Mining group Vedanta Resources paid USD 5.69 million (about Rs 28 crore) to political parties in India
Kevin Zeese writes:`The 2012 presidential election promises to have the most anonymous campaign donations in U.S. history. Unless the Obama administration acts, unknown corporate and wealthy interests will fund massive advertising campaigns against and for candidates but the voters will not know who they are or their real agenda. The Obama administration can prevent this further corruption of U.S. democracy by taking two steps, neither of which requires action by Congress.’
However, in a U.S. election dominated by multimillion-dollar donations, Democratic President Barack Obama's campaign is about to give small donors a new weapon by starting to accept text message donations for the first time in history.Reuter reports.Marking the beginning of what could be a revolution in U.S. campaign finance, the Obama campaign said on Thursday it is wrapping up agreements with Verizon Wireless (VZ.N), Sprint Nextel Corp (S.N), U.S. Cellular and T-Mobile USA - a unit of Deutsche Telekom AG (DTEGn.DE) - to open the floodgate for donations by text this week.In the coming days, voters are likely to start seeing a message on video screens at Obama rallies, at the end of ads or on fliers, encouraging them "to contribute $10 to Obama for America, text GIVE to 62262." The numbers spell out "OBAMA."
Thus elections in India also have to be dominated by multimillion-dollar donations and thus the mandate to be manipulated depending on corporate strength. UID project exposed the corporate policy making and different colours of scams, scandals and sting operations just show the wall writing very clear as never before.Ironically, this system is hyped as transparency in political system despite the blooming political class inflicted with scams without any exception whatsoever.Incidentally,Anna Hazare targets both Congress and BJP for the corrupt political system. Targeting both Congress and BJP, Anna Hazare today said those whose hands are "blackened" with corruption are levelling allegations against each other and that they cannot provide any future to the country. Hazare's comments came on a day when members of his disbanded team staged a protest against Congress and BJP in New Delhi, marching to the residences of the Prime Minister and Congress and BJP chiefs on the issue of coal block allocation.As the 75-yar-old social activist came out with a new blog handle which is different from the one on the official website of India Against Corruption(IAC), he said people will have to think now that no party will give a future to the country. billion dollar question remains to be unaddressed at all, as people of India are we empowered enough to think objectively!
It is quite amusing that the civil society which does not stand against economic reforms replicating US ar economy, never does oppose open market or mass displacement, repression, exclusion, excommunication and even ethnic cleansing, launched the anti corruption campaign to sustain the black money social economic political hegemony.Only today, the nation witnessed yet another street drama while activist Arvind Kejriwal and hundreds of erstwhile Team Anna supporters were detained today when they marched to the residences of the Prime Minister and Congress and BJP chiefs on the issue of coal block allocation with police using teargas and water cannons to disperse them. Further,the elite ruling class never feels a little bit shame to showcase the shining India dream which has destroyed American masses already. The dollar hegemony is the only survival kit. Just delink dollar from global economy, America has to starve. Saddam Hussain tried and doomed in the History . but Iran dared America and opened up consumer exchange refusing dollar exchange which is the bone of contention afresh in the middle east. Nuclear armament stand off is nothing but media hype. Nasa and Pentagon deleted entire middle class in United States of America. Twenty seven states inflicted with drought. Internal economic crisis is just like hell losing break! Yet, the black money hegemony replicated and imported agrarian as well as economic crisis from america. I get regular feeds from America and I post them on my blogs regularly.Please read!Moon mission is the destination. For whom?America has to defend its corporate interest worldwide and even in the infinite space. Most of American Tax Money is spent on defence. What do we intend to do? The super power nuclear icon,Missile man and former President APJ Abdul Kalam today said the country is suffering from the "fifth nation syndrome" as it is always the fourth or fifth nation to launch any mission like the space mission or nuclear programme. Simply ridiculous. You want to be number one while majority masses are deprived of job, livelihood, subjected to ejection from home,deprved of citizenship and human as well as civil as well human rights, entire aborigine humanscape is siezed within for whom space missions have to be launched, Vedanta has perhaps clarified very well!
According to its annual reports, Vedanta has paid USD 8.29 million to the political parties since 2003-04, when it got listed London Stock Exchange.However, it did not make a single donation for three years between 2006-07 to 2008-09.
The recent expose of Nira Radia’s taped conversations provided general public a sneak preview as to how PR consultants and corporate lobbyists orchestrate deals when it comes to nexus between mainstream news reporting and government officials.Moreover, this brewing source of scam would not have come to the public light, if not for the leak of the tapes. It is of no secret that political parties are always on look out for funds to fuel their coffers and initiate spending activities to promote their alliance’s agenda and theme directed towards the electorate.Most of such monies are usually sourced internally or indirectly from tax-payer’s pockets by some agdam-dagdam (ineligible) means. However, the buck doesn’t stop over here. If the amount of inflow is substantial in its size, it has to come on record in form of voluntary donation receipts. It can not be stacked or utilized as black money for long – without being embroiled into controversy.Thus, political parties gain heavily in the form of ‘so-called’ donations from individuals or corporate entities. These donations could also be as a result of consideration that a corporate pays for the ‘favours’ received from a political party.
Exemptions to such donations have been a long-standing demand of champions of democracy and anti-corruption activists. World over, illegal, underhand donations to political parties have been considered a major cause of corruption in public life. A senior tax lawyer, who is also a functionary of a political party, requesting anonymity, said: “After the enactment of Right To Information Act, this is the first major policy decision by the government for inculcating transparency in public life.”Tata Sons Electoral Trust was the first body set up by a business conglomerate in the country to formalise the process of donating money to the political parties. This Trust was in news immediately after the elections, when Union railway minister Mamata Banerjee declined a cheque of over Rs 27 lakh from the Trust.Political parties could now receive more donations, with then finance minister Pranab Mukherjee announcing a 100% tax deduction on companies and individuals contributing to electoral trusts.Electoral trusts are created as pass-through vehicles for routing donations to political parties, and are approved by the Central Board of Direct Taxes. Currently, 100% deduction is allowed only if donations are made directly to political parties.In 2003, India enacted a new law that made private donations to political parties easier. This law allows contributions by private companies to political parties, with a maximum limit of 5% of their profits. It also makes it mandatory for contributions to be made by cheque, and requires that parties audit their annual accounts and maintain a list of donors who give in excess of Rs20,000 and submit this to the Election Commission.
Just see the bargaining!Environment and forests minister Jayanthi Natarajan nixed yet another attempt by Vedanta to get Niyamgiri bauxite mines in Odisha that Rahul Gandhi had stood up against, saving the Congress and its scion some blushes. She ordered that the preliminary nod given by her ministry to the expansion of Vedanta's aluminium refinery, which the company had claimed would source 150 million tonnes of bauxite from Niyamgiri mines in Lanjigarh, be held in abeyance which effectively puts the project on hold. The environment ministry had earlier cancelled the forest clearance to Vedanta for mining Niyamgiri hills for violation of green norms and hauled up the company for expanding the linked aluminium refinery without mandatory environmental clearance. It asked the company to file an application afresh for the expansion of the refinery. Vedanta went to the Supreme Court against the ban on mining.
Alongside, the company filed a fresh application for expansion of the aluminium refinery. But without a word on the existing rigmarole over Niyamgiri mines, the company said it would source 150 million tonnes of bauxite from the Lanjigarh mines.Disregarding the fact that the ministry had rejected Vedanta's bid for Lanjigarh mines, the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) division of the ministry gave preliminary nod to the project asking it to go ahead and hold a public hearing on the project based on the EIA report. The report of the company too did not mention, as required, that the claimed source of raw material was bound in legal disputes.Sources said Natarajan stepped in when informed and put the preliminary nod given by her officers to Vedanta on hold. The public hearing now stands cancelled till the ministry takes a final view on the case.
Just see for further details:
The sacred mountain And why tribals are willing to die for it
Natives of Niyamgiri feel that the police is acting as an agent of the Vedanta group, playing dirty tricks to help the company go ahead with its plans to mine bauxite from the sacred hills
- 30 Oct 2009 – Arundhati Roy: To justify enforcing a corporate land grab, the state ... a name like Vedanta (the branch of Hindu philosophy that teaches the ...
- 26 Mar 2012 – Rockefeller to Mandela, Vedanta to Anna Hazare.... How long can the cardinals of corporate gospel buy up our protests? Arundhati Roy ...
- Arundhati Roy on Vedanta, poverty and militarisation. Last updated: Nov 5, 2009 • 2:05 pm No Comments. The low, flat-topped hills of south Orissa have been ...
- Arundhati Roy tells the story behind the much hyped "Indian growth'' and how .... of Vedanta's Lanjigarh refinery red mud ponds, spilling onto the village below.
- 27 Apr 2012 – Capitalism: A Ghost Story by Arundhati Roy Rockefeller to Mandela, Vedanta to Anna Hazare…. How long can the cardinals of corporate ...
"During the year, the group made political donations in India of USD 2.01 million either through a trust or directly in respect of the Indian general election. The board believes that supporting the political process in India will encourage and strengthen the democratic process," it said in its annual report for 2011-12.
However, the mining conglomerate recently came under fire from a UK-based shareholder advisory group Pirc over its practice of making political donations.
Reportedly, Pirc has advised Vedanta shareholders to withhold votes on its report and accounts at the annual general meeting on August 28 and protest against the practice.
Vedanta, which has emerged as a mining and natural resources giant in last one decade, had reported revenues of over USD 14 billion during the last fiscal.
Its subsidiaries include Sterlite Industries, Sesa Goa, Cairn India and Hindustan Zinc.
In February, the company had announced restructuring of its group structure. As per this, all the group firms will come under the banner of Sesa Sterlite, except Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) in Zambia and Vedanta will continue to be the parent firm of the two firms (Sesa Sterlite and KCM).
The restructuring is likely to be completed by 2012-end.
The Aditya Birla Group increased its contribution to political parties about fourfold to Rs 30.5 crore in 2009-10 while the Bharti Group cut it from Rs 17 crore to zero.The two main national parties, Congress and BJP, received Rs 84 crore and Rs 82 crore, respectively, as contribution from all sources while a regional party like Sharad Pawar's NCP obtained only Rs 3 crore.
The 2009-10 numbers of companies making legal donations to political parties, compiled by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), a Delhi-based civil society group, both reveal and conceal. What they reveal is a listing of the 36 corporate entities that donated Rs 1 crore and more to political parties.
They show a majority of companies don't want to be seen leaning towards one party and the gradual emergence of a more structured way of giving through 'electoral trusts'. What they conceal is how misrepresentative this listing is.
According to the Centre for Media Studies, political parties spent Rs 10,000-16,000 crore during the 2009 national elections, implying that legal, transparent contributions by companies account for less than 2% of election spending.
The truth is more obvious: elections in India are fought on torrents of unaccounted money that flow from businesses of all hues to political parties. "Politicians, even those with a national stature, openly demand black money," laments Vishnubhai Haribhakti, chairman of audit firm Haribhakti & Co, and trustee of the General Electoral Trust of the Aditya Birla Group.
The Aditya Birla Group donated Rs 16.6 crore to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Rs 13.95 crore to Congress through its General Electoral Trust. It was ranked third in the combined sum for 2007-08 and 2008-09, with companies under the ward of Kumar Mangalam Birla donating a total of Rs 7.76 crore.
Following the Aditya Birla Group in 2009-10 were Asianet TV Holdings (Rs12.5 crore), Torrent Power (Rs10.55 crore) and the electoral trust belonging to the Tatas (Rs9.78 crore). The leader of 2007-08 and 2008-09, Bharti Electoral Trust of the Bharti Group, is not present in the listing of 36 companies that donated over Rs1 crore.
In 2009-10, eight of the top 10 donors, and 17 of the 36 companies, gave to both BJP and Congress. "No group wants to be seen to be aligned with any political party for fear, if it has backed the wrong one, of getting the short end of the stick," says Haribhakti, trustee of the General Electoral Trust.
Even figures for aboveboard funding were not easy to come by. In spite of loud proclamations on transparency made by political parties and businesses, ADR had to ferret out the 2009-10 numbers from tax filings of political parties. A series of Right to Information applications moved by ADR were initially rebuffed by the parties.
When it comes to financial contributions/donations, political parties in the country seem to benefit a lot by them as a significant part of their income depends upon them.A study conducted by the Association for Democratic Reforms and the National Election Watch — which was based on Income Tax Returns and Financial Orders obtained as RTI replies — reveals humongous “favors” that political parties obtain from corporate houses.
The study reveals that political parties obtain humungous favours from corporate houses. It further points out that BJP topped the list of donations with Rs.297 crore of inflows, followed by BSP at Rs.202 crore and Congress at Rs.72 crore as part of their income for the FY 2007-08 and 2008-09.Interestingly, the BSP declared that it did not receive a single voluntary contribution in excess of Rs. 20,000 although the total contributions received by the party exceeded a whopping Rs. 202 crore in both the FYs.
Bharti Electoral Trust, a subsidiary of Bharti Airtel Group, made the single largest donation worth Rs.10 crore to Congress in the FY 2008-09. Political parties are eligible for tax exemptions on any voluntary contributions of over Rs. 20,000. Any such donations above the Rs. 20,000 limit needs to be accounted with express attribution to the name of the donor individually.
If the political party wishes to hide the name of the donor behind the veils, they simply have to forgo the tax-exemption status for the donations above Rs. 20,000 mark. While Congress earned more than half its donation income from individual voluntary contributions above Rs. 20, 000 amounts, BSP hardly accounted 20% of its donations from the said category.
The long list of corporate donations to the Congress party include Torrent Power (Rs.2.5 crore), Crompton Greaves (Rs.1.5 crore) and Adani Enterprises (Rs.1.5 crore) to name a few.
Further, what baffles me is that Congress-led UPA government is serving its second term at the Centre; yet it’s BJP that claims to have received more donations than Congress in the above Rs. 20,000 category list. This, despite the fact that – Congress is the highest earning political party; yet it has hardly accounted for 10% of its income from voluntary donations.
In the financial year 2008-09, the Congress showed more than Rs. 496 crore as its annual income (a total of Rs. 717 crore if results of FY 2007-08 are included, which makes it the highest earning political party in the country), out of which it obtained around Rs. 48 crore in voluntary contributions.
The party received contributions exceeding Rs. 20,000 from 143 contributors. This reveals that 58 percent of the total contributions it received came from those exceeding Rs. 20,000, and it went tax-free.
The Bharti Electoral Trust, a subsidiary of the Bharti Airtel group, donated Rs. 11 crore to the Congress by cheque. This was followed by Torrent Power Limited, an Ahmedabad-based company, which contributed Rs. 4.5 crore to the party.
Adani (Wilmar Enterprises Ltd), Mundra Port and SEZ Ltd contributed Rs. 3 crore each.
However, in the financial year 2007-08, the party showed its income at Rs. 220 crore, out of which it received total contributions of Rs. 24 crore. 33 percent of the contributions it received were the ones exceeding Rs. 20,000 mark, hence were exempted from income tax.
The Bharatiya Janata Party received the maximum amount of voluntary contributions in FY 2008-09 amounting to Rs. 196 crore, a massive portion in its annual income of Rs. 220 crore.
However, the party recorded that it received less contributions which were above Rs. 20,000 (only 16 percent) that amounted to Rs. 30 crore.
That means the bulk of the contribution came from small, anonymous contributors who paid less than Rs. 20,000.
The General Electoral Trust made contributions of approximately Rs. 6 crore exclusively to the party, followed by the Bharti Electoral group and Popatbhai Ukabhai Venkariya.
Even in 2007-08, the party was at the top in receiving donations, amounting to Rs. 101 crore out of a total income of Rs. 123 crore. Here also only a slender 25 percent came from big-ticket contributors.
Compiling the records of both the studied years, Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party was the second largest receiver of voluntary funds (after BJP) amounting to Rs. 202 crore, out of total income of Rs. 251 crore.
Surprisingly the ruling party of Uttar Pradesh didn’t receive a single bigticket donation exceeding Rs. 20,000.
But Sharad Pawar’s NCP had an absolutely contrasting story to reveal.
It showed to the I-T Department that it received Rs. 6.6 crore as voluntary contributions, and 100 percent of which were contributions exceeding Rs. 20,000 mark.
NCP, one of the most vital allies of the United Progressive Alliance, which also shares power in Maharashtra with the Congress, recorded total earnings of Rs. 57 crore in the two studied years.
The Communist Party of India-Marxist recorded a total earning of around Rs. 122 crore in the two studied years out of which Rs. 55 crore it received in voluntary contributions.
But the ruling party in West Bengal and Kerala stated that only 2 percent of the total donations it received were exceeding the Rs. 20,000 mark.
Similarly the Samajwadi Party received total contributions of Rs. 46 crore out of which only 1 percent was above Rs. 20,000.
Lalu Prasad Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal showed its total income of Rs. 6.2 crore, out of which Rs. 5.5 crore consisted of voluntary contributions, the study showed.
Bharti Electoral Trust, a subsidiary of Bharti Airtel Group, was the biggest contributor of funds to the political parties in the two years which were analyzed in the study.
It contributed a total of Rs. 17 crore, (Rs. 11 crore to the Congress and Rs. 6 crore to BJP). In all it made five contributions: three to the BJP and two to the Congress.
Torrent Power Ltd., made total contributions of Rs. 5.5 crore, which consisted of three contributions to the Congress (of Rs. 4.5 crore) and one to the NCP.
General Electoral Trust made voluntary contributions of Rs. 6.51 crore to the BJP only.
After analyzing the available data, the study rightly concluded that there should be more transparency within the functioning of the political parties in the country and how they deal with such large amount of voluntary contributions, many of which are provided by powerful corporate houses.
The ADR suggested that the contribution reports submitted by the political parties along with their income tax returns must be duly checked by the Comptroller and Auditor General.
Also, PAN declarations of contributors or donors must be made compulsory, and the parties should accept only cheques or DDs. There should not be any room for cash transactions in such contributions.
Kejriwal was detained for the second time today as he was picked up from outside the residence of the Prime Minister this morning.
The protest also brought to fore differences in the group over targeting BJP, with activist Kiran Bedi keeping herself away from Jantar Mantar.
Initially, police did not prevent protesters from marching towards the Prime Minister's residence though barricades were erected at several places. However, as they reached near the residences, they were stopped.
The protesters in separate groups marched from Jantar Mantar towards the residences of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Race Course Road, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi on Janpath and BJP president Nitin Gadkari on Tughlaq Road.
Police used water canons and lobbed teargas shells besides using force in Janpath, Akbar Road and Tughlaq Road to disperse the crowd.
Missile man and former President APJ Abdul Kalam said the country should strive to occupy the number one slot.
Speaking at the foundation day programme of CSIR-Central Glass and Ceramic Research Institute here, he said the country has been suffering from the "fifth nation syndrome" as whenever it launched any major mission like the space mission or nuclear programme it was the fourth or fifth one to do so.
"Now we need to go beyond that syndrome and be number one," said the Bharat Ratna awardee, who is known for his work on development of ballistic missile and launch vehicle technology.
Speaking about the Assam violence, Kalam stressed on uniting the warring factions.
"All of us should see that they come together as the unity of mind is very important. We need a cohesive society," Kalam told reporters here.
"Assam is a beautiful state, definitely peace will come," he said.
More than 85 people have lost their lives and four lakh people were rendered homeless since ethnic trouble erupted last month in lower Assam districts of Kokrajhar, Dhubri, Chirang, Bongaigaon and Baksa.
Asked to comment on the anti-corruption movement, Kalam said, "Every home has to be clean - your home, my home, his home, every home. When every home is corruption free then India is also corruption free."
Kejriwal, who was detained along with Prashant Bhushan, Manish Sisodia and Kumar Vishwas from various places, told reporters "Our intention was to show the nation that how BJP and Congress were hand-in-glove over the coal allocation issue.We have done our job, it is time we should go back."
The march was stopped at Janpath, Akbar Road and Tughlaq Road but as the protesters were tried to jump over the barricades to proceed, police warned them and later resorted to using water canons and lobbing teargas shells.
Some of the protesters also punctured the tyres of the buses and refused to move out of the place. Police then used force to remove them from the area.
Sporadic protests throughout the day were witnessed outside the residences of Prime Minister, the Congress president and the BJP chief and a number of protesters were detained and subsequently released
The day began on a dramatic note with Kejriwal and five others surfacing in front of the residences of the Prime Minister and Congress and BJP party presidents
All the six – Kejriwal, Manish Sisodia, Gopal Rai, Kumar Vishas, Sanjay Singh and another person – were later released from custody after being detained for about an hour at the Mandir Marg police station where their supporters staged a protest and prevented police from taking them to Bawana.
While Kejriwal and Gopal were picked up from outside Singh's residence, Sisodia and Vishwas were detained from outside 10 Janpath, the residence of the Congress chief Sonia Gandhi. Sanjay Singh and another person was detained from outside Gadkari's residence.
The activists had announced the gherao of the residences of these three leaders alleging that Congress and BJP were hand-in-glove in corruption and involved in the allocation of coal blocks.
Though the activists had announced that they will gather at Jantar Mantar and march towards the residences of the leaders, Kejriwal and his aides took others by surprise and came to the protest venues where they were detained.
"What wrong are we doing? We are just sitting quietly on the footpath. At least we should be told why we are being detained," Kejriwal said. A spokesperson for the protesters said they did not violate prohibitory orders as only two persons had gathered at the spot.
"When Raj Thackeray takes thousands of his supporters without permission for a protest, police provide protection.What kind of politics is this?" he said.
Kejriwal said, "we will gherao again. We want to give message to Congress and BJP".
Kevin Zeese wrote:
Step One: Enforce Existing Laws
In the 2010 mid-term elections we saw the evolution of a new form of campaign funding that violated the disclosure requirements of the Federal Election Campaign Law (FECA) by illegally using non-profit organizations to hide campaign donations.
The new approach was masterminded by Karl Rove and former Republican Party leaders through American Crossroads GPS. They created a non-profit organization under 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code – organizations that are not supposed to be primarily involved in elections – and used it to raise tens of millions in anonymous donations. In total, nearly $150 million was spent by these (c)(4) groups leaving voters in the dark as to the personal interests of the donors. We can expect that amount to more than double in 2012 if existing laws are not enforced. Indeed Rove has announced his group alone intends to raise $120 million for 2012.
While the Citizen’s United decision allowed unlimited donations by corporations and individuals, it did not allow anonymous donations. The federal election law requires that donors be identified. In order to do an end-around this requirement some political operatives have set up non-profit organizations to hide donor identities. This not only violates FECA but IRS regulations as well. The Department of Justice has the authority to enforce criminal violations of FECA even without action by the Federal Election Commission.
The Obama administration can end these illegal secret donations by announcing an investigation of organizations that took this approach in 2010. The DOJ should appoint a special prosecutor to remove the issue from partisan politics, subpoena documents and witnesses before a grand jury. Such an investigation should also put donors on notice: if a donor knows that the purpose of the non-profit is to avoid campaign finance disclosure requirements than they can also face criminal prosecution. Donors who wanted to keep their names out of campaign finance reports will want to keep their names off of grand jury subpoenas and certainly out of an indictment.
A coalition of advocacy groups have come together as CampaignAccountabilityWatch.
Last November I got a telephone call “Hello this is Special Agent . . . of the FBI.” They were responding to complaints we filed against the Chamber of Commerce and American Crossroads GPS. We had a lengthy meeting with the FBI shortly after that when we reviewed the public information available that made a prima facie case against the electoral practices of these organizations. Campaign Accountability Watch has been communicating with FBI investigators on using the criminal provisions of FECA to prosecute these wrongdoers since then and as recently as a month ago the investigation was continuing. The campaign has also filed complaints with the Department of Justice, the Internal Revenue Service and organizations have filed an FEC complaint last October. To stem the coming flood of anonymous campaign spending it is time to enforce the law.
Step Two: Require Contractors to Disclose Political Contributions
President Obama is considering an executive order that would require companies bidding for federal contracts to disclose all of its federal political spending over $5,000 for the previous two years which they now keep secret, including money spent indirectly through third party organizations like the Chamber of Commerce. The proposed transparency order would create one central database on the website data.gov that would list the political activities of government contractors and their affiliates and officers.
The reaction to the executive order highlights the need for it. The Chamber of Commerce has been apoplectic over the executive order, making arguments that are absurd on their face. They have been lobbying former Chamber board member, William Daley, who is Obama’s chief of staff. They claim transparency will lead to corruption in government contracting when just the opposite is true. Politics and procurement are already linked as politicians already know who their donors are; this transparency order will make money less powerful, not more powerful. If the public knows which corporations donated to which candidates or other electoral efforts it levels the playing field. Favoritism to donors will be seen as corruption of the process. Rather than creating a spoils system for government contractors, transparency will expose it and end it.
The real issue for the Chamber is personal – their corporate donors who get federal contracts will be exposed and they will lose millions in donations for their electoral efforts. The public will learn how many of the Chamber of Commerce’s 300,000 corporate members are government contractors; watchdog groups will be able to discover whether the Chamber has lobbied for laws that benefit their donors. Is the Chamber a public interest group advocating for laws that are good for business; or really an organization for hire by corporations who want the Chamber to do their bidding and get them government contracts? The fact that the Chamber is so aggressively fighting disclosure of donors’ identities emphasizes the importance of Obama signing the transparency order.
More than two dozen Republican senators including House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy and the chairmen of 19 House committees signed letters to the president arguing that the order would inject political favoritism into the contracting process. When I used to practice law, when the other side hid information, I knew I was on the right track. If corporations and their allies in Congress oppose this executive order it shows they have something to hide, making it even more important for Obama to put the order in place.
Good government groups and the media have been very supportive of the proposal:
- The New York Times editorialized: “The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, an accomplished conduit for secret donors, is crying foul about the proposed executive order. But clearly the measure is needed to combat pay-to-play campaign abuses. . . Now is not the time for him to flinch before noisy threats from the chamber and other deep-pocketed players.”
- The New Republic wrote: “The key now is for the White House and the regulatory agencies to ignore the threats from Congress and elsewhere, and move ahead with their efforts. After all, the sentiments of the 92 percent of the public that favors transparency, and the eight justices on the Supreme Court that have endorsed it, should outweigh the objections of the reborn anti-disclosure cabal.”
- And, the MetroWest Daily News pointed to Republican hypocrisy and common sense writing: “Not long ago, Republicans argued that campaign contributions shouldn't be limited but, instead, should be publicly disclosed, leaving it up to voters to decide if a candidate had been unduly influenced. Now they not only demand that special interests be allowed to make unlimited contributions to get their favorite candidates elected, but they also want those contributions to be kept secret. . . People who sell goods and services to the government shouldn't be able to influence government decisions through secret donations of large piles of cash to elect favored politicians.”
Both unions and business would be subject to the law if they seek federal government contracts. Federal agencies spent about $535 billion in fiscal 2010 on government contracts. In fact more than 138,000 corporations would fall under the order including many Fortune 500 companies, military contractors, unions and others who do business with the federal government.
President Obama has it in his power to bring significant transparency to federal elections. Congressional opposition is irrelevant to the signing of executive orders and the enforcement of existing laws. People have the right to know who is funding campaign activities so voters know their business before the government. People also have the right to know whether corporations are being favored for government contracts because of their political donations. And, campaign disclosure laws need to be enforced to be effective. Transparency is essential to reducing the corruption of politics. It is time for the Obama administration to act.
Kevin Zeese is director of ItsOurEconomy.US and spokesperson for Campaign Accountability Watch.
Donor DemographicsOnly a tiny fraction of Americans actually give campaign contributions to political candidates, parties or PACs. The ones who give contributions large enough to be itemized (over $200) is even smaller. The impact of those donations, however, is huge.
Total US Population (estimate)
Pct of US population giving $200+
Pct of US population giving $2,500+
Total US adult population (age 18 & over)
Pct of US adult population giving $200+
Pct of US female adult population giving $200+
Pct of US male adult population giving $200+
Pct of US adult population giving $2,500+
CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS, 2011-2012
By type of recipient
|Count||Total*||To Dems*||To Repubs*||To PACs*||% Dems||% Repubs|
|Donors giving $200+||796,489||$1,698.3||$666.0||$814.4||$237.7||39%||48%|
|Donors giving $200+ only to candidates/parties||612,972||$1,123.7||$522.8||$596.6||$0.0||47%||53%|
|Donors giving $200+ only to PACs||134,126||$132.7||N/A||N/A||$132.7||N/A||N/A|
By range of donations
|Count||Total*||To Dems*||To Repubs*||To PACs*||% Dems||% Repubs|
|Donors giving $200-$2,499||642,184||$420.4||$162.3||$170.7||$88.6||39%||41%|
|Donors giving $2,500+||154,305||$1,277.8||$503.7||$643.7||$149.1||39%||50%|
By party of recipients
|Count||Total*||To Dems*||To Repubs*||To PACs*||% Dems||% Repubs|
|Donors giving only to Democrats||304,133||$600.9||$574.5||$-0.0||$29.2||100%||N/A|
|Donors giving to both parties||22,464||$225.1||$91.6||$115.1||$23.9||41%||51%|
|Double Givers (gave at least 33% to each party)||8,703||$40.9||$19.9||$20.1||$2.1||49%||49%|
* Amounts are in millions of dollars.
** Figures reflect contributions to candidates, parties and Leadership PACs.
Population numbers are based on U.S. Census estimates as of Dec. 1, 2010
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Finally please read this appeal!August 30, 2007
This is an appeal to all right thinking and environmentally conscious citizens to rally to the cause of saving Niyamgiri Hill, one of the most important biodiversity hotspot in the Eastern Ghats of Orissa. The top of this hill is proposed to be mined by Vedanta Alumina Ltd, a subsidiary of Sterlite India ltd for Bauxite which will be used for their 1 million tonne alumina refinery to be set up in Lanjigarh, a Schedule V area.Niyamgiri Hills, named after the Niyamraja, the main deity of the Donagria Kondhs, are one of last untouched wildernesses of Orissa. Rising to a height of more than four thousand feet, it is the source of Vamshadhara river as well as major tributaries of Nagavali rivers. Niyamgiris form a distinct phytogeographical zone because of its height and its highly precipitous topography . It has some of the most pristine forests in Orissa. Niyamgiri flora is of ‘great phyto-geographical importance’ as the hilltops harbor high altitude plants with Himalayan/North Indian and Nilgiri/South Indian elements. Preliminary studies show that it has approximately 50 species of important medicinal plants, about 20 species of wild ornamental plants, and more than 10 species of wild relatives of crop plants such as sugarcane (protected under the International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources (Rome, 23 November 1983).
Niyamgiri hills are home to a number of vulnerable wildlife species including tiger, leopards, elephant, sloth bear, pangolin, palm civet, giant squirrel, mouse deer and sambhar, etc, most of which are in the IUCN red list of endangered species. It is also a part of migration corridor of elephants between forests of Kondhmals and of Kalahandi/Koraput. Niyamgiri hills are also home for rare birds like Hill Myna and Hornbill and are one of the few habitats in Orissa for the King Cobra. Recently, the Golden Gecko has been discovered for the first time in Orissa from the Niyamgiri hill which happens to be the only known habitat in the state.
The Golden gecko (Callodactylodes aureus) is of special interest to world herpetologists as it represents one of two known genus Callodactylodes, who are considered as Gondwanan relics. This gecko is one of the rarest lizards of India, endemic to Eastern Ghats and is found in only one another site in AP. Due to its extremely rare status, this lizard is classified in the Schedule I to the Wildlife Protection Act. In addition this a species of large termite hill gecko (Hemidactlyus subtriedrus) share the same habitat. This again is the first record of this species from Orissa.
During a brief herpetological survey of three days a green Pit viper was found which could be a new species or sub species of pit viper from India, since this could not be matched with existing pit viper records of India. The travancore wolf snake which was last reported from Orissa by the British herpetologists in pre independence era has also been rediscovered from here recently. A species of skink which was hitherto unreported in any published literature could be a new report.
In view of its ecological importance, Niyamgiri hill was declared as nature conservation / game sanctuary by the erstwhile King of Kalahandi and was proposed as a Wild Life Sanctuary in the working plan of Kalahandi Forest Division. The State Wildlife organization ha also proposed to declare this area as South Orissa Elephant Reserve as mentioned in the vide memo no. 4643/3WL(Cons)34/04 dated 20.08.2004.
The ecological importance of the Niyamgiri forests has been recognized even by an expert team. The Central Empowered Committee set up by the Supreme Court of India had sent a Fact Finding Expert Team to carry out an inspection who in their report dated 14.1.2005 also expressed their concern over the mining and recommended for alternate option of sourcing bauxite ore. To quote their report: “Any mining in this area is bound to destroy the biodiversity. Under these circumstances, alternative sources of ore should be explored for the Project.” (Findings of the team (iv), Fact Finding team Report).
The ecological diversity in the Niyamgiri hills is linked to the hundreds of perennial streams flowing from these hills, even though Kalahandi is one of the most perennially drought prone areas in the country. Most of these emerge from just below the bauxite deposit on the top of the mountains, providing suitable microclimates for diverse flora and fauna. The Niyamgiri Hill is sacred to the Dongaria Kondhs, a unique primitive tribal group found only in the Niyamgiri Hills. This tribe which is no less important that the endangered Jarawas of the Andamans is on the brink of extinction since the 2001 census reveals a total population of around 7,500 only. They consider the mountaintop of the Niyamgiri as inviolate and protect the forests on the top as “Kaman” forests, where their god Niyamraja Penu resides .
The ecological and cultural sacredness of Niyamgiri is threatened by the proposed bauxite mining by Vedanta Alumina Ltd. The area is going to be destroyed even before a complete documentation of its biodiversity wealth is carried out. The Company has already partly constructed its factory just below the Niyamgiri hill and is waitingfor the environmental and forest clearance from the Ministry of Environment and Forests, GOI. The mining of the hill top involving heavy equipment and blasting would destroy the rich wildlife and its habitat completely. Many endangered species of flora would disappear even before documentation. Influx of outsiders because of the factoryalready has led to large scale tree felling and habitat disturbance in the Niyamgiri hills. More seriously, the mining of bauxite which retains water, will lead to drying up of all the streams destroying the unique humid micro-niches where many species are found.
We are about to sacrifice this sacred hill with its verdant treasures and destroy the future for the unique Dongaria Kondhs. How can this abominable ecological crime be tolerated in independent India when our Constitution protects and guarantees the tribals the right to livelihood and life with dignity in a Schedule V area? Given its highbiodiversity and its cultural uniqueness, it will be a sacrilege to allow a multinational company to mine this mountain, only to export the alumina and aluminum to developed countries and China.
We request you to spare a few minutes to write a letter or send an email protesting this proposed criminal despoliation of one of the last bastions of wildlife and biodiversity in Eastern Ghats and write to the following authorities to stop the proposed mining project forthwith. Please also share this message with other concerned people and organization.
S K Pattanaik, Bhubaneswar
Sidharth Nayak, Bhawanipatna
Ashok Pradhan, Sambalpur
Environmental Protection Group, Orissa
List of persons to write to:
Her Excellency Mrs Pratibha Patil
Honourable President of India,
New Delhi- 110 001
Dr. Manmohan Singh,
Honourable Prime Minister of India,
New Delhi- 110 001
Hon’ble Governor of Orissa,
Fax Nos: +91 674 2536582, 2536581, 2536584
Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) Paryavaran Bhawan CGO Complex, Lodi Road
New Delhi – 110 003.
Mr. Naveen Patnaik,
Chief Minister, Government of Orissa and Minister, Forest & Environment, GOO,