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DEMOCRACY FOR SALE: Everything Must Go!

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POLITICO: Good news for rich people, corporate power players and labor bosses who want to buy some real influence with members of Congress: It just got a lot easier. Many voters assume it’s always been easy to buy influence with lawmakers: Send a few contributions their way and suddenly, you get special treatment. But the fact is, that’s pretty rare. Up until recently, individuals could give a couple thousand bucks to candidates or $5,000 to political action committees each election, while companies and labor unions could give $5,000 — but only through their PACs. For members raising millions of dollars each election cycle, it’s usually not enough to buy influence. Now, meet the super PAC, which allows for super giving: unlimited amounts, some that can be delivered in secret. Operatives from both parties have aligned these new groups with nonprofits that allow big checks to be taken in and then spent on any campaign in secret. So now, if you want to get the attention of a member of Congress, you can kick in major dollars to one of these super PACs — and people who follow money in politics worry that’s when bad things can happen. A single, secret $1 million check — which could become common in the world of super PACs — can really get someone’s attention, especially if they’re a member of Congress on the fundraising treadmill. MORE

NEW YORK TIMES: “With the candidate filings, we are only seeing a fraction of the total money raised for the presidential race,” said Ellen S. Miller, executive director of the Sunlight Foundation, a group that advocates more transparency in campaign spending. “The money being raised by super PACs — which very much are working for individual candidates — is completely secret at the moment and those that have to report won’t do so until the end of January of next year.” Under the current likely election calendar, that means that a clear picture of super PAC fund-raising will not be available until after the Iowa caucuses and the primaries in New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina, and Florida are already over — a span of skirmishes that has often proved decisive in presidential nominating contests. “It’s like watching a videotape of a bank robbery,” Ms. Miller said. “After the fact.” MORE

POLITICO: Democratic fundraising organization ActBlue plans to accept unlimited political contributions, which obama_money_zammarchi.jpgcould be good news for Democratic-backed super PACs. The Massachusetts-based organization filed the necessary paperwork with the Federal Election Commission on Thursday morning. ActBlue runs a website by the same name that connects small donors to Democratic candidates and causes across the country. Since the site’s launch in 2004, they’ve raised about $204 million.The new, mega donations will be directed to super PACs, which can accept contributions of any size. Democratic super PACs will likely benefit, including Priorities USA, founded by former staffers to President Barack Obama, and House Majority PAC and Majority PAC, which are endorsed by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Harry Reid. The change is a recognition that super PACs are “for better or worse, part of the campaign finance landscape,” said Adrian Arroyo, communications director for ActBlue. “We have to give people the choice: If they don’t support this, they don’t have to give to a super PAC,” he said. This year ActBlue connected donors across the country to the the effort to recall Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wis.) and the Occupy Wall Street protests, according to their website. ActBlue helped Harvard professor Elizabeth Warren raise close to $1 million in her bid to unseat Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), the group announced Monday. MORE

RELATED: Obama reelection raises $70.1 million in Q3 ($27.3 million DNC, $42.8 million Organizing for America), eclipsing $55 million goal. An Obama 2012 official emails from his iPad: “We did more with less this quarter: We canceled a series of events over the summer as congressional negotiations were ongoing, and our supporters stepped up in their stead. Even more supporters contributed this quarter and we’re now within striking distance of 1 million donors, something it took us a year to accomplish between Feb. ‘ 07 and Feb. ‘08, and that was in the midst of an energetic primary.” MORE

RELATED:  K Street and Capitol Hill veteran Broderick Johnson is joining the re-election campaign of President Barack Obama as a senior adviser. Johnson clocked more than a decade of experience in the U.S. House of Representatives, as an attorney, during the 1980s and 1990s. Between 1998 and 2000, he served in senior roles in the Clinton White House, including acting as the president’s principal liaison to the House. And after working for President Bill Clinton, Johnson became a top lobbyist for BellSouth Corp. and AT&T. During his time in the private sector in Washington, Johnson has also worked for Wiley, Rein & Fielding, the Oliver Group, Bryan Cave Strategies, Bryan Cave LLP and the Collins-Johnson Group, according to research by the Center for Responsive Politics.  In addition to AT&T, Johnson’s clients over the years have included numerous political heavy weights, federal lobbying records show, such as Anheuser-Busch, Bank of America, the Biotechnology Industry Organization, Comcast, Fannie Mae, FedEx, Ford, JPMorgan Chase, Microsoft, Shell Oil, Time Warner and Verizon. Federal records indicate that he has also lobbied on behalf of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the GEO Group (the private prison industry giant) and TransCanada Corp. — although TransCanada spokesman Terry Cunha told Politico Monday that the company’s “government relations operation did not look to and receive lobbying support from Broderick Johnson,” despite what lobbying records show, as the energy company has sought Obama administration approval for its controversial Keystone XL pipeline project. Johnson, a native of Baltimore, Md., has also served on the board of directors of the Center for American Progress Action Fund and is the husband of National Public Radio host Michele Norris. MORE

rove_money.jpgRELATED: With the 2012 elections looming, the media has dedicated much of its time these past few weeks to figuring out the ultimate Republican field to challenge President Obama. On her program today, Rachel Maddow warned that to worry too much about who would actually end up on the ballot would be dropping the ball, because it was the financial infrastructure behind the Republican Party, led by Karl Rove, that would be doing the heavy lifting, and has already begun to do so.Whoever the President ends up debating after the primaries end, Maddow argued that “Barack Obama is running against Karl Rove,” and the “quarter of a million dollars” his SuperPAC already has in the kitty to go to war with. MORE

RELATED: Super PACs made their debut following a Supreme Court decision that removed restrictions on corporate and union spending in elections. Super PACs spent more than $65 million that cycle, according to data from the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign spending. Republican-leaning groups far outpaced their Democratic counterparts, helping Republicans win control of the House and pick up six seats in the Senate. The biggest-spending super PAC that year was American Crossroads, a GOP group connected to Karl Rove, former President George W. Bush’s longtime political director. Crossroads and an affiliated organization, Crossroads GPS, spent nearly $38 million to influence House and Senate races. Crossroads has already raised $25 million this year and has spent more than $1 million on ads in several special elections around the country, as well as to influence the debate over Obama’s new $447 million jobs proposal and the negotiations last summer over raising the federal debt ceiling. Crossroads president Steven Law said super PACs help give voters an abundance of competitive information — not just from well-funded incumbents — that’s ultimately good for the country. MORE

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