AP Campaign Finance Roundup: March 21, 2023
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.
From the Times Union:
This column by the Times Union editorial board lays out an excellent argument for how and why we go into our current mess of a campaign finance system. Using examples of New York PACs that were totally not coordinating (wink wink), they note how the current system is totally broken. They suggest that the Supreme Court ought to revisit the Citizens United ruling and overturn it. I would love it if that happened. I would also love a pony.
I’m probably not gonna get that pony anytime soon, but there is another option for overturning bad decisions by the Supreme Court: a constitutional amendment. It would need a catchy name, though, something about how the fight for it is the fight For Our Freedom.
From The Ohio Capital Journal:
Where is the line between “campaign contributions” and “just straight-up bribery”? That’s the question a jury in Ohio has been required to answer, after convicting Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and state Republican Chairman Matt Borges on charges of racketeering for a scheme in which they, and connected dark money groups, received more than $60 million in campaign contributions from a state power company that later received a $1.3 billion bailout. The defense argued that this was normal political spending, claiming that the law in a post-Citizens United world “allows corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money on issue advocacy and candidates that support those issues.”
Although convicted, Householder has confirmed that he will appeal. Which is good news for him, at least, as the Supreme Court has consistently indicated that pretty much anything goes when it comes to campaign spending and corruption, as long as somebody isn’t handing a politician a big sack of money labeled “BRIBES.”
From The Lever:
If there’s one thing I love, it’s paying late fees on my credit card. Sometimes I intentionally wait on my bill, just so I can get the satisfaction of giving the credit card company even more of my money. And it sounds like a group of lawmakers agree: 17 lawmakers recently sent a letter to the Biden administration opposing an attempt to cap late fees at $8. Which is ridiculous! How are the credit card companies going to afford their $600,000 in campaign contributions? 15 of those 17 lawmakers got money from the credit card industry last year, and 3 of them are top recipients. How will they ever afford to run for re-election?
From The New York Times:
Republican donors in New York are holding court, as potential candidates in the Republican presidential primary arrive to beg for their support. Candidates and donors alike all know that money is what’s going to make or break a presidential run, so candidates are heading up to New York to attend dinners and other events with their most important constituents. After the donations have been decided, look forward to the primary elections next year, where voters get to feel like they have a say in the process too.
Election season never ends! Wisconsin is heading into a massive race for State Supreme Court, which could decide the partisan balance of the court. The campaign is expected to be the most expensive race for a single state judicial seat, with liberal Janet Protasiewicz having raised almost $2.2 million and conservative Daniel Kelly having raised almost $441,000. Outside groups are also getting in on the fun, with over $20 million worth of ads booked already between them and the candidates.
Democratic Sen. Cortez Masto urges FEC to require campaigns to send illegal contributions to Treasury
Imagine you’re, say, a Canadian steel billionaire (pretty easy, I’m sure). You want to buy influence with the US President, maybe influence US trade policy. But that’s illegal! Luckily, you’re a billionaire. So you illegally funnel $1.75 million of your company’s money to a super PAC supporting the President. No big deal. If you get caught, which in this case you do, you have to pay a fine of $975,000, but you get your original investment back. Oh well! (That all happened)
Senator Catherine Cortez Masto is calling on the FEC to change how that works. Instead of illegal campaign donations just being refunded to whoever gave them, reducing the risk of such donations, she says the money should go into the federal treasury. “No refunds on crimes” sounds like a reasonable idea to me.
Speaking of crimes, it’s Sam Bankman-Fried again! New federal charges against the former cryptocurrency CEO have been unsealed, including allegations that he made political contributions in the name of other FTX executives (making political donations under someone else’s name is very illegal). OpenSecrets analysis has identified the two executives whose names were likely used in the scheme, one who made only donations to liberal causes and candidates, and the other conservative. The indictment alleges that this was intentional, to make one of the executives the face of “woke sh*t” for the org.
From Pew Research:
The headline doesn’t really capture what I think is the most important part of this survey (to be fair, when do people not want to “strengthen the economy”?). The 4th-highest priority among Americans, according to Pew, is “reducing the influence of money in politics,” which 59% of Americans think should be a top priority for the President and Congress. It makes sense. It doesn’t much matter what everyone thinks the government should be focusing on, if politicians are only listening to wealthy donors to begin with.
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.
Mainers are telling the Legislature they want the issue resolved now, and are pushing the Legislature to pass the measure before we even have to endure another campaign cycle without it. Donations now could help citizen lobbying efforts in key districts.
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.
Donate to power American Promise Campaigns
American Promise and citizen-powered campaigns across the country are fighting for the For Our Freedom Amendment to eliminate dark money corruption in politics. Support our cross-partisan work and donate now to help give the power back to the people.