Category Archives: campaign finance

“FEC announces 2023-2024 campaign cycle contribution limits”

Release:

The Federal Election Commission announced updated contribution limits that have been indexed for inflation and are effective for federal elections in 2023 and 2024.

The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA) included provisions that indexed some contribution limits for inflation. The limit on individuals’ contributions to candidates, for example, was set at $2,000 per election in BCRA; it is adjusted at the start of each new election cycle. Adjustments are announced after the Department of Labor determines the inflation rate for the previous election year.

During the current two-year election cycle the limit for contributions by individuals to federal candidates for President, the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives will increase to $3,300 per election.

Campaign finance provisions of the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2015 permitted national party committees to establish three additional accounts to defray certain expenses incurred with respect to presidential nominating conventions, election recounts and contests and other legal proceedings, and national party headquarters buildings. The contribution limits applicable to these accounts are 300 percent of the limits on contributions to national party committees.

The limit for contributions by individuals and nonmulticandidate PACs to national party committees has risen to $41,300, while the limit for individual and nonmulticandidate PAC contributions to each of the additional national party committee accounts has increased to $123,900 per year.

The limit on combined contributions by a national party committee and its Senatorial campaign committee to a U.S. Senate candidate over the six-year Senate cycle has increased to $57,800.

Michael Beckel crunches the numbers to find a person can give over $900,000 per year to political parties now:

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“What are Andy Ogles’ financial ties? Freshman GOP congressman ignores federal disclosure law”

NewsChannel5:

Tennessee’s newest congressman, Rep. Andy Ogles, quickly became a key player in the battle for control of the House, demanding concessions in exchange for his support for House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

But a NewsChannel 5 investigation discovered the freshman Republican has never complied with a federal law required of all congressional candidates.

That law requires candidates and members of Congress to disclose their personal finances, so voters can know if they have any conflicts of interest.

Not only did Andy Ogles ignore that law during the campaign, he continues to ignore it today, NewsChannel 5 found….

Ogles’ office never responded to NewsChannel 5’s questions about why he has not followed the law.

Failure to file such personal financial disclosures could result in up to a year in prison and fines up to $66,000 — although the more common penalty is a $200 fine.

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Full Set from J.H. Snider on Financing Constitutional Conventions

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“New Report: Publicly Funded Campaigns Can Dilute Big Money’s Influence on California’s Politics”

Release:

“Matching funds” programs and democracy dollars, two approaches to public financing of campaigns, can be keys to breaking big money’s grip on state politics and lifting up the voices of regular Californians, according to a new report released today by California Common Cause. The report, “The California Dream,” is a step-by-step guide for policymakers, activists, and researchers to implement publicly financed elections.

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“Revealed: Trump secretly donated $1m to discredited Arizona election ‘audit'”

The Guardian:/Documented:

One of the enduring mysteries surrounding the chaotic attempts to overturn Donald Trump’s defeat in the 2020 presidential battle has been solved: who made a secret $1m donation to the controversial election “audit” in Arizona?

The identity of one of the largest benefactors behind the discredited review of Arizona’s vote count has been shrouded in secrecy. Now the Guardian can reveal that the person who partially bankrolled the failed attempt to prove that the election was stolen from Trump was … Trump.

An analysis by the watchdog group Documented has traced funding for the Arizona audit back to Trump’s Save America Pac. The group tracked the cash as it passed from Trump’s fund through an allied conservative group, and from there to a shell company which in turn handed the money to contractors and individuals involved in the Arizona audit.

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“The improbability of George Santos’ $199 expenses”

Politico:

Rep. George Santos’ congressional campaign reported dozens of transactions just cents below the threshold that would have triggered a requirement to preserve spending records — an unusual spending pattern that is now part of broader complaints about alleged financial improprieties.

Santos, who admitted in December that he faked parts of his biography, already faces a complaint filed with the Federal Election Commission alleging his campaign repeatedly reported suspicious expenses. Those included eight charges of exactly $199.99 at an Italian restaurant in Queens and another $199.99 charge at a Miami-area hotel where rooms do not usually go for less than $600 per night. The specific amount matters because campaigns are required by law to keep receipts or invoices for expenses greater than $200

Campaigns rack up millions of dollars in expenses and thousands of line items per campaign, but it is rare for them to notch even one $199 expense, according to a POLITICO review of campaign finance records. FEC data shows more than 90 percent of House and Senate campaign committees around the country did not report a single transaction valued between $199 and $199.99 during the 2022 election cycle.

Santos reported 40 of them.

In fact, his campaign accounted for roughly half of all expenses by all campaigns that cost exactly $199.99 — a statistical improbability.

The rarity of campaign expenses falling so close to the legal limit for retaining receipts has raised concerns that the Santos campaign’s disbursements were “deliberately falsified,” a complaint from the Campaign Legal Center alleges. Major questions about Santos’ campaign financing remain unanswered, including the source of $700,000 that the New York congressman ostensibly loaned to his campaign despite questions about his personal finances.

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“Trump’s Former Lawyer Meets With Prosecutors About Hush Money”

NYT:

The Manhattan district attorney’s office on Tuesday took a significant step forward in its investigation of Donald J. Trump, meeting with his former personal lawyer about hush money paid to a porn star who said she had an affair with Mr. Trump, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

The questioning of the lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, offered the clearest sign yet that the district attorney’s office was ramping up its investigation into Mr. Trump’s role in the $130,000 hush money deal. Mr. Cohen has said publicly that Mr. Trump directed him, in the final days of the 2016 presidential campaign, to buy the silence of Stephanie Clifford, the actress known as Stormy Daniels.

While the hush money was an impetus for the district attorney’s investigation, which began in 2018, prosecutors had shifted in recent years to a broader examination of Mr. Trump’s business practices. In recent months, however, the prosecutors returned to the payments, seeking to breathe new life into the investigation, The New York Times reported in November.

There is no indication that prosecutors are close to making a decision about whether to seek charges against the former president, but the interview of Mr. Cohen could portend a flurry of investigative steps.

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“Billions at stake as online fundraising practices turn off voters”

Politico:

That advice reflects a recognition among digital campaign staffers that text and email programs have gone from innovative to out of hand, to the point that it’s harming the campaign ecosystem. The rate of return on individual appeals is falling compared to a few years ago, as candidates and outside groups find themselves targeting the same pool of donors. And congressional campaigns spent more on fundraising as a share of their total spending in 2022 than in the previous election cycle, according to a POLITICO analysis of FEC records.

Doubling down on mass emails and texts is still a way to raise significant cash, and federal candidates and committees raised a combined $3.3 billion on ActBlue and WinRed, the parties’ primary online fundraising platforms, during the 2022 cycle. But people who work in the field are growing concerned that fundraising appeals are crowding out newsletters, volunteer efforts and other forms of communication amid the insatiable and never-ending hunt for cash.

“The incentives are all messed up,” Cotler said.

Digital fundraising, which began as a forward-thinking tactic in the early 2000s and has become central to campaigning since then, once promised a democratization of political fundraising — lawmakers could raise money online from ideologically aligned supporters with no strings attached rather than relying on access-driven donors at high-dollar fundraisers.

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“Records Show George Santos Made Questionable Payments to Vendors”

Newsday:

Campaign committees tied to Rep. George Santos paid tens of thousands of dollars to newly formed companies with opaque histories and meager track records of working for other candidates, a Newsday review ofstate and federal filings shows.

Election law and campaign finance experts said the lack of public information about such companies and their leaders —and the lack of detail describing the work they performed —could raise questions about whether Santos paid inflated rates for unnecessary services performed by friends and allies, or possibly diverted campaign donations for his own use.

The article includes some very detailed analysis of some of the vendors.

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“The Mysterious, Unregistered Fund That Raised Big Money for Santos”

NYT:

A month before George Santos was elected to Congress, one of his large donors received a call asking him to consider making another sizable contribution.

The request came from a Republican loyalist calling on behalf of RedStone Strategies, which was described in an email to the donor as an “independent expenditure” group that was supporting Mr. Santos’s bid to flip a Democratic House seat in New York. The group had already raised $800,000 and was seeking to raise another $700,000, according to the email, which was reviewed by The New York Times.

The donor came through: Days later, on Oct. 21, he sent $25,000 to a Wells Fargo Bank account belonging to RedStone Strategies.

Three months later, Mr. Santos is now in Congress, but where the donor’s money went is unclear. The Federal Election Commission said it had no evidence that RedStone Strategies was registered as a political group, and there do not appear to be any records documenting its donors, contributions or spending.

Mr. Santos and his lawyer refused to answer questions about RedStone’s fund-raising efforts and whether Mr. Santos was involved in them. But he did have ties to a Redstone Strategies LLC, registered to an address in Merritt Island, Fla., in November 2021, as Mr. Santos was preparing his second run for Congress. The firm listed the Devolder Organization, a company owned by Mr. Santos, as one of its managing officers.

A company website describes that Redstone as being run by “experters in marketing and others in politics” whose services in ad creation, communications and fund-raising have value “no matter if you are in a local race or if you are going to be the next president of the United States.”

Yet the firm’s body of work — at least for candidates and committees that are required to file campaign expense reports — appears limited. A Times search of campaign finance records uncovered payments from a failed House candidate on Long Island and two groups tied to New York legislative candidates.

It also shows a payment from a PAC called Rise NY, run by Mr. Santos’s sister, Tiffany. State records show the group sent a wire transfer for $6,000 in April 2022 to Red Stone Strategies. It listed a Wells Fargo Bank branch on Merritt Island as its address.

The murkiness around the fund-raising operations on behalf of Mr. Santos makes it difficult to know whether any laws were broken. But a close examination of available records suggest RedStone may have skirted the law.

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“George Santos broke campaign finance laws, nonpartisan watchdog says”

WaPo:

complaint filed Monday with the Federal Election Commission accused Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.), who has admitted to fabricating key details of his biography, of wide-ranging campaign finance violations.

The alleged wrongdoing includes masking the true source of his campaign’s funding, misrepresenting his campaign’s spending and using campaign resources to cover personal expenses.

The complaint, filed by the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center, could propel a formal investigation into Santos by the federal regulator, the latest chapter in a saga testing the boundaries of political falsehood. Santos has been revealed to have lied about his heritage, education and professional qualifications during his campaign for Congress last year….

The complaint names Santos and his primary campaign committee, along with his company, the Devolder Organization, and his treasurer, Nancy Marks. Santos, whose election to Congress on Long Island last year helped the GOP secure its narrow majority, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Marks has not responded to phone calls in recent days.

The congressman’s deceptions have already sparked an investigation by the district attorney’s office in Nassau County, N.Y. Authorities in Brazil are also seeking to revive a fraud case against him dating from 2008.

As probes into Santos multiply, questions about how his campaign raised and spent money are coming into sharp focus.

He reported loaning his campaign more than $700,000 in the 2021-22 cycle despite having only $55,000 in earned income during his previous run for Congress in 2020, according to a financial disclosure. Campaign Legal Center called his claims of earning millions over the previous two years from the Devolder Organization “vague, uncorroborated, and non-credible in light of his many previous lies.”

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“Corporations gave $10M to election objectors after pledging to cut them off”

Politico:

Political action committees affiliated with more than 70 major corporations said they would pause or reconsider donations to those who objected to certifying the results of the 2020 election after the attack on the U.S. Capitol two years ago.

Then they gave more than $10 million to members of Congress who did just that, according to a POLITICO analysis of federal campaign finance filings.

In the aftermath of the Jan. 6, 2021 riots — fueled by former President Donald Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen — dozens of companies including Walmart, Comcast and Lockheed Martin said they would either suspend political donations entirely or specifically cut off Republicans who echoed Trump’s stolen election claims or voted against certifying the election results.

But over the next two years, amid a contentious midterm battle, less than half of those companies kept those promises for a full election cycle, the analysis of campaign donations found.

The contributions made by corporate political action committees to the 147 members of Congress who sought to challenge the election results represent only a small fraction of the more than $350 million that those members raised over the past two years.

But the totals still add up to significant support. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who raised more than $27 million during the 2022 election cycle and objected to the election results along with the majority of his party in the House, brought in $285,000 from the PACs of companies that had once pushed back against election denialism. He remains locked in a leadership battle, with the House yet to elect a speaker.

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“Democratic dark money juggernaut behind Biden-allied group targeting House GOP”

Washington Examiner:

President Joe Biden-allied nonprofit group aiming to investigate House Republicans next Congress has been almost completely bankrolled by an influential Democratic-linked dark money organization, records reveal.

The Democratic strategist-led Congressional Integrity Project has raked in $1.5 million combined from Sixteen Thirty Fund, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit group managed by Arabella Advisors, the largest left-wing dark money network in the United States. This sum accounts for nearly all of the funding that CIP received between 2020 and 2021, according to its tax forms reviewed by the Washington Examiner, providing a further glimpse into how Arabella wields significant influence over the liberal pop-up group ecosystem.

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