AP Campaign Finance Roundup: August 24, 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. 

Another week, another set of stories about how our elections are being bought out from under us and all that matters is fundraising and the donor class. I know it gets frustrating writing these, as important as it is to shine a spotlight on what’s happening, and I hope that they get you fired up too. But, starting this week, I’m also going to be offering solutions on what you can do to channel that righteous anger into something that will help solve these problems. 

Google gets green light to exempt campaign emails from spam detection

From The Washington Post:

If you were worried that you weren’t getting enough campaign fundraising emails, good news! The FEC is going to let Google turn off its spam filter for political emails, so you can get all the emails you could ever want. Republican lawmakers were pressuring Google to let more of their emails through, because their online fundraising has declined. Definitely nothing to do with people being sick of endless emails declaring the end of the world unless you send them 15 dollars right now immediately. 

How the newest megadonor wants to change Washington

From POLITICO: 

Sam Bankman-Fried, a cryptocurrency billionaire who still uses his parents’ Netflix account, has decided that he should be in charge of the direction of the Democratic Party. Bankman-Fried spent over $10 million backing President Biden in 2020, and intends to spend up to $1 billion (yes, with a “b”), by the 2024 elections, mostly on shaping the Democratic party by supporting primary candidates. It’s not entirely clear what he wants, beyond his apparent attachment to the philosophical movement of “effective altruism”

How Wall Street wooed Sen. Kyrsten Sinema and preserved its multibillion-dollar carried interest tax break

From CNBC: 

Good news, everyone! Senator Kyrsten Sinema saved the carried interest tax loophole, which allows hard-working Americans like our hedge fund managers, law firm partners, and private equity executives to pay “significantly less tax!” After numerous meetings with these representatives of the average American worker, and raising a mere $2 million from the investment industry since 2018, Sinema killed a provision that would’ve ended the loophole and raised over $14 billion in tax revenue. A $2 million investment for a $14 billion return is a pretty good deal, that must be why those hedge fund managers make the (untaxed) big bucks!

Manchin’s Donors Include Pipeline Giants That Win in His Climate Deal

From the New York Times:

Big week for corporate donors! In exchange for his necessary support of President Biden’s climate deal, Senator Joe Manchin included a number of provisions that supported pipeline projects across the US. Manchin has received more than $300,000 in campaign contributions from natural gas companies this cycle alone. First $2 million for $14 billion, now $300,000 multiple pipelines? Forget the stock market, apparently the best place to invest is in US Senators.

Consultant pleads not guilty in ‘ghost candidate’ case

From The Associated Press:

What do you do if you have enough money to run multiple campaigns in one election? Run a “ghost candidate”! In close elections, political operatives can run “ghost candidates,” people whose names appear on the ballot but don’t actually do any campaigning. Instead, an associated PAC will run ads for them in an attempt to siphon votes off the other party’s candidate. This practice is an anti-democratic trick that only works if you have lots of extra money to throw around, so naturally it’s completely legal. The people charged with finance violations in this case are charged because they tried to hide who was funding their ghost candidate. Gotta be more shameless next time.

Russian media organ agrees to pay millions to U.S. conspiracy theorist for Kremlin propaganda

From OpenSecrets:

Life hack alert! Want to spread propaganda in another country without having to admit you’re doing it? No problem! Just pay a conspiracy theorist in your target country $6.8 million dollars to produce video propaganda content for you, but say it’s “NOT for distribution or dissemination INSIDE the territory of the United States” (include the capitalization, very important). Then, when the videos are easily and obviously accessible inside the US, because that’s how the internet works, you can say you never intended that to happen. That’s Russia’s plan, at least, according to a recent Foreign Agents Registration Act filing. 

“Pop-up” super PAC spent over $2.4 million in weeks leading up to three states’ GOP congressional primaries

From OpenSecrets:

A Super PAC used a loophole in FEC filing requirements to spend over $2.4 million on Republican congressional primaries in 3 states, without having to report any of their donors. Because the PAC didn’t register until a week before the primaries, it won’t have to disclose its donors until 3 weeks after the primaries, well after any votes have been cast and any chance remains for accountability from voters. The PAC could have been funded by anyone, from Republican Party establishment to billionaires to the Democratic Party, which has spent millions meddling in Republican primaries this cycle. Oh well, probably not important information for voters to know. 

Angry? Here’s what you can do:

Protect Maine Elections:

If you’re sick of the 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. The initiative would block foreign interference in Maine’s ballot elections and call on our federal delegation to pass a Constitutional amendment to get money out of politics. 

As a Mainer, seriously, I can’t take another election cycle full of ads from America and Canada. 

Secure Candidate Pledges:

It’s easy to get angry at our elected officials for taking money from wealthy donors and ignoring the issues that matter most to us. And don’t get me wrong, a lot of the time they deserve it. But it’s important to remember that they work for us, and to give them a chance to prove that they’re committed to that ideal. Get your elected officials and candidates to sign the American Promise Candidate Pledge, affirming that they’ll use their office to advance the For Our Freedom Amendment and fight for We the People, not money.

Register for the National Citizen Leadership Conference:

In September, citizens from across America will gather at the National Citizen Leadership Conference, to connect with fellow citizens, hear from inspiring speakers and panelists, learn new organizing strategies, and directly meet with our representatives in Congress. Early bird tickets are available now. If you’re feeling angry and powerless reading the news from home, one of the best things for igniting your drive and passion is actually meeting with other people in person who share your goals and are making real progress on winning them.  

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