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“Donald Can’t Afford His Own Ego Trip”: Does Donald Trump Even Have $45 Million To Repay His ‘Loans’?

A few weeks ago, the Trump campaign tried to quash rumors of its financial demise by announcing that Trump would write off the $45 million in loans he had used to “self-fund” his campaign.

Trump spokes Hope Hicks says Trump will submit signed statement today to FEC forgiving $50 mil personal loan per legal requirement.

— Beth Reinhard (@bethreinhard) June 23, 2016

After that statement, a far-too-small-handful of political journalists responded: Show us the money.

Why? As The National Memo has reported, since Trump began bragging about his financial independence, “self-funding” doesn’t really mean self-funding. It’s a talking point: Trump can repay his loans with donations from supporters at any time before the Republican convention and walk away from this campaign having pulled off the most cost-efficient advertising campaign in history.

So far, that seems to be the case. According to NBC News, whose Ari Melber has tracked the promise in recent days, the FEC maintains that Trump hasn’t converted any of his loans into donations, and the Trump campaign itself is refusing to release any documentation that would prove Trump has donated his campaign anything.

Campaign spokesperson Hope Hicks told NBC that the paperwork “will be filed with the next regularly scheduled FEC report [on July 20],” but declined to provide any documentation proving that claim.

Of course, that’s what she did last time.

In the meantime, what about the rest of Trump’s campaign? HIs fundraising efforts may have just broken federal law, and it is currently tens of millions of dollars in debt on top of what Trump has promised to pay. By all financial measures, billionaire Donald can’t afford his own ego trip.

 

By: Matt Shuham, The National Memo, June 30, 2016

July 1, 2016 Posted by | Campaign Finance Laws, Campaign Financing, Donald Trump | , , , , | Leave a comment

“What Have You Done To Help The Party?”: Clinton, Sanders Differ On Down-Ballot Democrats

Late last week, Bernie Sanders’ campaign announced that it raised $44 million in March, which represents an extraordinary success story. The Vermont independent raised a jaw-dropping $109 million in the first quarter, which in practical terms, may actually be more money than the campaign knows what to do with. For any national political endeavor, it’s a fantastic “problem” to have.

In his statement announcing his latest financial triumph, Sanders emphasized details he has every reason to be proud of: his campaign has now received over 6.5 million contributions from 1.7 million individual Americans, with an average contribution of just $27. The senator’s email to supporters referenced the potency of his “revolution” – three times.

Yesterday afternoon, meanwhile, Hillary Clinton’s campaign announced its fundraising tally over the same period, and though Sanders hasn’t matched his rival in votes or wins, we were reminded once more that he’s easily defeating her when it comes to dollars in the bank. But the Clinton campaign’s press release added something Sanders’ did not:

Hillary Clinton raised about $29.5 million for her primary campaign during March. That amount brings the first quarter total to nearly $75 million raised for the primary, beating the campaign’s goal of $50 million by about 50 percent. [Hillary For America] begins April with nearly $29 million on hand.

Clinton raised an additional $6.1 million for the DNC and state parties during the month of March, bringing the total for the quarter to about $15 million [emphasis added].

The first part matters, of course, to the extent that Sanders’ fundraising juggernaut is eclipsing Clinton’s operation, but it’s the second part that stands out. How much money did Sanders raise for the DNC and state parties in March? Actually, zero. For the quarter, the total was also zero.

And while the typical voter probably doesn’t know or care about candidates’ work on behalf of down-ballot allies, this speaks to a key difference between Sanders and Clinton: the former is positioning himself as the leader of a revolution; the latter is positioning herself as the leader of the Democratic Party. For Sanders, it means raising amazing amounts of money to advance his ambitions; for Clinton, it means also raising money to help other Democratic candidates.

As Rachel noted on the show last night, the former Secretary of State has begun emphasizing this angle while speaking to voters on the campaign trail. Here, for example, is Clinton addressing a Wisconsin audience over the weekend:

“I’m also a Democrat and have been a proud Democrat all my adult life. I think that’s kind of important if we’re selecting somebody to be the Democratic nominee of the Democratic Party.

“But what it also means is that I know how important to elect state legislatures, to elect Democratic governors, to elect a Democratic Senate and House of Representatives.”

The message wasn’t subtle: Clinton is a Democrat and Sanders isn’t; Clinton is working to help Democrats up and down the ballot and Sanders isn’t.

It’s worth emphasizing that this dynamic may yet change. When Rachel asked Sanders directly last week if he foresees a point in which he’ll start trying to raise funds to help candidates other than himself, the senator replied, “Well, we’ll see.”

In other words, maybe Sanders’ approach will change, maybe not. Time will tell.

I honestly have no idea whether, and to what extent, rank-and-file voters are going to be moved by any of this – as a rule, fundraising tallies and strategies are seen as a small detail of interest to those who follow campaigns at a granular level – but it’s probably safe to say Democratic officials who serve as superdelegates are taking note of these developments. If pressed in the coming months to influence the outcome of the nominating race, it’s easy to imagine some of these officials asking the candidates, “What have you done to help the party?”

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 5, 2016

April 6, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic National Committee, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Hillary Unleashes The Kraken On Bernie”: ‘If You’ve Got Something To Say, Say It Directly’

It was almost as if a switch went off in Hillary Clinton’s brain.

Moments into the first Democratic debate not beleaguered by the presence of Martin O’Malley, Clinton laid into her remaining opponent, Bernie Sanders.

Sanders has tried to paint Clinton, the former secretary of state and first lady, as a representative of the “establishment” he rails against. He often notes, sometimes without using Clinton’s name that she has taken millions in contributions from Wall Street and pocketed hundreds of thousands of dollars in speaking fees from banks.

But tonight, after weeks of semi-veiled attacks, Clinton announced she had enough.

“People support me because they know me, they know my life’s work, they have worked with me, and many have also worked with Senator Sanders—and at the end of the day, they endorse me because they know I can get things done,” Clinton said, redefining her “establishment” credentials as an asset.

“Being part of the establishment is in the last quarter having a super PAC that raised $15m from a whole lot of money from drug companies and other special interests,” Sanders quickly retorted.

As soon as the dreaded “e” word was used again, Clinton was ready to pounce, directly pushing Sanders to attack directly if he was going to attack at all.

“It’s fair to really ask what’s behind that comment. Senator Sanders has said that he wants to run a positive campaign, and I’ve tried to keep my disagreements over issues,” she said. “But time and time again by innuendo and by insinuation, there is this attack that he is putting forth, which really comes down to ‘anybody who ever took donations or speaking fees from any interest group has to be bought,’ and I just absolutely disagree with that, senator.”

Clinton went on to insist that she would never be influenced by the vast sums of money she’s received from Wall Street.

“If you’ve got something to say, say it directly,” Clinton said, her voice raised. “You will not find that I have ever changed a view or a vote because of any donation I have received. I have stood up and I have represented my constituents to the best of my abilities, and I’m very proud of that.”

Semantics about the definition of “establishment” and “progressive” aside, this seemed to mark the beginning of a new stage in the contest between Sanders and Clinton. And it’s not going to be pretty.

 

By: Gideon Resnick. The Daily Beast, February 4, 2016

February 5, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic Primary Debates, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Citizens United And New Media Are On A Collision Course”: New Technology Has Potential To Deal A Blow To Big Money In Politics

New media is challenging the basic business model of advertisements as a way to pay for television programming. First came remote controls and options like Tivo, which allowed viewers to skip ads. Now, in the age of digital streaming, the number of households that are “cord cutters” (no cable or satellite television service) has increased 60% in the last 5 years.

This evolution comes just as the Supreme Court’s decision on Citizens United allowed for unlimited contributions to campaign super pacs – whose main role has been to pay for expensive television advertising. The conflation of those two developments might help explain why Jeb Bush’s super pac has spent over $15 million on television ads (far more than any other campaign), and yet their candidate has dropped to fifth place in the polls, leading long-time Bush family friend John Sununu to say, “I have no feeling for the electorate anymore. It’s not responding the way it used to.”

We essentially saw the same thing in the 2012 election when Karl Rove’s super pacs had a 1% return on their investment in television ads, while a video recorded by a waiter at a Romney event was likely a game-changer. At some point super pacs are going to have to ask themselves what they should be spending all those millions of dollars on if television advertising doesn’t move the needle on poll numbers, while free media becomes a determining factor.

It’s also interesting to note that a candidate like Donald Trump has spent very little money so far and recently swore off having any super pacs. The reason he’s been able to do that is because he gets a tremendous amount of free media for saying outrageous things. That poses it’s own kind of danger as long as the press prioritizes the sensational over the substantive. But in the end, it is not significantly different from all the free media the Obama campaign got with the video of Romney’s “47%” remarks in 2012.

The one Republican candidate whose super pacs are experimenting more aggressively with the use of new media is Ted Cruz. Kellyanne Conway, who runs one of the Cruz super pacs, recently said that their goal was to be “more surgical, spending on digital, cable, direct mail, radio, in addition to TV.”

Brian Fisher, who runs an organization called “Online for Life” (which has developed apps and social media to connect with women seeking to end a pregnancy), has formed a company called Red Metrics LLC that will serve as the data and digital operation for Cruz’s four Keep the Promise super pacs. One of the visible results of that collaboration is the Facebook page: Reigniting the Promise, which already has over 380,000 followers.

To date, the Cruz super pacs have spent almost nothing on television ads, and yet their candidate is inching up in the polls and his campaign has raised more “hard money” than anyone in the Republican field except Ben Carson. Whether or not Cruz has a chance at actually being the nominee remains to be seen. But when you compare the results of super pac spending on new media vs paid television advertising, it is obvious that there is a new game in town.

It is always important to remember that the role of money in politics is to influence voters. As long as super pacs continue to spend their money on something that doesn’t have much impact on them (estimates are that they’ll spend $4.4 billion on TV ads this election cycle), the concern about the wealthy being able to control our elections is muted.

On the other hand, just as new media is having an impact on the music, entertainment and publishing industries, it is also affecting political campaigns. As we’ve seen with those other industries, new media is inherently more democratic and less expensive. That puts it on a bit of a collision course with the big money that is flooding into super pacs.

New media is clearly here to stay. While mega-donors and their super pacs will catch on to that fact some day and make adjustments, it is time to begin asking ourselves whether or not this new technology has the potential to deal a definitive blow to the role of big money in politics.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, December 1, 2015

December 2, 2015 Posted by | Campaign Advertising, Citizens United, New Media | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Benghazi Committee Chair Finds Himself In The Hot Seat (Again)”: The Stop Hillary PAC And Gowdy Appear To Be Close Allies

The Republicans’ Benghazi Committee has unraveled to an extraordinary degree in recent weeks, as the entire effort is reduced to a taxpayer-financed election scheme. Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), the beleaguered chairman of the controversial panel, told Politico the other day, “I would say in some ways these have been among the worst weeks of my life.”

At least the controversies surrounding the committee couldn’t get much worse, right? Wrong.

The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank today flagged an overlooked angle that deserves to be added to the broader indictment against the Benghazi witch hunt.

As that mess was being cleaned up, Gowdy was dealing with another, courtesy of my Washington Post colleague Mike DeBonis. Gowdy has spoken piously about keeping his investigation above politics and about refusing to raise money from it. But DeBonis reported that Gowdy’s campaign had returned three donations after the Post inquired about the money’s ties to a political action committee that ran an incendiary ad during last week’s Democratic presidential debate. Three $2,000 contributions had been made to Gowdy by groups affiliated with the treasurer of Stop Hillary PAC. Stop Hillary PAC had spent $10,000 on robocalls last month to boost Gowdy in his district, and its treasurer had been involved with Gowdy’s former leadership PAC. […]

Could such a skilled prosecutor and his experienced staff really be so hapless? Or are the mistakes more purposeful?

The Stop Hillary PAC, which exists to “ensure Hillary Clinton never becomes president of the United States,” made headlines last week for running a rather disgusting attack ad during last week’s debate, prominently featuring Ambassador Chris Stevens’ grave, against his family’s wishes.

The Post reported, however, on the alliance between Gowdy’s political operation and the political action committee: the congressman’s leadership PAC and the Stop Hillary PAC shared a top official, an anti-Clinton operative named Dan Backer; the Stop Hillary PAC spent $10,000 on robocalls a month ago in support of Gowdy; and Gowdy received campaign contributions groups the Stop Hillary PAC’s treasurer helped run.

Gowdy, realizing that this doesn’t look good, quickly returned the contributions, but the damage – or more accurately, the additional damage – was already done.

TPM ran a related item yesterday, showing an image of its email inbox “when you search the StopHillaryPac email and Gowdy’s name.” The takeaway isn’t subtle: the Stop Hillary PAC and Gowdy appear to be close allies.

It’s against this backdrop that the Senate Democratic leadership sent a letter to the Republican National Committee yesterday, asking the RNC pick up the tab for the party’s Benghazi Committee, since it’s unfair to ask taxpayers to pay for “a political inquisition.”

The top four Senate Dems added, “Due to the political nature of the committee, we believe it is inappropriate that a reported 4.7 million taxpayer dollars were used to finance its operations and that the RNC subsequently orchestrated numerous fundraising opportunities in its wake.”

The RNC responded fairly quickly, declining the Democratic request.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 21, 2015

October 22, 2015 Posted by | Hillary Clinton, House Select Committee on Benghazi, Trey Gowdy | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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