Political Front Groups – Turning Black Into White.

This week, the hosts of Democratic Perspective, Steve Williamson and Mike Cosentino, examined the effects of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.

Mike began by asking the rhetorical question, “How do you have a democracy when you have a few bucks to give a candidate, while a corporation or billionaire has millions to spend on propaganda? Enough to turn black into white and up into down?”

“Most Americans believe there’s some sort of disclosure act for elections,” said Steve. “We came close in July.  But not one single Republican voted for it and it never got to the floor of the Senate. This was to be a remedy for Citizens United, the 5-4 decision of conservatives over moderates which awarded corporations the same rights as individuals. It means that if you’re a private corporation, you don’t have to disclose political donations.”

“It’s called dark money,” Steve continued. “We can see the money being spent on TV or whatever. We can see the sponsoring group listed, but we don’t know who donated to the group. So the origin of the money is dark.”

“The Citizens United decision allowed this to happen more easily,” Mike stated. “This is how you turn black into white.”

“Let’s look at the group called 60 Plus,” said Steve. “It sounds like AARP. But it was founded by Republican and conservative operatives and funded by the pharmaceutical industry. We don’t know who’s funding it now, but it has left a bizarre track record of positions. Many of the positions have been to support high drug prices. Now, why would seniors want high drug prices? Why would seniors want to pay full retail price for drugs? They don’t. 60 Plus is not representing seniors. It’s representing pharmaceutical interests.”

Mike added, “60 Plus spent $7 million in the 2010 elections. If you live in northern Arizona, you’ve probably seen their postcards and print ads. They say ‘We should thank Congressman Paul Gosar for saving Medicare.’ But Gosar voted to end Medicare for those under 55 and replace it with vouchers. The vouchers shift the cost of Medicare to those who are receiving it. Yet according to the cards, we’re supposed to call Gosar and thank him for that.”

“Another of the shadowy organizations that sponsored these postcards and ads is Grover Norquist’s organization, the National Taxpayers Association,” Steve added. “That’s been around a long time. It started with donations from Phillip Morris, the tobacco company.”

“As far as I’m concerned it got people like Gosar to sign the no-tax pledge making their allegiance to the Taxpayers Association stronger than to their constituents,” Mike responded.

“The group sent out the latest postcard thanking Paul Gosar for saving Medicare,” said Steve. “That’s basically a complete lie. The card claims the White House proposed a new rebate scheme that will only end up taking money from seniors’ pockets and putting the money directly into government coffers,” he continued.

“There is a bill that has been introduced into the House of Representatives called HR2190, the Medicare Savings Act that will save $120 billion by reducing Part D drug costs for seniors. It doesn’t introduce price controls, but it will cut the cost of drugs for everybody. Now why would you oppose that?  Because it will cost drug companies a lot of money,” said Steve. “This postcard is just one example of dark money.”

“To be fair, both sides collect money and distribute to candidates,” Steve added. “The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Emily’s List and others collect money and distribute it to candidates. But they have to disclose their contributions. On the other hand, groups like 60 Plus comprise a sort of shadow RNC (Republican National Committee). And these groups don’t have to disclose contributors or where the money is spent.”

“We haven’t used the term, Orwellian yet,” said Mike. “But it is. It’s turning dark into light.”

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