“Koch-linked Operative Mum on Mystery Millions”

CPI reports:  “Sean Noble — a political consultant who was chosen by the Koch brothers to quarterback their political efforts, and who signed the Center to Protect Patient Rights’ tax return disclosing the contribution under penalty of perjury — is refusing to explain where the missing $1.6 million [supposedly given to the group American Commitment, which claims it never received the money] went.”

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Judge Posner on Free Expression and the First Amendment

At Concurring Opinions, the sixth installment of “Posner on Posner,” much of it on campaign finance. Snippets:

Question: Is speech overprotected by our courts and in our culture?

Posner: I think so. The most notorious example is expenditures on political advertising — Citizens United and its sequels.

….

Question: The Roberts Court has rendered 36 First Amendment free expression rulings. How would you characterize the First Amendment jurisprudence of the current Court?

Posner: Very nice for fat cats and enemies of abortion.

Question: …..[H]ow bad in your view have things become in light of rulings such as McCutcheon v. FEC (2014)?

Posner: Very bad.

Question: Do you favor some kind of constitutional amendment to remedy the problems you have identified

Posner: [The idea of a constitutional amendment is] a waste of time.

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“Supporters of Campaign Limits Urge Obama Veto of Funding Bill”

Bloomberg BNA on the Cromnibus party funding rider: “The unexpected addition of a provision to sharply increase campaign contribution limits for political parties to a must-pass government funding bill is being blasted by supporters of campaign regulation, as some call on President Barack Obama to veto the measure because of the rider.”

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Cromnibus Party Contribution Rider Roundup

Analyses from Politico, WaPo, HuffPost,The Hill, and Business Insider of the rider that was added yesterday.  Politico calculates that the provision “would dramatically increase the amount of money a single rich donor could give to national party committees each year — from $97,200 to as much as $777,600.” That’s higher than previous calculations

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Utah Republican Party’s Federal Lawsuit against Utah’s Republican Governor

The complaint in Utah Republican Party v. Herbert alleges that SB 54, which changed the process for nominating candidates — ostensibly to “open” the electoral system — violates the party’s associational rights.   In addition to its constitutional claim, the party alleges that the law infringes its trademark. Richard Davis has this analysis of the intra-party fight. Governor Herbert has walked back a spokesman’s statement that seemed to cast doubt on the statute’s constitutionality.

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Livestreamed Panel with Ohio SOS Husted, Today at 10:00 am ET

The Bipartisan Policy Center event, entitled “Making Ohio’s Electoral System a National Model,” will take place here at Ohio State from 10-12 ET. Click here to watch.  Secretary of State Jon Husted is the featured speaker, joined by Herb Asher, Ned Foley, John Fortier, and Mark Wagoner, Jr. with Karen Kasler moderating.  Among the topics to be discussed is redistricting, a subject on which there has been significant recent activity here in Ohio.

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Language of the Cromnibus Party Funding Rider

Here’s the text of the provision unveiled late yesterday (h/t Ray LaRaja), amending 52 U.S.C. 30116 to raise limits on contributions to parties for conventions, headquarters, and recounts.

SEC. 101. SEPARATE CONTRIBUTION LIMITS FOR CONTRIBUTIONS MADE TO NATIONAL PARTIES TO SUPPORT PRESIDENTIAL NOMINATING CONVENTIONS, NATIONAL PARTY HEADQUARTERS BUILDINGS, AND RECOUNTS.
(a) Separate Limits.—Section 315(a) of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 (52 U.S.C. 30116(a)) is amended—

(1) in paragraph (1)(B), by striking the semicolon at the end and inserting the following: “, or, in the case of contributions made to any of the accounts described in paragraph (9), exceed 300 percent of the amount otherwise applicable under this subparagraph with respect to such calendar year;”;

(2) in paragraph (2)(B), by striking the semicolon at the end and inserting the following: “, or, in the case of contributions made to any of the accounts described in paragraph (9), exceed 300 percent of the amount otherwise applicable under this subparagraph with respect to such calendar year;”; and

(3) by adding at the end the following new paragraph:

“(9) An account described in this paragraph is any of the following accounts:

“(A) A separate, segregated account of a national committee of a political party (other than a national congressional campaign committee of a political party) which is used solely to defray expenses incurred with respect to a presidential nominating convention (including the payment of deposits) or to repay loans the proceeds of which were used to defray such expenses, or otherwise to restore funds used to defray such expenses, except that the aggregate amount of expenditures the national committee of a political party may make from such account may not exceed $20,000,000 with respect to any single convention.

“(B) A separate, segregated account of a national committee of a political party (including a national congressional campaign committee of a political party) which is used solely to defray expenses incurred with respect to the construction, purchase, renovation, operation, and furnishing of one or more headquarters buildings of the party or to repay loans the proceeds of which were used to defray such expenses, or otherwise to restore funds used to defray such expenses (including expenses for obligations incurred during the 2-year period which ends on the date of the enactment of this paragraph).

“(C) A separate, segregated account of a national committee of a political party (including a national congressional campaign committee of a political party) which is used to defray expenses incurred with respect to the preparation for and the conduct of election recounts and contests and other legal proceedings.”.

(b) Conforming Amendment Relating To Determination Of Coordinated Expenditure Limitations.—Section 315(d) of such Act (52 U.S.C. 30116(d)) is amended by adding at the end the following new paragraph:
“(5) The limitations contained in paragraphs (2), (3), and (4) of this subsection shall not apply to expenditures made from any of the accounts described in subsection (a)(9).”.
(c) Effective Date.—The amendments made by this section shall apply with respect to funds that are solicited, received, transferred, or spent on or after the date of the enactment of this section.

 

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Recount in Arizona CD 2

Approximately 187,000 ballots are being recounted, according to this report, in a race where Democratic incumbent Ron Barber trailed Republican Martha McSally by 161 votes before the recount. The Arizona Republic provides some historical perspective here, comparing it to other close races in the state going back almost a century.

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“In Spending Bill, A Gift For Political Party Fundraising”

Peter Overby reports: “Capitol Hill lawmakers agreed Tuesday afternoon on a small provision to be added to the omnibus spending bill, allowing the two party committees to raise money for their presidential nominating conventions. The limit per donor would be $97,200 a year, on top of each party committee’s existing limit of $32,400 per year.”  Matea Gold has this post at WaPo, reporting that “a donor who gave the maximum $32,400 this year to the Democratic National Committee or Republican National Committee would be able to donate another $291,600 on top of that to the party’s additional arms — a total of $324,000, ten times the current limit.” Democracy 21 has issued a blistering statement from Fred Wertheimer branding this a “Faustian bargain” and claiming that it “makes the Great Train Robbery look like a petty misdemeanor.”

Update:  Democracy 21 has issued a clarification upping its calculation of the total amount that could be given to parties.

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“The Democratic Party’s Long Term Problem Is Worse Than You Think”

Greg Sargent at WaPo on the structural difficulties Democrats face in taking back the U.S. House: “[E]ven in … big swing states [Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, and North Carolina] Republicans have large majorities in the state legislatures — a holdover from 2010 redistricting on the state level…. But even if Democrats were to get something approaching neutral maps in these big states, [Cook’s David] Wasserman estimates, it could result in just a couple more seats in each state…. [B]eyond the problem of redistricting is the even more serious problem (for Democrats) of population distribution.”

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Super PACs and State Elections

On The Upshot, Derek Willis analyzes data on Super PAC activity in the 2014 election cycle, and finds: “[T]hey have expanded their activities far beyond the original model. In what is a perfectly legal maneuver in many states, they are at work in state elections, provide a foundation for future elections and serve as a source of money for other political committees.”  Renata Strause and I anticipated and discussed the reasons for this development in The New Soft Money.

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“Measuring Illegal and Legal Corruption in American States”

Oguzhan Dincer and Michael Johnston of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics Corruption at Harvard have posted results from a survey of reporters on their perceptions of corruption in their states.  The survey asked about both illegal corruption (defined as “the private gains in the form of cash or gifts by a government official, in exchange for providing specific benefits to private individuals or groups”) and legal corruption (the political gains in the form of campaign contributions or endorsements by a government official, in exchange for providing specific benefits to private individuals or groups, be it by explicit or implicit understanding”).   They conclude that:

With respect to illegal corruption, Arizona is perceived to be the most corrupt state, followed by a second group of states, which includes California and Kentucky, and third group that includes Alabama, Illinois, and New Jersey. Idaho, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, the Dakotas, and Vermont are perceived to be the least corrupt states, followed by a second group of states that includes Michigan and Oregon. Kentucky is not only perceived to be illegally corrupt but also legally corrupt. With respect to legal corruption, Kentucky is the most corrupt state followed by Illinois and Nevada while Massachusetts is the least corrupt state followed Michigan, Oregon, and Vermont. It is all bad news for Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, New Mexico, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania as their aggregate scores are in the highest quartiles of both illegal and legal corruption. Not so bad news for the Dakotas, Idaho, Massachusetts, Michigan, Oregon, Vermont, and Wyoming, which are perceived least corrupt both illegally and legally.

I note that the survey’s definition of “legal corruption” actually includes some actions that would generally constitute illegal bribery — specifically, the exchange of campaign contributions for specific official acts, at least where there’s an explicit offer or agreement.

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“A Crowded GOP Field for 2016 Encounters Donors Reluctant to Commit Early”

Matea Gold and Tom Hamburger for WaPo:

Efforts by potential Republican presidential candidates to win over wealthy donors have set off a series of contests for their support that could stall the GOP race for months.

In Florida, allies of former governor Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio are tussling over many of the same donors. In Texas, bundlers are feeling pulled by Bush, Gov. Rick Perry and Sen. Ted Cruz. Perry and Cruz are also competing for the backing of wealthy evangelical Christians, as are Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee.

Despite the appeals, which have stepped up in recent weeks, many top donors have committed to being noncommittal, wary of fueling the kind of costly and politically damaging battle that dominated the 2012 primaries. Senior party fundraisers believe that most campaigns will not be able to fully set up their fundraising operations until at least the spring.

The story also notes the contrast on the Democratic side, where big donors are coalescing behind Hillary Clinton.

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“The Secret GOP Tech Summit to Plot 2016″

Politico reports:

The Republican Party’s top operatives — including strategists representing the Koch brothers’ political operation and several leading prospective 2016 presidential candidates – on Monday huddled behind closed doors to discuss how to synchronize their sometimes competing tech efforts, multiple attendees confirmed to POLITICO.

The all-day meeting attracted about 40 of the right’s biggest names in tech and strategy – including Koch operatives Michael Palmer and Marc Short, leading strategists from many of the major super PACs and all of the party committees, as well as close allies of Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Rick Perry and Scott Walker.

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More on Arizona Disclosure Decision

The Arizona Republic and AP report on of Friday’s decision by U.S. District Judge James Teilborg, striking down the state’s “political committee” definition.  The Arizona attorney general reportedly plans to seek a stay.

Update:  Institute for Justice, which represents plaintiff Dina Galassini, has this page with the court order issued Friday and other useful resources on the case.

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“Rules for Super PACs Lax, Murky As Their Power Grows in Elections”

Bloomberg BNA ($) reports from COGEL: “Four years after super political action committees were first created by court rulings and Federal Election Commission advisory opinions, the rules for these increasingly powerful, big-money players in the political arena remain murky, especially on the key question of how closely they can coordinate with candidates and political parties, legal experts said Dec. 8 during a national ethics conference held in Pittsburgh.”

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Lawsuit Seeks Counting of Oregon Ballots Rejected for Lack of Signature Match

From Oregon comes news of a state lawsuit alleging that more than 4600 ballots have been wrongly rejected on the ground that voters’ signatures on ballot envelopes don’t match those on file.  These votes could conceivably be enough to swing the result of a ballot proposition that would require the labeling of genetically modified food.  Measure 92 trailed by just 812 votes after the initial canvass, triggering a statewide recount. Among the plaintiffs is a woman with limited use of her arms and legs who uses a stamp for her signature and reportedly “received a letter stating her signature didn’t match, but she didn’t respond because she assumed the letter was a mistake, given her longstanding disability, which she thought was well-documented in the county elections office.”  A TRO motion seeking to stop the certification of results was filed today and may be found here.

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“Goodman Resurrects Long-Dormant Plan To Limit Enforcement Actions of FEC Staff”

Bloomberg BNA reports ($): “Federal Election Commission Chairman Lee Goodman apparently is endorsing a controversial proposed FEC enforcement manual, which would sharply circumscribe the authority of staffers in the agency’s Office of General Counsel to investigate alleged campaign finance violations and share information with other government agencies, including the Department of Justice.”

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