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Posts tagged "Super PACs"

(via Huffington Post: 7 Charts To Understand Citizens United On Its 4th Anniversary)

WASHINGTON — Four years ago the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case that corporations could spend unlimited sums of money on independent political spending. That ruling also applied to labor unions and, following a subsequent lower court ruling, to individual donors, as well.

The ensuing four years have seen significant changes to the way campaigns are funded, and an increase in influence for big money donors, as the independent political spending allowed by the court exploded. As these groups have spent more money, the sources of a large portion of their spending have gone undisclosed.

Below are seven charts to help you understand the impact of the Citizens United ruling as it reaches its fourth year:

Big Money Dominates

Top 1% Of Donors Accounted For Two-Thirds Of All Super PAC Funds In 2012
  • Top 1%: 68%
  • Other 99%: 32%
Source: Center for Responsive Politics.



According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the top 1 percent of super PAC donors accounted for 68 percent of all contributions made to super PACs in the 2012 election, the first full election cycle following the ruling.

These donors were led by casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson and his family, who combined to give more than $93 million to super PACs. The super PAC, created following both the Citizens United and the related SpeechNow.org decisions, became the primary vehicle for independent spending for the wealthy. While these groups are required to disclose their spending, they are also allowed to spend all of their funds on electoral efforts, unlike nonprofit organizations. But more on that later.

The top 1 percent of super PAC donors reads like the Forbes 400 or a guest list at Davos. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg operates his very own super PAC. The libertarian venture capitalist billionaire Peter Thiel became the largest donor to the Club for Growth’s super PAC as it worked to defeat establishment Republicans in primary campaigns. And billionaire hedge funders James Simons, Robert Mercer, Paul Singer and Ken Griffin all gave millions.

Billionaires now have an easy outlet for their entrepreneurial endeavors in politics. The only question is whether they want their names on a plaque — in this case, a disclosed FEC report — or if they would rather remain anonymous.

[…]

Of course, it isn’t so simple. The court’s ruling opened the door for nonprofit corporations, whether they are funded by corporations or not, to spend unlimited amounts on independent campaign activity so long as they remain in bounds of the lax tax laws that govern them. These tax laws do not require the disclosure of nonprofit donors. In fact, prior court rulings and Federal Election Commission legal interpretations had protected nonprofits from donor disclosure.

Nonprofits are not ideal for individuals or corporations who want to spend money on independent political activity, due to tax laws requiring these groups to spend a majority of their time outside of politics. But the donor anonymity they are guaranteed can make nonprofits worth the investment. The billionaire Koch brothers and their donor collective used a labyrinthine network of nonprofit groups to pump hundreds of millions of dollars into both the 2010 and 2012 elections.

One of the most obvious examples of donors’ desire for anonymity comes in the form of the Crossroads groups founded by Karl Rove. There is American Crossroads, the super PAC that discloses its donors, and there is Crossroads GPS, the nonprofit that does not. As evidenced in the chart below, donors have chosen anonymity at a rate of two-to-one since the groups were founded in 2010.

Donors Choose Dark Money Over Disclosure 
  • American Crossroads: $144,047,997
  • Crossroads GPS: $256,547,160
Source: Federal Election Commission and Internal Revenue Service.



More Money Than Candidates

In the 2012 election, independent groups spent more money than the actual candidates in three general election Senate races. That’s right — in Indiana, Virginia and Wisconsin, the major party candidates in the general election were outspent by independent groups.

That same dynamic played out in at least six House races in 2012. In California’s 35th District, independent groups — and really, just one independent group — spent two times as much as the candidates. In this race between two Democrats, Michael Bloomberg’s super PAC intervened with $3.3 million as the billionaire mayor sought to defeat the pro-gun incumbent Rep. Joe Baca (D). And he did: Bloomberg’s super PAC spending is credited with helping the heavily underfunded Gloria Negrete McLeod defeat Baca.

Shattered Television Advertising Records

Presidential Television Advertising Surged Post-Citizens United
  • 2004: 753,000
  • 2008: 796,000
  • 2012: 1,140,000
Source: Wesleyan Media Project. Numbers are based on data released in the paper titled, “Negative, Angry, and Ubiquitous: Political Advertising in 2012.”



The Wesleyan Media Project tracked television advertising in the 2012 election and found that advertising in the presidential campaign shattered previous records for money spent and advertising volume.

The number of television advertisements in the presidential general election jumped from approximately 753,000 in 2004 to approximately 1.14 million in 2012. While the decision by both President Barack Obama and also GOP nominee Mitt Romney to forgo public funding accounts for some of the increase, the rise of independent spending also played a major role.



h/t: Politico.com

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to delve once again into the controversial issue of limits on money in politics.

This time, it’s the limits placed by federal law on how much an individual can contribute to candidates and political organizations.

The court today agreed to take up a challenge brought by an Alabama man who claims it’s unconstitutional to prevent him from giving more than $46,200 to candidates and $70,800 to PACs and political committees. He does not challenge the limit on contributions to an individual candidate, but he does claim it’s unconstitutional to prevent him from contributing to as many candidates as he wishes.

h/t: NBCNews.com

How awesome would it be if actress Ashley Judd ran for Senate and beat Mitch McConnell? (by Current)

Cenk and the TYT gang tell it like it is as usual.

Retired donors to a super PAC supported by Dick Morris say they are dissatisfied with how their money was spent. It’s not hard to see why. 

As Media Matters reported last week, Federal Election Commission documents show that Morris’ Super PAC for America paid nearly $1.7 million, or nearly half of all money the Fox News political analyst and columnist for The Hill helped raise, to Newsmax Media, which manages Morris’ for-rent email list.

The circular scam apparently worked like this: Morris, acting as chief strategist for the group, sent at least 21 emails to his private for-rent email list, urging readers to give generously to the PAC to fund television ads Morris claimed were essential to a Mitt Romney victory. Newsmax.com sent an additional 25 emails to their own list, featuring a similar pitch and often the signature of either Morris or Michael Reagan, a Newsmax columnist and the PAC’s chairman. Then a large percentage of the take was directed back to the coffers of Newsmax, which derives significant profits from its ability to rent out its mailing list to various groups.

Super PACs are unregulated and free to spend their funds however they see fit. But they generally contribute most of their money to candidates or partisan advertising. It is unusual for them to spend half of their revenue on fundraising, and more so for that fundraising to directly profit the PAC’s primary spokesperson and strategist. Said Viveca Novak of the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks political spending: “Spending 50 percent for fundraising and other expenses would be high.”

Morris’ own supporters agree. Media Matters contacted more than 100 of his donors using publicly available information from the FEC. A disproportionate number of those listed in the FEC filings are retired, and at least a dozen of those contacted seemed extremely confused in their responses. Many more were openly hostile when asked for comment, especially in response to this reporter’s stated association with Media Matters.

Others were polite and curious to know how Dick Morris spent their money. Richard Clark, a retired farmer in Jefferson, New Hampshire, made two donations totaling $350 to Morris’ group. He was taken aback to learn where roughly $160 of it went. “Half of the budget going to fundraising is probably too high, a quarter of the total is probably closer to the maximum,” said Clark, who is also disturbed by Morris’ wide margin of error in predicting the election’s outcome. “Dick Morris’ emails convinced me to contribute, but he was way off. I’m less likely to send him money in the future.”

Don Hall, a disabled and retired insurance man in Amarillo, Texas, made five donations to Super PAC for America totaling $1,000. As a longtime fan of Morris’ “lunchtime videos,” the numbers and implications of the FEC filing disturbed him. “If it is true [that nearly 50 percent of funds went to fundraise through Newsmax and Morris’ website] then it would definitely affect my trust in Morris,” said Hall. “It would stop all contributions to him in the future.” 

Many of Morris’ donors describe a sense of bonding with the political analyst based on the daily videos he sends his email list, which feature Morris sitting in an easy chair wearing one of his large ensemble of brightly colored button-downs. 

h/t: MMFA

When Karl Rove’s Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies (GPS) formed in 2010, it established its official address in Warrenton, VA, and registered with the Internal Revenue Service a tax-exempt 501(c)(4) “social welfare organization.” It apparently did not, however, register as a charitable organization with the Commonwealth of Virginia, as appears was legally required.

According to state code, non-profit groups that intend to solicit contributions must first register with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Office of Charitable and Regulatory Programs. Groups must pay an annual fee ($325 for groups raising over $1 million annually), provide basic information about their operations, and must sign statements affirming that no funds “have been or will knowingly be used, directly or indirectly, to benefit or provide support, in cash or in kind, to terrorists, terrorist organizations, terrorist activities, or the family members of any terrorist.”

The Virginia law explicitly exempts political campaign committees that are “required by state or federal law to file a report or statement of contributions and expenditures.” Crossroads GPS has consistently kept its contributors secret as it has raised and spent tens of millions of dollars against Democratic candidates.

h/t: Josh Israel at Think Progress Justice

sarahlee310:

Karl Rove is upping the ante. According to Politico, the Rove-founded American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS are launching their biggest paid-media push of the election cycle Tuesday, with a $16 million one-week buy on TV and radio in multiple presidential swing states and Senate battlegrounds.

Of that $16 million, the super PAC American Crossroads will devote $11 million to defeating President Barack Obama, with a TV spot titled “Actually Happened” that compares the current 8.1 unemployment rate to a lower rate that the president projected earlier in his term. Viewers will see the ad in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia.

Crossroads GPS, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, will spend $1 million on radio ads in those same states and an additional $4 million in Montana, North Dakota and Virginia.

We can’t beat their money so we have to beat them with boots on the ground.  Have you volunteered?

FightBigotry.com, a new Super PAC registered with the Federal Election Commission this week, makes no bones about its aim. It intends to run an attack ad that it says will hit President Barack Obama for “his disturbing, yet crystal-clear pattern of tacitly defending black racism against white folks before and since being elected president.”

FightBigotry.com’s founder and treasurer is Stephen Marks, a well-known Republican opposition researcher whose 2008 book Confessions of a Political Hitman detailed his work in what he called “the dark side of politics.” In 2000, he launched an attack ad under the misleading name “Americans Against Hate,” attempting to tie Al Gore to controversial comments by Rev. Al Sharpton. Another Marks spot in 2004 attempted to link John Kerry to convicted murderer Willie Horton.

The Obama administration has injected race into the presidential campaign. Obama Attorney General Eric Holder recently said – with no argument from the president – that their white critics are motivated by race. Implying whites are too stupid to have honest disagreements with the president without being racist is in-and-of-itself racist against whites, reinforcing Mr. Obama’s disturbing pattern of tacitly defending black racism.

Obama’s attorney general said pursuing the New Black Panthers does a great disservice to whose “who risked all, for my people.” So it’s okay for his people to commit racial crimes? In 2009, President Obama defended his friend Henry Louis Gates after a racist altercation with police, telling a white officer he wouldn’t speak to him but would speak to his mama. Mr. Obama’s response? “The Cambridge police acted stupidly.” …

Mr. President, you ran as the candidate of change. But one thing has not changed—your tacit defense of racism against white folks, despite receiving nearly half the white vote to win the presidency.

Watch it here:

h/t: Josh Israel at Think Progress Elections

For all the headlines and hand-wringing about super-PACs, it is dark-money nonprofits like Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS and Americans for Prosperity that dominate the political money wars. These politically oriented groups, which keep their donors secret, outspent super-PACs 3-to-2 in the 2010 elections. Through the spring of 2012, 91 percent of advertising by independent groups came from nonprofits and big business trade groups. And a growing pile of evidence suggests that it’s these nonprofits, notsuper-PACs, hauling in the bulk of corporate political cash.

But come Saturday, the dark-money nonprofits face a dilemma. A high-profile court case known asVan Hollen v. FEC threatens to shine an unwelcome beam of sunlight on donors bankrolling these organizations. Nothing’s stopping Crossroads GPS or AFP from running more “issue” ads hitting Obama and other Democrats (that is, ads that don’t explicitly say “vote for” or “vote against”). Except now nonprofits will have to reveal who funded those spots.

ark-money nonprofits don’t want to name names. Their pitch to donors includes the promise of anonymity and a shield from public scrutiny. This means that Crossroads GPS and other politically active nonprofits—which aren’t supposed to make politicking their primary purpose—have to rethink their ad strategy, election experts say. Do they shift money to super-PACs? Go dark in the months before the election? Find another loophole to run ads and keep their donors secret?

Tax and election law experts say that, short of shutting down, any new strategy carries significant risks. Run-ins with the Internal Revenue Service or the Federal Election Commission, the federal elections watchdog, could be on the horizon. “It’s a tough strategic choice for these groups,” says Joseph Birkenstock, an election law attorney and former chief counsel at the Democratic National Committee.

Here’s the quick-and-dirty version of how nonprofits including Crossroads GPS, Americans for Prosperity, and pro-Obama Priorities USA, among others, ended up in this bind. Until recently, nonprofits had exploited a federal loophole allowing them to run issue ads without disclosing the sources of their funding. These so-called social welfare organizations may also run ads directly backing or opposing candidates, but can’t run too many of them at the risk of running afoul of the IRS for being too political.

In 2011, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and pro-reform advocacy groups sued the Federal Election Commission to close that loophole. This March, a federal district court judge agreed with Van Hollen, and a second federal judge refused to stay that decision. The loophole was gone. (The case is currently on appeal.)

In other words, the rule book has changed mid-election for politically active nonprofits, and the first effects will be felt Saturday. Now, if AFP or Priorities USA runs a TV or radio ad mentioning Obama or Romney without endorsing or opposing a candidate, the group’s donors must be named. Starting in early September, if they mention any federal candidate, donors must be named.

One dark-money heavyweight, the US Chamber of Commerce, has already said it will change its game plan. As Chamber president Tom Donohue explained in May, the Chamber will no longer run the thinly veiled “issue” ads mentioning a candidate that it did in 2010 and 2011. Instead, the group—which says it’ll spend $50 million during the 2012 cycle—will run ads outright urging voters to oppose or support a candidate. The Chamber can get away with this because, after decades of conservatives and libertarians chipping away at the law, a loophole opened letting donors escape disclosure for “vote for” and “vote against” ads by nonprofit groups.

h/t: Andy Kroll at Mother Jones

The Obama campaign’s top lawyer fired off a letter to Karl Rove Thursday, demanding a retraction of a “mystifying” comment Rove made and raising questions about his upcoming appearance at a Mitt Romney campaign event.

The letter is the second that Bob Bauer has sent to Rove this week. The first arguedthat Rove could no longer insist that his advocacy group, Crossroads GPS, was policy oriented — a distinction that allowed it to shield the names of its donors. The follow-up letter, obtained by The Huffington Post, makes that same point, arguing that there is no “social welfare” component to the group’s operations.

But it also challenges Rove in more direct terms. Bauer hints that Rove, the chief strategist to former President George W. Bush, is colluding with Romney, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, by homing in on Rove’s presence at a Romney retreat in Utah this upcoming weekend. He also expands the scope of his complaint to Rove’s role with American Crossroads, the super PAC arm of Crossroads GPS.

Bauer’s letters allowed him to make his point without actually putting many legal or political resources behind the effort. As Rove argued during the Fox News interview, there are also progressive 501(c)4 institutions that, like Crossroads GPS, toe the line between policy work and campaigning, and Bauer hasn’t asked for the names of their contributors.

But none of those groups do it with as much gusto or money as Crossroads GPS does. A top Obama campaign official on Wednesday floated the idea of going to the courts in order to push for donor transparency, suggesting that the campaign is getting more and more serious about the matter and may soon move beyond sending letters.

BauerRove

h/t: Sam Stein at Huffington Post