South Carolina: Could Open Primaries Close the Door on Graham in 2014? | State of Elections

A recent case out of South Carolina is drawing attention to the potential impact of open primaries on election results. South Carolina law does not require voters to formally register with a particular political party in order to cast a vote in a primary. A system in which voters can select the primary they wish to vote in regardless of party affiliation is called an open primary system.  Open primary systems sometimes draw criticism because they can allow voters to engage in so-called crossover voting.  Crossover voting occurs when members of one political party deliberately vote for a candidate they perceive to be weaker in an opposing party’s primary in order to give their candidate an advantage. It is important to note that voters in an open primary system do have to select only one primary in which to vote, so crossover voting naturally removes a voter’s opportunity to cast a ballot for the actual candidate of her choice in her own party’s primary.  Exit polls provide evidence that voters have crossed party lines during primaries in South Carolina. For example, despite South Carolina’s traditionally conservative electorate, nearly 30% of the voters in the Republican presidential primary in 2012 were either Democrats or Independents.  Further, nearly a quarter of the independents chose Ron Paul as their candidate of choice, rather than the eventual winner in the primary, Newt Gingrich.

Editorials: An upside-down campaign finance system | Jennifer Rubin/Washington Post

The Supreme Court argument in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission on aggregate limits on campaign donations was odd, to say the least. Justices who were inclined to uphold the limit seemed to agree that the limits on what an individual can give to all candidates and the national and state parties collectively is there to prevent a few billionaires from controlling elections. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, for example, asked, “Is there any information on what percentage of all contributors are able to contribute over the aggregate?” Justice Elena Kagan later echoed this concern: “Now, having written a check for $3.5 million to a single party’s candidates, are you suggesting that that party and the members of that party are not going to owe me anything, that I won’t get any special treatment?” The solicitor general asserted the same: “Aggregate limits combat corruption both by blocking circumvention of individual contribution limits and, equally fundamentally, by serving as a bulwark against a campaign finance system dominated by massive individual contributions in which the dangers of quid pro quo corruption would be obvious and inherent and the corrosive appearance of corruption would be overwhelming.”

Virginia: Man pleads guilty to voter fraud in Gingrich case | Washington Times

A Virginia man has pleaded guilty to forging thousands of signatures in trying to get former House Speaker Newt Gingrich on the ballot in the state’s 2012 presidential primary, an NBC affiliate in Charlottesville reported. In December 2011, Adam Ward, 28, collected more than 11,000 signatures, according to prosecutors, but investigators could not verify more than 4,000 of them, WVIR reported. Mr. Ward has pleaded guilty to 36 counts of voter fraud and perjury.

National: The big money men buy a voice in American politics | The Age

THE video begins like this: wispy clouds drift over the great American outdoors. Cranes build an office block. Trucks roar down the highway. ”Capitalism made America great,” says a gravelly voice. ”The free market. Hard work. The building blocks of the American dream.” A family walks through a wheat field, where the Stars and Stripes waves briskly. ”But in the wrong hands, those dreams can turn into nightmares.” And storm clouds gather over the wheat field. The attack ad goes on to paint Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney as a corporate raider of the worst ilk, making his millions through stripping assets and staff from honest American businesses. It was exquisitely timed to upset Romney, as rival Republican Newt Gingrich accelerated his run towards his South Carolina primary win on January 21. But Gingrich’s name was not mentioned, nor did he endorse the ad (or later accept responsibility for its errors and exaggerations). It was paid for by a group called Winning Our Future.

Voting Blogs: Campaign Spending Shows Political Ties, Self-Dealing | ProPublica

For an example of the fluidity of campaign finance rules, as well as the tangled web of connections between candidates and super PACs, look no further than the digital consulting firm Targeted Victory. So far, the firm’s hauled in $4.1 million working for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign and American Crossroads, the super PAC launched by GOP strategist Karl Rove. Just down the hall, its neighbors in Arlington, Va., include an office housing four other companies working for Romney, American Crossroads or the pro-Romney super PAC Restore Our Future. With the rise of super PACs, the jet-fueled political action committees that can take unlimited contributions, many campaign finance watchdogs have focused on the hundreds of millions of dollars being raised this presidential election cycle. But after the most recent campaign filings came in last week, ProPublica decided to track the other side of the equation: Where the money goes. Our analysis found that more than $306 million has been spent so far by major super PACs and the five leading presidential candidates.

National: Big-bucks donations to super PACs keep the GOP race going |

More than two-thirds of the money to super PACs aligned with presidential candidates came from megadonors who each contributed $500,000 or more, demonstrating how a handful of wealthy interests have helped turn the GOP presidential primary into the longest-running nomination fight in a generation. No group relied more heavily on a few super donors than the political committee backing former House speaker Newt Gingrich: 96% of contributions to the pro-Gingrich Winning Our Future came from this elite group, a USA TODAY analysis shows. More than $16 million flowed from a single source: Las Vegas casino titan Sheldon Adelson and his relatives. Restore Our Future, a super PAC aiding former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, relied on nearly 52% of its contributions from corporations or individuals who gave $500,000 or more, the lowest share of super donors among the candidate-aligned super PACs analyzed by USA TODAY.

National: ‘Super PACs’ Supply Millions as G.O.P. Race Drains Field |

The Republican presidential candidates are running low on campaign cash as expensive primaries in states like Maryland, New York and Pennsylvania loom, leaving them increasingly reliant on a small group of supporters funneling millions of dollars in unlimited contributions into “super PACs.” Mitt Romney raised $11.5 million in February but spent $12.4 million, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission on Tuesday. He began March with $7.3 million in cash, slightly less than in January. Rick Santorum raised more than $9 million in his best month yet, but spent $7.9 million; he ended with $2.6 million in cash, along with close to $1 million in debts, mostly associated with television and Internet advertising. Newt Gingrich raised $2.6 million, spent $2.9 million and had about $1.5 million in the bank, barely enough to keep his campaign going. He also began March with myriad debts totaling over $1.5 million for expenses like media placement, security services, salaries and airfare.

Puerto Rico: Primary Could Pad Romney’s Delegate Lead or Spring Santorum Surprise | ABC News

If Mitt Romney proved anything last weekend with his victories in Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and the Virgin Islands, it is that the Republican presidential nomination this year might not be won by high-profile triumphs in states such as Iowa and South Carolina, but rather by diligently and methodically amassing delegates in far-off contests. That makes Sunday’s primary in Puerto Rico more important than you might think. Twenty-three delegates will be up for grabs when voters in the island commonwealth head to the polls this weekend, nearly as many as there were in more publicized battles in Michigan – 30 – and Arizona – 29. It should come as no surprise, then, that Romney and rival Rick Santorum are set to campaign there only days before the primary. Newt Gingrich might soon follow.

Alabama: Super-PAC Ads Dominate Republican Race in Alabama, Mississippi | Bloomberg

Television advertisements in Alabama and Mississippi promoting rival Republican presidential contenders have been paid for almost entirely by independent political action committees instead of the candidates’ campaigns. So-called Super-PACs supplied 91 percent of the 5,592 campaign ads that aired on broadcast television stations in the two states in the past month, according to data from New York- based Kantar Media’s CMAG, which tracks advertising. Alabama and Mississippi hold primary elections today, and polls indicate a close race in each among former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum and former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

National: Super PAC challenge: Congress |

The next frontier for super PACs: playing in Senate and House party leadership elections. The formula is simple. Raise $10 million from the jet set or grass-roots followers, spend it on 40 to 50 House districts or 15 Senate races and then call in favors when it’s time to count votes for speaker, floor leader or whip. The model has been built. The money’s out there. And there’s no shortage of ambition in Congress. The question is: Can anyone put it all together?

National: Super Tuesday brings super PAC spending milestone | iWatch News

Heading into Super Tuesday, spending by super PACs aligned with presidential candidates has surpassed spending by all super PACs in the 2010 mid-term election. To date, super PACs aligned with one of the 2012 White House hopefuls have spent more than $66 million, an iWatch News analysis of data filed with the Federal Election Commission has found. Notably, the pro-Mitt Romney super PAC “Restore Our Future” accounts for almost 50 percent of this spending. The super PAC has spent more than $32 million so far this election, nearly all of it on ads bashing his opponents. That’s nearly twice as much as the $16 million spent by pro-Newt Gingrich “Winning Our Future.” And it’s roughly six times as much as the $5.3 million spent by the pro-Rick Santorum “Red, White and Blue Fund.”

National: ‘Super PACs,’ Not Campaigns, Do Bulk of Ad Spending |

The crucial role the “super PAC” now plays in modern presidential politics has been on vivid display in the week before the Super Tuesday primaries, as these outside groups have all outspent the campaigns and become their de facto advertising arms. The super PACs supporting Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich have poured nearly $4 million into advertising in Ohio ahead of the primary next week, accounting for most of the spending on commercials there in what has become an overwhelmingly negative contest. Beyond Ohio the story is the same. The money spent by super PACs, another $8 million, continues to outpace what candidates themselves are willing and able to spend. Mr. Romney, whose campaign spent almost three times as much as it brought in during January, has chosen not to advertise in any Super Tuesday state but Ohio. He has committed about $1.2 million to advertising there, according to figures provided by media strategists.

National: Super PACs: Real life, or Comedy Central? | Kenneth P. Vogel/

When it comes to super PACs, it’s getting hard to tell the difference between reality and a Comedy Central bit. Stephen Colbert made an ongoing gag last month out of lampooning the rules barring coordination between outside groups and campaigns. When he announced a plan to run for president, he made a big show of handing off his super PAC to his fellow Comedy Central host Jon Stewart. Stewart promised not to coordinate with Colbert — giving the camera a wink and a nod. But it was no joke last week when President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney cleared their top aides to raise cash for the super PACs supporting their campaign.

Nevada: GOP dealing with ‘trouble box’ of questionable ballots | Las Vegas Sun

Republican Party officials are trying to figure out how to deal with a “trouble box” of ballots from the presidential caucus Sunday as the count in Nevada’s largest county stretches into its second day. Party officials have confirmed that ballots in multiple precincts exceeded the number of voters who signed in. The “trouble box” also includes ballots on which two candidates were marked and other irregularities. David Gallagher, executive director of the state party, could not confirm or even give a rough estimate of the number of ballots in question. “It’s a small number,” he said.

Nevada: Nevada GOP caucuses include unusual rules | San Francisco Chronicle

Today’s Republican caucuses in Nevada differ from primary elections by requiring voters to devote a block of time to make their preferences known in a process that takes more time than just filling out a ballot. There are also some unusual rules set this year by the GOP officials in the state.

Timing: Republican Party officials in each county decide when to hold caucus meetings. In Clark County, home to Las Vegas and 70 percent of state residents, the meetings are at 9 a.m. today – a time that is inconvenient for the city’s taxi drivers, waitresses and other service employees who work on weekends.

Editorials: Congress can fix the Super PAC problem |

Election junkies circled January 31st on their calendars months ago — but not because of Florida’s primary today, no matter how important it is to Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich. Tuesday’s real significance deals with Super PACs — it’s the day “independent” groups, dominating the 2012 election, must file their financial disclosures for the last six months. Candidate-specific Super PACS — which can take unlimited sums from individuals and corporations, and likewise spend without limits — are like nothing seen in any previous election.  They’ve eviscerated the post-Watergate contribution limits that Congress enacted to curb corruption, and they’ve hit the presidential campaign with the force of a freight train.

National: Super PAC takeover? Not so fast, campaigns say |

The big money outside groups best known for airing ruthless ads in the early state GOP primaries are elbowing their way onto the turf of presidential campaigns and parties — and some campaigns aren’t happy. In the last few weeks, super PACs and other outside groups supporting Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Ron Paul and President Barack Obama launched activities in Florida, other key states, and nationally — including phone banking, field organizing, direct mail, polling, state-of-the-race memos and even surrogate operations — that were once left mostly to the campaigns and parties.

Virginia: Rick Perry abandons lawsuit against Virginia election law |

Rick Perry — the states’ rights champion who claimed in court that the state of Virginia did not have the constitutional right to adopt its restrictive election laws — has quietly dropped a challenge to Virginia’s rules for ballot petitions. The state of Virginia barred Perry from the state’s March 6 presidential primary ballot after the Texas governor failed to garner the required number of legitimate signatures on his nominating petitions. Perry filed suit to win a place on the ballot — a subject that became moot when the Texan pulled the plug on his unsuccessful White House effort on Jan. 19.

South Carolina: South Carolina elections officials find money to pay for GOP presidential primary | Anderson Independent Mail

The South Carolina State Election Commission has found a way to fully pay for last week’s Republican presidential preference primary, a spokesman said Thursday. The commission was facing a $500,000 shortfall for the primary, which cost an estimated $1.5 million to hold. The Joint Other Funds Committee, a panel made up of South Carolina House and Senate members, has authorized the election commission to use money set aside for the June state primary to cover expenses from last week’s voting, commission spokesman Chris Whitmire said. “This should solve the issue,” Whitmire said. “Even if we had to spend $500,000 of June primary funds, we expect to be able to fund the June primary.”

National: The winner of South Carolina’s primary: Super PACs |

It has been two years since the Supreme Court issued its decision in the case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, and we are only now just beginning to see how its overturning of a century of campaign finance law is distorting the electoral process. Rather than acting truly independently of campaigns, as the majority of justices envisioned, these entities exclusively act on behalf of individual candidates — and are typically run by former aides. Rather than encouraging the universal right of free speech, the ruling has had the effect of providing a megaphone for the rich to drown out all other voices.

Editorials: ‘Super PACs’ dominate the political landscape |

Trevor Potter is an unlikely repeat guest for a late-night comedy show. As the former chairman of the Federal Election Commission, the courtly Washington lawyer is a leading expert on campaign finance law — not the kind of material that generates a lot of laughs. So the fact that he’s appeared seven times on “The Colbert Report” in the last year, helping host Stephen Colbert set up his own “super PAC” as part of a mischievous political parody, underscores an unexpected development in the 2012 presidential race: Super PACs have seized the zeitgeist.

National: Is Citizens United just misunderstood? |

This week marks the two-year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s ruling in the case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which struck down part of the 2002 McCain-Feingold election law. Never has the ruling been as salient as it is now in the national political discussion. The Occupy movement has taken aim at the decision, blaming it for allowing the “1 percent” to exercise unprecedented control over the political process. Meanwhile, the decision has been widely cited as paving the road for the super PACs that are dominating the Republican primary, now evenoutspending candidates’ official campaigns in South Carolina. All of which contributed to my interest in a letter sent to the New York Times this week by Floyd Abrams, a longtime First Amendment lawyer who represented Sen. Mitch McConnell in the Citizens United case and argued that part of the McCain-Feingold law was unconstitutional. Abrams has been involved in many landmark cases, notably representing the Times in the Pentagon Papers case in the early 1970s.

National: Super PACs: GOP rivals reap benefits of groups they claim to disdain | The Washington Post

To hear the Republican presidential candidates tell it, they’ve already lost control of their campaigns to outsiders. Mitt Romney and other hopefuls vying for the GOP nomination are complaining in unison about the dominant role being played by super PACs, new independent groups that are shifting the landscape of the 2012 elections with a torrent of negative and often inaccurate attack ads. Then again, this could all be so much bluster. Even as they complain about super PAC ads, the candidates seem happy to repeat the attacks that the ads contain — aiming to reap the political benefits from groups with no direct accountability to the public.

New Hampshire: Second Place in New Hampshire Democratic Primary Goes to…Ron Paul?! | Huffington Post

We all know that President Obama won his party’s primary in New Hampshire. What you may not know is that Obama only won 79.5% of the vote. Second place in the New Hampshire Democratic primary went to Ron Paul, with 3.7%, Mitt Romney was third with 2.9% of the vote, and Jon Huntsman was fourth with 2.0%. Yes, you heard me right, Ron Paul came in second in the New Hampshire Democratic primary. And in case you are wondering, Barack Obama received 0.1% of the vote in the Republican primary.

Virginia: Court rejects Perry’s ballot appeal |

In a 22-page order, a three-judge panel of a federal appeals court today rejected Rick Perry’s appeal to appear on the Virginia ballot. Perry initially challenged the state’s stringent ballot laws on Dec. 27, after he and Newt Gingrich failed to qualify with the required 10,000 signatures. Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Jon Huntsman all joined the suit. U.S. district judge John Gibney ruled against the challenge last Friday, saying Perry and the other candidates had waited too long to file their suit. Perry and Gingrich both appealed the decision, but today’s ruling means their only path forward would be to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

National: Super PACs dominate Republican primary spending | Washington Post

South Carolina voters are being buried this week under an avalanche of combative and often nasty political commercials from super PACs, funded by a tiny group of super-rich donors with very particular interests in the state’s Republican presidential primary. Hedge-fund king John Paulson, who donated $1 million to a group backing former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, would very much like to see President Obama’s financial reforms repealed. The Marriott brothers, who also gave $1 million to a pro-Romney super PAC, have lobbied Washington for favorable tax and immigration policies through their hotel companies. And casino magnate Sheldon Adelson recently dashed off a $5 million check to a group backing former House speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.), marking what may be the largest single political contribution in U.S. history. Adelson is well known for supporting hard-line policies favoring Israel while also advocating measures that would benefit the gambling industry.

Illinois: Perry, Santorum could be knocked off Illinois ballot | Chicago Sun-Times

White House hopeful Rick Perry did not file correctly for the March 20 Illinois primary “beauty contest,” and some of rival Rick Santorum’s delegate slates are short of signatures, leaving them open to challenges that could knock them off the ballot. Illinois law requires candidates to file using their home addresses. Perry, the Texas governor whose candidacy may not survive through Illinois, used a post office box in Austin, Texas, for an address.

Virginia: Rick Perry Appeals Ruling Leaving Him Off Of Virginia 2012 GOP Primary Ballot | Huffington Post

Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Sunday appealed a federal judge’s refusal to add him and three other candidates to Virginia’s Republican presidential primary ballot. In a filing with the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Perry’s attorneys requested that the court order his name be placed on the ballot, or order that ballots not be printed or mailed before his appeal is considered. Perry sued last month after failing to submit enough signatures to get on the Mach 6 ballot. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman joined Perry’s lawsuit after also failing to qualify.

Virginia: Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich appeal for slots on Virginia ballot |

Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s lawyers filed a motion with a federal appeals court Sunday, seeking to win him a place on the Republican presidential primary ballot in Virginia even though his campaign failed to gather the 10,000 signatures required by state law. The move came after another contender for the Republican presidential nomination, Newt Gingrich, filed a notice of appeal Saturday of U.S. District Court Judge John Gibney’s ruling Friday that Perry, Gingrich and other candidates who failed to make the cut waited too long to pursue their legal challenges, which were brought as ballot printing was getting underway and the mailing of absentee ballots was about to commence. However, Gibney said Perry and the other candidates would like have prevailed on their claim that a Virginia requirement that ballot petition circulators be Virginia residents violates the Constitution.

Virginia: Judge rejects Perry, GOP hopefuls for Virginia ballot | USAToday

A federal judge today rejected Rick Perry’s lawsuit challenging Virginia’s ballot requirements, meaning Mitt Romney and Ron Paul will be the only major GOP candidates on the ballot. U.S. District Judge John Gibney said in his ruling that Perry — along with GOP candidates Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman and Rick Santorum who joined in the Texas governor’s lawsuit — waited too long to file the complaint against the state’s ballot requirements. “They knew the rules in Virginia many months ago … In essence, they played the game, lost, and then complained that the rules were unfair,” Gibney wrote.