Campaign Finance

A Fresh Approach or a Get-Rich Scheme?

McClatchy: “When the People’s House Project launched last May, founder Krystal Ball billed it as an organization that would defy old conventions and show Democrats a new model for winning campaigns. The former MSNBC host said her political action committee would support longshot candidates who embraced economic populism and lacked a political background — the kind of office-seekers who normally don’t receive support from party leaders.”

“But thus far, nobody has benefited more financially from the group than Ball herself. Of the $445,000 Ball raised for the group, she paid herself more than a third of that — $174,000 — in salary… That’s nearly eight times more than the nearly $22,000 the PHP has used to support its dozen endorsed candidates, some of whom have received just a single $1,000 contribution.”

“When first contacted, Ball said McClatchy’s questions were sexist and added that she was writing her own story about why male reporters were focusing on women’s salaries instead of men’s.”

GOP Lawmakers Took Part In Straw Donor Scheme

“Three Indiana members of Congress gave and received money from Rep. Jim Renacci (R-OH) in what experts said may have been an improper straw donor scheme — including two Indiana congressmen running for the U.S. Senate,” the Indianapolis Star reports.

“The Senate candidates, Reps. Todd Rokita (R-IN) and Luke Messer (R-IN), denied any wrongdoing. Rep. Jackie Walorski’s (R-IN) campaign did not respond to multiple phone calls and emails seeking comment.”

“The Cincinnati Enquirer reports that Messer and Walorski received contributions from Renacci’s congressional campaign between April and June last year. Although he was not named in that story, Rokita also received campaign contributions from Renacci. Within two months of receiving a donation, all three then contributed money to Renacci’s gubernatorial campaign.”

Renacci is effectively using funds from his federal campaign account to unlawfully support his state gubernatorial run and doing it through his fellow GOP lawmakers.

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.”