Save American Democracy, or What’s Left of It

Save American Democracy, or What

This is the first election after the Citizens United decision which gave corporations complete freedom to spend as much money as they want to influence the outcome of elections.

Citizens beware. Citizens get active. Citizens get organized. Our fragile democracy is at grave risk.

We’ve seen in Obama’s time in office (and before) how corporations dominate Washington, DC. The health care “reform” turned out to be a re-enforcement of the insurance-company-dominated health care industry. And finance reform had to get the approval of Wall Street and the Federal Reserve before moving forward. Corporate welfare to the weapons, coal, nuclear and oil industries have continued or even grown under Obama. The housing crisis, which should have ended with the bailout of Wall Street, is getting worse, with record foreclosures last month. But that is not enough for the oligarchs who control government through concentrated corporate power. They want more, and they are using massive spending on elections to get it.

A coalition of organizations has come together to expose groups spending hundreds of millions on the mid-term elections in secret, unlimited donations that avoid campaign finance laws.

The most aggressive post-Citizens United elections operator is Karl Rove’s American Crossroads, which is working with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber’s Chief Counsel, Steven Law, who is also a former chief of staff to Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, was named CEO of American Crossroads. These groups take secret donations, sometimes create front groups to put out their views and are doing the work that political parties normally do – from advertising and database management to getting out the vote – but without safeguards needed for transparency or restrictions on the size of donations.

I wrote about how corporate power was creating deceptive elections on August 25, and now TIME Magazine is writing much the same story, warning that several hundred billion will be spent by corporations and their executives in this election. In addition to mass advertising in at least six states, they report that American Crossroads will be spending $10 million on a national get-out-the-vote campaign that will include 40 million pieces of political mail and 20 million phone calls to voters in key states. Essentially, Republican Party electoral operations have moved from the Republican Party to American Crossroads. Some have described this as a coup of Michael Steele’s Republican Party.

As a result, my organization, Prosperity Agenda, has joined American Crossroads Watch, a sister group to Stop The Chamber. Our watchdog campaign has put out rewards of $100,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Karl Rove and Tom Donohue, the CEO of the Chamber of Commerce. On August 4, 2010, we received a letter from a purported Chamber of Commerce insider who compares Tom Donohue to Jack Abramoff, Michael Scanlon, and Bernie Maddoff and alleges fraud, campaign finance violations and financial impropriety. Based on this letter, I sent my own letter on behalf of our coalition urging the FBI and DOJ to conduct an investigation of Tom Donohue and the Chamber.

We have also requested that the Department of Justice investigate the “shadow RNC,” American Crossroads. In a letter on behalf of the coalition I suggest formation of a campaign finance task force that investigates these groups, sets up a tip line to encourage information on violations of law, requires preservation of records and monitors their activities. We’ve also urged the Federal Elections Commission to find that these groups are doing the work of a political party and issue an opinion that applies campaign finance limits to their actions.

You can assist our efforts by joining us in writing the Department of Justice urging a criminal investigation. In addition, please write your member of Congress and urge that they push the Department of Justice to investigate American Crossroads. Please support our watchdog campaign during these elections. If you see a suspicious new group – usually labeled “Citizens for … ” or “Citizens against …” – that does not disclose who its donors are, you have most likely found one of American Crossroads’ and the Chamber of Commerce’s front groups. Write me at [email protected] so we can investigate and report it.

Kevin Zeese is executive director of Prosperity Agenda.