Republican Jeb Bush and Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton are asking donors to write the checks to get their campaigns started. Yet these “new” candidates have been fueling their presidential ambitions for months — years, in Clinton’s case — thanks to outside groups that will continue serving as big-money bank accounts throughout the race. In the 2016 presidential field, creative financing abounds. While donors can give a maximum $2,700 apiece per election to their favorite candidatdte’s campaign, the presidential contenders offer generous supporters plenty of other options. Outside groups that can accept checks of unlimited size include personalized super PACs that, while barred from directly coordinating with candidates, are often filled with their trusted friends. There are also “dark money” nonprofit policy groups that keep contributors’ names secret.Full Article: Presidential candidates lean on well-funded outside groups - US News.
This weekend in Miami Jeb Bush will huddle with a group of his top donors at a brand new “nature-centric,” $700-a-night South Beach hotel, replete with four pools, a Tom Colicchio restaurant and an 11,000-plant “living green wall.” The point, though, isn’t tranquility and relaxation – it’s survival. For a time, it looked like Bush would steamroll the GOP field with a cash-flush juggernaut that might raise as much as $100 million in the first quarter, using a variety of super PACs to push the boundaries of campaign finance laws and dominate the field. But that was before New York hedge fund magnate Robert Mercer pledged more than $15 million to Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio gained the full-fleged support of Miami billionaire Norman Braman and became the front-runner to win casino mogul Sheldon Adelson’s backing. Another rival, Scott Walker, recently became the favorite of billionaire David Koch, who seemed to tip his support for the Wisconsin governor at a fundraiser this week.Full Article: In 2016 fundraising, Jeb Bush is on the defensive - POLITICO.
“I had a college degree, a decade of experience, and the only job I could get was making $8 an hour at the local convenience store in my neighborhood,” Maine state Rep. Diane Russell (D) said in January, recalling her unlikely path to public office. “I have no business being in politics. I was not groomed for this. But thanks to public financing, I have a voice. And thanks to public financing, a gal who takes cash for the convenience store for selling sandwiches can actually talk about the stories that she’s learned from behind the counter.” Russell was speaking at an event on the fifth anniversary of the Citizens United ruling that set off an avalanche of money in politics. After her state’s “clean elections” system propelled Russell into office in 2008, she quickly became a force in Maine politics. Her progressive record of defending voting rights and workers, for example, led the Nation to recognize her as its “Most Valuable State Representative” in 2011.Full Article: Tell the election success stories, too - The Washington Post.
Editorials: The Uniquely Awful Role of Sheldon Adelson in the Israeli Election | Gershom Gorenberg/American Prospect
As the contest for who will lead the nation takes shape, the classic right-wing charge of pervasive, hostile media bias was splashed in giant tabloid type across the front page of the daily Israel Hayom last Friday. The headline read: “Netanyahu: The Media is Campaigning to Bring the Left to Power.” The Friday edition of an Israeli paper is the equivalent of a thick Sunday edition in America; print newspapers are still very popular in Israel, and Israel Hayom is one of the two most popular papers. You might just sense a contradiction here: The most-read headline of the week in one of the country’s most influential news sources carried Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s accusation that the media is deliberately trying to take power from him and give it to the left. The irony certainly wasn’t intentional. The undeclared purpose of Israel Hayom is to promote Bibi Netanyahu. “Newspaper” in Hebrew is iton; Israel Hayom has gained the nickname Bibiton. A vast army of people wearing red overalls hand it out for free everyday, everywhere in Israel. For the newspaper’s owner, American casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, making money isn’t the goal.Full Article: The Uniquely Awful Role of Sheldon Adelson in the Israeli Election.
National: Wealthy political donors seize on new latitude to give to unlimited candidates | The Washington Post
Andrew Sabin gave Republicans so much money in 2012 that he accidentally went over a limit on how much individuals could donate to federal candidates and party committees. So Sabin, who owns a New York-based precious-metals refining business, was delighted when the Supreme Court did away with the limit in April. Since then, he has been doling out contributions to congressional candidates across the country — in Colorado, Texas, Iowa and “even Alaska,” he said. Top Republicans have taken notice: Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.) and Florida Gov. Rick Scott have paid him personal visits this year, he noted proudly. “You have to realize, when you start contributing to all these guys, they give you access to meet them and talk about your issues,” said Sabin, who has given away more than $177,000. “They know that I’m a big supporter.”Full Article: Wealthy political donors seize on new latitude to give to unlimited candidates - The Washington Post.
As Senator Mitch McConnell, an outspoken opponent of regulating campaign spending, has conceded, trying to put limits on political donations is not easy. In McConnell’s words, it’s “like putting a rock on Jell-O. It oozes out some other place.” But if it was difficult before the Supreme Court’s decision this week in McCutcheon v.FEC, it is likely to be impossible now. It was precisely to address the possibility that wealthy people might try to circumvent restrictions on political contributions that Congress not only limited how much money individuals can directly give to political candidates, but also capped the total amount they can donate to all candidates in any election cycle. The Court’s most recent decision, by invalidating all aggregate limits on donations, has vastly increased the amount of Jell-O that campaign finance laws now must contend with. And still more disturbingly, the decision’s rationale invites further challenges to Congressional limits on campaign spending. When this Court gets through, there may be no rock left at all—only Jell-O.Full Article: One Dollar, One Vote by David Cole | NYRblog | The New York Review of Books.
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.”Full Article: An upside-down campaign finance system.
Editorials: Another Citizens United, but Worse, Goes to the Supreme Court | Jeffrey Toobin/ The New Yorker
Think the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United was bad? A worse one may be on the horizon. To recognize the problem, it’s necessary to review some of the Court’s gnarled history on the subject of campaign finance. In Citizens United, which was decided in 2010, the Court rejected any limits on what a person or corporation (or labor union) could spend on an independent effort to help a candidate win an election. Thus the rise of Super PACs; that’s why Sheldon Adelson could spend sixty million dollars to help Mitt Romney in 2012. But, though Citizens United deregulated independent expenditures on behalf of candidates, the case said nothing about direct contributions to the candidates themselves. That’s where the new case comes in. Current federal law allows individual donors to give up to two thousand six hundred dollars to any one candidate during a single election. In addition, they can give only an aggregate hundred and twenty-three thousand dollars to candidates, political action committees, and parties over a two-year period. Shaun McCutcheon, an Alabama Republican, wants to give more money to the candidates he supports, so he has sued to invalidate the rules limiting the over-all amounts he can give. (Indeed, the patriotically minded McCutcheon wanted to give “$1,776” to enough candidates to exceed the current limits on direct contributions.) The Supreme Court will hear his case in the fall, and he has a good chance of winning.Full Article: Another Citizens United, but Worse, Goes to the Supreme Court : The New Yorker.
With less than 100 days to go in the presidential race, nine single-candidate “super” PACs — political action committees that can raise and spend unlimited sums on political expression – have spent $125 million advocating and advertising for their preferred candidate, a CBS News analysis of Federal Election Commission reports shows. Through the first half of 2012, the pro-Mitt Romney Restore Our Future, was the most active super PAC, raising $81 million and spending $60 million through June 30. Two-thirds of its spending, or $40 million, went to negative ads attacking Republican primary opponents Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum. Super PACs established for six also-ran Republicans — Gingrich, Santorum, Ron Paul, Rick Perry, Jon Huntsman, Herman Cain — spent a combined $36 million dollars on advertising and advocacy during the primaries, which effectively ended when Santorum dropped out in April.Full Article: Super PACs: $125 million spent -- and counting - CBS News.
Editorials: Thanks, Citizens United, for This Campaign Finance Mess We're In | Adam Skaggs/The Atlantic
Before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee Tuesday, the Cato Institute’s Ilya Shapiro became the latest to come out swinging against critics of Citizens United, testifying that the case is one of the most misunderstood high court decisions ever and claiming that “it doesn’t stand for half of what many people say it does.” Shapiro joins a chorus of Citizens United defenders, including First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams and his son Dan — the latter of whom has railed against what he calls the media’s “shameful, inexcusable distortion” of the case — as well as the New York Times Magazine‘s chief political correspondent, Matt Bai, who recently wrote that liberal criticism of the decision is “just plain wrong.” To be sure, it would be an oversimplification to suggest the decision is the only cause of our current Wild West campaign finance environment. But those criticizing the critics of Citizens United miss the forest for the trees. Their myopic focus on debunking overstatements about the case downplays the major roleCitizens United played in ushering in current conditions — and how it fits with the Roberts Court’s ongoing project to put our democracy up for auction. The defense of Citizens United rests on two primary claims about the case, one factual and one legal. Its defenders contend, first, that while Citizens United only concerned corporate election spending, the facts show that it is spending by individuals — not corporations — that counts this year. Next, they argue that, as a legal matter, individual spenders have been free to make unlimited political donations since long beforeCitizens United. They’re wrong on both counts.Full Article: Thanks, Citizens United, for This Campaign Finance Mess We're In - Adam Skaggs - The Atlantic.
National: Million-dollar donors account for nearly half of GOP super PAC fundraising | The Washington Post
If super PACs are indeed saving Mitt Romney early in the 2012 election (as we posited Tuesday morning), he’s got a lot of very wealthy people to thank for it. About four dozen donors and families have given at least $1 million to super PACs this election cycle, with three-quarters of them giving to the GOP. Combined, these four dozen donors have provided $130 million of the $308 million super PACs have raised this cycle (more than 40 percent) — a reflection of how much these outside groups are funded by extremely wealthy donors. And that goes double on the GOP side, where nearly half of the $228 million raised by super PACs has come from about three dozen million-dollar donors. Million-dollar donors have contributed $111 million out of $218 million raised by super PACs this election cycle, while million-dollar Democratic donors have contributed less than one-fourth, $19 million out of $80 million raised.Full Article: The Fix’s super PAC Millionaires Club - The Washington Post.
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.Full Article: Super PAC donors may keep opening wallets, but public may not see it – CNN Political Ticker - CNN.com Blogs.
Editorials: Campaign finance after Citizens United is worse than Watergate | Rick Hasen/Slate Magazine
How does the brave new world of campaign financing created by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision stack up against Watergate? The short answer is: Things are even worse now than they were then. The 1974 scandal that brought down President Richard Nixon was all about illegal money secretly flowing to politicians. That’s still a danger, but these days, the biggest weakness of our campaign finance system is not what’s illegal, but what’s legal. As Dan Eggen of theWashington Post put it, “there’s little need for furtive fundraising or secret handoffs of cash.” The rules increasing allow people and corporations with great wealth to skew public policy toward their interests—without risking a jail time, or a fine, or any penalty at all. It’s an influence free-for-all. The Washington Post reminds us what the country faced in the time of Watergate: “Money ran wild in American politics. One man, W. Clement Stone, gave more than $2 million to President Richard M. Nixon’s 1972 reelection campaign. The Watergate break-in was financed with secret campaign contributions. Fat cats plunked down cash for ambassadorships, and corporations for special treatment.” Fred Wertheimer, who has been pushing for campaign finance reform for decades, recounts that the corruption of old got results: “The dairy industry gave $2 million to the Nixon campaign and soon got the increase in dairy price supports they were seeking. Nixon overrode his Agriculture Department’s objection to put these supports in place.”
Voting Blogs: What Matt Bai’s Missing in His Analysis of Whether Citizens United is Responsible for the Big Money Explosion | Election Law Blog
The other day I linked to Matt Bai’s iece upcoming in Sunday’s NY Times Magazine, “How Much HasCitizens United Changed the Political Game. The article discusses (though inexplicably does not link to) my recent Slate article, “The Numbers Don’t Lie.” I promised a response to the article (I gave Matt an extensive interview in his writing of the piece), and here it is. The relevant question is whether Citizens United and its aftermath (namely, the decision in SpeechNowfrom the DC Circuit, and two FEC rulings) is responsible for the explosion of outside money sinceCitizens United. A few reactions, beginning with the most important.
1. As I told Matt, and what’s missing from this piece, is the realization that there was considerable legal risk in giving to a 527 before Citizens United and its aftermath. As one reader to commented to me, “Matt’s article suggests that not much has changed post-Citizens United because even prior to the CU decision, “you would have been free to write a check for any amount to a 527 . . . .” This is untrue and all three groups Matt cites were determined by the FEC to have violated federal law during the 2004 cycle. ACT paid a $775,000 fine (http://www.fec.gov/press/press2007/20070829act.shtml). SwiftVets paid a $299,500 fine (http://www.fec.gov/press/press2006/20061213murs.html). Club for Growth paid a $350,000 fine (http://www.fec.gov/press/press2007/20070905cfg.shtml).”Full Article: What Matt Bai’s Missing in His Analysis of Whether Citizens United is Responsible for the Big Money Explosion | Election Law Blog.
Conservative megadonors Sheldon Adelson, the Koch brothers and Donald Trump aren’t stopping with their efforts to swing the presidential election. Now, they’re shoveling cash into down-ticket races. Their big checks have helped state-focused GOP groups more than double the cash haul of their Democratic counterparts and open up another front that could help Mitt Romney beat President Barack Obama.Many of the hottest gubernatorial and legislative races are in key presidential election states, including North Carolina, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin, and the increased activity could add attention to conservative policies on critical issues like government spending, labor rights, voter access, gay rights and immigration, and could help tip the scales in Romney’s favor. Negative ads against the Democrats won’t hurt either.Full Article: Trump, Koch brothers among mega-donors looking down-ticket - Robin Bravender - POLITICO.com.
In the age of eight-figure checks to super PACs, is it time for a constitutional amendment that could end this dangerous farce? The notion of fiddling with the First Amendment should make anyone nervous — especially anyone who has spent a career benefiting from it. Then again, so should Sheldon Adelson’s $10 million check to Mitt Romney’s super PAC. A system that lets one individual pump so much money into supporting a favored candidate threatens to substitute oligarchy for democracy. Harvard Law School professor Laurence Tribe has long opposed such tinkering. But writing last week for Slate, Tribe proposed an amendment, since introduced by Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), that would allow “content-neutral limitations” on independent expenditures. Tribe told me he changed his mind because “there’s no serious prospect” that a majority of the Supreme Court “will see the light in our lifetimes.” Meanwhile, he said, the “distortive effects of Citizens United and its aftermath are becoming clearer every week.”Full Article: Ruth Marcus: Super PACs and stirring the constitutional pot - The Washington Post.
To read the news coverage of late, you could be forgiven for thinking that we’re headed into a campaign in which super PACs will determine the winner. Ten million dollars from Sheldon Adelson here, $1 million from Bill Maher there, and it’s easy to conclude that these new organizations will have the biggest say in the identity of the next president and control of Congress. But it’s not quite so simple. In fact, the realities of campaign advertising today still put a premium on candidates themselves — and specifically, on their fundraising. As a rule of thumb, super PACs and national party committees pay significantly more for ad space (on average, about 40 to 50 percent more) than candidates do, meaning their dollar doesn’t go nearly as far on TV. And in a crowded media market, that markup can reach as high as three, four or even five times as much as the candidates when the super PACs and party committees have to pay extra to bump existing ads off the air. The Arizona special election on Tuesday is a good example of this ad reality.Full Article: The super PAC election? Not quite - The Washington Post.
Wisconsin: The Influence Industry: In Wisconsin recall, the side with most money won big | The Washington Post
If the Wisconsin recall battle was a test of the power of political spending, the big money won big. Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who survived an effort by Wisconsin Democrats to unseat him in a special election on Tuesday, outspent his opponent by more than 7-to-1 and easily overcame massive get-out-the-vote efforts by Democrats. The recall contest ranks as the most expensive in Wisconsin history, with well over $63 million spent by the candidates and interest groups combined. Walker was bolstered by wealthy out-of-state donors who gave as much as $500,000 each to his campaign under special state rules allowing incumbents to ignore contribution limits in a recall election. He raised $30.5 million compared to just $3.9 million by his Democratic challenger, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, according to data compiled by the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. The big spending was made possible in part by the landmark Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission , which allowed corporations and unions to spend unlimited funds on elections and also made it easier for wealthy individuals to bankroll such efforts. Wisconsin was one of a number of states that had previously banned direct election spending by corporations and labor groups. As a result, many Democrats and campaign watchdog groups view the Wisconsin matchup as a test-run of sorts for November, when super PACs and other interest groups could spend $1 billion or more on political ads and organizing efforts in races for the White House and Congress. The outcome has also prompted hand-wringing on the left over whether pro-Democratic groups, which traditionally focus on ground-game organizing rather than advertising, will need to rethink their strategy.Full Article: The Influence Industry: In Wisconsin recall, the side with most money won big - The Washington Post.
The Wisconsin recall election for GOP Gov. Scott Walker has become the most expensive contest in state history, a non-profit watchdog group said Sunday. The Center for Public Integrity (CPI) said more than $63.5 million had been spent by Walker, his Democratic challenger Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and outside groups ahead of Tuesday’s vote. The tally which includes funds spent since November 2011 topped the 2010 gubernatorial contest, which held the previous record of $37.4 million. Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said the vote would be a “dry run” for Democrats ahead of November. Polls show Walker with a slight edge on Barrett, but Democrats are making a strong push this weekend to close the gap. Former President Bill Clinton visited the state on Friday to stump with Barrett.Full Article: Report: Recall election most expensive race in Wisconsin history - The Hill's Ballot Box.
Montana’s attorney general is due to file a brief Friday in the U.S. Supreme Court, asking it to uphold the state’s Corrupt Practices Act. This 1906 law prohibits corporations from making expenditures on behalf of candidates in Montana elections. The Supreme Court’s response could have repercussions far beyond Montana — the case may well determine how much states can regulate money in politics after Citizens United. The state high court cited Montana’s long history of corruption, when corporations often spent unlimited sums to steal elections, as the reason to narrow Citizens United and uphold the law. The Supreme Court should heed the Montana attorney general’s argument. More important, this case could offer the high court a viable means to revisit its Citizens United decision. This 2010 ruling, extended by lower federal courts, has spawned the super PACs now threatening to bring Wild West corruption to federal elections.Full Article: Can Montana brief end Citizens United? - POLITICO.com.