“Through July 26, politically involved groups that do not disclose their donors have spent at least $172 million on campaigns that include television, radio and Internet advertising… Total spending by these groups is likely far greater, since they are required to report only a fraction of their spending to the FEC. Politically involved independent groups that publicly disclose their donors, including super PACs, have spent $174 million so far this election cycle.”
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The Fix: “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
Herman Cain is using a political action committee created in his name in unusual ways, the Washington Times reports.
Though the PAC raises money by sending multiple solicitations weekly to supporters making pleas to help fund ads, new disclosures filed with the Federal Election Commission show no payments to advertising firms or advocacy groups running ads for any candidate or cause.
Mark Block, who runs the PAC, said the primary way it supports the candidates is “by endorsing them,” adding, “We put out a press release.”
Jonathan Soros, son of liberal financier George Soros, “has started a new Super PAC aimed at lessening the impact of Super PACs. He wants to use the $5 million to $8 million he plans on raising for negative ads aiming at politicians who oppose campaign finance reform,” the New York Times reports.
Said Soros: “The irony is not lost on anybody.”
Lawrence Lessig: “A tiny number of Americans — .26 percent — give more than $200 to a congressional campaign. .05 percent give the maximum amount to any congressional candidate. .01 percent give more than $10,000 in any election cycle. And .000063 percent — 196 Americans — have given more than 80 percent of the super-PAC money spent in the presidential elections so far.”
“During their long campaign to loosen rules on campaign money, conservatives argued that there was a simpler way to prevent corruption: transparency. Get rid of limits on contributions and spending, they said, but make sure voters know where the money is coming from,” the Los Angeles Times reports.
“Today, with those fundraising restrictions largely removed, many conservatives have changed their tune. They now say disclosure could be an enemy of free speech.”
The Supreme Court reaffirmed its 2-year-old decision allowing corporations to spend freely to influence elections, the New York Times reports.
“By a 5-4 vote, the court’s conservative justices said the decision in the Citizens United case in 2010 applies to state campaign finance laws and guarantees corporate and labor union interests the right to spend freely to advocate for or against candidates for state and local offices.”
Rick Pildes: “That outcome comes as no surprise to those of us who believe Citizens United
reflected powerfully held philosophical and constitutional convictions,
whether we agree with those convictions or not. But it should put the
final nail in the coffin of theories that assert the Court could have
decided Citizens United only ‘by mistake’… The American public might not believe in unlimited corporate speech rights in elections, but the Court’s majority does – and no amount of public backlash is going to cause this Court to back down.”
The FEC has fined Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-FL) campaign $8,000 for “receiving prohibited, excessive, and other impermissible” donations during the 2010 Senate race, the Tampa Bay Times reports.
“With Mitt Romney raising private funds for the fall campaign, this year’s presidential election will be the first since the Watergate scandal in which neither major party’s nominee accepts federal funding,” Bloomberg reports.
“Public financing was enacted by Congress after President Richard Nixon resigned in 1974 amid revelations about his role in covering up a 1972 break-in at Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate hotel and office complex in Washington. The investigation uncovered illegal activities funded by some of the unregulated private donations to Nixon’s re-election campaign.”
Rick Hasen notes an editorial by the conservative National Review against the federal prosecution of John Edwards is reminiscent of the Washington Post supporting Tom DeLay’s defense in his Texas criminal trial.
“It is no wonder then that liberals and conservatives have rallied around these politicians, despite the fact that most wouldn’t win any popularity contests… Each of these cases, which feature prosecutors relying on novel theories to criminally prosecute prominent political figures, raises two distinct dangers.”
“First, if the law is murky, prosecutors with a political agenda could use criminal prosecutions to take down their political enemies… Second, even if prosecutors are well-meaning and looking out solely for the public interest, there’s a fundamental unfairness in subjecting politicians to criminal liability for uncertain violations of campaign finance law. The threat of criminal liability can ruin a political career.”
USA Today: “Millions of dollars flowing to independent political groups dominating this year’s presidential and congressional contests have come from mystery and hard-to-find donors, newly filed campaign reports show… Using undisclosed or hard-to-track money in politics is legal, under the patchwork of court decisions, campaign-disclosure regulations and IRS rules that govern federal elections.”
An example: “More than $8 out of every $10 collected during the first three months of this year by two conservative groups associated with Republican strategist Karl Rove, for instance, went to a non-profit branch that does not have to reveal its donors.”
“Further, the subject continued, that as a single man running as a political conservative, it was necessary for him to appear at campaign related events with a female escort.”
— A “close-out” memo from the Florida State Attorney’s Office ending it’s investigation into Rep. David Rivera’s (R-FL) campaign finances.
Democratic campaign treasurer Kinde Durkee is expected to plead guilty to stealing millions from the accounts she controlled for her California political clients, including Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA), the Sacramento Bee reports.
“Feinstein, who says millions are missing from her re-election account, wrote a $5 million check to her campaign account to make up for the losses. The senior senator is one of several politicians who have filed lawsuits to recoup some of the allegedly stolen money.”
“I promise you, there will be huge scandals, because there’s too much money washing around, too much of it we don’t know who’s behind it and too much corruption associated with that kind of money. There will be major scandals.”
— Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), quoted Reuters, on the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that lifted limits on political fundraising by corporations, unions and other non-campaign groups.
A group of students, many of them enrolled in the Clinton School of Public Service, unveiled a new political action committee called Naturally Blue, the New York Times reports.
The group aims to “maintain the tenuous majority of Democrats in the Arkansas legislature to promote an agenda of economic populism and to take the fight to the rest of Dixie.”
Ken Vogel notes fundraising slowed significantly last month for Stephen Colbert’s super PAC, but that it “spent only $17,000 in February, mostly on media consulting, leaving nearly $780,000 in the bank.”
“That’s plenty of cash for the faux pundit to use to make mischief through joke ads as the presidential campaign progresses.”
A new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds 69% of all Americans say super PACs, a fundraising vehicle that allows wealthy donors to make unlimited donations in support of a particular candidate or party, should be banned. Just 25% said they should remain legal.