Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola
Mishawaka, Indiana, USA
March 10
Kevin Gosztola is a multimedia editor for He will be serving as an intern for The Nation Magazine during the spring in 2011. His work can be found on OpEdNews, The Seminal,, and a blog on Alternet called "Moving Train Media." He is part of CMN News, which produces a weekly podcast or radio show on Talk Shoe. He is a 2009 Young People For Fellow and a documentary filmmaker who graduated with a Film/Video B.A. degree from Columbia College Chicago in the Spring 2010. In April 2010, he co-organized a major arts & media summit called "Art, Access & Action," which explored the intersection of politics, art and media and was supported by Free Press.

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Editor’s Pick
OCTOBER 12, 2010 2:06PM

Too Late for Dems to Address Corporate Money This Election

Rate: 7 Flag

Opportunistic politicians can bathe in excessive amounts of corporate money in this election. That's, for the most part, thanks to the Citizens United v. FEC decision that has many leaders wary about what campaign financing they can and cannot get away with. | Photo by elycefeliz



Like a BP oil gusher, foreign money is allegedly flowing into the midterm elections. Heavyweight interests with the muscle to influence legislation to suit their agenda, like the Chamber of Commerce, are at the center of this foreign money gusher putting Republicans over the top in many of the elections where Democratic incumbents are now endangered. Another corporate money gusher, unsurprisingly, is coming as a result of Karl Rove's and the Koch Brothers' attempts to influence the outcome of the election.

Think Progress recently revealed some "basic facts" the Chamber is having trouble refuting: it receives foreign sources of funding, the foreign funds go directly into the Chamber's general 501(c)(6) entity, at least $300,000 has been channeled from foreign companies in India and Bahrain to the account, the foreign sources include foreign state-owned companies, including the State Bank of India and the Bahrain Petroleum Company, the Chamber's 501(c)(6) entity has been used to launch an unprecedented $75 million partisan attack ad campaign against Democrats.

Rove and another George W. Bush adviser, Ed Gillespie, are behind American Crossroads and Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, which "raised about $14.5 million in the 30-day period that ended [September 19th]." As Associated Press writer Jim Kuhnhenn wrote, "Under rules liberalized by both the Supreme Court and a federal appellate court, American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS can raise unlimited amounts of money from individuals and corporations." It is "registered with the Federal Election Commission and as such must reveal its donors, but Crossroads GPS is registered only as a nonprofit with the IRS and doesn't have to disclose its sources of money."

The Koch Brothers influence on the 2010 Election likely began the day after President Obama was inaugurated. Jane Mayer noted in her profile of the Koch Brothers that ran in The New Yorker the Kochs of have been giving money to "'educate', fund, and organize Tea Party protesters and turn a "private agenda into a mass movement." Their investment has been all about getting "actual people, like voters" to get out there and "provide real ideological power" so the Kochs could "shape and control and channel the populist uprising" against government into the creation of policies to suit their agenda.

When Mayer's report was published, Koch Industries had led "all other energy companies in political contributions." Also, as noted by Mayer, David Koch was at that point "the biggest individual contributor to the Republican Governors Association, with a million-dollar donation." Mayer also noted that tracking all of the donations by the Kochs "may be untraceable" because "federal tax law permits anonymous personal donations to politically active nonprofit groups."

Kevin Zeese of the Prosperity Agenda explained in his article, "Can Anyone Stop Rove's Crime Against Democracy While it is in Progress?":

"The wealthy using front groups for secret donations is not new. It is a strategy perfected by a variety groups that [is] on steroids in the post-Citizens United electoral world. The Chamber of Commerce is one of the leaders in this approach where they have focused a great deal in past years on affecting the outcome of state supreme court races. We've been highlighting this at In one case, the courts, after five years of litigation, required disclosure of campaign donors for a Chamber front group. In Citizens for a Strong Ohio the Ohio Elections Commission ruled that a Chamber of Commerce front group that attacked an Ohio Supreme Court Justice was required to disclose its donors under Ohio law. Three courts upheld that decision, and all the corporate donors were named. The Chamber is a major player in this year's election activity as well"

In the midst of providing support to Democratic candidates struggling in this election, President Obama has recently chosen to bring attention to the flow of foreign money coming from the Chamber. He says of the Chamber, "one of the largest groups paying for these [attack] ads regularly takes in money from foreign corporations" and "groups that receive foreign money are spending huge sums to influence American elections, and they won't tell you where the money for their ads come from."

Weeks before the election it is obviously too late to do anything about corporate or foreign money and what that money might do to the well being of the Democratic Party as a result. The writing was on the wall after the Citizens United v. FEC decision; it was noted by Think Progress that foreign corporations with U.S.-subsidiaries would likely end up spending unlimited amounts of money on elections to fight agendas that may not be germane to their business' interests.

In response to the decision, legislation was drafted by Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL), Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) that would have attempted to "curb the influence of foreign corporations and foreign governments following the decision." Corporate political action committees (PACs) and corporate lobbyists representing foreign corporations like the "Organization for International Investment, a trade group representing foreign banks, oil companies, and other foreign corporations operating in the United States," however, stalled the momentum of this legislation. Rep. Van Hollen was able to get the legislation passed through the House in some form on June 24th of this year, but in the final weeks of September, Democratic leaders in the Senate were unable to get the DISCLOSE Act (as the legislation was named) to advance in the Senate.

Keep in mind, the Democratic Party has its own version of the Koch Brothers, George Soros. So, they have found a way to cope with the Republican Party's increased penchant for letting corporations violate federal election regulations in order to put their Party over the top in elections. Surely, without certain ways of keeping Soros' donations anonymous, the Democratic Party would be in greater disarray.

Only now when the Democratic Party is under threat from corporate money are Democratic Party leaders like Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine expressing their disapproval over moneyed influences gaming American democracy. Up to this point, a strong response to the Citizens United decision has not been of immediate importance; jobs and the economy has supposedly been the number one issue. Now, the Democrats appear to be publicly admitting how much they underestimated the negative and severe implications this Supreme Court decision would have on elections and they are trying to bring this issue to the attention of voters.

The Democratic Party leadership likely thought the donations would not be a game changer. They felt if they promoted "Third Way" politics and pushed for more centrism and moderate politics in Congress they would inevitably triumph; as the Tea Party frightened Americans more and more, pragmatist politics would help maintain a Democratic majority through the November election.

A misunderstanding of the volatile political climate that now has the pendulum swinging between the Democratic and Republican Parties faster and faster as Americans become more and more impatient with the politics of business as usual---That's one of a few logical explanations for why the Democrats let this decision fester for so long, for why there will be no political action taken to curb the impacts of the decision before this election.

Another miscalculation is how little President Obama has gone after players like the Koch Brothers. The historical significance of Obama's failure to defend democracy publicly was highlighted by Frank Rich's piece on the Rupert Murdoch's and the Kochs' influence on politics:

"When wolves of Murdoch's ingenuity and the Kochs' stealth have been at the door of our democracy in the past, Democrats have fought back fiercely. Franklin Roosevelt's triumphant 1936 re-election campaign pummeled the Liberty League as a Republican ally eager to "squeeze the worker dry in his old age and cast him like an orange rind into the refuse pail." When John Kennedy's patriotism was assailed by Birchers calling for impeachment, he gave a major speech denouncing their "crusades of suspicion."

And Obama? So far, sadly, this question answers itself."

The will to take on corporate money in elections has come late. The answer is now clear: waiting to see what would happen and hoping for the production of some compromise to nullify the detrimental effects of the Citizen United failed. Bargaining with corporate interests to produce a bill that could be amenable to certain special interests and voters got in the way of taking decisive action; it also didn't make it more likely to pass through Congress either.

Greg Palast saw this coming. He wrote about "Manchurian candidates" running for office after the decision came down.

Unfortunately for Democrats, it's hard to sympathize with the situation they have put themselves in. Whoever has really held the reins of political strategy from 2008 to now has failed tremendously. Thousands if not millions of Democratic voters in recent months have found themselves victims of attacks on them for remaining energized and engaged in the process of "making Obama" bring the change they think this country needs.

The attacks on citizens willing to act out independently from the Democratic Party to advance real change isn't really new, but given the nature of Obama's election, it's quite revealing of what President Obama really stands for. And as a result of the White House's involvement in blasting its base and not standing up to corporate money interests, more and more voters are seeking and will seek an alternative to the Democratic Party in this election and its aftermath.


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It’s not too late to do some educating and have some impact on the elections but it is too late to hope that these elections will be fair. The more done now the less damage there will be to undo and there will be an enormous amount of work to do educating the public after the fact and reforming the system so that money doesn’t control everything.
DISCLOSE was a good idea, but what's wrong with publicly funded campaigns, and no other stuff allowed? Rated.
Kevin... you should be writing for Rolling Stone! Excellent writing and reporting! I could say I "enjoyed" every word, but given the nature of the topic, that doesn't seem quite right. What is so stunning to me is that they have all these so-called experts and professionals that work in the White House and the Democratic party but they always seem a day late and a dollar short when it comes to what is happening that could undermine their political position. Additionally, much as they denigrate those that worked enthusiastically in '06 and '08, they don't seem to really grasp what any of the public anger and antipathy for them is about. How come so many of us understand and can articulate these issues, see the problems far in advance, but these genuises don't have a clue? Boggles the mind! Great work!
Thanks for compiling all of this, and for providing such great links too.

It's never too late to educate. All politics that produces flawed results is worth highlighting, debating, and discussing. Their needs to be argument but not with an interest in being "right." The motivation for deliberation needs to be an understanding that talking about the political climate in America that our nation's broken political and electoral structures are producing will help lead to meaningful reform.

Thanks for the comment.

DISCLOSE is a good idea. It should have been passed and signed into law before the summer was over.

Public funded campaigns and no other stuff allowed is what citizens should expect from this democracy. Unfortunately, every two or four years, we citizens lower our expectations another level and settle for less because that's all we think we can get.

Is it any wonder there are so many angry and dissatisfied people in America?

Thanks for your comment.
Kate Flannery,

Thanks for the praise. The thought of being published in Rolling Stone perhaps before or after a Matt Taibbi article makes me want to take what I do to the next level.

Yeah, there's nothing enjoyable about this. I think we need to caution ourselves. Eventually, we have to give up on the thought the Democrats are inept and we have to start asking if they are complicit. What they have the power to do they so often choose to not exert any effort in doing at all.

This election cycle is tough. The Democrats are allowing their party to be moved further right. They are choosing to not take certain stances on issues because they feel they need to be centrist or moderate or more like Republicans in order to hold on to seats. I don't think and never have thought that is the answer.

Thanks for the comment.
Jeanette DeMain,

No problem. It's a regular thing for me now. I wouldn't do a post without properly citing what I have to say. That's partly because what I say requires citation; rarely am I spouting conventional wisdom.

I deliberately aim to challenge conventional wisdom.

Thanks for the comment.
And I trust you''re concerned about the influence of union money as well?
Yes, Barbara, and I have Glenn Beck, Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity and some other people at FOX News working diligently to make sure union money doesn't continue to be such a staggering and devastating issue for American democracy.
Thank you thank you thank you ! GOP Stole the two Bush elections, and now They have manufactured a way to cheat lie and steal again.

Yep, but this is what the Republicans especially Karl Rove do best. They have been gaming elections and perpetrating fraud to some extent since at least 2000.

It's time, however, that we no longer let Democrats off the hook. Some part of this stealing of elections that the Republican Party engages in leads them to believe they can get away with not addressing or confronting it.

Does it have anything to do with the number of people who do not think stolen elections can happen in America -- land of the free, home of the brave? I don't know.

Thanks for the comment.
But Kevin, how could Your delusional s[ecial interest money exist when a "knowledgable" insider like catnliar recently said to Mary Gravitt:

You do realize Bush and Rove are both gone and have been for months, . . . . So what is the point?

SEPTEMBER 04, 2010 12:54 AM


Did you not see this?

New York Times, Oct. 8: [T]here is little evidence that what the chamber does in collecting overseas dues is improper or even unusual, according to both liberal and conservative election-law lawyers and campaign finance documents.

In fact, the controversy over the Chamber of Commerce financing may say more about the Washington spin cycle — where an Internet blog posting can be quickly picked up by like-minded groups and become political fodder for the president himself — than it does about the vagaries of campaign finance.

It looks like even the paper is getting tired of lies and guilty without proof statements.

Sorry about the Gary thing. Reading to many things at once.
"The Democrats are allowing their party to be moved further right. They are choosing to not take certain stances on issues because they feel they need to be centrist or moderate or more like Republicans in order to hold on to seats."

They are moving because that is where the people are. Voters are not far left. They are all around the center. Even President Clinton realized that if he wanted to keep his job he had to move.

Take the far left's signature issue, Obamacare. Show me one person running to keep their seat who is running an ad being proud that they voted for Obamacare.

How about the liberal even says the Chamber did nothing wrong.

Hopefully Congressman Johnson D-(GA) will be right and the next time you go to Guam it will tip over and you will fall off.
Actually, I was serious. Are you concerned too about union money, money from the legal community, from Planned Parenthood, from NOW and such influencing elections? How about the Teachers' Union? Worried that a fair look at education problems may not happen if the Democrats are too influenced by that union? I mean, doesn't intellectual honesty demand that one be consistent here about the influence of all large groups IF one is going to be concerned at all?

Hoping you learn the intellectual honesty and open inquiry bit some day.