Money & Politics

This Week in Dark Money: Nov. 9, 2012

We’re proud to collaborate with Mother Jones in sharing insightful journalism related to money and politics. We’ll be posting this weekly roundup every Friday. Share your thoughts about these must-read stories and always feel free to suggest your own in the comments section.

A quick look at the week that was in the world of political dark money

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“The billionaire donors I hear are livid. There is some holy hell to pay.”

— A Republican operative speaking to the Huffington Post about Karl Rove, who “has a lot of explaining to do.” Rove’s super PAC American Crossroads and dark-money group Crossroads GPS spent at least $175 million, but just nine of the 30 candidates that Crossroads supported won. Rove, who claimed that Obama won reelection “by supressing the vote” and with the help of Hurricane Sandy, reportedly held a phone briefing with top donors on Thursday to explain Crossroads’ lack of success.

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Majority of Super PAC Money Comes From Just a Few Cities

Maplight, a nonpartisan research organization that tracks money in politics, analyzed the geographic origin of super PAC contributions in a new report. They found that a disproportionate amount of the donations — totaling $510 million as of Sept. 30, 2012 — comes from just a few American cities.

The city generating the most money? Washington, D.C. — $71.6 million representing 14 percent of all super PAC donations — followed by Las Vegas ($48.6 million, 9.5 percent); New York City ($40.7 million, 7.9 percent); Houston ($36.4 million, 7 percent); and Dallas ($32 million, 6.2 percent) rounding out the top 5 spots.

See a list of the top 10 cities, or click on the map below.

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This Week in Dark Money: Nov. 2, 2012

We’re proud to collaborate with Mother Jones in sharing insightful journalism related to money and politics. We’ll be posting this weekly roundup every Friday. Share your thoughts about these must-read stories and always feel free to suggest your own in the comments section.

A quick look at the week that was in the world of political dark money

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“My opinion, for what it’s worth, is that WTP was running a lot of these campaigns.”

— Julie Staeb, an investigator for the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices, referring to the possibility that nonprofit group Western Tradition Partnership illegally coordinated with Montana political candidates in 2008 and 2010. The investigation includes documents from the group that convicted felon Mark Siebel found in a meth house outside Denver in later 2010. Siebel claimed they were found by his friend in a stolen car; they were recently examined in a joint report by ProPublica and Frontline. WTP has since changed its name to American Tradition Partnership and is best known for its lawsuit that overturned Montana’s ban on corporate spending and definitively expanded Citizens United to apply to states’ campaign finance rules.

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This Week in Dark Money: Oct. 26, 2012

We’re proud to collaborate with Mother Jones in sharing insightful journalism related to money and politics. We’ll be posting this weekly roundup every Friday. Share your thoughts about these must-read stories and always feel free to suggest your own in the comments section.

A quick look at the week that was in the world of political dark money

QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“What is especially striking is that the ads are concentrated on fewer markets than 2008, meaning that a smaller number of Americans have witnessed the onslaught of messages in the race for the White House.”

— Erika Franklin Fowler, codirector of the Wesleyan Media Project. Since June 1, 915,000 election ads have run, compared with 637,000 during the same period in 2008. The WMP has visualized its findings in a series of charts like the one below. 

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This Week in Dark Money: Oct. 19, 2012

We’re proud to collaborate with Mother Jones in sharing insightful journalism related to money and politics. We’ll be posting this weekly roundup every Friday. Share your thoughts about these must-read stories and always feel free to suggest your own in the comments section.

A quick look at the week that was in the world of political dark money

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“The ability to pool money into a super PAC turns out to be very significant.”
—Columbia Law School’s Richard Briffault, explaining to ProPublica why he believes megadonors like Sheldon Adelson never independently financed political ads with the amounts of money they’re now pouring into outside spending groups. Briffault is a campaign finance historian who has written extensively on super PACs. (Also see Andy Kroll’s must-read four-decade history of how super PACs came to be.)

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Montana’s Political Donation Limits Restored, For Now

The Supreme Court in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Montana has a century-long history of strong campaign finance laws, so in the wake of Citizens United, conservative groups have made the state a front in their campaign to scale back regulations on campaign donations. But opponents of Citizens United won a small victory in Montana this week: The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals placed a hold on a lower court ruling that struck downMontana’s campaign donation limits. The hold will stay in place through election day. Without the hold, the lower court ruling would have opened the doors to unlimited spending in state and local races.

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Tracking Political Contributions from Oil and Coal

Sunflower Electric Cooperative's coal-fired power plant rises behind a 30-day-supply of coal in Holcomb, Kan. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Sunflower Electric Cooperative's coal-fired power plant rises behind a 30-day-supply of coal in Holcomb, Kan. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Many politicians get money from oil and coal companies – but some receive far more than others.

The website Dirty Energy Money has an interactive that allows users to look up which politicians receive money from oil companies and their affiliated political action committees. The site is a project of the advocacy group Oil Change International and pulls data from the Center for Responsive Politics and its website, OpenSecrets.org.

A few things are immediately clear from the site’s interactive: Republicans receive the most money from energy companies, but Democrats receive quite a bit as well. In the Senate, two thirds of the money the website tracks goes to Republicans, the other third to Democrats. In the House about 83 percent of contributions went to Republicans.
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Is the NRA Endorsing the Right Candidate?

After a summer of lobbying the UN to apply the Second Amendment internationally, this week The National Rifle Association leaped into the U.S. presidential campaign with $1.3 million in anti-Obama ads.

The ads, which will be aired in Florida, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin — all battleground states — say the president is “attacking our Second Amendment rights.” A vote against Obama, the NRA says, would help “defend freedom.” The ad does not mention Romney by name.

The NRA’s decision to endorse the Republican candidate may not be all that surprising, but may seem contradictory given the candidates’ records: Romney signed a ban on assault weapons as governor of Massachusetts, while the president has signed measures allowing people to carry concealed weapons in checked bags on trains and while visiting the national parks.

Gun control advocates say the President has not done enough to prevent gun violence. In 2010, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, one of the largest gun control lobbying groups, graded Obama’s record an “F.”

This Week in Dark Money: Oct. 5, 2012

We’re proud to collaborate with Mother Jones in sharing insightful journalism related to money and politics. We’ll be posting this weekly roundup every Friday. Share your thoughts about these must-read stories and always feel free to suggest your own in the comments section.

A quick look at the week that was in the world of political dark money

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“Throughout its existence, [our nonprofit] has regularly consulted with experienced tax counsel to ensure it is in full compliance with the federal tax laws.”

A statement to ProPublica from the Government Integrity Fund, defending its 501(c)(4) tax-exempt status despite spending more than $1 million favoring Republican Josh Mandel in his challenge against Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). The Fund is a so-called “social welfare” group, which can’t make politics its primary purpose. What that means, exactly, has been an ongoing discussion this year. The IRS is investigating potential violators of the rule, but it hardly ever audits nonprofits. MORE

What is the National Federation of Independent Business?

Dan Danner, President and CEO, National Federation of Independent Business, addresses the media at a press conference announcing a new campaign targeting regulations. (William B. Plowman/AP Images for NFIB)

In last night’s presidential debate, Mitt Romney went after President Obama’s tax plan by citing a study from the innocuous-sounding National Federation of Independent Business, or NFIB.

“Your plan is to take the tax rate on successful small businesses from 35 percent to 40 percent. The National Federation of Independent Business has said that will cost 700,000 jobs,” Romney said.

In fact, NFIB isn’t all that innocuous — it’s actually a conservative lobbying organization. The group was the lead plaintiff in the unsuccessful lawsuit that brought the Affordable Care Act to the Supreme Court. NFIB’s entire advertising budget this year went to ads that either supported Republicans or opposed Democrats. The group is partially funded by millions of dollars from conservative groups like Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS and the Koch brothers’ Donors Trust.

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This Week in Dark Money: Sept. 28, 2012

We’re proud to collaborate with Mother Jones in sharing insightful journalism related to money and politics. We’ll be posting this weekly roundup every Friday. Share your thoughts about these must-read stories and always feel free to suggest your own in the comments section.

A quick look at the week that was in the world of political dark money

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“The scarcity of honest information about the misleading political ads invading our airwaves has knocked viewers and voters for a loss.”

—A new report from the media reform group Free Press, criticizing local TV stations in swing states for failing to report on the influence of outside-spending groups. According to Free Press’s research, more than 85 percent of ads from outside spending groups relay misleading information, yet swing-state stations “devoted little to no air time to fact-checking claims made in the ads, and the stations spent no time investigating the organizations that paid for the ads.”

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This Week In Dark Money: Sept. 21, 2012

We’re proud to collaborate with Mother Jones in sharing insightful journalism related to money and politics. We’ll be posting this weekly roundup every Friday. Share your thoughts about these must-read stories and always feel free to suggest your own in the comments section.

A quick look at the week that was in the world of political dark money

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“I mean, if somebody here has a $10 million check — I can’t solicit it from you, but feel free to use it wisely.”
      —Barack Obama, speaking to guests about donating to outside spending groups at a fundraiser hosted by Beyonce and Jay-Z. As the Huffington Post reported, the remark was “seemingly in jest” but also the latest example of how closely campaigns have flirted with the ban on coordinating their activities with outside groups. That rule is hardly ever enforced, though, and as Campaign Legal Center senior counsel Paul S. Ryan told HuffPo, Obama’s comment was vague enough to not qualify as a direct request for contributions.

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Can Congress Come Out and Play?

With just a couple of weeks left in September, members of the House and Senate hurried back to Washington after their August recess and the party conventions, ready to get some legislating done and impress their constituents before they head back home for the final stretch of their reelection campaigns.

Yes, I’m auditioning for a job at The Onion.

Members hustled back to the capital all right, not to get much accomplished for the good of the nation but to party down at events designed to scrape every last nickel of campaign contributions from the jam pots of cash held by K Street lobbyists and special interests.

The Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call reported that as of this past Monday, House Democrats had 184 events scheduled through the end of the month — that’s according to a directory from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

“Their GOP counterparts, according to a list from the National Republican Congressional Committee, have more than 110 breakfasts, coffees, lunches, dinners and receptions on the calendar. That doesn’t include scores more Senate fundraisers and intimate industry-focused events not logged on the official lists.”

At Politico’s “Influence” tip sheet, a Seinfeld fan dubbed this crass carnival of campaign loot “A Fundraising Festivus for Do-Nothing Congress” and proceeded to list a page and a half of events — just the tip of the cold cash iceberg.

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This Week in Dark Money: Sept. 14, 2012

We’re proud to collaborate with Mother Jones in sharing insightful journalism related to money and politics. We’ll be posting this weekly roundup every Friday. Share your thoughts about these must-read stories and always feel free to suggest your own in the comments section.

A quick look at the week that was in the world of political dark money

THE MONEY SHOT

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“If [Republicans] win in November, we won’t recognize the America they’ll create.”
A fundraising plea from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which previously warned big donors to “wake up” and start giving to super PACs, decrying the “hundreds of millions in Citizens United corporate dollars” flooding into the 2012 election. MORE

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