On the Money: Taking It to the States

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This is the second installment of a new feature at Moyers & Company, as producer Gail Ablow shares her must-read money and politics stories every Tuesday.

One-Party Rule –> Republicans or Democrats now have single-party control of both the legislature and the governor’s office in 36 states. A new series in The New York Times focuses on the out-of-state money that is fueling one-party rule. In part one, Nicholas Confessore reports on the 2010 Republican takeover in Alabama. Republicans won majorities in the state house there for the first time since Reconstruction and the very next year they passed 30 major pieces of legislation – including tax breaks for businesses, restrictions on abortion and limits on union organizing. Allison Silver at Reuters tweets: “After Confessore’s swell takeout on nat party $ subsuming states, read Schwartz’s astute op-ed http://reut.rs/1gx7bGP.” Herman Schwartz’s July op-ed, “Democrats: It’s the states, stupid!” is worth a re-read.

In part two, Monica Davy reports on neighboring port cities, Duluth, Minn., and Superior, Wisc. Divided by the St. Louis River, the cities are guided by vastly different politics since Republicans took control of the Wisconsin State Legislature and the governor’s office in 2011, and Democrats gained control in Minnesota last year. Lawrence Jacobs, a University of Minn. political scientist, tells Davy: “You’ve got two states with the same history, the same culture, the same people — it’s kind of like they’re cousins. And now they’re looking across the border and … seeing something else entirely on the other side.”

Elizabeth Warren’s New Bill Could Save Taxpayers Billions –> Last week, Senators Warren (D-MA) and Tom Coburn (R-OK) introduced legislation that will discourage the government from imposing tax-deductible corporate fines. Banks and companies are allowed to settle, confidentially, out of court and then deduct those settlements from their taxes. Mother Jones reporter Erika Eichelberger crunches the numbers and compiles a tally of tax dollars lost in some major settlements over the past decade. Remember that record-breaking $13 billion fine JP Morgan Chase agreed to pay last year for its role in the financial crisis? Under current law the company can deduct up to $4 billion of that fine from its taxes.

Congress Cut Its Own Budget. What Happened Next Will Not Restore Your Faith in Government –> Alex Seitz-Wald at the National Journal reports that a new survey says a growing number of Hill staffers will likely head for the exits if salaries and benefits continue to be cut. Thirty-eight percent thought it “likely” they would look for a job in the next year, up 8 percent from 2011. One respondent wrote, “I hired well to build a competent staff for a senior member. As a result of the sequester, I’m losing those staff to off-Hill positions that pay sometimes double what pay on the Hill is, with more certainty and no furloughs. This is a horrible situation.” A growing fear, reports Seitz-Wald, is that if senior staffers leave, their positions will be filled by green 25-year-olds and K Street lobbyists.

The New Hampshire Rebellion –> Last weekend, Harvard law professor Larry Lessig and a small band of protestors set off to walk across the state of New Hampshire demanding campaign finance reform in honor of the memory of activists Aaron Swartz and Doris Haddock (aka Granny D). Lessig writes in The Atlantic that it was Swartz who convinced him, seven years ago, to focus his energy on the fight for campaign finance reform. Swartz committed suicide a year ago on January 11. The marchers plan to reach Nashua, NH, on Jan. 24, Granny D’s birthday. At the age of 88, Granny D walked from Los Angeles to Washington with the sign “campaign finance reform.” She arrived in DC 14 months and 3,200 miles later at the age of 90. Lessig says the protesters hope to recruit people to ask every presidential candidate at every New Hampshire campaign event between now and January 2016 (the next presidential election’s first primary) one question — “How will YOU end the system of corruption in DC?” You can follow the march on Lessig’s blog: http://lessig.tumblr.com

Gail Ablow is a producer for Moyers & Company and a Carnegie Visiting Media Fellow, Democracy.

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