Click here to join POGO's Un-Do Influence campaign: a movement to end the undue influence that powerful corporate interests have on our federal government.
By JOE NEWMAN
Are we seeing the "Colbert Effect" -- a greater awareness and concern about the impacts of Super Pacs on our elections? Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert has arguably done more to educate the average American about how Super Pacs work than a stack of New York Times editorials could ever hope to do.
A PEW Center survey found that among voters who were aware of the Citizens United ruling (the 2010 Supreme Court decision that opened the door to unlimited political spending by corporations, unions and advocacy groups), 65 percent said that Super Pacs were having a negative impact on the 2012 presidential campaign. Gotta figure there's a bunch of Colbert Report fans among those polled.
If you haven't seen Colbert and Jon Stewart lampoon the federal law that requires Super Pacs to act independently of candidates, check it out.
Will SEC Watchdog Lose its Bite?
That collective sigh of relief you're hearing? That's coming from some Wall Street types who just got the news that David Kotz, the Securities and Exchange Commission's (SEC) inspector general, is leaving at the end of January. (Charles S. Clark writes about Kotz' departure in Government Executive.)
It was under Kotz' direction that the SEC IG's office exposed how a top SEC regulator tried to "quash" an investigation into the Stanford Ponzi scheme. That SEC lawyer, Spencer Barasch (left), later left the agency for a job representing Stanford.
Last week, Barasch agreed to a $50,000 fine to settle civil charges brought by the Justice Department. Barasch still faces potential sanctions from the SEC. Project On Government Oversight staffers Michael Smallberg and Andrew Wyner recap one of the SEC's most egregious examples of revolving-door abuses.
SOPA Fight Bringing Out the Lobbyists
Talk about being between a rock and a hard place: Imagine being Sen. Dianne Feinstein (left), a co-sponsor of the Protect IP Act, trying to broker a compromise between her two big-moneyed constituencies--Hollywood movie makers and Silicon Valley techies.
Hollywood, of course, is backing the Protect IP and Stop Online Piracy legislation as a way to crack down on copyright violators. Silicon Valley's tech industry would have you believe that SOPA/PIPA will end the world as we know it. (I'd explain what the heck all the commotion is about by relying on partially-substantiated facts but Wikipedia was blacked out Wednesday.)
Anyways, the Huffington Post's Zach Carter and Ryan Grimm say that Feinstein (D-CA), who wasn't able to get the two sides to meet, is no longer a sure bet to support the anti-piracy (aka personal-freedom-crushing) legislation. The HuffPo guys point out that the SOPA/PIPA legislation has launched a flurry of lobbying activity with more than 1,000 lobbyists registered to "juice" (their word, not mine) lawmakers on the bills.
Think Progress' Josh Israel charts who is lobbying for and against PIPA. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which supports the legislation, is far and away spending the most lobbying on the issue at $19 million. Google at $4 million is the biggest opponent.
And over in the other chamber, the House Judiciary Committee is seeing a lot of familiar faces among the lobbyists on both sides of the issue. Keenan Steiner at the Sunlight Foundation says that 16 of the lobbyists used to work for the Judiciary Committee, which will continue marking up SOPA next month.
Obama's Bundles of Joy
How do you stand out from your run-of-the-mill campaign donor when federal election laws limit personal contributions to $2,500 per candidate per election cycle? Well, you go collect a bunch of checks from all your family members, friends, colleagues and contacts and present them in a "bundle" to the candidate.
Bundlers can raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for candidates, and all that hard work doesn't go unnoticed. Fred Schulte and Aaron Mehta at iWatch News write that President Barack Obama's elite donors enjoy special access to White House events and often receive presidential appointments to advisory boards and commissions.
In that regard, Schulte and Mehta say that Obama is just following in the footsteps of his predecessors when it comes to political patronage.
A Prescription for Big Pharma Influence
The next time you're in your doctor's office, take a look around and identify the calendars, pens, posters and other items that bear the name of a pharmaceutical company. That's one measure of transparency when it comes to Big Pharma influence on your medical care.
Now, thanks to some upcoming federal rules, pharmaceutical and medical device companies will have to disclose what they pay doctors for research, speaking engagements, travel and entertainment. Even more, that information will be online in a searchable database. Why is this important? Allow Robert Pear of the New York Times to connect the dots for you:
The Times has found that doctors who take money from drug makers often practice medicine differently from those who do not and that they are more willing to prescribe drugs in risky and unapproved ways, such as prescribing powerful antipsychotic medicines for children.
Joe Newman is POGO's Director of Communications.