A Democratic group says it will file a formal complaint with federal regulators against three Republican organizations after a CNN investigation revealed that they shared internal polling data before the midterm elections by posting the information on anonymous Twitter accounts. The liberal advocacy group American Democracy Legal Fund alleged in a complaint meant to be filed Monday to the Federal Election Commission that the National Republican Congressional Committee, the American Action Network and American Crossroads broke federal rules that prohibit coordination between campaign committees and outside groups. “The NRCC and outside groups appear to have engaged in illegal coordination through sharing internal polling data,” according to the complaint, which was provided to CNN by American Democracy Legal Fund. “By hiding their communications on a public website, Respondents intentionally tried to create a loophole in the coordination rules. Such an intentional effort to knowingly flout campaign finance laws cannot be condoned.”
When Republican Representative Cory Gardner of Colorado announced in March that he would run for the U.S. Senate, he knew he could count on backing from national Republican groups, including so-called super PACs. But he wasn’t allowed to talk to them directly. Federal election law prohibits campaigns from having contact with the super PACs and advocacy organizations that have come to dominate political spending since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision. Those rules were intended to put a wall between candidates, whose fundraising is constrained by federal limits, and special interest groups allowed to spend unlimited amounts of money promoting candidates and issues. In practice, campaigns have found ways to talk to super PACs while staying on the right side of the law. Gardner’s race illustrates how the system works. Within weeks of his declaring his Senate run, Americans for Prosperity, backed by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, told the Washington Post it would spend $970,000 on three weeks of television, radio, and online ads attacking incumbent Democratic Senator Mark Udall. That news was a signal that Gardner, who was unopposed in the primary, could hang back and focus on raising money—even as Democratic groups began running their own ads attacking him.
National: Mitch McConnell Will Ask Supreme Court To Scrap Campaign Contribution Limits Entirely | Huffington Post
On Oct. 8, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will argue to the Supreme Court that all campaign contribution limits should be eliminated and that candidates should be able to accept unlimited donations. Although McConnell is not a party in the case of McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court has granted the Senate minority leader time during oral argument to present his views: that campaign contribution limits are an unconstitutional burden on free speech and that the court should give contribution limits a higher level of scrutiny than it has in the past. McConnell will be represented by lawyer Bobby Burchfield. McCutcheon v. FEC challenges the aggregate limit on donations to federal candidates, political parties and political action committees, which bars an individual donor from giving more than $123,200 in total during the 2014 election cycle. McConnell wants to go much further by forcing courts to treat all campaign contribution limits as they treat campaign expenditure limits, which were found to be an unconstitutional burden on First Amendment rights in the 1976 Buckley v. Valeo decision.
Let’s not make excuses for the IRS. The agency shouldn’t have subjected conservative groups to special scrutiny. Campaign finance reform groups should have immediately called for hearings when this scandal broke: Imagine the hue and cry if the IRS during the Bush administration had singled out “progressive” groups for special tax scrutiny and sent themunprecedented questions about their contributors and activities. Given the danger going back to President Richard Nixon of using the IRS against political enemies, the agency has to be scrupulously nonpartisan and fair. Congressional investigations and the Department of Justicecriminal investigation announced Tuesday are inevitable and warranted. But the larger picture here shows why the IRS felt itself forced into the role of campaign finance regulator, and why people also are calling for the Securities and Exchange Commissionand state attorneys general to regulate campaign contributions. This is all about the failure of Congress to require the disclosure of donors who bankroll groups designed to influence elections.
For a year, the Republican National Committee has portrayed Democrats as the villains when it comes to voter fraud. In a provocative article on CNN’s Web site, the committee’s chairman, Reince Priebus, said, “Democrats know they benefit from election fraud.” The tables have turned, however, and Republicans are now playing defense over the role of a well-paid operative, Nathan Sproul, in a voter registration scandal that emerged in Florida and has spread to other states. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement said it was reviewing “numerous” claims involving a company that Mr. Sproul runs to determine if a criminal investigation is warranted. Complaints have surfaced in 10 Florida counties, among them allegations that registrations had similar signatures or false addresses, or were filed under the names of dead people. In other cases, party affiliations appeared to have been changed.
As a highly contested swing state, Colorado is typically overrun by political ads from campaigns and outside groups supporting them. But the tragic shooting Friday at a movie theater in Aurora is temporarily silencing much of the spending on ads in the state. President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney announced Friday they will suspend their ad efforts in Colorado, and super PACs are planning to join them. Priorities USA, a super PAC supporting Obama’s re-election campaign, announced it will not run ads in Colorado for the time being. “Priorities is suspending advertising in Colorado,” said Priorities USA strategist Bill Burton. “Our prayers are with the victims of this horrible tragedy.”
When the super PAC backing Mitt Romney, Restore Our Future, files its June donation report on Friday with the Federal Election Commission, it is expected to show a six-figure contribution from Wyoming businessman Foster Friess, his first to the group. But an unwelcome scrutiny came to Friess, Nevada billionaire Sheldon Adelson and some of the other wealthy donors to these super PACs, and some are planning for much of their future generosity to be behind a cloak of anonymity. Friess said he has decided his financial donations in the future will mostly be to groups that do not have to disclose their donors. He said he is planning on contributing to five or six so-called 501(c)(4) groups named after the section of the tax code they are organized under. These are nonprofit organizations that can advocate on behalf of social welfare causes or to further the community. He refused to discuss which groups, but did say one recipient could be an affiliate of American Crossroads, the group founded by Karl Rove.
During their long campaign to loosen rules on campaign money, conservatives argued that there was a simpler way to prevent corruption: transparency. Get rid of limits on contributions and spending, they said, but make sure voters know where the money is coming from. Today, with those fundraising restrictions largely removed, many conservatives have changed their tune. They now say disclosure could be an enemy of free speech. High-profile donors could face bullying and harassment from liberals out to “muzzle” their opponents, Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said in a recent speech. Corporations could be subject to boycotts and pickets, warned the Wall Street Journal editorial page this spring. Democrats “want to intimidate people into not giving to these conservative efforts,” said Republican strategist Karl Rove on Fox News. “I think it’s shameful.” Rove helped found American Crossroads, a “super PAC,” and Crossroads GPS, a nonprofit group that does not reveal its donors. “Disclosure is the one area where (conservatives) haven’t won,” said Richard Briffault, an election law professor at Columbia Law School. “This is the next frontier for them.”
Republican super PACs and other outside groups shaped by a loose network of prominent conservatives – including Karl Rove, the Koch brothers and Tom Donohue of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce – plan to spend roughly $1 billion on November’s elections for the White House and control of Congress, according to officials familiar with the groups’ internal operations. That total includes previously undisclosed plans for newly aggressive spending by the Koch brothers, who are steering funding to build sophisticated, county-by-county operations in key states. POLITICO has learned that Koch-related organizations plan to spend about $400 million ahead of the 2012 elections – twice what they had been expected to commit. Just the spending linked to the Koch network is more than the $370 million that John McCain raised for his entire presidential campaign four years ago. And the $1 billion total surpasses the $750 million that Barack Obama, one of the most prolific fundraisers ever, collected for his 2008 campaign.
While the presidential campaign commands the most attention, Senate Democrats are bearing an early television advertising assault by Republican-leaning groups that is reshaping those races. Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio and former Virginia Governor Tim Kaine, who is seeking a Senate seat, are being outspent by at least a 3-to-1 ratio on television advertising as super political action committees supporting Democrats struggle to raise money and President Barack Obama and the national party conserve resources for the fall election.
Editorials: Is Campaign Disclosure Heading Back to the Supreme Court? – Don’t expect to see Karl Rove’s Rolodex just yet | Rick Hasen/Slate Magazine
The news this week that a federal appeals court has refused to block a lower court ruling requiring the disclosure of more funders of campaign ads has campaign finance reformers tasting their first victory in a long time. “It’s the first major breakthrough in overcoming the massive amounts of secret contributions that are flowing into federal elections,” Fred Wertheimer of Democracy 21 told the Los Angeles Times. But don’t expect to see Karl Rove’s Rolodex just yet. Crossroads GPS and other groups have found that raising money from donors who don’t want to be disclosed is good for business, and they’ve got a few ways to keep the unlimited money poured into campaigns secret yet. And before you get too excited it’s worth considering that the Supreme Court could well help them keep their secrets in 2012, even though the court has so far been a big supporter of disclosure laws.
Since 1974, federal campaign finance law has required the disclosure of campaign donors and spenders. Opponents of disclosure have long argued that at least some disclosure is unconstitutional under the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech and association, because compelling someone to reveal the names of those funding political speech will chill vigorous participation in politics. As I’ve explained, the Supreme Court rejected that constitutional challenge in the 1976 campaign finance case, Buckley v. Valeo. Confronted in that instance with a law that required disclosure of even very small contributions, the court held that the disclosure laws were justified by three important government interests: First, disclosure laws can prevent corruption and the appearance of corruption. Second, disclosure laws provide valuable information to voters. (A busy public relies on disclosure information more than ever.) Third, disclosure laws help enforce other campaign finance laws, like the ban on foreign money in elections. But the court has repeatedly said that if someone could demonstrate a real threat of harassment, they could be exempt from the disclosure laws.
Sixty-two percent of funds raised by two conservative groups associated with former Bush adviser Karl Rove have come from mystery donors, a statistic that shows the increasingly important role being played by nonprofits in a post-Citizens United political world. American Crossroads, a super PAC, and Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, a nonprofit, were founded in 2010 by Rove and another former Bush adviser, Ed Gillespie. Together, they raised $123 million through the end of 2011, according to an iWatch News review of Federal Election Commission data and Internal Revenue Service filings. Of that sum, $76.8 million, or 62 percent, went to Crossroads GPS, which is a nonprofit, “social welfare” group organized under section 501(c)(4) of the U.S. tax code. Like American Crossroads, Crossroads GPS can pay for advertising that attacks political opponents by name and urges viewers to vote against them. But unlike the super PAC, GPS is prohibited from making politics its “primary purpose,” according to the IRS, a rule that these politically active nonprofits have interpreted to mean they can spend up to 49 percent of their funds on such advertising.
With 300-plus super PACs and counting, it would be easy to miss CREEP. But last Thursday, a new super PAC ingeniously named the Committee for the Re-Election of the President registered with the Federal Election Commission. The committee is based out of a post office box at the Watergate Complex—an homage, of course, to the other Committee for the Re-Election of the President, the fundraising committee for President Richard Nixon that became embroiled in the Watergate scandal. It’s an inside joke with a serious punchline. The old CREEP (which used the acronym CRP and at one point was called the Committee to Re-Elect the President) helped spur the creation of the FEC. The website for CREEP Super PAC says it’s committed “to raising voices not dollars” and advocates disclosure. “It’s an excellent chance for people to step back and say, ‘Are we happy with 40 years of campaign finance and the lack of disclosure?’” said Robert Lucas, 22, founder of the new CREEP and a graduate student in public policy at Georgetown University. “There’s a lot of irony, with the 40th anniversary of Watergate and where we are now.”
Yesterday the long-developing ties between two Republican super PACs and Mitt Romney’s campaign grew stronger when the campaign announced that veteran GOP strategist Ed Gillespie would come aboard as a senior adviser. Gillespie is a founder of and adviser to American Crossroads, which has stockpiled $26.9 million so far this election cycle, much of which is expected to be spent helping the Republican nominee; it’s increasingly likely that will be Romney. Another Crossroads adviser is Carl Forti, who is also president of the pro-Romney Restore Our Future super PAC. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The two super PACs, awash in money, share a number of benefactors. Many of the largest donors to Crossroads are also major donors to Restore Our Future, and vice versa. And many have maxed out to the Romney campaign itself, which has been struggling, relatively speaking, to raise cash.