Are Politicians Nocturnal?

In this update: 1. Nocturnal lawmaking 2. The new American colonies 3. Governing under the influence Are Politicians Nocturnal?

Email date: 4/21/10

In this update:
1. Nocturnal lawmaking
2. The new American colonies
3. Governing under the influence

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Nocturnal lawmaking
Continuing its practice of nighttime legislating, members of the state Assembly procrastinated until the end of the workday yesterday before getting down to business near nightfall. The Legislature’s lower house nearly worked through the night, passing a telephone deregulation bill written by AT&T along the way. To see the roll call vote on that bill, go here.

The Assembly was scheduled to take up legislation closing the “issue ad” loophole special interests use to keep their efforts to influence elections a secret, but didn’t. Discussions aimed at reaching agreement between the two houses on the bill’s final form are ongoing. The state Government Accountability Board already has approved new rules closing the loophole, but the Democracy Campaign and its reform allies have been urging legislators to cement the policy in state law.

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The new American colonies
With Congress paralyzed over finance industry reform as its approval ratings drop to historically low levels and with the Wisconsin Legislature in a last-minute frenzy of activity that has some observers thinking end-times thoughts, citizen exasperation with the political class is off the charts. While certainly understandable, that frustration has yet to become anything approaching a rebellion against the way things are. Where that has to start is the subject of our latest Big Money Blog.

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Governing under the influence
When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in January that corporations can spend unlimited sums of money to influence elections, many observers predicted the floodgates would open and unprecedented sums of corporate money would wash over elections in 2010 and future years. Defenders of the decision pooh-poohed such talk, claiming that most corporations would be reluctant to run with the free rein the court has given them.

In reality, the floodgates were already open and corporate money has been playing a major role for years in determining who sits in Congress and in statehouses and, increasingly, in courtrooms around the country, as a recent National Journal article shows. Corporate spending may well increase and perhaps substantially in future elections with the invalidation of state and federal laws restricting such electioneering, but the much more likely and even more significant impact the Supreme Court ruling will have is to make elected lawmakers and judges alike more timid and reluctant to oppose corporate interests than they already are. The mere threat of multi-million dollar corporate ad campaigns will make public officials think long and hard about crossing those with the capacity to launch such game-changing attacks.