Morning Reads

As we continue our effort to keep you up-to-date on how money corrupts American government and politics, BillMoyers.com is pleased to publish this daily digest of money and politics news compiled and edited by Adam Smith of the non-partisan campaign finance reform group, Every Voice.


First, read Paul Kane’s moving piece in the Washington Post on the tragic death of Beau Biden over the weekend. And the vice president’s 2012 speech on dealing with the loss of loved ones is well worth the 20 minutes.

In his presidential campaign announcement on Saturday, Martin O’Malley said, “Powerful, wealthy special interests here at home have used our government to create — in our own country — an economy that is leaving a majority of our people behind” and mentioned the “big money trying to buy our elections.” (If you’re keeping track, that’s four out of of four of the presidential candidates who announced last week talking about money’s influence on politics).

On his website, under the “Vision” page, O’Malley offers a pretty strong democracy issues framework under the headline, “Put Elections Back in the Hands of American Voters.” Included: a constitutional amendment to address Citizens United, a small-donor empowerment program similar to the Government By the People Act, restoring the Voting Rights Act, and “tearing down barriers like ID requirements.”

Campaign Finance/Elections

New York Times: The ‘Non-Candidate’ Money Spigot –> Editorial on Jeb’s non-candidacy: “Ideally, the FEC should be doing its enforcement job. Given that agency’s dereliction, the Justice Department must exercise its authority to enforce the law. The abuses of runaway political money will only grow when candidates believe there’s no one to stop them.”

Here are two editorial cartoons about FIFA corruption and our political system.

Media Matters: Even A Gyrocopter Landing At The Capitol Can’t Get The Media To Discuss Campaign Finance Reform –> New analysis from Media Matters on Doug Hughes’ gyrocopter trip and media coverage around it: “But other than a discussion on the April 19 edition of NBC’s Meet the Press, none of the Sunday shows or evening news broadcasts dedicated any substantive coverage to the message behind Hughes’ protest.”

Post-Dispatch: Dark money and airborne civil disobedience –> Editorial in Missouri on Hughes: “We admire his passion, if not his methods. Dark money (you could look it up) is a far bigger threat to America than gyrocopters.”

The Washington Post: Counter plutocracy with public financing –> Former Montgomery County, Maryland, Councilman Phil Andrews on the small-donor public financing system he helped pass in the county last year: “Montgomery’s public financing system will increase the influence of people who don’t have lobbyists or deep pockets but who, as residents, foot most of the county’s bills. It will expand opportunities for people who are not wealthy — or funded by people or interest groups that are — to run viable campaigns for office.”

Governing: Why States’ Campaign Donation Limits Could Be in Jeopardy –> “Are state laws limiting campaign contributions in trouble? A decision by a federal appellate court makes it appear possible.”

CBS Philly: City Council Gives Initial Thumbs Up To New Rules On Independent PACs –> In Philadelphia: “Less than two weeks after the primary, a city council committee has taken a step toward forcing more disclosure by independent political committees that played a big part in the mayor’s race.”

Sunlight: How the FEC is making it easier to follow the money –> FEC Chair Ann Ravel has this piece on the Sunlight Foundation blog: “With all the money set to pour into the 2016 elections, it’s more important than ever for the FEC to improve the way it provides campaign finance data.”

Texas Tribune: Major Ethics Overhaul is Declared Dead –> “With no collective will to expose dark money contributions in Texas, a major ethics overhaul was snuffed out in the waning hours of the 2015 legislative session.”

Congress/Admin/2016

NYT: Democrats Seek a Richer Roster to Match G.O.P. –> A must-read from Eric Lichtblau and Nick Confessore on Democrats trying to up their game when it comes to super PAC fundraising and a $300M outside spending goal for the presidential: “This ambitious goal will require the emergence of a new class of at least 20 Democratic donors who can give $5 million or even $10 million each. Mr. Ickes said recruiting them would not be easy.”

NYT: Jeb Bush Says He Is Still Just Considering a Presidential Run –> Jeb Bush faced questions on Face the Nation Sunday about his non-candidacy and whether he was violating the law and he responded with a straight face, “Look, I hope I — I hope I run, to be honest with you. I would like to run. But I haven’t made the decision.” Those making $1 million+ donations to the Right to Rise super PAC might be surprised he’s still on the fence. Washington Post.

National Review: Jeb’s Fundraising Plan Has Gone from ‘Shock & Awe’ to ‘Shock & Uh-Oh’ in a Matter of Months –> Jeb’s “shock and awe” fundraising hasn’t scared away any competitors yet and if he does hit his goals, “his competitors will be left with some obvious populist lines of attack.”

NYT: Lindsey Graham to Announce Presidential Bid –> Sen. Lindsey Graham will announce his presidential bid today and a former adviser to the Senator says, “Jeb Bush has pulled up the Brink’s truck and is about to dump it on the 2016 field, so it will be interesting to see how everybody competes with that.” Here’s Graham in April suggesting a constitutional amendment to address Citizens United. The Center for Public Integrity offers “9 things to know.”

The Guardian: Jeb Bush cozies up to coal industry barons at closed-door meeting –> Jeb Bush will speak at an event this week featuring top coal industry CEOs. Center for Media and Democracy’s Nick Surgey: “I think the major question is what promises is Jeb Bush making to the coal chief executives in that room.”

Oh: RT @SarahKSilverman: How do we get politicians that can’t be bought into office? Thoughts? | We offered a humble suggestion.

Time: Half of Hillary Clinton’s Speaking Fees Came From Groups Also Lobbying Congress –> “Almost half of the money from Hillary Clinton’s speaking engagements came from corporations and advocacy groups that were lobbying Congress at the same time.”

Bob Schieffer, who hosted his last episode of Face the Nation on Sunday, had this to say in an interview Friday morning: “I mean our campaigns have become, ‘I have more billionaires than you do so I’m a viable candidate.’ I don’t think that’s what the founders had in mind when they started this country” (in meme form).

Houston Chronicle: US immigrant policy: Detention for dollars –> Great op-ed on US immigration policy and the big bucks private prisons spend on politics: “Greater transparency and accountability can help shift the balance of power in Washington from campaign contributors to voters. When elected officials listen to the siren call of industries with moneybags in hand, our democracy is undermined. Immigrants pay the ultimate price: their liberty.”

POLITICO: GOP senators tear into Paul –> It was a real scene in the Senate yesterday over Patriot Act reauthorization. Sen. John McCain on Rand Paul: “He obviously has a higher priority for his fundraising and political ambitions than for the security of the nation.” And Sen. Dean Heller on Paul’s procedural moves: “It accomplished just the same, but he couldn’t raise money objecting. He could only raise money filibustering.”

POLITICO: Hillary Clinton campaign scores Ready for Hillary email list –> “Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign late last week obtained access to the full Ready for Hillary email list, a data gold mine that will immediately bolster the Democratic front-runner’s fundraising and organizing efforts.”

POLITICO: Bill Clinton pens letter to foundation donors –> “Former President Bill Clinton is pushing back against the controversies swirling around his family’s foundation and vexing Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.”

NYT: Selling Off Apache Holy Land –> In the latest defense authorization bill, there’s a rider by Sens. McCain and Jeff Flake to give the land of an Apache holy site to foreign mining company Rio Tinto, whose “affiliates have been McCain campaign contributors, and that Mr. Flake, before he made it to Congress, was a paid lobbyist for Rio Tinto Rössing Uranium (a huge uranium mine in Namibia). ”

NYT: Challenging Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders Gains Momentum in Iowa –> Some nice color in this piece on Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton in Iowa: “Lindsay O’Keefe, 22, who took a picture of a Sanders poster that read, ‘Paid for by Bernie 2016 (not the billionaires)’…”

USA Today: PACs promote Sanders, whether he likes it or not –> Sanders on a super PAC that started to support him: “A major problem of our campaign finance system is that anybody can start a super PAC on behalf of anybody and can say anything. And this is what makes our current campaign finance situation totally absurd.”

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Political fundraising campaigns manage debts by selling data –> Campaigns make big bucks by renting out their lists.

POLITICO: Elizabeth Warren driving solo so far on auto-loan fight –> Sen. Elizabeth Warren wants more oversight of car dealers but “[t]he industry has an army of lobbyists and a long history of beating back regulatory attempts.”

NYT: After Speakership, Hastert Amassed His Millions Lobbying Former Colleagues –> Indicted former Speaker Dennis Hastert definitely built up his bank account while in Congress but “it was at his own post-Congress lobbying firm and at the professional services firm Dickstein Shapiro that Mr. Hastert swelled his cash flow, working all sides of issues and glad-handing members of Congress for controversial clients.” And in The Washington Post: “… He advised nearly two dozen corporate clients that paid millions for his counsel.” And his lobbying firm is “rocked” by the indictment.

POLITICO: Schock repays House $88k for mileage reimbursements –> “Former GOP Rep. Aaron Schock, who is under criminal investigation for potentially misusing campaign and official funds, repaid the House more than $88,220 for mileage reimbursements, according to a newly released report.”

Other/States

Capital New York: Union-backed group launches L.L.C.-tracking site –> Nice: “The group, call Hedge Clippers, has identified nearly $134 million in contributions made by L.L.C.s to state-level political committees since 1999. The group’s website now contains a fully searchable database that allows users to browse or download the donations candidates have received from these companies.” Here’s the site.

Washington Post: With key elections ahead, Virginia Democrats spend big –> “Virginia Democrats have plowed vast sums of campaign cash into staff and consultants under Gov. Terry McAuliffe, well ahead of crucial state Senate elections this fall and the presidential contest of 2016.”

AP: Number of campaign finance violations referred to attorney general still foggy
“Just a few months after announcing a task force to overhaul campaign finance practices in New Mexico, state officials are still not clear on how many violations are being investigated.”

National Journal: Matt Bevin’s First Task: Courting Kentucky’s Republican Donors –> So, will Mitch McConnell help Matt Bevin raise money now that’ he’s the Republican nominee for governor?

To read more go to everyvoice.org.


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Adam Smith is the communications director at Every Voice. He has worked in money-in-politics advocacy since 2006, managing or advising communications efforts for policy and field campaigns in Congress and states across the country. As communications director, he manages media relations and oversees the research and digital teams. Follow him on Twitter: @asmith83.

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