Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The Clinton Foundation in Context

The feigned outrage over the Clinton Foundation by republican operatives, now given rude voice by Donald Trump, is the height of hypocrisy, but most people won’t realize this.

“Never heard of it.” This was a response I got all too often as I went door-to-door as a volunteer collecting signatures for I-735, a grassroots movement to make Washington the 18th state to ask Congress to overturn Citizens United. It was disheartening to learn that so many people knew so little about something so important.

The Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in the 2010 Citizens United vs. the Federal Election Commission (FEC), gave corporations and unions the right to spend unlimited sums to call for the election or defeat of individual candidates. It’s the “corporations are people, too” decision, as Mitt Romney referred to it in his 2012 bid for the Presidency.

Citizens United overturned decades of campaign finance law, most particularly the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) aka, the McCain-Feingold Act. The hotly-debated decision threw open the floodgates on campaign spending and opened a Pandora’s Box of other challenges to campaign financing based on Citizens United arguments.

Ostensibly, it is still illegal for corporations or labor unions to give money directly to candidates for federal office. The court said that because these funds were not being spent “in coordination” with a campaign, they “do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.” The absurd naivety of this statement has been hilariously parodied by Stephen Colbert on Comedy Central. Former FEC Chairman, Trevor Potter, appearing with Colbert helped demonstrate how current campaign laws spawned PACs, and Super PACs and “social welfare organizations,” designed to circumvent this remaining restriction, and to hide their donors from public scrutiny.

If I asked you which of our two major political parties was behind the campaign finance law challenges that led to this wild west of election financing, my guess is that you’d answer, “the Republican Party,” and you’d be right. Google the names ‘James Bopp,’ and ‘Shuan McCutcheon’ for background.
What’s ironic is that the Clinton Foundation, much maligned by republicans, is a 501(c)(3), i.e., a non-profit charitable organization. As such, it is not permitted to engage in political activity, endorse or oppose political candidates, or donate money or time to political campaigns. There’s no evidence that the Clinton Foundation does this, despite all the fulminating.

On the other hand, 501(c)(4) organizations, the so-called “social welfare organizations,” like the Koch Brothers ‘Americas for Prosperity,’ can do all of the above. And they do. And they do not disclose their donors. The Clinton Foundation does.

If you want to clean up the current mess we call campaign financing, a good place to start would be a “Yes” vote on I-735. Google it.

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