Entries in Democrats (10)


Dems Punt on Plan to Stage DNC Without Corporate Money

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(CHARLOTTE, N.C.) -- For more than a year, the Democratic National Committee touted its "unprecedented" plan to prohibit corporate and lobbyist funding of the 2012 convention in Charlotte, but it found it just couldn't put on a show without the money.

The convention's host committee has acknowledged that it established a separate entity to help shoulder the costs of many of the convention activities this week. That entity, New American City, Inc., has accepted millions of dollars from companies that include Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and most prominently Duke Energy, the nation's largest electric utility, which has sponsored events all over town.

"What was declared was that the convention would be funded differently, and it has been," said Suzi Emmerling, a spokeswoman for the convention host committee.

The lobbyist and corporate money ban held firm for expenses such as designing the stage in the Time Warner Arena and the shuttling of delegates around Charlotte, Emmerling said. But other expenses -- welcome events, concerts, hospitality suites, and more -- are all being underwritten by corporate and union backers.

Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers oversaw the host committee effort, and his company has emerged as one of the biggest financial backers of the three-day event. Neither the company nor the host committee will reveal how much Duke gave, but the number is sizable.

Emmerling said a decision was made by host committee officials to withhold those details until they become public in October, when the committee files its financial reports with federal officials. She could not provide a reason for why dollar amounts from each corporate donor would, for now, remain secret.

"That was a mutual decision between many parties," she said.

Duke Energy spokesman Thomas Williams told ABC News his company committed $10 million before Charlotte was selected as the host city and offered up a $10 million line of credit. Rogers himself gave $100,000. How much more, they will not say.

It has also helped to pay for events to entertain the city's Democratic guests -- a concert with singer John Legend, a forum featuring former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and a party at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

As for the reasons behind Duke Energy's donations, Williams points to community boosterism -- Rogers' desire to see the Charlotte-based company promote its home city on a national stage.

Experts who have studied the influence of money on the political process have a different theory as to why corporations such as Duke Energy invest so heavily.

"What you are seeing are companies demonstrating their loyalty, their willingness to play the game," said Lawrence Lessig, a Harvard Law professor who authored the book Republic, Lost. How Money Corrupts Congress.

"It's all about business," he said. "It's about building relationships that businesses need in a world where the government is so deeply enmeshed in giving privileges or in enabling government spending or regulating the ways it affects the life and death of these businesses."

Duke Energy faces an array of high-stakes issues in Washington.

Duke received more than $200 million in federal stimulus funds prior to the Charlotte announcement. While Duke was in the midst of committing its funds, federal regulators were reviewing a major merger it was undertaking with a Florida power company -- a merger that has now been approved. Still to be determined -- whether the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will extend the license for a nuclear plant in Florida.

Dozens of more granular issues are under consideration by Congress at any given time. Duke Energy has spent in excess of $5 million on federal lobbying in each of the past four years, and is on pace to spend even more money this year.

Jack Abramoff, one of the most powerful lobbyists in Washington before he was convicted on bribery-related charges in 2006, told ABC News that major companies see the conventions as an enormous opportunity to wine and dine public officials.

"They're people who want something back," said Abramoff, who has championed reform since being released from prison. "They're doing it because they have an agenda."

Williams confirmed that Duke Energy's lobbyists have been having an extremely busy work week.

"I know they're here and going to lots of parties," he said.

But he disputes the idea that the company's decision to help underwrite the Charlotte convention was in any way motivated by a desire to sway the actions of elected officials.

"It's not about trying to curry special favor," he said. "We win whenever Charlotte wins. We are a civic booster, we are expected to take a role in these civic efforts. We have in the past and we will in the future."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Senate Kills Anti-Outsourcing Bill; Democrats Point to Romney, GOP Points to Obama's Economy

iStockPhoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Senate has rejected further consideration of a bill Democrats say would have eliminated existing tax breaks for employers who ship their jobs overseas. While Republicans sought to squash it as political theater on the part of the Democrats, Dems admit quarreling over the “Bring Jobs Home Act” was openly influenced by the 2012 presidential campaign.

“It’s fairly easy to see why Republicans are blocking our bill to stop outsourcing,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said at a press conference before the vote. “They’re obviously defending their presidential nominee, who of course made a fortune by shipping jobs overseas.” Reid's home state of Nevada is suffering from one of the worst unemployment rates in the union.

Reid was referring to Mitt Romney’s past involvement with Bain Capital, the private investment firm Democrats say bought companies, laid off many of their American workers, and outsourced their jobs. With more dismal economic news on their plates this week, Democrats have made Romney’s history with Bain a central talking point on the trail.

Senator Richard Durbin, D-Ill., followed Reid, saying that Thursday’s vote was about turning the Republican position on outsourcing into “a matter of record.”

“So the dance ends, the music ends and the votes are counted,” he said. “And we can find out whether or not the Republican senators support the Bain Capital investment strategy of exporting jobs overseas.”

Under existing law, employers may take tax deductions for the costs associated with moving jobs out of the country. The proposed legislation would have eliminated that, and used the resulting new revenue to fund a 20 percent tax credit for the costs companies run up “insourcing” labor back into the U.S.

The bill failed 56-42. A count of 60 was required to end discussion and move to a final vote.

To further push the issue, Democrats held a conference call with employees from Sensata Technologies, an electronics hardware manufacturer that plans to close its Freeport, Ill., plant at the end of the year and move those operations to China. Democrats say 150 people will be laid off in the process. Sensata, formerly known as the Sensors and Controls division of Texas Instruments, was spun off to Bain in 2006 for a reported $3 billion. The call was held after the vote.

“There is no reason in the world this would not have passed except for so many of the Republican senators have other interests,” said Tom Gaulrupp, a 33-year veteran of the company.

Gaulrupp says there was never a year the company did not draw a profit. Another employee, Lin Feller, was more frank:

“They do not care about us. The average guy on the street, they just do not care about us.”

On the House floor Thursday morning the ranking Republican member of the Senate finance committee called the bill “a joke,” suggesting President Obama’s campaign staff were its true authors.

“It’s devoid of serious content because it is of political rather than economic priorities,” Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said.

Speaking on the House floor, Hatch said it was “misleading” for Democrats to say there is a tax break for outsourcing. Holding up a large book, Hatch said the Democrats were trying to invent controversy.

“I’ll keep this book of tax codes at my desk here. If someone wants to show me the tax code that allows deductions for shipping jobs overseas. I’d like to see it. But it’s not in here.”

Congressional analysts at the Joint Committee on Taxation say $14 million could be raised next year from removing outsourcing credits, compared to a cost of $21 million for bringing those jobs back. Hatch points out the relatively low sum has already been passed in Obama campaign ads on the issue.

Three Republicans voted in favor of the bill: Senators Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe and Scott Brown.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


House Passes Small Business Tax Cut

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The House of Representatives voted Thursday to pass a $46 billion small business tax cut that Republicans hope will lead to economic growth by enabling entrepreneurs to deduct 20 percent of their income. Democrats condemn the cut as another giveaway for the richest American taxpayers.

By a mostly ideological vote of 235-173, the House approved the cut, which was a top priority for Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp. Just 18 Democrats crossed the aisle to vote with the GOP majority, although 10 Republicans voted against it.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the cut takes “the opposite approach of the stimulus” by empowering employers to make decisions on how more of their hard-earned money is spent. The bill faces a tough road ahead, with overwhelming opposition in the Democrat-controlled Senate. Still, Boehner called on President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to get behind the legislation, instead of “pushing for higher taxes to fuel more government spending.”

“This week, Democratic leaders in the Senate demonstrated their desire to continue the spending binge that’s hurting our economy by punting on a budget for the third straight year,” Boehner stated. “With millions of Americans still asking, ‘Where are the jobs?,' I hope the president and Senate Democrats will relent and work with Republicans to find common ground so we can help the private sector put people back to work.”

Most House Democrats voted against the measure, decrying the measure for providing further breaks to the wealthy and adding to the deficit.

“You have to give [Republicans] credit. They are consistent, and they stick with the guy that [brought] them to the dance, and that’s the wealthiest people in America,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters at a news conference following the vote. “Fifty-six percent of this tax giveaway goes to the top three percent earners in our country. It gives an average of $58,800 -- $58,800 to the 125,000 millionaires, and they don’t have to create one job. They can create them overseas.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Easy-to-Read Bank Fees? Democratic Senators Seek More Transparency

Jin Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Following last week’s cancellation of Bank of America’s planned $5 monthly debit card fee, a few Democratic senators Thursday called on all financial institutions to be more transparent, making it easier for customers to read the fine print.

Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Jack Reed, D-R.I., called on national financial institutions to voluntarily adopt and post publicly for each bank account a clear "fee disclosure box” -- an easy-to-read form so that people can avoid, or at least know about, fine-print fees like those cancelled by Bank of America.

“We want to inform and empower consumers all across America,” Durbin said.

According to the Pew Charitable Trusts, nine in 10 Americans have checking accounts, making it the most widely used financial product. And yet, Pew found in October 2010 that the average checking account disclosure document from the 10 largest banks in the United States was 1,100 pages.

That is something that senators want to change.

As proposed by the senators Thursday, there would be a single, consistent form that all banks and financial institutions could use to lay out more clearly the fees and key terms associated with their checking accounts.

Both Durbin and Reed stressed the importance of having informed financial consumers.

“Empower the consumers. Give them knowledge and they will protect themselves and make the market stronger and better for all,” Reed said.

As of Thursday, two of the three largest credit unions, Pentagon Federal Credit Union and the North Carolina State Employees Credit Union, have posted the disclosure form on their websites.

Although Durbin and Reed would like to see banks use the form voluntarily, they have sent a letter to Raj Date, the acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPD), asking that it require financial institutions to post the disclosure box on their websites.

Similar to the push by the White House recently, the senators Thursday also once again pushed for the confirmation of Richard Cordray to head the new bureau.

“It would function more effectively if it had a confirmed director like Richard Cordray, who is superbly qualified,” Reed said. “That’s who we need to run this organization. The faster he’s in place the better off we’ll all be.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Top CEOs Among Obama’s 351 Campaign Bundlers

SEBASTIAN DERUNGS/AFP/Getty Images(CHICAGO) -- The Obama campaign Friday voluntarily released the names of its 351 top volunteer fundraisers, or “bundlers,” who collect checks from their networks of deep-pocket friends and deliver them to the Obama Victory Fund for the coming campaign.

Movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, UBS Americas CEO Robert Wolf, and former CNET executive and Obama national finance committee chairman Matthew Barzun are among the newest financiers to enlist in the last quarter, which ended Sept. 30. Each brought in more than $500,000 for the 2012 campaign, records show.

They joined Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour, DreamWorks CEO Jeffry Katzenberg, former New Jersey Gov. and Goldman Sachs CEO Jon Corzine, and 241 other high-profile financiers who enlisted in April.

Mellody Hobson, president of Ariel Investments and a Good Morning America finance contributor, also became a bundler, wrapping up between $200,000-$500,000 for Obama and Democrats.

Obama bundlers have raised $55.5 million combined for the Victory Fund, which funnels cash to both the Obama campaign and Democratic National Committee. Looked at another way, their contributions are 35 percent of the total $156 million raised by Obama and the DNC so far this year.

Forty-one bundlers have raised more than $500,000 each; 95 collected between $200,000 and $500,000; 105 gathered between $100,000 and $200,000; and 110 netted between $50,000 and $100,000. The campaign had set a goal of signing up 400 bundlers for the cycle, asking each to rake in $350,000.

None of the Republican presidential candidates has disclosed a full list of the names and contributions of top fundraisers, breaking from a precedent set by George W. Bush and continued by Sen. John McCain during the 2008 campaign.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Solyndra Loan: Now Treasury Department Is Launching Investigation

David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Treasury Department's inspector general has opened a new front in the investigation of the government loan to Solyndra, the now-bankrupt company that had been touted as a model of President Obama's ambitious green energy program, ABC News and the Center for Public Integrity/iWatch News have learned.

The new probe involves the $535-million loan, arranged by the Energy Department, but actually processed by the Federal Financing Bank, a government lending institution that falls under Treasury's control. Already, the FBI and the Energy Department's inspector general have executed search warrants at Solyndra's headquarters and questioned company executives.

"We're going to look at everything the FFB had to do with its role in this thing," Rich Delmar, a spokesman for the Treasury Department's inspector general, told ABC News and iWatch News.

Word of the broadening probe came as the head of the Energy Department's loan program came before Congress at a contentious hearing on Capitol Hill Wednesday.

After spending months touting the Obama administration's decision to loan $535 million to Solyndra, top officials took a new tack Wednesday while testifying about the company's abrupt shutdown and bankruptcy: the loan, they said, was actually the Bush administration's idea.

The Energy Department's top lending officer told Congress that the Solyndra loan application was not only filed during President Bush's term, but it surged towards completion before Obama took office in January 2009.

Even after the loan was restructured in 2011, the Energy Department and other administration officials continued to tout Solyndra's prospects.

In May, Silver told ABC News and iWatch News that questions about the loan guarantee were unfounded, and that Solyndra's canceled public offering and restructuring were hiccups that are typical for startup companies.

Republicans pushed back hard against this version of events, unearthing internal Energy Department emails that indicate the panel evaluating the loans had made the unanimous decision to shelve Solyndra's application two weeks before Obama took office.

As the hearing was underway, the Department of Energy was sending out emails to the press intended to convey that Solyndra was a bipartisan problem.

"At several points in the hearing, folks have pointed out the party affiliation of the private investors who lost a billion dollars of their own private capital on this deal," wrote Dan Leistikow, the department's director of public affairs. "Of the two major investment firms who risked and lost the most, one happens to be associated with a Democratic donor and one with a Republican donor. I frankly can't understand what that has to do with anything, but I suppose it's always good to see a little bipartisanship."

But Rep. Cliff Stearns, a Florida Republican, made note during the hearing that "the administration officials held out the company as a shining example of how the stimulus was creating jobs and invigorating the economy."

Indeed, when the loan was announced in March of 2009, Energy Secretary Chu issued his own press release, identifying Solyndra as "part of President Obama's aggressive strategy to put Americans back to work and reduce our dependence on foreign oil."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


House Dems Applaud Obama for Tapping Strategic Petroleum Reserve

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- As the White House announced Thursday that it will release 30 million barrels of oil from the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve, House Democrats applauded the president’s decision as one that will bring down the price of gasoline, while the nation’s top Republican said the move “threatens our ability to respond to a genuine national security crisis” and puts a new burden on the American taxpayer to refill the reserve.

“I am pleased that the Obama administration has answered our call today by making an historic announcement,” Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., said. “The Strategic Petroleum Reserve is the one tool that we have that can actually provide relief to consumers at the pump this summer driving season, the Strategic Petroleum Reserve is the one weapon we have against OPEC, and it has a proven record of historically driving down prices.”

House Speaker John Boehner says that by tapping the SPR, “the president is using a national security instrument to address his domestic political problems.”

But the president was praised by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi at her news conference Thursday morning.

“I must congratulate the president for putting -- releasing 30 billion [sic] -- 30 billion [sic] barrels, which is part of the 60 billion [sic] barrel release of oil which, I believe, will immediately bring down the price at the pump, which is of concern to America's working families,” Pelosi, D-Calif., said.

Markey, who is the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources committee, pointed to previous instances when the SPR was tapped and the price of oil fell, and attributed the lower trade of oil futures Thursday to the president’s announcement.

 “The impact on oil prices from today's announcement is already being felt. The New York Mercantile Exchange oil futures are currently trading down on oil by five percent, within several hours of this announcement. So obviously the SPRO does work,” Markey said. “SPR stands for Strategic Petroleum Reserve, but it also stands for "sudden price reduction" whenever it is used, because it drives speculators out of the marketplace for fear that they are going to lose money as they bet on inaction by the United States government. Now they know that things aren't going to get worse without a fight from the Obama administration.

“Because of the reduction in the amount of oil coming in from Libya, because of the amount of oil that's now been taken off the market in Yemen, this is the right time to strike, to make a statement that we are not going to allow the markets to be disrupted -- and not to say that that's a signal to Iran, to Venezuela and others that we are going to fight back, that they will not be able to exploit this opportunity to hold prices high,” he added.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Facebook Lobbying Shop Gets More Bipartisan

NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Facebook, which has come under fire from conservatives for being too partisan, hired two new Republican lobbyists on Thursday.

The Republican hires bring their Washington office into balance -- two Republicans and two Democrats -- but they had nothing to do with the criticism, according to spokesman Andrew Noyes, who said the new staffers will work to educate members of Congress about privacy and other issues important to Facebook.

“It's imperative that we scale our policy team so that we have the resources in place to demonstrate to policymakers that we are industry leaders in privacy, data security and safety. To this end, we're announcing two additions to the Facebook D.C. office,” Noyes said in a statement.

The new Republican hires include Joel Kaplan, who will run the public policy office in Washington and previously served as George W. Bush’s deputy chief of staff. Myriah Jordan served as General Counsel for Senator Richard Burr, R-N.C.

Facebook had come under fire from the conservative website for playing favorites by having more Democrats in its lobbying shop than Republicans. In a post last month, editors blasted Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg for hosting a town hall meeting broadcast on Facebook with President Barack Obama. The website began a petition to compelling Facebook to give equal time to a Republican candidate.

The two Democratic lobbyists at Facebook are Timothy Sparapani from the ACLU and Adam Conner, who came from Congresswoman Louise Slaughter’s office.

The Republican hires by Facebook Thursday had some Republicans praising the company. Former Bush speech writer David Frum responded to the announcement on Twitter.

“Joel Kaplan to head Facebook Washington office. They hire smart,” said Frum of his former White House colleague’s new employer.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Democrats Want Oil Now from Strategic Petroleum Reserve

Comstock Images/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- With the prices at the pump in the U.S. soaring due to unstable conditions in the Middle East and northern Africa, some Democrats are calling upon President Obama to tap into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to ease the burden on motorists.

In the House, lawmakers led by Massachusetts Congressman Ed Markey introduced a bill Thursday to release oil from the reserves, which are currently near their full capacity of 727 million barrels.

Markey said that this action would stabilize prices of gas in the short-term while protecting consumers from price gouging.

A similar call to release oil from the reserves came from New Mexico Sen. Jeff Bingham, who chairs the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee.

The Democrat said that while there's currently enough supplies, "you’re seeing the price of oil go up in world markets because of the concern that the [Libyan] disruption that’s occurring will get even worse."

Up to now, there's been no move by the White House to tap into the SPR.  Republicans say the reserves are intended to be used only if flow of fuel is disrupted by a natural disaster or a blockade of oil imports.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Consumer Research: Halloween Horror Show for Dems

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(NEW YORK) -- With five days until Halloween and seven days before the election, consumer confidence is looking like a horror show for the political party in power.

The ABC News Consumer Comfort Index stands at -47 on its scale from +100 to -100, seven points from its low in nearly 25 years of weekly polls. It’s been this bad just twice in the week before an election: in 2008 and 1992, both years the Republicans were turfed out of the White House.

Now it looks like the incumbent Democrats’ turn to suffer. As in the past, economic discontent is fueling broad dissatisfaction with the status quo, and it’s aimed particularly at the party calling the shots in Washington.

Negative economic sentiment is further intensified by the depth and breadth of the downturn.

The CCI is based on Americans’ views of the economy, their personal finances and the buying climate. A whopping 92 percent rate the economy negatively, but majorities also say their own finances are hurting (53 percent), and they call it a bad time to buy (75 percent) -- and have all year.

Leading up to the election, the lack of a partisan gap in consumer attitudes is notable. This week, the CCI is -39 among Democrats and -44 among Republicans. On average, by contrast, the index among Republicans has been 31 points more positive than among Democrats in available data since 1990.

The usual gap has steadily narrowed since the recession began, and for the past two weeks Democrats have shown greater confidence than Republicans, albeit not significantly so. This flip has happened only 19 times in more than 1,000 weeks of polling.

Yet negativity among Republicans isn’t Democratic candidates’ chief problem. That lies with crucial swing-voting independents, among whom the CCI’s a dismal -51, worse than it is even among Republicans – and a number that may be the scariest yet for the president and his party.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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