AP Campaign Finance Roundup: September 3, 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.

RFK Jr. super PAC got more than half its funds from GOP mega donor 


Of the $10 million that Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s campaign for president has raised, half of that – a full $5 million – has come from Timothy Mellon, a Republican donor who previously gave $1.5 million to a Trump-aligned group just last year. Most of the rest of Kennedy’s funding came from Gavin De Becker, who has given to both Republicans and Democrats in the past. Some would argue that a Republican giving millions of dollars to a Democratic candidate is a sign of cross-partisan appeal. Others might note that backing a longshot candidate in your opponent’s primary (a tactic that Democrats have used before) is a good way to weaken them in the general election. 

2024 GOP candidates desperate to make debate stage are finding creative ways to boost donor numbers

From The Associated Press:

The Republican Party is requiring that presidential candidates must receive donations from 40,000 different sources to qualify for the first debate. So how did candidates try to get these donors? In a series of schemes reminiscent of a teen movie about raising money to save a community center, of course! North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum just straight-up bought donations, offering a $20 gift card to anyone who donated at least $1 to his campaign. Miami Mayor Francis Suarez was raffling off tickets to Lionel Messi’s debut game for Inter Miami. Vivek Ramaswamy is offering supporters a 10% cut of anything they raise for his campaign. There’s a word for a system, or maybe a scheme, in which you raise money for someone above you and receive a cut of that money. Something… triangular. Or pyramid-shaped.  

Backers of effort to repeal Alaska’s ranked voting system accused of campaign finance violations

From The Associated Press:

Sometimes it feels like people treat money as a religion. Most don’t take it quite as literally as the Ranked Choice Education Association, which is incorporated as a church in Washington state. They practice an interesting dogma, according to their website, which has information about ranked voting but nothing about religion (usually the main focus of churches). Many churches engage in charitable giving. The RCEA gave $90,000 to Alaskans for Honest Elections, a group gathering signatures to repeal Alaska’s ranked choice voting system, which it received from Art Mathias, president of Alaskans for Honest Elections. I can’t imagine why a person would want to funnel campaign money through a tax-exempt organization church. 

FEC asked to investigate flower shop’s $500,000 contribution to super PAC backing Suarez’s 2024 bid

From The Associated Press:

The nonpartisan watchdog group Campaign Legal Center filed a complaint with the FEC, asking them to investigate a donation made by PassionForest, LLC, a company that sells artificial flowers on Amazon. The company donated $500,000 to SOS America, a super PAC backing Miami Mayor Francis Suarez’s presidential bid. The complaint alleges that the company doesn’t have that much money, and notes that it filed a trademark application and lists its location in China, which could indicate that the company is hiding illegal foreign donations. Or maybe the artificial flower business is really booming nowadays. 

The Mystery of How Tim Scott’s Campaign Is Spending Its Millions

From The New York Times:

In this newsletter we see a lot of cases where it’s unclear where a candidate or PAC is getting their money (and whether it’s entirely legal). This is a new one, though. Republican Senator Tim Scott’s presidential campaign is spending money, but nobody can tell where exactly it’s going. He entered the race with $22 million, and raised another $5.8 million on top of that. He’s spent $6.6 million, of which $5.3 million has just kinda… disappeared into the void. The $5.3 million has gone to two LLCs, founded by the same person a few months ago, with no online presence or history, and listed as being located in Staples stores (yes, the office supply store. Turns out it still exists) in strip malls. Other campaigns engage in similar practices to hide how they’re spending their money, but none on the scale of Scott’s campaign. 

Defend Trump and ‘Hammer’ Ramaswamy: DeSantis Allies Reveal Debate Strategy

From The New York Times: 

In principle, Super PACs and candidates are prohibited from coordinating (hence the term “independent expenditures”). In practice, they barely even pretend to follow those rules. Recently, some interesting documents popped up on the website of Axiom Strategies, the company owned by Jeff Roe, who is the head of Ron DeSantis’s Super PAC. The documents contained extensive polling details and debate strategy for DeSantis. Because the PAC can’t privately coordinate with the DeSantis campaign, they just posted the strategy on an obscure but technically public page. I’m sure someone on the DeSantis team knew exactly where to find it. 

Angry? Here’s what you can do:

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. 

Attend the American Democracy Summit

Every year, American Promise brings together hundreds of people to participate in our democracy first-hand through our National Citizen Leadership Conference. We train, we host big-name speakers, and give you direct access to your representatives in Washington DC.
This year, we’re bringing all the energy and convening power of NCLC to the American Democracy Summit, which we are co-hosting with other partners in Los Angeles this September 27th – 29th.
We’re personally inviting you to join the American Promise delegation, so use code APDELEGATE for 20% off your ticket! 

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