This week the inimitable Raw Story released some terrific investigative reporting about how big corporations have spent the past several years funneling money to their trade associations so they can dump their corporate profits into influencing our elections:
The Supreme Court’s seismic January ruling that corporations are free to spend unlimited amounts of their profits to advertise for or against candidates may have been the latest shakeup of campaign finance – but gaping holes already allow corporations to spend enormous sums without leaving a paper trail, a Raw Story investigation has found.
Campaign finance experts confirmed that though disclosure rules remained intact in the new Supreme Court decision, there are effective methods to circumvent them.
Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, an attorney and campaign finance expert at New York University's Brennan Center for Justice, said corporations already effectively end-run campaign finance law by shuffling money through trade associations.
“One of their favorites right now is spending through trade associations,” Torres-Spelliscy said.
Trade associations are considered tax-exempt non-profit organizations under US law. While they must report contributions received from other corporations to the Internal Revenue Service, the document itself remains confidential and is not made available to the public.
Of course, now that the Supreme Court has ruled that corporations are people too, Big Oil companies like ExxonMobil and Chevron can use their foreign oil proceeds to run unlimited TV advertising against pro-clean energy legislators.
And as if campaign propaganda wasn't enough to influence the debate, this report from Anne Mulkern of Greenwire breaks the news that the oil and gas industry, led by top climate denier, propagandist and influence peddler Jack Gerard, spent $154 million on lobbying Congress last year, setting a new record:
Oil and gas companies spent at least $154 million on lobbying last year, potentially besting a field of rivals battling to shape climate and energy policies and setting a new record for the industry.
Influence efforts by the oil and gas sector grew at least 16 percent in 2009 from the $132 million spent in 2008, according to an early analysis of new lobbying disclosures by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. The total reflects spending for the first nine months of 2009 plus 80 percent of reports filed for the past three months.
The electric utility industry, meanwhile, spent at least $134.7 million on lobbying last year. Combined, the two traditional energy sectors paid out nearly 10 times the $29 million that alternative energy companies allocated for lobbying efforts. Environmental organizations spent at least $21.3 million last year on lobbying.
ExxonMobil and Chevron spent a combined $12 million on lobbying last year, leading the pack of terror-funding oil multinationals in gutting clean energy legislation as it limps through the Senate.