People, parties and outside political players spent more money on Election 2012 than during any other — by a significant amount.
"Consider the Source," a new interactive e-book written by the Center for Public Integrity's political reporting team, provides the narrative behind how the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision affected the first presidential election in which it was a factor.
During the 2012 cycle, groups aided or enabled by the Supreme Court's ruling spent nearly $1 billion and voters experienced an unprecedented barrage of political advertisements.
As the nation prepares for major state-level elections in 2013 and critical midterms in 2014, the "Consider the Source" e-book also explains how professional politicking is influencing this flood of new spending.
View and download the "Consider the Source" e-book by clicking here.
The e-book is compatible with most tablet e-reader software. Click the following links for downloading directions for iBooks (iPad and iPhone) and Kindle.
As Wisconsin considers a 100 percent increase in state political contribution limits, new analysis suggests the effect of the proposed increase will not serve the interest of the majority of Wisconsin voters.
United Wisconsin has obtained data developed in preparation for a forthcoming comprehensive report on campaign contribution limits and donor distribution in state politics by the National Institute on Money in State Politics based in Helena, Mont. The data reveal that during the 2010 election cycle, only 1,855 (2.1 percent) of the nearly 85,000 campaign donors to candidates in Wisconsin state legislative races reached the maximum annual contribution limit allowed by state law.
A similar trend was seen in Wisconsin’s regular 2012 state legislative races, when only 2,263 (2 percent) of approximately 112,948 contributors reached the annual maximum contribution limit. (Contributions during the special recall elections were not included in this analysis.)
A look at the numbers makes it crystal clear that only a handful of Wisconsinites donate at the maximum level to state political candidates.
Nearly $12 million spent by super PACs and nonprofits in 2012-13 state supreme court races.
The Center for Public Integrity examined 10 high-profile state supreme court elections in 2012 and 2013 where outside spending was a factor. At least a third of the $11.7 million spent by independent groups — collected from campaign finance reports, tax records and documents filed with the Federal Communications Commission — originated outside the election states, mostly from Washington, D.C.-based organizations.
Tracking all outside spending is nearly impossible thanks to lax state disclosure rules, as well as a loophole in the federal tax code that allows politically active nonprofits to run attacks ads without disclosing who funds them.
The practice of handing over cash to turn out votes used to be an urban Democratic specialty. Are rural Republicans getting in on the fun?
Many American cities have a storied tradition of machine politics. But in recent decades, party electioneering has evolved into arrangements whereby candidates and parties pay people small amounts of cash in exchange for GOTV efforts like canvassing. When I represented an inner-city St. Louis state Senate district, I was often approached by operatives proposing such arrangements. That's not strictly illegal, but it creates a lot of untraceable campaign cash, and it's vulnerable to corruption. (Although I declined, I did run afoul of federal campaign-finance law during my 2004 U.S. House race: I approved coordination between two aides and an outside party who created a flier about my opponent's legislative attendance record. I then lied when asked about it, earning me eight months in federal prison for obstruction of justice.) I know people who have disbursed several hundred thousand dollars on Election Day. In some cases, the process is blunter, not to mention illegal: Low-level operatives simply distribute cash in even smaller increments to individual voters.
"Disclosure of donors must be a pillar of campaign finance reform...the political process is sliding backward toward the practices of the years before the Watergate reforms. More than$300 million in secret contributions were spent by outside groups in the 2012 presidential and congressional races. In the last cycle, a large share of the hidden cash was channeled through 501(c)(4) tax-exempt organizations. And here’s a key fact that often gets overlooked: Under the rules, these organizations have to disclose their donors to the IRS. Only the public remains in the dark.
Secrecy denies vital information to voters about who is contributing to which candidates. Very often, these contributions are made in search of influence on policy."
The behavior of some individuals at the tax agency is inexcusable. What it reveals about our election laws is worse.
By way of background, the decision in 2010 to target groups with certain words in their names did not come out of nowhere. That same year, the Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case substantially liberalized rules around political contributions, stimulating the formation of many activist groups.
In the year ended Sept. 30, 2010, the division received 1,741 applications from “social welfare organizations” requesting tax-exempt status. Two years later, the figure was 2,774. Meanwhile, the staff of the division tasked with reviewing these applications was reduced as part of a series of budget reductions imposed on the I.R.S. by anti-tax forces.
A far higher proportion of the new applicants wanted to pursue a conservative agenda than a liberal agenda. So without trying to defend the indefensible profiling, it wouldn’t be that shocking if low-level staff members were simply, but stupidly, trying to find an efficient way to sift through the avalanche of applications.
While much criticism has been lobbed at the federal system for failing to adequately identify who is spending money to influence campaigns, 35 states have independent spending disclosure laws that are less stringent than federal election law.
In fact, in 30 states it’s impossible to total how much money outside groups are spending on campaigns, information that is mostly available when it comes to federal contests.
That’s according to a new 50-state analysis by the National Institute on Money in State Politics, which graded the states on disclosure requirements for super PACs, nonprofits and other outside spending groups.
Senior executives, on-air personalities, producers, reporters, editors, writers and other self-identifying employees of ABC, CBS and NBC contributed more than $1 million to Democratic candidates and campaign committees in 2008, according to an analysis by The Examiner of data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.
The Democratic total of $1,020,816 was given by 1,160 employees of the three major broadcast television networks, with an average contribution of $880.
By contrast, only 193 of the employees contributed to Republican candidates and campaign committees, for a total of $142,863. The average Republican contribution was $744.
Jim Wesberry's insight:
Should members of the media:
+ make contributions to political candidates and parties?
+ belong to political parties?
+ permit their political beliefs to influence their reporting of news?
Gaggle of former White House hopefuls still owe creditors millions of dollars
"...despite candidates' soaring rhetoric about fiscal responsibility, they often fail to follow their own prescription for sound budgetary management amid the relentless rush to remain competitive with political rivals during election seasons that are longer and more expensive than ever.
Until the debts are paid, the federal government requires former candidates in most cases to keep their campaign committees open and, technically, active, meaning some of the indebtedness stretches back decades."
President Obama’s once-broad ambitions to clamp down on the influence of special interests have been largely abandoned since his reelection, dismaying longtime allies in thecampaign-finance reform movement.
The predicament will be on full display Tuesday, when all five members of the Federal Election Commission will be serving past the formal expiration of their terms. The panel’s sixth seat remains vacant. The president has not made a nomination to the FEC, which enforces the nation’s campaign finance laws, in more than three years.
For those who favor tougher regulation of money in politics, this follows a string of disappointments, including Obama’s decision this year to transform his campaign committee into an advocacy group,Organizing for Action, that can collect unlimited donations.
Obama also promised during his reelection campaign to pursue a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United v. FEC, the 2010 Supreme Court opinion that allowed corporations to spend unlimited money on politics. Nothing has happened since.
In addition, the White House has not filled a position overseeing ethics and lobbying issues for more than two years — a job Obama created with great fanfare when he took office...
Eight retiring senators are collectively sitting on $10.5 million.
And while federal law prohibits lawmakers from using campaign funds for personal use, they have a variety of options for leftover campaign cash...
The senators may give their surplus money away to other candidates, subject to the normal contribution limits, or transferred to a state or national party committee, which have no limits.
Politicans may also donate money to charity — including their own charities...Additionally, they may also use funds for "winding down" costs or other official campaign- or office-related expenses. Or the money may just be kept in the bank for future use, so long as the committee continues to file regular reports with the government.
South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham raised more money from lobbyists ahead of the 2012 election than any other member of Congress save one — an impressive feat considering he wasn’t on the ballot.
Roughly 10 percent of Graham’s $2.2 million haul, about $223,000, came from lobbyists acting as “bundlers,” a higher percentage than any other member. Bundlers raise money from friends and associates and deliver the checks in a “bundle.”
Only New Jersey Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez, who did face opposition in 2012, received more bundled campaign cash from lobbyists — about $227,100 — less than 2 percent of his total contributions, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of Federal Election Commission filings.
Through Rootstrikers, Lawrence Lessig seeks to stem the influence of money on our political system, what he considers the underlying source of challenges to American democracy.
America’s political system has been bought and paid for, making it nearly impossible to get anything done that goes against the interest of deep-pocketed funders. Activists often say that fixing this legalized corruption may not be America’s biggest problem, but it is the most urgent. Author and activist Lawrence Lessig quotes Henry David Thoreau to put it another way: “There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.” The many challenges facing American democracy today are the branches, Lessig says, but money and politics is at the root of it all.
Outside groups are funneling more and more money into state races, which is a trend the Center will be following.
A new study by The Center for Public Integrity shows that outside spending groups —including nonprofits that do not disclose their donors and state-level super PACs— are funneling more and more money into state supreme court races. And they’re having an impact. Out-of-state influence likely helped decide recent races in North Carolina, Iowa and Mississippi.
The Center examined 10 high-profile state supreme court elections in 2012 and 2013 in which outside spending was a factor. At least a third of the $11.7 million spent by independent groups originated outside the election states, mostly from Washington, D.C.-based organizations, according to our analysis of campaign finance reports, tax records and documents filed with the Federal Communications Commission.
President Barack Obama’s new picks to represent American interests in Denmark, Germany and Spain are all major Democratic fundraisers.
Rufus Gifford — who served as Obama’s 2012 campaign finance director and chairman of the president’s 2013 inaugural committee — has been selected to be the new ambassador to Denmark, the White House announced in a press releaselate Friday afternoon.
Obama also intends to nominate John B. Emerson, an executive at the investment firm The Capital Group Companies, and John Costos, a vice president at Home Box Office, to serve as the U.S. ambassadors to Germany and Spain, respectively.
Emerson raised at least $500,000 for Obama’s 2012 re-election efforts, according to a Center for Public Integrity review of information released by the campaign.
So, too, did Costos, along with his partner Michael Smith — whom the Obamas selected in 2008 to redecorate the White House and who currently serves on the Committee for the Preservation of the White House.
Newly elected congressional Democrats had just a week to savor their victories before coming face to face with a harsh reality of Washington.
At a party-sponsored orientation session, the freshmen — many still giddy from winning close races in which they espoused grand plans to change the Capitol’s toxic atmosphere — were schooled in their party’s simple list of priorities for them.
Raise money. Raise more. Win.
The newcomers were told to devote at least four hours each day to the tedious task of raising money — so-called dialing for dollars — so they could build a war chest and defend their seats, according to those present. That’s twice as much time as party leaders expect them to dedicate to committee hearings and floor votes, or meetings with constituents.
Some members were flabbergasted. One rolled his eyes and walked out of the room.
Billionaires with an axe to grind, now is your time. Not since the days before a bumbling crew of would-be break-in artists set into motion the fabled Watergate scandal, leading to the first far-reaching restrictions on money in American politics, have you been so free to meddle. There is no limit to the amount of money you can give to elect your friends and allies to political office, to defeat those with whom you disagree, to shape or stunt or kill policy, and above all to influence the tone and content of political discussion in this country.
Just how much money is spent independently on elections for state office? The answer remains elusive in the majority of states, according to the Institute's latest analysis of disclosure requirements for independent spending.
The scandal-singed Internal Revenue Service could unwittingly generate a mountain of cash for Republican interests.
GOP politicians and party committees this week are soliciting supporters far and wide in attempts to capitalize on conservatives' outrage over IRS officials singling out tea party and other right-leaning nonprofit groups for enhanced scrutiny.
Even if the Katz Group donation was found to be legal, it certainly goes against the spirit of the law and demonstrates how easy Alberta's flimsy political finance laws are to circumvent.
There was little surprise among the cynical pundit class yesterday as Elections Alberta announced that it had found billionaire Daryl Katz and his Katz Group broke no laws when the company delivered a donation in the form of a $430,000 bank draft to Premier Alison Redford‘s Progressive Conservative Party duringlast year’s provincial election.
Even though the maximum donation limit during an election period is $30,000, according to Elections Alberta the $430,000 donation was legitimate because it was accompanied by a paper trail of 17 individuals and professional corporations who wished to receive tax-receipts in amounts of $30,000, $25,000, $20,000, and $15,000. Tax-receipts were issued for Mr. Katz, members of his family, and senior employees of his company.
Bank leaders, PACs made prospective housing agency leader a top recipient of campaign cash.
Rep. Mel Watt has plenty of friends in the financial services industry: The North Carolina Democrat whom President Barack Obama has appointed to oversee mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac has received more campaign money from financial interests than any other industry or special interest.
Since he entered Congress in 1992, Watt has received $1.33 million in campaign contributions from the finance, real estate and insurance industries, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonprofit research group that tracks money in politics.
That’s almost a quarter of the total $5.47 million in total contributions he’s received through his career.
Williams and Star Scientific have given McDonnell and his political action committee more than $120,000 in publicly disclosed campaign donations and gifts, while the McDonnell family has received other benefits, such as a vacation at Williams’s lake house in western Virginia.
The McDonnells have taken actions to promote Star Scientific, including allowing the company to hold a 2011 luncheon marking the launch of Anatabloc at the governor’s mansion.
The focus of the FBI interviews has been to determine whether any of those actions constituted a quid pro quo — McDonnell using his office to promote the company in return for anything of value for him or his family — people familiar with the questioning said.
Federal lobbyists have this year collected nearly $1 million on behalf of national party organizations tasked with helping Democrats retain control of the U.S. Senate and regain control of the U.S. House of Representatives, according to aCenter for Public Integrity analysis of campaign finance disclosures.
A dozen lobbyists bundled $882,000 for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee during the first quarter, records show, while one organization bundled $18,500 for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Top lobbyist bundlers for the DSCC this year include Democratic super lobbyist Tony Podesta of the Podesta Group ($145,000), as well as the political action committees of the firms Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck ($228,750); Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld ($174,450) and Holland & Knight ($97,000).
The National Association of Realtors PAC was the sole lobbyist-bundler for the DCCC during the three-month period.
Bundlers raise campaign cash from friends and associates and deliver the checks in a “bundle.” They are often receive special access or other perks for their fundraising acumen.
The Securities and Exchange Commission may soon make publicly traded corporations reveal their political contributions, and business groups are preparing a counterattack.
S.E.C. officials have indicated that they could propose a new disclosure rule by the end of April, setting up a major battle with business groups that oppose the proposal and are preparing for a fierce counterattack if the agency’s staff moves ahead. Two S.E.C. commissioners have taken the unusual step of weighing in already, with Daniel Gallagher, a Republican, saying in a speech that the commission had been “led astray” by “politically charged issues.”
A petition to the S.E.C. asking it to issue the rule has already garnered close to half a million comments, far more than any petition or rule in the agency’s history, with the vast majority in favor of it. While relatively few petitions result in action by the S.E.C., the commission staff filed a notice late last year indicating that it was considering recommending a rule.