Just in time for next week's special city council election, Sunlight is sneak-previewing our latest addition to Influence Explorer — DC campaign finance data — as well as our wish list for how it can be made better.
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Just in time for next week's special city council election, Sunlight is sneak-previewing our latest addition to Influence Explorer — DC campaign finance data — as well as our wish list for how it can be made better.
No one is immune from Internet predators looking to hack private accounts and have lots of fun at the account owner’s expense, not even politicians.
And if the Republican Governor from Oklahoma, Mary Fallin, didn’t know that before, she knows it now. Yesterday her official Twitter account was hacked by what seems to be a group of people who do this stuff on a regular basis – but that’s hard to say for sure. Whoever did it posted silly pictures containing images of monkeys and bananas and even Dr. Suess quotes, among some other weird things to the Governor’s twitter account.
The Governor or her staff quickly deleted the tweets and posted another tweet explaining the account had been hacked.
Lucky for us, and all of you, we have Politwoops! Politwoops logs deleted tweets by politicians so you can see what mishaps occur over the social media outlet and possibly learn why they happened. Sometimes the service gives us insight into a politician’s changing policy positions, but this time it serves as a reminder that we can all be victims.
In the three months before congressional leaders announced that they are once again opening the process to suspend tariffs, at least 71 private companies have already lobbied to get their own exemption and nine more have registered. Each one has a product they’d like to import a little more cheaply. So far this year, the companies report lobbying expenditures of $14 million on issues including this one – but if history is any guide, it may be well worth the expense.
The last time Congress passed a miscellaneous tariff bill (MTB), in 2010, it cost taxpayers $298 million in lost revenue over three years, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
Members have until tonight to send in provisions they want included in this year’s legislation, according to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont.
In short, the MTB is legislation written for corporations, by corporations to save them money on products they import and use in manufacturing. The companies solicit members of Congress to introduce bills reducing their tariffs and those bills eventually get rolled into the MTB, a long green eyeshade document that few members of Congress likely will take the time to read. Call it “nearmarking.” With earmarks now banned, critics say the tariff bill offers members of Congress an alternate route to get special favors for pet concerns at taxpayer expenses. Republican Sens. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., have introduced legislation would send all tariff requests directly to the International Trade Commission (ITC), cutting Congress out of the process.
“There is no good reason why businesses go to members of Congress and not directly to the International Trade Commission with their petitions,” said DeMint spokesman Wesley Denton.
But guess who’s pushing the tariff bill? Sixty freshman Republican lawmakers –who generally have been among the loudest voices against special dealing and for deficit reduction -- recently wrote to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., urging favorable treatment of the MTB. They argued that it’s a bill that will spur American jobs.
Congress considers tariff legislation almost every two years. And while heavy corporate lobbying on it is typical, it's hard to compare historic spending trends because lobbying records weren't digitized until 2008 and congressional lobbying records didn't begin tracking lobbying specifically on the miscellaneous tariff bill until the last few years.
Lobbying disclosure information reported to the Senate Office of Public Records.
But the number of tariff suspensions enacted by Congress appears to be on the upswing. In 2004, Congress passed an MTB with 433 tariff suspensions. Two years later, the MTB that passed two years later suspended duties on 280 products and generated a tariff savings of about $660 million for corporations according to a study conducted by Capital Trade, Incorporated, an economic consulting firm that focuses on international trade. But later that year, Congress approved a second bill suspending duties on another 580 products. During the 111th Congress, which ran from 2009 through 2010, lobbying records on file with the Senate show 192 companies with $385 million in lobbying expenses on tariff issues. Of that amount, $205 million was spent in the final six months before passage of H.R. 4380, the United States Manufacturing Enhancement Act of 2010. The bill included duty suspensions on 665 products, benefiting 113 corporations, according to data provided by the House Ways and Means committee.
An examination of the 2010 bill and lobbying records related to the MTB provides vivid examples of how members of Congress use the tariff legislation to do favors for home-state businesses.
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., submitted 28 requests to suspend duties on products for Bayer. All but three made it into law. Overall, Bayer got a remarkable 62 duty suspensions from 15 members of Congress, making the German drug manufacturer the top beneficiary of the bill. Mary Petrovic, Rep. Cleaver's press secretary, defended the support, noting that Bayer employs a number of people in his home district in Missouri.
Bayer and its subsidiaries spent $8.3 million lobbying the bill and other issues in 2009 and 2010 according to records disclosed with the Senate. The corporation has reported spending $7.2 lobbying the issue and others this session so far.
Cleaver also received $5,500 in campaign contributions from employees of Bayer and their family members during the 2007-2008 and the 2009-2010 election cycles. So far this cycle he’s received $2,000 from people associated with Bayer, according to InfluenceExplorer.com.
An examination of lobbying records disclosed in 2010 showed that the tire manufacturer Michelin lobbied on 21 bills introduced by Senator Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., to reimburse duties they paid on tire products. Michelin, which operates a number of plants in Graham’s state, reported spending at least $1.1 million on issues including tariffs and was the only company that reported lobbying on the 21 original bills dealing with tariff reimbursements that Graham introduced. The provisions Michelin wanted made it into the final bill.
Tracking which corporations benefit from provisions that originated on the Senate side is harder than the House side, because the Senate traditionally has not revealed which members requested each provision. It’s not clear whether the Senate will adopt the House transparency process this time around. That potentially could shed more light on relationships between senators and the corporations they help through this bill.
Dan Ikenson, an expert in trade issues at the Cato Institute, favors reducing all tariffs unilaterally. But he called the MTB a good thing even though it only temporarily suspends duties on a limited number of products. He described the measure as “gradual progress” towards creating more competition in the markets.
Ikenson, however, doesn’t agree with all of the rules that go into writing the MTB. Only allowing import products to be considered if they are not produced in the United States is bad for competition., he said. Magnesium, for instance, is only produced by one company in the United States and therefore has little incentive to make prices competitive, Ikenson said. He argued that lifting duties on imported magnesium would allow U.S. manufacturers to get better prices.
“We’re picking winners and losers in our markets by placing duties on certain items,” Ikenson said.
The controversial Arizona immigration law that President Obama's administration challenged came before the U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday was written by the American Legislative Exchange Council, better known as ALEC, the conservative group that has been in hot water recently for its role in drafting the law that has figured in the headline-making shooting of Trayvon Martin, the teenager gunned down by a Florida homeowner earlier this year.
ALEC writes model legislation and with the intent of having state legislators pass that legislation into law. According to the Center for American Progress, at least 14 other states have considered, and in some cases passed, legislation similar to Arizona's SB 1070—a bill that gives state lawmakers the right to demand identification of persons they suspect of being illegal immigrants. The Justice Department is challenging the law's constitutionality.
Using automated textual analysis to identify matches in text among the 14 bills, Sunlight was able to identify similarities between the Arizona bill and a few of the other bills identified by CAP. The Alabama bill that became law in June of 2011 stands out as very similar to the law being considered by the Supreme Court today, and our analysis shows that it is a closer match to ALEC's model bill than the Arizona bill is.
ALEC has lost some members because of its association with the controversy surrounding the shooting of Martin, a 17-year-old, in Sanford, Fla. by George Zimmerman. Zimmerman, who has since been charged with second-degree murder (he has pleaded not guilty) wasn't arrested immediately because of Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law. That law, which was adopted by ALEC after the National Rifle Association lobbied Florida state legislators to have it passed in 2005, made it hard for police to arrest Zimmerman because he claimed he acted out of self-defense.
Sunlight's work relies on software called SuperFastMatch. Created by the Media Standards Trust and supported by a grant from Sunlight, SFM allows for the identification of overlap between text documents at large scales and high speeds. You can examine the connections between SB 1070, the ALEC model bill and the other measures we have collected for yourself by visiting our research instance of SFM. Click the "Documents" tab to begin exploring the different immigrant-related measures we examined and their degree of overlap with those of other states.
While masses of people are flocking to liquor stores to play today's record setting Mega Millions lottery, those behind the games benefit from much shorter odds in the political game, using influence to ensure big payoffs.
Take Gtech, a gaming technology giant based in Providence, R.I., that has contracts with 16 of the states that participate in Mega Millions to provide lottery terminals and other services. The company, its PAC, employees and their family members have given $4.1 million in campaign contributions to state and federal-level candidates and party committees dating back to 1991. It's spent $3.4 million lobbying the federal government since 1997, according to the Sunlight Foundation's Influence Explorer.
Gtech has also been a revolving door destination for state lottery officials. In 1999, in a lengthy profile of the company, the Washington Monthly reported,
Three directors of the New York state lottery have gone to work for the company as lobbyists or consultants, as have numerous directors from other states. After a conflict over Massachusetts' lottery, director James Hosker, a close friend of Gtech's, took the job managing Kentucky's lottery and secured a sweet deal for the company in that state. Where did Hosker move next? A lucrative job on the Gtech payroll.
In a 2007 article, the Journal News in Lower Hudson Valley, N.Y., detailed numerous other incidents in Gtech's past, including:
- Hiring the former patronage chief for then-New York Gov. Mario Cuomo as a $20,000-a-month consultant. Tonio Burgos held the job for about three months until the deal leaked out. - Awarding a former gubernatorial aide in Missouri a 10-year, $80,000-a-year consulting contract after GTECH won that state's business. - Hiring lobbyists in Texas who included two former aides to then-Gov. George W. Bush, as well as former Lt. Gov. Ben Barnes. In 1996, public pressure led to Barnes' contract being bought out for $23 million.
An Italian firm, Lottomatica S.p.A., acquired Gtech in August 2006. According to its most recent annual report, Gtech had $1.3 billion in revenues, was active in 51 countries, and provided its services to 26 of the 41 online lottery authorities in the United States.
Lottery suppliers like Gtech aren't the gambling interests making sure bets on politics: casinos and other gaming companies have contributed more than $557 million to federal and state candidates and political committees since 1989, according to data in Influence Explorer.
Some 24 states followed Florida in putting Stand Your Ground laws on their books, at least ten of which are nearly identical to the measure that’s gained national attention after George Zimmerman, 28, shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla., last month and was not arrested because he said he was acting out of self-defense.
In 2005, Florida passed its Stand Your Ground law, which offers legal immunity to individuals who use deadly force when they believe they are being threatened by another. The National Rifle Association pushed the legislation through state legislatures across the country as an expansion of the nation's gun rights laws.
After Florida passed its law, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) adopted its legislative language as one of the model bills it proposes to legislators across the country on behalf of its member associations, in this case the NRA.
A Sunlight Foundation analysis using automated textual analysis found that not only are the laws similar, but at least 10 of the states based their legislation on nearly identical bills to the one Florida passed and ALEC adopted.
Because some states do not make the original legislation available online, there could be even more states that used what became an ALEC model bill to guide their legislation.
The analysis was able to detect striking similarities and identical phrases across multiple bills, including the phrase, “[a] person is presumed to have held a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another when using defensive force that is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm …,” which is just one of the provisions of the law that is intended to protect people who may have killed another person from being arrested or prosecuted.
Michigan’s House Bill 5153 that passed the state legislature in 2006 was the most similar to Florida’s bill, according to the analysis. When compared to the Florida bill it returned the highest rate of matches than any other bill did at 146 fragments matched. The state bill with the lowest matching rate to Florida was Mississippi Senate Bill 2426 at 20 matching fragment counts.
The ten states that were revealed to have varying degrees of similarities to the Florida bill are:
The NRA hasn’t commented on the Martin case specifically, but has said the Stand Your Ground law is good legislation and to call it otherwise would be a mistake.
Florida State officials have said that it will be more difficult to prosecute the shooter, George Zimmerman, if they decide to do so, because of the law.
Breanna Edwards contributed to this post.
There are almost 27,000 people—or 1/100th of one percent of the United States population—who spent more than $10,000 to influence elections during the 2010 election cycle.
The top 10 people from this elite class of donors together spent more than $23 million on the last election. The majority of that money went to Super PACs used for independent expenditures. Eight contributed their money exclusively to Republican groups and candidates; two contributed exclusively to Democratic groups and candidates.
In total, this tiny group of relatively unknown individuals was responsible for $774 million of the $3.2 billion that poured into the hotly contested mid-term elections. That money went not only to candidate campaigns and political action committees, but to Super PACs, officially known as “independent expenditure-only committees.” After the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Citizens United and the Federal Election Commission’s two advisory opinions that followed, individuals and corporations effectively have unlimited giving potential. By giving to Super PACs, they can bypass traditional giving limits.
The group that benefited most from the top 10 mega-donors largesse: American Crossroads. That Super PAC received millions of dollars from seven of the top donors, and $7 million from just one donor, Bob Perry.
Here’s a look at who’s who among America’s top 10 most influential givers:
Bob Perry is the CEO of Perry Homes. Perry has been influential in politics and a prominent donor for a number of years. In 2004, he gave $8 million to a number of nonprofit political groups known as 527 committees. Most notably, $4.4 million of that money went to the political group Swift Vets and POWs for Truth, which opposed Sen. John Kerry’s presidential bid. During the 2010 election cycle, Perry donated $7.3 million to political efforts. All but a small portion of his money for the 2010 election went to American Crossroads, a group cofounded by former George W. Bush strategist Karl Rove and former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie.
Wayne Hughes, owner and chairman of Public Storage, Inc. According to disclosures, Hughes gave a total of $3.28 million to conservative candidates and committees, with $3.25 million going to American Crossroads. Hughes also gave $4,800 to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va.
Fred Eshelman is the CEO of Pharmaceutical Product Development. Eshelman spent $3 million in 2010 funding his own group, RightChange. RightChange registered with the FEC as a Super PAC and spent those millions of dollars to defeat Democratic candidates including Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado and Sen. Patty Murray of Washington.
Robert Rowling, CEO and Chairman of TRT Holdings, a holding company that owns Golds Gyms and Omni Hotels as well as oil and gas interests. Rowling spent $2.59 million during the last election on conservative efforts. He gave $2.5 million of that money to American Crossroads.
Donald Sussman is the Chairman of the holding company Paloma Partners. Sussman, who earlier this year married Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, gave $1.26 million in 2010 to Democratic candidates. He has also funded a group called the Democracy Fund, a separate but predecessor organization to the United Republic Action Fund. Both of these groups have been affiliated with United Republic, and both have been dissolved.* Sussman gave a little more than $750,000 to the Super PAC Women Vote! and its parent organization Emily’s List. Those two organizations support pro-choice female political candidates.
John Ricketts is the founder of TD Ameritrade and still a board member there. In 2010, his total political contributions were $1.25 million. He gave to a variety of Republican candidates, including House Speaker John Boehner.
Jerry Perenchio is the CEO of the investment firm Chartwell Partners and former owner of the Spanish-speaking television network Univision. In 2010, he gave $1.12 million to conservative candidates and groups, including $1 million to American Crossroads.
Rachel Hunter is the Treasurer for the organization Media Matters and an heir to the Hyatt Hotels fortune. She’s related to Penny Pritzker who was the national finance chairwoman of the Obama campaign in 2008. In 2010, Hunter gave more than $1 million to democratic groups and candidates. The bulk of that money went to the 527 organization, Bring Ohio Back.
John Childs is on the Board of Directors for Club for Growth and is the founder of JW Childs Assoc., a private equity firm. In 2010, he gave a total $923,000 to Super PACs supporting Republicans and to Republican candidates directly. He gave $100,000 of that money to American Crossroads and $650,000 to his own group, Club for Growth.
For a full list of the top donors for 2010, see the embedded spreadsheet below.
Also, as a disclaimer, we think it is important to note that there are funders of the Sunlight Foundation on this list. For example, David Bonderman and Marjorie Roswell are numbers 9 and 103 on the list and have donated to the Sunlight Foundation. Additionally, the founder of the Open Society Foundations, George Soros, is 134th on the list. Open Society Foundations has provided grant support to Sunlight.
*Based on inaccurate information received from a source at United Republic, we originally reported incorrectly that Donald Sussman is a funder of that organization.
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley filed a lawsuit yesterday against five major U.S. banks for violating the state’s laws to protect consumers by conducting unfair and deceptive practices during the foreclosure crisis.
The complaint claims that Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Citi, JP Morgan Chase and Co., and Ally Financial all committed violations of the state’s laws to protect consumer rights and damaged public records through faulty and fraudulent foreclosure proceedings, failing to modify home loans and the use of a system known as the Mortgage Electronic Records System (MERS).
Much of the outrage towards these banks and others stems from the money they received during the housing and financial crisis that began in 2008. All five of these banks received billions of dollars in emergency funds through the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) to ensure their stability and keep them from failing. But now, after many citizens and politicians feel the banks haven’t reciprocated the concern the public and the government had for their financial troubles, they’ve found themselves in legal and political trouble, including this lawsuit.
The violations these banks are accused of committing come after a series of programs that were intended to help the banks help the people. Regularly, before and after those programs were put into place, these banks take part in influential tactics to keep their own bottom line on the minds of lawmakers and not necessarily the financial stability of the public through campaign contributions, lobbying and other less-expected and less-expensive ways.
According to InfluenceExplorer.com, contributions to candidates across the country affiliated with these five banks totaled nearly $14 million. However, only a rather insignificant portion of that money—$173,000—went to Massachusetts politicians.
Also according to Influence Explorer, Bank of America’s political action committee and its employees and their family members gave $4.8 million to state and federal candidates during the 2009-10 election cycle. Massachusetts Democrat Barney Frank received $25,000 of that money.
BofA also lobbied heavily on a variety of bills related to finance and other issues, spending $7.4 million during those same two years. BofA frequently disclosed lobbying on the Dodd-Frank bill—officially known as H.R. 4173, The Wall Street Transparency and Accountability Act of 2010. Presumably, the banking giant spent a great deal of that money to influence the formation and implementation of this bill, which was intended to regulate many banking practices that had no formal regulation before and threatened to significantly lower the profits a bank could rake in. The goal of that bill, according to lawmakers, was to make sure the country would never see a financial crisis like the one recently experienced again.
According to Federal Advisory Committee Act data also displayed on Influence Explorer, as of 2011, Bank of America has five employees sitting on federal advisory committees. Those employees are in the position to advise various agencies on how to implement regulations and do business, usually doing so on issues that affect their own business matters. Walter Muller, the bank’s Chief Investment Officer, sits on the Department of Treasury’s Advisory Committee of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association.
JP Morgan is a big spender in Washington as well. During the 2009-10 election cycle, there were $3.4 million campaign contributions affiliated with financial company. There were also $13.4 million in lobbying expenditures reported. Like BofA, JP Morgan reported lobbying heavily on the Dodd-Frank Financial Reform bill.
JP Morgan doesn’t currently have any employees on any federal advisory committees, but did in 2010 when the company’s Executive Director of Environmental Affairs sat on an advisory committee with the Department of Commerce.
If you’d like more influence data about these two companies, or the remaining three being sued by Massachusetts—Well Fargo, Ally Financial (formerly GMAC) and Citi—you can visit InfluenceExplorer.com and TransparencyData.com.
Part of the lawsuit has been brought about because the attorney general Martha Coakley doesn’t believe the banks have adequately satisfied promises to modify mortgages and slowdown the rampant foreclosures happening in the state. For information on that issue, see the report we did on the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), which is a funded through TARP.
Of the 12 members of the failed supercommittee that were tasked with cutting $1.2 trillion from the federal deficit, five have disclosed records with the Federal Election Commission stating that they’ve received bundled contributions from lobbyists exceeding $16,000.
Representative Dave Camp, R-Mich, is the only member of the committee that has reported receiving bundled contributions so far this cycle. All $32,000 he received was bundled by one lobbyist named Harry Sporidis. Sporidis works for the firm Polsinelli Shughart and represents a number of clients in the healthcare industry, including the National Association for Behavioral Health and the American Society of Clinical Oncology.
According to the records, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash, has been the greatest supercommittee recipient of bundled contributions since 2009. She’s received just over $262,000 from large corporations including AT&T, Microsoft, Boeing, and Amazon, and well-known lobbyists like Tony Podesta who represents many prominent clients like BP America, Credit Suisse and Boeing.
This information has been made available as a result of the Honest Leadership and Government Act of 2007, which amended the Lobbyist Disclosure Act of 1995. The act made gifts to lawmakers illegal, was supposed to close the revolving door and required more disclosure regarding lobbying activity and spending – including the disclosure of bundled contributions, among other things. The act came about after Jack Abramoff, the infamous lobbyist turned felon, was convicted of fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy. His case demonstrated the wide-ranging corrupt practices that could take place in Washington. The rules require disclosure of bundled contributions went into effect in 2009, and have so far generated a rather small dataset of just over 300 records but have revealed $17.1 million in contributions to just 76 recipients including party committees. The largest bundler, the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), has given $2,120,952 in bundled contributions to just two recipients. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is one of them and received the bulk of that money: $2,072,950. The Republican Senator from South Carolina, Lindsey Graham, received the remaining $48,000 of that money. According to records filed with the Senate Office of Public Records, EEI has lobbied on a variety of issues related to energy, including regulating greenhouse gases and Clean Air Act regulations.
The remaining supercommittee members that received bundled contributions subject to the relatively new rules are Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, Chris Van Hollen, R-Md, and John Kerry, D-Mass,. The three received $235,500, $40,000 and $20,425 respectively.
The lobbyist bundler data is now available on InfluenceExplorer.com and TransparencyData.com. The data comes directly from the FEC. Contributions are disclosed by recipients (reporting committees) to the FEC when a lobbyist/registrant or lobbyist/registrant PAC makes at least two contributions to a single recipient totaling at least $16,200. Recipients report according to their regularly scheduled reporting periods and according to biannual reporting requirements put into place just for bundled contributions, according to the FEC.
It’s well known by now that the Occupy Wall Street protesters are occupying Zuccotti park – a park just a couple blocks away from Wall Street in lower Manhattan. That occupation was almost ended when the owner of the park asked that the park be cleared so it can be cleaned last week.
That owner, Brookfield Properties, has not only become the unhappy landlord of a movement that has spread across the country, but also takes part in the some of the practices #occupy protesters appear to have an issue with: using money to push corporate interests through Congress and influence the political process. It should be noted that Brookfield’s involvement in politics through contributions and lobbying and the presence of Occupy Wall Street protestors in their park is purely coincidental and neither Brookfield nor people emailed with the OWS movement have said otherwise. It is, however, an interesting coincidence.
Zuccotti park operates as a public space and is open 24 hours a day. It is privately owned by Canada-based Brookfield Properties. Brookfield is a publicly traded real estate company with land and buildings in some of the most prestigious areas of the United States. They also happen to lease properties to Bank of America and Wells Fargo, both banks given TARP money during the financial bailout in 2008 and an issue that helped spark the OWS movement.
Brookfield employees have been active in political giving on the federal level for the last decade. Brookfield CEO Richard Clark and Chariman John Zuccotti—the man the park is named after—are both donors to various politicians in New York and other states and donors to an influential real estate trade political action committee. In the 1970’s, Zuccotti was the chairman of the New York Planning Commission and following that position was deputy mayor of New York.
Between 2000 and 2010, Richard Clark made at least $169,950 in contributions to PACS and committees such as Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the National Association of Real Estate Trusts and various politicians such as Kristen Gillibrand(D-NY) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY). Records also show that Clark has given to Super Committee Member Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).
John Zuccotti’s contributions between the years 2002 and 2010 were $195,300 to many of the same committees, PACs and politicians as Clark, according to TransparencyData.
Brookfield Asset Management—a company listed on Brookfield Properties’ website as having a controlling stake in the company—has reported spending just over $500,000 lobbying the federal government on energy, financial and tax issues since 2009, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
The Occupy Wall Street movement has been protesting what participants consider corporate greed for 34 days now. The protest has been replicated across the country in Washington DC, Denver and San Diego, to name just a few places. The movement cites the Arab Spring at Tahrir Square in Egypt and protests also inspired by poor economic conditions that took place in Spain earlier this year as inspiration for the occupations.