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“The Bane Of Many Politicians’ Existence”: Senate GOP Solution To Super PAC Rivals; More Money In Politics

This may sound odd, but it rings true amongst Republicans and Democrats alike: The only people who loathe Super PACs more than voters forced to sit through an onslaught of their bullshit ads, are politicians themselves.

Don’t get me wrong, at first many Republicans loved the new, post-Citizen United world of PACs (a.k.a. Political Action Committees who act any way they want). But those powerful outside groups have become the bane of many politicians’ existence—even GOP lawmakers who oppose overturning the Supreme Court ruling.

“We’re at a point where the outside groups have so much more flexibility than the parties do that there’s nothing wrong with giving both political parties a little more flexibility in how they work with candidates,” said Roy Blunt (R-MO), a member of the GOP leadership team in the Senate.

As Congress scrambles to avoid a year end government shutdown, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is quietly trying to include a provision to dismantle any limitations remaining on what the parties in Washington can spend coordinating with their candidates. Both parties bemoan that their candidates have lost control of their own campaigns.

Currently GOP and Democratic leaders can only spend about $50,000 to assist House candidates and around $3 million working with Senate campaigns. But for Super PACs the sky is the limit on what they can raise and spend, thus neutering the parties and politicians alike.

“You notice that the political parties are now being shunted aside, because he who pays the pipers calls the tune,” said Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) who doesn’t think McConnell’s latest attempt is all that significant. “It’s the outside money, particularly in the Republican sphere, that is funding elections. And it’s all this undisclosed, unlimited money uncontrolled by the campaign finance law. So until we can stop the outside money you can tinker here and tinker there, and it doesn’t make any difference.”

PACs have complicated everything for today’s political class. Yes, candidates are still the central component of any campaign, but all the campaign cash has eclipsed many candidates’ messages in recent elections. That’s because it’s easier for PACs to rake in millions than it is for candidates and their party to take in similar rolls of dollar bills. Candidates and parties also have to play by different rules.

“The candidates we have to disclose everything and I have to put my name on it,” Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) told The Daily Beast. She’s facing a bruising reelection battle and thinks the Citizens United ruling has unleashed a double standard.

“The parties also, they have to say ‘from the party’ and be able to do that, but you know there are a lot of outside groups, they have different names and it’s tough to know where they’re coming from.”

While candidates want to exert more control over their own campaigns, so do party leaders. In recent years Tea Party challengers have embarrassed themselves and the Republican Party in Senate races from Delaware to Nevada. That made the GOP establishment bristle, and seems to be behind McConnell’s latest move to strengthen the parties.

“McConnell is a party man,” said Kyle Kondik, a campaign analyst at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. “He probably believes that if the parties are stronger they can exert more control over who gets the nomination. You make the party stronger the individual candidates get weaker.”

That’s why the Tea Party wing of the GOP is opposed to McConnell’s latest move.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the head of the House Freedom Caucus, said the changes on coordination should also be extended to Super PACs who currently are forbidden from coordinating with campaigns.

“What’s good for the goose should be good for the gander,” Jordan told The Daily Beast. “So if it’s good for the parties, it should be good for outside groups who are involved in politics and have a big influence on politics as well. I mean free speech is free speech. So either don’t do it at all, or if you’re going to do it, do it in an equal fashion.”

This isn’t the first time McConnell has stealthily tried to unwind election law. As the legislative clock wound down at the end of last year, he worked with then Speaker John Boehner to lift the cap on what party committees could solicit from donors. The provision hiked the rate from just under $100,000 to nearly $800,000. It was barely noticed, but critics argue the new provision will be felt.

“It will basically turn the parties into another apparatus that’s owned by the big money crowd,” said Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.), an advocate for public financing of campaigns. “In a sense it would allow big donors to become benefactors of specific candidates, using the parties to do it. They would kind of go through the parties to become the sugar daddy of this candidate or that candidate. So the parties lose all independence; they just become the tool of the big money crowd.”

Then there’s the whole presidential scramble going on. South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham has proven to be a lackluster fundraiser in his #YOLOrace for the White House, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been carefully watching his opponents and their Super PACs. He predicts something will give when the new Congress convenes at the start of 2017.

“I think there is going to be a scandal about money coming in the 2016 cycle from unsavory sources,” Graham to The Daily Beast. “That’s what it’s going to take to spur discussion. So I don’t really care about moving the caps as long as it’s transparent.”

 

By; Matt Laslo, The Daily Beast, December 14, 2015

December 15, 2015 Posted by | Campaign Financing, Citizens United, Mitch Mc Connell, Super PAC's | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Corrupting Influence On Politics”: Will Influence Of Big Money Be A Big Issue In 2016?

For many years, Democrats have wanted more restrictive campaign finance rules, while Republicans have wanted to loosen restrictions. But it’s likely that the 2016 campaign will feature more outside money than ever before, as millionaires and billionaires take advantage of an almost-anything-goes environment to buy themselves candidates and shift the race in their favored direction. The Koch brothers alone plan to spend nearly a billion dollars (with the help of some friends) on the election.

Nevertheless, the consensus on the campaign finance issue has long been that while voters are generally in favor of reform, it isn’t a motivating issue for many of them. They care more about the economy or health care or foreign policy, and while they might shake their head at the influence of money in politics, in the end the issue won’t make much of a difference in the campaign’s outcome.

But is it possible that 2016 will be the year it finally does? Matea Gold has a piece in today’s paper arguing that it might:

At almost the same time last week that a Florida mailman was landing a gyrocopter in front of the U.S. Capitol to protest the influence of the wealthy on politics, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was getting pressed about the same topic at a town hall meeting in Londonderry, N.H.

“I think what is corrupting in this potentially is we don’t know where the money is coming from,” Christie (R) told Valerie Roman of Windham, N.H.

The two moments, occurring 466 miles apart, crystallized how money in politics is unexpectedly a rising issue in the 2016 campaign.

Hillary Rodham Clinton announced last week that one of the top planks of her bid for the Democratic presidential nomination will be reforming a “dysfunctional” campaign finance system. And several of her GOP rivals — quizzed by voters in town hall meetings — have begun lodging their own criticisms of how big-money interests dominate politics.

It’s the last part that’s really a surprise. Republicans have usually put the emphasis on maximal liberty, arguing that restrictions on contributions and outside spending infringe upon the First Amendment. Democrats counter that a liberty that’s available only to the super-wealthy isn’t much of a liberty at all, and all this money, particularly when it’s so hard to know where it comes from, inevitably has a corrupting influence on politics. But now even Republicans seem to be saying things have gone too far.

Of course, it’s easy to just shake your head and say, “Yeah, it’s gotten really bad,” before you head off to your next fundraiser or meeting with Sheldon Adelson. And that’s how lots of candidates have handled the issue in the past: some general words of agreement or a vaguely worded position that doesn’t lock them in to doing much of anything about the problem.

But even if most voters don’t put campaign finance at the top of their priority list, there’s an opening for a candidate who can connect disgust over the political situation in Washington (which has become almost universal) with displeasure over the funding of campaigns to devise a broad reform agenda.

There are already ideas out there. For instance, Rep. John Sarbanes has a bill that would provide refundable tax credits for political contributions and give significant matching funds for small-dollar contributions in an attempt to amplify the voices of ordinary people who can only give a limited amount. That might not put the billionaires out of the politics business, but a candidate could use that idea or something like it to demonstrate his or her commitment to specific policy change, as opposed to just saying they wish the system were cleaner.

Clinton could be that candidate — though she hasn’t yet said anything specific about what she would change. But a Republican could as well. For the last couple of decades, presidential candidates have been saying they’ll change Washington by bringing Democrats and Republicans together to transcend partisanship, something no one believes anymore. But if (nearly) everyone thinks there’s too much money in the system and too much of it is unaccountable, there’s a political opportunity here. Will any candidate seize it?

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, April 20, 2015

April 21, 2015 Posted by | Campaign Financing, Election 2016, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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