In the News
CBC Radio: In Defence of SuperPACs
Third-party political advertising made the news this week, with the emergence of HarperPAC, an independent pro-Conservative campaign group. A similar organization called Engage Canada unveiled its ads this week, criticizing the economic record of Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party.These groups can be compared to American “SuperPACs”, Political Action Committees that aren’t attached to a politician, but independently raise and spend their own money. SuperPACs have plenty of critics in the United States, but they also have defenders.
Scott Blackburn is a Research Fellow at the Center for Competitive Politics, a privately-funded First Amendment and campaign finance focused legal and advocacy group.
He says SuperPACs and their ads are a benefit to American democracy – and cautions Canada against too tightly restricting what third parties can do.
Super Pacs and republication of campaign material
A National Journal article reports that a Super Pac supporting Jeb Bush’s run for president is “blurring the multitude of “Jeb!” stickers and signage in the Miami crowd” in footage shot for one of their ads. Supposedly this is to “comply with the … [f]ederal election law says that broadcasting written or graphic materials prepared by a campaign amounts to a contribution and, thus, is subject to campaign-contribution limits.”
A second article’s headline says “New Rick Perry Super PAC Ad May Amount to an Illegally Large Campaign Donation: The ad features the official Perry logo, and that could violate federal election rules.”
But in 2008, a group asked the FEC whether such ads would violate the law, and the FEC, by a 5-1 vote, sensibly said no, with one reasonable exception.
Washington Examiner: IRS permanently destroyed up to 24,000 Lerner emails after subpoena
Sarah Westwood and Barbara Boland
Committee members served IRS Commissioner John Koskinen with a subpoena in February of last year. The following month, Koskinen assured the Oversight Committee that his agency would provide all of Lerner’s emails.
However, the IRS said in June 2014 that it had “lost” two years worth of emails after Lerner’s computer crashed.
TIGTA soon launched an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the hard drive failure. The watchdog scoured Lerner’s Blackberry phone, her crashed hard drive, backup tapes, a decommissioned IRS server and its disaster recovery tapes, and several “loaner” computers that the IRS official may have used while her laptop was being repaired.
Fox News: IRS scandal: Attorney General Lynch, it’s time for a special prosecutor
Now, fast forward to Thursday – before the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee. Investigators looking into the IRS scandal told members of Congress it was low-level employees who were responsible for the destruction of hundreds of computer backup tapes that contained as many as 24,000 emails to and from Lerner herself.
Timothy Camus, who works for the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, told the Committee that two “lower-graded” employees at the IRS center in Martinsburg, West Virginia were responsible for deleting the backup tapes and the loss of the Lerner emails. We’re told they were “magnetically erased” around March 4, 2014.
We now know when Lerner tried to pass the buck years ago by blaming “low-level” employees for the scheme – that was false. Over the years, we’ve learned that the unlawful scheme was well planned and coordinated by Lerner and others – yet no one has yet been fired or held accountable.
New York Times: Is Greater Focus on the Superrich Right for The Times?
The beat will not be “isn’t it cool to be rich,” he emphasized, but will look at the outsize role of the superrich in areas including philanthropy, art, and politics. It will be, he said, “an anthropological approach.” For example, he said, the beat might examine the way Eli Broad dominates the West Coast art scene, or David Geffen’s enormous influence on entertainment.
It’s not intended to play into what some readers and observers scornfully term “wealth porn” — the attention paid to high-priced possessions, from apartments to, well, doughnuts. Rather, it’s intended to recognize the effects of a new Gilded Age in America, and to write about it in a sweeping, big-picture way.
New York Times: Dark Money’s Deepening Power
The Editorial Board
President Obama is reported to be considering an important brake on the torrent of “dark money” already flooding the 2016 presidential campaign — an executive order requiring federal contractors to disclose their donations to political candidates. Mr. Obama should immediately sign such an order. In doing so he would expose some of the bigger players in today’s big money politics, while offering a healthy counterpoint to Republican efforts to squelch disclosure.
Roll Call: GOP Tries to Portray Feingold as a Hypocrite Over PAC Spending
Feingold issued the pledge — modeled after the “people’s pledge” Elizabeth Warren and Scott P. Brown agreed to in their 2012 Massachusetts Senate race — three days before the Journal Sentinel published its story on Feingold’s Progressives United PAC.
And Democrats have tried to make that the issue…
While the debate over campaign finance has gotten louder since Citizens United, the issue has yet to sway an election. And explaining it is too complicated for a typical 30-second ad.
Desert Sun: Desert Sun: Political Insider: Are liberal scam PACs a thing?
I did, however, give pause this week when looking at the Ready for Hillary PAC, the second suggestion that came from readers.
For starters, the FEC website shows that the committee racked up $12.9 million in donations, from 2013 to the end of 2014, and spent almost all of the funds on itself or on the act of fundraising — printing, postage, credit card processing fees, access to databases, software, you name it.
My own review of the files shows that consultants and lawyers took home about $1.8 million; staff got paid $1.3 million and spent another $629,393 on food, travel and lodging.
Only about $330,000 went to other candidates, committees or political parties, but $2.2 million was spent on direct mail; another $2.1 million on digital ads, videos and web design.
Candidates and Campaigns
New York Times: Bernie Sanders’s Early Online Haul: $8.3 Million
His campaign won’t file its initial report until July 15, but filings by ActBlue, the online fund-raising committee that serves as a conduit for Democratic campaigns, show that Mr. Sanders, who describes himself as a democratic socialist, has brought in more money in May and the first half of June than any other Democratic candidate using ActBlue.
It’s likely that Mr. Sanders will report more than $9 million raised as of June 30, the deadline for midyear F.E.C. reports. That amount is larger than any Republican not named Mitt Romney raised in the first half of 2011.
Washington Post: Pro-Rubio nonprofit to launch seven-figure ad campaign on Iran
The ad also shows footage of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking. Netanyahu has clashed sharply with Obama over Iran, aligning himself with congressional Republicans.
The narrator of the ad concludes: “Tell your senators to join Marco Rubio. Vote against Obama’s deal and stop Iran from getting the bomb.”
Washington Times: New Mexico AG disputes campaign finance violations
“I am very concerned about the integrity of the data and records at the Secretary of State’s Office, and I’m also very concerned that other candidates may have been falsely accused as well,” Balderas said
Secretary of State Dianna Duran told Balderas this week that he submitted three late campaign finance reports a few years ago, the Albuquerque Journal reported. According to her office’s records, Balderas, who was state auditor at the time, sent a report due in April 2011 several months late. Duran said if the fines had been mandatory back then, he would owe $5,000.
The dispute is the latest wrinkle in a growing rift between the Democratic attorney general and the Republican secretary of state over enforcement of campaign finance reporting. Both of their offices formed a joint task force in February.
Arizona Republic: Reagan: ‘Dark money’ disclosure can’t happen
Mary Jo Pitzl
In recent interviews, Reagan talked about her evolution on the issue and why she’s now focusing on beefed-up technology, not more regulation, to highlight campaign spending.
Technology, she said, will provide more transparency through centralizing political filings from across the state in her office, from local governments to statewide campaigns…
“When I hear people now talk about ‘We can just do this, or just do that,’ I can spot the flaws pretty much right away,” she said. She’s followed what other states have tried and said nothing gets close to achieving disclosure.