Morning Reads

As we continue our effort to keep you up-to-date on how money corrupts American government and politics, 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.

Happy Monday! Here’s The Onion on Bernie Sanders, with a hilarious photoshop job: “Expounding upon the many ways in which they’ve positively impacted the country at large, a tanned and impeccably coiffed Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) reportedly informed supporters gathered at a campaign stop Thursday that corporations actually have a tremendous amount to offer the American people.”

And Seth Meyers did a segment last week on Jeb’s non-candidacy, explaining how he can raise more money by not declaring. He put up on screen Every Voice President David Donnelly’s comment last month about Jeb “quacking like a duck,” mentions the Democracy 21/Campaign Legal Center’s letter to the Justice Department, and highlights the FEC Chair Ann Ravel and the agency’s general dysfunction.

Campaign Finance/Elections

Weekly Standard: Every Man a Political Donor –> Good to see a piece in The Weekly Standard speaking favorably of small donor vouchers: “Money in politics is like water flowing downhill. It cannot be stopped; rather, it must be redirected in a socially beneficial way.” Overwhelming Majority of Americans Want Campaign Finance Overhaul –> People for the American Way’s Marge Baker on last week’s NYT/CBS poll and efforts on the ground around the country: “Despite concerns about the possibility for reform, it’s clear that the national political will for getting big money out of politics is there. And across the country, local leaders are already organizing to make it happen.”

Great Tom Toles cartoon this weekend.

Huffington Post: Anticipatory Bribery –> Robert Reich on Denny Hastert and how a school teacher became a millionaire: “In viewing campaign contributions as the major source of corruption we overlook the more insidious flow of direct, personal payments – much of which might be called ‘anticipatory bribery’ because they enable office holders to cash in big after they’ve left office.”

The Washingtonian profiles Shaun McCutcheon of McCutcheon v. FEC and all his celebrity friends with this great quote about another major deformist, Jim Bopp. “He just don’t like me, so why would I want to hang out with him? I’d rather go to a Paris Hilton party, where I can have fun.” Fair point.

The Hill: Crossroads GPS to defend nonprofit status in court –> “The conservative Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies (GPS) will argue it is not a political committee in a lawsuit brought by campaign finance watchdogs against the Karl Rove-linked group.”

Bloomberg: Hillary Sides With Democracy –> Whoa if true: “To me, it’s simple. Policies that make it easy to vote are good for democracy; policies that make it hard aren’t.”

Durango Herald: Bennet pushes for big reform –> Sen. Michael Bennet’s new bill on lobbyist bundling gets some coverage back home. Bennet: “My short time in the Senate and at the DSCC has reinforced my belief that Washington is broken, and our corroding campaign finance system is one of the root causes.”


Esquire: The Only Story of the 2016 Campaign That Matters –> Charlie Pierce: “The most important story is going to be how our elections have been completely corrupted by money at the same time as we experience one of the most thoroughgoing assaults on the franchise in the country’s history.”

Washington Times: Ted Cruz: Campaign and super PAC have raised more than $40 million –> Interesting use of the word “we” here by Ted Cruz describing the combined fundraising of his campaign and the totally independent super PAC supporting him: “Right now, between our campaign and the super PAC, we’ve raised over $40 million, we have shattered records.”

CNBC: The returns are in: 2016 will be the Form 990 election –> Important note in this story on dark money in 2016: “GuideStar is planning to form a sharing partnership this year with the Center for Responsive Politics, which publishes, a website widely relied upon by campaign operatives and the political press.”

New York Times: Republican Candidates Assail Hillary Clinton on Voting Rights –> Republicans criticized Hillary Clinton’s call last week to make it easier to vote, with Scott Walker going as far to call her views “extreme,” while Rand Paul took a much softer approach. Bill de Blasio weighed in, too.

Washington Post: Clinton’s 2016 bid brings women into male-dominated fundraising world –> “Energized by the prospect of helping the former secretary of state make history, many women are activating their personal networks for the first time to pool contributions for her campaign, helping Clinton tap into new sources of cash as she assembles what is expected to be a more-than-$1­ billion operation.”

POLITICO: Clinton aims to cash in with women donors –> And another good piece on Hillary Clinton and her network of women donors, including this stat: “more than 60 percent of the Clinton campaign’s donors are women, an uptick from her first bid where women made up 51 percent of her campaign contributors.”

The Intercept: A preview of Jeb Bush’s super PAC donors: titans, tycoons, and lobbyists –> Lee Fang on what to expect in Jeb’s filings: “Clues from a variety of sources, however, provide a preview of his donors, who include major leaders in technology, business and lobbying.”

The Hill: Scott Walker: Jeb Bush is still ‘probably’ the GOP’s frontrunner –> Scott Walker on Jeb Bush: “I think Governor Bush is still probably up there up front because he’s going to have more money than just about all of us combined, but we’re feeling good.”

National Journal: How Jeb Bush’s Presidential Announcement Will Change His Money Game –> But he can still attend its fundraisers: “… Once he formally becomes a candidate, Bush and his official campaign team will be barred from strategizing with a super PAC that, at the start, is expected to have a treasury that dwarfs Bush’s own coffers. Longtime Bush strategist Mike Murphy is expected to helm the super PAC.”

OpenSecrets: Who will fuel Perry’s presidential bid? –> Where’s Rick Perry going to get his money? “Some of his biggest backers are no longer able to write checks.”

Slate: Not everyone hates Citizens United –> If there’s anyone outside of Washington, DC, and a few law schools that likes the current system it’s probably local TV station owners — for all the money they’re making off campaign ads.

Keene Sentinel: Bernie Sanders visits Keene for first time as presidential candidate –> Bernie Sanders was in New Hampshire this weekend and “said one of his priorities would be to get the Citizens United decision overturned… In my view, American democracy is not about billionaires being able to buy candidates and elections.”

Mother Jones: This New Hampshire Republican Should Be a 2016 Kingmaker. Instead, He’s Radioactive. –> New Hampshire Rep Frank Guinta should be getting buttered up by 2016 presidential candidates but “he has quickly become one of the state’s least popular Republicans, due to a campaign finance scandal that threatens to derail Guinta’s political career.”

Post-Dispatch: After switching positions, Gephardt and his lobbying firm have taken $8 million from Turkish government –> “As a member of Congress, Dick Gephardt often spoke passionately about the need for the United States to recognize as genocide the mass deaths of as many as 1.5 million Armenians under the Turkish government that began one century ago. But as a lobbyist for Turkey since leaving Congress in 2005, Gephardt, a Democrat, has taken the opposite side.”

New York Times: Statement Says Chris Christie Broke Grand Jury Law –> Looks like Chris Christie’s going to have to find a few teachers to yell at this week: “Mr. Wildstein’s statement, in a civil case separate from the federal prosecution in the bridge case, offers the first insider confirmation of a long-rumored tale of New Jersey political corruption, and places Mr. Christie at the center of it.”

New York Times: Dennis Hastert Rushed to Make Money as Payouts Grew –> “In emails and other documents provided to The New York Times, accounts of the former speaker’s business dealings show a burst of activity to increase his wealth. But apparently unknown to his business associates, Mr. Hastert was not merely following the path of other former members of Congress who have tried to cash in. The indictment says he was seeking to prevent a hidden past from undoing his life.”

Washington Post: Ben Carson’s campaign faces turmoil amid staff exits and super PAC rivalry –> “The presidential candidacy of Ben Carson, a tea party star who has catapulted into the top tier of Republican contenders, has been rocked by turmoil with the departures of four senior campaign officials and widespread disarray among his allied super PACs.” Ben Carson says everything’s fine!

Center for Public Integrity: Newt scores loot from GOP –> “The RNC has reported paying Gingrich’s company $90,000 so far this year for ‘fundraising services,’ according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.”

Huffington Post: Sean Fieler Is Out And Proud About His Anti-Gay Marriage Donations Even As The Country’s Opinion Shifts –> A look at the wealthy hedge funder behind anti-marriage equality campaigns.


Associated Press review finds many lawmakers use campaign funds to cover personal expenses –> Of course: “New York state lawmakers and candidates have used campaign donations to pay for car repairs, gasoline, events at polo clubs, criminal defense attorneys and hundreds of thousands of dollars in credit card bills, many of them un-itemized, an Associated Press review of 10 years of campaign finance reports found” and “Un-itemized credit card bills are routinely some of the largest expenses listed on a candidate’s campaign finance reports.”

New York Times: Carl Heastie’s Campaign Spending Blurs Line Between Political and Personal –> Also this on New York Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie: “a close review of his campaign disclosure records suggests he has frequently used political donations to burnish his lifestyle.”

Oregonian: Oregon must allow campaign contribution limits  –> Op-ed in Oregon urging the legislature to take action on contribution limits: “SJR5 is no silver bullet; it will take federal action to fix the damaging effects of Citizens United. But SJR5 will help to limit how much candidates can solicit and receive from big money donors and special interests. This is an historic reform in Oregon that we can pursue now.”

To read more go to

You can get our Morning Reads delivered to your inbox every weekday! Just enter your email address below…

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.
  • submit to reddit