AP Campaign Finance Roundup: May 24, 2022
Connor Flotten, an American Promise Research Associate, has the roundup you need to stay on top of fast-evolving corruption, election spending, and reform news.
From American Promise:
Supreme Court Analysis: FEC v. Ted Cruz for Senate
Has this ever happened to you? You’re running for office, and having great fun collecting campaign donations. But then the election ends, and you win! How are you supposed to keep collecting money now? Previously, you could only collect a measly $250,000 in post-election donations to pay yourself back for any money you lent to your campaign. Now, thanks to Ted Cruz and the Supreme Court, you can get as much as you want! From AP’s own Senior Counsel, Brian Boyle, this piece analyzes the reasoning and serious impact of the recent Supreme Court decision in FEC v. Ted Cruz for Senate.
Ad wars begin in Maine governor’s race
From the Portland Press Herald: Begun, the Ad War has. The first TV ad for the Maine gubernatorial election has been launched by the Maine Republican Party. The ad cost “only” $94,000, the beginning of a planned $4 million campaign leading up to the election. Not to be outdone, the Democratic Governors Association is planning on spending $5 million, former Governor Paul LePage has raised $1.3 million so far, and Governor Janet Mills has raised $2.7 million. I don’t even have a good quip for this, it’s just exhausting after the ads we were overwhelmed within the 2020 Senate and 2021 ballot elections. But we can’t give up. If you’re sick of unending political ads and outside interference in our elections, volunteer for the American Promise Protect Maine Elections ballot initiative at protectmaineelections.com, or send them a contribution at protectmaineelections.nationbuilder.com/donate2, so they can get us back on track.
A last-minute deal to restore Alaska’s campaign finance limits fell through. Here’s how.
From the Anchorage Daily News: Last summer, a federal appeals court struck down a limit on campaign contributions in Alaska. Since then, some lawmakers have been attempting to re-impose those limits, but they were unable to do so before the legislative session ended. Governor Mike Dunleavy, who supports unlimited campaign donations, had asked that the case not be reconsidered, and he is now soliciting donations upwards of $10,000 on his website. Although the other two candidates say they support contribution limits, both are also now soliciting five-figure contributions. Almost like allowing unlimited cash into an election all but ensures it will swamp everyone, even the candidates who claim to oppose it. Funny how that works.
MoveOn plows $30 million into the ‘Us vs. MAGA’ campaign
From POLITICO: Progressive Super PAC MoveOn has unveiled a $30 million dollar plan to boost their preferred candidates across the country, and frame elections along with their terms, as “our candidate vs MAGA” races. Their plan includes ad spending and bundling donations to gubernatorial candidates and candidates for secretary of state. POLITICO notes that “MoveOn isn’t focusing precisely on the usual kitchen table issues” (i.e. things that directly impact people’s lives), but rather on coordinating a national message strategy that aligns with the messaging coming from President Biden. This is typical for national Super PACs, to drown out actual discourse on state and local elections in favor of absolutely overwhelming races with messages copy-pasted from one state to the next.
Federal Election Commission deadlocks, won’t punish Trump
From the Associated Press: The FEC has once again managed to do nothing of value, as it deadlocked in a case over whether former President Trump’s 2020 campaign violated campaign finance law. The complaint alleges that the campaign was illegally funneling spending through companies tied to a former campaign manager, to hide the spending from public disclosure. The companies were also used to pay the salaries of some reelection officials, including Eric Trump’s wife and Don Jr.’s fiancee. According to the Associated Press “The practice has long been considered against the law.” As a result of this apparent violation of campaign finance law, the FEC has done what it does best: nothing. The Commission deadlocked and failed to take any action against the Trump campaign.
The Little Red Boxes Making a Mockery of Campaign Finance Laws
From the New York Times: One of the few legal limits placed on Super PACs is that they can’t directly coordinate with campaigns. Democratic candidates across the country have apparently decided that this restriction shouldn’t apply to them, and are getting around it in the most blatant way possible, using what are called “red boxes.” Somewhere out of the way on a candidate’s website will be a red-outlined box filled with talking points, targeted demographics, and opposition research data. Miraculously, soon after candidates update their red boxes, their allied Super PACs will begin running ads using the exact wording and data provided in the box, targeted at the listed demographics. This is the same level of loophole used by kids when they claim “I’m not touching you” in an attempt to be annoying. Everybody knows exactly what is going on, and it’s a clear violation of everything but the exact letter of the rule, but they keep doing it.
$100K pours into Maine election whose winner may never cast a vote
From the Bangor Daily News: Apparently, spending groups have so much money to throw around that they’re just doing elections for fun, now. Both Democrats and Republicans have spent over $100,000 dollars combined on the special election for Maine’s State Senate District 7, to be held in June. The same candidates will then run against each other again in November, for the same seat. Already seems pretty silly to waste so much money on a seat that will be held for a couple of months at best. The kicker, though, is that the state Legislature has already adjourned for the year, with no plans to reconvene. So whoever wins the special election will not actually have a chance to cast a vote. Glad we’re subjecting people to tens of thousands of dollars in ads so somebody gets a chance to add “State Senator” to their business cards.