Dark Money Made Up nearly 1/3 of Trackable Spending, Hundreds of Mill More Undisclosed

Washington Post: “Dark money — money spent by independent groups that are not required to disclose their donors — made up 31 percent of all independent group spending in the 2014 midterm elections.

“However, this is only the dark money we are able to track. An estimated hundreds of millions of dollars more spent by nonprofit groups this election was not been publicly disclosed because it was spent by tax-exempt advocacy groups and trade associations that do not have politics as their primary purpose.

“That money, much of which went to so-called “issue ads” and field efforts, did not have to be reported to the Federal Election Commission because the groups did not explicitly call for the election or defeat of a candidate.”

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Candidate for MD County Office Outspent Opponent 7 to 1, over $2M Total

Capital Gazette: “Republican Steve Schuh outspent his Democratic opponent more than 7 to 1 in his bid to become the next Anne Arundel County executive, the latest finance reports released Tuesday show.

“Schuh’s campaign spent $2.2 million in the last three years and raised more than $2.5 million during that time. Schuh also loaned his campaign nearly $400,000 of his own money. The latest report shows he has more than $330,000 cash on hand.”

How American Crossroads Seemingly Violates Nonprofit Political Rules with Impunity

OpenSecrets: “In 2012, the year that Crossroads provided the lion’s share of its funding, ATR told the Federal Election Commission it spent nearly $15.8 million on “independent expenditures” — that is, direct advocacy for and against specific candidates. As OpenSecrets Blog first reported, that amounted to more than half of the total $31 million that ATR told the IRS it spent that year.

“Moreover, since the grant from Crossroads GPS made up 86 percent of ATR’s revenues that year, most of the money spent by ATR on political activity had to have been Crossroads’ money. Crossroads had already come close to spending about half of its own resources on politics, intending for its grants to other groups to fulfill its “social welfare” mandate. But by underwriting almost all of ATR’s budget, Crossroads, in effect, amplified and expanded its own political spending. And that’s to say nothing of Crossroads other grants to politically active groups.

“All this happened despite the fact that in 2012, Crossroads GPS claimed to have instituted more stringent requirements for how it selects grantees and how those grantees can use the funds.”

CREW: 67 Senators Used Campaign Funds to Enrich Family, $1.3M to Relatives, $2.6M to Related Entities

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington: “Senators collectively paid relatives nearly $1.3 million in salaries and fees and paid family businesses, employers, or associated nonprofits nearly $2.6 million. Twenty senators claimed reimbursements from their campaigns and leadership PACs for themselves and their relatives exceeding $25,000 apiece. Several senators also earmarked or directed money to organizations affiliated with their family members.”

“Key findings of the report include:

  • 19 senators (5 Democrats, 1 Independent, and 13 Republicans) who paid family members through their campaign committees or political action committees;
  • 30 senators (10 Democrats and 20 Republicans) who have relatives who lobby or are employed in government affairs;
  • 26 senators (12 Democrats and 14 Republicans) who have paid a family business, employer, or associated nonprofit;
  • 7 senators (5 Democrats and 2 Republicans) who used their campaign funds to contribute to or pay a family member’s campaign;
  • 3 senators (1 Democrat and 2 Republicans) who charged interest on loans they made personally to their own campaigns; and
  • 11 senators (6 Democrats and 5 Republicans) who earmarked or directed money to a family business, employer, or associated nonprofit.”

The report has been challenged by some of the named Senators alleging inaccuracies.

Washington Times: “Sen. Mike Lee, Utah Republican, rang up the highest tab, with $258,556 in salary being paid over several years to Benjamin James Burr, who is his wife’s nephew.

“But Lee spokesman Brian Phillips said CREW had misreported information and condemned the group’s report. He pointed out that Senate ethics rules specifically do not cover payments to nieces and nephews who are only related by marriage.”

“Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican and possible 2016 GOP contender, paid Jesse Benton, his niece’s husband, $172,417 in salary for several years of work as a political strategy consultant, according to CREW. Mr. Paul and his leadership PAC also paid a combined $4.8 million to a media production company for which Mr. Paul’s wife Kelley worked as a consultant.

“In an email to The Washington Times, Paul spokesman Sergio Gor called CREW’s report “false and inaccurate,” adding that Mr. Benton has not been on any payroll connected to Mr. Paul in more than three years.

‘The numbers in the report are inflated because one of the companies compensated spent large amounts of cash on media buys, not compensation,’ added Brian Darling, senior communications director for Mr. Paul.”

WI DoT Proposes Fee on Electric Cars to Fund Road-Building, Industry Contributed Nearly $1M to Walker, Legislators

Product Design & Development (AP): “The $50 annual charge, which would raise about $4 million a year, is part of $751 million in new taxes and fees proposed Friday by Walker’s Department of Transportation to pay for road projects. Walker hasn’t commented specifically on the proposal, which he can alter before releasing his state budget early next year. The budget then goes to the Legislature for consideration.”

“The road building lobby is one of the most powerful in the Legislature.

“Walker received nearly $731,000 in campaign contributions from road builders between 2011 and July 28, according to a tally by the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. Members of the current Legislature accepted nearly $300,000 from road builders over the same period.”

The Difficulty of Running a Populist Campaign in the Modern, Expensive Environment

The Salt Lank Tribune: “Yet there’s a limit to how far Warren, and the Democrats, can go with their little-guy theme, for one simple reason: They can’t afford it.

“More than ever in America, elections are purchased, not won. And that money comes from corporate and wealthy interests. Run against corporations and you lose that money — and the election.

“The Center for Responsive Politics estimates that $3.73 billion was spent in the 2014 midterms. The vast majority of that money comes from a small group; only 0.28 percent of the population contributed more than $200. Donations from business-related interests account for about 70 percent of the total — and Democrats are nearly as dependent on that cash, taking in 41?percent to the Republicans’ 58 percent.”

Nonprofit Leader Notes the Rising Danger of Campaign Spending in Elections

Bert Brandenburg from Justice at Stake in the Charlotte Observer: “The past decade and a half has seen a growing effort to buy state benches around the country. Spending on state supreme court campaigns has smashed records in more than two dozen states. Judges have responded by becoming professional fundraisers, courting attorneys and parties who appear before them.

“This year brought $14.4 million in judicial campaign TV advertising. The GOP also sought to bring its wave to the courts, as the Republican State Leadership Committee invested $3.4 million into a batch of state supreme court races nationwide.”