The Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling by the Supreme Court really changed how campaign funding works in America. As if it weren't suspicious enough before—now, corporations can go on spending sprees during federal elections, pay directly for ad campaigns, and aren't always required to disclose how much they've spent or on whom.
Some have pledged to keep company money out of politics, some have stayed quiet on the issue, and some are ready to start, or have already started, the big spending.
The NYC Public Advocate has created a clear list of some of the corporations that fall under each category.
Target is probably the most well-known example, having gotten a lot of flak recently for giving money to MN Forward, a political action committee that funded an ad for Tom Emmer, the likely GOP gubernatorial nominee in Minnesota.
Target isn't the only one, however, to support that PAC. From the Star Tribune:
Best Buy the Regis Corporation beauty salon business, and Securian insurance and financial planning each gave $100,000 in recent weeks, bringing the total contributions from business to $750,000. The fund, called MN Forward, has about $500,000 on hand to spend.
Additional reporting from the Star Tribune increased those numbers within a few days:
13 companies, including Target, Best Buy and Pentair, have contributed more than $1 million to a pro-business conduit, MN Forward, in little more than a month. It has emerged as a leading fundraiser, supporting GOP gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer with $195,000 in ads.
Then there's coal: Massey Energy, the company that owns the Upper Big Branch mine (site of the disaster that killed 29 people earlier this year) and that has been cited for numerous violations before and after, is part of a coalition-in-the-making with other coal companies that would jointly work to defeat "anti-coal" candidates.
Here's an unmistakable quote from the letter that started the effort:
"With the recent Supreme Court ruling, we are in a position to be able to take corporate positions that were not previously available in allowing our voices to be heard," wrote Roger Nicholson, senior vice president and general counsel at International Coal Group of Scott Depot, W.Va.
Bluegrass Politics found the letter, and provides some background for International Coal and for Massey, both involved in the effort:
International Coal Group owned the Sago mine in West Virginia where 12 miners died in 2006. Massey owned the Upper Big Branch mine, also in West Virginia, where 29 miners died in April. Two miners died in April in a Western Kentucky mine owned by an Alliance Resource subsidiary.
“Between them, ICG and Massey have had 41 miners killed in just two disasters, “ [attorney] Oppegard said. “It's disturbing to see companies that don't have strong safety records try to defeat politicians, like Ben Chandler, who have fought for stronger mine safety."
Not the only four
These aren't the only corporations working to take advantage of the newly unrestricted campaign spending—here's a little extra from the HuffPost Investigative Fund:
A Center for Responsive Politics' report of second-quarter donations in 2010 shows individual donors, many of whom are CEOs of large companies, contributed more than $20.5 million to so-called "527" political action groups.
American Crossroads, a group affiliated with Karl Rove, collected the highest amount -- $2.3 million -- from founders of Public Storage and Chief of Oil and Gas.
We'll be able to know, of course, where funding for political ads came from after the next tax returns are filed—after the elections are over.