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Government The Almighty Buck Politics

What Charles G. Koch Can Teach Us About Campaign Finance Data 238

Posted by timothy
from the follow-the-oh-well-never-mind dept.
Lasrick writes "Lee Drutman is a political scientist with the Sunlight Foundation who does terrific work. In this article, he attempts to trace campaign donations made by one of the Koch Brothers and discovers just how difficult it is to do: 'The case of Charles G. Koch is a nice lesson in just how hard it is to determine who is breaking and who is abiding by campaign finance limits. It's hard to make accurate tallies of individual aggregate campaign contributions when the Federal Elections Commission doesn't require donors to have a unique ID, and when campaigns don't always reliably report donor names. Given this, it is unclear how the FEC would even enforce its own aggregate limit rules. The FEC's spokesperson told me that while the FEC welcomes complaints, it does not typically take enforcement initiative."'
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What Charles G. Koch Can Teach Us About Campaign Finance Data

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  • You don't have to track political donations just look at how the politicians vote. If you vote for bank bailouts I am going to assume you or someone you know is getting rich off it. If you vote for a hunded billion dollar Air Force fighter contract I wil assume the same.

    • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdo ... org minus author> on Saturday June 08, 2013 @04:37PM (#43947825)

      If you know who donates to which parties, politicians, and organizations, it can highlight what things you might want to give extra scrutiny to.

      You don't have to use the information, but I would like it to be available for analysis.

  • by KalvinB (205500) on Saturday June 08, 2013 @04:11PM (#43947695) Homepage

    Obama is spying on every American with blanket data grabs and still fails to stop terrorist attacks
    Obama has the IRS pry into the personal lives of anyone (and high school kids) who is trying to start a conservative non-profit

    And you want to bitch about money from people supporting a candidate that DIDN'T WIN the election.

    Step 1: Get the tyrant in power
    Step 2: Keep the tyrant in power

    Posting an article about people who are harassing conservatives for who they dare to support with their money... That's just special. I guess the IRS isn't doing a good enough job, we need to find other avenues to ensure Conservative/Republicans politicians don't get financial contributions to their campaign.

    • by fermion (181285)
      If obama was dictator this might make sense. But he isn't. There are many legislators, governors, and local officials who together take bribes to implement policies that may not be in the best interest of the country as a whole.

      The IRS situation is particularly appropriate here as what the IRS was doing was trying to prevent the money laundering going on in this article. Such money laundering does not only provide US political power to legitimate US corportations and firms, but also to terrorists and f

  • by JDAustin (468180) on Saturday June 08, 2013 @04:14PM (#43947705)

    Is it because the Koch is considered evil by the left while Soros is a saint?

    Yet the irony is that the Koch brothers actually make something in the United States and their workforce is 80% unionized while Soros is a banker who makes money on devaluing countries currency.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 08, 2013 @04:41PM (#43947841)

      It's much more likely because the Koch brothers quite literally astroturfed the Tea Party into existence. It doesn't take a genius to realize that the agenda being pushed by the Tea Party is obviously pro-corporation and anti-liberty.

      If people could detach emotional bias from politics, the Tea Party would disappear overnight when everyone realized how hoodwinked they had been by corporate interests.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by SteveFoerster (136027)

        If you think that free markets and deregulation are pro-corporate policies, you're not paying enough attention. The whole point of corporatism is to use "consumer protection" as an excuse to prevent new entrants into the marketplace.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 08, 2013 @04:59PM (#43947917)
          Deregulation has caused us nothing but trouble. Remember that Enron crisis a decade or so ago in CA? That was caused by deregulation. The 2008 economic meltdown was caused by deregulation. Deregulation only works in some imaginary libertarian fantasy world where greedy sociopath douchebags don't exist.
          • by khallow (566160) on Saturday June 08, 2013 @05:32PM (#43948101)

            Deregulation has caused us nothing but trouble. Remember that Enron crisis a decade or so ago in CA?

            I take it you don't realize that the state of California deliberately broke the electricity market in question? Electricity utilities were required to buy a portion of their electricity at any price on the spot market. It didn't take the so-called "smartest people in the room" (Enron) to see that was going to cause lucrative trouble.

            And once this flaw was revealed in the summer of 2000, the then governor, Gray Davis let this flaw run on for about six to seven months, bankrupting one utility and almost nailing a second (there were three such businesses in addition to utilities on the public or non profit side).

            Yes, Enron and other players manipulated the market. But we need to remember that the market was designed to reward such market manipulation.

            Another group of markets with similar behavior are the carbon credit exchanges in Europe. Because of the hard cap on the credits allotted for emissions, there either are more credits than emissions or less. In the former case, emission credits are low value. In the latter case, the high inelasticity of supply drives up prices and encourages market manipulation.

            After all, if you can buy a lot of credits early in the year for cheap and then sell them to desperate coal power generators and other industries near the end of the year, then you can make a bit of coin, even if you can't get rid of all the credits you bought.

            Anyway, when that market melts down, you'll know why.

            It's tiresome to see all these accusations against deregulation by the painfully ignorant. Deregulation can be done poorly, such as the California energy crisis or the firesale of Russian gas properties to Yeltsin cronies. Or it can be done well. One doesn't see such drama in telecommunications or passenger air travel, for example.

            • by Intropy (2009018)

              Or it can be done well. One doesn't see such drama in telecommunications or passenger air travel, for example.

              Or electricity. In Texas.

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by JDAustin (468180)

            Remember that Enron crisis a decade or so ago in CA?

            I live in California. When they deregulated the energy market, they only did a partial deregulation. In this case, partial dereg made things much worse.

            The 2008 economic meltdown was caused by deregulation

            No, the meltdown was caused by the government interferring in the market and forcing lenders to loan money to people who had no chance of paying it back.

            Socialism only works in some imaginary liberal fantasy world where greedy douchebags can't game the system to their own benefit. Under every economic system you will always have people who are able to

            • by Rockoon (1252108)

              I live in California. When they deregulated the energy market, they only did a partial deregulation. In this case, partial dereg made things much worse.

              Indeed, but the problem began much sooner, when they chased most of the power producers out of the state to begin with.

    • the real question, if you are going to have wild-ass money to surf down the halls of Congress on in the first place, is why we don't have something as reliable as DNA tagging to allow following the cash?

      oh, wait... ahh, now I get it. how silly of me. so, where's my check for shutting up?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Is it because the Koch is considered evil by the left while Soros is a saint?

      No, it's a directive. This is part of the larger campaign to instruct left-wing career bureaucrats to abuse their power, of which the IRS abuses are only the beginning. Rather than using "dog whistles" or "code words," they're using goddamned bullhorns to coordinate this, out in the open.

      The top leaders of the left, including Obama, deliberately claimed that conservative and libertarian organizations were cheating on their taxes, and groups like Sunlight and Media Matters made similar claims. It was basical

    • by Odin's Raven (145278) on Saturday June 08, 2013 @07:22PM (#43948571)

      Is it because the Koch is considered evil by the left while Soros is a saint?

      Seriously, did you even read the article? (I know, I know, this is /., what on earth am I thinking.) That's a rhetorical question, of course - you wouldn't ask the question you asked if you'd read the article. Then again, that seems to also be true of quite a few people who replied to you, so you're hardly alone.

      Koch is the subject because an earlier article, by the same author, had listed Koch as one of nearly 600 people who appeared to have exceeded campaign contribution limits. Turns out this was incorrect - an error due in large part to the disasterously poor state of data on contributions by major donors. The whole damned article is both exonerating Koch and explaining where the original analyis went wrong. It's about Koch because Koch's company took the time to contact the author, work with him to identify where and how some of the erroneous data came about, and help set the record straight. If one of the other nearly 600 donors listed had done the same, this follow-up article might easily have been about someone other than Koch.

      It's got nothing to do with "evil", "good", "bad", etc, except inasmuch as the FEC data is manifestly "bad", and woefully inadequate for even the FEC themselves to determine who may be breaking campaign finance laws. If you want to get upset about the article, get upset about the real point - that nobody has sufficient information to tell whether major contributors on either side of the political aisle are breaking the law. (And there were plenty of Dem donors in the original article if you take the time to read it. I apologize in advance to you that Soros wasn't on the list. Well, that's not true - there's two Soroses (Sori?) on the lists - just that <Jedi>these are not the Soroses you're looking for</Jedi>)

      So untwist your knickers, grab a beer, chill out, then try actually reading the article.

  • by nitehawk214 (222219) on Saturday June 08, 2013 @04:28PM (#43947771)

    Why would politicians that got elected enact laws to make it harder for them to be bribed? They specifically make the campaign finances difficult to track in order to hide the bribery.

    Not only that, but we let the people being elected set their own paychecks as well.

    • by dryeo (100693)

      In Canada campaign finance reform was pushed through by a retiring PM. Much like how super rich old people start to think about how they'll be remembered and start giving away their money to good causes in the hope of being remembered for the good they did instead of the horrible things they did to get rich, a politician at the end of their carrier might change the bribery laws.
      This worked better in Canada as the PM is defacto dictator with a majority government whereas the American system allows party memb

  • Enforcement (Score:2, Interesting)

    by memnock (466995)

    "... The FEC's spokesperson told me that while the FEC welcomes complaints, it does not typically take enforcement initiative."

    The FBI has the means to track laundered money in the banking system. I myself don't know all the ins and outs of laundering, but I'm sure it can get complicated as it takes the Bureau manpower and time to do so. But it can be done.

    It seems that the example of Koch and his pay-offs is akin to laundering. Especially if it's breaking laws. If the FEC hasn't been outfitted with means t

  • by Virtucon (127420) on Saturday June 08, 2013 @06:33PM (#43948401)

    Money buys influence. Period.

  • Biased by design (Score:4, Insightful)

    by RogueWarrior65 (678876) on Saturday June 08, 2013 @11:20PM (#43949955)

    This would have more validity if the the title was "What Charles Koch & George Soros can teach use about campaign finance data"

  • change the law so that political donations without a proper, verifiable audit trail back to a specific individual donor is deemed to be the proceeds of crime and subject to immediate civil forfeiture.

    the first whistleblower or citizen-detective who reports the improper donation gets to keep 50%

    the other half gets split equally between any competing candidates - but only to independents and minor parties.

What ever you want is going to cost a little more than it is worth. -- The Second Law Of Thermodynamics

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