In the News
“Democrats only care about money in politics when that money is being spent against Democrats,” said David Laska, communications director for the New York Republican Party. “We don’t see any reason why hardworking taxpayers can’t take part in the political process at a grassroots level. Basic fairness demands it, and the First Amendment commands it.”Scott Blackburn, a research fellow at the Center for Competitive Politics, wrote in a recent New York Post op-ed piece that the regulations are so expansive that “almost anyone, citizen or organization, hoping to have their say on any issue could find themselves in bureaucratic dire straits.”However, his concern about somebody passing out political fliers at a Little League game appears itself to be a far-reaching concern, considering the new regulations require reporting of independent expenditures exceeding $5,000.
By Brad SmithA couple weeks ago, the Campaign Legal Center’s lobbyist, Meredith McGehee, took the pages of The Hill to excoriate Virginia for not passing more campaign finance restrictions. Because Virginia has “few restrictions on money in campaigns,” the ethics and bribery trial of former Governor Bob McDonnell, she assured her readers, was pretty much a foregone conclusion. Absent more restrictions on campaign finance, “we had better get used to” a lot more McDonnell-type trials.We pointed out here that McGehee’s column was fundamentally dishonest, conflating McDonnell’s corruption – for which he is, after all, on trial – with the need for more campaign finance restrictions, even though McDonnell’s alleged ethical breaches did not stem from campaign contributions. We also noted that faux “reformers” such as McGehee never consider whether ethical scandals in heavily regulated states should lead us to question the value of regulation, even when those scandals come directly from campaign finance systems, such as misuse of government provided campaign funds.Now The Washington Post reports that researchers at Indiana University at Bloomington and the City University of Hong Kong have concluded that Oregon is the “Best State in America,” at least when it comes to fending off public corruption. Surely something is amiss – why, Oregon – like Virginia – is one of just four states that places no limits on the size or source of contributions directly to politicians political campaigns. Worse still, Utah, another of the 4 states with no contribution limits, was also among the 10 least corrupt states.We have noted many times in the past that Governing Magazine has long given deregulated states high marks for their quality of governance. Now we find they do pretty well on the corruption scale, too. We eagerly await an article from the Campaign Legal Center on how, if we enact their regulatory agenda, we can expect corruption to increase.
By Hunter SchwarzRick Perry’s Super PAC is now selling $25 t-shirts with his mugshot on the front.“Wanted for securing the border and defeating Democrats,” the front of the shirt reads.On the back is the mugshot of Rosemary Lehmberg, the Travis County District Attorney that Perry asked to step down after she was arrested and accused of drunk driving in 2013. Perry’s two felony accounts are in connection with his request, and threats to pull funding if she refused.
EditorialPresident Obama headlined a $25,000 a head Seattle fundraiser in July hosted by former Costco CEO Jim Sinegal for the liberal Senate Majority SuperPac. Perhaps you didn’t notice the lack of media outrage. That’s the context in which to understand the breathless reporting about court documents showing that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker encouraged donations to the Wisconsin Club for Growth. The horror, the horror!On Friday the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals responded to a media request and released documents that had been sealed as part of a John Doe probe into Mr. Walker’s fund-raising. The court’s clerk also bungled and released, for a brief period, some documents that weren’t supposed to be unsealed, including donor names and references to bank records. Unless you’re a political Bambi, the only news in the documents is further evidence that the prosecutors are operating on an unconstitutional interpretation of campaign-finance law.Their view is that it is illegal “coordination” for Mr. Walker to raise money for allied groups like the Wisconsin Club for Growth. But if that’s true every politician in the country had better lawyer-up.
Gov. Perry Indictment
By MICHAEL BARONE“About half the practice of a decent lawyer consists in telling would-be clients that they are damned fools and should stop.” So supposedly said Elihu Root, New York lawyer and secretary of war and of state, and U.S. senator from 1909 to 1915.Today it seems that many liberal “would-be clients” are in desperate need of what Root called “a decent lawyer.”Take Texans for Public Justice, the so-called public interest group that has been pushing for the indictment of Gov. Rick Perry by a grand jury at the urging of special prosecutor Michael McCrum.
By Tim MakBuycott, released last year, allows users to subscribe to various campaigns, from mandating GMO labeling to directing users to products that actively support the Koch brothers. 2nd Vote, a conservative app, creates a rating of companies based on where they stand on abortion, gay marriage, the Second Amendment, corporate welfare, and the environment.And then there’s BuyPartisan, which launched in beta in late June and is focused on campaign finance information. Scan a barcode and up pops a list of donations made by the company’s PAC, CEO, and board of directors.The heads of the apps compare the information they provide to the act of voting.“Every dollar I spend is a vote,” said Ivan Pardo, the founder of Buycott. “There were a lot of people who thought that voting at the ballot box wasn’t going to bring about change quickly enough, and I thought that voting with their wallet…might be an alternative form of political expression.”
By Peter Olsen-PhillipsSunlight reported on the super PAC investments of Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer in July, both of whom are spending millions trying to shape the political discourse in the midterm elections. Each has launched his own super PAC — Steyer has NextGen Action while Bloomberg launchedIndependence USA — but the most recent data suggests the former New York City Mayor willing to spread the love, doling out millions to other committees working to elect Democrats.As of publication Bloomberg had accounted for over $11.4 million in super PAC donations, including a $2 million donation to the super PAC arm of Emily’s List in July.That pales in comparison to the more than $30 million that Steyer, a hedge fund manager, has given. Most of this money has gone to his own PACs, which are fighting to make climate change a salient issue in the midterm elections. The California native has also contributed to the Democrat-aligned Senate Majority PAC, to the tune of $5 million. He gave another $7 million to NextGen Climate Action Committee in July.
WASHINGTON — They are the outsized force in modern American politics, the best-known brand of the big money era, yet still something of a mystery to those who cash their checks.They’re demonized by Democrats, who lack a liberal equal to counter their weight, and not entirely understood by Republicans, who benefit from their seemingly limitless donations.These are the Koch brothers, and perhaps the first thing you need to know is that there are four of them.
Candidates, Politicians, Campaigns, and Parties
By Manu RajuThe Kentucky Republican Party filed a complaint Friday with the Federal Election Commission alleging that Democratic Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes violated federal campaign laws over her financing and use of a bus owned by her father’s company.The complaint alleges that the bus rental — from father Jerry Lundergan’s company, Signature Special Event Services — amounts to a prohibited corporate contribution. Lundergan’s catering business appears to have purchased the vehicle as the campaign got underway and later rented it at a discounted rate to his daughter’s campaign — in violation of federal law banning such corporate gifts, the complaint says.“Even if Signature Special Events were to provide any transportation services to others who are not Alison Lundergan Grimes, it is exceedingly unlikely that SSES would provide transportation services to the extent that they provide those services to the Grimes Campaign and certainly not at the same rate,” state GOP chairman Steve Robertson wrote in the complaint. “Without constant access to this luxury touring motor coach, Alison Lundergan Grimes and her campaign would have to pay for the cost of other transportation and accommodations just as any other person would.”
State and Local
By VALERIE BAUERLEIN“Do you blame Jonnie Williams?” defense attorney Henry Asbill asked Mr. McDonnell late Friday.“In part,” Mr. McDonnell said. “I misjudged Jonnie Williams. I thought he was a true friend.”“Do you blame your wife?” Mr. Asbill said.“No,” Mr. McDonnell said. “I hold myself accountable for the reasons that we’re here. I got my life out of balance.”“In your heart, in your mind, are you innocent of the charges in this case?” Mr. Asbill said.“Absolutely,” said Mr. McDonnell, adding that he wouldn’t trade his name “for a round of golf.”
By JEFF E. SCHAPIRODepending on who’s asking the questions or who’s answering them, she embodies the rage of Lady Macbeth, the emotional frailty of Blanche DuBois, the blonde ambition of Eva Peron and the subtly of Snooki.For 20 days, Maureen has quietly endured a carefully scripted trashing. Her freedom could depend on it.
By Phil ReismanCuomo has studied the “Cantor Effect,” a political disease born of hubris, overconfidence and a tendency to take voters for granted. Like Cantor, he faces a spirited challenger from his own party who should not be taken lightly.Zephyr Teachout, a left-leaning Fordham University professor, has scant name recognition and campaign funds amounting to a bag of nickels. She is a long shot, an underdog — whatever you want to call somebody who has little more than a snowball’s chance in hell.
By Daniel Bice, Bill Glauber and Don WalkerGov. Scott Walker said Saturday that he played no role in soliciting cash from a mining company for the Wisconsin Club for Growth during the 2011 and 2012 recall elections, adding that no one should be surprised that the pro-business governor backed legislation helpful to the firm.Asked whether he was aware that Gogebic Taconite secretly donated $700,000 to Wisconsin Club for Growth — a pro-business advocacy group directed by the governor’s campaign adviser — Walker said, “Not to my knowledge.”When asked if the previously undisclosed funds and subsequent legislation were part of some pay-to-play scheme, Walker said, “That’s a ridiculous argument.”