Jim Pullaro Interview — Podcast April 14, 2014

Clean by 19: Is Public Funding of Elections a Real Possibility? Jim Pullaro, Prescott businessman, and advocate for the public funding of elections, talks to Democratic Perspective’s co-hosts Mike Cosentino and Steve Williamson about the Clean by 19 campaign, and the prospect for a constitutional amendment to curtail the overwhelming influence of private wealth on the outcome of our elections.

Posted in Campaign Finance, Citizens United, Constitutional Issues, Dark Money, Democratic Governance, Elections, Government, Interviews, National Politics, Podcasts, Political Lies, Supreme Court | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Gigantic Kochtopus.

In a series of 5-4 rulings, with conservatives in the majority, the US Supreme Court has opened the floodgates of political spending by corporations and billionaires. In Valeo v. Buckley, the Court essentially ruled that political spending is the equivalent of free speech.  In Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission, the Court ruled that corporations are people and therefore enjoy the right to contribute to political candidates. And in McCutcheon v. Federal Elections Commission, the Court ruled that there can be no aggregate campaign limits. In other words, individuals and corporations can contribute up to $32,400 to a national political party, up to $10,000 to a state, district and local party committee and a maximum of $2,600 to each and every candidate.

That means a single individual can contribute as much as $1,131,000 to buy votes in the House and $260,000 to buy votes in the Senate. In addition, the wealthy are now free to buy votes in state legislatures, in county boards and city councils.  If you have the money, you can buy enough free speech to shout down ordinary citizens.

Even better for the billionaires, contributions to so-called “issue” advertising is unlimited.

No one understands that more than the anti-government billionaire brothers, Charles and David Koch.  Owners of the world’s second-largest privately-held corporation, Koch Industries, they spent more than $383 million on the 2012 election alone. And in 2012 they were just getting organized. Since that time, they have expanded their complex network of nonprofit “social welfare” groups and trade associations to allow them to spend even more money to influence elections. Due to loopholes in nonprofit tax reporting, the groups don’t have to name their donors. And since most of the Koch groups have been set up as trusts, it’s even harder to track how they spend their money.

The latest move by the Koch brothers is the use of “disregarded entities.” These are Limited Liability Corporations (LLCs) that are “owned” by nonprofit organizations and considered part of them for tax purposes.  This adds yet another set of veils with which the Koch brothers can hide the names of donors and how their groups spend money.  On the IRS website, disregarded entities cannot be searched by name because their tax returns are filed by the parent group. And because all of these LLCs are set up in Delaware, they are not required to disclose who runs them.

Why all the cloak and daggar?

Quite simply, it’s an attempt by the Kochs to disguise their anti-government, anti-American political spending. For example, it’s well known that one of the largest recipients of Koch money is the group Americans for Prosperity which supports the Tea Party and runs millions of dollars of ads attacking Democratic and even moderate Republican candidates. What’s less known is PRDIST, a disregarded entity “owned” by the Koch brothers with an income of $48,365,000.

Other Koch “social welfare”groups include Center for Shared Services, Center to Protect Patient Rights, Concerned Veterans for America, EvangChr4 Trust, Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, Generation Opportunity, Public Engagement Group Trust, Public Notice, TC4 Trust, The LIBRE Initiative Trust and Themis Trust. Their disregarded entities are mostly letters jumbled together such as RION, TOHE, ORRA, TRGN, SLAH, POFN, RGSN, TDNA, DAS MGR, and STN. You’ll find a more extensive list of Koch-funded organizations and an interactive chart at the following link.

Although all of these organizations are prohibited from engaging in politics in order to receive non-profit status, politics are clearly their primary focus.  The LIBRE Iniative Trust is currently spending hundreds of thousands on advertising attacking “Obamacare” and incumbent Democratic representatives who have supported it. Conservative political issues and advertising seem to be at the core of all of the other Koch non-profits as well.

To be fair, Democrats have their own billionaire funders, such as George Soros. But no one has gone to such extremes to influence elections and hide their involvement as the Koch brothers. Given that, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone when it was discovered last year that the Internal Revenue Service was giving extra attention to non-profits founded by conservative organizations.

Posted in Campaign Finance, Citizens United, Class Conflict, Dark Money, Disinformation, Elections, Front Organizations, Media Campaigns, National Politics, Political Action Committees, Political Contributions, Supreme Court | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Kochtopus and Its Tentacles — Podcast April 7, 2014

The Kochtopus: Buying Our Democracy With Dark Money. Democratic Perspective’s co-hosts Mike Cosentino and Steve Williamson are joined by producer Gary LaMaster for an analysis of the shell organizations Charles and David Koch, Koch Industries, and other wealthy individual and corporate players use to launder contributors’ money and buy control over our political processes. The amounts are staggering, but no less so than the number and kinds of subterfuges used to hide both where the money comes from, and how it is spent.

Posted in Campaign Finance, Citizens United, Constitutional Issues, Dark Money, Democratic Governance, Disinformation, Elections, National Politics, Podcasts, Political Action Committees, Political Contributions, Political Lies, Propaganda | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Uranium Mining On the Colorado Plateau: Who Pays the True Costs? — Podcast March 31, 2014

Exploitation of Our Public Lands: A Cost-Benefit Analysis. Taylor McKinnon, Director of Energy for the Grand Canyon Trust, joins Democratic Perspective’s Gary LaMaster and Steve Williamson for a discussion of the costs and benefits of resource exploitation on our public lands. Who profits, who pays? is a question with many answers, some more honest than others. In an era when the search for increased domestic energy resources is intensifying, and climate change threatens all our previous assumptions about fossil fuel-based prosperity, honest answers are essential.

Posted in Climate Change, Energy Policy, Environmental Issues, Global Warming, Interviews, Podcasts, Public Lands | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Crisis in Public Education, Arizona Edition — Podcast March 24, 2014

You Get What You Pay For: the Consequences of Underfunding Public Education in Arizona. Democratic Perspective’s co-hosts, Mike Cosentino and Steve Williamson, are joined by DP producer Gary LaMaster, for an update on the Yavapai College controversy, and a discussion of the continuing right-wing assault on public education in Arizona. What happens to prosperity and democratic governance when the public treasury is raided by special interests to fund private and for-profit charter schools?

Posted in Arizona Budget, Arizona Economy, Arizona Politics, Citizens United, Continuing Education, Democratic Governance, Education, Education Policy, Jobs and Employment, Podcasts, Privatization, Public Education, Public Policy, Special Interest Legislation, Tax Revenues, Taxation | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Putting The Community Back In The Community College.

No one seems to know when it happened…when the word community was removed from Yavapai College…or if it was ever part of the name in the first place. Since it was billed as a community college, maybe it was just understood. Nevertheless, at some point, the college seemed to stop serving communities in the Verde Valley. That fact became glaringly apparent when the Yavapai College Governing Board voted to approve a new 10-year plan that directs the vast majority of taxpayer money to Prescott and Prescott Valley. At the same time, the plan calls for closing the Chino Valley campus.  It calls for moving the nursing program from the Clarkdale campus to Prescott Valley. It also calls for “suspending” the Sedona Film School and selling the Sedona campus.

All of these moves would leave prospective students in the Verde Valley with fewer opportunities for higher education. If they choose to pursue a degree from Yavapai College, they would be forced to drive more than an hour each way over the mountain switchbacks. That may not seem like much of a deterrent to the College Administration and its Governing Board, but it presents an enormous obstacle to those who are employed and seeking higher education – especially those who are struggling to make ends meet.

Not surprisingly, that describes most of the people who seek degrees from community colleges.

Looking at national enrollment statistics, one discovers that attendance fluctuates in a counter-cyclical fashion to the economy. When the economy is down, community college attendance goes up, and vice versa. It’s a demonstration of the desire to improve one’s life. Yet, even though our economy is slowly improving, the circumstances for many aren’t. As a result, part-time enrollment in community colleges has increased.

National statistics to the contrary, Yavapai College administration and its Governing Board cite declining enrollment as the primary reason to abandon the Verde Valley. But enrollment figures are simply statistics, and we all know that there are lies, damn lies and statistics.

Enrollment is the product of many variables. As previously noted, the economy is one. Other factors are the community job market, the program offerings, the cost, the time of day classes are available, the history of the college placement service, the availability of affordable student housing for programs that hope to attract students from outside the immediate area, community relations, marketing, and more.

Any of these factors can explain the declining enrollment in the Verde Valley. One has to wonder, has the administration considered these factors? Or worse, has it manipulated them?

How can a film school hope to draw students to Sedona without student housing? Did the college really think there were enough students in the Verde Valley to sustain such a school? How can the Southwest Wine Center, which is intended to draw students from the entire Southwestern United States to Clarkdale, hope to succeed without student housing? Why do the Yavapai College administration and its Governing Board state that costs of building a dormitory in Clarkdale would be $30 million when their plans call for building a new dormitory in Prescott for $7 million?

Such questions not only make one wonder about the real intent of the administration. They make one wonder about the capabilities of the Yavapai College administration and its Governing Board.

Of course, there are other questions that require answers: How did the Governing Board think it could spend the vast majority of the Verde Valley’s $12 million in annual taxes in Prescott and Prescott Valley while closing the Sedona campus and removing many of the program offerings from the Clarkdale campus? And what prompted them to make such a decision with little to no input from Verde Valley residents? They should have known that such a decision would be controversial, if not deeply offensive.

Yet the administration and Governing Board seem genuinely puzzled by the predictable outrage. They now appear to be in full crisis management mode.

Posted in Arizona Politics, Continuing Education, Education, Education Policy, Taxation, Viticulture, Viticulture.Oenology | Tagged , , , | Comments Off

Civil Liberties and Public Advocacy: the Role of the ACLU — Podcast March 17, 2004

The ACLU vs. Governmental Overreach. Democratic Perspective welcomes Alessandra Soler Meetze, Executive Director of the ACLU for Arizona, and Michael Lacey, co-founder of the Phoenix New Times, for a discussion of the role of whistleblowers and  journalists in exposing the government’s abuses of civil liberties, and the American Civil Liberties Union’s role in defending the public against them. We win some, we lose some, but the defense of the Constitution and our inalienable rights as citizens continues.

Posted in Arizona Law Enforcement, Arizona Politics, Bigotry, Constitutional Issues, Government, Immigration, Intelligence Agencies, Interviews, Journalism, Justice System, Law Enforcement, Legal Issues, Marriage Equality, National Security, Podcasts, Surveillance Programs | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

Yavapai College: Voices From Sedona — Podcast March 10, 2014

Yavapai College in Sedona: the Locals Speak. Continuing Democratic Perspective’s series on the Yavapai College controversy, co-hosts Mike Cosentino and Steve Williamson interview Jeremy Hawkes, Instructor at the Sedona Film School, Robin Weeks, Coordinator of Sedona’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI), and Paul Friedman, a long-time OLLI Facilitator, about the successes of their respective programs, their relationships with Yavapai College, and their hopes for the future.

Posted in Continuing Education, Education, Education Policy, Interviews, Local Politics, Podcasts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

Yavapai College: Is Local Control the Answer? — Podcast March 3, 2014

A Separate Verde Valley Administrative District for Yavapai College: Is It Feasible? Bob Oliphant and Ruth Wicks return to Democratic Perspective to address what they see as the flaws in the Yavapai College administration’s 10 year plan, and to discuss the potential advantages of local administrative control over the Sedona and Verde Valley campuses. With 30% of the county’s population, the Verde Valley, in their view, has the financial resources necessary to fully support local campuses, and, with the establishment of a separate administrative district, could retain local control of the educational program of the Verde Valley campuses without unnecessary duplication of support services on this side of the mountain.

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Yavapai College Responds — Podcast February 24, 2014

The Yavapai College 10-Year Plan: Why It Is the Way It Is. Democratic Perspective‘s Mike Cosentino and Steve Williamson welcome Dr. Penelope (Penny) Wills, President of Yavapai College, and Harold Harrington, member of the Yavapai College District Governing Board from District 2, to address the controversy over the College’s 10 year Capital Improvements Master Plan approved by the Board in December, 2013. What is the rationale behind the plan? Is the consolidation of physical facilities in the Prescott/Prescott Valley area a reasonable response to projected economic and demographic trends in the county. If so, can the projected level of services to the eastern half of the county really be compatible with the transfer of tax revenues implied by the disparity in capital improvements expenditures expressed in the plan? The College responds.

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