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November 17, 2023

Campaign Finance Roundup

Campaign Finance Roundup

November 17, 2023
Published By American Promise
Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) recently introduced the Ending Corporate Influence on Elections Act, which would reverse the Citizens United decision and reduce the ability of corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money in our elections. The bill has created conflict between Hawley and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), whose allies run the Senate Leadership Fund Super PAC, which takes in unlimited contributions from corporations. Shocked? We’re not!

Hawley sparks McConnell battle over push to gut Citizens United ruling

From The Hill:

Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) recently introduced the Ending Corporate Influence on Elections Act, which would reverse the Citizens United decision and reduce the ability of corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money in our elections. The bill has created conflict between Hawley and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), whose allies run the Senate Leadership Fund Super PAC, which takes in unlimited contributions from corporations. McConnell made a point of telling senators at a Senate GOP lunch that they shouldn’t support Hawley’s bill. I, for one, am shocked that someone who wields an immense amount of political influence as a result of controlling the highest-spending PAC in the country might not want to give up that power. 

American Promise has commended Senator Hawley for his leadership in introducing the bill. Jeff Clements, CEO of American Promise, said “A vast majority of Americans across parties know that unbounded money in politics is warping representative self-government, and they want solutions to put power back into the hands of all Americans.”

George Santos is refunding more money than he’s raising


Say what you will about George Santos, but you have to admire his dedication to single-handedly reversing the trend of out-of-control political fundraising. The representative from New York posted an impressive negative fundraising total this quarter, refunding more than $35,000 while barely taking in more than $1,700 in new donations. If only more candidates could follow his example.

A phantom attack ad group surfaces again in an Oklahoma election

From The Frontier: 

In 2020, the Oklahoma legislature passed a law that made it even more difficult for voters to track who or what is funding dark money groups. In completely unrelated news, Oklahoma is being bombarded with political mailers featuring nasty attack ads from a nearly untraceable source. Last year, one Oklahoma Senate candidate was attacked by mailers that accused him of abusing animals and women, and was unable to find even an address tied to the ads. The same group responsible for those ads, Common Sense Conservatives LLC, which is connected to a dark money group in Ohio, spent more than $227,000 on the Senate District 32 primary this year. When dark money groups are almost totally insulated from accountability or any consequences for their words, what’s stopping them from leveling vicious attacks against their targets? 

Sam Bankman-Fried, FTX allies secretly poured $50 million into ‘dark money’ groups, evidence shows

From CNBC:

Sam Bankman-Fried, the former CEO of collapsed cryptocurrency exchange FTX who is now on trial for federal fraud charges, donated $50 million to dark money groups affiliated with both parties. Bankman-Fried gave to nonprofits aligned with both Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell, as well as other politically active nonprofits. In several cases, Bankman-Fried gave money in the name of Nishad Singh, FTX’s former head of engineering, encouraged by his own mother, Barbara Fried. I trust my mom, but if she told me to conceal millions of dollars in political donations through a straw donor scheme, I might push back on that just a little.

Fetterman plans to return donation tied to Menendez ‘in envelopes stuffed with $100 bills,’ spokesman says

From CNBC: 

Who says civility is dead in politics? Senator John Fetterman (D-PA), received $5,000 in campaign contributions in 2022 from the leadership PAC of Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), who is now facing multiple federal bribery charges. When federal agents raided Menendez’s home, they found more than $480,000 in gold bars, a luxury vehicle, and cash inside envelopes. Now, although he was the first Democrat to call on Menendez to resign, Fetterman is planning to return his donation in cash-stuffed envelopes, which is clearly Menendez’s preferred form of payment. How thoughtful! 

Ohio GOP rivalry escalates with lawsuit against House Speaker, fight for campaign fund control

From The Associated Press:

In a surprising turn of events, a dispute over a large sum of money has caused serious interpersonal conflict, this time in the Ohio State House. Ohio State Rep. Derek Merrin is suing fellow Republican House Speaker Jason Stephens over control of the Ohio House Republican Alliance and the $1 million in campaign cash it currently holds. Stephens became House Speaker in a surprise vote with mostly Democratic support, beating out Merrin who was the expected favorite. Traditionally, the Speaker is the leader of the party’s caucus, and would control the funds, but the law does not explicitly say that they must be the same person, and Merrin is claiming that he won a closed-door vote for control of the alliance earlier this year. Hopefully they get this issue resolved, and the money can be put to good use bombarding the people of Ohio with campaign ads. 

Who are the Biggest Donors?

From OpenSecrets:

Recent analysis by OpenSecrets has found that in 2022, just the top 10 donors, to both Republicans and Democrats, gave more than $600 million combined to candidates and PACs. Just think about that for a moment. Just 10 individual donors, not even corporations, spent an average of more than $60 million in a single election year. 

In Q3 2023, the median weekly earnings of a full-time worker in America was $1,118. It would take 53,667 weeks, or more than a thousand years, of full-time work for the average American to make $60 million. So start saving up, everyone, and maybe in 3023 you’ll be able to have your voice heard in government. 

Ante up: $8 million casino referendum in Virginia breaks state record

From OpenSecrets:

Out-of-state developers, Urban One of Maryland and Churchill Downs of Kentucky, have spent more than $8.1 million into a referendum campaign that would allow them to build a resort casino in Richmond. The total is greater than the amount raised in any other Virginia legislative race or ballot initiative in the history of the state. In 2021, Richmond voters defeated a similar proposal 51-49%. Developers have also given more than $320,000 to Democratic and Republican elected officials across the state and in Richmond. As everyone knows, the house always wins. If the developers are willing to spend more than $8 million on this campaign, how much are they expecting to make from Richmond if they are allowed to build?

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. Just this month in Maine, citizens stood up, and with 86% approval passed a ballot measure to get foreign money out of their elections and call for an anti-corruption constitutional amendment.  Support our cross-partisan work and donate now to help give the power back to the people.

Related Articles

American Promise has submitted a working paper to the American Bar Association Task Force for American Democracy, recommending a constitutional amendment to address the problem of money in American elections
We dive deep to report on how unlimited money affected the 2022 Pennsylvania Senate Election in our updated report.
Senator Hawley’s bill would prohibit publicly traded corporations from using Super PACs and so-called “independent spending” to influence elections.