By Ed O’Keefe
The Senate is set for a historic clash Thursday over the confirmation of Judge Neil Gorsuch to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, a showdown poised to spark a fundamental change in the chamber’s rules.
Senate Democrats are vowing to block consideration of Gorsuch on the Senate floor in a procedural vote to advance the 49-year-old judge’s nomination. Once that happens, Republicans are expected to change Senate rules by allowing Gorsuch and all future Supreme Court nominees to be confirmed by a simple majority rather than the standing 60-vote threshold.
A final confirmation vote on Gorsuch is not scheduled until Friday, when 52 Republicans and at least three Democrats – from states won by Trump in last year’s election – are expected to vote to have him replace the late Antonin Scalia on the high court.
But the next 24 hours could be among the most bitter in recent Senate history.
Washington Examiner: Yes, corporations are people. Get over it.
By David Freddoso
One issue that keeps coming up in the debate over Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court is that of corporate personhood. Democratic senators keep bringing up what they claim are landmark rulings in the Citizens United and Hobby Lobby Supreme Court cases that corporations are people.
“Any logical person believes that corporations are not people,” was how Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, put it on the Senate floor today, amidst a lengthy speech complaining about the court’s direction in recent years…
The denial of corporate personhood would lead to all kinds of absurd consequences and upend what we currently view as common sense about legal rights. The easiest way to prove this is to point to journalism. We believe the constitutional prohibition on regulating the press includes a prohibition on infringing the First Amendment rights of the New York Times Company, a for-profit corporation that is traded on the stock exchange. If anyone wants to take the other side of that argument, have fun.
By Paul Blumenthal
ActBlue, the online fundraising platform for Democratic Party candidates and causes, announced on Wednesday that it has processed more than 4 million contributions totaling $111 million in the first three months of 2017.
Both figures are more than four times higher than during the first three months of 2015, the last non-election year. They more closely resemble the level of fundraising seen only in presidential election years…
In addition to the spike in the number of contributions and total money raised, the number of active groups raising money for candidates, parties and causes on ActBlue has doubled. Much of the increase in the number of groups raising money comes from the new organizations that have popped up since Trump’s election, according to ActBlue’s blog.
Traditional Democratic Party committees appear to dominate the site’s top contribution pages, however. On ActBlue’s list of top 10 contribution forms, four are connected to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and two are linked to the Democratic Governors Association.
Washington Examiner: House Republicans call on Trump to fire IRS Commissioner Koskinen
By Joseph Lawler
Republicans on the House panel with oversight of the IRS called on President Trump Wednesday to fire Commissioner John Koskinen, citing a loss of trust.
Fifteen members of the House Ways and Means Committee wrote to Trump asking him to sack Koskinen, including the panel’s chairman, Republican Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas…
Conservative members of the House Republican caucus have long sought to impeach Koskinen for mismanagement, in their judgment, of the probe of IRS’ targeting of conservative groups…
Wednesday’s letter outlined the complaints about Koskinen. While Koskinen was not in office during the targeting scandal, Republicans fault him for frustrating their efforts to get the emails of former official Lois Lerner. “Not only was key evidence relevant to this committee’s investigation destroyed under his watch, but he also misled Congress in the process, intentionally degraded customer service at the agency, and has since lost the trust of the American people,” the letter read.
American Prospect: For Feingold, “LegitAction” Is One Way to Stave Off Threats to Democracy
By Matt Leistra
Relying on social media as well as traditional platforms like newspapers, the Wisconsin Democrat founded LegitAction in March to educate the public about threats to “four pillars” of American democracy: the Supreme Court, presidential elections, voting rights, and campaign-finance reform…
Campaign-finance reform, of course, was Feingold’s signature issue in the Senate. The 2002 law that bears his name, the McCain-Feingold Act (officially, the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act) banned soft-money donations to national candidates and parties. However, it fueled the rise of nonprofit “527” organizations-groups that are free to take large gifts from wealthy individual donors, labor unions, and corporations, and are not subject to spending limits. (These organizations cannot make donations to federal candidates, however.) Feingold argues that the Citizens United decision, which upended the 2002 reforms, has “gutted our campaign-finance system,” and has been “brutally exploited to allow unlimited money and non-disclosure.”
By Andrew Mayersohn
As it turns out, the small donor statistics may overstate their importance. That’s because many relatively “small donors” are actually one little slice of a much bigger donor.
We don’t have data on the true small donors – ones who give $200 or less to a candidate in a cycle – since these contributions do not need to be disclosed. But we can examine most of the numerous three-digit contributions in our data. $201 is not exactly a widow’s mite, but is within reach of most households’ philanthropic budgets…
But most contributions over $200 don’t come from households that give exactly that amount – they might give $250, say, to a single candidate or committee, but they don’t usually stop there. In fact, the average household that made a $250 contribution to one committee also gave $2,102 to other committees. Now we’re getting well out of the range of the median American’s pocketbook. Even some true megadonors, including five of the 2016 cycle’s top 100 contributors, found at least one campaign or committee that merited only a $250 contribution.
Another way to put it: Small donations don’t necessarily come from small donors.
Candidates and Campaigns
Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Nearly 200k donors help Jon Ossoff net record fundraising haul in Georgia special election
By Greg Bluestein and Aaron Gould Shenin
Democrat Jon Ossoff has raised more than $8.3 million for his campaign to represent suburban Atlanta in Congress, the most significant sign yet that the political newcomer has become a national symbol of the resistance to President Donald Trump.
Ossoff’s financial disclosure, to be released Thursday, shows he has $2.1 million on hand for the final stretch of the campaign. His contributions came from across the nation, including more than $1 million raised by the liberal advocacy site the Daily Kos. Sure to raise eyebrows in Georgia, however, is the campaign’s revelation that 95 percent of all of Ossoff’s donors are from out of state.
The fundraising haul is an astounding figure for a 30-year-old former congressional aide virtually unheard of in Georgia political circles before he jumped in the race to represent the state’s 6th District.
New Mexico Political Report: Two big-name Dems say no to public financing in ABQ mayoral race
By Andy Lyman
While many of the candidates speak highly of public financing, only one has qualified for it.
New Mexico Democrats, for example, have pushed for more publicly financed races and campaigns since at least 2008, when the party added language to their state platform that says”all political campaigns should be publicly financed.”
The Albuquerque mayoral race is nonpartisan, so none of the candidates will be identified with any specific political party on the ballot.
Mayoral candidates Deanna Archuleta and Brian Colón are both prominent Democrats running for mayor who both opted to use private funds for their campaigns…
New Mexico State Auditor Tim Keller, a registered Democrat, was the only mayoral candidate to qualify for public financing…
Keller also took a shot at politicians who praise public financing but don’t use it.
“Everyone talks about public financing, but yet when they have a choice, [they say] ‘Oh, maybe it’s not for me,'” he said.
Watertown Public Opinion: South Dakota lawmakers expect campaign finance back in 2018
By Elisa Sand
Many had mixed feelings about the repeal and replacement of Initiated Measure 22. The so-called anti-corruption measure was approved by voters in November, but was almost immediately labeled unconstitutional by Republican lawmakers.
Although many provisions of IM22 were reintroduced and passed, some lawmakers think there’s still work to do. Bills about campaign finance reform and out-of-state funding are likely to be introduced again next year…
District 1 Rep. Susan Wismer, D-Britton, said the open discussion about election reform proposals was refreshing, but even though a law was passed establishing an ethics board, campaign finance wasn’t addressed.
District 2’s Brock Greenfield agreed.
“Where we didn’t accomplish what I hoped was on campaign finance limits going forward,” said Sen. Greenfield, R-Clark. “We certainly have our charge going forward to work on during the summer and make recommendations.”
Public News Service: “Anti-Corruption Tour” Tackles Money in Missouri Politics
By Veronica Carter
Groups concerned about the role of money in politics have launched what they’re calling an “Anti-Corruption Tour” of Missouri.
Members of Take Back Our Republic, Represent.Us, Clean Missouri, Patriotic Millionaires and MAYDAY America are traveling the state through Saturday to meet with supporters and host forums to start conversations about campaign finance reform.
John Pudner, executive director of Take Back Our Republic, says big money has a big hold on the Show Me State…
Pudner says the Anti-Corruption Tour will focus on proposals from Gov. Eric Greitens that would ban gifts from lobbyists and apply term limits to every statewide elected official.
There are also a number of reform bills pending in the state legislature, including one that would give Missourians a $100 tax credit for political contributions…
“No one’s going to win as long as it’s just big donors who are winning – that can be rich people, that can be corporations, that can be special interest groups, fill in your own bad guy,” he states.
Rutland Herald: Campaign finance input sought
Vermont officials will hold public meetings to take input on changing the state’s campaign finance laws.
Secretary of State Jim Condos and Attorney General T.J. Donovan announced Tuesday that the recently formed Joint Committee on Campaign Finance Education, Compliance and Reform will hold several meetings through June.
Vermont’s campaign finance laws were recently tested in federal court. A former candidate for lieutenant governor who took public financing was sued in state court for allegedly taking a prohibited in-kind contribution.
He later countersued the state in federal court, claiming that the laws infringed upon his First Amendment rights. The state recently prevailed in that case.
Charleston Gazette-Mail: Senate bill makes secret election money problem even worse
By Julie Archer and Natalie Thompson
This secret money bill, SB539, weakens our disclosure laws while allowing more money into an already out of balance system that favors the wealthy and special interests. For example, the bill would require less disclosure for spending on independent expenditures by raising the spending thresholds that require groups to report and disclose their contributors, making it easier for front groups running dirty attack ads can keep their big-money donors secret. Even worse, the bill also creates new loopholes and worsens existing ones that make it possible for groups that spend money on political ads to hide the identity of their donors.
At the same time, the bill increases the amount of money that can be contributed to candidates by nearly three times, the amount of money that can be contributed to PACs by five times, and the amount the can be contributed to party committees by 10 times. That means state and local elections that suddenly look more like the worst big-money congressional elections. The bill also allows transfers of money between certain entities that aren’t allowed under current law, making the job of average West Virginians trying to figure out who their candidates are accountable to even harder.