Campaign Finance

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.”

BINGO Proves Costly to Michigan Democrats

Detroit Free Press: “Games of chance have always been risky, but they also just got very costly for the Michigan Democratic Party. The party has agreed to pay a hefty $500,000 civil fine to the FEC – one of the largest penalties ever levied by that office – after an internal investigation of its bingo operation, which was used for political fund-raising, found numerous examples of shoddy record keeping, contributions that exceeded limits and campaign finance reporting inaccuracies.”

Cruz Failed to Disclose Loans from Goldman Sachs

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) “improperly accounted for loans he received from Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Citigroup Inc. during his 2012 campaign, saying the funds were his own personal contributions to the Senate race,” Bloomberg reports.

“The finding, released on the FEC website, marked a rare instance of agreement among the agency’s five commissioners, who voted unanimously that the $1.1 million of loans from the banks should have been disclosed to voters.”

Georgia Special Election Breaks Spending Records

“It’s official: Georgia’s special election will be the most expensive House race in U.S. history,” Politico reports.

“Candidates and outside groups have aired or reserved more than $29.7 million worth of TV ads in the race to replace HHS Secretary Tom Price in Congress, which will break a five-year-old record for House spending — highlighting the outsized importance a sliver of the Atlanta suburbs has taken on in national politics.”

Surge In LLC Contributions Masks True Donors

Donald Trump’s inaugural committee “received about $10.6 million — or about 10 percent of its total raised — from roughly 60 limited liability companies, or LLCs — structures often set up by small businesses that provide favorable tax treatment while also protecting their owners’ assets,” according to Open Secrets.

“But some exist mainly to mask people’s identities.”

Being on Trump’s Shortlist Pays Off

New York Times: “In January, Politico reported that President Trump was considering Sean Reyes, the Utah attorney general, to lead the Federal Trade Commission. Since then, donations to his political campaign have poured in from out-of-state donors and businesses that are regulated by the F.T.C.”

“Mr. Reyes, who is not up for re-election and won handily last year, received more than $113,000 in donations in the first three months of the year, far more than he received during the same period last year, an election year. Half of the new contributions came from out-of-state donors, and more than $43,000 came from first-time donors.”

“There is nothing illegal about the donations, but their timing reveals the power of the political shortlist in a city where lobbyists and businesses often place protective bets.”

GOP Lawmaker Facing Criminal Investigation

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) is under criminal investigation by the Justice Department over alleged campaign finance violations, Politico reports.

San Diego Union-Tribune: “The Department of Justice has not made public the existence of an investigation, nor detailed what crimes it suspects Hunter or members of his campaign may have committed. Other lawmakers accused of personal spending have been indicted on charges including income tax evasion and making false reports to the Federal Election Commission.”

Trump Allies Were Ready to Take Illegal Foreign Donations

“Donald Trump’s presidential campaign is facing a fundraising scandal after a Telegraph investigation exposed how key supporters were prepared to accept illicit donations from foreign backers.”

“Senior figures involved with the Great America PAC, one of the leading ‘independent’ groups organizing television advertisements and grassroots support for the Republican nominee, sought to channel $2 million from a Chinese donor into the campaign to elect the billionaire despite laws prohibiting donations from foreigners.”

“In return, undercover reporters purporting to represent the fictitious donor were assured that he would obtain ‘influence’ if Mr Trump made it to the White House.”