Monday, August 08, 2016

Kids, rev up your search engines! If it is election season, it must be time for political action committee abuse ... by gimleteye

It is August, kids, and it's too hot outside to play. So here is an official Eye On Miami! learning project that you can do at home on your computer. It might teach you something more valuable than chasing Pokemon.

People and corporations who spend a lot of money to influence Florida play another game. This one is called "Representative Democracy".

Here is how it is played. When you are eighteen you get to vote. Candidates who get the most votes are "elected to office" and represent the will the people. Except. Except that corporations are people, too, under the current law, and corporations can give a lot more money than people to candidates. LOTS MORE MONEY.

The way corporations do that is through "political action committees". Corporations can give unlimited amounts of money to certain political action committees and, guess what: they do! Now there is a way to trace where this money goes, and how PACs shift money from one legal political committee to another. This gets quite interesting when you can see how PACs stretch the boundaries of the law. (See it works like this: people BREAK the law, corporations STRETCH the law.)

All it takes is a little patience and willingness to use the very helpful Florida Division of Elections website. Type in the name of a PAC, based on the example below. For each entity, kids, you will find a records file.

Look for the Division of Election audit report and the response by the legal representative of the political action committee.

Here is one such letter, from Atty. Bucky Mitchell to the Division of Elections. The response is with respect to a nest of conservative PACs that apparently violated Florida law by giving money to entities that don't qualify for funding by PACs. This is very interesting.

PACs often nest together like Russian dolls. Kids, this is how PACs nest together.

A couple of insights: first, PACs nest together to serve a common purpose for the big funders. Usually, that purpose is to influence legislation that protects corporations and limits the ability of people to be represented by their democracy. Second, you can identify nested PACs in a couple of ways; are the registered officers of the PACs the same people, or from the same law firm, or from the same company?

Follow the money, always, if you want to understand what drives Florida.

Kids, it takes a little work, but what the heck! It's 92 in the shade. From your air conditioned bedroom, take a few hours to figure out what corporations are spending money to deform democracy! The point is: your vote counts but not as much as theirs when measured by money.

Start by looking up the PAC on the Division of Elections website. Find the audit reports and start digging from there. Here are some follow up questions for you, kids, to answer: why would these illegal donations be made in the first place? One clue, is to look at the names of the registered officers of the PAC.

Stay organized and focused, because you will soon feel like Alice in Wonderland and that rabbit hole. Take those names and do a google search. See what comes up. Do more google searches.

Pretty soon, you will begin to form a picture how Florida works, or, doesn't work. The Florida Division of Elections website is a digital jigsaw puzzle.

Go ahead, kids. Rev up your search engines. Start right here, with this document. The most interesting analysis will make the front page of Eye On Miami!

FL Div. of Elections CampaignDocument-10

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