CAW Gets The Ball Rolling

CAW sent letters to the 40 US Attorneys listed at http://campaignaccountabilitywatch.org/index.php?q=node/18 requesting that they empanel a grand jury to investigate the Chamber of Commerce, American Crossroads, Crossroads GPS and American Future Fund if those groups placed ads and spent money supporting or opposing candidates in the US Attorneys’ districts.  Some of the US Attorneys, such as Patrick Fitzgerald in Chicago, have jurisdiction over all four groups.  Here are links to the letters we sent to US Attorneys in Illinois, Ohio, Washington and Pennsylvania.
http://www.velvetrevolution.us/images/CAW_Ohio_Letter.pdf
http://www.velvetrevolution.us/images/CAW_Patrick_Fitzgerald_Letter.pdf
http://www.velvetrevolution.us/images/CAW_Pennsylvania_Letter.pdf
http://www.velvetrevolution.us/images/CAW_Washington_State_Letter.pdf

Talking Points Memo: Ensign Still On The Ethics Hook After Resigning

April 22, 2011- Scandal-scarred Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) may have hoped resigning would keep quiet unsavory details and new charges surrounding his affair with a top staffer's wife, but he's not off the hook yet.

The Senate Ethics Committee issued a rare statement Friday signaling it would continue its investigation of Ensign's affair and steps he took to keep it quiet despite having formally resigned his Senate seat. Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA), the top Democrat and Republican on the panel respectively, said his resignation is "appropriate" and indicated they would wrap up work on the probe as soon as possible.

"The Senate Ethics Committee has worked diligently for nearly 22 months on this matter and will complete its work in a timely fashion," they said in the statement.

There was no indication of just how thoroughly the panel would pursue the case with Ensign gone or whether they would wrap up what they have already found and issue a report before his departure date of May 3.

Usually ethics committee investigations, as well as Justice Department criminal probes of lawmakers, come to a screeching halt when members of Congress resign.

NYT: Senator Ensign to Resign Amid Inquiry

April 21, 2011- Senator John Ensign of Nevada, the subject of an ethics investigation related to his affair with the wife of a former top aide, announced Thursday evening that he was resigning, effectively ending the high-profile Senate inquiry that had already ruined his once-promising political career.

“It is with tremendous sadness that I officially hand over the Senate seat that I have held for eleven years,” Mr. Ensign, a Republican, said in a statement. “The turbulence of these last few years is greatly surpassed by the incredible privilege that I feel to have been entrusted to serve the people of Nevada.”

Mr. Ensign acknowledged that his departure was inspired in part to avoid formal charges of wrongdoing.

“While I stand behind my firm belief that I have not violated any law, rule, or standard of conduct of the Senate,” he said, “and I have fought to prove this publicly, I will not continue to subject my family, my constituents, or the Senate to any further rounds of investigation, depositions, drawn out proceedings, or especially public hearings. For my family and me, this continued personal cost is simply too great.”

Huffington Post: FEC Sued By Chris Van Hollen Over Huge Disclosure Loophole

April 21, 2011- A Democratic congressman on Thursday sued the Federal Election Commission in an effort to close a massive disclosure loophole before individuals and corporations have the chance to secretly funnel hundreds of millions of dollars into the 2012 presidential and congressional elections.

In his lawsuit, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.) charges that in 2007 the FEC created the loophole by willfully misinterpreting disclosure requirements in the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, which is more commonly known as McCain-Feingold.

That law clearly called for disclosure of donors to groups making "electioneering communications." Those are defined as the broadcast ads that refer to a federal candidate in the period 60 days before a general election or 30 days before a primary election.

But in 2007, the FEC added a regulation -- see section (c)(9) -- that complicated the original definition. Now disclosure is only required if a donation is explicitly made "for the purpose of electioneering communication."

As a result, a political group can -- and many now do -- refuse to divulge its donors on the grounds that those supporters were simply giving money to further the group's agenda, in a general sense.

Politcus USA: With A Stroke Of His Pen Obama Strikes Back At Citizens United

April 21, 2011- A little over a year ago the Supreme Court of the United States made a controversial ruling that says corporate funding of independent political broadcasts in candidate elections cannot be limited. The case known as Citizens United v Federal Election Commission allows corporations to use their general funds to buy campaign ads that was prohibited under federal law, and opened the door for unlimited contributions by corporations as well as unions. The high court cited the 1st Amendment’s guarantee of the right of free speech, and it was the first time a corporate entity was treated like a person. Detractors of the ruling cried foul and correctly pointed out that, “The Supreme Court has handed lobbyists a new weapon. A lobbyist can now tell any elected official: if you vote wrong, my company, labor union or interest group will spend unlimited sums explicitly advertising against your re-election.” The ruling also opened the door for foreign governments to affect the outcome of United States elections.

Huffington Post: FEC Sued By Chris Van Hollen Over Huge Disclosure Loophole

April 21, 2011- A Democratic congressman on Thursday sued the Federal Election Commission in an effort to close a massive disclosure loophole before individuals and corporations have the chance to secretly funnel hundreds of millions of dollars into the 2012 presidential and congressional elections.

In his lawsuit, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.) charges that in 2007 the FEC created the loophole by willfully misinterpreting disclosure requirements in the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, which is more commonly known as McCain-Feingold.

That law clearly called for disclosure of donors to groups making "electioneering communications." Those are defined as the broadcast ads that refer to a federal candidate in the period 60 days before a general election or 30 days before a primary election.

But in 2007, the FEC added a regulation -- see section (c)(9) -- that complicated the original definition. Now disclosure is only required if a donation is explicitly made "for the purpose of electioneering communication."

As a result, a political group can -- and many now do -- refuse to divulge its donors on the grounds that those supporters were simply giving money to further the group's agenda, in a general sense.

CNN: Independent groups expected to rake in hundreds of millions

April 14, 2011- As President Barack Obama kicks off the 2012 money race with a series of well-publicized re-election fundraisers in Chicago, Democratic operatives are quietly crisscrossing the nation to raise big money for new independent expenditure groups.

All told, these Democratic third-party groups aim to raise up to $200 million in outside money -- that's in addition to the $1 billion Obama's fundraisers set as their campaign goal. The number and size of the independent expenditure groups ballooned last year, thanks in part a Supreme Court ruling that allows unlimited contributions by corporations.

There is some irony here: Obama has denounced these secretive third-party groups as tools of "powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans." But now Democrats say, after they were trounced in the 2010 midterm elections by GOP-aligned third-party groups --- including those founded by Karl Rove and the Koch brothers --- they have no choice but to join them.

LA Times: Democrats following Republicans into field of undisclosed donors

Independent political organizations that can accept unlimited and undisclosed contributions are being formed by Democrats, who rebuked Republicans for the use of such groups in the 2010 midterm election

April 7, 2011- Democrats putting together new independent political organizations for the 2012 campaign are embracing a model that will allow them to conceal their donors — the very tactic for which they criticized Republicans in 2010.

Majority PAC, a new group aimed at electing Democrats to the Senate, and American Bridge 21st Century, which will serve as a research hub, are being organized as so-called super political action committees that can raise unlimited amounts of money from contributors whose donations are reported to the Federal Election Commission. But both are also affiliated with nonprofit 501(c)(4) social welfare groups that can raise money from undisclosed donors and give money directly to super PACs.

The same dual structure is being considered by Bill Burton and Sean Sweeney, two former White House aides who are likely to launch their own independent expenditure effort in support of President Obama's reelection, according to people familiar with the plans.

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