Daily Media Links 3/26: Super-PAC Strategies for 2016 Success, Scott Walker Is His Own Best Political Operative, and That’s a Problem, and more

In the News

ABC: Why the 2016 Presidential Candidates Are Waiting to Jump In 
By Chris Good
Candidates want to post the biggest fundraising totals they can, especially early in a campaign, in order to appear strong, impress donors and prove they’re viable.
For that reason, it makes sense to wait until the beginning of a quarter to start raising money.
“I’d expect a lot of them to announce in early April to give themselves three months to show they have some fundraising chops,” said David Keating, president of the conservative Center for Competitive Politics, which opposes current campaign-money restrictions.
Campaigns will report their fundraising totals quarterly in 2015, and the second quarter begins on April 1. According to Keating, it might be a good idea to wait until after the quarter begins to post the biggest-possible numbers in July.
 
Independent Groups
 
Wall Street Journal: Super-PAC Strategies for 2016 Success 
By Karl Rove
This means the Super PACs for Messrs. Romney and Gingrich spent more money on ads than did their campaigns—and all three Super PACs spent a greater share of what they raised on messaging than did the campaigns themselves. All of which suggests having a Super PAC—and running it right—could make a huge difference in amplifying a candidate’s message in 2016.
The reason Super PACs spend more on media and less on everything else is because they don’t need to do everything else. They don’t have to transport the candidate, stage big rallies, deal with dozens of reporters on a daily basis or build and operate a nationwide grass-roots organization. In addition, fundraising is less expensive because it involves bigger gifts and relies on peer-to-peer solicitation rather than costly Internet, phone and mail solicitations.
But having a Super PAC is not the same as having a good one. It must be structured properly. Getting this right is critical because federal law prohibits “coordination” and private communication between the campaign of an announced candidate and any Super PAC. The two entities must watch each other’s actions and public statements to figure out where each of them is going. 
 
Disclosure

CPI: The political kingmaker nobody knows  
By Ben Wieder
Bhargava’s investment firm ETC Capital gave $2.5 million to the Republican Governors Association last year, joining conservative billionaires Sheldon Adelson and David Koch on the list of top five donors to the group that works to elect Republican governors.  
Yet RGA Chairman and Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said, “I don’t know him.”
The 62-year-old Bhargava and several of his Michigan-based companies have given at least $5.3 million to candidates for state office and political groups around the country since 2009, according to state and federal campaign filings. But Bhargava remains a mystery man, even to many of the people who are benefiting from his largesse, including Bobby Schostak, who received a $25,000 donation from ETC Capital in 2010 during his first campaign for Michigan Republican Party chairman.
 
Candidates, Politicians, Campaigns, and Parties

National Review: Scott Walker Is His Own Best Political Operative, and That’s a Problem  
By Eliana Johnson
Charles Dickens might understand the Scott Walker campaign. For the Wisconsin governor, it’s been the best of times and the worst of times. As Walker has rocketed into the top tier of Republican presidential contenders over the past few months, he’s also made a series of missteps, alarming insiders even as he’s delighted primary voters and maintained enviable strength in state and national polls.
Walker watchers have long questioned his ability to take his Wisconsin organization national. And his proto-presidential operation is in many ways a Wisconsin one: steering the ship are Keith Gilkes, who managed Walker’s 2010 campaign and his recall election, and served as the governor’s chief of staff during his first term in office; R. J. Johnson, Walker’s longtime campaign strategist; and Stephan Thompson, who served as deputy campaign manager for Walker’s 2010 bid and ran his 2014 campaign for reelection.  
 
Washington Post: Rep. Beyer set to replace Rep. Van Hollen as DCCC finance chair  
By Sean Sullivan
Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) is set to become the next national finance chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, he told The Washington Post Wednesday. He will succeed Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), who is running for the U.S. Senate.
Beyer, who in 2014 won a Northern Virginia-based seat long held by Democrat James P. Moran, is a former ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein who has strong ties to the Democratic donor class. He was an early backer of President Obama, who tapped him to become ambassador after he was elected president.
 
NY Times: In Menendez Inquiry, Government Renews Push for Friend’s Cooperation 
By Matt Apuzzo
As a matter of policy, the Justice Department’s public-corruption team typically allows lawyers to meet with prosecutors to argue that their clients should not be charged. One of Mr. Menendez’s lawyers, Abbe D. Lowell, did so in a meeting last month, after which Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. gave prosecutors the go-ahead to proceed with a criminal case against the senator.
But Mr. Lowell persuaded the Justice Department to have another meeting, which occurred within the past week, according to several law enforcement officials. Prosecutors agreed to consider Mr. Lowell’s arguments, the officials said, but added that the Justice Department remains confident that it has a strong case against Mr. Menendez. Mr. Lowell declined to comment.
 
State and Local

Arkansas –– Arkansas Online: ‘Dark money’ bill fails in voice vote 
By Lisa Hammersly and Claudia Lauer 
A proposed bill to reveal the names of individual donors to so-called “dark-money” political campaign ads — like those that drew criticism in the final weeks of an Arkansas Supreme Court race last year — failed in a voice vote Monday in a state House committee.
The legislation, House Bill 1425, also aimed to virtually stop candidates and their staffs from coordinating with political committees and other groups to create high-cost television and radio ads that currently skirt state laws regulating campaign contribution limits.
 
California –– San Francisco Examiner: Reforming Campaign Finance Reform  
By London Breed and John St. Croix
For example, under the current Campaign Finance Reform Ordinance (CFRO), one must consult five different sections of the law to find all of the different disclaimer requirements for campaign advertisements. An independent group, such as a neighborhood political club, can be required to file two different forms at two different times just to report a single campaign mailer. This complexity makes it harder for the average voter to assess the information being disclosed, and it can send a troubling message to smaller organizations and grass-roots candidates: Don’t bother getting involved. You should not need a legal team to file campaign reports, nor a law degree to understand them. The CFRO should promote inclusion, not discourage neighborhood groups from participating, or make good people reluctant to run for office. That is why we introduced legislation on Tuesday to improve campaign finance laws.
Our legislation will bring the CFRO up to date with the latest changes in state law, help simplify and improve reporting and disclaimer requirements, and create compliance with recent court rulings. 
 
Kentucky –– Richmond Register: Campaign finance bill fails in House  
By Ronnie Ellis
FRANKFORT ― It started out as “a simple little bill” to create a consistent threshold for having to report campaign finances, according to its original sponsor. 
But then it got “hijacked” by legislative leaders who had a more ambitious plan to significantly increase campaign contribution limits.
 
Vermont –– AP: Publicly funded Vermont candidate sued over email worth $255  
By Lisa Rathke
Sorrell says the email amounts to a campaign contribution Corren failed to report. His office says it’s seeking the return of $52,000 in public funds Corren’s campaign had when the email was sent and $20,000 in fines.
Corren lost the election. He filed a federal court lawsuit against Sorrell on Friday, challenging provisions of the campaign finance law. His lawyer says he wants the court to declare he didn’t violate the law because the email fits within several exemptions.

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