General Question

flo's avatar

Don't charities and political parties etc, have to know that the source of the donation is not crime?

Asked by flo (13313points) October 15th, 2010

The reason for the question is Jon Stewart’s ‘The Daily Show’ segment a few days ago. It involves a clip of Karl Rove. Stewart used the southern accent to say that he thinks they mean “it is muslim money” to imply that southern people are racist and that can be the only reason for them wanting to know what the source of the money is. That, instead of just addressing the issue. Is he not supposed to be a genius? This makes him look like he is insulting the intelligence of his audience. As in him addressing his audience who he thinks must have drank his Kool-Aid?

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19 Answers

tedd's avatar

Political parties have to disclose the names of their donors. However thanks to an overly conservative supreme court breaking hundreds of years of precedent a few months back, charities that fall under a certain tax bracket no longer have to disclose the names of their donors, and those donors can be private businesses. As a result, conservative “charity” groups have suddenly received a few hundred million dollars in money from “anonymous” donors with nothing but the best interests of the people of the US in mind I’m sure.

Stewart was playing on Roves “outrage” that the Democrats were suggesting the money might be coming from nefarious sources or giant businesses (which it almost certainly/entirely is) and saying its outrageous they should have to disclose the source of the donations….. whilst just a few months ago Rove was DEMANDING to know the source of the private funding for the “mosque” at ground zero, whilst heavily implying it was likely from terrorists (hence stewarts comment). The irony being that when it was revealed who the donors of the mosque were, Fox “news” second largest owner turned out to be the primary donor (a Saudi prince) and Fox STILL tried to paint the guy as a terrorist whilst avoiding saying his name or showing his picture.

Stewarts accent may have been a step too far, though I’m sure he meant it purely for comedic purposes and didn’t mean to paint the south as a bunch of racists. But his point is incredibly good.

flo's avatar

@tedd The point is supposed to be the names donors and the amount should be disclosed, period end of story, no ifs or buts about it. Regardless what anyone else is doing or saying. So, why didn’t Stewart say something like __“the names donors and the amount should be disclosed“__ , instead of him trying to confuse people, distract the issue, with the image of this group of people or that group this person that person, blah blah. So dumb. Stewart got caught being dishonest.

ETpro's avatar

501-C6 Non Profits are what both Rove and Jon Stewart are talking about. Rove has set up several, and taken in millions in secret contributions to fund Republican attack ads. The Chamber of Commerce is one, and it is putting up to $100 million into political attack ads funded by secret donors.

Why is that a problem. Suppose I own a company that can make huge profits, but unfortunately my factories have to be at the headwaters of major rivers, and the process is most profitable if I dump deadly pollution into those rivers, poisoning everyone and everything downstream. So I decide that rather than spend $100 million cleaning up my act, it’s more cost effective to cut some backroom deals with politicians who will regulate pollution, and back them to the tune of $50 million. I help them get elected. They make it legal for me to kill people, fish, wildlife—who cares what. I pocket $50 million for the exchange.

Here’s a real world example. It is illegal for foreign governments of companies to spend money influencing American elections. But the Chamber of Commerce doesn’t have to disclose who donates to it. It has received nearly $1 million in donations from foreign sources. It puts those funds in its general account. It has committed to spend between $75 million and $100 million from its general fund in advertising to support politicians who, among other things, happen to support tax credits for companies that off-shore American jobs.

While it would be a crime for a political party to take a big donation from India Inc. in return for legislating tax breaks for outsourcing, the Chamber can accept funds, and nobody can know who gave or what they wanted in return. Big Corporations want tax breaks for off-shoring jobs because it boosts their profits. They want all environmental regulations lifted, they want workplace standards, safety standards, minimum wage requirements, anything that cuts into their profits rolled back. But XYZ Corp doesn’t want its US customers to know it is helping elect politicians who will do those things. That might be very bad for business. Hence the attractiveness of the secret donation.

The reason the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision is so great a threat to American liberty is it lets huge money interests pour unlimited funds into influencing elections, and they con do it in complete secrecy. We can’t know what deals they may have struck with a politician in return for the millions they give his or her campaign. We can’t even know who is paying for the attack ad or what they hope to gain by getting one candidate in office in lieu of the other.

Our whole political process relies on transparency. We the People deserve to know who is behind an ad, and what they might stand to gain by pushing their agenda.

woodcutter's avatar

most people who complain or knock southern folk probably have never had the privilege to be in their company. The Dems are miffed this year because they aren’t doing as well this time. Of course they are going to be critical. If the shoe was on the other foot would they be making as much noise? I wonder. ( stroking chin)

ETpro's avatar

@woodcutter No, I think one thing the right is MUCH better than the left at is making lots of noise when something they don’t like happens. For example, Fox News’ parent corporation, at the direction of Rupert Murdoch, donated $1,250,000 to the Republican Gubernatorial Committee. And $1,000,000 to the Chamber of Commerce to pay for attack ads in battleground states. We know this because it came up at a shareholder’s meeting. Murdoch explained that he thought having a “good deal of change in Washington” would be good for News Corp. and its shareholder’s interests. There has been little outcry from the MSM.

Now, just before the 2006 midterm elections, it looked like the country was poised to hand Democrats a lot of seats in the House and the Senate. Can you imagine the fierce bellowing on Fox and all the Conservative talk radio outlets in the New York Times had given $2.25 million to try to get Democrats elected?

woodcutter's avatar

@ETpro you missed my point there^^ Both parties engage in this, always have, always will. The one who happens to feel an election slipping away is going to cry foul and call for investigations on anything they can. Much is at stake. Whether it be in money raised or kinds of campaign advertising. Both sides whine when appropriate. It’s like those in favor of term limits are all over it except if it means one of their favorites will be forced out. it’s why neither side (politicians)squawks much about it really. The sword cuts both ways.

ETpro's avatar

@woodcutter There has never been anything like the secret money flowing into this campaign in US history. And this is just a midterm. Wait till 2012 to see the numbers really soar. The Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court opened the floodgates so that special interests with very deep pockets can now give in unlimited amounts with no transparency. It has never been that way before, so comparisons to past elections are not valid.

Half a billion dollars has already flowed into an off-year election. This is unheard of. Somebody plans to buy our government, and we can’t know who our new owner is. Thank you conservative SCOTUS justices for selling democracy to the highest bidder. Obviously, they figured the highest bidder would back conservatives. But careful what you wish for. Conditions change. It will feel very unfair to the Cons if the big money boys decide they will get a better deal from the Democrats.

YARNLADY's avatar

Yes, all donations must come from legal sources.

tedd's avatar

@ETpro John Stewart didn’t say “the names donors and the amount should be disclosed“ because he’s a satire “news” show on comedy central…. and frankly thats not funny. If you want serious, never (or at least supposedly/supposed to be never) offensive news, I would suggest NPR or the AP.

ETpro's avatar

@YARNLADY Here is the problem. 501C6 Non-profits have no obligation to disclose who they get contributions from. They just report the amount. No donor list. Unless a prosecutor has evidence a crime has been committed, the records of who donated can’t be subpoenaed. So while it’s illegal for criminal enterprises or foreign interests to influence US politics with money, there is no way to investigate whether that’s happening or not. It’s rather like leaving murder illegal, but saying that when a murder occurs, police cannot visit the crime scene, question witnesses, or gather evidence in any way.

Um, yeah, @tedd I know who Jon Stewart is. I know a full discussion of the real facts wouldn’t be funny. I am a great fan of the Daily Show but this one missed the mark, to me. Not being a comedy writer, I have no clue how I would improve on it, though.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

He wasn’t trying to say southerners are racist, he was dong a (crappy) Karl Rove impersonation to say Karl Rove is racist, which he has said outright before. He’s also said people are only upset about the “mosque” because they’re racist directly before.

The segment went like this: Swift Boat attacked John Kerry, but had to say who donated the money that paid for the ad. The recent SCOTUS ruling changed that, and now many ads (paid for by organizations with a special tax status) don’t have to reveal where they got their money. Democrats are now outraged about how Republicans are taking advantage of this new ruling, while taking advantage of it themselves, including saying that Republicans took “foreign money” to play off voters racists beliefs even after attacking Republicans/Fox News for doing the exact same thing in regards to the mosque. So the end point was that Democrats aren’t any more ethical about campaigns than Republicans.

ETpro's avatar

@papayalily If you are going into a fight to the death, you don’t normally tie both hands behind your back. This really isn’t a Partisan issue. It gets to the heart of preserving our democracy over the long haul. The issue is the public’s right to know who’s paying for attack ads, and what they might stand to gain by the policy they are pushing.

flo's avatar

Deception is deception , no matter how much comedians hide behind “satire”. Same thing with mean spiritedness. He wasted that opportunity to tackle the issue of transparency when it comes donations.
@YARNLADY, It is stunning that there is no donor list. Is it a matter of public record at least? How does the system ensure that it doesn’t come from crime by the way?
@tedd re. ”...and frankly thats not funny” his show is not supposed to be funny not in a ha ha way, but to make people think kind of way, I think.

flo's avatar

I want to make a correction to the above. Please read:
“Deception is deception , no matter how much some comedians, somestimes *hide behind “satire”.

flo's avatar

@ETpro @YARNLADY, please excuse me, when you read the posting above the last above you can see that I mismemorized you addressing @YARNLADY. I thought it was @YARNLADY‘s comment.
By the way, please ignore my “How does the system ensure that it doesn’t come from crime, by the way?”
Please replace by “How would the officials respond to your statement:
“It’s rather like leaving murder illegal, but saying that when a murder occurs, police cannot visit the crime scene, question witnesses, or gather evidence in any way.”

ETpro's avatar

@flo I am not sure what officials you are referring to, so I am unsure how to answer that. Could you clarify?

flo's avatar

@ETpro I mean whomever people should address in order to change things. I guess the elected officials. I mean it seems nutty to the max that this exists.

ETpro's avatar

@flo I totally agree. Under the current circumstances, there are laws governing political donations not coming from criminal enterprise or foreign corporations or governments. But since the Conservative justices, in their new vision of corporate person-hood, decided to legislate a new set of rules from the bench, no officials are permitted to look at whom funding is coming from. So the net result is there are no restrictions.

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