Campaign Finance

Mercer Backed Anti-Muslim Ads

Open Secrets discovered that Robert Mercer backed a secretive group that worked with Facebook, Google to target anti-Muslim ads at swing voters in the final weeks of the 2016 presidential election.

“As a 501(c)(4) social welfare organization, Secure America Now (SAN) is not required to disclose its donors to the public, but they are required to report them to the IRS. This information is usually redacted when provided for public inspection. However, when OpenSecrets called to request a 2016 return, an unredacted return was provided by the group’s accounting firm.”

Tennessee Lawmaker Improperly Used Campaign Funds

“Congressional ethics investigators say they have found substantial reason to believe Rep. John Duncan (R-TN) improperly used thousands of campaign dollars on personal expenses for himself and his family,” the Knoxville News reports.

“The expenses totaled more than $100,000 and include trips for Duncan’s family and friends… Other expenses outlined in the 57-page report include thousands of dollars for membership dues and private parties, including baby showers and bridal dinners, at the Club LeConte in Knoxville and membership dues at the Knoxville Quarterback Club.”

How Bolton Used a Super PAC to Get Ahead In Washington

Politico: “The John Bolton Super PAC ran ads, doled out campaign contributions and endorsed candidates for five years, all in the name of helping elect defense hawks to office. But perhaps its greatest purpose was reflected in its name: It served as a hype machine for Bolton, boosting his image and political views.”

“Bolton raised more than $9 million during the 2016 elections and spent $2.6 million on television and other paid media that sometimes promoted the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations’ brand as much as — if not more than — the candidates themselves.”

Zombie Campaigns Never End

Tampa Bay Times: “In their political afterlife, former politicians and their staffers are hoarding unspent campaign donations for years and using them to finance their lifestyle, advance their new careers and pay family members.”

“Their spending makes a mockery of one of the fundamental principles of America’s campaign finance laws: Donations must be spent only on politics, not politicians’ personal lives.”

Times/WTSP reporters analyzed more than 1 million records detailing the spending of former U.S. lawmakers and federal candidates. They found roughly 100 of these zombie campaigns, still spending even though their candidate’s political career had been laid to rest.”

Trump Allies Profiting from Multiple Outside Groups

President Trump’s close political advisers “are making millions of dollars working for several different entities gearing up for Trump’s re-election campaign — raising questions about whether they are following campaign finance laws designed to keep campaigns from coordinating with big-money outside groups,” BuzzFeed reports.

“Campaigns and party committees are not allowed to coordinate with allied outside groups that are supposed to be independent, such as super PACs and nonprofits. But the Federal Election Commission, which is governed by a board of three Republicans and three Democrats and usually deadlocks on issues, has hardly enforced that rule.”

Rivera Says He Broke No Laws Secretly Funding Rival

“Facing allegations that he illegally spent nearly $70,000 funding a ringer candidate’s campaign against a Democratic opponent, former Miami congressman David Rivera (R-FL) asked a judge Wednesday to toss a federal elections lawsuit, saying that if anybody broke the law it was the guy who took the money,” the Miami Herald reports.

“Rivera, in a motion to dismiss, told Judge Robert Scola that even if he did secretly spend $69,426.20 backing the campaign of a political neophyte in a scheme to siphon votes away from a more threatening opponent, that wouldn’t have broken any federal election laws.”

Zinke Directed Donors to Scam PACs

“Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has directed millions of dollars in political contributions since 2014 to a network of Washington operatives that prominent conservatives have accused of profiting by misleading donors,” Politico reports.

“Beneficiaries of Zinke’s largesse include groups linked to Washington-area political operative Scott Mackenzie, organizer of a Virgin Islands GOP political action committee that hosted the secretary at a St. Croix fundraiser in March. Before that, when Zinke was a Republican congressman from Montana, his political operation steered significant portions of its spending to a handful of Washington, D.C.-area consulting firms that also have had ties to Mackenzie and his associates.”

GOP Lawmakers’ Posh Hideaway Bankrolled by Secret Cash

Several major corporations and trade groups secretly bankrolled a plush hideaway for lawmakers at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland last year, according to records obtained by the Center for Public Integrity.

The groups funded a limited liability company called “Friends of the House 2016 LLC” which in turn, paid for the design and outfitting of an exclusive office, lounge and gathering space for Republican lawmakers and controlled access to the so-called “cloakroom.”

“The limited liability company effectively hid the corporations’ contributions from public view at a time when activist groups were pressuring companies to scale back giving to the Republican convention, and a few of the companies had publicly minimized their participation.”

Super PAC Solicits Money Both For and Against Trump

Think Progress: “A new super PAC was quietly registered with the Federal Election Commission late last month with the nondescript name of ‘Taking America Back Fund.’ While the front page of the site makes it appear that this new committee is part of Donald Trump’s effort to ‘Make America Great Again,’ a closer examination reveals that the people behind the PAC may be seeking to raise money both to defend and oppose the administration.”

Soft Money Is Back In Full Force

Politico: “Here’s how this shell game works: Top donors spent the 2016 election cycle legally writing six-figure checks to so-called joint fundraising committees—committees that can dole their contributions out to multiple allies, notably including state political parties. But rather than keep all the cash, the state parties have been quickly steering the money to the national parties, taking advantage of their ability to transfer unlimited cash to their national affiliates.”

“The joint fundraising vehicles aren’t new, but the Supreme Court’s 2014 decision to eliminate some obscure but important campaign contribution limits in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission had the effect of supercharging them. The 2016 election provided a first, full glimpse at what the new legal landscape would mean in reality.”

“The result: Parties are more aggressively and successfully courting a small number of deep-pocketed donors, giving the wealthy another way to exert their ever-growing influence over politics.”

Secret Money Boosts Trump’s Agenda

“Groups spending millions in anonymous donations are leading the outside efforts to either defend President Trump or sell his agenda with voters and Congress, despite the president’s repeated calls to ‘drain the swamp’ in Washington of special-interest money,” USA Today reports.

“The political empire affiliated with billionaire Charles Koch has spent $2 million to date to advance Trump’s tax-cut blueprint and will hold events this week in Washington to kick off the next phase of its multimillion-dollar campaign to drive congressional support for a comprehensive tax plan to slice corporate tax rates and enact broader tax cuts.”

The Criminal Case Against Donald Trump Jr.

Donald Trump Jr.’s explanations for meeting a Russian lawyer during the 2016 presidential campaign “put him potentially in legal crosshairs for violating federal criminal statutes prohibiting solicitation or acceptance of anything of value from a foreign national, as well as a conspiracy to defraud the United States,” Politico reports.

Bob Bauer: “There is much more to know in evaluating the case that Mr. Trump and his campaign committed campaign finance violations in soliciting and receiving support from Russia, and assisting the Russians in their plan to influence the 2016 presidential election. There is now little doubt that there is such a case.”

“What is becoming increasingly clear is that Mr. Trump and his campaign were open to whatever help the Russians would provide: they made that clear to the Russians, and took specific actions to invite and receive this foreign national assistance. In response to the latest disclosure of Russian contacts, the campaign’s defense seems to be that it never checked whether the people from whom they were soliciting stolen emails and other negative information were Russians, much less connected to the Kremlin. That may beggar belief; some may even find the claim perversely amusing. But under campaign finance law, it is no joke.”