Daily Media Links 11/20: Disclosure and the Willingness to Contribute, Pro-Obama nonprofit boosted by undisclosed donors, and more…



Disclosure and the Willingness to Contribute 
By Luke Wachob
Here at CCP, we’ve long been engaged in weighing the costs and benefits of disclosure. A new study conducted by Raymond La Raja, Associate Professor of Political Science at University of Massachusetts, Amherst, has the potential to expand our understanding of disclosure laws by demonstrating how they affect donors’ willingness to make campaign contributions. La Raja’s study finds that disclosure causes small donors to both be less willing to donate and to donate in smaller amounts to avoid disclosure. Additionally, the study finds that these effects are strongest among citizens with personal networks that expose them to different views (the study calls them “cross-pressured”) and weakest among citizens surrounded by people with like-minded views.  
While these findings may seem intuitive, they fill an important gap in the existing research on the costs of disclosure. Previous research has established that disclosure laws impose significant and disproportionate costs on volunteer-run organizations, and anecdotal evidence shows that disclosing donors enables harassment, but La Raja’s study provides some of the first data on how disclosure impacts donors directly.  

Independent Groups

CPI: Pro-Obama nonprofit boosted by undisclosed donors 
By Julie Patel
A nonprofit organization started by two former Obama White House staffers received $5 million — or most of its $8.4 million in revenue last year — from four unnamed donors, new disclosures obtained by the Center for Public Integrity indicate.  
Priorities USA used the big-money contributions to advocate for “public policies that advantage the middle class“ and help a president in Barack Obama who prides himself on transparency and the small-dollar donors who have supported his political campaigns.  

Free Beacon: D.C.-Based Health Care Exchange May Have Engaged in Illegal Political Activity

By Alana Goodman
A former chief White House ethics lawyer has filed a Hatch Act complaint against a D.C.-based health care exchange, alleging that its online communications with liberal activist group Organizing for Action (OFA) violated rules against federal political activity.  

SCOTUS/JudiciaryAP: Sentencing in Campaign Finance Scandal

A federal judge in New Haven ordered Harry Ray Soucy, 61, of Naugatuck, to serve the first six months of probation in a halfway house and fined him $5,000. 
One of eight people convicted in the case, Soucy pleaded guilty last year to wire fraud and conspiracy to cause false statements to the Federal Election Commission and to defraud the United States.  

Corporate GovernanceActon Institute: Where Is All That ‘Dark Money’ Coming From?

By Bruce Walker

Your writer possesses well-meaning friends forever vigilant in my best interests. Most recently, one such kind soul sent an email alerting me to the dangers of so-called “dark money” in the political process. Believing himself on the side of the angels – and fully onside with activist nuns, priests and other religious – my friend sought my assistance in the fight against “evil” corporations participating in the political process.  
So I got the following in my inbox. And all I had to do for America’s campaign finance salvation was sign a petition circulated by The Daily Kos and People for the American Way…

DisclosurePolitico: Eight-figure checks fuel Crossroads groups

By Byron Tau
Three massive checks helped fuel Karl Rove’s $300 million dollar campaign against President Barack Obama and Senate Democrats. 
Crossroads GPS, the nonprofit affiliate of the super PAC American Crossroads, reported receiving three eight-figure contributions —of $22.5 million, $18 million and, $10 million, during 2012, according to tax documents released Monday.   

Candidates, Politicians, Campaigns, and Parties

Washington Post: Rep. Trey Radel (R-Fla.) charged with cocaine possession 

“I’m profoundly sorry to let down my family, particularly my wife and son, and the people of Southwest Florida,” Radel said. “I struggle with the disease of alcoholism, and this led to an extremely irresponsible choice. As the father of a young son and a husband to a loving wife, I need to get help so I can be a better man for both of them.”
Radel continued: “… This unfortunate event does have a positive side. It offers me an opportunity to seek treatment and counseling. I know I have a problem and will do whatever is necessary to overcome it, hopefully setting an example for others struggling with this disease.”
Roll Call: First Lady Urges Donors to ‘Max Out’ to Senate Democrats 
By Kyle Trygstad
First lady Michelle Obama urged donors in New York on Monday to contribute to Democrats’ efforts to hold the Senate majority in 2014, saying “the midterm elections matter” in helping the president’s agenda move forward.  
“There’s something that we and all of you can do right now, today, to make a huge difference, and it’s simple: You can write a big old fat check,” Obama said, according to a transcript of her remarks.  

State and Local

Colorado –– Denver Post: Ethics commission proceeds with complaint against Gov. Hickenlooper  
By Lynn Bartels
The state Independent Ethics Commission on Monday unanimously voted to proceed with an ethics complaint filed against Gov. John Hickenlooper, a step that calls for further review but is not an indication a violation occurred.
The decision was announced after the commission met in executive session to review the complaint and deemed it “non-frivolous.”
Compass Colorado, a conservative political group, claims Hickenlooper violated the gift-ban provision of the state’s ethics law, Amendment 41, by allowing the Democratic Governors Association to pick up costs for a conference this summer in Aspen. The attendance fee was $350 per person, and room rates were $425 per night for two nights.

Minnesota –– Star Tribune: Campaign finance database errors prompt legislative hearing 
By Rachel E. Stassen-Berger 
Earlier this month, the Star Tribune reported that in one of seven electronic records of donations from Minnesota groups are incorrect. In thousands of cases, groups reported receiving contributions that the donors did not report giving. In many others, groups reported giving contributions that the would-be recipient did not record receiving. 
The faulty records, dating to 2001, mean that groups may have donated as much as $143 million or as little as $122 million, depending on which side of the ledger is to be believed. 
New York –– NY Daily News: NYPIRG Wants NYS Ethics Agency To Get Tough On Lobbying By Political Parties 
In a complaint filed Monday with the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, NYPIRG officials asked the watchdog agency to look into the lobbying activities of political parties and require that they formally register with the state as lobbyists.  
Such a move, would require the parties to disclose their lobbying activities and spending every two months.  

The Center for Competitive Politics is now the Institute for Free Speech.