Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Foreign money is influencing elections in America

The Chamber of Commerce is doing just what we should expect from it: using a mix of lies and budgeting tricks to hide that foreign money is buying attack ads in America.

They claim that foreign donor money only goes to non-ad expenses. Which I'll go ahead and believe. But that doesn't mean that foreign money isn't still funding the ads. Yes, that is a contradiction, that's what happens when you're dealing with greedy people who don't give a damn about law or principle.

Here's how foreign money funds ads:
Let's say base expenses are $100, things such as offices and staff and the things that you need even if you're not doing much. Any money after $100 can go to ads. If $100 are given by Americans, then any money after that can go to ads. Even foreign money. Foreign money fills up the base expenses, meaning that more American money can go to ads. Since money is money, that means that in effect, the foreign money has purchased the ads, even if there is not an explicit money->ad transaction, the mere donation of the money will allow for more ads.

This is of course blatantly illegal.
The Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) prohibits any foreign national from contributing, donating or spending funds in connection with any federal, state, or local election in the United States, either directly or indirectly. It is also unlawful to help foreign nationals violate that ban or to solicit, receive or accept contributions or donations from them. Persons who knowingly and willfully engage in these activities may be subject to fines and/or imprisonment.

The following groups and individuals are considered "foreign nationals" and are, therefore, subject to the prohibition:
# Foreign governments;
# Foreign political parties;
# Foreign corporations;
# Foreign associations;
# Foreign partnerships;

These are the ones giving money to the Chamber of Commerce, money which indirectly funds political advertising in the US.

So when can we expect to see the Chamber brought to trial?


Oh right, I forgot, laws don't apply if you're rich enough.


tishtoshtesh said...

That Market Ticker site I cite occasionally has been on a tear recently about the illegal activities that the financial elite have been up to. It really is trouble when there's a sufficiently stratified society that the upper echelon doesn't need to abide by the rule of law.

Interesting days, these.

Klepsacovic said...

Interesting indeed. A bit frightening. Really doesn't help the deregulation hawks at all.

At this point I'm feeling less afraid of government compared to the 'market'. At least government is one vote per person. Voting with your wallet gets tricky when the other guy has a wallet a million times bigger.

tishtoshtesh said...

At the same time, the market doesn't have power to directly levy taxes and seize property, and markets tend to act more predictably; for selfish profit rather than nebulous power brokering. On the other hand, markets do what they want to despite regulation oft times, and money can buy politicians.

Six of one, half dozen of the other. :(

Klepsacovic said...

Markets may work only for profit, but that profit just may involved a great deal of nebulous power brokering.

Regulatory capture is a problem. If only we didn't have a cultish devotion to the 'free market' we'd be more able to have proper regulation. Instead we have people claiming to protect the free market with one-sided regulations and tax breaks.

tishtoshtesh said...

Oh, sure, profit can involve a lot of screwy back room deals, but my point is that the end is fairly assured (profit), even if the means can be obscure. That's not always the case with politics where both the means and the end can be shady.

...and yes, the "free market" these days is anything but. I tend to think that a truly free market scares even a lot of those who pay lip service to it. (And not always without reason; regulation has its place.)

Klepsacovic said...

While the goal of the market is money, that's not the end of it: what's the purpose of the money? We don't need to look any further than the Tea Party's funders to see that money doesn't stop in wallets.

A truly free market is self-destructive, since the moment a company gains an advantage, the playing field is tipped. So as you said, regulation is needed, in this case to help tip things back, but in a way that doesn't penalize success.