AP Campaign Finance Roundup: September 6, 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. 

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. 

Tacoma mayor in trouble over campaign financial disclosures again. Here’s her punishment.

From The News Tribune:

The Mayor of Tacoma, Washington, Victoria Woodards, has been found in violation of campaign finance regulations for failing to file her personal financial disclosure. The disclosure was due April 15, 2022. She filed the disclosure August 18th. This comes on the heels of Woodard also failing to file her disclosure last year, which she also didn’t get around to filing until this year. Her punishment? A $250 fine last year, which she has still not paid, and a $500 fine this year, also unpaid.

If you tried to file your taxes 16 months late, how do you think that would go? Meanwhile candidates are able to play fast and lose with disclosure rules that are intended to prevent conflicts of interest.

Rep. Cawthorn tells feds he forgot about $236K; sends amended campaign finance report

From the Asheville Citizen Times:

Whoopsies! After filing a campaign finance disclosure a month late, NC Rep. Madison Cawthorn has filed an amended form, claiming he forgot about $236,000 that he gave to his own campaign. Most of the money went to pay off a debt to a company owned by Cawthorn’s chief of staff, though $10,000 just went back to Cawthorn to pay off a loan he made to his campaign.

Who among us hasn’t forgotten about the odd 200 grand here and there? Perfectly normal and innocent mistake to make!

Document reveals identity of donors who secretly funded Nikki Haley’s political nonprofit

From POLITICO:

An unredacted tax filing from former U.N ambassador Nikki Haley’s nonprofit has revealed many of the previously-anonymous donors to her nonprofit, Stand For America, Inc. Groups like these are referred to as “dark money” groups because their funding sources are usually concealed from the public. The filing reveals millions of dollars of donations from GOP megadonors and candidates. The group is able to help Haley set up for a potential 2024 presidential campaign by creating an email and fundraising list, airing issue advocacy ads, and performing congressional outreach. 

Without the leak of the 2019 tax filing, we would have no idea who was funding this group, just as we have no idea who is funding the many other dark money groups supporting candidates and parties across the country. 

Michigan governor’s race could cost $100 million as billionaire DeVos family spends millions to oust Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

From CNBC:

Michigan, like most of the country, should brace for a miserable election season full of endless political ads. Strategists are predicting that the state’s gubernatorial race could cost as much as $100 million on its own. Primary among the donors causing this problem are the family of former Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, who have donated more than $4 million to oppose incumbent governor Gretchen Whitmer. The DeVos family is worth more than $2 billion dollars, having originally made their fortune after the late Richard DeVos Sr. co-founded the multilevel marketing company Amway.

So take this as a lesson: if you want to have your voice heard in elections, simply have your grandfather found a multibillion multilevel marketing company so you can freely drop millions on a single election. I don’t know why people are complaining so much, it’s not that hard.

The Koch network and other Trump allies are quietly backing his biggest GOP critic: Rep. Liz Cheney

From CNBC:

They’re playing both sides, so they always come out on top. Rep. Liz Cheney, who recently lost her Wyoming primary, is considering a run for President in 2024. To prepare for a potential run, she’s using a network of consultants and other political operatives, including those in the expansive Koch network, that are considered allies of former President Trump. Many have hidden their identities behind LLCs to disguise their help for Cheney. Why back one candidate, when you can support several so the winner owes you no matter who wins?

An Unusual $1.6 Billion Donation Bolsters Conservatives

From the New York Times:

Directly giving money to dark money groups is so last year. Barre Seid, an electronics manufacturing mogul, gave his entire company to Marble Freedom Trust, a conservative dark money group. Marble Freedom was then able to turn around and sell the company to an Irish conglomerate, giving them $1.6 dollars in effectively tax-free cash. The donation, likely the largest single donation ever made to a political nonprofit, is worth more than the $1.5 million spent by the 15 most active Democratic political nonprofits in 2020. Marble Freedom still has more than $1.4 million cash on hand, but has begun funneling money to other conservative groups. 

Yet another escalation in the financial arms race that our elections have become. How long until the Democrats fire back with a $2 billion donation? Forget companies, when is someone going to donate a small island nation to a dark money group?

Gov. Ron DeSantis on pace to break gubernatorial fundraising record

From OpenSecrets:

Ahead of a potential presidential bid in 2024, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has raised more than $165 million dollars for his campaign, more than any other gubernatorial candidate in history, excluding self-funding. This puts him a “mere” $11 million away from beating the most raised by any gubernatorial candidate ever, Republican Meg Whitman in 2010. 

Not to be outdone, Democratic governor of Illinois, JB Pritzker, has raised more than $133 million for his re-election campaign, though $132 million of that has come from loans to his own campaign. 

Once again, the cost of elections continues to inflate, making it ever more impossible for someone to run without massive personal wealth or access to a national network of wealthy donors.

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, less than a month away, 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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