To quote the great political philosopher Cyndi Lauper, “Money changes everything.” 1 And nowhere is that proverb more taken to heart than in a federal election, where billions of dollars are raised and spent on the understanding that money is a crucial determinant of whether or not a candidate will win. This year, the money has been coming in and out of political campaigns at a particularly furious pace. Collectively, U.S. House candidates raised more money by Aug. 27 than House candidates raised during the entire 2014 midterm election cycle, and Senate candidates weren’t far behind. Ad volumes are up 86 percent compared to that previous midterm. Dark money — flowing to political action committees from undisclosed donors — is up 26 percent.
John McCain devoted much of his career in the Senate to controlling the influence of money in public life — in part to try to recover from his own role in a big congressional influence scandal. McCain, who died Saturday of brain cancer, made money and influence big themes of his first presidential race. “Y’know, there’s a little game they got in Washington,” he told a crowd in New Hampshire in 1999. “And that is: Look at the tax bill when it comes out, to figure out who’s getting the benefit — because of the very complex and convoluted way that they write the tax laws. And it’s a disgrace.” Although McCain, an Arizona Republican, lost the Republican nomination to George W. Bush, his warnings that money was corrupting politics reverberated in many state primaries, amplifying his message and propelling him toward an unexpected legislative triumph in the Senate that helped define his career. … McCain, who served more than 30 years in the Senate, began as an unlikely crusader.
A widely used loophole for funneling secret “dark money” into political ads closed quietly last weekend, as a federal judge concluded it thwarted Congress’ intent to have broad disclosure of political money. Chief Judge Beryl Howell, of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, threw out a regulation adopted by the Federal Election Commission in 1980. The rule said that “non-political” groups, such as 501(c) nonprofit organizations, could ignore a disclosure law if donors’ contributions were earmarked for specific advertisements — an exception that wasn’t in the law passed by Congress. Howell’s decision was issued Friday evening.
Editorials: Brett Kavanaugh, Who Has Ruled Against Campaign Finance Regulations, Could Bring an Avalanche of Big Money to Elections | Lee Fang/The Intercept
The elevation of D.C. Circuit Court Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court could have a profound impact on the rules governing the American democratic system. In recent years, the Supreme Court has swiftly remade the landscape of American politics, gutting 1960s-era civil rights laws restricting voter suppression, sharply weakening labor unions, and deregulating the campaign finance system to allow for wealthy individuals and corporations to exercise greater influence over elected representatives. With President Donald Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court, that influence is poised to grow. Kavanaugh’s appellate court decisions and public comments suggest that he will accelerate the trend toward a political system dominated by wealthy elites — often operating in the shadows, without any form of disclosure.
The official pro-Brexit campaign group has been fined and referred to the police after the UK’s elections watchdog found it had broken Britain’s strict electoral laws. The Electoral Commission fined Vote Leave £61,000 ($81,000) for coordinating with another campaign group — called BeLeave — and exceeding spending limits during the 2016 referendum campaign. In a damning ruling, the commission said it had imposed a punitive fine on Vote Leave, and accused it of frustrating the watchdog’s investigation. “We found substantial evidence that the two groups (Vote Leave and BeLeave) worked to a common plan, did not declare their joint working and did not adhere to the legal spending limits,” said Bob Posner, Electoral Commission director of political finance and regulation and legal counsel, in a statement.
Mexican President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s party could face a $10 million fine for violations of campaign finance rules, the national electoral institute said on Wednesday following the group’s wide-reaching election victory. Lopez Obrador, a former Mexico City mayor who has vowed to root out corruption and make government contracts transparent, on Sunday won by a landslide while his leftist National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) took an outright majority in Congress. The possible fine of more than 197 million pesos, slated to be put to a vote by the National Electoral Institute (INE) on July 18, would be the largest related to campaign financing for the recently concluded election season.
Editorials: The Vote Leave revelations expose the vulnerability of UK democracy | Caroline Lucas/The Guardian
On Tuesday evening, the nation held its collective breath as the English football team beat Colombia on penalties to make it to the quarter-final of the world cup. Meanwhile, Vote Leave leaked news that the Electoral Commission is set to find it breached electoral law during the Brexit referendum. This is not the most obvious example of news being buried in Westminster. But it could be one of the most significant. With Britain just months from falling off a Brexit cliff edge, and with no guarantee yet in place for a people’s poll on the final deal, the disastrous consequences of failing to meet fundamental standards of democracy will be felt for generations to come.
Voting has become one of the most partisan issues in contemporary politics. Republicans have sought to make it more secure by requiring photo identification. The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last month to allow Ohio to purge inactive voters from the rolls is likely to open the door to similar efforts in other red states. Democrats, conversely, are doing everything they can to make voting easier. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill in March implementing automatic voter registration. The following month, Gov. Phil Murphy signed a similar bill in New Jersey, bringing to 12 the number of states that sign people up, unless they opt out, when they interact with the department of motor vehicles or other state agencies. Democrats control the political branches of government in most of these states.
Several prominent Russians, some in President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle or high in the Russian Orthodox Church, now have been identified as having contact with National Rifle Association officials during the 2016 U.S. election campaign, according to photographs and an NRA source. The contacts have emerged amid a deepening Justice Department investigation into whether Russian banker and lifetime NRA member Alexander Torshin illegally channeled money through the gun rights group to add financial firepower to Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential bid. Other influential Russians who met with NRA representatives during the campaign include Dmitry Rogozin, who until last month served as a deputy prime minister overseeing Russia’s defense industry, and Sergei Rudov, head of one of Russia’s largest philanthropies, the St. Basil the Great Charitable Foundation. The foundation was launched by an ultra-nationalist ally of Russian President Putin.
For every peso declared to Mexican electoral authorities by political parties and candidates, 15 more are moving under the table, according to a report Tuesday on the problem of illegal campaign finance. The nonprofit Mexicans Against Corruption and Impunity published the report after months of investigation, concluding that Mexico’s public campaign finance system has failed to keep illegal money from influencing elections. The report says that the cash moving around electoral campaigns is such that Mexico’s central bank has documented inexplicable increases in the amount of cash circulating in the economy in the five months before elections. The money comes from both public and private sources. Money is siphoned from public programs and local governments to fund campaigns and is funneled to candidates by businesses interested in winning public contracts and having access to elected officials.