Voting For Stolen Democracy.

by Jerry Alatalo

Electronic Voting Machine (photo: cpwv.org)
Electronic Voting Machine
(photo: cpwv.org)

Alphabet Years ago in Wheaton, Illinois there was a sandwich shop called “John’s Corner Deli” where I’d go for lunch every so often. One day there was an older fellow, John and myself in the place, and the older customer mentioned Diebold to John as a stock for purchase, kind of like an insider-trading tip to John for making money from a growing company. The older fellow must have been somehow involved in government in DuPage County, Illinois and knew about a large purchase of Diebold voting machines through his public job, plus probably an awareness that voting districts across the country would soon be purchasing them in large quantities.

Electronic voting machines have caused a lot of controversy since coming on the scene in America because the machines have been proven easily hacked or manipulated, oftentimes do not provide a paper trail, and audits/recounting by hand to confirm the machines’ tabulation totals are very rarely conducted. In the following fascinating 2-hour discussion on voting fraud in the United States, panelists describe a severe problem with the way elections become carried out around the 50 states, and strongly suggest the need for Americans who care about democracy to become informed on what has happened for generations.

One of the woman panelists is the daughter of one of the brothers/authors James M. and Kenneth F. Collier who wrote “Votescam: The Stealing of America” in 1992 about their experience in Florida politics. Not having purchased/read the book, from reading the reviews it looks like information in the book could become relevant for Jeb Bush’s presidential ambitions. One of the reviewers writes about George H.W. Bush granting a pardon to a convicted-by-his-peers cocaine dealer who apparently gave Jeb Bush $700,000 in campaign contributions. The book is available on Amazon at the following link:

http://www.amazon.com/Votescam-Stealing-James-M-Collier

Also on the panel is the author of “Code Red: Computerized Election Theft and the New American Century” (July 2014) Jonathan D. Simon. His anger and passion come through during the discussion, and, along with the other panelists and members of the audience, the message becomes loud and clear that election reform will come about or democracy is in continuing danger of being lost. Apologies for the over 2-hour length of the video as most readers have other blogs to read and keep up on, but, even though there are no American elections coming up soon, the important point is that democracy is impossible if votes are not counted correctly.

Jonathan Simon’s book at Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/CODE-RED-Computerized-Election

Paper and pencil ballots, counted by hand with easily constructed accounting based procedures guaranteeing accurate totals offers the best system of all for conducting free, clean and fair elections. This discussion focuses on fraudulent vote rigging and how urgent is making Americans aware of it. In addition, election reforms such as holding elections on the weekend or making federal elections a national holiday, and overturning Citizens United would strengthen democracy in America. The discussion raises genuine concerns that need serious address if democracy is to rise from the ashes, survive and return to its fullest potential. Because voting in America is in deep trouble.

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(Thank you to Elisa Zazzera at YouTube)

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Casino Politics.

Wall Street’s Investments in Deregulation 

(Cross-posted from opensecrets.org on January 16, 2015)

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Wall Street did its part to make 2014 the most expensive midterm election ever, outpacing its 2010 total and once again putting the bulk of its financial muscle behind GOP candidates and groups.

Donors from the securities and investment industry, otherwise known as Wall Street, contributed a total of $184 million to candidates, parties and outside spending groups during the 2014 midterms — a $75 million increase over the last comparable election.

That figure pales in comparison to 2012’s $288 million, but that was a presidential year in which one of the White House candidates came from the world of finance and the other had been critical of the industry’s role in triggering the Great Recession.

Despite the large overall spending discrepancy between 2012 and 2014, though, the difference in contributions to outside spending groups was only about $22 million. Donations to outside spending organizations accounted for 39 percent of Wall Street’s total in 2014, jumping from $7 million in the 2010 cycle to $93 million in 2012 and dropping just a bit to $71 million in this last cycle.

Wall Street spending favored Republicans 62 percent of the time in the 2014 cycle, the second highest rate in more than two decades and just behind 2012’s 69 percent level.

With the GOP in charge in both the House and Senate, Wall Street’s investments are likely to show good returns. Already the industry has begun to chip away at the main law passed in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis that curtailed some of its riskier activities.

Wall Street’s Darlings

Despite its right-leaning partisan split overall, though, the financial industry’s preference for the GOP didn’t reign across the board. Democratic senator took in more campaign cash from Wall Street than their GOP colleagues, totaling nearly $10 million.

It was a different story in the House, where Republican members raked in $16.5 million in campaign donations compared to $10.3 million for Democrats.

Wall Street’s favorite Senate candidate in the past cycle was Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.). Booker took in nearly $2 million from Wall Street in his pair of Senate races in the past two years. The former Newark mayor is considered a friend to the bankers across the Hudson.

The noted defender of private equity garnered support from multiple hedge funds. Wall Street is just $34,000 short of being Booker’s top donor group, just after lawyers and law firms.

Goldman Sachs is sixth on Booker’s list of career donors, having contributed $59,600 to his campaigns.

Freshly crowned Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell cashed Wall Street checks worth $1.6 million over the past two years. Fellow Republican Sen. Tom Cotton (Ark.) received $1 million and Democratic Sens. Mark Warner (Va.) and Charles Schumer (N.Y.) both took in more than $900,000.

Wall Street also favored leadership in its House giving, donating $1.2 million to Speaker John Boehner‘s (R-Ohio) campaign. Former Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) followed Boehner in Wall Street contributions with nearly $700,000 but failed to defeat upstart opponent Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.) in the primary. (Cantor is still cashing checks from Wall Street, though now they come biweekly.)

Former vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) received $560,503 from Wall Street, and Goldman Sachs alum Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.) took in $485,788.

Power Players

The top of the list of Wall Street spending on the 2014 elections is dominated by a handful of mega-donors born out of Citizens United.

Wall Street’s highest spender in the 2014 cycle was Elliott Management. The hedge fund firm donated $12.3 million — the majority of which went to outside spending groups.

Elliott Management CEO Paul Singer accounted for nearly $10 million of that total, meaning he alone contributed more than any other Wall Street firm. Singer is a noted conservative donor who has given large sums to outside spending groups.

Paul Singer is Wall Street's biggest single donor.(Flickr/World Economic Forum)

Singer contributed nearly $3 million to American Unity PAC in 2014, a conservative gay rights group he helped found. He also made multiple seven-figure donations to Karl Rove’s American Crossroads super PAC. Singer was the top individual conservative donor in 2014; only liberal donors Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg spent more.

Renaissance Technologies, another hedge fund, ranked second in 2014-cycle donations with $8.8 million. As with Elliott Management, most of that total can be attributed to one individual, co-CEO Robert Mercer. Mercer and his wife combined to contribute $8.4 million to conservative candidates and causes this cycle.

Mercer personally donated $2.5 million to Freedom Partners Action Fund, a Koch brothers group founded for the 2014 midterms. David and Charles Koch each managed $2 million donations. Mercer also made $1 million dollar contributions to Club for Growth Action and Ending Spending Action Fund — the super PAC wing of the group started by Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts.

TD Ameritrade, the Omaha-based online broker founded by Ricketts, came in third in contributions at $4.9 million.

Renaissance Technologies’ founder James Simons is also a major donor, although along with wife Marilyn he favors liberal groups and candidates. No longer running Renaissance, Simons’ 2014 donations are not included in the hedge fund’s total.

Simons’ biggest 2014 contributions of $5 and $2 million went to the Senate Majority PAC and House Majority PAC respectively. The pair of super PACs have close ties to now Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

Ricketts and his wife Marlene donated $6.7 million to conservative groups and candidates during the 2014 cycle. The pair combined to contribute nearly $6 million to Ending Spending Action Fund.

Goldman Sachs contributed more to candidates than any other firm — $2.1 million. Goldman’s employees and PAC contributed an additional $1.3 million to the parties, nearly $900,000 of which went to the three major Republican bodies. McConnell received more money from Goldman than any other candidate, taking home a shade less than $100,000. Goldman Sachs ranked sixth in total contributions among Wall Street firms.

UBS and Blackstone Group were also among the biggest donors to candidates, donating more than $1.5 million directly to campaigns.

Lobbying

Wall Street’s lobbying total for 2014 is again headed toward the $100 million range. Fourth quarter reports are due to be filed next week, but through the third quarter, Wall Street firms had spent $74 million on more than 700 guns for hire. In 2013 Wall Street’s lobbying total fell just short of nine figures, coming in at $99.1 million. Lobbying by the securities and investment industry peaked in 2010 (as it did for many industries) at $105.6 million.

Industry trade groups Security Industry and Financial Markets Association and the Investment Company Institute combined to spend nearly $10 million on lobbying in the first three quarters of this year.

Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs spent more on lobbying than any other Wall Street firms, shelling out $3.2 and $2.9 million respectively through Sept. 30.

The common thread in Wall Street lobbying reports for 2014 was overwhelmingly Dodd-Frank, the 2010 law passed in response to the financial crisis. It has remained a hotly debated topic for bankers, politicians and regulators since its passage.

And in that sense, Wall Street’s GOP spending spree makes perfect sense; Republicans have made it clear that they oppose much of Dodd-Frank, favoring a return to the deregulation that led to record profits for financial firms and bankers — despite at least some consensus that those freewheeling days contributed to the financial meltdown.

Wall Street and its lobbyists claimed a victory against the law late last year when one of Dodd-Frank’s provisions was repealed in an eleventh-hour spending bill using language written by Citigroup lobbyists themselves.

Known as section 716, the provision required banks to conduct certain types of derivatives trading separately from the portions of their operations that are federally insured. Wall Street critics argue this provision — and much of Dodd-Frank — is needed because bankers will risk more when they know the federal government will rescue them should their wagers go bad.

Another bill often listed on Wall Street lobbying filings was Sen. Sherrod Brown‘s (D-Ohio) Terminating Bailouts for Taxpayer Fairness Act (TBTF for short, an abbreviation which most commonly refers to “too big to fail”). The bill, which is opposed by the financial houses, would set new capital requirements for banks, mandating they keep more cash on hand.

Where The Voter Meets The Democracy Road.

Posted on October 29, 2014

by Jerry Alatalo

aaa-26Alphabet With United States midterm elections only days away, election reform seemed a timely topic. It’s surprising that in the United States the standardization of voting systems/processes has yet to become implemented which leads to nearly perfect symmetry between voters’ true intentions and the final results. Many writers and activists concerned about clean elections point to Canada, where apparently paper and pencil ballots, hand counted across the country, results in final tallies after 5 hours.

In voting and elections, simplest is best. Paper and pencil ballots are as close as one can get to total transparency and confidence that the people’s votes/intentions became accurately expressed, and the men and women elected were the ones which the democratic majority of citizens thought best qualified for public service. Other election reform measures worthy of consideration include the banning of all money – down to the last penny – from the process, banning all advertising in lieu of debates on radio, television, and the internet, Sunday and/or weekend voting instead of Tuesdays, and strong enforcement of election laws related to political corruption.

Paper ballots filled out with a pencil offers the chance for accurate recounts with a paper trail, while eliminating any opportunity for criminal hacking of votes through either electronic voting machines or counting scanners. Banning all money from elections benefits citizens who will become much more informed on the issues and more apt to vote for the candidates whose positions reflect their own. Elections should be all about whose ideas make it better possible to improve the health and well-being of citizens, not about whose advertising consultants have the best marketing tricks up their sleeves.

Banning money from elections eliminates the need for elected representatives to spend too much time raising money, to cast their votes with prejudice toward their largest contributors, and allows that time to become spent on solving problems. Voting on the weekend would result in higher voter participation as most people have Sundays or Saturdays off from work, and Tuesday voting makes many voters not bother because of the pull between work and voting.

Of course, media corporations may hold a much different view about eliminating $multi-billions of spending on advertising during elections, as well as providing free primetime airspace for debates. Very large-money, billionaire election donors may have an even more intense opposition to removing every last red cent from elections, and/or could have a problem with citizens becoming more greatly informed about real issues affecting their family, neighbors, and friends’ lives. All these reform measures and more could come into existence after the United States held a Constitutional Convention.

Perhaps after viewing the following video clips from the Emmy-nominated HBO documentary “Hacking Democracy” the idea of a United States Constitutional Convention will seem like a very wise idea. Perhaps some major reforming is in order.

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For more information, please visit: http://www.hackingdemocracy.com and http://www.blackboxvoting.org

(Thank you to Hacking Democracy at YouTube)

First ten minutes of the film:

Troubling, saddening demonstration of touchscreen vote count manipulation:

Don’t forget to vote.

Enough Money In Political Campaigns Is Enough.

Posted April 5, 2014

by Jerry Alatalo

lake superior 444After 400 posts on this blog it seems proper to make #401 about overturning Citizens United. Perhaps no issue in recent American history – in all of American history – has been so close to unanimously agreed upon by the people in the United States. Polls have consistently shown that 70-80% of Americans oppose Citizens United and want it to go away. When enough state legislatures agree that a constitutional convention to remove the highly controversial Supreme Court ruling is needed, the U.S. Congress has no choice but to allow it to happen.

At that time, the people’s demands will come forward, a sufficient number of states will approve of what the people have demanded, and Citizens United will find itself on the ash heap of history’s errors.

Other democratic nations around the world are far ahead of the United States with regard to taking money out of political campaigns and allowing their people to move closer to true democracy. Allowing money to determine winners and losers places America in an unenviable position in the league of nations.

“In our day, certain economic proofs have been accepted as self-evident. The second Bill of Rights, under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all regardless of station, race, or creed. Among these are the rights to a useful and remunerative job, the right to earn enough for adequate food, clothing, and recreation. The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living. The right of every businessman both large and small to trade in an atmosphere of freedom – freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies home and abroad.”

“The right of every family to a decent home. The right to adequate medical care and an opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health. A right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, debt, and unemployment. The right to a good education. All of these rights spell security and, after this war is won, we must be prepared to move forward in the implementation of these rights, goals of happiness, and well-being. For unless there is security here at home there cannot be lasting peace in the world.”

– President Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Overturning Citizens United is all about a whole new way of practicing democracy – in America and around the world. Americans agree that something about our political system is not right and – that it doesn’t have to be this way.

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(Thank you to Move to Amend at YouTube)

Please visit movetoamend.org