Zaid Jilani

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Zaid Jilani is the former Communications and Outreach Coordinator for United Republic and the former Senior Reporter-Blogger for ThinkProgress. His work has also appeared in outlets including Salon and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He graduated from the University of Georgia in 2009 and moved shortly after to Washington to work to make America a more just and free place.

March 12, 2014

In 1991, Mitch McConnell Opposed Dark Money — While Openly Supporting Lower Voter Turnout

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is in the political fight of his life, as he faces a capable Democratic challenger in Allison Grimes and a primary opponent in Matt Bevin.

In defending his incumbency, McConnell has gone outright elitist, telling the media that the establishment is going to “crush” tea party challengers across the country.

McConnell’s victory or loss, particularly in the general election where he is polling very tightly with Grimes, will likely depend on voter turnout. Historically, midterm elections have lower turnout, and higher turnout tends to benefit anti-incumbent waves and more progressive candidates — both of which …

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August 9, 2012
Who did Pete Hoekstra influence peddle on behalf of? We may never know.

Who Did Pete Hoekstra Lobby For? We May Never Know

Last night, former congressman Pete Hoekstra won the Michigan GOP Senate primary, securing his spot as the party’s nominee. He will be competing the Senate seat this November.

In between his stint as a congressman and this current race, Hoekstra raked in nearly half a million dollars as “a senior adviser with Dickstein Shapiro LLP, a legal and lobbying firm.” In this role, Hoekstra all but certainly helped the firm’s corporate clients advance their government agendas. But because he spent less than twenty percent of his time on lobbying, he had no obligation to officially register as a lobbyist. Thus …

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August 8, 2012

Another Chamber of Commerce Member Is Caught Bribing Foreign Governments

In late 2010, the foreign-funded U.S. Chamber of Commerce, perhaps Washington’s most powerful corporate front group, unleashed a lobbying blitz to weaken the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). The FCPA is designed to punish U.S.-based corporations that bribe foreign officials abroad.

Earlier this year, a subsidiary of Wal-Mart — which is a Chamber member —  in Mexico was caught bribing officials, funneling millions of dollars through that country. Now, another Chamber member, Pfizer, has been fined for its role in foreign bribery:

As promised, the US Securities and Exchange Commission has charged Pfizer with violating …

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August 7, 2012

Amgen Leaves ALEC

The American Legislative Exchange Council, one of America’s most powerful corporate front groups, has been taking a beating since their role in promoting voter suppression and “Stand Your Ground” laws was exposed. Dozens of corporations have left. Today, the labor federation AFSCME, along with a group of socially responsible investors, informed Republic Report that drug company Amgen told them that it will not be renewing its membership in ALEC.

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August 7, 2012
John Katzman wants to figure out how to make as much money off your kids' education as possible.

Education Profiteers Gather In New York To Cheer Privatization Of American Schools

Reuters has the scoop on an event that took place earlier this week where nearly a hundred education profiteers — ranging from executives at testing companies to private equity moguls eager to invest in education technology — met at a swanky Manhattan club to cheer on the privatization of the U.S. education system:

The investors gathered in a tony private club in Manhattan were eager to hear about the next big thing, and education consultant Rob Lytle was happy to oblige. Think about the upcoming rollout of new national academic standards for public schools, he urged the crowd. If they’re as …

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August 6, 2012
Jon Bumstead

Michigan Representative Introduces Prison Privatization Bill, Top Donor Is Private Prison Exec

In Michigan, State Rep. Jon Bumstead (R) introduced a bill that would send the state back down the path of prison privatization. House Bill 1574 would re-open a private youth prison that was operated by GEO Group (then Wackenhut) that was shut down in 2005 and allow it to house adult inmates. The bill would once again give GEO the right to operate the prison.

This proposal has faced fierce protests from civil liberties and civil rights groups, which note that the prison was one of the most expensive to operate in the state when it was previously operated …

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August 3, 2012
A path forward for stopping corporate influence in elections?

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse Calls For Divestment From Corporations That Funnel Dark Money Into Politics

As the campaign against the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has shown, sometimes the best way to tackle corporate influence in our politics is to name and shame corporations that are secretly financing front groups to manipulate our democracy. Dozens of corporations have left ALEC thanks to this tactic.

On a recent national call with the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC), leading campaign finance reformer Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) endorsed a version of this tactic to tackle dark money in our elections. He referenced the anti-Apartheid movement, which called for divestment from funds that supported South Africa, and suggested this …

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August 3, 2012
A portrait of Gore Vidal

What Gore Vidal Said About The Corrupting Influence Of Money In Our Politics

Earlier this week, celebrated author, playwright, and activist Gore Vidal passed away. “Mr Vidal was, at the end of his life, an Augustan figure who believed himself to be the last of a breed, and he was probably right,” editorialized the New York Times upon his death.

In 2000, Vidal authored the foreword to Money and Politics, a Boston Review New Democracy Forum published in book form by Beacon Press. This is what the legendary author noted about the cost of elections at that time:

Some nuts and bolts. Of the billions now spent each election cycle, most is donated …

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