the parallel universe it formed: rapidly expanding super-PACs and nebulous 501(c) groups exerting their gravitational pull on federal elections. A group's size in the chart below is based upon all known fundraising or spending since 2010…so keep an eye out for dark matter. Come back for regular updates.

The Crazily Expanding Political Money Universe (Thanks, Mike!) Read the rest

San Diego police arrest congressional candidate for voter registration in Civic Center Plaza

Democratic congressional candidate Ray Lutz was arrested for registering voters in San Diego's public Freedom Plaza (AKA Civic Center Plaza), where the local Occupy protest has taken place. The San Diego police arrested Mr Lutz for trespassing and confiscated his voter registration forms.

I've been skeptical of the "this is what democracy looks like" slogan (since mostly, democracy looks like boring things like long meetings, constituency consultations, and voter booths). But by any measure, registering voters in a civic square is assuredly "what democracy looks like." And arresting people who register voters? Well, that's something else altogether.

Ray Lutz being arrested at Freedom Plaza - Occupy San Diego Read the rest

New Zealand Prime Minister sends police to raid major news outlets over covert recording of negotiations with far-right party

Juha writes,

The Prime Minister of New Zealand, John Key, is angry that a conversation between him and a rightwing candidate for Parliament was recorded by a cameraman - so angry that he's reported the matter to the police which is now going to raid TVNZ, Radio NZ, TV3 and another, unnamed media organisation.

Key set up a stage-managed meeting between him and John Banks from the rightwing ACT Party, with media in attendance. The meeting over a cup of tea was to discuss the candidate from Key's centre-right National Party folding in the wealthy electorate of Epsom, Auckland, in favour of Banks. National needs Banks to win Epsom, to form a coalition with ACT.

A cameraman was stopped from retrieving his microphone that he'd left on Key and Banks' table while media was allowed inside the cafe where the meeting took place, and says he recorded the "private" conversation inadvertently. The recording itself hasn't been published by anyone yet. Key and National has refused to give permission to publish the recording, but say it was "bland". In NZ, it's a crime to record other people without their knowledge.

I'm somewhat ambivalent about covert recording, but it seems clear that this isn't merely about investigating the act of recording, or punishing someone who broke the law. This feels like a campaign of intimidation against the institution of the press itself, whose subtext is, "Cover politics with kid gloves or we will make your lives hell." Meanwhile, Key has defended his use of police time by saying his government has done so much to eliminate crime that the police have spare time they can use to pursue his vendettas. Read the rest

Responses to Herman Cain's "Libya" embarrassment

After Herman Cain drew an utter blank when an interviewer asked him how he felt about Obama's handling of Libya, and proceeded to unconvincingly fake a response, Andrew Sullivan rounds up the responses of bloggers around the net, from Cain's supporters and detractors alike.

Drezner invokes the mercy rule:

There's a mercy rule in Little League, and I'm applying it here -- unless and until Herman Cain surges back in the polls again, or manages to muster something approaching cogency in his foreign policy statements, there's no point in blogging about him anymore. I can only pick on an ignoramus so many times before it feels sadistic.

Pamela Geller, who previously endorsed Cain, calls it an "unrecoverable moment":

This is just unacceptable, Herman. ... He is not ready.

Of course, this is just the latest in a string of Cain blunders.

Cain Draws A Blank (Thanks, Fipi Lele!) Read the rest

Yet another weird Herman Cain campaign ad: "He Carried Yellow Flowers"

[Video Link, via Tim Heidecker] This one's classic, meaning it came out back in August when no-one was paying attention.

 Herman Cain sings Lennon classic “Imagine There's No Pizza ... Visualizing Herman Cain's 9-9-9 plan to redistribute wealth from the ... Herman Cain sings God Bless America New Hermain Cain campaign video is, uh, well, oh I give up just watch. Read the rest

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Free/open software to run your election campaign

Richard sez,
Power to the people is a popular theme in elections, but how do you get it there when the election process and rules can be complicated and difficult.

David Lynn's answer was to create and freely distribute the Pennsylvania Political Campaign Management Database to make it easier for people to run for office in Pennsylvania. He hopes his completely free software (he doesn't even ask for your name) will encourage younger people to enter the political process as candidates.

Software and the willing efforts of programmers like David Lynn can be a way to hack the political system and make it easier for regular people to negotiate the often labyrinthine election statutes and get elected. More power to him.

Pennsylvania Political Campaign Management Database (Thanks, Richard!) Read the rest

Pirate Party wins 14(ish) seats in Berlin parliament

LaHaine sez, "According to the first prognosis, the German Pirate Party has entered the state parliament of the city-state of Berlin with 8,5% of the votes, counting for 14 of a total of 149 seats."

Wahl-Spezial: Alles zur Abgeordnetenhauswahl in Berlin - SPIEGEL ONLINE - Nachrichten - Politik Read the rest

New Jersey e-voting coverup

Princeton's Andrew Appel writes on Freedom to Tinker about an illegal cover-up of New Jersey e-voting irregularities. The Princeton team have done amazing technical and investigative work on electronic voting machines, and Appel's piece (the first of three) demonstrates exactly the sort of dangers that e-voting critics have long warned of.
1 New Jersey court-ordered election-security measures have not been effectively implemented.

2 There is a reason to believe that New Jersey election officials have destroyed evidence in a pending court case, perhaps to cover up the noncompliance with these measures or to cover up irregularities in this election. There is enough evidence of a cover-up that a Superior Court judge has referred the matter to the State prosecutor's office.

3 Like any DRE voting machine, the AVC Advantage is vulnerable to software-based vote stealing by replacing the internal vote-counting firmware. That kind of fraud probably did not occur in this case. But even without replacing the internal firmware, the AVC Advantage voting machine is vulnerable to the accidental or deliberate swapping of vote-totals between candidates. It is clear that the machine misreported votes in this election, and both technical and procedural safeguards proved ineffective to fully correct the error.

NJ election cover-up Read the rest

German Pirate Party poised to win first federal electoral contest

Germany's Pirate Party is kicking major electoral ass, holding 50 local elected offices across the country, and are now poised to win their first federal electoral contests:
“We are delighted that our demands for more transparency, participation and democracy for the people of Berlin are shared by the public. The Berlin people want change, and they recognize that a vote for the Pirate Party is not wasted,” Pirate Party’s Gerhard Anger said.

“With this poll result we are not in the state parliament yet. However, it is an important step in the right direction. We have to work hard in the next four weeks. In order to see the results of this poll reflected in actual votes on election day, we still have to keep on going,” Anger adds.

Previously the German Pirate Party already held a seat in the national parliament when Jörg Tauss left the Social Democrats to join the pirates. However, having people voted into parliament through an election would be an even bigger accomplishment.

German Pirate Party On Course to Election Win

(Image: Pirate party!, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from mapkyca's photostream) Read the rest