Daily Media Links 8/28: 15 Things Vox Forgot to Mention about “Money in Politics” (Part II)

August 28, 2014   •  By Joe Trotter   •  
Default Article

15 Things Vox Forgot to Mention about “Money in Politics” (Part II)
By Scott Blackburn
In Charts 18 and 19, Vox “explains” that “outside spending” (that is, money spent by independent groups) and “dark money” (that is undisclosed spending) are soaring. Leaving aside the problem mentioned in item #1 above about comparing data from OpenSecrets pre- and post-2010 (when they shifted methodologies for counting so-called “outside spending”), the Vox charts fail to offer any perspective on the scope of these supposed threats.
So-called “dark money” accounted for just over 4 percent of all money spent in the 2012 election cycle. That might be a surprising figure considering statements like, “an incredible amount of this new outside money spending is coming from groups that don’t disclose their donors.”
When Vox adds, “[a]nd we’ll likely never know where most of this money came from,” they probably should have looked at their own next chart for the answer, as chart 20 is titled, “These are the top dark money groups of 2012.” This further undercuts the idea that there is a flood of secret money coming into our elections. The names of the highest spending groups and their motivations are well known. It includes such “secret groups” as Karl Rove’sCrossroads GPS (run, I am guessing, by Karl Rove), the environmental organization, the League of Conservation Voters, and the pro-business U.S. Chamber of Commerce. In fact, a quick Google search of any organization on the list in Chart 20 will tell you exactly who they are and what ideas they support.
Read more…
Independent Groups
Washington Post: Attack ads have their plus sides
By Peter Schuck
Half-truths and false innuendo — insinuation rather than outright lies — are more difficult to counter. But again, opponents are vigilant and can respond quickly. Campaigns probably use them more because they fear unilateral disarmament than because they are effective. Everyone knows about George H.W. Bush’s use of Willie Horton’s story to attack Michael Dukakis and Lyndon Johnson’s nuclear-cloud ad against Barry Goldwater. But neither ad explains the outcome of those elections. Indeed, the 2007 study on negative campaigning found that, although negative ads are more memorable, they do not shift votes to the attacker or reduce turnout.
Moreover, outrageous attack ads are harder to pull off today than in the days when John Adams’s supporters are said to have called Thomas Jefferson “a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father.” The saying that “a lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes” is less true now because of the immediate responses and public rebukes enabled by the Internet, vigilant bloggers, quick-response teams employed by wary candidates and combative news organizations.
We should focus our concern about attack ads not on their unseemly, aggressive and intrusive aspects, unpleasant as those may be, but rather on the ones containing falsehoods that opponents can’t correct in time for voters to assess them, learn who is responsible for them and factor this information into their decisions. Three remedies might improve the situation.
Read more…
AP: TV Station pulls anti-Shaheen ads off air
By Philip Elliot
WASHINGTON (AP) — A super PAC’s negative ads against Sen. Jeanne Shaheen were pulled off the air Wednesday after the New Hampshire Democrat’s attorneys flagged inaccuracies in the spot.
Ending Spending Action Fund, a conservative outside group, claimed in ads that “Shaheen’s wealth has surged while in public office.” Her financial disclosure forms filed with the Senate show the opposite, with her personal wealth dropping by at least $562,000 and perhaps as much as $1 million.
Read more…
Washington Post: People hate politics. So why is nobody talking about campaign finance reform?
By Jaime Fuller
Some candidates think their constituents don’t really care about campaign finance reform — something polls back up. Others might think that it’s hopeless to even entertain the idea of fixing it. Most of them, however, have probably grown to like the current state of money in politics, or are at least able to deal with the current regime.  
Read more…
Gov. Perry Indictment 

More Soft Money Hard Law: The Trend in Argument and Opinion in the Perry Case—and a Tale of Two States
By Bob Bauer
The views of the Perry prosecution have sorted out quickly into a majority sharply questioning its merit, and a minority insisting that judgment be reserved until the facts are known.  The prosecutor has not been heard from, other than via a two-page indictment short on detail and his avowal that the case involved a non-partisan application of the law to the facts.
It is difficult to tell how much the barebones recitals of the indictment have produced the chorus against this case, but it is interesting—especially in light of the document’s sketchiness—to follow the lines of argument and to separate them out.  We have more to go on now that the Perry legal team has filed their Application for a Pretrial Writ of Habeas Corpus.
And as the arguments continue, it is worth noting how differently commentators have reacted to another prosecutorial challenge, in New York, in connection with a Governor’s claimed exercise of his official authority.  The larger political community has risen to the defense of the Governor of Texas but seems to have accepted the bind in which Governor of New York  has found himself, in his relationship to the Moreland Commission he created and then disbanded.
Read more…
Kochs Obsession
Washington Post: Morning Plum: GOP Senate candidates confirm extent of Koch brothers’ influence
By Greg Sargent
Ernst credited the Koch network with having “really started my trajectory.” Cotton heaped praise on the Koch-founded Americans for Prosperity for transforming Arkansas politically in ways that help Republicans. Gardner said the cash from the Koch network could prove decisive.  
There is nothing necessarily wrong with any of this. But it undercuts GOP complaints about the Dem strategy of targeting the Koch brothers and linking GOP candidates to them. Republicans have fretted that this is all about a concerted strategy to “demonize” big GOP donors. But there is no reason why the actual agenda and motives of individuals who are wielding so much influence over who will control the Senate should be off limits, just as there is no reason why billionaire environmentalist and major Dem donor Tom Steyer’s agenda and motives should be off limits.  
Read more…
Candidates, Politicians, Campaigns, and Parties

Open Secrets: Former Iowa Senator Pleads Guilty to Accepting Money to Back Ron Paul
By Russ Choma
Neither Lori Pyeatt, Ron Paul’s granddaughter and the treasurer of his 2012 presidential campaign, nor Jesse Benton, who was Paul’s campaign manager (and is now manager of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s re-election campaign), had responded to requests for comment at the time this post was published.
It isn’t clear if the investigation is continuing, but Sorenson has been granted immunity from further prosecution on federal and state charges, as has his wife, according to the plea agreement. OpenSecrets.org has learned that two grand juries have been investigating the events in Iowa, one focused on the Paul campaign and one on Bachmann’s. Last August, OpenSecrets.org published a copy of a memowritten by Aaron Dorr, the head of the Iowa Gun Owners, in which he outlined Sorenson’s demands to switch his endorsement. Included in the emails surrounding the negotiations were several top Paul campaign officials, including Benton.
Read more…
The Nation: Caught on Tape: What Mitch McConnell Complained About to a Roomful of Billionaires (Exclusive)
What McConnell didn’t tell Politico was that two months ago, he made the same promise to a secret strategy conference of conservative millionaire and billionaire donors hosted by the Koch brothers. The Nation and The Undercurrent obtained an audio recording of McConnell’s remarks to the gathering, called “American Courage: Our Commitment to a Free Society.” In the question-and-answer period following his June 15 session titled “Free Speech: Defending First Amendment Rights,” McConnell says…
Read more…
State and Local
California –– Salon: “Principles be damned”: How basic reform could get crushed in a liberal state
SEIU first asked for 18 amendments to the bill, which the authors obliged. They increased the disclosure threshold from $10,000 to $50,000. They excluded ads from state political parties from the disclosure requirements. They reduced the number of funders displayed on robocalls and radio ads from three to two. And they eliminated the requirement for the disclosure website showing the top 10 funders. They even narrowed the bill to only cover ballot measures rather than candidate independent expenditures.
Despite all these changes, SEIU announced its opposition to SB 52 anyway (which makes you wonder why Democrats decided to keep their changes in the bill). SEIU particularly opposes the provision that the “identifiable contributor” gets disclosed, instead of the front group funders typically hide behind. This is really the heart of SB 52, as current law already compels disclosure of the front groups. Bill authors asked SEIU for a year to come up with something acceptable that still forced disclosure of funders, but the union declined. SB 52 has the FPPC decide who qualifies as an identifiable contributor, and SEIU seized on this, arguing in its opposition letter that it “grants the Commission unprecedented authority.”
But that’s a technical red herring; SEIU gives its real rationale a bit later in the letter, when it cites weaker bills on campaign transparency as sufficient. “There is no reason to make any additional changes,” SEIU concludes.
Pennsylvania –– The Legal Intelligencer: Pa. ban on political contributions enjoined; ruling faces criticism

By Saranac Hale Spencer

Pennsylvania’s law barring corporations and associations from making political contributions, which had been in direct conflict with Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, has now been permanently enjoined.
U.S. District Judge William Caldwell of the Middle District of Pennsylvania extended the preliminary injunction that he had entered in March to permanently enjoin the law.
The judge did this over the objection of the state not because it defended the law, but because it had asked him to go further and affirmatively recognize parts of the state’s election code that weren’t at issue in the case and to establish a new category for “independent political committees,” according to the opinion in General Majority PAC v. Aichele.
Read more…

Joe Trotter