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February 22, 2013

Your Weekly Roundup, February 22

By Jeremy Miller

Jesse Jackson Jr.This is the first installment on the latest, greatest, and tawdriest events you may have missed this week.  We’ll focus on topics ranging from campaign finance reform to public corruption.  On that note, let’s turn to disgraced former Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL).

Once a promising congressman with 18 years of public service, and a son of the former civil rights activist and presidential candidate, Mr. Jackson unraveled in a web of scandal over the course of the last year.  On Wednesday, he pleaded guilty to using approximately $750,000 dollars in campaign money to enrich himself and his wife.  Fur coats, movie tickets, a health spa membership, a gold-plated Rolex watch, and trips to Costco are just some of the items they indulged in over the years.  His campaign funds were essentially a personal piggy bank.  You can read CREW’s statement on the sad saga here.

In other news, former Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) disclosed he had a son out of wedlock 30 years ago. While not illegal, Sen. Domenici joins a long list of congressional members with similar fates, yet his is all the more ironic given he voted in favor of convicting and removing President Clinton from office over the Monica Lewinsky affair.

And of course, let’s not forget Sen. Menendez.

On the campaign finance front, dark clouds lie ahead.  The Supreme Court, not satisfied with the carnage it inflicted with Citizens United, agreed to hear a case that could lead to the continued dismantling of restrictions on money in politics.  The case, McCutcheon v. FEC, involves a challenge by the Republican National Committee to the constitutionality of aggregate contribution limits imposed on federal candidates and party committees.  If the Court strikes down the existing limits — as many fear — it will be akin to sanctioning legalized bribery.  It was established long ago that a system allowing massive campaign contributions was inherently corrupt.  To reverse this conclusion would be yet another radical decision by the Supreme Court.

Last but not least, CREW and former congressional candidate Dr. David Gill and his campaign committee filed a lawsuit against the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for flouting a federal law barring so-called “social welfare” organizations from engaging in political activity.  Such organizations, like the American Action Network (AAN), have relied on an IRS-created tax loophole to spend millions of dollars on electioneering activity without disclosing their donors.  Dr. Gill was the victim of false and misleading negative ads and robocalls by AAN, which spent nearly $1.5 million opposing his candidacy, more than $1 million of which was spent in the final weeks of the campaign.  You can read a fact sheet on the case here.

Let’s hope for better news next week. 

This post was updated 3/5/2013.

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