On the Money: Campaign Cash Fueling GOP Civil War

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Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, stands in front of pheasants that were shot during a hunt hosted by Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa. (Nati Harnik / AP)

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, stands in front of pheasants that were shot during a hunt hosted by Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa. (Nati Harnik / AP.)

An unexpected legacy of Citizens United: The GOP’s intra-party war —> Many conservatives cheered the 2010 Citizens United decision as a “First Amendment triumph,” as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) put it. But now some Republican incumbents may find their enthusiasm fading as tea party activists go after their seats in an effort to pull the Republican Party further to the right. According to Washington Post reporters Matea Gold and Dan Keating, the Club for Growth has Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID) and Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) in its sights, and the Senate Conservatives Fund has added Sens. Pat Roberts (R-KS) and McConnell himself to its hit list. The fallout, report Gold and Keating, is a financial arms race as establishment groups like the Chamber of Commerce and Main Street Partnership (a group led by former Ohio Rep. Steven LaTourette) are stepping up their efforts to support incumbents.

Law doesn’t slow revolving door on Capitol Hill —> Following the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal in 2007, Congress revised its ethics rules in order to slow the revolving door between Capitol Hill and K Street. High-level officials are supposed to wait a year after leaving government before lobbying their old colleagues. But those rules have loopholes big enough to waltz through — and into a six- or seven-figure private sector salary — according to a recent analysis by New York Times reporters Eric Lipton and Ben Protess. Some aides keep their paycheck just below the cutoff that triggers restrictions on their lobbying activity, while others make sure their check does not come from the committees that they will later seek to influence. Craig Holman, who helped draft the ethics law in 2007, tells Lipton and Protess, “it is almost a meaningless ban.” Currently, more than 1,650 congressional aides have registered to lobby within a year of leaving Capitol Hill.

Sugar tycoon Alfonso Fanjul now open to investing in Cuba under ‘right circumstances’ —> Washington has a sweet spot for campaign finance dollars from the Fanjul Family of Florida, owners of the brands Domino and C&H. The question now, according to the Washington Post, is whether 76-year-old Alfonso Fanjul may help thaw US-Cuban relations as he develops a more open attitude toward engaging with the country of his birth. If there’s any doubt about Fanjul’s influence on US policy, an earlier article in  The Washington Post about the passage of the farm bill — in which subsidies to many agricultural products were cut but taxpayer-backed sugar protections remained untouched — called the family “a pivotal player” in Big Sugar. In the past five years, sugar interests have poured $49 million into federal campaign donations and lobbying.

Presidential contenders off and running in the 2016 money race —> The presidential horse race has begun in earnest, even if some of the prospective candidates say otherwise. In the last year, outfits associated with the 10 top prospects in each party have already raked in $86 million in order to be ready and able to launch their campaigns. Politico reporters Kenneth Vogel, Tarini Parti and Byron Tau conducted interviews and combed through recently filed campaign reports to assess which Democrats and Republicans have both the allies and the early dollars needed to hit the ground running.

Kronies! The latest Koch-backed project is a viral cartoon even the left can love —>  Bursting onto the Web last week, from the darkest corners of our crony-capitalist system come the “Kronies” – an online animated series that is appealing to people across the political spectrum. The storyline features five action-packed anti-heroes: Kaptain Korn (big agriculture), Ariel Stryker (military contractors), Parts and Labor (labor unions), Bankor (big banking) and Big-G (big government); all do their best to harness the G-Force (federal dollars) to stomp on small businesses and entrepreneurs. There are no identifying credits on the website, but Chris Moody at Yahoo News learned that the creative genius behind the series is libertarian filmmaker John Papola, who is “konnected” to the billionaire Koch brothers. Funding came from Public Notice, an advocacy group and polling firm that is part of Charles and David Koch’s growing political network. Public Notice has passed the project along to another group in the Koch network, Generation Opportunity, whose goal is to reach college students and young people — they distributed those creepy anti-Obamacare Web ads last fall in which an evil Uncle Sam popped up in a doctor’s office.

Gail Ablow is a producer for Moyers & Company and a Carnegie Visiting Media Fellow, Democracy.
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