Chain Bridge Bank’s single location is next to a wine store and a café on the ground floor of a luxury condo building in suburban McLean, Va., about a half-hour outside downtown Washington. It looks like any small-town bank. Tellers keep bowls of candy at their windows, and staff members talk to customers about no-fee checking accounts. But right now, Chain Bridge, which has about 40 employees, is responsible for more of the hundreds of millions of dollars flooding into the 2016 presidential race than any other bank in the country. According to the most recent Federal Election Commission filings, Chain Bridge is the sole bank serving Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign, which reported raising $11.4 million as of June 30, and his allied super-PAC, Right to Rise, which says it’s raised $103 million so far. Donald Trump’s campaign banks at Chain Bridge, and it’s listed as the primary financial institution for the campaigns of Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and former Texas Governor Rick Perry. It’s also the only bank used by super-PACs supporting neurosurgeon and author Ben Carson, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, former technology executive Carly Fiorina, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, all Republicans.
Barack Obama and Mitt Romney spent more than $1 billion each on their presidential campaigns. The map tells you what kind of change a couple of billion dollars will buy you in today’s America. If the map looks largely blank to you, then you’re getting the picture. The map shows all the counties that switched allegiance between 2008 and 2012 — the counties that voted for one party four years ago and a different party in November. There are exactly 208 of these counties — flippers, we call them. Only 208 counties changed allegiance in 2012 out of the more than 3,100 counties that cast votes. President Obama’s campaign hired the brightest batch of social psychologists and social media experts the tech and academic worlds had to offer. They constructed complicated models predicting the behavior of individual voters and intricate social media strategies.
The Supreme Court could give Citizens United a second look this month as it decides whether to take up a lawsuit against the state of Montana, which wants its century-old state law restricting corporate influence in elections to stay in place. Montana is the only state so far to assert its existing corporate-money ban should still stand after the court ruled in 2010 that corporations could spend unlimited amounts on election ads via independent groups. The Montana Supreme Court upheld the 1912 Corrupt Practices Act, but the Supreme Court ordered that the law not be enforced while it reviewed a challenge by the conservative group American Tradition Partnership. The court is widely expected to strike the law down in keeping with its previous decision. Still, advocates view the case as their best chance yet to force the justices to re-examine elements of their landmark 2010 opinion that they say have already proven flawed in light of the subsequent deluge of campaign spending. Twenty-two states and Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) have signed on with Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock (D) in support of their claim.
Editorials: The Money Crisis – How Citizens United Undermines Our Elections and the Supreme Court | Russ Feingold/Stanford Law Review
As we draw closer to the November election, it becomes clearer that this year’s contest, thanks to the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, will be financially dominated by big money, including, whether directly or indirectly, big money from the treasuries of corporations of all kinds. Without a significant change in how our campaign finance system regulates the influence of corporations, the American election process, and even the Supreme Court itself, face a more durable, long-term crisis of legitimacy. For years, our political process was governed by an underlying principle: large organizations, primarily corporations, were not allowed to buy their way into elections. For 100 years, our laws reflected this principle. First, Congress passed the Tillman Act in 1907, which prohibited corporations from using their treasuries to influence federal elections.Signed by President Theodore Roosevelt, the legislation recognized what had become abundantly clear: corporate influence corrupts elections. Later, under the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947, Congress extended the same prohibition to labor unions. For generations, these regulations provided the bedrock of our election law that followed, including the landmark Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act passed in 2003. And for several election cycles, between 2004 and 2008, our system seemed headed towards more fair and transparent elections. But Citizens United changed everything.
The 2012 presidential election looks like it could well be another squeaker, and if it is, a number of possible outcomes could produce national hand-wringing, finger-pointing, complaints of unfairness and anger, further dividing Americans and undermining confidence in our political system. A dozen years ago, Democrat Al Gore drew 540,000 votes more than Republican George W. Bush but lost the presidency when Bush carried Florida and won 271 electoral votes. There is no reason that couldn’t happen again, with President Barack Obama winning a narrow popular vote victory and losing in the Electoral College. Most of the same states are in play as were in 2000, and any close popular vote outcome raises the possibility of a split decision, especially because Obama is likely to “waste” large numbers of votes in carrying a handful of populous states. In 2000, six states delivered a plurality of at least 500,000 votes to one of the major party nominees. Five of those states — New York, California, Massachusetts, Illinois and New Jersey — went for Gore, while only one, Texas, went for Bush. Bush carried 30 states that year, while Gore won 20 states and the District of Columbia. Eight years later, in a relative blowout, 10 states delivered pluralities of at least 500,000 votes for one of the nominees. Obama won nine of those states (the five above plus Michigan, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Washington), while Texas gave Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) a huge win. McCain won only 22 states that year to Obama’s 28 (plus D.C.), though the Democrat also won one of Nebraska’s electoral votes by carrying the state’s 2nd district.
More than a month after becoming his party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Republican Mitt Romney has not publicly identified most of the fundraisers helping him collect the millions of dollars he needs to win the White House, even as he promises them special access perks. Romney is not required by law to disclose the identities of his fundraisers with the exception of those who work as federal lobbyists. Releasing the names of bundlers, however, has been standard in presidential campaigns for more than a decade. Republican George W. Bush established the pattern in the 2000 election, revealing the names of fundraisers who collected at least $100,000. He repeated the practice in 2004. Arizona Sen. John McCain, the Republican nominee four years ago, had disclosed his fundraisers by this point in the 2008 campaign, releasing a list of 106 bundlers on April 18 of that year.
Sen. John McCain is talking with Democrats about a joint effort to require outside groups that have spent millions of dollars on this year’s elections to disclose their donors. McCain (R-Ariz.), once Congress’s leading champion of campaign finance reform, has kept a low profile on the issue in recent years. He raised the ire of many Republicans a decade ago for pushing comprehensive reform, and many Republicans still held it against him during his 2008 presidential campaign. Good-government advocates who worked with McCain in the 1990s and early 2000s had begun to think he’d given up on the issue. But McCain said Tuesday he could join Democrats once again to form a bipartisan coalition, even though it would annoy the Republican leadership. “I’ve been having discussions with Sen. [Sheldon] Whitehouse [D-R.I.] and a couple others on the issue,” McCain told The Hill.
Citizens United and super PACs have had an ugly effect on this election, but they may be the evil of two lessers. Big money is having a powerfully different effect on this year’s national election campaign. We’ve seen it in the extraordinary oscillations of the Republican primaries, largely brought about by millions of dollars of television attack ads, financed not by the opposing campaigns so much as by groups outside the parties that can say whatever they want without the candidates or the parties being called to account. These are the super PACs, political action committees on steroids. Their muscle–and some think their menace–comes from two federal court rulings in 2010, notably the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United,that allow them to raise as much as they can from anyone and spend as much as they like, provided–and it was regarded as a key proviso–that they are independent. For a super PAC to make contributions directly to parties or candidates, or do anything in collusion with candidates, is illegal.
Ten years after they celebrated the enactment of their sweeping ban on unregulated campaign cash, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and former Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) have revived their assault on big money.
The two are not plotting some grand new reform or launching a public relations tour — though they did tape a public radio segment together recently. But a decade after the McCain-Feingold law was signed by the president (March 27, 2002), the erstwhile allies are delivering a strikingly unified message: The campaign finance rules are in tatters, scandals will follow, and voters will once again demand reform. “Thanks to a naive and politically ignorant decision by the United States Supreme Court, obviously it has been largely dismantled,” McCain said in an interview about the law that he authored with Feingold. “And the consequences are manifesting themselves every day in what will someday be, sooner rather than later, a huge scandal.”
Feingold struck a similar note. “We put a brick on top of a wall, and the brick is intact, but the wall was smashed by the Citizens United decision,” Feingold told Roll Call. “It has turned the election system into a joke.”
Sen. John McCain slammed the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision as “incredibly naïve” on Tuesday, and predicted there would be “huge scandals” in its wake. The Arizona Republican was co-author with then-colleague Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., of the last major attempt by government to reform campaign finance laws in 2002. He was participating in a panel discussion on the decision at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. The law prohibited corporations and unions from bankrolling issue ads that mention a candidate within the final weeks before an election. But under the contentious Citizens United ruling, corporations and unions were freed not only to fund issue ads that mention a candidate but to also make so-called “independent expenditures” that urge people to vote for or vote against candidates. Many worry this change will increase the potential for corruption and unseemly alliances between lawmakers and special interests.
A US delegation fronted by Sen. John McCain and Sen. Joseph Lieberman will request that the Burmese government allow international observers to oversee April by-elections, which, if deemed free and fair, will almost certainly see the US remove some sanctions on the Burmese government. “Obviously we will have to look carefully at the process of the elections,” said McCain, who conceded that Burma’s reforms in recent months—including the release of several hundred political prisoners—are “a dramatic change in policy and behaviour in as short a time as a year ago,” he said. McCain confirmed that the delegation, which arrived in Burma on Sunday, would ask Burma’s government to allow international observation of the April by-elections, in response to a question about the issue from this correspondent.
Republican Sen. John McCain on Monday blasted the Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling that eventually paved the way for the rise of super PACs, blaming it for the election cycle’s increasing ad wars. “Now it’s the system under which we operate, which leads to this kind of campaigning and will lead to corruption and scandals. I guarantee it.” McCain said on CNN’s “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer.”