Daily Media Links 1/28: Cruz and Super-PACs Echo Each Other’s Anti-Trump Ads, Bernie Sanders’s fiction-filled campaign, and more…

Independent Groups

Bloomberg: Dark Money Dominates Political Ad Spending

William Allison

Still, the bulk of the political spending by dark money groups targeted issues without mentioning candidates—about $161 million of the $213 million spent. While most of the groups focused on legislative issues like the agreement with Iran over its nuclear program, lifting the ban on exports of U.S. crude oil, renewable fuel standards and other matters before Congress, there were some ads that were more subtle.

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Bloomberg: Cruz and Super-PACs Echo Each Other’s Anti-Trump Ads

William Allison

But the three ads hammering Trump begin with footage produced by a third party: Meet the Press. And that’s a distinction that makes a huge difference.

“The material in these ads came from a private media company,” said Paul S. Ryan, deputy executive director of the Campaign Legal Center, which filed the complaint against Restore Our Future over its use of the old Romney ad.

Because the campaign and the super-PACs could independently acquire the same footage from a third party, there is no proof of coordination. “Clearly, what we’re seeing here is a campaign sticking out some messaging and that messaging being copied,” Ryan said.

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Time: Cruz Super PAC Pledges $1.5 Million To Charity If Trump Debates Their Candidate

Zeke J. Miller

Two of the super PACs supporting Ted Cruz’s presidential candidacy are pledging $1.5 million to charity, contingent on Trump debating Cruz in a one-on-one matchup before Monday’s Iowa caucuses.

Keep The Promise I and II, two organizations backing Cruz with the capacity to accept unlimited contributions, made the offer Wednesday evening, minutes after Cruz’s campaign issued a formal challenge to Trump to debate in person on Saturday night in Sioux City, Iowa. Cruz’s campaign said they had already locked in the venue and were open to a debate without a moderator.

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Chicago Sun-Times: Hillary Clinton attacks Todd Ricketts’ super PAC over Sanders ad

Lynn Sweet

The conservative super PAC run by Todd Ricketts, the Chicago Cubs board member, is poised to spend nearly $800,000 on ads against Bernie Sanders, and Hillary Clinton said Wednesday the spots are really intended “to stop me before I get too far.”

The Sanders ad launched Tuesday in Iowa by the ESAFund, formerly known as the Ending Spending Action Fund, with a few edits could run as a spot for Sanders — not against him…

Nick Merrill, a Clinton press spokesman, told me the ESAFund move was “sleight of hand” designed to “fire up his base” and bolster Sanders’ turnout.

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Washington Post: Inside the pro-Sanders groups taking on Clinton’s powerhouse allies

Matea Gold

People for Bernie is organizing volunteers through social media. National Nurses United is crisscrossing Iowa in its big red bus, working to turn out supporters at Monday’s presidential caucuses. Progressive Democrats of America is already focused on states later in the primary calendar, holding house parties in Alabama, Florida and Virginia.

As he barrels toward the Iowa caucuses, Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) is being boosted by a wide constellation of independent groups aiming to compete with the organizational muscle arrayed behind former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, his Democratic competitor.

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Executive Action

USA Today: Shine light on dark campaign money

Editorial Board

If there’s anything worse than millionaires, corporations and unions trying to buy elections, it’s millionaires, corporations and unions trying to buy elections in secret…

According to news accounts, President Obama — who called in his State of the Union Address for making sure that “hidden interests can’t bankroll our elections” — is considering an executive order that would require corporations with federal contracts to publicly reveal their donations to certain non-profit groups that spend money in campaigns.

Because many groups using secret donations lean Republican and conservative, an order requiring business disclosure is an easy call for a Democratic president. And it would at least strike a small blow for transparency.

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Koch Brothers

New York Times: What Happened to Jane Mayer When She Wrote About the Koch Brothers

Jim Dwyer

Out of the blue in the fall of 2010, a blogger asked Jane Mayer, a writer with The New Yorker, how she felt about the private investigator who was digging into her background. Ms. Mayer thought the idea was a joke, she said this week. At a Christmas party a few months later, she ran into a former reporter who had been asked about helping with an investigation into another reporter on behalf of two conservative billionaires.

“The reporter had written a story they disliked,” Ms. Mayer recounts in “Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right,” out this month from Doubleday. Her acquaintance told her, “‘It occurred to me afterward that the reporter they wanted to investigate might be you.’”

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Weekly Standard: Koch Biographer Jane Mayer’s Strange Denials of Her Family Nazi Connections

Mark Hemingway

She recently released a book about them, which has been extensively covered by the New York Times. The book received a glowing review from the paper, as well as an article that played up one of the more scandalous accusations in Mayer’s book: “Father of Koch Brothers Helped Build Nazi Oil Refinery, Book Says.”…

Well, there’s one other aspect of this spurious accusation against the Kochs that bears mentioning. Mayer’s great-great grandfather founded the now defunct Lehman Brothers investment bank. Lehman Brothers, as it happens, actually did business with the Nazis in a way that was seriously questionable. Via Powerline, this Haaretz article spells it out:

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Buckley v. Valeo Anniversary

The Hill: Happy birthday to the case that was even worse than Citizens United

Former Sens. J. Bennett Johnston and William Brock

Both of us were elected to the Senate in the 1970s, and ran our campaigns under the Federal Election Campaign Act. FECA put caps on contributions and banned corporations from giving at all. Campaign spending was limited and independent expenditures were prohibited. The purpose of all this was to protect speech: the speech of those who couldn’t afford to contribute massive amounts but whose voice ought to be heard just as much by a candidate.

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Candidates and Campaigns

Washington Post: Bernie Sanders’s fiction-filled campaign

Editorial Board

Mr. Sanders tops off his narrative with a deus ex machina: He assures Democrats concerned about the political obstacles in the way of his agenda that he will lead a “political revolution” that will help him clear the capital of corruption and influence-peddling. This self-regarding analysis implies a national consensus favoring his agenda when there is none and ignores the many legitimate checks and balances in the political system that he cannot wish away.

Mr. Sanders is a lot like many other politicians. Strong ideological preferences guide his thinking, except when politics does, as it has on gun control. When reality is ideologically or politically inconvenient, he and his campaign talk around it. Mr. Sanders’s success so far does not show that the country is ready for a political revolution. It merely proves that many progressives like being told everything they want to hear.

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USA Today: Many 2016 candidates don’t disclose bundlers

Fredreka Schouten

Federal law doesn’t require candidates to release bundlers’ names and how much they collect, unless they are federal lobbyists and raise at least $17,600. But several candidates have opted to do so over the years, including President Obama, former President George W. Bush and the 2008 Republican nominee John McCain.

Campaign-finance watchdogs say seeing a full list of fundraisers helps voters understand the people and industries upon whom candidates are relying for campaign dollars. Candidates for federal office cannot collect more than $2,700 from an individual donor for the primary election. As a result, they lean heavily on volunteer fundraisers, known as “bundlers,” to gather together money from friends, relatives and associates to remain competitive.

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The States

Wall Street Journal: Proposed Disclosure Rule in Albany Riles Political Circles

Erica Orden

“To the esteemed members of the New York Press Corps,” the email read, if the state ethics commission “has its way, this note will have to be reported to the government.”

The letter, sent earlier this month from a group of Republican consultants, was intended to set off alarms.

And it did, intensifying an already vivid debate in New York political circles about lobbying, communications and free speech with regard to consulting rules proposed by the state’s Joint Commission on Public Ethics. The panel is set to address the proposed regulations on Tuesday…

It is the third, which defines consultants’ work on “grass-roots campaigns” as lobbying—even when the work involves contacting only a member of the media, rather than a public official—that has sparked First Amendment-fueled outrage.

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New York Daily News: Keep those calls coming: Labeling dealings with editorial boards ‘lobbying’ is nuts

Editorial Board

Now, ill-considered letter-of-the-law logic has led the panel into extending the definition of lobbying to include communication between paid representatives of interest groups and the media.

The draft of its rule would have covered “a public relations consultant who contacts a reporter or editorial board in an attempt to get the media outlet to advance the client’s message.”

This happens, oh, thousands of times a week at media organizations across the state as PR representatives offer reporters and editors information helpful to their clients. Those reporters and editors determine if the information is in any way useful.

So clear was the looniness of categorizing those interchanges as government lobbying that the commission trimmed its rule to include only discussions aimed at producing editorials.

Clearly, panel members have no clue.

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Billings Gazette: Influence of money in elections likely to be a persistent topic during race for governor

Jayme Fraser

When describing the kind of Montana governor he would be, Greg Gianforte often turns to anecdotes about how, without any outside capital, he and his wife grew a software startup out of his Bozeman basement into a company that sold for $1.8 billion in 2012.

To supporters, it shows that the Republican, although a political newcomer, has the skills to boost Montana’s economy and would act to get government out of the way of business…

Democrats, however, target Gianforte’s wealth as a reason for concern.

“Montana has not seen a candidate like Greg Gianforte since the days of copper kings,” said Eric Hyers, campaign manager for Gov. Steve Bullock, the incumbent Democrat. “His taxes and donations raise all sorts of questions about his real agenda, and Montanans deserve answers.”

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