Our Common Good

Fox News contributor Elaine Chao has recently appeared on Fox Business to criticize Obama over the economy and push the falsehood that he stripped the work requirement from welfare. During these appearances, Fox didn’t disclose that Chao is a national chair of Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign. Fox News has made it a regular practice to not disclose some of its frequent guests’ ties to the Romney campaign.

In an August 2 press release announcing her appointment, Chao stated that she is “honored that Governor Mitt Romney asked me to serve as the national chair of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders for Romney” and that “it will take new leadership to put this country on a path to prosperity and full employment.”

News Corp., the parent company of Fox News, recently nominated Chao to join its Board of Directors. Chao is married to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

Fox News contributors John Bolton and Walid Phares, and Fox regular Jay Sekulow, have all appeared on the network to criticize Obama without disclosing they’re Romney advisers. Fox News contributor Pete Snyder is the chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia’s 2012 coordinated committee. And Fox News contributor Karl Rove is the co-founder and adviser for the super PAC American Crossroads, which is spending tens of millions of dollars to defeat Democrats.

Malcolm Gladwell’s decades-long history of shilling for the health insurance industry provides a perfect example of the mix of undisclosed conflicts of interest, lucrative speaking fees and journalistic fraud and corruption that has become such a defining characteristic of Gladwell’s career. It’s worth examining this in detail and putting it into its proper historical context, especially because Malcolm Gladwell has recently refashioned himself into a supporter of healthcare reform.


America’s top newspapers are harshly criticizing WSJ’s failure to disclose columnist Karl Rove’s ties to political organizations, which raised hundreds of millions of dollars to defeat Obama and other Democratic candidates.
More on why Rove’s column is a big problem for the Wall Street Journal. 


America’s top newspapers are harshly criticizing WSJ’s failure to disclose columnist Karl Rove’s ties to political organizations, which raised hundreds of millions of dollars to defeat Obama and other Democratic candidates.

More on why Rove’s column is a big problem for the Wall Street Journal. 

Seeking to quell environmental concerns about the chemicals it shoots underground to extract oil and natural gas, Apache Corp. (APA) told shareholders in April that it disclosed information about “all the company’s U.S. hydraulic fracturing jobs” on a website last year.

Actually, Apache’s transparency was shot through with cracks. In Texas and Oklahoma, the company reported chemicals it used on only about half its fracked wells via FracFocus.org, a voluntary website that oil and gas companies helped design amid calls for mandatory disclosure.

Energy companies failed to list more than two out of every five fracked wells in eight U.S. states from April 11, 2011, when FracFocus began operating, through the end of last year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The gaps reveal shortcomings in the voluntary approach to transparency on the site, which has received funding from oil and gas trade groups and $1.5 million from the U.S. Department of Energy.

“FracFocus is just a fig leaf for the industry to be able to say they’re doing something in terms of disclosure,” said U.S. Representative Diana DeGette, a Colorado Democrat. DeGette, along with Pennsylvania Senator Robert Casey, introduced legislation in March 2011 that would require companies to disclose fracking chemicals. The bills haven’t advanced in either the House or Senate.

With FracFocus, “companies that want to disclose can do it but the other ones don’t have to,” DeGette said.

85% Fracked

Bloomberg compared oil and gas well records from eight states — Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, Montana, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and Wyoming — against disclosures that companies made for those states on FracFocus. While the state data didn’t reveal whether wells were fractured, regulators in each state said that at least 85 percent of their wells were fracked. The Congressional Research Service puts the national estimate at more than 90 percent.

In the eight states, companies told regulators that 18,158 wells were readied for production or were newly producing from April 11, 2011 through Dec. 31, 2011. They disclosed 8,555 of them on FracFocus. If 85 percent of the total wells were fracked, that means 45 percent of the fracks weren’t disclosed on the website.

Bloomberg’s analysis, covering states that accounted for 64 percent of U.S. gas production in 2010, shows the difficulty of getting a full picture of the industry’s transparency. Because there’s no official national database of fracked wells, Bloomberg chose states that had reliable records on when gas and oil wells started producing or were completed — that is, made ready to flow — and thus were candidates for posting on FracFocus.

A group of Aetna shareholders is challenging the health insurer for donating to the American Action Network and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — two organizations dedicated to undermining Obamacare.

Republicans controlling the House moved Wednesday to block a new Federal Communications Commission rule requiring TV stations to disclose online information about political ad buys by candidates, political parties and outside groups.

The U.S. Supreme Court announced on Monday it won’t hear a case brought by the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage challenging a Maine law requiring the organization to reveal its donors.

The high court posted a notice on its website indicating it wouldn’t hear the case, known as National Organization for Marriage v. McKee, without providing comment. The decision means NOM no longer has any avenue of appeal in the case.

NOM, among the most high-profile organizations opposing same-sex marriage, asked the Supreme Court to take the case after the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the constitutionality of the Maine disclosure laws.

In 2009, NOM contributed a total of $1.8 million to Stand for Marriage Maine and was one of the top fundraisers for the political action committee, which funded efforts for a Maine referendum that nullified the same-sex marriage law in the state.

According to Maine law, any organization that makes expenditures of more than $5,000 to influence a ballot question must register and file reports with the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics & Election Practices.

The anti-gay group contested this law on the basis that NOM shouldn’t be defined as a political action committee and because the statutory scheme of the law was unconstitutionally vague, but the First Circuit denied these arguments. The high court decision on Monday not to take up the case means the appellate court ruling will stand.

Minnesota corporations can’t make secret donations in favor of or against a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board ruled Thursday. Target, you’ve been warned.

The National Organization for Marriage and the Minnesota Families Council, two groups that oppose gay marriage, had asked the board to allow concealed donations, the Minnesota Independent reports. The groups had argued that same-sex marriage supporters could commit acts of vandalism or violence against anti-gay marriage donors.

President Barack Obama is thinking about issuing an executive order that would mitigate some of the damage done to our democracy by the Supreme Court’s dastardly Citizens United edict, which unleashes unlimited amounts of secret corporate cash to pervert America’s elections.

Obama’s idea is simply to require that those corporations trying to get federal contracts disclose all of their campaign donations for the previous two years, including money they launder through such front groups as the Chamber of Commerce.

Supreme Court Photograph by Scott Lenger.

This approach says to those giants who are sucking up billions of our tax dollars for endless war, the privatization of public services, etc.: You’re still free to shove trainloads of your shareholders’ money into congressional and presidential races, but — hey, just tell the public how much you’re giving and to whom.


Come on, Obama, don’t back down under pressure from these corporate sleazes — sign that disclosure order. If they’re going to steal our elections, let’s at least make them admit it.