National News

Supreme Court opens gates for political money

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-04-02 13:23

The Supreme Court says you can put a whole lot of money into politics. Its 5-4 decision Wednesday in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission strikes down overall limits on what people can give to candidates and political parties. There are still limits as to what someone can give to a single candidate. But now, theoretically, individuals can max out their giving to every candidate nationwide.

Many expect the ruling to mean an overall increase in how much money goes into politics. And it may also mean some money that goes now to independent political vehicles such as super PACs and 501(c)(4)s may go instead to candidates and parties.

Mark Garrison: Let’s meet two folks on two sides of this issue, who both filed briefs with the Court. Ilya Shapiro of the libertarian Cato Institute is happier of the pair.

Ilya Shapiro: The Supreme Court should free up the arena for political speech.

Trevor Potter is with Campaign Legal Center. You may have seen him on TV in his role as lawyer for Steven Colbert’s many satirical political ventures. The Court did not agree with him.

Trevor Potter: If they read our brief, they apparently didn’t care about the consequences.

This is Marketplace, not Legalplace, so we won’t dwell on their arguments. In short, Potter worries about money causing corruption. Shapiro says restricting campaign spending restrains free speech. But there’s one place they agree. First, Potter.

Potter: I think there will be a net increase in the amount of money going into politics.

And Shapiro.

Shapiro: I think there will be increased contributions in general to the candidates and campaigns.

And it may mean less money given to outside groups. In recent years, dollars have flowed from billionaires to super PACs and 501(c)(4)s. Outside money has been the trendy thing in campaigns. But this ruling may bring a vintage political force back into style. Scott Bland is with National Journal Hotline, a news source for political insiders.

Scott Bland: it’s possible that as a result of this, the parties will be able to exercise a little bit more influence than they have over the last few years.

In a political environment full of new ways to spend money, today’s ruling may help empower a very old one. I'm Mark Garrison, for Marketplace.

Keating's legacy, from John McCain to a camp classic

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-04-02 13:17

Charles Keating, who died this week, is best-known as the poster boy for the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s. More than 1,000 banks failed, and taxpayers spent a quarter-billion dollars bailing them out.

Here are a few of his more colorful legacies:

1. Keating gave birth to John McCain as-we-know-him. By making McCain a figure of shame.

Keating's status as the king of the S&L swindlers rests on his sponsorship of the "Keating Five": a group of five U.S. Senators whose campaigns he supported financially-- and who in turn attempted to dissuade regulators from investigating Keating's shenanigans. The sole Republican in the group was John McCain, then a relatively new U.S. Senator. McCain later called the episode "my asterisk" -- and became better-known as a bi-partisan crusader for campaign-finance reform.

2. Also on Keating's payroll in the 1980s: Alan Greenspan.

As a private economist, Alan Greenspan took on a consulting job for Keating in 1984. His job: Drafting a report to regulators, arguing that Keating's bank, Lincoln Savings and Loan, be exempted from certain rules because it was well-run. 

3. He was good for a shameless quote.  

From the New York Times obituary: "Mr. Keating, a 6-foot-5-inch beanpole who walked with a swagger, never minced words about buying political influence. Asked once whether his payments to politicians had worked, he told reporters, 'I want to say in the most forceful way I can: I certainly hope so.'”

4. He did like to peddle shame. 

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Keating was a huge anti-pornography crusader. He sponsored a hilarious infomercial The Atlantic called “The Reefer Madness of porn.”

5. We can thank him, in part, for financial tools that later blew up in 2008.

Roy Smith teaches finance at NYU. And he spent much of the 1980s at Goldman Sachs. "You have to remember that the S&L crisis actually spawned two of the financial industry's most lucrative product streams," he says. "One was the securitization of mortgages into mortgage-backed securities. Hello! Those things that blew up in 2008..."

They were created for sale to savings and loans. "The other was the derivatives business."

Smith says it took more deregulation, time, and financial creativity for both products to cause problems. 

An uncertain future for big data in education

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-04-02 13:07

A victory for privacy advocates in New York spells trouble for a national effort to track student data--everything from grades and test scores to disabilities and suspensions. The New York State Education Department has confirmed it will no longer store any student information with the non-profit inBloom. That makes New York the last big customer to drop out of an initiative backed by the Gates Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation. Once boasting nine states as potential customers, the nonprofit group says it’s still talking with individual school districts around the country.

Yanukovych: 'I Was Wrong' To Ask Russian Troops Into Crimea

NPR News - Wed, 2014-04-02 13:00

The ousted Ukrainian president says Moscow's annexation of the Black Sea peninsula is "a major tragedy" and he hopes to persuade Russian President Vladimir Putin to return it.

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