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Center for Public Integrity: Democrats seize super PAC crown

Friday, August 16th, 2013

Liberal groups outraise conservative counterparts 2-to-1 during first half of 2013

The Center for Public Integrity

Democrats have become the kings of super PACs.

With Congress fighting over gun legislation and immigration, and 2014 midterm races already simmering, many left-leaning donors are eagerly bankrolling these free-spending groups that the party faithful have often criticized for unleashing unlimited money into political races.

Liberal-aligned super PACs combined to raise more than $40 million during the first half of 2013, according to a Center for Public Integrity review of filings submitted to the Federal Election Commission.

Their conservative counterparts, meanwhile, collectively raised about $20 million.

That’s a stark contrast with 2011 and 2012, when Republicans rapidly deployed the nascent organizations following the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling that led to their creation.

During the first six months of 2011, for example, conservative super PACs outraised their liberal rivals more than 4-to-1, according to a Center for Public Integrity review of FEC data.

And during the same period last year, when Republicans, unlike Democrats, engaged in a heated presidential primary battle, GOP-aligned super PACs outraised liberal ones nearly 7-to-1.

But with President Barack Obama last year offering his tacit approval of big-dollar political giving, Democrats have quickly closed the fundraising gap by embracing super PACs, which may raise and spend unlimited amounts of money to promote or attack politicians.

“Despite ideological opposition to super PAC spending, I don’t see Democrats wanting to play on an uneven playing field,” said Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School in California. “This is the political reality.”

Twenty super PACs raised more than $2 million during the first half of 2013, federal records show, and 13 of them are generally aligned with Democrats. In fact, the top six are all liberal groups.

Leading the way was the Americans for Responsible Solutions PAC, a group launched by former Democratic Rep. Gabby Giffords of Arizona and her husband, Mark Kelly, to support stricter gun control laws. Her super PAC brought in more than $6.6 million between January 1 and the end of June.

Billionaire Marc Benioff, the founder and chief executive officer of Salesforce.com, ranked as Giffords’ super PAC’s top donor, giving $500,000. Ahead of the 2012 election, Benioff bundled more than $500,000 for Obama’s re-election efforts, and this spring, he visited the White House three times, records show.

Additionally, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an independent, and the Texas-based law firm of Democratic mega-donors Steve and Amber Mostyn, each donated $250,000 to Americans for Responsible Solutions. Steve Mostyn serves as the group’s treasurer.

Unions, Texas trial lawyers spread funds to Democrats

The next six super PACs with the largest fundraising hauls so far in 2013 include a super PAC affiliated with the Democratic Governors Association, three groups focused on expanding the ranks of Democratic lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate and a union-funded operation.

DGA Action, which supports Democratic gubernatorial candidates, raised $4.2 million through the end of June. The bulk of that funding — $3.6 million — came from the DGA itself. Another $150,000 came from the National Education Association.

Ranking third in receipts so far this year is the union-funded Workers’ Voice super PAC, which raised $3.8 million from January through June. That includes $1.8 million from the AFL-CIO; $1 million from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME); and $500,000 from UNITE HERE, which primarily represents workers in the hotel, gaming, food service, manufacturing, laundry and airport industries.

This year, those three unions also touted a pathway for citizenship for undocumented immigrants — a theme that the super PAC also advanced.

“American workers deserve a commonsense immigration process that includes a road map to citizenship,” Michael Podhorzer, political director at the AFL-CIO, wrote in an e-mail on behalf of the Workers’ Voice super PAC earlier this year.

“Eleven million citizens in waiting will remember who stood up for them, and who gave in to fear,” he continued. “And soon, they’ll take that memory with them to ballot boxes across the country.”

Meanwhile, Democrat-backing House Majority PAC collected roughly $3.4 million; sister organization Senate Majority PAC collected $3 million; and American Bridge 21st Century, which specializes in opposition research to aid Democrats, collected $2.9 million.

One union alone accounted for nearly one-quarter of the Senate Majority PAC’s 2013 receipts. That was the Massachusetts Teachers Association, which provided $700,000 to the super PAC that was extremely active in the June 25 special election to fill former Democratic Sen. John Kerry’s seat. (It spent $1.4 million on advertisements opposing Republican Gabriel Gomez who ultimately lost to Democrat Ed Markey by 10 percentage points.)

Senate Majority PAC also received $250,000 a piece from AFSCME, the union-aligned group Working for Working Americans, California developer George Marcus and Priorities USA Action, the super PAC started in 2012 by former White House aides to support Obama’s re-election — which itself is still sitting on $3.4 million.

Notably, Marcus also donated $250,000 to House Majority PAC, ranking him among the top donors to that group, and the Mostyns’ law firm gave it $100,000.

But hedge fund manager Donald Sussman — founder and chairman of Paloma Partners and the husband of Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine — earned the distinction of being that super PAC’s No. 1 donor, giving $350,000 during the first half of the year.

Anne Getty Earhart, granddaughter of industrialist J. Paul Getty, ranked as American Bridge’s top super PAC, giving $400,000.

Another top donor to the group was former Hillary Clinton bundler Susie Tompkins Buell, co-founder of the Esprit clothing company, who gave $150,000.

Buell is also a founding member of the Ready for Hillary’s national finance council, along with trial lawyers Steve and Amber Mostyn. The super PAC promoting a potential Clinton 2016 presidential bid has raised nearly $1.3 million so far this year.

Currently, Democrats hold a narrow edge over Republicans in the U.S. Senate, but defending that advantage will bring many tough campaigns in 2014 — from Alaska to North Carolina.

GOP groups expect enthusiastic donors

With several major conservative bankrollers still showing an appetite for giving big money to super PACs, many GOP leaders remain hopeful about their fortunes in the 2014 midterm elections.

So far this year, Republican donors filled the coffers of groups that have supported both establishment favorites and candidates who regularly push the party further to the right on many issues.

For instance, both the super PAC of the Club for Growth and Senate Conservatives Action — which has ties to former GOP Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, who now heads the Heritage Foundation — raised sizable sums during the first half of 2013.

Senate Conservatives Action raised $1.3 million, while Club for Growth Action raised $950,000. And the Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund collected nearly $2.1 million — with more than 80 percent of that sum coming from individual donors giving $200 or less.

Launched in January, the Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund is “dedicated to supporting those candidates who will sincerely work to rein in out-of-control government,” according to its website. An online straw poll currently touts GOP politicians including Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky.; Ted Cruz, R-Texas; and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., as potential 2016 presidential prospects.

All the while, the late GOP mega-donor Bob Perry — the Houston homebuilder who died in April — continued to fuel conservative super PACs at the dawn of 2013.

Records indicate that Perry contributed $3.1 million split among three groups: Texans for a Conservative Majority ($2 million); Senate Conservatives Action ($1 million) and Kentuckians for Strong Leadership ($100,000), which amended its FEC filing late Wednesday to clarify that Perry did not give from beyond the grave.

For its part, Texans for a Conservative Majority — which raised $2.2 million overall — was registered earlier this year by Texas lobbyist Randy Cubriel, who did not respond to a message seeking comment about his group’s 2014 plans. And Kentuckians for Strong Leadership — which raised $1.2 million — is supporting the re-election of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

Likewise, American Crossroads, the behemoth co-founded in 2010 by GOP strategists Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie, raised $1.9 million during the first half of 2013, with large corporate contributions coming from Texas billionaire Harold Simmons’ Contran Corp. (at $1 million) and Oklahoma-based Rooney Holdings ($150,000).

Jonathan Collegio, the spokesman of American Crossroads, predicted that “enthusiasm about the opportunity to win control of the Senate as well as the paramount need to defend our House majority” would fuel additional donations during the 2014 election cycle.

“We have yet to make any hard fundraising requests this year,” he added. “We expect our activity in 2014 will be similar to past cycles.”

New York Times: When ‘Super PACs’ Become Lobbyists

Sunday, December 2nd, 2012

The “super PACs” and secret-money groups that polluted this year’s election with hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of largely ineffective attack ads are not slinking away in shame. Many are regrouping and raising more money for a task that is no less pernicious: lobbying Congress and the White House on behalf of their special-interest donors, using the new, anything-goes rules of super PACs to make their advocacy more powerful.

New York Times

Americans for Prosperity, the so-called social welfare group founded with the support of David and Charles Koch, spent at least $36 million this cycle in a largely fruitless attempt to defeat Democrats and elect Republicans. Now it is joining with other conservative groups to lobby Congress not to raise taxes in the current negotiations over the “fiscal cliff.” The group is also demanding there be no reduction or delay in the budget sequester, the widely loathed measure that, in January, will begin cutting $1 trillion in spending over a decade.

It will be joined in that effort by the Club for Growth, which spent $19 million to elect Republicans; by Americans for Tax Reform, led by Grover Norquist, which spent almost $16 million; and by the American Crossroads groups, founded by Karl Rove, which spent $175 million. None of the candidates Crossroads supported won their races, but, nonetheless, the groups are planning a new lobbying and advertising effort on the fiscal cliff, as well as energy and health care issues, according to Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper.

It’s bad enough that these groups and their wealthy donors, many of them secret, missed the message of the election, in which voters rejected their stridency and supported policies like higher taxes on the rich. But by combining lobbying with lavish campaign donations, they are enhancing the danger of the unlimited-spending era.

Super PACs can use the threat of raising unlimited money for the purpose of electing or defeating a candidate far more effectively than old-fashioned trade associations. Corporations, unions and other interests now have two ways to pressure public officials. They can unleash an expensive advertising and lobbying campaign on an issue like taxes or military spending, and then they can threaten to pummel lawmakers in primary or general election campaigns if they don’t get their way. Business leagues like the United States Chamber of Commerce have been doing this for years, but the ease of opening super PACs makes it possible for a much larger group of moneyed players, from conservative to liberal, to join the game.

That’s why the National Association of Realtors formed a super PAC to praise lawmakers for supporting tax deductions for second homes. The American Dental Association has one, as does Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York (promoting centrism) and the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund.

Many of the social welfare groups need to spend money on lobbying to show the Internal Revenue Service that their primary purpose isn’t electing candidates, though those goals are so intertwined that the I.R.S. still needs to force those groups to disclose their donors. Short of a constitutional amendment prohibiting unlimited spending, Congress can counter these combined political and lobbying assaults by passing the Empowering Citizens Act, which gives individuals a chance to be heard.

Wall Street Journal: The Super PAC Lesson

Monday, November 12th, 2012

Thoughts on campaign spending from the Wall Street Journal.  There was not enough of it for their tastes.

Apparently Mitt was “defenseless” against Obama’s ads.

Wall Street Journal

In every election there are issues that take up an inordinate amount of media attention but turn out to be sideshows. This year’s champion is Super PAC spending. Liberals first claimed that the Koch brothers and other wealthy donors were “buying” the election, but now that Democrats have won they are claiming that these GOP donors were gullible fools for giving at all. They’re wrong on both counts.

Money did matter, as it always does to some extent. But the cash that really counted was the more than $100 million that the Obama campaign used from May through July in the battleground states to portray Mitt Romney as Gordon Gekko without the social conscience. The Election Day exit polls show that Mr. Romney’s image never recovered from that ad barrage. He ran largely a biographical campaign and the Obama campaign destroyed his business biography. His net favorability was negative.

Mr. Romney’s advisers told us in early August that they would have liked to respond to the attacks but lacked the cash to do that and at the same time to portray a positive message after they had run through all of their money during the primary. They went with the positive message, albeit one that didn’t make much of an impact.

By the way, this is also the early-advertising strategy that Bill Clinton and adviser Dick Morris used to destroy Bob Dole in 1996. You’d think Republican strategists would have remembered that.

The GOP Super PACs tried to fill the gap by attacking Mr. Obama, but they were hard pressed to speak for a candidate whom by law they are prohibited from coordinating with. Perhaps their ads could have been more effective, and perhaps some of that money would have been better spent on matching Democratic voter turnout operations. Those questions deserve to be part of a GOP self-examination. But it’s hard to believe that Mr. Romney would have done any better if the Super PACs hadn’t existed.

All of which suggests that the real problem this year wasn’t too much campaign spending but too little. The GOP lacked the cash to counter the attack ads when its candidate really needed it. Mr. Romney raised enough money after the conventions, but by then it was too late to expand the field of competition other than with a late sneak attack of the kind the campaign tried in Pennsylvania.

In focusing so much on rich GOP donors, the media also underplayed the way the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision helped Democrats. That ruling overturned longstanding rules that prohibited unions from using dues money to communicate politically with non-union members. This allowed unions to run more efficient voter-targeting operations, since they didn’t have to skip non-union households, and it contributed to voter turnout in places like Nevada, Wisconsin and Ohio.

The unions were also helped by the many White House and campaign officials whom Mr. Obama dispatched to fund-raise for Democratic Super PACs—when he wasn’t busy criticizing GOP spending.

The history of campaign-finance limits is that attention to the issue recedes when Democrats win. But expect it to return in time for the 2014 campaign cycle, when the media will find some new Sheldon Adelson to portray as a threat to democracy even as unions go on spending their cash below the radar.

A far better reform would remove all donation limits to candidates, so nominees like Mr. Romney of either party aren’t left defenseless again. The Super PACs would fade in importance and the candidates would get to better control their own message. The U.S. is a huge country and it takes lots of money to educate voters.

CNBC: Here’s How Much Candidates Spend to Get Your Vote

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are spending a combined $26.86 every second this election cycle, as a binge of campaign spending deluges voters with rallies, banners, and of course, TV ads.

CNBC

The figure comes from a grand total of nearly $1.5 billion spent by both sides just through September. And that works out to about $70 million per month, and more than $2.3 million every day, according to data provided by the Federal Election Commission.

No wonder both candidates spend so much time in fundraisers.

From January 2011 through September, the Obama campaign burned through over $470 million, with the Democratic National Committee spending another $255 million.

And the top three Obama Super PACs dumped in another $53.7 million. All that totals more than $775 million dollars spent — before the crucial election month of October.

On the Romney side, the campaign had spent $298 million in that same time frame, which was joined by $249 million by the Republican National Committee and $156.5 million from the top three Romney Super Pacs. All told, that’s more than $700 million.

The Obama team held the lead by about $75 million as of September.

Historically, these are big, big numbers.

In 1980, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan plus the DNC and RNC spent a combined $528 million in 2012-adjusted dollars. By 2000, that figure had jumped to $899 million in adjusted dollars.

That means the campaigns are spending a lot more per voter than they did years ago. Take a look at the math.

With more than $770 million in campaign and Super Pac spending for Obama this year, the forces supporting the president have spent about $5.33 per registered voter when you calculate using the total number or registered voters in the last campaign, which was just over 146.3 million.

Romney’s team, similarly, has spent about $4.81 per voter. Combined, that’s $10.14 per registered voter.

(Read More: Wall Street Gaming Romney Win: ‘Trillion at Stake’)

Compare that to how much it cost to reach registered voters in 1980: The $528 million spent by Reagan and Carter campaigns plus their parties reached fewer voters — 105 million registered voters. That made total spending over $5 per registered voter.

Election 2012

Your Money Your Vote - A CNBC Special Report

Twenty years later, George W. Bush and Al Gore and their party committees combined spent $899 million to reach that year’s nearly 130 million registered voters. That’s just under $7 per registered voter.

By our math, the cost to reach each voter in America has gone up consistently over the past three decades. There’s lesson in that for the campaigns and the fundraisers who push for ever more cash each year: that flood of money is causing political inflation. And that makes the constant reach for new fundraising records a self-fulfilling prophesy

ZeroHedge: Meet The Billionaires Behind The Best Presidents Money Can Buy

Sunday, October 21st, 2012

The last time we checked on the (funding) status of America’s real presidential race – the one where America’s uber-wealthy try to outspend each other in hopes of purchasing the best president money can buy – the totals were substantially lower. With November 6 rapidly approaching, however, the scramble to lock in those record political lobbying IRRs is in its final lap.

And thanks to the unlimited nature of PAC spending, look for the spending to really go into overdrive in the next 2 weeks as the spending frenzy on the world’s greatest tragicomedy hits previously unseen heights.

ZeroHedge

RESTORE OUR FUTURE

Total raised as of Sept. 30: $110.5 million – supports Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney

  • Bob Perry – Houston builder who was a major donor to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, a group that helped undermine 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry by attacking his Vietnam War record. Total donations: $10 million
  • Sheldon Adelson – billionaire Las Vegas casino magnate who built the Venetian hotel and casino. Donation: $5 million
  • Miriam Adelson – Sheldon’s wife. Donation: $5 million
  • Bill Koch – brother of conservative financiers David and Charles Koch. He runs Oxbow Carbon, a Florida-based firm that is also a donor and shares its address with another contributor, Huron Carbon. Total donations, including through firms: $4 million
  • Steven Lund – runs Nu Skin, a Utah skin care and cosmetics company whose former executives have been linked to two other firms that share an address in Provo, Utah, and donated to the Super PAC: F8 LLC and Eli Publishing. Lund’s wife Kalleen is also a donor. Total donations from the Lunds and firms: $3 million
  • Julian Robertson – hedge fund industry legend at Tiger Management. Total donations: $1.3 million
  • Crow Holdings – Dallas-based investment firm managing the wealth of the family of the late Dallas real estate mogul Trammell Crow, whose sons Harlan and Trammell S. Crow are also donors. Total Crow Holdings and Crow donations: $1.3 million
  • Harold Simmons – billionaire Dallas banker and CEO of Contran Corp who has contributed to PACs supporting Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich. Donations: $1.3 million
  • Frank VanderSloot – Idaho businessman who runs the nutritional and cosmetics company Melaleuca. The firm and its subsidiaries have also donated. Total donations: $1.1 million
  • The Villages of Lake Sumter – a community in Florida run by billionaire Gary Morse, who is also a donor alongside his wife Renee and their several children. Along with the Morse family, thirteen companies controlled wholly or partially by Morse that share an address in The Villages have also contributed. Total donations of all: $1.7 million.
  • Kenneth Griffin – Chicago-based hedge fund manager and CEO of Citadel LLC. Total donations: $1.1 million
  • Bob Parsons – billionaire founder of web hosting giant Go Daddy. Donation: $1 million
  • Jim Davis – chairman of New Balance Athletic Shoes Inc. Donations: $1 million
  • Stanley Herzog – CEO of Missouri-based Herzon Contracting Corp. Donation: $1 million
  • Bruce Kovner – billonaire hedge fund manager at Caxton Alternative Management. Donation: $1 million
  • Rocco Ortenzio – Pennsylvania healthcare executive and founder of Select Medical Corp. Total donations: $1 million
  • John Childs – founder of private equity firm J.W. Childs Associates LP in Florida. Donation: $1 million
  • Edward Conard – a New York investor and former executive at Bain Capital, a private equity firm co-founded by Romney. Donation: $1 million
  • John Kleinheinz – Texas hedge fund manager for Kleinheinz Capital Partners Inc. Donation: $1 million
  • J.W. Marriott Jr. – chairman and CEO of Marriott International, brother of Richard. Total donations: $1 million
  • Richard Marriott – chairman of Host Marriott International. Total donations: $1 million
  • Robert McNair – owner of the Houston Texans football team. Donation: $1 million.
  • Robert Mercer – New York hedge fund manager at Renaissance Technologies. Donation: $1 million
  • John Paulson – a prominent New York hedge fund manager at Paulson and Co. Donation: $1 million
  • Rooney Holdings Inc – private investment firm formed in 1980s to acquire the Manhattan Construction Co. and has since expanded into many areas. Total donations: $1 million
  • Paul Singer – hedge fund manager who helped fund efforts to legalize gay marriage in New York. Donation: $1 million
  • Paul and Sandra Edgerly – Paul Edgerly of Brookline, Massachusetts, is an executive at Bain. The Edgerlys each have given $500,000. Total donations: $1 million
  • Steven Webster – private equity executive at Avista Capital in Houston. Total donations: $1 million
  • Robert Brockman – executive at Reynolds and Reynolds, a Dayton, Ohio-based car dealership support company that shares a P.O. Box with CRC Information Systems Inc, Fairbanks Properties LLC and Waterbury Properties LLC, which split the donation three ways. Total donations: $1 million
  • Miguel Fernandez – chairman of MBF Healthcare Partners, a private equity firm. MBF Family Investments also donated to the Super PAC. Total donations: $1 million
  • Renco Group Inc. – owned by New York billionaire Ira Rennert, another frequent contributor to Republicans this year. Donation: $1 million
  • OdysseyRe Holdings Corp – reinsurance underwriting company in Stamford, Connecticut that is a U.S. subsidiary of Toronto-based Fairfax Financial. Donation: $1 million

 

PRIORITIES USA ACTION

Total raised as of Sept. 30: $50.1 million – supports Democratic President Barack Obama

  • James Simons – billionaire hedge fund manager, founder of Renaissance Technologies Corp. Donation: $3.5 million
  • Fred Eychaner – founder of Newsweb Corp. Donation: $3.5 million
  • Jeff Katzenberg – chief executive of DreamWorks Animation. Donation: $3 million
  • Steve Mostyn – Houston attorney. Donation: $2 million
  • Irwin Mark Jacobs – former CEO of Qualcomm Inc. Donation: $2 million
  • Jon Stryker – billionaire activist and heir to the medical supply company fortune of his grandfather. Donation: $2 million
  • Anne Cox Chambers – billionaire daughter of James M. Cox, founder of Cox Enterprises. Total donations: $1.5 million
  • National Air Traffic Controllers Association – union representing more than 16,000 workers. Donation: $1.3 million
  • S. Daniel Abraham – billionaire creator of Slim-Fast brand, chairman of S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace. Donation: $1.2 million
  • Barbara Stiefel – retiree in Coral Gables, Florida. Donation: $1.1 million
  • United Auto Workers – Donations through various funds: $1.1 million
  • Kareem Ahmed – chief executive at Landmark Medical Management in California. Donation: $1 million
  • David Boies, Jr – New York lawyer. Donation: $1 million
  • Morgan Freeman – Hollywood actor. Donation: $1 million
  • Amy Goldman – writer and heiress to the New York real estate fortune of Sol Goldman. Donation: $1 million
  • Franklin Haney – owner and CEO of FLH Company, a Washington-based real estate company. Donation: $1 million
  • Bill Maher – stand-up comedian. Donation: $1 million
  • Mel Heifetz – real estate developer and gay activist. Donation: $1 million
  • Michael Snow – Minnesota lawyer. Donation: $1 million.
  • Steven Spielberg – film director. Donation: $1 million.
  • Ann Wyckoff – Seattle philanthropist. $1 million.
  • Service Employees International Union Committee on Political Education – union representing more than 2 million workers. Donation: $1 million.
  • United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry – union representing some 340,000 workers. Total donations: $1 million

AMERICAN CROSSROADS

Total raised as of Sept. 30: $68 million – supports Republican candidates for federal offices

  • Harold Simmons – Total donations together with Contran Corp: $15.5 million
  • Bob Perry – Total donations: $6.5 million
  • Robert Rowling – an Irving, Texas, businessman and a conservative and active Republican donor. His company, TRT Holdings Inc, which runs Omni Hotel and Gold’s Gym chains, is also a donor. Total donations: $4 million
  • Joe Craft – billionaire coal executive from Tulsa, Oklahoma, and CEO of Alliance Holdings, which is also a donor. Total donations: $2.1 million
  • Jerry Perenchio Living Trust – a trust of billionaire television tycoon A. Jerrold Perenchio, who is a former chairman of Spanish-language broadcaster Univision. Donation: $2 million
  • Crow Holdings – Dallas-based real estate investment firm. Total donations: $1.5 million
  • Weaver Holdings and Weaver Popcorn – Indiana-based company specializing in popcorn. Total contributions: $1.9 million
  • Stephens Inc – a Little Rock, Arkansas, broker dealer. Total donations: $1.3 million
  • Armstrong Group – telecommunications conglomerate in Pennsylvania. Donation: $1.3 million
  • JWC III Revocable Trust – Donatoin: $1.3 million
  • Robert Brockman – executive at Ohio-based Reynolds and Reynolds. Similarly to Restore Our Future, three firms sharing a P.O. Box – CRC Information Systems Inc, Fairbanks Properties LLC and Waterbury Properties LLC – split the donation three ways. Total donations: $1 million
  • Whiteco Industries – Indiana-based company involved in advertising, construction, entertainment and hotels. Donation: $1 million
  • The Mercury Trust – entity linked to California private equity firm of Saul Fox. Donation: $1 million
  • Clayton Williams Energy Inc – Midland, Texas-based drilling company. Donation: $1 million
  • Jay Bergman – of PETCO Petroleum Corporation. Donation: $1 million
  • Kenneth Griffin – Citadel Investment Group chief executive. Total donations: $1 million
  • Wayne Hughes – Founder of Public Storage. Total donations: $1 million
  • John Childs – Chairman and CEO of Boston-based JW Childs Associates. Total donations: $1 million
  • Philip Geier – New York executive. Total donations: $1 million
  • Irving Moskowitz – a Florida bingo magnate who runs a charity in California and is known for his support of Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem. Donation: $1 million
  • Robert Mercer – co-CEO of hedge fund Renaissance Technologies. Donation: $1 million

 

BARACK OBAMA (Democrat)

  • Total raised, including transfers: $609.4 million
  • Raised in September, including transfers: $136.2 million
  • Total transferred from the funds jointly used by the campaign and the Democratic Party: $176.6 million
  • Transferred in September: $39.8 million
  • Total spent: $469.9 million
  • Spent in September: $111.4 million
  • Cash on hand: $99.3 million
  • Debt: $2.6 million

DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE

  • Total raised: $253.6 million
  • Raised in September: $20.3 million
  • Total transferred in: $108.4 million
  • Transferred in September: $4.0 million
  • Total spent: $261.6 million
  • Spent in September: $22.8 million
  • Cash on hand: $4.6 million
  • Debt: $20.5 million

OBAMA VICTORY FUND 2012 (The main joint Obama/DNC fund)

  • Total raised: $371.1 million
  • Raised in September: $80.0 million
  • Cash on hand: $45.2 million

 

MITT ROMNEY (Republican)

  • Total raised, including transfers: $337.2 million
  • Raised in September, including transfers: $76.2 million
  • Total transferred from the funds jointly used by the party and the Romney campaign: $236.4 million
  • Transferred in September: $34.2 million
  • Total spent: $298.2 million
  • Spent in September: $54.7 million
  • Cash on hand: $63.1 million
  • Debt: $5.0 million

REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE

  • Total raised: $331.2 million
  • Raised in September: $48.4 million
  • Total transferred in: $127.5 million
  • Transferred in September: $28.6 million
  • Total spent: $249.4 million
  • Spent in September: $42.4 million
  • Cash on hand: $82.6 million
  • Debt: $9.9 million

ROMNEY VICTORY INC (Joint Romney/RNC fund – third quarter, July through Sept.)

  • Total raised: $375.6 million
  • Raised in third quarter: $235.2 million
  • Cash on hand: $37.4 million

Appendix: SUPER PACS:

RESTORE OUR FUTURE, a Super PAC supporting Romney

  • Total raised: $110.5 million
  • Raised in September: $14.8 million
  • Total spent: $94.9 million
  • Spent in September: $4.6 million
  • Cash on hand: $16.6 million

PRIORITIES USA, a Super PAC supporting Obama

  • Total raised: $50.1 million
  • Raised in September: $15.3 million
  • Total spent: $43.6 million
  • Spent in September: $12.8 million
  • Cash on hand: $7.3 million

AMERICAN CROSSROADS, a Super PAC supporting Republicans

  • Total raised: $68.0 million
  • Raised in September: $11.4 million
  • Total spent: $53.4 million
  • Spent in September: $27.9 million
  • Cash on hand: $15.8 million

Source: Reuters

Washington Post: Vendors finesse law barring ‘coordination’ by campaigns, independent groups

Sunday, October 14th, 2012

Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign and American Crossroads, an allied interest group, are barred by federal law from working together on political advertising.

But it’s perfectly legal for them to hire the same company to run Internet ads. That company uses some of the same employees to represent the two clients, and the same databases to store information on people it will target with ads.

Washington Post

By all accounts, Romney’s campaign and the group spending millions of dollars on his behalf are not violating the law that prohibits campaigns and independent organizations from coordinating their efforts.

The law was meant to separate campaigns from outside groups with wealthy donors — the theory being that large political contributions could have a corrupting influence on candidates.

But it is a fuzzy line that separates the campaigns from groups such as Crossroads and the super PACs that have sprung up in the wake of a 2010 Supreme Court decision that allowed unrestricted corporate spending on campaigns. And the 2012 campaign, with its surge in spending from independent groups, offers many examples of how little the law actually prohibits when it comes to “coordination.”

The major super PACs helping President Obama and Romney, for example, were formed by men who previously worked as aides to the candidates.

And at least 30 political consulting companies have been hired by both a campaign or party and an independent group, according to campaign disclosure reports. The consultants provide a range of services, from polling to legal advice to media consulting.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee shares 10 vendors with the major super PAC helping Democrats win House races, the House Majority PAC. The super PAC, for example, paid $31,000 to Ralston Lapp Media to produce television ads, while the DCCC paid $173,000 for the same purpose. Nine Democratic congressional candidates also hired the company.

Contributions to candidates are capped at $2,500 for each election, but for many types of interest groups, there are no restrictions on donations. In order to prevent the groups from becoming de facto extensions of the campaigns, they are prohibited from spending money at the request of candidates or using inside knowledge of their strategies or wishes. But hiring a firm that works for both sides is legal as long as information is not shared.

Advocates for tighter restrictions on political money say the weakness of the law has allowed interest groups to essentially become another arm of the campaigns.

“The real scandal in 2012 is what’s legal,” said Paul S. Ryan, a lawyer with the Campaign Legal Center, which supports tightening campaign finance laws. “Certainly the law does not prevent coordination in the way that word is generally understood by the public.”

Over the past decade, more than 30 complaints of alleged coordination in federal races have been brought to the Federal Election Commission. But the complaints rarely prompt investigations because of the difficulty of collecting private communications that might prove coordination.

The high-tech realm of online ad targeting offers a new example of how tightly integrated campaigns and interest groups can become.

Romney’s campaign has bought $21 million in online advertising through an Alexandria-based ad agency called Targeted Victory, the same firm hired by American Crossroads to run $1 million in ads. The company spends most of that money buying space on the Web through ad networks.

The company also works for the Republican Party, prominent Republican House and Senate candidates, and interest groups active in congressional races, including the American Action Network, Americans for Prosperity and Crossroads GPS, which is affiliated with American Crossroads.

Targeted Victory uses Internet video ads to persuade people to oppose Obama and vote for Romney. It also uses a stockpile of data it has collected on Web users to reach them with ads for both Romney and Crossroads.

Separately, Targeted Victory keeps a record of those who have visited the Romney campaign Web site or the Crossroads site, and stores that information in the same location.

Romney campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul said the campaign’s vendors “understand the law and follow it.”

Targeted Victory’s chief executive, Michael Beach, said in an e-mailed statement that the company has separate teams of strategists for the two clients, crafting ad messages and finding potential voters online. Those teams work on opposite sides of a “firewall” described in FEC regulations, he said.

“Targeted Victory takes its compliance responsibilities seriously and continually reviews its operations to ensure compliance with the FEC rules,” Beach wrote.

He said the rules allow some employees to work for both Romney and Crossroads, including “personnel who merely forward the Internet ad buys to placement firms.”

FEC regulations specifically point to those working on “the selection or purchasing of advertising slots” as employees with the potential to share inside information that could be used for coordination.

A look at the same custom-built software running on the Romney and Crossroads Web sites shows the tight links between the organizations. When people visit the Romney or Crossroads site, their browsers download software written by Targeted Victory.

The code creates a trigger so that when users press a “donate” button, for example, their browsers report that information, which is kept in a database that commingles Romney and Crossroads users.

When users move on to a site with ads, that starts another chain reaction of code, transmitting the Romney and Crossroads information to ad networks, which may then display Romney or Crossroads ads.

Storing data together and using the same employees to represent Romney and Crossroads is not coordination under the law. To break the rule, an interest group would have to use inside information on the candidate’s needs or wishes to shape its own ad campaign.

Geoff Garin, a Democratic pollster who works for prominent liberal super PACs, said he uses a password-protected computer system to keep sensitive materials from his colleagues who might work directly for candidates or the official party committees. He praised the value of the rules as one of the only defenses keeping the work of candidates and well-funded interest groups separate.

“It seems we have a Swiss-cheese system here,” Garin said. “No offense to Swiss cheese.”

Dan Eggen contributed to this report.

© The Washington Post Company

MapLight, the Political Money Tracker, Launches Politicash 2012 App for the Presidential Election

Sunday, September 30th, 2012

Our friends at Maplight have a really great app for tracking the money flowing in this year’s election campaigns.

Maplight

MapLight, the Political Money Tracker, Launches Politicash 2012 App for the Presidential Election

Free Mobile App Gives Users Immediate Access to Who’s Funding Presidential Candidate and Affiliated Super PAC Campaigns

Sept. 25, 2012–MapLight, a nonpartisan research organization that reveals money’s influence on politics, announces the launch of its new mobile app, Politicash 2012. The app, freely available for iOS and Android, tracks money flowing into the presidential race, making it easier than ever to know exactly who’s funding the candidates, including the shadowy money going into the campaigns of their affiliated super PACs. An auto-tweet feature alerts candidates that users are keeping tabs on their fundraising. Politicash 2012 is updated regularly with the most recent data from the Federal Elections Commission (FEC).

“With millions of dollars flowing into the presidential race, Politicash 2012 makes it easier than ever to track the biggest donors and hold our candidates accountable, all from the palm of your hand,” said Daniel G. Newman, MapLight’s co-founder and president.

The app’s features include:

  • Head to head comparison of total contributions to Obama and Romney, including a fundraising breakdown by super PAC versus campaign committee
  • Graphs tracking money raised and spent by each candidate over time
  • The top 5 contributors overall
  • Biggest contributors of the latest week of available records from the FEC
  • A “Shake” feature, showing a random sample of company, individual, and PAC contributors to each candidate

Download Politicash 2012 today for iOS and Android.

Politicash 2012 launches in partnership with the Brennan Center for Justice, the Campaign Legal Center, Common Cause, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Global Exchange, the Participatory Politics Foundation, Public Campaign, Rock the Vote, and Rootstrikers.

Los Angeles Times: Poll: Americans largely in favor of campaign spending limitations

Monday, September 17th, 2012

Amid the flurry of cash directed at the presidential campaigns as well as congressional races, a new poll reveals that the American people aren’t pleased with the vast amount of fundraising now involved in elections.

Los Angeles Times

An Associated Press-National Constitution Center poll found that 83% believe there should be at least some limits on the amount of money corporations, unions and other organizations are permitted to contribute to groups seeking to influence the outcome of presidential and congressional races. And 67% think that limits should also be placed on individual contributions to campaigns. That matches up with just 13% who don’t want limits on external contributions, and 28% who repudiate limits on individuals.

The poll comes during the first post-Citizens United presidential election, stemming from the 2010 Supreme Court decision which ceased limitations on campaign expenditures aimed toward independent organizations made by corporations, ruling them to be free speech protected under the Constitution.

INTERACTIVE: Spending during the 2012 election

The Los Angeles Times has detailed much of the money spent by third-party groups on either side of the presidential race, which as of Sunday has topped $152 million since April. That spending is dominated by spending against President Obama, ($88.9 million), compared with the relatively small amount spent so far against Mitt Romney ($34.9 million).

Americans for Prosperity, a conservative nonprofit advocacy group heavily backed by the well-known Koch brothers, top the list of groups working against Obama, spending $30.8 million on “issue ads.” Restore Our Future, a group formed by former aides of Romney’s campaign, narrowly trails AFP with $28.4 million.

Spending against Romney, on the other hand, is singularly dominated by Priorities USA Action’s $26.4 million, which accounts for over 75% of the total spending against the Republican candidate. Priorities USA Action, like Restore Our Future, was started by former White House aides.

Tellingly, opposition spending dwarfs spending made in favor of either candidate, with just $4.8 million spent in support of Obama, and $13 million spent in favor of Romney.

INTERACTIVE: Battleground states map

As for the presidential rivals themselves, Obama and the Democratic Party, for the first time since April, recently out-raised Romney and the Republican National Committee during August, $114 million to $111.6 million. Through August, Obama and the DNC lead Romney and the RNC in fundraising $747.4 million to $645.9 million.

Romney has repeatedly defended the ruling in Citizens United, while Obama has called for it to be overturned.

The AP-National Constitution Center Poll was conducted between Aug. 16-20 with landline and cellphone interviews among 1,006 individuals with a margin of error of +/- 3.9 points.

LA Times: $119 million and counting: Track groups’ spending on 2012 race

Friday, August 31st, 2012

The figures reveal just part of the picture of outside spending, however. While super PACs must report their spending to the Federal Election Commission, tax-exempt advocacy groups only have to report money they spend on certain kinds of ads

LA Times

“Super PACs” and other outside groups have reported spending more than $119 million on the presidential campaign since Mitt Romney unofficially clinched the Republican nomination in early April, a sum that underscores the profound impact independent political groups are having on the 2012 presidential race.

Two-thirds of that money has gone into television ads and other efforts opposing President Obama’s reelection and backing Romney’s bid, according to an analysis of Federal Election Commission data by the Times Data Desk.

Readers can track the spending by outside groups with a new online tool, which provides the expenditures for each group and a sample of the television ads that have shaped each week of the race. 

The number of outside groups engaging in campaign activity increased exponentially in the last two years, the result of a series of federal court decisions that allowed corporations to make unlimited political expenditures and blessed the creation of super PACs, which can raise unlimited sums.

Ostensibly, super PACs must operate independent of the candidates and political parties. But both Obama and Romney are being backed by super PACs run by former aides. The pro-Romney Restore Our Future has spent $28.5 million against Obama so far. The pro-Obama Priorities USA Action has poured in nearly $21.5 million against Romney. (Both groups have spent additional funds on ads backing their candidates.)

The figures reveal just part of the picture of outside spending, however. While super PACs must report their spending to the Federal Election Commission, tax-exempt advocacy groups only have to report money they spend on certain kinds of ads.

And those groups, which do not disclose their donors, have been some of the most active in this campaign.

Together, American Crossroads and its nonprofit arm, Crossroads GPS, are expected to spend $300 million, and Americans for Prosperity, backed by billionaire energy executives and brothers David and Charles Koch, has a $151-million budget. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce plans to pump at least $50 million into congressional races — which means those four groups alone could account for half a billion dollars of spending in the 2012 cycle.

Crossroads co-founder Karl Rove told donors in a private briefing Thursday that conservative outside groups spent $110 million against Obama just between May 15 and July 31, Bloomberg reported Friday.

Fox News: GOP super PACs widen cash advantage over Dem groups

Sunday, July 1st, 2012

The national campaigns backing President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney are drawing even in their fundraising prowess, but new financial filings released show that the “super” political committees supporting the GOP candidate and his party are widening the money gap over struggling pro-Democratic party organizations.

Fox News

The main pro-Romney super PAC, Restore Our Future, on Wednesday reported raising $8 million in May, giving it a total of $64 million so far. The group spent more than $55 million to defeat Romney’s opponents during the GOP primary, and it is now reaping high-dollar financial aid from both veteran Romney supporters and from donors who once backed his rivals. 

A political committee backing Obama, Priorities USA Action, posted its strongest one-month total by raking in $4 million in May, a sign that Democrats had begun digging deep into their wallets after months of hesitance. But the pro-Obama group was still left in the dust — not only by the Restore committee’s strong performance but also by the latest tally from American Crossroads, a Republican super PAC formed by GOP strategist Karl Rove. It raised $4.6 million in May. 

After early months that saw Obama reach impressive fundraising totals echoing his campaign’s record-breaking $750 million haul in 2008, the changing calculus raises the prospect that he could become the first incumbent president outspent by his challenger. Romney’s national campaign joined with the Republican Party in May to raise more than $76 million, outpacing Obama and the Democrats’ $60 million haul during the same period. 

Super PACs can raise and spend unlimited amounts of cash but are not allowed to coordinate their efforts with the candidates they support. The national presidential campaigns can devote their cash both to media and Web ads and to turn out party faithful, but the super PACs tend to spend most of their war chests on media campaigns. 

The latest financial filings for the pro-Romney Restore committee show that while he was consolidating his position as the GOP favorite, backers of some of his opponents were shifting their financial allegiance to his cause — even as some of his loyal super PAC backers dug deeper to bankroll the committee’s tough media ads now targeting Obama. 

The biggest contributions to Restore Our Future in May came from a trio of firms linked to a Houston-based businessman who previously supported a Romney rival, Texas Gov. Rick Perry. The disclosures show that three companies based at the same post office box office in Dayton, Ohio, each gave $333,333 to the pro-Romney super PAC. Corporation records show the firms are headed by Houston businessman Robert T. Brockman, who missed giving the super PAC a rounded-off $1 million donation by a single dollar. 

Brockman heads the Reynolds and Reynolds Co., an Ohio-based firm that provides computer and software systems for auto dealerships. Brockman’s personal website lists him only as chairman and CEO of the Reynolds and Reynolds Co., but his name is not listed with any of the Dayton donations. Calls to Brockman at his office in Houston were not immediately returned to The Associated Press. 

Although super PACs are required to divulge all their donations, loose disclosure rules allow contributors to withhold their names and mask their donations by setting up limited liability corporations or other front companies. One of Restore’s first donors, Edward Conard, made a $1 million contribution last year behind a front company, W Spann LLC, until public pressure forced him to acknowledge his name and affiliation with Romney’s former private equity firm, Bain Capital. 

Brockman’s firm, Reynolds and Reynolds, was one of more than 60 companies that wrote to three Obama administration Cabinet officials last October, urging them not to overburden employers with “unnecessary expenses” as part of the new health care law. In the Oct. 21, 2011, letter to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sibelius and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, Reynolds and Reynolds and the other firms — they included the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — also urged an extension of a deadline for them to provide health benefit summaries to U.S. agencies. 

Before his companies donated to the pro-Romney group, another firm linked to Brockman had previously given $50,000 to Perry. The $50,000 donation to the pro-Perry Restoring Prosperity Fund came from Dealer Computer Services Inc., another Reynolds and Reynolds subsidiary. Brockman also gave more than $280,000 to Perry during his statewide races in Texas over the past decade, according to contribution files posted by the Texas Tribune. 

Another top Restore donor was Rocco Ortenzio, who gave $750,000 to the committee. Ortenzio, who previously gave $250,000 to Romney, heads a Pennsylvania-based health care empire that includes private hospitals, rehab centers and clinics. Ortenzio has given to numerous Republican and Democratic officeholders, but donated regularly to Romney rival Rick Santorum when he served in Congress. 

The filings show a $500,000 donation to the pro-Romney group by a first-time contributor, Warren Stephens, an Arkansas investment banker. And $67,500 was donated by another new Restore donor, Richard Mellon Scaife, a longtime conservative fundraiser who publishes the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Scaife has funded conservative and libertarian causes for decades and aided conservative efforts to impeach former President Bill Clinton in 1998. 

There were also new large donations to Restore from several prominent Romney supporters who previously funded the super PAC. William Laverack, a New York investor who previously gave the committee $350,000, added another $150,000 in April. Like Conard, Laverack had masked an earlier $200,000 contribution through a Connecticut limited liability corporation called Paumanok Partners. And two Florida super PAC contributors, developer H. Gary Morse and his wife, Renee, each gave $100,000 to Restore in May. That $200,000 figure added to $500,000 donated previously to the committee by Morse’s wife and the Florida retirement community he runs, Villages of Lake Sumter. 

The pro-Romney committee’s roster of veteran GOP fundraisers was matched in May by Rove’s super PAC, whose funders included some donors who have given copiously to both groups. According to filings released by Rove’s committee late Wednesday night, Alliance Coal President Joseph Craft gave $1.25 million to American Crossroads in May after donating $500,000 to the pro-Romney super PAC. And Crow Holdings LLC, a holding company tied to Texas businessman Harlan Crow, gave American Crossroads $1 million in May after previously handing over $300,000 to the pro-Romney committee. 

The super PAC supporting Obama showed new signs of life after months of subsistence funding. The group posted three donations of $1 million — from Houston personal injury trial attorney and longtime Perry foe Steve Mostyn, from Washington, D.C., developer and veteran Democratic Party insider Franklin Haney and from south Florida philanthropist Barbara Stiefel. 

Meanwhile, Obama’s national campaign reported $109.7 million in the bank at the end of May but spent more than it took in during the same period. The campaign collected $39.1 million and spent $44.5 million during the month. The Democratic Party, meanwhile, had $29.6 million cash on hand at end of the month, raising about $20 million during the period and spending $14.6 million. 

Even as it has drawn even with Obama’s financial strength, Romney’s campaign is taking few chances at being outspent. His national finance team is hosting a retreat in Utah this weekend for contributors who raised tens of thousands of dollars for his campaign. GOP heavyweights like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice are expected to attend