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Ugly Money

En route to the November elections, American voters are getting a vivid demonstration of how unbridled money is twisting our political system. Trust me, it’s going to get worse — and uglier.

The negative campaign TV ad is now the preferred cudgel of candidates bent on destroying each other. The current GOP presidential primary has been less certain and bloodier than usual as a few billionaires keep contenders viable much longer than in past contests.

What remains to be seen is the inevitable onslaught of negative ads in the general election, from both Democrats and Republicans, paid for largely with outside super PAC money from hedge fund billionaires and private equity managers. Such ads have already tipped the balance several times in the GOP primary and there’s no doubt this will play a huge role in the presidential contest as well.

Until Next Week,

Bill Buzenberg
Executive Director

Super PACs, super spending
Heading into Super Tuesday, spending by super PACs aligned with presidential candidates surpassed spending by all super PACs in the 2010 mid-term election. To date, super PACs associated with one of the 2012 White House hopefuls spent more than $66 million. Notably, the pro-Mitt Romney super PAC Restore Our Future accounts for almost 50 percent of this spending. The Romney super PAC has spent more than $32 million so far this election, nearly all of it on ads bashing his opponents. That’s nearly twice as much as the $16 million spent by pro-Newt Gingrich Winning Our Future. And it’s roughly six times as much as the $5.3 million spent by the pro-Rick Santorum Red White and Blue fund.

Energy-backed firms award bonuses, file bankruptcy
President Obama’s Department of Energy financed a fleet of green energy companies that later fell into bankruptcy — but not before the firms doled out six-figure bonuses and payouts to top executives, a Center for Public Integrity and ABC News investigation found.

Venezuela emerges as new source of ‘conflict’ minerals
Coltan, a little-known mineral used in high-tech circuitry in military and consumer products, has fueled a lucrative black market fed by paramilitaries and drug traffikers.

The end of health insurance as we know it?
Columnist Wendell Potter says Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini caused quite a stir when he said at a Las Vegas conference recently that the insurance industry as we know it is, for all practical purposes, a dinosaur on the verge of extinction.

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