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17

Jun

Disclosure Laws Needed to Ensure Transparency in Judicial Elections | Center for American Progress

The rapid rise in unlimited independent spending is even more alarming when the poli­ticians in question are judges, who are supposed to be true to the law, not to campaign contributors. Voters are not surprised when legislators are responsive to their campaign donors, but in a courtroom, ordinary citizens should stand on the same footing as those most powerful in our society. Justice is supposed to be blind, but polls suggest Americans are concerned that campaign cash will influence judges’ rulings….

Without effective disclosure laws, the growing tide of unlimited anonymous campaign cash threatens to overwhelm judicial elections. Candidates for state Supreme Courts have shattered fundraising records in recent elections, and more states are seeing special interest money flood judicial elections. The figures for independent spending are hard to discern because the states’ disclosure rules vary widely. It is clear that independent spending has exceeded direct spending by the candidates in many states, meaning that special interest groups—not the candidates—set the tone of the campaigns.

16

Jun

The US Farm Bill is a Corporate Victory and a Slap to Struggling Americans | Common Dreams

The US Congress wants to deny 2 million people food stamps, while hardly denting large agribusinesses

31

May

morningamp:

Legal scholar and developer of the Creative Commons licenses that have opened up access to intellectual property old and new, Lawrence Lessig has also been focused on the corrupting influence of money on American elections and politics. Earlier this month he “retired” his popular lecture about this issue and spoke with AMp hosts Brian Babylon and Molly Adams this morning about his hopes for transforming Legislator’s dependence on funders’ money and not on voter’s opinions.

30

May

campaignmoney:

Via Bloomberg: “Washington’s well-oiled revolving door is spinning at breakneck speed—23 lawmakers who were in Congress last year have begun new careers in the influence industry.”

campaignmoney:

Via Bloomberg: “Washington’s well-oiled revolving door is spinning at breakneck speed—23 lawmakers who were in Congress last year have begun new careers in the influence industry.”

29

May

How Corporations Are Subverting Attempts to Rein in Their Power | Alternet

The world today is covered by an expanding web of over three thousand bilateral and multilateral trade and investment agreements. These agreements grant rights to corporations and allow them to sue governments for policy initiatives that they claim interfere with their profits. The resulting legal cases, despite their far-reaching local consequences, are settled far away and behind closed doors by a small group of unaccountable private lawyers in international dispute arbitration tribunals. Flying in the face of democratic principles and judicial independence, these tribunals operate with little or no public scrutiny and where the communities directly affected are denied a voice.

The number of these investment cases has exploded in recent years, with 2012 breaking all records. By far the most popular tribunal system used by global corporations is the World Banks’ infamous International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICISID).  Corporations can use this and other tribunal systems to demand hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation from governments – not just for what they have actually invested in a country, but also vast amounts more for the profits they expected to earn into the future. The lawyers at these tribunals move seamlessly from the role of ‘independent’ arbiter to that of corporate attorney.  Some have strong ties to multinational corporations and serious questions have been raised about their independence in an unaccountable system in which they have such a huge vested interest. Although previously used as a court of last resort by aggrieved investors, these tribunals have become the weapon of choice for corporations in their attempts to clear the path for profiting at the expense of public health and the environment.  

30

Apr

Tanks, But No Tanks? Congress Reverses Army Decision And Moves To Order Half A Billion Dollars Worth Of New Unwanted Tanks | Jonathan Turley

Many of us have criticized our politicians for years for abandoning the national interest in favor of petty or corrupt interests. I have worked in this town for decades and I have never seen the situation quite this bad where lobbyists seem to have unprecedented and open control of Congress. No greater example can be found than the move this week to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on tanks that the Army does not want and experts overwhelming say the country does not need.

Both Republicans and Democrats (the same people complaining about the cuts in budget under the sequester) joined together to order $500 million of new Abrams M-1 tanks that no one wants. Why? Because of a powerful lobby and a company who sweetened the pot by spreading the contracts around to key districts. The Army has other uses for the $436 million that would make the country safer but members want their cut of the defense pork. Then of course there are also those countless educational, scientific, and public welfare programs slashed for lack of money.

(Source: theamericanbear)

25

Apr

Monsanto's Next Target: Democracy | Alternet

How is the biotech industry fighting back? By attacking democracy.  Experts say the laws are on the side of consumers. But consumers will no doubt still have to defend democracy against an increasingly desperate, and aggressive, industry bent on protecting the highly profitable business of genetically engineered food.

The battle lines have been drawn. Will we cede our food sovereignty rights to a profit-at-all costs corporatocracy?

24

Apr

Fracking Industry Greases Gears of Government in Tennessee – EcoWatch

Instead, we’re offered rules that effectively deny public notice and participation, shield the industry from having to disclose the chemicals used to frack to the public, fail to protect landowners from damages by not requiring baseline testing of area drinking water wells before the fracking commences and establish an arbitrary 200,000 gallon water use threshold to trigger more stringent requirements, a requirement that may prove to be meaningless as all of the known fracking operations work under this threshold.

23

Apr

Oh rot, the White House just gutted the new food safety rules | Grist

Food-safety advocates had expressed relief back in January when OMB finally released these rules. The White House had been accused of delaying the law for months by refusing to publish the new rules. Some speculated it was out of fear that the rules would meet election-year repercussions from the politically powerful food and agriculture industry. This tiptoeing around corporations had become a hallmark of the post-2010 Obama White House.

22

Apr

Sen. Roy Blunt: Monsanto's Man in Washington | Mother Jones

As I reported a couple of weeks ago, a recent Senate bill came with a nice bonus for the genetically modified seed industry: a rider, wholly unrelated to the underlying bill, that compels the USDA to ignore federal court decisions that block the agency’s approvals of new GM crops. I explained in this post why such a provision, which the industry has been pushing for over a year, is so important to Monsanto and its few peers in the GMO seed industry. (You can also hear my talking about it on NPR’s The Takeaway, along with the senator who tried to stop it, Montana’s Jon Tester, and see me on Al Jazeera’s Inside Story.)

Which senator pushed the rider into the bill? At the time, no one stepped forward to claim credit. But since then, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) has revealed to Politico's ace reporter David Rogers that he's the responsible party. Blunt even told Rogers that he “worked with” GMO seed giant Monsanto to craft the rider.