Daily Media Links 12/1: Warren Buffett-Funded Group Signs on as Democracy Alliance ‘Partner’, New Super PAC Wants Perry Back in the Presidential Race, and more…

December 1, 2015   •  By Brian Walsh   •  
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Independent Groups

Washington Free Beacon: Warren Buffett-Funded Group Signs on as Democracy Alliance ‘Partner’

Lachlan Markay

The NoVo Foundation is one of 10 individual and institutional Democracy Alliance donors that have signed on this year, according to those documents. Alliance “partners” are required to contribute at least $200,000 per year to the groups in its portfolio of supported organizations.

With net assets of more than $527 million, according to its latest annual tax filing, the New York-based foundation has the resources to provide a significant cash infusion for the Alliance’s portfolio, which currently consists of 33 core organizations, according to additional documents obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

Nearly $400 million of those assets are stock in Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway investment firm. Buffett himself donated nearly $150 million in securities to the group last year, its only contribution in 2014, the tax filing shows. His son and daughter-in-law run the foundation.

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Texas Tribune: New Super PAC Wants Perry Back in the Presidential Race

Patrick Svitek

The third time’s the charm.

That’s the view of a new super PAC that wants former Gov. Rick Perry to re-enter the 2016 presidential race — the same one he dropped out of more than two months ago. The group, Bring Leadership Back PAC, launched Tuesday with the goal of showing Perry there is still ample support for him among Republican primary voters, even if his second bid for the White House did not go according to plan.

“We’ve got the sense that he wants to get in,” said Nathan Walder, a Perry supporter who is helping to lead the super PAC with another Perry backer, Ed Willing, and the chairman of Perry’s campaign in Georgia, Ginger Howard.

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Baltimore Sun: Emily’s List to spend $1 million on Edwards in Md. Senate contest

John Fritze

A powerful national group with deep ties to Maryland politics said Monday it will spend $1 million on advertising for Rep. Donna Edwards’ campaign for Senate — hoping to rebalance a race that increasingly appears to favor her opponent, Rep. Chris Van Hollen.

Emily’s List, the Washington-based group that helps elect Democratic women who support abortion rights, will begin a Baltimore-focused ad campaign Tuesday, a week after a poll for The Baltimore Sun and the University of Baltimore showed Rep. Chris Van Hollen with a double-digit lead in the primary race.

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More Soft Money Hard Law: “Not Authorized”

Bob Bauer

In a technical sense, this is true: the committee is “unauthorized” because it is an independent committee whose expenditures are made without the candidate’s direction or involvement.  But the absence of control over or involvement in particular independent committee expenditures does not mean the absence of any contact with the committee.  The candidates can applaud an independent committee’s formation and operation for their benefit, and they may appear at the committee’s events as guests or featured speakers and assist with its fundraising.

Voters may well be perplexed.

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The Media

Washington Monthly: Confessions of a Paywall Journalist

John Heltman

The rise of the paywall press and the decline of mainstream media coverage of government aren’t causally connected. But the two trends coincide with a palpable populist outrage, in which average Americans are suspicious of how their tax dollars are being spent and observe Washington insiders operate at ever-greater levels of power and secrecy. The irony is that policy journalism in Washington is thriving. It’s just not being written for you, and you’re probably never going to read it.

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FEC

Capitol Public Radio: “Dark Money” Still Found In California Elections

Ben Bradford

Federal rules and many states allow often-innocuously-named non-profits to contribute to campaign organizations, without disclosing their donors.

California traced $15 million in the 2012 elections to a web of non-profits set up in states with loose disclosure rules. The California Fair Political Practices Commission demanded return of the money and levied a million dollar fine for essentially laundering the money. Then-FPPC chair Ann Ravel now heads the Federal Elections Commission.

“That case influenced my views about the FEC and what the FEC should be doing,” says Ravel.

Ravel says while some states have tightened their rules, dark money flows across their borders.

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The Courts

Huffington Post: Next Chance To Gut Campaign Finance Law Heads For Supreme Court

Paul Blumenthal

Republican Party of Louisiana v. FEC was approved for a fast-track process on Nov. 25. Legal challenges under BCRA can skip the usual single-judge trial and go straight to a special three-judge court with direct appeal to the Supreme Court. As University of California-Irvine election law professor Rick Hasen explained in The National Law Journal, the fast-tracking procedure makes it almost certain that the Supreme Court will take up the case…

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia determined that the Louisiana case could go to the three-judge panel because it was carefully drawn to challenge only the soft money ban in BCRA and not the base contribution limits created in the Federal Election Campaign Act. The district court did, however, acknowledge that overturning the soft money ban would effectively eviscerate those base limits.

“Make no mistake, a ruling for Plaintiffs on the merits would render largely meaningless FECA’s limits on contributions to state- and local-party committees,” Judge Christopher Cooper wrote.

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Associated Press: High court rejects challenge to Hawaii campaign finance laws

The justices on Monday rejected an appeal from a Hawaii electrical construction company that spent about $9,000 on political newspaper advertisements during the 2010 election cycle. The ads from A-1 A-Lectrician, Inc. were critical of Blake Oshiro, a Democratic incumbent candidate for Hawaii’s state legislature.

Hawaii law requires any entity that spends more than $1,000 to influence elections to register as a PAC, triggering reporting and disclosure requirements. The company argues that the law is too burdensome and should apply only to entities whose primary purpose is political activity.

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Government Reporting

Atlanta Journal Constitutional: May: Don’t assume the worst about sloppy campaign paperwork

David Wickert

“It’s a complex process. You’re dealing with dozens, hundreds, even thousands of transactions, donations coming in and expenses going out,” May said. “You fill these forms out. It takes a lot of time because you want to be accurate. You worry about the accuracy of them at the end of the day. You double, triple, quadruple-check your numbers.”

Still, May cautioned against assuming the worst about public officials with shoddy campaign paperwork. He said instructions on how to fill it out has been lacking. Some mistakes may be simple scrivener’s errors, while others may indicate a more fundamental problem with disclosures, he said.

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Donor Disclosure

Acton Institute: IRS Back-Door Enforcer of Shareholder Activists’ Agenda

Bruce Edward Walker

The IRS is proposing rules that will grant nonprofit organizations the option of disclosing donors of $250 or more.

Currently, charitable organizations are required to remit a “contemporaneous written acknowledgment” (CWA) to donors contributing $250 or more in cash, goods or services. Donors reference the CWA when filing an IRS 990 form for charitable contributions. The proposed rules would grant organizations the option of collecting donors’ Social Security numbers rather than remitting a CWA, and subsequently sending the donors’ information to the IRS…

Of course, this is simply the camel’s nose under the tent as one can rest assured if the rule passes it won’t remain “optional” for long. Regular readers of this space will recognize the IRS proposed rules as yet another attempt to circumvent the U.S. Supreme Court Citizens United ruling, which has sent progressives into apoplectic fits since January 2010.

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The States

New York Times: A Wealthy Governor and His Friends Are Remaking Illinois

Nicholas Confessore

To bring about a revolution in the Illinois Capitol, in Springfield, Mr. Rauner and his allies have created what amounts to a new campaign economy, in which union money has long been the financial lifeblood of both parties. Contributing millions to his own campaign, Mr. Rauner triggered a state law that removes limits on campaign contributions when a wealthy candidate spends heavily on his or her own race.

The law, intended to limit the influence of the wealthy by providing a level playing field, had the opposite effect: Freed of the restraints, supporters of Mr. Rauner poured millions more into his campaign, breaking state records.

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Reuters: Powerful New York legislator Silver convicted in bribery case

Nate Raymond

Sheldon Silver, one of New York state’s most powerful politicians for two decades, was convicted on Monday of abusing his office to collect as much as $4 million in illegal bribes and kickbacks.

A federal jury in Manhattan found Silver, 71, guilty of all seven counts he faced, including fraud, extortion and money laundering, following a three-week trial.

The verdict caps a stunning fall for Silver, a Democrat who as speaker of the New York State Assembly enjoyed immense political influence before his arrest in January.

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Brian Walsh

Brian is a Research Fellow at the Center for Competitive Politics.