Campaign Finance

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.”

Outside Money Overwhelmingly Favors Clinton

“Six years after a Supreme Court decision opened vast new channels for money to flow into national elections, Democrats have built the largest and best-coordinated apparatus of outside groups operating in the 2016 presidential campaign, defying expectations that conservative and corporate wealth would dominate the race,” the New York Times reports.

“The Democrats’ success this year reflects, in part, Mrs. Clinton’s close personal ties to her party’s elite donors and her allies’ willingness to exploit the 2010 ruling in the Citizens United case far more aggressively than President Obama did.”

Democrats Rake In the Big Money

New York Times: “The flow of money, documented in Federal Election Commission reports, shows Democrats expanding their fund-raising advantage in the final phase of the presidential race, defying expectations at the beginning of the campaign that Republicans would dominate the money chase. Mrs. Clinton and the Democrats are now outpacing Mr. Trump and the Republicans on every front, according to F.E.C. records: Mrs. Clinton’s campaign, her party and outside groups supporting her have raised almost twice as much as Mr. Trump and his allies.”

“The influx of cash and the new rules have allowed the national Democratic Party to overcome a cash shortage and provide Democrats in key states like Virginia and North Carolina with money for early voting drives, additional staff and canvassing aimed up and down the ticket.”

McCain and Feingold Now Riding a Big Money Wave

Sen. John McCain and former Sen. Russ Feingold are now benefiting from the campaign donations they once fought so fiercely against, Politico reports.

“Supporters of Sen. McCain (R-AZ), seeking a sixth term after 30 years in the Senate, have boosted his campaign through a super PAC specifically designed to run ads on his behalf, financed almost entirely by six-figure donations from Wall Street titans and other corporate executives. Feingold, the former Senate Democrat trying to reclaim his old seat in Wisconsin, has been boosted by outside groups financed through ‘dark money’ committees that don’t reveal their donors.”