Monday Reads

Good Morning!

SuperPacs are going to play a central role in this coming year’s elections. The Supreme Court has basically opened free speech to the point that political free speech will go to the highest, unaccountable bidder. Rick Santorum is the only current presidential contender without one.  Here’s some background from ABC.

Super PACs, or “independent-expenditure only committees,” as they are officially known, are a relatively new kind of political action committee (PAC) that can raise unlimited amounts of money for a candidate or cause from corporations, unions, individuals, etc. The rise of the super PAC started in the most recent midterm cycle, after the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Citizens United case lifted federal and state campaign spending regulations dating back to the 1970s.

Super PACs have since become ubiquitous. Seven of the eight leading GOP candidates have at least one that is raising money in their behalf; a couple of the candidates have more than one. Earlier this month, a group calling itself “Texas Aggies for Rick Perry” filed papers with the Federal Election Commission. The name refers to Perry’s alma mater, Texas A&M University, and the group is the second super PAC operating in Perry’s behalf, in addition to his “Make Us Great Again” PAC, which formed in July.

The candidates are prohibited from having any connection to the super PACs, meaning they can also distance themselves from any negative campaign ads against their opponents that are funded by the super PACs. The groups can also pay for polling, mailing materials, social media efforts and research, among other things.

There are already legal questions on Perry’s use of SuperPacs according to Politico.

The Perry campaign’s borrowing of three clips from a SuperPAC ad for use in a campaign video was a novel foray into the gray area of campaign finance law, and so I asked the experts on Rick Hasen’s excellent and disputatious election law listserv for their views on it. They were not unanimous on the question, but Perry is clearly treading in some uncharted legal waters.

“With virtually all fundraising limits and prohibitions hanging on the necessity of independence between the super PAC and the Perry campaign, using super PAC footage for a campaign ad pushes the concept of independence to new boundaries,” emailed Ken Gross, an election lawyer at Skadden Arps.

David Mason, vice president at the political data firm Aristotle International, wrote that “whatever is going on in terms of the Perry campaign using Super PAC footage, it is simply not addressed by the coordination regulation.”

“That is not to say there are no FECA implications to a candidate using Super PAC footage. If a campaign is given footage for no charge, the footage could be an in-kind contribution to the campaign. A campaign could pay for the footage (raw footage typically costs way less than the cost of finishing and broadcasting), or, in this case, according to the spokesman you quote, gotten it from a public source,” he wrote.

Since the GOP couldn’t force its agenda on the Supercommittee, it will try to change the rules according to The Hill. They are trying to change the configuration of the automatic cuts to favor defense and their spending priorities.

Supercommittee member Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) said Sunday that Republicans will seek to “change the configuration” of the automatic spending cuts triggered by the committee’s failure to present a deficit-reduction deal.

“I think it’s important that we change the configuration [of the cuts]. I think there’s a broad consensus that too much of the cuts are weighted on [our national defense],” Toomey said on ABC’s “This Week With Christiane Amanpour.”

Toomey said he is “terribly disappointed” the committee failed to reach a deal but called the automatic cuts built into the committee’s mandate a “silver lining.”

The failure of the supercommittee to reach an agreement last week triggered $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts set to hit the Defense department and other programs in 2013.

Due to FOIA requests and the perseverance of some in congress, we are beginning to see the kinds of loans the Fed gave to banks that have not been disclosed before. There were $13 billion dollars of such loans.

The Fed didn’t tell anyone which banks were in trouble so deep they required a combined $1.2 trillion on Dec. 5, 2008, their single neediest day. Bankers didn’t mention that they took tens of billions of dollars in emergency loans at the same time they were assuring investors their firms were healthy. And no one calculated until now that banks reaped an estimated $13 billion of income by taking advantage of the Fed’s below-market rates, Bloomberg Markets magazine reports in its January issue.

Saved by the bailout, bankers lobbied against government regulations, a job made easier by the Fed, which never disclosed the details of the rescue to lawmakers even as Congress doled out more money and debated new rules aimed at preventing the next collapse.

A fresh narrative of the financial crisis of 2007 to 2009 emerges from 29,000 pages of Fed documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and central bank records of more than 21,000 transactions. While Fed officials say that almost all of the loans were repaid and there have been no losses, details suggest taxpayers paid a price beyond dollars as the secret funding helped preserve a broken status quo and enabled the biggest banks to grow even bigger.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has called for “Zero tolerance’ for violence against women as the UN celebrated November 25th as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

According to the UN, 70% of women experience violence in their lifetime, and one in five women will become a victim of rape or attempted rape in her lifetime. A number of global surveys have shown that half of all women murder victims are killed by current or former husbands or partners.

November 25 is designated as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and in South Africa kicks of 16 days of activism, which ends on Human Rights Day.

In a statement to mark the occasion, Ban said young men and boys must be encouraged to become advocates for the elimination of violence against women. “We need to promote healthy models of masculinity. Too many young men still grow up surrounded by outmoded male stereotypes,” he said. “By talking to friends and peers about violence against women and girls, and by taking action to end it, they can help break the ingrained behaviour of generations.”

The wife of a charismatic christian youth minister and dentist who was found to be guilty of horrific crimes involving pedophilia tells her tale and speculates that Dorothy Sandusky may be as in the dark as she was.  Her story is at the Daily Beast.

Just shy of seven years ago, my life and the lives of my two children were turned upside down. The man I had been married to for more than a decade had been arrested as a part of an FBI sting to bring down NAMBLA, the North American Man-Boy Love Association, an advocacy group for pedophiles that supports an “end to the extreme oppression of men and boys in mutually consensual relationships.” I was a well-educated, philanthropic, 39-year-old mother who, until recently, was living a charmed Dallas life, married to a well-liked dentist who had been living a lie for our entire relationship.

A former youth-ministry volunteer at a local church, an energetic volunteer at our kids’ elementary school, and a favorite at their Y-Guides outings, my ex-husband, Todd, turned out to be a criminal who brought tremendous harm, both physically and emotionally, to prepubescent boys. He was an “inner circle” member of NAMBLA—a member of its board of directors—wanted by the feds. Throughout our marriage, which ended in a confusing divorce shortly before the FBI swept in, I believed him when he said he was traveling to dental conventions—when in fact, he was attending pedophile conferences. He kept a secret mailbox at the local post office, where he received his pedophilia newsletters and other suspicious mail. We never found any proof of illegal Internet activities—his hard drive had been cleaned—except for a printed-out receipt for a porn video of young boys. Often, as I eventually learned, these predators are masters of deceit, creating a façade of the “ideal family” to protect their image, or perhaps convince themselves that they’re not a deviant to society, all the while acting on their sick desire to engage in sexual acts with kids.

OOh, baby, it’s a wild world.So, what’s on your reading and blogging list this morning?


Living La Vida Nada

cautionFrom the Federal Open Market Committee’s (FOMC) policy statement earlier today:

Information received since the Federal Open Market Committee met in January indicates that the economy continues to contract.  Job losses, declining equity and housing wealth, and tight credit conditions have weighed on consumer sentiment and spending.  Weaker sales prospects and difficulties in obtaining credit have led businesses to cut back on inventories and fixed investment.  U.S. exports have slumped as a number of major trading partners have also fallen into recession.  Although the near-term economic outlook is weak, the Committee anticipates that policy actions to stabilize financial markets and institutions, together with fiscal and monetary stimulus, will contribute to a gradual resumption of sustainable economic growth.

In light of increasing economic slack here and abroad, the Committee expects that inflation will remain subdued.  Moreover, the Committee sees some risk that inflation could persist for a time below rates that best foster economic growth and price stability in the longer term.

In these circumstances, the Federal Reserve will employ all available tools to promote economic recovery and to preserve price stability.  The Committee will maintain the target range for the federal funds rate at 0 to 1/4 percent and anticipates that economic conditions are likely to warrant exceptionally low levels of the federal funds rate for an extended period.

It goes on to state that its goal is to bring long term rates down farther by buying “up to an additional $750 billion of agency mortgage-backed securities”, “$300 billion of longer-term Treasury securities over the next six months” and  “agency debt this year by up to $100 billion”.  The Fed is aggressively using its balance sheet to inject liquidity into the financial system since the already low fed funds rate target is technically as low as it can get now.  The Fed is hinting that we may be looking at the recession’s trough soon.  Given the release of today’s 1st Quarter GDP, we can only hope and pray.

From Market Watch:

The central bank’s Federal Open Market Committee said that spending has stabilized and that the pace of the downturn appeared to be somewhat slower. The economy could remain weak in coming month but policy actions and “market forces” were aligned to create a gradual upturn, the statement said.

Fed watchers saw little drama in today’s announcement.

“The only major difference between today’s statement and the previous one on March 18 is that today’s cited the fact that most evidence points to a slowing rate of economic decline. Anyone with two eyes and a brain knows this to be the case,” wrote Josh Shapiro, chief U.S. economist at MFR Inc. in a note to clients.

Economists had expected the policy-setting panel to maintain the status quo. The FOMC kept its target interest rate unchanged at an ultra-low 0%-to-0.25% range.

The economy has fared dismally over the past six months — collapsing by the sharpest rate in more than 50 years. The unemployment rate has spiked and business investment has slowed.

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