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Has the U.S. Supreme Court rigged the November election?


Douglas Caddy
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HAS THE U.S. SUPREME COURT RIGGED THE NOVEMBER ELECTION?

In January the Supreme Court reversed nearly a century of settled law and ruled that limits on political spending in federal elections by corporations violated the right of free speech guaranteed by the First Amendment. The case was Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission. The vote on the Supreme Court was five to four – with all Republican appointees siding in favor of corporate political spending.

In his January State of the Union address President Obama specifically criticized the Supreme Court’s decision and predicted that the ruling would allow foreign corporations to flood federal elections with money. When he uttered this opinion Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, a Republican appointee, was seen by millions of television viewers vigorously shaking his head in dissent as he sat in the front row directly in front of the President.

Time has proven President Obama correct and Justice Alito incorrect.

Hundreds of millions of corporate dollars are flooding into nonprofit groups organized to support Republican candidates for the Senate and House of Representatives. The sources of these corporate contributions are not being disclosed.

Thus, the decision of the Supreme Court by its Republican members in Citizens United has had the effect of rigging the November election in favor of electing Republicans. It is now widely expected that the current Democratic majorities in both the House and Senate will be lost. Predictions are that Republicans in the next Congress may control the House by 55 more members than the Democrats and that they may control the Senate by one to two members.

The November election will have an impact far beyond how the next Congress will be constituted. This is because the same national election will determine how congressional election districts are drawn in the coming two years based on the recently completed census. It is likely that in many states an overwhelming number of Republicans will be elected Governor and that the legislatures of these states will have Republican majorities. Thus, Americans can expect to see redistricting lines drawn so as to eliminate the chances of Democrats being elected in many instances, thus consolidating the Republican stranglehold on the national, state and local levels.

Evidence suggests that the rigging of the election process was the intent of the five Republicans on the Supreme Court who voted in Citizens United to overturn nearly 100 years of settled law.

Take for example the case of Justice Clarence Thomas and his wife. The New York Times in its editorial of October 12 titled, “Justice Thomas and His Wife,” wrote: “Virginia Thomas, the wife of the Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, is founder and head of Liberty Central, a nonprofit organization set up to ‘restore the greatness of America,’ in part by opposing the leftist ‘tyranny’ of President Obama and Democrats in Congress. Its first contributions of $500,000 and $50,000 came from undisclosed donors. The size of those gifts, their anonymity and their importance raise a serious issue of ethics for Justice Thomas.”

Previously Justice Thomas, while sitting on the Supreme Court, engaged in another serious issue of ethics when in 2000 he voted with the Republican majority on the Court to elect as President George Bush even though Al Gore received more popular votes nationwide. At the time his wife, Virginia Thomas, was already employed by the Heritage Foundation in vetting potential candidates for positions in the new Bush Administration. The Heritage Foundation was founded in 1974 by corporate money from the Coors Beer and today has a large number of major corporate contributors.

Justice Alito announced on October 16 that he will not be attending the State of the Union Address by President Obama this coming January. This may be because he is frightened that Obama will remind viewers of Alito’s partisan political gesture this past January when Obama criticized the court’s Citizens United decision.

The case of Republican Justice Antonin Scalia presents yet another serious issue of ethics. Scalia voted to elect Bush in the Bush vs. Gore decision in 2000 and to the surprise of almost no one was rewarded by having his son appointed by Bush to a high legal position in the Labor Department upon being vetted by Justice Thomas’s wife. Scalia in the years following his vote was a frequent guest and companion of Vice President Dick Cheney, who owed his election to Scalia. One can only wonder what they talked about. It should be observed that Scalia’s son is currently providing legal representation to the Chamber of Commerce of the U.S. in its court battle to makes certain that no disclosure will be made of the identity of the corporations that make partisan political contributions.

Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who had retired by the time that the United Citizens decision was rendered by the court, was heard voicing dismay at an election night party in November 2000 when television announcers declared Gore had won the election. True to her colors as a Republican Party leader when she lived in Arizona, O’Connor following the election night party voted with the Republican majority on the court to elect Bush.

The Supreme Court’s 2000 decision in Bush vs. Gore was strategic step number one in rigging the election of the President in favor of the Republicans. Its 2010 decision in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission is strategic step number two in rigging the election of the members of Congress in favor of the Republicans.

There is a growing consensus that the Supreme Court with its Citizens United decision to allow corporate political contributions has irreparably crossed the line from being a true court of justice to being a tool of partisan political activity. In a comment posted on The New York Times web site on October 9, a reader from Florida wrote, “I have been a state judge for 25 years and my wife would never do anything that would raise ethical questions regarding my decisions as a judge. It is the appearance of impropriety that is important. It has always struck me as strange that the justices of the United States Supreme Court would do things like free trips from industries that have issues before the court and think nothing of it. I have little respect for some of the justices.”

Perhaps the lame duck session of Congress after November 2 will enact legislation to remedy the partisanship innate in the Citizens United decision. If it does not, it is a certainty that the new congress convening in January, dominated by those who owe their election to corporate contributions, will do nothing to correct the situation.

Professor Robert Reich of the University of California at Berkeley and former Secretary of Labor recently wrote that America faces “The perfect storm: An unprecedented concentration of income and wealth at the top; a record amount of secret money flooding our democracy; and a public becoming increasingly angry and cynical about a government that’s raising its taxes, reducing its services, and unable to get it back to work.

“We’re losing our democracy to a different system. It’s called plutocracy.”

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Editorial

The New York Times

October 12, 2010

Justice Thomas and His Wife

Virginia Thomas, the wife of Justice Clarence Thomas of the Supreme Court, is the founder and chief executive of Liberty Central, a nonprofit organization set up to “restore the greatness of America,” in part by opposing the leftist “tyranny” of President Obama and Democrats in Congress. Its first contributions of $500,000 and $50,000 came from undisclosed donors. The size of those gifts, their anonymity and their importance to the organization raise a serious issue of ethics for Justice Thomas.

Sarah Field, an executive of Liberty Central, told The Times that the organization pays Mrs. Thomas. Justice Thomas is a beneficiary of that pay and has a responsibility under federal law to “inform himself” about who the donors are because they have an impact on Mrs. Thomas’s personal financial interests.

Mrs. Thomas is not legally required to disclose the donors. That is unfortunate, but she does have a duty to do so, just as former President Bill Clinton had a duty to disclose the donors to his library and charitable ventures when his wife became secretary of state.

Justice Thomas needs disclosure to know if either of those donors is a party in a case before the Supreme Court or has an interest in a party. That is the only way he can comply with a fundamental ethical and legal requirement to “disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned.”

Even if his wife weren’t paid by the organization, Justice Thomas would have a duty to obtain the donors’ names. The principle of a Supreme Court holding requires that. As former Justice John Paul Stevens once wrote for the court, “The very purpose” of the impartiality standard “is to promote confidence in the judiciary by avoiding even the appearance of impropriety whenever possible.”

Justice Thomas could claim that he does not know who the donors are and, therefore, could not be biased on their behalf, but people would doubt him. Mrs. Thomas’s activities must be above suspicion so Justice Thomas can be as well. Take his partial dissent in the Citizens United case, in which he joined the conservatives to give corporations an unlimited right to spend money in politics. Alone among his colleagues, he also took the radical position that the disclosure requirements still in federal campaign law are unconstitutional.

That is an obvious trigger of the sort of “suspicions and doubts” the Stevens opinion was intended to quell. The Thomases can easily dispel the doubts.

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Week in Review

The New York Times

October 17, 2010

Return of the Secret Donors

By JILL ABRAMSON

To old political hands, wise to the ways of candidates and money, 1972 was a watershed year. Richard M. Nixon’s re-election campaign was awash in cash, secretly donated by corporations and individuals.

Fred Wertheimer, a longtime supporter of campaign finance regulation, was then a lawyer for Common Cause. He vividly recalls the weeks leading up to April 7, 1972, before a new campaign finance law went into effect requiring the disclosure of the names of individual donors. “Contributors,” he said, “were literally flying into Washington with satchels of cash.”

The Committee for the Re-Election of the President was also illegally hauling in many millions of dollars from corporations, many of which felt pressured into making contributions.

The record of donors was so tightly held that it was kept in a locked drawer by Rose Mary Woods, Nixon’s secretary. The list — which came to be known as “Rose Mary’s Baby” — wasn’t released until Mr. Wertheimer forced the issue through a lawsuit. Among those on the list were William Keeler, the chief executive of Phillips Petroleum, who pleaded guilty, during the post-Watergate prosecutions, to making an illegal corporate donation.

Rose Mary’s Baby itself, now an artifact of the nation’s biggest political scandal, sits in the Watergate collection of the National Archives.

In this year’s midterm elections, there is no talk of satchels of cash from donors. Nor is there any hint of illegal actions reaching Watergate-like proportions. But the fund-raising practices that earned people convictions in Watergate — giving direct corporate money to a campaign and doing so secretly — are back in a different form in 2010.

This time around, the corporations are still giving secretly, but legally. In 1907, direct corporate donations to candidates were legally barred in a campaign finance reform push by President Theodore Roosevelt. But that law and others — the foundation for many Watergate convictions — are all but obsolete. This is why many supporters of strict campaign finance laws are wringing their hands.

Certainly, it is still illegal for corporations to contribute directly to candidates. But they now have equally potent ways to exert their influence. This election year is the first since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which allows corporations for the first time to finance ads that directly support or oppose political candidates. And tax laws and loopholes have permitted a shadow campaign network of Republican-leaning nonprofit groups to collect a flood of anonymous donations and spend it widely.

If the Republicans make big gains in the House and Senate on Election Day, there is rare bipartisan consensus that they will owe part of their victory to the millions of dollars raised and spent by these nonprofit groups, much of which has come from businesses.

The groups, including the Chamber of Commerce, the American Action Network and Crossroads GPS, which is linked to the Republican strategist Karl Rove, have committed to spending well over $150 million this year. President Obama has railed against these groups as they have poured money into races in which once-secure Democrats are hanging by a thread.

But the attacks may have only helped build the groups’ fund-raising muscle. Crossroads GPS and a sister organization, American Crossroads, have received more than $100,000 in small donations through the Web, when they had expected most gifts to come in big checks. And the groups’ leaders have only grown more influential — far more influential than the Republican National Committee, led by Michael Steele. Evidently, the corporate donors love having a secret route to influence politics and elect Republicans without showing their hands to a Washington still controlled by the Democrats.

In past elections, the Democrats have also used outside groups, including those organized by the party strategist Harold Ickes. In 2004, groups linked to the Democratic Party spent $150 million to influence the elections and agreed to pay $1.3 million in fines to settle charges that they had made illegal expenditures. In the last three elections, Democratic groups substantially outspent Republican groups. But many of these groups were so-called 527s, which were required to disclose donors’ identities.

In this election, Mr. Obama and the Democrats have either refused, or have been unable, to fight fire with similar, Democrat-leaning groups. With an angry Wall Street and donors like George Soros on the sidelines — “I don’t believe in standing in the way of an avalanche,” he recently said — the Democrats don’t have an obvious counter, except for labor unions, which probably can’t match corporate contributors.

Since Watergate, the names of political donors have largely been disclosed, even by so-called independent groups. In 2004 and 2006, nearly all independent groups involved in politics revealed their donors, according to a report by Public Citizen, a group that has long supported campaign finance reform. In 2008, fewer than half of these groups disclosed donors, and so far this year, fewer than one-third.

Because United States tax law permits certain social welfare and labor groups to collect donations anonymously if political activity is not their key focus, the only way to stop the undisclosed donations is to change the law. But Democrats recently failed to move a bill requiring disclosure through the Senate; not a single Republican voted for it.

Such legislation is unlikely to grow any more popular before 2012, and most political experts agree that the secret money spent by outside groups this year will look like a pittance by then, when President Obama will face re-election.

“This year is practice for 2012,” said Jan Baran, a partner at Wiley Rein L.L.P. in Washington, who is a former general counsel of the Republican National Committee. Mr. Baran filed an amicus brief in the Citizens United case on behalf of the Chamber of Commerce, which opposed donor disclosure. “It would lead to intimidation and harassment of contributors,” Mr. Baran explained. (While the decision blessed certain corporate donations, the court supported disclosure requirements for money given to political parties and candidates. The nonprofits were unaffected.)

The 1972 campaign had its own dry run for the fund-raising abuses of Watergate. In 1970, President Nixon tried to orchestrate a Republican sweep in the off-year Congressional elections. Known as the Townhouse Operation, a group of Nixon loyalists, some of whom are leading this year’s nonprofit push, operated out of a townhouse near DuPont Circle in Washington, raising illegal corporate cash and distributing it in key Senate races.

The legacy of Watergate is quite clear. But the repercussions from today’s campaign finance system are still being measured and debated.

“It creates all the appearances of dirty dealings and undue influence because our candidates are awash in funds the public is ignorant about,” said Roger Witten, a partner in the New York office of WilmerHale, who served as assistant special prosecutor in the Watergate special prosecution force. “This is the problem that was supposedly addressed after Watergate.”

Mr. Baran, the Republican lawyer, said Watergate comparisons are way overblown; plenty of restrictions still exist. “To make the Watergate analogy is an exaggeration,” he said, “and I have five inches of statutes that repudiate that comparison.”

Still, some players shaking the corporate money trees for nonprofit groups this year cut their teeth in the Nixon re-election campaign. There is Fred Malek, a founder of the American Action Network, whose members include many well-known Republicans, like former Senator Norm Coleman of Minnesota. Mr. Malek was the White House personnel chief in 1972 and helped dispense patronage for major Nixon donors as well as serving as deputy director of Creep.

Back then, Mr. Malek was interviewed by Hamilton Fox III, another Watergate prosecutor, and acknowledged that some of the campaign’s activities might have “bordered on the unethical.”

In an interview last week, Mr. Malek said he founded his new group to “counter what the labor unions are doing on the Democratic side.” Started in February, the group is split into two parts: the Action Forum, a 501©(3), which allows donations to be tax-deductible but limits political activities, and the Action Network, a 501 ©(4), in which contributions are not deductible or disclosed but the group can advocate for political causes.

The American Action Network has spent heavily in New Hampshire, where it backed Kelly Ayotte, the Republican nominee for United States Senate. She was endorsed in a tough primary battle by Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor. (Mr. Malek is a fan of Ms. Palin, according to his blog.) Mr. Malek’s group has also spent heavily in Wisconsin, where it hopes to help unseat Russ Feingold, the Democratic senator. It is also spending on close House races.

The American Action Network shares office space with American Crossroads, led by Mr. Rove, who also was an active participant in Nixon’s re-election as executive director of the College Republican National Committee.

Mr. Malek also attends meetings of the Weaver Terrace Group, which was named for the street where Mr. Rove used to live. The participants, who include leading Republican strategists from outside groups, routinely trade political intelligence and sometimes make joint fund-raising trips.

The list of donors for either Mr. Malek’s group or Mr. Rove’s group is unknown. Yet Mr. Wertheimer predicts that the groups will, one day, have to disclose their contributors. “I don’t believe secretly funding our elections can be sustained,” said Mr. Wertheimer, who now runs Democracy 21, which pushes for campaign finance reform. “It won’t hold up. The public won’t stand for it. This is guaranteed corruption.”

With so many different Republican groups spending so much, he said, no desk drawer is big enough to hold the 2010 list of secret donors, like the one that held his hard-fought-for Rose Mary’s Baby.

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October 20, 2010

The New York Times

Secretive Republican Donors Planning Ahead

By KATE ZERNIKE

A secretive network of Republican donors is heading to Palm Springs for a long weekend in January, but it will not be to relax after a hard-fought election — it will be to plan for the next one.

Koch Industries, the longtime underwriter of libertarian causes from the Cato Institute in Washington to the ballot initiative that would suspend California’s landmark law capping greenhouse gases, is planning an invitation-only confidential meeting at the Rancho Las Palmas Resort and Spa to, as an invitation says, “develop strategies to counter the most severe threats facing our free society and outline a vision of how we can foster a renewal of American free enterprise and prosperity.”

The invitation, sent to potential new participants, offers a rare peek at the Koch network of the ultrawealthy and the politically well-connected, its far-reaching agenda to enlist ordinary Americans to its cause, and its desire for the utmost secrecy.

Koch Industries, a Wichita-based energy and manufacturing conglomerate run by the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, operates a foundation that finances political advocacy groups, but tax law protects those groups from having to disclose much about what they do and who contributes.

With a personalized letter signed by Charles Koch, the invitation to the four-day Palm Springs meeting opens with a grand call to action: “If not us, who? If not now, when?”

The Koch network meets twice a year to plan and expand its efforts — as the letter says, “to review strategies for combating the multitude of public policies that threaten to destroy America as we know it.”

Those efforts, the letter makes clear, include countering “climate change alarmism and the move to socialized health care,” as well as “the regulatory assault on energy,” and making donations to higher education and philanthropic organizations to advance the Koch agenda.

The Kochs also seek to cultivate Americans’ growing concern about the growth of government: at the most recent meeting, in Aspen, Colo., in June, some of the wealthiest people in America listened to a presentation on “a vision of how we can retain the moral high ground and make the new case for liberty and smaller government that appeals to all Americans, rich and poor.”

The goals for the twice-yearly meetings, the brochure says, include attracting more investors to the cause, but also building institutions “to identify, educate and mobilize citizens” and “fashioning the message and building the education channels to re-establish widespread belief in the benefits of a free and prosperous society.”

Charles Koch, whose wealth Forbes magazine calculates at about $21.5 billion, argues in his letter that “prosperity is under attack by the current administration and many of our elected officials.” He repeatedly warns about the “internal assault” and “unrelenting attacks” on freedom and prosperity. A brochure with the invitation underscores that to the Koch network, “freedom” means freedom from taxes and government regulation. Mr. Koch warns of policies that “threaten to erode our economic freedom and transfer vast sums of money to the state.”

The Kochs insist on strict confidentiality surrounding the Palm Spring meetings, which are entitled “Understanding and Addressing Threats to American Free Enterprise and Prosperity.” The letter advises participants that it is closed to the public, including the news media, and admonishes them not to post updates or information about the meeting on the Web, blogs, social media or traditional media, and to “be mindful of the security and confidentiality of your meeting notes and materials.”

Invited participants are told they must wear nametags for all meeting functions. And, ensuring that no one tries to gain access by posing as a participant, the invitation says that reservations will be handled through Koch Industries’ office in Washington: “Please do not contact the Rancho Las Palmas directly to place a reservation.”

To give prospective participants a sense of what to expect, Mr. Koch’s letter enclosed a brochure from the group’s meeting at the St. Regis Resort in Aspen, including a list of the roughly 200 participants — a confab of hedge fund executives, Republican donors, free-market evangelists and prominent members of the New York social circuit.

They listened to a presentations on “microtargeting” to identify like-minded voters, as well as a discussion about voter mobilization featuring Tim Phillips of Americans for Prosperity, the political action group founded by the Kochs in 2004, which campaigned against the health care legislation passed in March and is helping Tea Party groups set up get-out-the-vote operations.

Other sessions discussed the opportunities in the presidential election of 2012 to address threats to free enterprise and “how supporters of economic freedom might start planning today.”

Impressed by the Koch efforts for the midterms, the invitation cover letter says, Aspen participants “committed to an unprecedented level of support.”

“However,” it adds, “even if these efforts succeed, other serious threats demand action.”

The participants in Aspen dined under the stars at the top of the gondola run on Aspen Mountain, and listened to Glenn Beck of Fox News in a session titled, “Is America on the Road to Serfdom?” (The title refers to a classic of Austrian economic thought that informs libertarian ideology, popularized by Mr. Beck on his show.)

The participants included some of the nation’s wealthiest families and biggest names in finance: private equity and hedge fund executives like John Childs, Cliff Asness, Steve Schwarzman and Ken Griffin; Phil Anschutz, the entertainment and media mogul ranked by Forbes as the 34th-richest person in the country; Rich DeVos, the co-founder of Amway; Steve Bechtel of the giant construction firm; and Kenneth Langone of Home Depot.

The group also included longtime Republican donors and officials, including Foster Friess, Fred Malek and former Attorney General Edwin Meese III.

Participants listened to presentations from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, as well as people who played leading roles in John McCain’s presidential campaign in 2008, like Nancy Pfotenhauer and Annie Dickerson, who also runs a foundation for Paul Singer, a hedge fund executive who like the Kochs is active in promoting libertarian causes.

To encourage new participants, Mr. Koch offers to waive the $1,500 registration fee. And he notes that previous guests have included Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas of the Supreme Court, Gov. Haley Barbour and Gov. Bobby Jindal, Senators Jim DeMint and Tom Coburn, and Representatives Mike Pence, Tom Price and Paul D. Ryan.

Mr. Koch also notes the beautiful setting. But he advises against thinking of this as a vacation.

“Our ultimate goal is not ‘fun in the sun,’ ” he concludes. “This is a gathering of doers who are willing to engage in the hard work necessary to advance our shared principles. Success in this endeavor will require all the help we can muster.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/12/opinion/12tue3.html?_r=1&scp=9&sq=Editorials%20on%20October%2012,%202010&st=cse

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/17/weekinreview/17abramson.html?hpw

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/20/us/politics/20koch.html?_r=1

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COPA and the Committee for an Open Archives (COA), two Washington DC based non-profits, will now accept annonymous donations in access of ten thousand dollars.

HAS THE U.S. SUPREME COURT RIGGED THE NOVEMBER ELECTION?

In January the Supreme Court reversed nearly a century of settled law and ruled that limits on political spending in federal elections by corporations violated the right of free speech guaranteed by the First Amendment. The case was Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission. The vote on the Supreme Court was five to four – with all Republican appointees siding in favor of corporate political spending.

In his January State of the Union address President Obama specifically criticized the Supreme Court's decision and predicted that the ruling would allow foreign corporations to flood federal elections with money. When he uttered this opinion Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, a Republican appointee, was seen by millions of television viewers vigorously shaking his head in dissent as he sat in the front row directly in front of the President.

Time has proven President Obama correct and Justice Alito incorrect.

Hundreds of millions of corporate dollars are flooding into nonprofit groups organized to support Republican candidates for the Senate and House of Representatives. The sources of these corporate contributions are not being disclosed.

Thus, the decision of the Supreme Court by its Republican members in Citizens United has had the effect of rigging the November election in favor of electing Republicans. It is now widely expected that the current Democratic majorities in both the House and Senate will be lost. Predictions are that Republicans in the next Congress may control the House by 55 more members than the Democrats and that they may control the Senate by one to two members.

The November election will have an impact far beyond how the next Congress will be constituted. This is because the same national election will determine how congressional election districts are drawn in the coming two years based on the recently completed census. It is likely that in many states an overwhelming number of Republicans will be elected Governor and that the legislatures of these states will have Republican majorities. Thus, Americans can expect to see redistricting lines drawn so as to eliminate the chances of Democrats being elected in many instances, thus consolidating the Republican stranglehold on the national, state and local levels.

Evidence suggests that the rigging of the election process was the intent of the five Republicans on the Supreme Court who voted in Citizens United to overturn nearly 100 years of settled law.

Take for example the case of Justice Clarence Thomas and his wife. The New York Times in its editorial of October 12 titled, "Justice Thomas and His Wife," wrote: "Virginia Thomas, the wife of the Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, is founder and head of Liberty Central, a nonprofit organization set up to 'restore the greatness of America,' in part by opposing the leftist 'tyranny' of President Obama and Democrats in Congress. Its first contributions of $500,000 and $50,000 came from undisclosed donors. The size of those gifts, their anonymity and their importance raise a serious issue of ethics for Justice Thomas."

Previously Justice Thomas, while sitting on the Supreme Court, engaged in another serious issue of ethics when in 2000 he voted with the Republican majority on the Court to elect as President George Bush even though Al Gore received more popular votes nationwide. At the time his wife, Virginia Thomas, was already employed by the Heritage Foundation in vetting potential candidates for positions in the new Bush Administration. The Heritage Foundation was founded in 1974 by corporate money from the Coors Beer and today has a large number of major corporate contributors.

Justice Alito announced on October 16 that he will not be attending the State of the Union Address by President Obama this coming January. This may be because he is frightened that Obama will remind viewers of Alito's partisan political gesture this past January when Obama criticized the court's Citizens United decision.

The case of Republican Justice Antonin Scalia presents yet another serious issue of ethics. Scalia voted to elect Bush in the Bush vs. Gore decision in 2000 and to the surprise of almost no one was rewarded by having his son appointed by Bush to a high legal position in the Labor Department upon being vetted by Justice Thomas's wife. Scalia in the years following his vote was a frequent guest and companion of Vice President Dick Cheney, who owed his election to Scalia. One can only wonder what they talked about. It should be observed that Scalia's son is currently providing legal representation to the Chamber of Commerce of the U.S. in its court battle to makes certain that no disclosure will be made of the identity of the corporations that make partisan political contributions.

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who had retired by the time that the United Citizens decision was rendered by the court, was heard voicing dismay at an election night party in November 2000 when television announcers declared Gore had won the election. True to her colors as a Republican Party leader when she lived in Arizona, O'Connor following the election night party voted with the Republican majority on the court to elect Bush.

The Supreme Court's 2000 decision in Bush vs. Gore was strategic step number one in rigging the election of the President in favor of the Republicans. Its 2010 decision in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission is strategic step number two in rigging the election of the members of Congress in favor of the Republicans.

There is a growing consensus that the Supreme Court with its Citizens United decision to allow corporate political contributions has irreparably crossed the line from being a true court of justice to being a tool of partisan political activity. In a comment posted on The New York Times web site on October 9, a reader from Florida wrote, "I have been a state judge for 25 years and my wife would never do anything that would raise ethical questions regarding my decisions as a judge. It is the appearance of impropriety that is important. It has always struck me as strange that the justices of the United States Supreme Court would do things like free trips from industries that have issues before the court and think nothing of it. I have little respect for some of the justices."

Perhaps the lame duck session of Congress after November 2 will enact legislation to remedy the partisanship innate in the Citizens United decision. If it does not, it is a certainty that the new congress convening in January, dominated by those who owe their election to corporate contributions, will do nothing to correct the situation.

Professor Robert Reich of the University of California at Berkeley and former Secretary of Labor recently wrote that America faces "The perfect storm: An unprecedented concentration of income and wealth at the top; a record amount of secret money flooding our democracy; and a public becoming increasingly angry and cynical about a government that's raising its taxes, reducing its services, and unable to get it back to work.

"We're losing our democracy to a different system. It's called plutocracy."

-------------------------------------------------------------------------

Editorial

The New York Times

October 12, 2010

Justice Thomas and His Wife

Virginia Thomas, the wife of Justice Clarence Thomas of the Supreme Court, is the founder and chief executive of Liberty Central, a nonprofit organization set up to "restore the greatness of America," in part by opposing the leftist "tyranny" of President Obama and Democrats in Congress. Its first contributions of $500,000 and $50,000 came from undisclosed donors. The size of those gifts, their anonymity and their importance to the organization raise a serious issue of ethics for Justice Thomas.

Sarah Field, an executive of Liberty Central, told The Times that the organization pays Mrs. Thomas. Justice Thomas is a beneficiary of that pay and has a responsibility under federal law to "inform himself" about who the donors are because they have an impact on Mrs. Thomas's personal financial interests.

Mrs. Thomas is not legally required to disclose the donors. That is unfortunate, but she does have a duty to do so, just as former President Bill Clinton had a duty to disclose the donors to his library and charitable ventures when his wife became secretary of state.

Justice Thomas needs disclosure to know if either of those donors is a party in a case before the Supreme Court or has an interest in a party. That is the only way he can comply with a fundamental ethical and legal requirement to "disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned."

Even if his wife weren't paid by the organization, Justice Thomas would have a duty to obtain the donors' names. The principle of a Supreme Court holding requires that. As former Justice John Paul Stevens once wrote for the court, "The very purpose" of the impartiality standard "is to promote confidence in the judiciary by avoiding even the appearance of impropriety whenever possible."

Justice Thomas could claim that he does not know who the donors are and, therefore, could not be biased on their behalf, but people would doubt him. Mrs. Thomas's activities must be above suspicion so Justice Thomas can be as well. Take his partial dissent in the Citizens United case, in which he joined the conservatives to give corporations an unlimited right to spend money in politics. Alone among his colleagues, he also took the radical position that the disclosure requirements still in federal campaign law are unconstitutional.

That is an obvious trigger of the sort of "suspicions and doubts" the Stevens opinion was intended to quell. The Thomases can easily dispel the doubts.

--------------------------------------------------

Week in Review

The New York Times

October 17, 2010

Return of the Secret Donors

By JILL ABRAMSON

To old political hands, wise to the ways of candidates and money, 1972 was a watershed year. Richard M. Nixon's re-election campaign was awash in cash, secretly donated by corporations and individuals.

Fred Wertheimer, a longtime supporter of campaign finance regulation, was then a lawyer for Common Cause. He vividly recalls the weeks leading up to April 7, 1972, before a new campaign finance law went into effect requiring the disclosure of the names of individual donors. "Contributors," he said, "were literally flying into Washington with satchels of cash."

The Committee for the Re-Election of the President was also illegally hauling in many millions of dollars from corporations, many of which felt pressured into making contributions.

The record of donors was so tightly held that it was kept in a locked drawer by Rose Mary Woods, Nixon's secretary. The list — which came to be known as "Rose Mary's Baby" — wasn't released until Mr. Wertheimer forced the issue through a lawsuit. Among those on the list were William Keeler, the chief executive of Phillips Petroleum, who pleaded guilty, during the post-Watergate prosecutions, to making an illegal corporate donation.

Rose Mary's Baby itself, now an artifact of the nation's biggest political scandal, sits in the Watergate collection of the National Archives.

In this year's midterm elections, there is no talk of satchels of cash from donors. Nor is there any hint of illegal actions reaching Watergate-like proportions. But the fund-raising practices that earned people convictions in Watergate — giving direct corporate money to a campaign and doing so secretly — are back in a different form in 2010.

This time around, the corporations are still giving secretly, but legally. In 1907, direct corporate donations to candidates were legally barred in a campaign finance reform push by President Theodore Roosevelt. But that law and others — the foundation for many Watergate convictions — are all but obsolete. This is why many supporters of strict campaign finance laws are wringing their hands.

Certainly, it is still illegal for corporations to contribute directly to candidates. But they now have equally potent ways to exert their influence. This election year is the first since the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, which allows corporations for the first time to finance ads that directly support or oppose political candidates. And tax laws and loopholes have permitted a shadow campaign network of Republican-leaning nonprofit groups to collect a flood of anonymous donations and spend it widely.

If the Republicans make big gains in the House and Senate on Election Day, there is rare bipartisan consensus that they will owe part of their victory to the millions of dollars raised and spent by these nonprofit groups, much of which has come from businesses.

The groups, including the Chamber of Commerce, the American Action Network and Crossroads GPS, which is linked to the Republican strategist Karl Rove, have committed to spending well over $150 million this year. President Obama has railed against these groups as they have poured money into races in which once-secure Democrats are hanging by a thread.

But the attacks may have only helped build the groups' fund-raising muscle. Crossroads GPS and a sister organization, American Crossroads, have received more than $100,000 in small donations through the Web, when they had expected most gifts to come in big checks. And the groups' leaders have only grown more influential — far more influential than the Republican National Committee, led by Michael Steele. Evidently, the corporate donors love having a secret route to influence politics and elect Republicans without showing their hands to a Washington still controlled by the Democrats.

In past elections, the Democrats have also used outside groups, including those organized by the party strategist Harold Ickes. In 2004, groups linked to the Democratic Party spent $150 million to influence the elections and agreed to pay $1.3 million in fines to settle charges that they had made illegal expenditures. In the last three elections, Democratic groups substantially outspent Republican groups. But many of these groups were so-called 527s, which were required to disclose donors' identities.

In this election, Mr. Obama and the Democrats have either refused, or have been unable, to fight fire with similar, Democrat-leaning groups. With an angry Wall Street and donors like George Soros on the sidelines — "I don't believe in standing in the way of an avalanche," he recently said — the Democrats don't have an obvious counter, except for labor unions, which probably can't match corporate contributors.

Since Watergate, the names of political donors have largely been disclosed, even by so-called independent groups. In 2004 and 2006, nearly all independent groups involved in politics revealed their donors, according to a report by Public Citizen, a group that has long supported campaign finance reform. In 2008, fewer than half of these groups disclosed donors, and so far this year, fewer than one-third.

Because United States tax law permits certain social welfare and labor groups to collect donations anonymously if political activity is not their key focus, the only way to stop the undisclosed donations is to change the law. But Democrats recently failed to move a bill requiring disclosure through the Senate; not a single Republican voted for it.

Such legislation is unlikely to grow any more popular before 2012, and most political experts agree that the secret money spent by outside groups this year will look like a pittance by then, when President Obama will face re-election.

"This year is practice for 2012," said Jan Baran, a partner at Wiley Rein L.L.P. in Washington, who is a former general counsel of the Republican National Committee. Mr. Baran filed an amicus brief in the Citizens United case on behalf of the Chamber of Commerce, which opposed donor disclosure. "It would lead to intimidation and harassment of contributors," Mr. Baran explained. (While the decision blessed certain corporate donations, the court supported disclosure requirements for money given to political parties and candidates. The nonprofits were unaffected.)

The 1972 campaign had its own dry run for the fund-raising abuses of Watergate. In 1970, President Nixon tried to orchestrate a Republican sweep in the off-year Congressional elections. Known as the Townhouse Operation, a group of Nixon loyalists, some of whom are leading this year's nonprofit push, operated out of a townhouse near DuPont Circle in Washington, raising illegal corporate cash and distributing it in key Senate races.

The legacy of Watergate is quite clear. But the repercussions from today's campaign finance system are still being measured and debated.

"It creates all the appearances of dirty dealings and undue influence because our candidates are awash in funds the public is ignorant about," said Roger Witten, a partner in the New York office of WilmerHale, who served as assistant special prosecutor in the Watergate special prosecution force. "This is the problem that was supposedly addressed after Watergate."

Mr. Baran, the Republican lawyer, said Watergate comparisons are way overblown; plenty of restrictions still exist. "To make the Watergate analogy is an exaggeration," he said, "and I have five inches of statutes that repudiate that comparison."

Still, some players shaking the corporate money trees for nonprofit groups this year cut their teeth in the Nixon re-election campaign. There is Fred Malek, a founder of the American Action Network, whose members include many well-known Republicans, like former Senator Norm Coleman of Minnesota. Mr. Malek was the White House personnel chief in 1972 and helped dispense patronage for major Nixon donors as well as serving as deputy director of Creep.

Back then, Mr. Malek was interviewed by Hamilton Fox III, another Watergate prosecutor, and acknowledged that some of the campaign's activities might have "bordered on the unethical."

In an interview last week, Mr. Malek said he founded his new group to "counter what the labor unions are doing on the Democratic side." Started in February, the group is split into two parts: the Action Forum, a 501©(3), which allows donations to be tax-deductible but limits political activities, and the Action Network, a 501 ©(4), in which contributions are not deductible or disclosed but the group can advocate for political causes.

The American Action Network has spent heavily in New Hampshire, where it backed Kelly Ayotte, the Republican nominee for United States Senate. She was endorsed in a tough primary battle by Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor. (Mr. Malek is a fan of Ms. Palin, according to his blog.) Mr. Malek's group has also spent heavily in Wisconsin, where it hopes to help unseat Russ Feingold, the Democratic senator. It is also spending on close House races.

The American Action Network shares office space with American Crossroads, led by Mr. Rove, who also was an active participant in Nixon's re-election as executive director of the College Republican National Committee.

Mr. Malek also attends meetings of the Weaver Terrace Group, which was named for the street where Mr. Rove used to live. The participants, who include leading Republican strategists from outside groups, routinely trade political intelligence and sometimes make joint fund-raising trips.

The list of donors for either Mr. Malek's group or Mr. Rove's group is unknown. Yet Mr. Wertheimer predicts that the groups will, one day, have to disclose their contributors. "I don't believe secretly funding our elections can be sustained," said Mr. Wertheimer, who now runs Democracy 21, which pushes for campaign finance reform. "It won't hold up. The public won't stand for it. This is guaranteed corruption."

With so many different Republican groups spending so much, he said, no desk drawer is big enough to hold the 2010 list of secret donors, like the one that held his hard-fought-for Rose Mary's Baby.

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October 20, 2010

The New York Times

Secretive Republican Donors Planning Ahead

By KATE ZERNIKE

A secretive network of Republican donors is heading to Palm Springs for a long weekend in January, but it will not be to relax after a hard-fought election — it will be to plan for the next one.

Koch Industries, the longtime underwriter of libertarian causes from the Cato Institute in Washington to the ballot initiative that would suspend California's landmark law capping greenhouse gases, is planning an invitation-only confidential meeting at the Rancho Las Palmas Resort and Spa to, as an invitation says, "develop strategies to counter the most severe threats facing our free society and outline a vision of how we can foster a renewal of American free enterprise and prosperity."

The invitation, sent to potential new participants, offers a rare peek at the Koch network of the ultrawealthy and the politically well-connected, its far-reaching agenda to enlist ordinary Americans to its cause, and its desire for the utmost secrecy.

Koch Industries, a Wichita-based energy and manufacturing conglomerate run by the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, operates a foundation that finances political advocacy groups, but tax law protects those groups from having to disclose much about what they do and who contributes.

With a personalized letter signed by Charles Koch, the invitation to the four-day Palm Springs meeting opens with a grand call to action: "If not us, who? If not now, when?"

The Koch network meets twice a year to plan and expand its efforts — as the letter says, "to review strategies for combating the multitude of public policies that threaten to destroy America as we know it."

Those efforts, the letter makes clear, include countering "climate change alarmism and the move to socialized health care," as well as "the regulatory assault on energy," and making donations to higher education and philanthropic organizations to advance the Koch agenda.

The Kochs also seek to cultivate Americans' growing concern about the growth of government: at the most recent meeting, in Aspen, Colo., in June, some of the wealthiest people in America listened to a presentation on "a vision of how we can retain the moral high ground and make the new case for liberty and smaller government that appeals to all Americans, rich and poor."

The goals for the twice-yearly meetings, the brochure says, include attracting more investors to the cause, but also building institutions "to identify, educate and mobilize citizens" and "fashioning the message and building the education channels to re-establish widespread belief in the benefits of a free and prosperous society."

Charles Koch, whose wealth Forbes magazine calculates at about $21.5 billion, argues in his letter that "prosperity is under attack by the current administration and many of our elected officials." He repeatedly warns about the "internal assault" and "unrelenting attacks" on freedom and prosperity. A brochure with the invitation underscores that to the Koch network, "freedom" means freedom from taxes and government regulation. Mr. Koch warns of policies that "threaten to erode our economic freedom and transfer vast sums of money to the state."

The Kochs insist on strict confidentiality surrounding the Palm Spring meetings, which are entitled "Understanding and Addressing Threats to American Free Enterprise and Prosperity." The letter advises participants that it is closed to the public, including the news media, and admonishes them not to post updates or information about the meeting on the Web, blogs, social media or traditional media, and to "be mindful of the security and confidentiality of your meeting notes and materials."

Invited participants are told they must wear nametags for all meeting functions. And, ensuring that no one tries to gain access by posing as a participant, the invitation says that reservations will be handled through Koch Industries' office in Washington: "Please do not contact the Rancho Las Palmas directly to place a reservation."

To give prospective participants a sense of what to expect, Mr. Koch's letter enclosed a brochure from the group's meeting at the St. Regis Resort in Aspen, including a list of the roughly 200 participants — a confab of hedge fund executives, Republican donors, free-market evangelists and prominent members of the New York social circuit.

They listened to a presentations on "microtargeting" to identify like-minded voters, as well as a discussion about voter mobilization featuring Tim Phillips of Americans for Prosperity, the political action group founded by the Kochs in 2004, which campaigned against the health care legislation passed in March and is helping Tea Party groups set up get-out-the-vote operations.

Other sessions discussed the opportunities in the presidential election of 2012 to address threats to free enterprise and "how supporters of economic freedom might start planning today."

Impressed by the Koch efforts for the midterms, the invitation cover letter says, Aspen participants "committed to an unprecedented level of support."

"However," it adds, "even if these efforts succeed, other serious threats demand action."

The participants in Aspen dined under the stars at the top of the gondola run on Aspen Mountain, and listened to Glenn Beck of Fox News in a session titled, "Is America on the Road to Serfdom?" (The title refers to a classic of Austrian economic thought that informs libertarian ideology, popularized by Mr. Beck on his show.)

The participants included some of the nation's wealthiest families and biggest names in finance: private equity and hedge fund executives like John Childs, Cliff Asness, Steve Schwarzman and Ken Griffin; Phil Anschutz, the entertainment and media mogul ranked by Forbes as the 34th-richest person in the country; Rich DeVos, the co-founder of Amway; Steve Bechtel of the giant construction firm; and Kenneth Langone of Home Depot.

The group also included longtime Republican donors and officials, including Foster Friess, Fred Malek and former Attorney General Edwin Meese III.

Participants listened to presentations from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, as well as people who played leading roles in John McCain's presidential campaign in 2008, like Nancy Pfotenhauer and Annie Dickerson, who also runs a foundation for Paul Singer, a hedge fund executive who like the Kochs is active in promoting libertarian causes.

To encourage new participants, Mr. Koch offers to waive the $1,500 registration fee. And he notes that previous guests have included Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas of the Supreme Court, Gov. Haley Barbour and Gov. Bobby Jindal, Senators Jim DeMint and Tom Coburn, and Representatives Mike Pence, Tom Price and Paul D. Ryan.

Mr. Koch also notes the beautiful setting. But he advises against thinking of this as a vacation.

"Our ultimate goal is not 'fun in the sun,' " he concludes. "This is a gathering of doers who are willing to engage in the hard work necessary to advance our shared principles. Success in this endeavor will require all the help we can muster."

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Virginia Thomas seeks apology from Anita Hill

By Michael A. Fletcher

Washington Post Staff Writer

Wednesday, October 20, 2010; 9:14 AM

It is one of Washington's enduring mysteries.

Nearly two decades after Anita Hill accused Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment during his fractious Supreme Court confirmation hearing, it remains unclear who was lying.

Hill has maintained that she told the truth. Thomas, meanwhile, has steadfastly denied her accusations.

Now, Virginia Thomas, the justice's wife, has rekindled the controversy by leaving a voice mail message at Hill's Brandeis University office seeking an apology.

"Good morning Anita Hill, it's Ginni Thomas," said the message left this month, according to a transcript provided by ABC News. "I just want to reach across the airwaves and the years and ask you to consider something. I would love you to consider an apology sometimes and some full explanation of why you did what you did with my husband."

"I certainly thought the call was inappropriate," Hill, who worked for Clarence Thomas at the Department of Education and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commissions, said in a statement released by Brandeis, where she is a professor.

"I have no intention of apologizing because I testified truthfully about my experience and I stand by that testimony," she added.

Hill told reporters that she held onto the voice mail message for nearly a week as she weighed whether it was legitimate. Eventually, she turned it over to campus police with a request that it be sent to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The FBI's Boston field office declined comment.

In her Senate testimony, Hill said that Thomas would make sexual comments to her at work, including references to scenes in hard-core pornographic films. Thomas angrily denied the allegations, memorably saying they amounted to a "high-tech lynching."

Lillian McEwen, a former Senate Judiciary Committee lawyer who said she dated Clarence Thomas from 1979 through the mid-1980s, said she was not surprised that Virginia Thomas would leave Hill a message, even after all these years.

"In his autobiography, Clarence described himself as a person incapable of doing what Anita Hill said he did," McEwen said in an interview. "He is married to a woman who is loyal to him and religious in a way he would like to be. This combination of religiosity and loyalty and belief that he is really the kind of person who he describes in his book would just about compel her to do something like that."

At the same time, McEwen, who is working on a memoir that will detail her relationship with Clarence Thomas, said that her experience with him was more consistent with Hill's allegations than with Virginia Thomas's perceptions of her husband.

"The Clarence I know was certainly capable not only of doing the things that Anita Hill said he did, but it would be totally consistent with the way he lived his personal life then," McEwen said.

The message Virginia Thomas left for Hill again revealed the emotional toll that the Hill hearings took on Virginia Thomas. In the past, she has made unsolicited phone calls to voice support for people whose reputations have been shaken by what she sees as false accusations.

In 1999, she called Washington Post reporter Tom Jackman after he wrote a front-page article about a Virginia man falsely accused of being a sex pervert. Weeping, she told Jackman that the story reminded her of the ordeal she and her husband had endured. "My husband's name is Clarence Thomas," she said.

And when author David Brock - once hailed by the right for penning a book critical of Anita Hill - was pilloried for renouncing the book he had written, it was Virginia Thomas who came to his defense. She left Brock a long voice message saying that she was praying for him and that nobody should have his name smeared like Brock's was.

At the same time, Thomas, a longtime conservative activist who now heads Liberty Central, a nonprofit group aimed at stopping what she calls the "power grabbing" of the Obama administration, has been consistent in her criticism of Hill.

In an interview she and her husband did with People Magazine just before Thomas ascended to the high court, she said of Hill: "In my heart I always believed she was probably someone in love with my husband who never got what she wanted."

In a statement released this week to the Associated Press, Mrs. Thomas said she did not intend to offend Hill with the voice mail. "I did place a call to Ms. Hill at her office extending an olive branch to her after all these years, in hopes that we could ultimately get passed (sic) what happened so long ago," Thomas said in the statement. "That offer still stands, I would be very happy to meet and talk with her if she would be willing to do the same."

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October 20, 2010

The New York Times

Clarence Thomas’s Wife Asks Anita Hill for Apology

By CHARLIE SAVAGE

WASHINGTON — Nearly 20 years after Anita Hill accused Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment during his contentious Supreme Court confirmation hearings, Justice Thomas’s wife has called Ms. Hill, seeking an apology.

In a voice mail message left at 7:31 a.m. on Oct. 9, a Saturday, Virginia Thomas asked her husband’s former aide-turned-adversary to make amends. Ms. Hill played the recording, from her voice mail at Brandeis University, for The New York Times.

“Good morning Anita Hill, it’s Ginni Thomas,” it said. “I just wanted to reach across the airwaves and the years and ask you to consider something. I would love you to consider an apology sometime and some full explanation of why you did what you did with my husband.”

Ms. Thomas went on: “So give it some thought. And certainly pray about this and hope that one day you will help us understand why you did what you did. O.K., have a good day.”

Ms. Hill, in an interview, said she had kept the message for nearly a week trying to decide whether the caller really was Ms. Thomas or a prankster. Unsure, she said, she decided to turn it over to the Brandeis campus police with a request to convey it the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

“I thought it was certainly inappropriate,” Ms. Hill said. “It came in at 7:30 a.m. on my office phone from somebody I didn’t know, and she is asking for an apology. It was not invited. There was no background for it.”

In a statement conveyed through a publicist, Ms. Thomas confirmed leaving the message, which she portrayed as a peacemaking gesture. She did not explain its timing.

“I did place a call to Ms. Hill at her office extending an olive branch to her after all these years, in hopes that we could ultimately get past what happened so long ago,” she said. “That offer still stands. I would be very happy to meet and talk with her if she would be willing to do the same. Certainly no offense was ever intended.”

In response to Ms. Thomas’s statement, Ms. Hill said that she had testified truthfully about her experiences with the future Justice Thomas and that she had nothing to apologize for.

“I appreciate that no offense was intended, but she can’t ask for an apology without suggesting that I did something wrong, and that is offensive,” Ms. Hill said.

Andrew Gully, senior vice president of the Brandeis communications office, said Ms. Hill turned the message over to the campus police on Monday.

Ms. Thomas, 53, has long been active in conservative circles in Washington. In the past year she has become more prominent as the founder of a new nonprofit activist group, Liberty Central, which is dedicated to opposing what she has characterized as the leftist “tyranny” of the Obama administration and Congressional Democrats. The group has drawn scrutiny in part because of the unusual circumstance of a spouse of a sitting Supreme Court justice drawing a salary from a group financed by anonymous donors.

Ms. Hill, 54, is a professor of social policy, law and women’s studies at Brandeis. In 1991, she was at the center of a confrontation that deeply divided the country and prompted a national debate about sexual behavior in the workplace.

Ms. Hill had been an aide to Mr. Thomas at the Department of Education and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. President George Bush nominated Mr. Thomas to fill the Supreme Court seat left vacant by Justice Thurgood Marshall.

In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Ms. Hill claimed that Mr. Thomas had repeatedly made inappropriate sexual comments to her in the workplace, including descriptions of pornographic films. Mr. Thomas denied the allegations and called them “a high-tech lynching.”

In her 1998 book “Speaking Truth to Power,” Ms. Hill noted that she had been accused of harboring a romantic interest in Justice Thomas by his wife. “Virginia Thomas and I have never met,” Ms. Hill wrote. “And one can imagine that she is guided by her own romantic interest in her husband when she assumes that other women find him attractive as well.”

Justice Thomas weighed in with his own autobiography in 2007, “My Grandfather’s Son, ” referring to Ms. Hill as “my most traitorous adversary” and asserting that liberal advocacy groups stooped to “the age-old blunt instrument of accusing a black man of sexual misconduct” to block his ascent because of his conservative views.

Ms. Hill said she had a previous but indirect interaction with Ms. Thomas. After Justice Thomas’s book was published, she said, Ms. Thomas told an interviewer that Ms. Hill should apologize. In response, Ms. Hill gave an interview reiterating that she had nothing to apologize for.

“I thought that was enough then to end it, but apparently it was not,” Ms. Hill said.

Peter Baker contributed reporting from Washington and Tamar Lewin from New York.

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COPA and the Committee for an Open Archives (COA), two Washington DC based non-profits, will now accept annonymous donations in access of ten thousand dollars.

HAS THE U.S. SUPREME COURT RIGGED THE NOVEMBER ELECTION?

In January the Supreme Court reversed nearly a century of settled law and ruled that limits on political spending in federal elections by corporations violated the right of free speech guaranteed by the First Amendment. The case was Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission. The vote on the Supreme Court was five to four – with all Republican appointees siding in favor of corporate political spending.

In his January State of the Union address President Obama specifically criticized the Supreme Court's decision and predicted that the ruling would allow foreign corporations to flood federal elections with money. When he uttered this opinion Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, a Republican appointee, was seen by millions of television viewers vigorously shaking his head in dissent as he sat in the front row directly in front of the President.

Time has proven President Obama correct and Justice Alito incorrect.

Hundreds of millions of corporate dollars are flooding into nonprofit groups organized to support Republican candidates for the Senate and House of Representatives. The sources of these corporate contributions are not being disclosed.

Thus, the decision of the Supreme Court by its Republican members in Citizens United has had the effect of rigging the November election in favor of electing Republicans. It is now widely expected that the current Democratic majorities in both the House and Senate will be lost. Predictions are that Republicans in the next Congress may control the House by 55 more members than the Democrats and that they may control the Senate by one to two members.

The November election will have an impact far beyond how the next Congress will be constituted. This is because the same national election will determine how congressional election districts are drawn in the coming two years based on the recently completed census. It is likely that in many states an overwhelming number of Republicans will be elected Governor and that the legislatures of these states will have Republican majorities. Thus, Americans can expect to see redistricting lines drawn so as to eliminate the chances of Democrats being elected in many instances, thus consolidating the Republican stranglehold on the national, state and local levels.

Evidence suggests that the rigging of the election process was the intent of the five Republicans on the Supreme Court who voted in Citizens United to overturn nearly 100 years of settled law.

Take for example the case of Justice Clarence Thomas and his wife. The New York Times in its editorial of October 12 titled, "Justice Thomas and His Wife," wrote: "Virginia Thomas, the wife of the Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, is founder and head of Liberty Central, a nonprofit organization set up to 'restore the greatness of America,' in part by opposing the leftist 'tyranny' of President Obama and Democrats in Congress. Its first contributions of $500,000 and $50,000 came from undisclosed donors. The size of those gifts, their anonymity and their importance raise a serious issue of ethics for Justice Thomas."

Previously Justice Thomas, while sitting on the Supreme Court, engaged in another serious issue of ethics when in 2000 he voted with the Republican majority on the Court to elect as President George Bush even though Al Gore received more popular votes nationwide. At the time his wife, Virginia Thomas, was already employed by the Heritage Foundation in vetting potential candidates for positions in the new Bush Administration. The Heritage Foundation was founded in 1974 by corporate money from the Coors Beer and today has a large number of major corporate contributors.

Justice Alito announced on October 16 that he will not be attending the State of the Union Address by President Obama this coming January. This may be because he is frightened that Obama will remind viewers of Alito's partisan political gesture this past January when Obama criticized the court's Citizens United decision.

The case of Republican Justice Antonin Scalia presents yet another serious issue of ethics. Scalia voted to elect Bush in the Bush vs. Gore decision in 2000 and to the surprise of almost no one was rewarded by having his son appointed by Bush to a high legal position in the Labor Department upon being vetted by Justice Thomas's wife. Scalia in the years following his vote was a frequent guest and companion of Vice President Dick Cheney, who owed his election to Scalia. One can only wonder what they talked about. It should be observed that Scalia's son is currently providing legal representation to the Chamber of Commerce of the U.S. in its court battle to makes certain that no disclosure will be made of the identity of the corporations that make partisan political contributions.

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who had retired by the time that the United Citizens decision was rendered by the court, was heard voicing dismay at an election night party in November 2000 when television announcers declared Gore had won the election. True to her colors as a Republican Party leader when she lived in Arizona, O'Connor following the election night party voted with the Republican majority on the court to elect Bush.

The Supreme Court's 2000 decision in Bush vs. Gore was strategic step number one in rigging the election of the President in favor of the Republicans. Its 2010 decision in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission is strategic step number two in rigging the election of the members of Congress in favor of the Republicans.

There is a growing consensus that the Supreme Court with its Citizens United decision to allow corporate political contributions has irreparably crossed the line from being a true court of justice to being a tool of partisan political activity. In a comment posted on The New York Times web site on October 9, a reader from Florida wrote, "I have been a state judge for 25 years and my wife would never do anything that would raise ethical questions regarding my decisions as a judge. It is the appearance of impropriety that is important. It has always struck me as strange that the justices of the United States Supreme Court would do things like free trips from industries that have issues before the court and think nothing of it. I have little respect for some of the justices."

Perhaps the lame duck session of Congress after November 2 will enact legislation to remedy the partisanship innate in the Citizens United decision. If it does not, it is a certainty that the new congress convening in January, dominated by those who owe their election to corporate contributions, will do nothing to correct the situation.

Professor Robert Reich of the University of California at Berkeley and former Secretary of Labor recently wrote that America faces "The perfect storm: An unprecedented concentration of income and wealth at the top; a record amount of secret money flooding our democracy; and a public becoming increasingly angry and cynical about a government that's raising its taxes, reducing its services, and unable to get it back to work.

"We're losing our democracy to a different system. It's called plutocracy."

-------------------------------------------------------------------------

Editorial

The New York Times

October 12, 2010

Justice Thomas and His Wife

Virginia Thomas, the wife of Justice Clarence Thomas of the Supreme Court, is the founder and chief executive of Liberty Central, a nonprofit organization set up to "restore the greatness of America," in part by opposing the leftist "tyranny" of President Obama and Democrats in Congress. Its first contributions of $500,000 and $50,000 came from undisclosed donors. The size of those gifts, their anonymity and their importance to the organization raise a serious issue of ethics for Justice Thomas.

Sarah Field, an executive of Liberty Central, told The Times that the organization pays Mrs. Thomas. Justice Thomas is a beneficiary of that pay and has a responsibility under federal law to "inform himself" about who the donors are because they have an impact on Mrs. Thomas's personal financial interests.

Mrs. Thomas is not legally required to disclose the donors. That is unfortunate, but she does have a duty to do so, just as former President Bill Clinton had a duty to disclose the donors to his library and charitable ventures when his wife became secretary of state.

Justice Thomas needs disclosure to know if either of those donors is a party in a case before the Supreme Court or has an interest in a party. That is the only way he can comply with a fundamental ethical and legal requirement to "disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned."

Even if his wife weren't paid by the organization, Justice Thomas would have a duty to obtain the donors' names. The principle of a Supreme Court holding requires that. As former Justice John Paul Stevens once wrote for the court, "The very purpose" of the impartiality standard "is to promote confidence in the judiciary by avoiding even the appearance of impropriety whenever possible."

Justice Thomas could claim that he does not know who the donors are and, therefore, could not be biased on their behalf, but people would doubt him. Mrs. Thomas's activities must be above suspicion so Justice Thomas can be as well. Take his partial dissent in the Citizens United case, in which he joined the conservatives to give corporations an unlimited right to spend money in politics. Alone among his colleagues, he also took the radical position that the disclosure requirements still in federal campaign law are unconstitutional.

That is an obvious trigger of the sort of "suspicions and doubts" the Stevens opinion was intended to quell. The Thomases can easily dispel the doubts.

--------------------------------------------------

Week in Review

The New York Times

October 17, 2010

Return of the Secret Donors

By JILL ABRAMSON

To old political hands, wise to the ways of candidates and money, 1972 was a watershed year. Richard M. Nixon's re-election campaign was awash in cash, secretly donated by corporations and individuals.

Fred Wertheimer, a longtime supporter of campaign finance regulation, was then a lawyer for Common Cause. He vividly recalls the weeks leading up to April 7, 1972, before a new campaign finance law went into effect requiring the disclosure of the names of individual donors. "Contributors," he said, "were literally flying into Washington with satchels of cash."

The Committee for the Re-Election of the President was also illegally hauling in many millions of dollars from corporations, many of which felt pressured into making contributions.

The record of donors was so tightly held that it was kept in a locked drawer by Rose Mary Woods, Nixon's secretary. The list — which came to be known as "Rose Mary's Baby" — wasn't released until Mr. Wertheimer forced the issue through a lawsuit. Among those on the list were William Keeler, the chief executive of Phillips Petroleum, who pleaded guilty, during the post-Watergate prosecutions, to making an illegal corporate donation.

Rose Mary's Baby itself, now an artifact of the nation's biggest political scandal, sits in the Watergate collection of the National Archives.

In this year's midterm elections, there is no talk of satchels of cash from donors. Nor is there any hint of illegal actions reaching Watergate-like proportions. But the fund-raising practices that earned people convictions in Watergate — giving direct corporate money to a campaign and doing so secretly — are back in a different form in 2010.

This time around, the corporations are still giving secretly, but legally. In 1907, direct corporate donations to candidates were legally barred in a campaign finance reform push by President Theodore Roosevelt. But that law and others — the foundation for many Watergate convictions — are all but obsolete. This is why many supporters of strict campaign finance laws are wringing their hands.

Certainly, it is still illegal for corporations to contribute directly to candidates. But they now have equally potent ways to exert their influence. This election year is the first since the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, which allows corporations for the first time to finance ads that directly support or oppose political candidates. And tax laws and loopholes have permitted a shadow campaign network of Republican-leaning nonprofit groups to collect a flood of anonymous donations and spend it widely.

If the Republicans make big gains in the House and Senate on Election Day, there is rare bipartisan consensus that they will owe part of their victory to the millions of dollars raised and spent by these nonprofit groups, much of which has come from businesses.

The groups, including the Chamber of Commerce, the American Action Network and Crossroads GPS, which is linked to the Republican strategist Karl Rove, have committed to spending well over $150 million this year. President Obama has railed against these groups as they have poured money into races in which once-secure Democrats are hanging by a thread.

But the attacks may have only helped build the groups' fund-raising muscle. Crossroads GPS and a sister organization, American Crossroads, have received more than $100,000 in small donations through the Web, when they had expected most gifts to come in big checks. And the groups' leaders have only grown more influential — far more influential than the Republican National Committee, led by Michael Steele. Evidently, the corporate donors love having a secret route to influence politics and elect Republicans without showing their hands to a Washington still controlled by the Democrats.

In past elections, the Democrats have also used outside groups, including those organized by the party strategist Harold Ickes. In 2004, groups linked to the Democratic Party spent $150 million to influence the elections and agreed to pay $1.3 million in fines to settle charges that they had made illegal expenditures. In the last three elections, Democratic groups substantially outspent Republican groups. But many of these groups were so-called 527s, which were required to disclose donors' identities.

In this election, Mr. Obama and the Democrats have either refused, or have been unable, to fight fire with similar, Democrat-leaning groups. With an angry Wall Street and donors like George Soros on the sidelines — "I don't believe in standing in the way of an avalanche," he recently said — the Democrats don't have an obvious counter, except for labor unions, which probably can't match corporate contributors.

Since Watergate, the names of political donors have largely been disclosed, even by so-called independent groups. In 2004 and 2006, nearly all independent groups involved in politics revealed their donors, according to a report by Public Citizen, a group that has long supported campaign finance reform. In 2008, fewer than half of these groups disclosed donors, and so far this year, fewer than one-third.

Because United States tax law permits certain social welfare and labor groups to collect donations anonymously if political activity is not their key focus, the only way to stop the undisclosed donations is to change the law. But Democrats recently failed to move a bill requiring disclosure through the Senate; not a single Republican voted for it.

Such legislation is unlikely to grow any more popular before 2012, and most political experts agree that the secret money spent by outside groups this year will look like a pittance by then, when President Obama will face re-election.

"This year is practice for 2012," said Jan Baran, a partner at Wiley Rein L.L.P. in Washington, who is a former general counsel of the Republican National Committee. Mr. Baran filed an amicus brief in the Citizens United case on behalf of the Chamber of Commerce, which opposed donor disclosure. "It would lead to intimidation and harassment of contributors," Mr. Baran explained. (While the decision blessed certain corporate donations, the court supported disclosure requirements for money given to political parties and candidates. The nonprofits were unaffected.)

The 1972 campaign had its own dry run for the fund-raising abuses of Watergate. In 1970, President Nixon tried to orchestrate a Republican sweep in the off-year Congressional elections. Known as the Townhouse Operation, a group of Nixon loyalists, some of whom are leading this year's nonprofit push, operated out of a townhouse near DuPont Circle in Washington, raising illegal corporate cash and distributing it in key Senate races.

The legacy of Watergate is quite clear. But the repercussions from today's campaign finance system are still being measured and debated.

"It creates all the appearances of dirty dealings and undue influence because our candidates are awash in funds the public is ignorant about," said Roger Witten, a partner in the New York office of WilmerHale, who served as assistant special prosecutor in the Watergate special prosecution force. "This is the problem that was supposedly addressed after Watergate."

Mr. Baran, the Republican lawyer, said Watergate comparisons are way overblown; plenty of restrictions still exist. "To make the Watergate analogy is an exaggeration," he said, "and I have five inches of statutes that repudiate that comparison."

Still, some players shaking the corporate money trees for nonprofit groups this year cut their teeth in the Nixon re-election campaign. There is Fred Malek, a founder of the American Action Network, whose members include many well-known Republicans, like former Senator Norm Coleman of Minnesota. Mr. Malek was the White House personnel chief in 1972 and helped dispense patronage for major Nixon donors as well as serving as deputy director of Creep.

Back then, Mr. Malek was interviewed by Hamilton Fox III, another Watergate prosecutor, and acknowledged that some of the campaign's activities might have "bordered on the unethical."

In an interview last week, Mr. Malek said he founded his new group to "counter what the labor unions are doing on the Democratic side." Started in February, the group is split into two parts: the Action Forum, a 501©(3), which allows donations to be tax-deductible but limits political activities, and the Action Network, a 501 ©(4), in which contributions are not deductible or disclosed but the group can advocate for political causes.

The American Action Network has spent heavily in New Hampshire, where it backed Kelly Ayotte, the Republican nominee for United States Senate. She was endorsed in a tough primary battle by Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor. (Mr. Malek is a fan of Ms. Palin, according to his blog.) Mr. Malek's group has also spent heavily in Wisconsin, where it hopes to help unseat Russ Feingold, the Democratic senator. It is also spending on close House races.

The American Action Network shares office space with American Crossroads, led by Mr. Rove, who also was an active participant in Nixon's re-election as executive director of the College Republican National Committee.

Mr. Malek also attends meetings of the Weaver Terrace Group, which was named for the street where Mr. Rove used to live. The participants, who include leading Republican strategists from outside groups, routinely trade political intelligence and sometimes make joint fund-raising trips.

The list of donors for either Mr. Malek's group or Mr. Rove's group is unknown. Yet Mr. Wertheimer predicts that the groups will, one day, have to disclose their contributors. "I don't believe secretly funding our elections can be sustained," said Mr. Wertheimer, who now runs Democracy 21, which pushes for campaign finance reform. "It won't hold up. The public won't stand for it. This is guaranteed corruption."

With so many different Republican groups spending so much, he said, no desk drawer is big enough to hold the 2010 list of secret donors, like the one that held his hard-fought-for Rose Mary's Baby.

-----------------------------------------------------

October 20, 2010

The New York Times

Secretive Republican Donors Planning Ahead

By KATE ZERNIKE

A secretive network of Republican donors is heading to Palm Springs for a long weekend in January, but it will not be to relax after a hard-fought election — it will be to plan for the next one.

Koch Industries, the longtime underwriter of libertarian causes from the Cato Institute in Washington to the ballot initiative that would suspend California's landmark law capping greenhouse gases, is planning an invitation-only confidential meeting at the Rancho Las Palmas Resort and Spa to, as an invitation says, "develop strategies to counter the most severe threats facing our free society and outline a vision of how we can foster a renewal of American free enterprise and prosperity."

The invitation, sent to potential new participants, offers a rare peek at the Koch network of the ultrawealthy and the politically well-connected, its far-reaching agenda to enlist ordinary Americans to its cause, and its desire for the utmost secrecy.

Koch Industries, a Wichita-based energy and manufacturing conglomerate run by the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, operates a foundation that finances political advocacy groups, but tax law protects those groups from having to disclose much about what they do and who contributes.

With a personalized letter signed by Charles Koch, the invitation to the four-day Palm Springs meeting opens with a grand call to action: "If not us, who? If not now, when?"

The Koch network meets twice a year to plan and expand its efforts — as the letter says, "to review strategies for combating the multitude of public policies that threaten to destroy America as we know it."

Those efforts, the letter makes clear, include countering "climate change alarmism and the move to socialized health care," as well as "the regulatory assault on energy," and making donations to higher education and philanthropic organizations to advance the Koch agenda.

The Kochs also seek to cultivate Americans' growing concern about the growth of government: at the most recent meeting, in Aspen, Colo., in June, some of the wealthiest people in America listened to a presentation on "a vision of how we can retain the moral high ground and make the new case for liberty and smaller government that appeals to all Americans, rich and poor."

The goals for the twice-yearly meetings, the brochure says, include attracting more investors to the cause, but also building institutions "to identify, educate and mobilize citizens" and "fashioning the message and building the education channels to re-establish widespread belief in the benefits of a free and prosperous society."

Charles Koch, whose wealth Forbes magazine calculates at about $21.5 billion, argues in his letter that "prosperity is under attack by the current administration and many of our elected officials." He repeatedly warns about the "internal assault" and "unrelenting attacks" on freedom and prosperity. A brochure with the invitation underscores that to the Koch network, "freedom" means freedom from taxes and government regulation. Mr. Koch warns of policies that "threaten to erode our economic freedom and transfer vast sums of money to the state."

The Kochs insist on strict confidentiality surrounding the Palm Spring meetings, which are entitled "Understanding and Addressing Threats to American Free Enterprise and Prosperity." The letter advises participants that it is closed to the public, including the news media, and admonishes them not to post updates or information about the meeting on the Web, blogs, social media or traditional media, and to "be mindful of the security and confidentiality of your meeting notes and materials."

Invited participants are told they must wear nametags for all meeting functions. And, ensuring that no one tries to gain access by posing as a participant, the invitation says that reservations will be handled through Koch Industries' office in Washington: "Please do not contact the Rancho Las Palmas directly to place a reservation."

To give prospective participants a sense of what to expect, Mr. Koch's letter enclosed a brochure from the group's meeting at the St. Regis Resort in Aspen, including a list of the roughly 200 participants — a confab of hedge fund executives, Republican donors, free-market evangelists and prominent members of the New York social circuit.

They listened to a presentations on "microtargeting" to identify like-minded voters, as well as a discussion about voter mobilization featuring Tim Phillips of Americans for Prosperity, the political action group founded by the Kochs in 2004, which campaigned against the health care legislation passed in March and is helping Tea Party groups set up get-out-the-vote operations.

Other sessions discussed the opportunities in the presidential election of 2012 to address threats to free enterprise and "how supporters of economic freedom might start planning today."

Impressed by the Koch efforts for the midterms, the invitation cover letter says, Aspen participants "committed to an unprecedented level of support."

"However," it adds, "even if these efforts succeed, other serious threats demand action."

The participants in Aspen dined under the stars at the top of the gondola run on Aspen Mountain, and listened to Glenn Beck of Fox News in a session titled, "Is America on the Road to Serfdom?" (The title refers to a classic of Austrian economic thought that informs libertarian ideology, popularized by Mr. Beck on his show.)

The participants included some of the nation's wealthiest families and biggest names in finance: private equity and hedge fund executives like John Childs, Cliff Asness, Steve Schwarzman and Ken Griffin; Phil Anschutz, the entertainment and media mogul ranked by Forbes as the 34th-richest person in the country; Rich DeVos, the co-founder of Amway; Steve Bechtel of the giant construction firm; and Kenneth Langone of Home Depot.

The group also included longtime Republican donors and officials, including Foster Friess, Fred Malek and former Attorney General Edwin Meese III.

Participants listened to presentations from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, as well as people who played leading roles in John McCain's presidential campaign in 2008, like Nancy Pfotenhauer and Annie Dickerson, who also runs a foundation for Paul Singer, a hedge fund executive who like the Kochs is active in promoting libertarian causes.

To encourage new participants, Mr. Koch offers to waive the $1,500 registration fee. And he notes that previous guests have included Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas of the Supreme Court, Gov. Haley Barbour and Gov. Bobby Jindal, Senators Jim DeMint and Tom Coburn, and Representatives Mike Pence, Tom Price and Paul D. Ryan.

Mr. Koch also notes the beautiful setting. But he advises against thinking of this as a vacation.

"Our ultimate goal is not 'fun in the sun,' " he concludes. "This is a gathering of doers who are willing to engage in the hard work necessary to advance our shared principles. Success in this endeavor will require all the help we can muster."

http://www.nytimes.c...,%202010&st=cse

http://www.nytimes.c...ramson.html?hpw

http://www.nytimes.c...0koch.html?_r=1

Justices Thomas and Scalia attend Koch political planning event

First Posted: 10-20-10 01:23 PM | Updated: 10-20-10 02:43 PM

www.Huffingtonpost.com

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/10/20/scalia-thomas-koch-industries_n_769843.html

Reports that two Supreme Court Justices have attended seminars sponsored by the energy giant and conservative bankroller Koch Industries has sparked a mild debate over judicial ethics.

On Tuesday evening, the New York Times reported that an upcoming meeting in Palm Springs of "a secretive network of Republican donors" that was being organized by Koch Industries, "the longtime underwriter of libertarian causes." Buried in the third to last graph was a note that previous guests at such meetings included Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, two of the more conservative members of the bench.

It's not rare for a Justice to attend a seminar sponsored by a group with judicial or political interests. Members of the court, for instances, often speak at academic institutions or think tanks. Virtually all companies, meanwhile, are affected by the judicial branch. So long as Scalia and Thomas did not participate in overt partisan activities, there would be no apparent conflict of interest.

"There is nothing to prevent Supreme Court justices from hanging out with people who have political philosophies," said Steven Lubet, a professor of law at Northwestern University who teaches courses on Legal Ethics.

But the Koch event appears more political than, say, the Aspen Ideas festival. In its own invitation, it was described as a "twice a year" gathering "to review strategies for combating the multitude of public policies that threaten to destroy America as we know it." In addition, it's not entirely clear what the two Justices did at the Koch event. A copy of the invitation that served as the basis for the Times's report was posted by the liberal blog Think Progress. It provided no additional clues. A call to the Supreme Court and an email to a Koch Industries spokesperson meanwhile were not immediately returned.

Faced with a lack of concrete information, and cognizant of Koch's fairly intense history of political involvement, legal ethicists are urging for more disclosure.

"This is certainly worth more reporting," said Stephen Gillers, a professor of law at New York University. "It is intriguing because the Koch brothers are so politically active and identify with a point of view. I know I would be curious to know exactly what forums the Justices went to. Obviously they could not go to a strategy session about how to elect more Republicans. On the other hand if it was a forum on the meaning of the First Amendment and it didn't involve strategy or fundraising a Justice could appear... It's fascinating and it merits more reporting."

What complicates the report, as Gillers notes, is that the Supreme Court, very recently, handed down a major decision on campaign finance law that Koch Industries quickly utilized. Citizens United overturned existing law by ruling that corporations could spend unlimited amounts of money on federal elections. Koch has always been an active political and philanthropic giver. And its checks have been sent to Democrats as well as Republicans (though weighted more heavily to the latter). This cycle, however, the company has become one of the premier bankrollers of conservative causes, and earned the enmity of Democrats for doing so.

Suggestions that Justices Scalia and Thomas's support of Citizens United may have been affected by their time with Koch officials ignores the fact that nothing concrete is known about what meetings they attended and when. Even then, Lubet argues, it would be difficult to argue that there is "a troublesome nexus between the event and the decision." Scalia and Thomas have been opponents of restrictions on campaign finance likely well before they were guests at a Koch Industry seminar.

But their presence at the conference still raises questions of transparency and, for some, broader concerns about judicial independence.

"I think it is very important for judges to be part of the real world and to appear in public for educative purposes to help explain the arcane miseries of the court to the general public," said William G. Ross, a judicial ethics professor at Samford University's Cumberland School of Law. "That is very healthy and I don't think that judges should isolate themselves in a marble palace... However I am very troubled by the tendency of judges to make broader comments on public issues and to appear in public or private gatherings in which there are political overtones."

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Unfortunately the ACLU has historically backed the notion that donations, even anonymous ones by corporations, are protected by the 1st amendment irregardless of the amount. They "filed a brief in support of the winning side in the case". But might reverse themselves.

http://www.nysun.com/national/aclu-may-reverse-course-on-campaign-finance/86899/

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Let me get this straight.

So these right wing Republicans use a loophole in the laws for donations to non-profit Political Action Committees (PACs) so they can obtain millions of dollars in anonymous donations from private, corporate and foreign sources that they dole out to right wing conservative Republican political candidates, which is sometimes enough to push many of them over the top to win their elections - yet these same people had a hard time dealing with the idea that Fidel Castro financially supported the Fair Play for Cuba Committee and they broke into the Democratic National HQ at the Watergate in order to get proof that the Democratics were being financed by Communists?

There must be something that I missed or just don't get.

And I'm serious about anyone willing to donate simlar large amounts of cash to the non-profits COA or COPA, I will arrange for them to remain anonymous, or we will establish a similar PAC along the proper lines ie. Crossroads, so as to be totally legal, but will funnel the money towards research, education, Congressional lobby efforts and public relations to free the JFK assassination records, learn the truth about his assassination and seek Justice whereever and whenever possible.

BK

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Let me get this straight.

So these right wing Republicans use a loophole in the laws for donations to non-profit Political Action Committees (PACs) so they can obtain millions of dollars in anonymous donations from private, corporate and foreign sources that they dole out to right wing conservative Republican political candidates, which is sometimes enough to push many of them over the top to win their elections - yet these same people had a hard time dealing with the idea that Fidel Castro financially supported the Fair Play for Cuba Committee and they broke into the Democratic National HQ at the Watergate in order to get proof that the Democratics were being financed by Communists?

There must be something that I missed or just don't get.

And I'm serious about anyone willing to donate simlar large amounts of cash to the non-profits COA or COPA, I will arrange for them to remain anonymous, or we will establish a similar PAC along the proper lines ie. Crossroads, so as to be totally legal, but will funnel the money towards research, education, Congressional lobby efforts and public relations to free the JFK assassination records, learn the truth about his assassination and seek Justice whereever and whenever possible.

BK

October 22, 2010

The New York Times

Top Companies Aid Chamber of Commerce in Policy FightsThis article is by Eric Lipton, Mike McIntire and Don Van Natta Jr.

Prudential Financial sent in a $2 million donation last year as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce kicked off a national advertising campaign to weaken the historic rewrite of the nation’s financial regulations.

Dow Chemical delivered $1.7 million to the chamber last year as the group took a leading role in aggressively fighting proposed rules that would impose tighter security requirements on chemical facilities.

And Goldman Sachs, Chevron Texaco, and Aegon, a multinational insurance company based in the Netherlands, donated more than $8 million in recent years to a chamber foundation that has been critical of growing federal regulation and spending. These large donations — none of which were publicly disclosed by the chamber, a tax-exempt group that keeps its donors secret, as it is allowed by law — offer a glimpse of the chamber’s money-raising efforts, which it has ramped up recently in an orchestrated campaign to become one of the most well-financed critics of the Obama administration and an influential player in this fall’s Congressional elections.

They suggest that the recent allegations from President Obama and others that foreign money has ended up in the chamber’s coffers miss a larger point: The chamber has had little trouble finding American companies eager to enlist it, anonymously, to fight their political battles and pay handsomely for its help.

And these contributions, some of which can be pieced together through tax filings of corporate foundations and other public records, also show how the chamber has increasingly relied on a relatively small collection of big corporate donors to finance much of its Washington agenda.

The chamber makes no apologies for its policy of not identifying its donors. It has vigorously opposed legislation in Congress that would require groups like it to identify their biggest contributors when they spend money on campaign ads.

Proponents of that measure pointed to reports that health insurance providers funneled at least $10 million to the chamber last year, all of it anonymously, to oppose President Obama’s health care legislation.

“The major supporters of us in health care last year were confronted with protests at their corporate headquarters, protests and harassment at the C.E.O.’s homes,” said R. Bruce Josten, the chief lobbyist at the chamber, whose office looks out on the White House. “You are wondering why companies want some protection. It is pretty clear.”

The chamber’s increasingly aggressive role — including record spending in the midterm elections that supports Republicans more than 90 percent of the time — has made it a target of critics, including a few local chamber affiliates who fear it has become too partisan and hard-nosed in its fund-raising.

The chamber is spending big in political races from California to New Hampshire, including nearly $1.5 million on television advertisements in New Hampshire attacking Representative Paul W. Hodes, a Democrat running for the United States Senate, accusing him of riding Nancy Pelosi’s “liberal express” down the road to financial ruin.

“When you become a mouthpiece for a specific agenda item for one business or group of businesses, you better be damn careful you are not being manipulated,” said James C. Tyree, a former chairman of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, who has backed Republicans and Democrats, including Mr. Obama. “And they are getting close to that, if not over that edge.”

But others praise its leading role against Democrat-backed initiatives, like health care reform, financial regulation and climate change, which they argue will hurt American businesses. The Obama administration’s “antibusiness rhetoric” has infuriated executives, making them open to the chamber’s efforts, said John Motley, a former lobbyist for the National Federation of Independent Business, a chamber rival.

“They’ve raised it to a science, and an art form,” he said of the chamber’s pitches to corporate leaders that large contributions will help “change the game” in Washington.

As a nonprofit organization, the chamber need not disclose its donors in its public tax filings, and because it says no donations are earmarked for specific ads aimed at a candidate, it does not invoke federal elections rules requiring disclosure.

The annual tax returns that the chamber releases include a list of all donations over $5,000, including 21 in 2008 that each exceed $1 million, one of them for $15 million. However, the chamber omits the donors’ names.

But intriguing hints can be found in obscure places, like the corporate governance reports that some big companies have taken to posting on their Web sites, which show their donations to trade associations. Also, the tax filings of corporate foundations must publicly list their donations to other foundations, including one run by the chamber.

These records show that while the chamber boasts of representing more than three million businesses, and having approximately 300,000 members, nearly half of its $149 million in contributions in 2008 came from just 45 donors. Many of those large donations coincided with lobbying or political campaigns that potentially affected the donors.

Dow Chemical, for example, sent $1.7 million to the chamber in the past year to cover not only its annual membership dues, but also to support lobbying and legal campaigns. Those included one against legislation requiring stronger measures to protect chemical plants from attack.

A Dow spokesman would not discuss the company’s reasons for the large donation, other than to say it supports the chamber’s work.

Prudential Financial’s $2 million donation last year coincided with a chamber lobbying effort against elements of the financial regulation bill in Congress. A spokesman for Prudential, which opposed certain proposed restrictions on the use of financial instruments known as derivatives, said the donation was not earmarked for a specific issue.

But he acknowledged that most of the money was used by the chamber to lobby Congress.

“I am not suggesting it is a coincidence,” said the spokesman, Bob DeFillippo.

More recently, the News Corporation gave $1 million to support the chamber’s political efforts this fall; Chairman Rupert Murdoch said it was in best interests of his company and the country “that there be a fair amount of change in Washington.”

Business interests also give to the chamber’s foundation, which has worked to shield businesses from lawsuits, along with promoting free trade. Its tax filings show that seven donors gave the foundation at least $17 million between 2004 and 2008, about two-thirds of the total raised.

These donors include Goldman Sachs, Edward Jones, Alpha Technologies, Chevron Texaco and Aegon, which has American subsidiaries and whose former chief executive, Donald J. Shepard, served for a time as chairman of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s board.

Another large foundation donor is a charity run by Maurice R. Greenberg, the former chairman of the insurance giant A.I.G. The charity has made loans and grants totaling $18 million since 2003. U.S. Chamber Watch, a union-backed group, filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service last month asserting that the chamber foundation violated tax laws by funneling the money into a chamber “tort reform” campaign favored by A.I.G. and Mr. Greenberg. The chamber denied any wrongdoing.

The I.R.S. complaint raises the question of how the chamber picks its campaigns, and whether it accepts donations that are intended to be spent on specific issues or political races.

The chamber says it consults with members on lobbying targets, but that it does not make those decisions based on the size of a donation or accept money earmarked to support a specific political candidate.

Endorsement decisions, chamber officials said, are based on candidates’ votes on a series of business-related bills, and through consultations with the chamber’s regional directors, state affiliates and members.

To avoid conflicts of interest, individual businesses do not play a role in deciding on which races to spend the chamber’s political advertising dollars. The choices instead are made by the chamber’s political staff, based on where it sees the greatest chance of getting pro-business candidates elected, chamber executives said.

“They are not anywhere near a room when we are making a decision like that,” Mr. Josten said, of the companies that finance these ads.The chamber’s extraordinary money push began long before this election season. An organization that in 2003 had an overall budget of about $130 million, it is spending $200 million this year, and the chamber and its affiliates allocated $144 million last year just for lobbying, making it the biggest lobbyist in the United States.

In January, the chamber’s president, Thomas J. Donohue, a former trucking lobbyist, announced that his group intended “to carry out the largest, most aggressive voter education and issue advocacy effort in our nearly 100-year history.”

The words were carefully chosen, as the chamber asserts in filings with the Federal Election Commission that it is simply running issue ads during this election season. But a review of the nearly 70 chamber-produced ads found that 93 percent of those that have run nationwide that focus on the midterm elections either support Republican candidates or criticize their opponents.

And the pace of spending has been relentless. In just a single week this month, the chamber spent $10 million on Senate races in nine states and two dozen House races, a fraction of the $50 million to $75 million it said it intends to spend over all this season. In the 2008 election cycle, it spent $33.5 million.To support the effort, the chamber has adopted an all-hands-on-deck approach to fund-raising. Mr. Josten said he makes many of the fund-raising calls to corporations nationwide, as does Mr. Donohue. (Both men are well compensated for their work: Mr. Donohue was paid $3.7 million in 2008, and has access to a corporate jet and a chauffeur, while Mr. Josten was paid $1.1 million, tax records show.)

But those aggressive pitches have turned off some business executives.

“There was an arrogance to it like they were the 800-pound gorilla and I was either with them with this big number or I just did not matter,” said Mr. Tyree, of Chicago.

Another corporate executive, who asked not to be named, said the chamber risks alienating its members.

“Unless you spend $250,000 to $500,000 a year, that is what they want for you to be one of their pooh-bahs, otherwise, they don’t pay any attention to you at all,” the executive said, asking that the company not be identified.

Chamber officials acknowledge the tough fund-raising, but they say it has been necessary in support of their goal of remaking Congress on Election Day to make it friendlier to business.

“It’s been a long and ugly campaign season, filled with partisan attacks and political squabbling,” William C. Miller Jr., the chamber’s national political director, said in a message sent to chamber members this week. “We are all tired — no doubt about it. But we are so close to bringing about historic change on Capitol Hill.”

Eric Lipton reported from Washington, and Mike McIntire and Don Van Natta Jr. from New York. Kitty Bennett and Griffin Palmer contributed research.

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