Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Another Ca. Ballot Initiative...

California has another ballot initiative that’s being promoted by out-of-state oil and financial interests.  (Quite frankly, if I lived in California, I’d be outraged at being forced into the position of having to spend taxpayer money for these election initiatives that satisfy very specific financial self-interests.)  According to a NYTimes editorial, the sponsors are “a  well-financed coalition of right-wing ideologues, out-of-state oil and gas companies and climate-change skeptics,” including the Brothers Koch whom we have recently written about and who keep turning up like bad pennies every time we discuss a rightwing ideological bugaboo.     
In 2006 California passed a law, called AB 32, that is targeting greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide.  The goal was to reduce these emissions by 2020 to 1990 levels and then cut them in half by 2050.  To effect these changes, the state has been drawing up new regulations which will affect everyone--businesses and new houses and car emissions and so on.  Obviously, big oil companies don’t like the prospect of these changes and wish to stop them.  As for the Koch brothers, they are concerned because the new regs will most probably affect their natural gas industry.  They also do not believe in climate change and believe that it is a leftwing fantasy.
The editorial pointed out that AB 32 has a surprising champion, George Schultz, who served in various capacities in Nixon and Reagan’s cabinet.  Schultz is an active supporter of AB 32 and has cited the innovative designs and plans that it has already engendered.  The Atlantic is running a story [Here] [h/t Huffpost] about how some large businesses have been supporting the initiative because many see green industries as the future for business in California.  It will be most interesting to see if the coalition of environmentalists and new industry advocates can beat back the big money from the anti-environmentalists.
The Times has also given us [Here] an important lesson in the current art of political funding through 501(c)(4) groups, which do not have to disclose their donors.  In fact, the Times tells us that many of these newly created funding siphons will not report to the IRS until after the election is over.  These 501(C)(4) groups are supposed to spend most of their money on non-political issues and events, but who’s checking?  The paper noted that most of these recently spouted organizations are simple conduits of money for Republican causes.   
Note: The following are all tax-exempt organizations but with differences:  501(c)(3) is not-for-profit, tax exempt, non-partisan and donors may claim charitable tax deductions; 501(c)(4) is tax-exempt & lobbying is allowed; 501(c)(5) is for labor unions and they may lobby; 501(c)(6) is for trade associations and they, too, may lobby. 
The Times quoted Marcus S. Owens, an attorney and a former head of the I.R.S. division that oversees these tax-exempt organizations.  He said that the particular I.R.S. section that oversees and monitors this section of the code “... is understaffed, underfunded and operating under a tax system designed to collect taxes, [and not operate] ... as a regulatory mechanism.” 
Isn’t that great news!  That’s how it’s done, folks.  That’s how the likes of Koch Industries, the huge conglomerate that is privately owned by Charles and David Koch, can pour money into whatever political campaign they wish and never be named as a major supporter.  They just must simply create a 501 (c)(4) and they’re in play.   Add to this picture the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United, and one has an image of money flowing freely from corporations into (mostly) Republican front groups and then into vicious ad campaigns.
I find myself humming an old Pete Seeger tune but with new lyrics:
Where has all the integrity gone?  
Long time passing
Where has all the integrity gone?
Long time ago...

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