AP Campaign Finance Roundup: June 23, 2022

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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. 

Proposed Constitutional amendment aims to give states more power over campaign spending

From the City and State Pennsylvania:

This interesting nonprofit you may have heard of, American Promise, made headlines earlier this month in Pennsylvania. Leaders from this group appeared with State Rep. Meghan Schroeder, a Bucks County Republican, to announce her sponsorship of a resolution calling for a 28th Amendment to the US Constitution that would allow states to pass their own campaign finance reforms. The announcement was accompanied by the release of a poll that showed supermajority support for the proposed reform, as well as a report detailing the spending in Pennsylvania’s Senate election this year. 

This American Promise group sure seems like a bunch of real go-getters! I’m excited to see what they come up with next, especially whoever wrote that report. 😎

New crypto fundraising start-up will take political donations in digital currencies as 2022 midterms heat up

From CNBC:

Oh, good, just what we needed. More ways for campaigns to raise money. New fundraising platform Engage Raise, set to launch next month, will allow candidates to raise money in cryptocurrency. 

Honestly I’m not sure that anyone will benefit from this. Certainly we don’t benefit from another way for candidates to raise potentially millions of dollars, especially one that uses a payment method built around anonymity and deregulation (donations on Engage Raise will have to be reported to the FEC, not that people don’t get around reporting requirements all the time when using real money). But with Bitcoin down 70% since November, and Ethereum, the second-biggest cryptocurrency, down 80%, I’m not sure even candidates will want them. 

Oklahoma Ethics Commission sues out-of-state PAC, says campaign finance laws broken

From the Oklahoman:

The Oklahoma Ethics Commission is suing a Virginia-based PAC for violating several campaign finance laws in the state. The PAC, which backed a number of Republican candidates in primary election in 2018, did not report its fundraising, spending, or targets, did not properly disclose its (out-of-state) address on campaign materials, and coordinated with a candidate despite claiming it was “not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee,” according to the suit.

This case is a textbook example of outside PACs coming into a state to interfere with their elections with unknown sources of money, and it is exactly why we need the For Our Freedom Amendment to allow states to pass reasonable campaign finance regulations and take back their sovereignty. 

Maker of Uvalde massacre gun broke campaign finance law, complaint alleges

From The Washington Post

On January 6, 2021, gun manufacturer Daniel Defense gave $100,000 to a newly formed Super PAC, the Gun Owners Action Fund, providing it with 90% of its funding. A Daniel Defense rifle was used in the shooting in Uvalde, Texas, in May. 

Daniel Defense is also the recipient of nearly $1.9 million in federal manufacturing contracts, making its PAC contribution illegal under regulations that prohibit federal contractors from making political contributions. This is a case of a campaign regulation that the FEC actually bothers to enforce, since the potential for corruption is so obvious that even they can’t ignore it. The Super PAC claims to have refunded the donation in May, but it is unclear if they or Daniel Defense will face any further consequences.

Peter Thiel bitcoin ally Erik Finman tries to sway 2022 midterms with up to $20 million for GOP campaigns

From CNBC:

High school dropout turned crypto millionaire Erik Finman, an ally of conservative megadonor Peter Thiel, has decided to start spending money on our elections. Finman plans to spend $10 million on a Theil-backed PAC that is supporting Republican Blake Masters for Senate in Arizona, and another $10 million on a nonprofit that will finance rallies across the country for conservative candidates and promote conservative ideas (the nonprofit is organized as a 501(c)4 organization, which is supposed to be a “social welfare” organization for which political activities are not the primary purpose).

Real great system we have, where a guy who got rich off of a risky speculative investment can now spend tens of millions trying to shape our political system according to his ideology. Can someone let me know what the next big speculative bubble is gonna be so I can get some political representation off the back of it? 

Democrats’ Risky Bet: Aid G.O.P. Extremists in Spring, Hoping to Beat Them in Fall 

From the New York Times:

Democrats are currently engaged in what experts refer to as the “screwing around” stage of the “screw around and find out” process. Democratic PACs and campaigns around the country are attacking moderate Republicans from the right in primary elections, in the hopes that the extreme candidates they promote will win and be easier opponents in November. In a country already plagued with extremism and political polarization, I’m not exactly sure that sending your PACs to attack people who make more moderate political choices is what Americans need or want. Some might call this strategy “hubristic,” but I see no way that promoting extremist candidates could go badly for anyone. 

Gillette City Council supports US Constitution amendment to limit corporate contributions in election campaigns

From Oil City News:

Some good news, for once! The city council of Gillette, Wyoming, has passed a resolution calling for a 28th amendment to the Constitution to limit corporate contributions in elections. The city council and citizens who voiced their support affirmed that corporations are not persons, and money is not speech, in contrast to the Supreme Court, which decided otherwise in the Citizens United decision. 

Citizens in Wyoming are working hard to reclaim our democracy and make their state the 23rd to call for the 28th amendment.

How Democrats and dark money are plotting to blow up the Supreme Court

From The New York Post

Not literally, of course, but Democratic operatives and dark money groups have begun to push the idea of “packing” the Supreme Court – adding additional Justices to it to change the balance of the Court, in response to their electoral defeats. 

Much of the pressure for this idea has come from Democratic PACs and dark money groups, often those led by current and former Democratic operatives, who are attempting to use their financial muscle to push this radical idea that would reshape the American government. Although they haven’t succeeded, their efforts have moved the idea from one that was completely unthinkable to one that is often discussed and promoted in some Democratic circles. Turns out billions of unaccountable dollars gives you the ability to sway public thinking and policy discussion, who would’ve thought.

Police unions spend millions lobbying to retain their sway over big US cities and state governments

From OpenSecrets:

Americans have grappled with the role of police in our society, following years of protests and deaths of innocent civilians like Breonna Taylor at the hands of police. One major roadblock to reform has been the lobbying and campaign spending power of police unions. In just the last decade, police unions and associations have contributed almost $71 million dollars to state-level candidates and committees. More than 65% of current members of Congress have benefitted from contributions from police unions. Police are then subject to restrictions and accountability laws passed by the same state legislators their unions are giving millions of dollars to.  Might be a bit of a conflict of interest there.

When asked for comment by OpenSecrets, Jim Pasco, executive director of the National Fraternal Order of Police, said that someone uncomfortable with the ability of police unions, along with any other union or organization, to lobby and financially back candidates, “should seek amendment of that pesky Constitution.” Sounds like a good idea to me, Jim. 

Challenger unseats Cumberland County DA with backing of big-spending national group

From the Portland Press Herald:

Math pop quiz: which is bigger, $51,000 or $380,000? 

If you guessed $380,000, you’re right! That’s how much an out-of-state PAC, backed by George Soros, spent supporting challenger Jacqueline Sartoris for Cumberland County District Attorney in Maine. The campaign of her opponent, incumbent Peter Sahrbeck, spent $51,000. Unsurprisingly, Sartoris won the primary, and will run unopposed in the fall. 

Although Sartoris has claimed no connection to or coordination with the PAC (as doing otherwise would be illegal), and has stated on her website that a mailer from the PAC “frankly made me cringe,” she has also failed to condemn it. Instead, she stated that “PACs are a reality in today’s politics, like it or not. We can’t pretend we have control over them.” 

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