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Dow Down 500+, Anonymous Corp Donors and Politician Campaigns… SDB Evening News Reads for 80411

Okay, I have lots for you this evening, so I am just going to dive in: The DOW closed down 513 points, and lost all that it gained in 2011. I have a couple of articles for you, the first from CBS the second from Guardian. Dow average plunges 513, worst drop since 2008 – CBS MoneyWatch.com

The stock market is in the midst of its biggest retreat since the financial crisis, as investors grow increasingly concerned about the possibility of another recession in the U.S. and a debt crisis in Europe. The Dow Jones industrial average plummeted 513 points, or 4.3 percent, to close at 11,384. Thursday’s losses turned the blue-chip stock index negative for the year. The S&P 500 lost 60, or 4.8 percent, to close at 1,200. The Nasdaq composite plunged 137, or 5.1 percent, to 2,556. All three major indexes are down 10 percent or more from their previous highs, a drop-off that is considered to be a market correction. A drop of 20 percent or more signifies the start of a bear market, an extended period of stock declines. […] Large investors have moved so much money into cash accounts at Bank of New York that on Thursday the bank said it would begin charging some clients a 0.13 percent fee to hold their cash. “In the past month, we have seen a growing level of deposits on our balance sheet from clients seeking a safe-haven in light of the global interest rate and credit environment,” the bank said in a statement to The Associated Press. Bank of New York clients include pension funds and large investment houses.

The article also says that some investors sold before the unemployment numbers come out tomorrow.  The forecast is the numbers will remain the same, at 9.2% but if that number comes in higher, stocks will fall even more. As far as the Global Financial Markets today: World stock markets in turmoil | Business | The Guardian

Almost £50bn was wiped off the value of Britain’s 100 biggest companies on a day of global stock market mayhem triggered by a deepening of the eurozone crisis and fears for the health of the US economy. After a day of massive of stock market falls in Europe and the US of a kind not seen since the depths of the last economic downturn, traders said on Thursday the atmosphere in the markets was reminiscent of the banking crisis of October 2008. “For many traders this week has felt like the start of the banking crisis in 2008, which would go some way to explaining the panic selling we have seen today,” said Will Hedden, sales trader at IG Index. […] Anxiety over the debt crisis in the eurozone, and increasingly in Italy, had set the tone for nervous trading during the London morning, but the pace of the decline accelerated as Wall Street opened sharply lower. […] The president of the European commission, José Manuel Barroso, fuelled anxiety about the eurozone debt crisis by berating European leaders about the speed at which they were responding to the debt crisis, barely a fortnight after congratulating them about their latest deal to rescue Greece. “We are no longer managing a crisis just in the euro area periphery,” Barroso said. “Euro area financial stability must be safeguarded.” He urged European leaders to review “all elements” of the €440bn (£382bn) European financial stability facility and its €500bn replacement, the European stability mechanism.

There appears to be an “agreement” regarding FAA furloughs: Reid announces deal to end FAA furloughs – The Hill’s Transportation Report

The Senate will pass the Houses bill to fund the Federal Aviation Administration through September to end the week-and-a-half-long partial shutdown of the agency, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced Thursday. Under a deal Reid made with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), the Senate will pass the House bill that includes cuts to rural flight service to airports in Nevada, West Virginia and Montana. But Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood will use his authority to waive the airports from the cuts, ending a 13-day impasse that left 4,000 FAA employees and about 70,000 construction employees out of work.

That at least seems to be some good news, at least until September, when all the bickering, yelling and hostage taking will start over again. Susie Madrak has this gem over at C&L: Unelected, Unaccountable Grover Norquist is Picking the Republicans for the Super Committee | Crooks and Liars

Again: Can someone in the spineless, co-opted corporate media please do their job and explain to us why the unAmerican pledge to Pope Grover takes precedence over oath of office? Instead of just saying, “That’s the way it is,” look a little deeper and ask why Grover gets to pick the Super Committee. I mean, is it a good thing that our Congress is dictated to by a little tin god? All hail, Caesar!

grover.jpeg

Norquist said he has already been assured by “the right people” that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will not choose anyone willing to give ground on raising taxes, and he is confident enough to leave town on Wednesday for August vacation. Norquist said he would like Boehner to name House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.). He said he would be “fine” with leadership using the opportunity to give a conservative freshman the chance to shine, mentioning Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.). Similarly, with respect to the Senate, Norquist can see McConnell appointing a young gun like Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) to the panel to give him a bigger platform. He said he would like to see Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) appointed. Norquist does not want to see former Gang of Six Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) or Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) on board because they made “troubling” statements in support of revenue increases during the deficit negotiations this spring. He said that if Gang of Six Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) made stronger commitments to oppose taxes, he could be OK with that appointment.

Can you believe that shit? What balls! Speaking of balls.  I think some of Romney’s wealthy pals are attempting to push the SCOTUS decision on Citizens United vs. FCC to the limit. Now, I am no lawyer…I was a paralegal, but I just found some articles that may shed some light on this subject. First of all, NBC’s Michael Isikoff broke the story today:  Firm gives $1 million to pro-Romney group, dissolves – TODAY News – TODAY.com

A mystery company that pumped $1 million into a political committee backing Mitt Romney has been dissolved just months after it was formed, leaving few clues as to who was behind one of the biggest contributions yet of the 2012 presidential campaign.

The existence of the million-dollar donation — as gleaned from campaign and corporate records obtained by NBC News — provides a vivid example of how secret campaign cash is being funneled in ever more circuitous ways into the political system.

The company, W Spann LLC, was formed in March by a Boston lawyer who specializes in estate tax planning for “high net worth individuals,” according to corporate records and the lawyer’s bio on her firm’s website. The corporate records provide no information about the owner of the firm, its address or its type of business.

LLCs do not need to give a description of their business…unlike an Incorporation, that must file all sorts of documents which state intent and other specifics of the Inc. and the business it will transact.

While it says it is independent of the Romney presidential campaign, Restore Our Future was created by three former top Romney political aides who have made little secret of their interest in boosting his presidential candidacy. “This is an independent effort focused on getting Romney elected president,” Spies, the former counsel to Romney’s 2008 presidential campaign, recently told the Washington Post.

Okay, MoJo has more on this here:  Mysterious, Defunct Company Donates $1 Million to Romney SuperPAC

[T]he most intriguing of the million-dollar donations was from W Spann LLC. Its address was listed on the Restore Our Future campaign report as 590 Madison Ave., a 43-story, ultra-modern office building in the heart of midtown Manhattan. But there is no public listing for any company called W Spann LLC at 590 Madison. A top executive of Minskoff Equities, the firm that manages the building, told NBC News that he had “never heard of” W Spann and that his management firm has no record of any such tenant.

Casey works as an associate in a law firm called Ropes & Gray’s. That’s where the plot thickens, Isikoff reports:

One of the Rope & Gray’s longtime clients is Bain Capital, the investment firm formerly headed by Romney. It is also one of a number of major companies—including UBS, IBM and Cemex— that have offices at 590 Madison, the address listed for W Spann. Asked about W Spann, Alex Stanton, a spokesman for Bain Capital said, in an email: “Bain Capital has many employees who actively participate in civic affairs, and they individually support candidates from both parties. The firm takes no position on any candidate, and the entity in question is not affiliated with Bain Capital or any of our employees.”

Thanks to the Citizens United decision—which allowed corporations to contribute unlimited amounts of money to political campaigns—super PACs like Restore Our Future and Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS have been loading their campaign warchests with millions from undisclosed donors. The use of a here-today-gone-tomorrow front company like W Spann shows just how far these crafty operatives have become at exploiting what’s left of campaign finance law.

Now, I don’t know how New York and Delaware and Massachusetts corporate law works, but a company can have an address in another state it does “business” in even though it is registered in one state, and founded in another. The address in New York can be a corporate service address, a company that will accept service for the LLC…it will not be the same name as the actual corporation. Now I do not know if this is the case, but it would explain the lack of a business called W. Spann at that Manhattan Address. Also, now bear with me, and remember I am no attorney… The Docket » Blog Archive » Ropes lawyer behind Romney’s mystery money

An estate planning attorney in the Boston office of Ropes & Gray was behind a shell company that gave $1 million to former Gov. Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign and then abruptly dissolved shortly before a federal campaign finance filing deadline, according to an NBC News report. Ropes associate Cameron Casey founded W. Spann LLC last March. The company made the donation to the pro-Romney political action committee, Restore Our Future, and then shut down last month. The money is one of just a handful of seven-figure contributions the PAC has received this year.

Okay, so this LLC W.Spann was founded in Massachusetts.  Put this in the back of your mind… According to Ben Smith, the W.Spann, LLC was a 501(c)4 non-profit.  More secret money – Ben Smith – POLITICO.com

The rise of 501(c)4 political players has meant an influx of secret money into the political system. But the source of that money, while secret from the public, is at least disclosed to the Internal Revenue Service. Michael Isikoff finds an even more extreme case today: A Delaware corporation that formed itself, gave $1 million to a pro-Romney Super PAC, and then dissolved. The PAC says it’s fulfilled its disclosure requirements — with the FEC, not the much toothier IRS. And that seems to be that. This is more or less how money moves around Russian politics. For all we know the Delaware corporation is owned by another corporation, registered in the Cayman Islands, with its directors another set of anonymous lawyers. Its money could come from, say, the government of Pakistan, which has recently shown an interest in illegal contributions to American pols. It’s important to note that this isn’t possible even in the case of the murky new (c)4 organizations, which are subject to IRS audits and extensive private disclosure, and it seems much fairer game for Romney’s foes to raise speculative questions about its origins.

Okay, so we got a non-profit LLC that was founded in Massachusetts, registered in Delaware, and had an office in New York.

According to a NYT article written back in January of 2010: Supreme Court Blocks Ban on Corporate Political Spending – NYTimes.com

The majority cited a score of decisions recognizing the First Amendment rights of corporations, and Justice Stevens acknowledged that “we have long since held that corporations are covered by the First Amendment.”

But Justice Stevens defended the restrictions struck down on Thursday as modest and sensible. Even before the decision, he said, corporations could act through their political action committees or outside the specified time windows.

Hmmm, not sure what that exactly means, and without reading all the decision and opinions of the SCOTUS on this case, it leaves a big question.  What did Stevens mean by that time window remark?

I will give you a couple of links below to the actual case decision and some links to a huge amount of articles and blog post that are related to this case.

This link here is to Cornell University Law and has all the court documents and opinions:  CITIZENS UNITED v. FEDERAL ELECTION COMM’N

CITIZENS UNITED v. FEDERAL ELECTION COMM’N ( No. 08-205 ) Reversed in part, affirmed in part, and remanded.
Syllabus Opinion [Kennedy] Concurrence [Roberts] Concurrence [Scalia] CDInPart [Stevens] CDInPart [Thomas]
HTML version PDF version HTML version PDF version HTML version PDF version HTML version PDF version HTML version PDF version HTML version PDF version

This next link is from SCOTUS Blog, and has a ton of links that refer to the case, going back before the appeal was even filed with the Supreme Court:  Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission : SCOTUSblog

Holding: Political spending is a form of protected speech under the First Amendment, and the government may not keep corporations or unions from spending money to support or denounce individual candidates in elections. While corporations or unions may not give money directly to campaigns, they may seek to persuade the voting public through other means, including ads, especially where these ads were not broadcast. Judgment: Reversed, 5-4, in an opinion by Justice Anthony Kennedy on January 21, 2010. in a 5-4 decision with an opinion written by Justice Kennedy. Justice Stevens dissented, joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, and Sotomayor.

Okay, now for a bit more on this decision…SCOTUS Blog has this summary: Argument preview: Corporations in politics : SCOTUSblog Take a few minutes to read through this, it will give you an overview and feel for the case, players, and arguments. One thing about the decision the Supreme Court made…There is a loophole within this ruling, and in this NYT article it discusses this:  Decision Could Allow Anonymous Political Contributions by Businesses – NYTimes.com

The Supreme Court decision last month allowing corporations to spend unlimited money on behalf of political candidates left a loophole that campaign finance lawyers say could allow companies to pay for extensive political advertising while avoiding the disclosure requirements the court appeared to leave intact.

Experts say the ruling, along with a pair of earlier Supreme Court cases, makes it possible for corporations and unions to donate anonymously to nonprofit civic leagues and trade associations. The groups can then use the money to finance the types of political advertisements that were at the heart of last month’s ruling, in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. […]

For the first time, though, as a result of the ruling, corporations will be able to spend unlimited amounts of money on advertisements expressly advocating for a candidate’s election or defeat. The ruling also clears the way, for the first time, for corporations to donate money to nonprofit groups that place advocacy advertisements.

So, if you remember, we don’t know what kind of non-profit business W. Spann, LLC was engaged in…so there is no real certainty that the million bucks is going specifically for political advertisements. However, since W. Spann was formed to get Romney “elected” …it could go without saying that this money is going to fund advertisements to do just that. The thing about all this is that 26 states filed petitions with the Supreme Court regarding this decision.  See some states have different laws regarding the disclosure of corporations that donate the money to political campaigns, even though this is a federal issue. These 26 states sent petitions to keep the laws they had from 1912 as precedent. Court Rolls Back Campaign Spending Limits – WSJ.com

The ruling not only strikes down the federal requirement, it also calls into question similar provisions enacted by nearly half the states. “States like Montana, whose people adopted a corporate electioneering law by initiative in 1912, have distinct and compelling histories of corporate domination in the political process that the court did not address,” said Montana State Solicitor Anthony Johnstone, who filed a brief on behalf of 26 states seeking to affirm the precedents.

Delaware and New york are not one of the 26 states, however Massachusetts is. See just how convoluted this entire thing is? Remember, W Spann was founded in Massachusetts, registered in Delaware, and had an office in New York. Oof! Anyway, I know we have some lawyers out there who read this blog, I would love to get your take on this. I think this donation by this W. Spann LLC, could challenge the Supreme Court ruling on Citizen’s United.

  • Was the corporation donating the money specifically for “advertising?”
  • Did the corporation remain active long enough to appease the court’s definition regarding the length of time a corporation’s status is “active” with the Secretary of State in which it was registered?
  • Does the fact that W.Spann LLC was founded in Massachusetts, which was one of the states that petitioned to keep their 1912 corporate campaign fund disclosures set as precedent have any bearing?
  • And, since this W.Spann was a 501(c)4 non-profit organization, what rules must it follow when it comes to disclosure of donated funds?

It all is so thick with uncertainties, I really look forward to seeing how it all pan’s out. Well what do you all think?

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