Daily Media Links 11/15: Political Behavior: The Negative Effect of Transparency on Making Small Campaign Contributions, “Seeing the Light,” by Luke Wachob, NY Times: Groups Mobilize to Aid Democrats in ’14 Data Arms Race, and more…

November 15, 2013   •  By Matthew McIntyre   •  
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In the News

Political Behavior: The Negative Effect of Transparency on Making Small Campaign Contributions

By Raymond J. La Raja

This study assesses whether public disclosure of campaign contributions affects citizens’ willingness to give money to candidates. In the American states, campaign finance laws require disclosure of private information for contributors at relatively low thresholds ranging from $1 to $300. Drawing on social influence theory, the analysis suggests that citizens are sensitive to divulging private information, especially those who are surrounded by people with different political views. Using experimental data from the 2011 Cooperative Congressional Election Studies, it demonstrates how individuals refrain from making contributions or reduce their donations to avoid disclosing their identities. The conclusion discusses the implications of transparency laws for political participation, especially for small donors.

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Seeing the Light

By Luke Wachob

However, he provides no evidence to support this logically flawed hypothesis. Primo’s study, and other research, finds that voters are generally not influenced or informed by disclosure information. It stands to reason that reporting on disclosure would be less widely read and less influential than reporting on other aspects of a campaign.

Further, while it may be true that disclosure is primarily useful for journalists and activists, that’s not how it’s advertised to the public. Disclosure provisions are promoted as a necessary part of “the public’s right to know,” not “the activist’s right to harass.” As Primo’s Times article explains in discussing the backlash over Target’s political spending in 2010, empowering political activists with the means to harass and harm political donors is a concern about disclosure, not a benefit. The Sunlight Foundation does disclosure no favors by characterizing it as a tool of the political and media elite, but at least it’s a refreshingly honest admission.

Mr. Drutman also complains that because participants were not required to read the disclosure data they were provided with, many likely did not in order to finish the survey faster “if these survey respondents were typical.” This seems like a complaint against surveys in general, not Primo’s in particular. All surveys are useless if we assume their participants behaved unnaturally.

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NY Times: Groups Mobilize to Aid Democrats in ’14 Data Arms Race 


George Soros, the retired hedge fund billionaire and longtime patron of liberal causes, will invest $2.5 million in the effort, officials involved with the plan said. His participation is a signal that some of the wealthy donors who arrived late to the Democrats’ “super PAC” efforts in 2012 are committing early for the next round.  

The initiative opens a new front in the “big data” arms race between the left and the right, as the Republican Party and conservative outside groups pour money into political technology after a presidential campaign in which they were badly outmatched.  

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Independent Groups

CPI: ‘Citizens United’ ruling helped unions win state elections

By Election Day, organizations backed by unions and the largely union-funded Democratic Governors Association (DGA) would spend roughly $7 million on the New Hampshire election. National unions spent another $2 million directly. Most of the cash went toward ads bashing Republican Lamontagne, who supported “right to work” legislation aimed at curbing union power, the same legislation that outgoing Democratic Gov. John Lynch had vetoed.  

“Hassan was propped up and carried to victory by the outside groups,” says Fergus Cullen, a former head of the state Republican Party who helped raise funds for Lamontagne.  

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Huffington Post: Have Liberals Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Citizens United? 

By Paul Blumenthal

WASHINGTON — Despite liberal opposition to the election spending unleashed by the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, progressive independent groups have apparently outspent conservatives so far in 2013. Does that mean liberals have learned to stop worrying and love Citizens United — or, at least, unlimited independent money?  

Maybe. But the news of a Democratic spending surge overlooks some key facts — what drove the reported spending this year, what obscured other spending this year and what is likely to happen next year. In other words, any suggestion that conservatives have fallen behind in the money race is greatly exaggerated.  

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News10: Ballot measure money not political under IRS loophole 

By John Myers

But experts say the IRS left a big loophole that could play out big time in California: ballot measure spending isn’t considered political.  

“You could have a nonprofit doing virtually no traditional charitable work at all and really just being a funnel for campaign funds,” says Gary Winuk, the chief enforcement officer of the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission.  

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NY Times: Bring Me a Case


While this particular appeal presented too narrow a slice of the “more fundamental concerns” about this increasingly popular kind of settlement, the chief justice said, “in a suitable case, the court may need to clarify the limits on the use of such remedies.” Citing a law review article that criticized such settlements as among the “pathologies of the modern class action,” he posed six questions, ending with “and so on,” which implied that there was quite a bit more that he wanted to know.  

In other words: Bring me a case.  

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Free Beacon: Transparency for Thee, None for Me

By Lachlan Markay

A state affiliate of a network of liberal groups that does not disclose its donors attacked a network of state-based conservative groups on Wednesday for an alleged lack of transparency.  

The attacks followed the release of a series of reports on the State Policy Network (SPN), a group of state-based free market think tanks. Liberal groups ProgressNow and the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) produced the reports.  

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CPI: Koch-backed nonprofit spent record cash in 2012

By Michael Beckel

That’s more than the total amount the group had previously spent from its formation in 2004 through 2011. During its previous eight years of existence, Americans for Prosperity spent a combined $72 million, a review of Internal Revenue Service records indicates.  

The group’s unprecedented spending in 2012 is a fivefold increase over 2010, a year when a surge of conservative voters helped Republicans regain control of the U.S. House of Representatives. And it represents a more than 1,600 percent increase above the $7 million it spent in 2008, when voters first elected Obama to the White House.  

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Wall Street Journal: Karl Rove-Backed Groups Raised $325 Million in 2012 Cycle

By Thomas Catan and Brody Mullins

That total means American Crossroads and its nonprofit sibling, Crossroads GPS, together outraised the Democratic National Committee, which took in $316 million during the 2012 cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group that tracks campaign spending.  

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Candidates, Parties, and Politicians

Roll Call: 4 Centrists Get Money Seats in Appropriations Gavel Shuffle

By David Hawkings

The altered assignments mean a changed membership for one-third of the group known all over Capitol Hill as the college of cardinals. The allusion to the power players of the Catholic Church is not only because of the significant unilateral power these chairmen have to reward or restrict federal agencies through subtle tugs on the federal purse strings. It also refers to their somewhat secretive code of conduct for rewarding colleagues in both parties who embrace the panel’s spending culture — and punishing those who don’t.  

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Politico: Get Mitch

By Jason Zengerle

Mitch McConnell has never been a beloved politician. Over the course of his career, he has been likened to everything from a warmed-over vanilla milkshake to “a man with the natural charisma of an oyster.” But for the 71-year-old Kentucky senator, the minority leader of the United States Senate, that has long been an asset, not a failing. His glower has usually been enough to dissuade those who consider crossing him. “He doesn’t say anything. He just sits there and stares at you,” says one person who has felt McConnell’s ire. “It’s bone-chilling.” While most politicians desperately want to be liked, McConnell has relished—and cultivated—his reputation as a villain. After all, he achieved his iron-fisted grip on the politics of his home state and his fractious party on Capitol Hill through discipline, cunning and, oftentimes, fear. Which is why, at the moments that have found him happiest—winning elections, blocking bills, denying the sheen of bipartisanship to President Barack Obama—he has radiated not joy but menace. Stepping to the microphones at a Capitol press conference some years ago, he announced with the slightest trace of a smile, “Darth Vader has arrived.”   

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State and Local

Illinois –– Illinois Observer: Extra: Rauner Kicks Extra $500,000 into Campaign, Breaking Caps

Wealthy businessman and GOP insider Bruce Rauner has notified the Illinois State Board of Elections of his intention to write his campaign a $500,000 check, raising his total self-contributions to $749,000 and blowing through the $250,000 state caps. 

By breaching the $250,000 limit, Rauner’s three GOP opponents and Governor Pat Quinn can now also accept campaign checks of any size. 

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Michigan –– Roll Call: Michigan Official Proposes Broader Disclosure Rule for Political Ads 

By Kent Cooper

The proposal targets political ads, whether positive or negative, that try to persuade voters about the worthiness or unworthiness of a candidate or proposal without using the words “vote for” or “elect.” The requirements would apply for ads appearing in the 30 days leading up to a primary election  and in the 60 days leading up to a general election. The proposal would affect all electioneering advertising, including print, online, TV and radio spots.  

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New York –– Huffington Post: Is Gov. Cuomo’s Anti-Corruption Commission Going off the Rails?

By Bennet L. Gershman

The Moreland Commission’s mandate ostensibly is to investigate weaknesses in state election and campaign finance laws relating to lobbying, public corruption, conflicts of interest, and government ethics. But from its inception last summer, the commission had an air of unreality. Stacked by prominent prosecutors along with some Cuomo and Attorney General Schneiderman insiders – all of whom were denominated “Deputy Attorneys General” – this amalgam of muscular power seemed to lack direction: who was to be investigated? Or was the real question what was to be investigated? Allegedly a criminal investigation commission, what crimes was the commission investigating? Was the focus of the probe on specific legislators, or specific individuals or groups that had bestowed lavish campaign contributions on lawmakers? Was the focus on the entire state legislature, and the reputed “show-me-the-money” culture in Albany?  

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Matthew McIntyre

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