Category Archives: campaign finance

“Trump raised so much last month he erased Biden’s cash advantage”

Politico:

Former President Donald Trump’s huge May fundraising haul erased President Joe Biden’s longstanding cash advantage as the two gear up for a rematch.

Trump’s campaign had $116.6 million in the bank at the end of May, compared to $91.6 million for Biden.

It wasn’t due to poor fundraising on the incumbent’s part — Biden’s campaign saw a decent fundraising rebound in May after a weak showing the month prior. But Trump’s fundraising while he was on trial in New York that month, punctuated in the final days when he was convicted, was enough to surpass Biden in campaign cash, something that had long been seen as a crucial strength of his.

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“Timothy Mellon, Secretive Donor, Gives $50 Million to Pro-Trump Group”

NYT:

Timothy Mellon, a reclusive heir to a Gilded Age fortune, donated $50 million to a super PAC supporting Donald J. Trump the day after the former president was convicted of 34 felonies, according to new federal filings, an enormous gift that is among the largest single disclosed contributions ever.

The donation’s impact on the 2024 race is expected to be felt almost immediately. Within days of the contribution, the pro-Trump super PAC, Make America Great Again Inc., said in a memo that it would begin reserving $100 million in advertising through Labor Day.

The group had only $34.5 million on hand at the end of April, and Mr. Mellon’s contribution accounted for much of the nearly $70 million that the super PAC raised in May. On Wednesday and Thursday, the super PAC began reserving $30 million in ads to air in Georgia and Pennsylvania around the Fourth of July holiday.

Mr. Mellon is now the first donor to give $100 million in disclosed federal contributions in this year’s election. He was already the single largest contributor to super PACs supporting both Mr. Trump and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who is running as an independent. Mr. Mellon has previously given $25 million to both.

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“Dark ‘Oro y Plata’ in Montana: The Green Amendment’s Defense of Campaign Finance Transparency”

Lucas Della Ventura has written this article, 48 Wm. & Mary Env’t L. & Pol’y Rev. 385 (2024). Here is the abstract:

In the post–Citizens United dark money age, state disclosure regulations are the last line of defense for citizens to learn who is behind unlimited independent expenditures and electioneering communications flooding their states. Underpinning the ability of state governments to promulgate such transparency measures are the informational benefits provided to the public. However, the Supreme Court’s decision in Americans for Prosperity Foundation v. Bonta to invalidate a California disclosure regulation on dark money groups, marks disclosure regulations—the Court’s repeated fallback when striking down more robust campaign finance regulations—with a bull’s-eye. In the face of repeated legal challenges to disclosure regulations, advocates for transparency should conceptualize the scope of the informational interest more broadly to encompass not only the interests of voters, but also the interests of states in upholding state constitutional rights dependent on disclosure information. States like Montana, which have affirmative duties under their constitutions to protect the right to a clean and healthful environment, also known as “green amendments,” have a compelling interest in upholding disclosure provisions because such protection hinges on the information provided by campaign finance disclosures.

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“Mystery fundraising firm takes in millions from the Trump campaign”

NBC News:

Former President Donald Trump’s political operation has routed more than $3 million so far this year through a Delaware limited liability company whose owners are not publicly disclosed, according to campaign finance records — a strategy that mirrors past efforts to mask exactly how his campaign is spending donor cash.

The money has been paid to Launchpad Strategies LLC, a company that appears to have been incorporated in Delaware in November, according to state business records and lists a Raleigh, North Carolina, post office box as its address in campaign finance filings. Since it was formally incorporated, the company has received $3.1 million in payments from the Trump campaign and an affiliated joint fundraising committee….

Little is known about Launchpad Strategies LLC beyond its existence and the millions of dollars it has taken in from a presidential campaign.

It has never done other political work for state-level or federal candidates, according to federal and state campaign finance disclosure filings. The first payment from the Trump operation was on Dec. 18, just over a month after the company appears to have been incorporated in Delaware.

The company’s website offers no information about services it offers or who runs it. A contact page that offers people a place to reach out and ask questions appears inactive, and multiple requests for comment NBC News tried to send through the site went unanswered.

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“En Banc Court Hears First Amendment Challenge to Campaign Finance Restriction”

Trane Robinson reviews arguments in the Sixth Circuit’s National Republican Senatorial Committee v. FEC case, about limits on political party expenditures coordinated with particular candidates.  It’s an issue that’s been in the deregulatory community’s sights for a while now, and an important case that will once again likely test the staying power of precedent in the federal judiciary.

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House Judiciary on Manhattan DA and Trump prosecution

The House Judiciary committee held a hearing this morning on the NY case against Donald Trump, with a witness list including FEC Commissioner Trey Trainor, as well as Missouri AG Andrew Bailey, Ambassador Norm Eisen, and Elizabeth Price Foley.  Testimony is here; Trainor’s got an additional op-ed in the Daily Caller with a summary of his part.

Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg and lead prosecutor Matthew Colangelo have apparently agreed to testify in a follow-up hearing one day after Trump’s sentencing.

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“$800,000 wire transfer from billionaire donor to US Chamber raises curtain on dark money”

The lede in The Hill:

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce received an $800,000 wire transfer from billionaire donor Hank Meijer days after it endorsed his son, then-Rep. Peter Meijer (R-Mich.), in a contentious 2022 primary, according to previously unreported internal emails reviewed by The Hill.

. . .

But because the ad — titled “Thank you, Rep. Peter Meijer” — does not explicitly advocate for his election or defeat, the pro-business lobbying giant did not have to legally disclose the donation from Hank Meijer, the co-chair and CEO of the Meijer chain of superstores. It also did not have to disclose any other potential contributions behind the $1.8 million it told the FEC it spent on “electioneering communications” that cycle.

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“Fake Donations Helped a Candidate Get $162,000 From Taxpayers”

The N.Y. Times with the report on matching funds in a state Assembly race that’s something of an outlier:

The report also contrasts the state system with the city’s system:

For years, government watchdogs had urged state leaders to adopt a matching-funds system similar to New York City’s long-established version, contending it would amplify small donors’ voices and reduce the influence of big-money interests. Lawmakers, especially long-tenured ones who tend to benefit from institutional donors, were hesitant to make a change.

But in 2020, the Legislature approved a weaker form of the city’s system, settling for one with incumbent-friendly features, far less oversight and fewer safeguards.

The state system is much more generous than the city’s, which matches small-dollar donations at an eight-to-one rate. State candidates in competitive races can get up to $12 in public money for each dollar donated by residents of their district who give from $5 to $50, and smaller matches for sums above that, up to $250.

Yet unlike the city’s program, the state has no spending limits or mandatory audits for all candidates, and does not publish the identity of bundlers, the influential fund-raisers who bring in money from others.

The state also has far more to oversee and fewer resources to do it: Officials must monitor candidates running for more than three times the number of offices — 217 versus 59 — than their city counterparts, despite having fewer than half of the employees and less than a quarter of the budget. State races are also more frequent: Legislative candidates run every two years, compared with every four for City Council.

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“With a Democrat’s Help, the F.E.C. Goes From Deadlock to Deregulation”

There’s a lot to drive discussion in this NYT piece on the FEC and Commissioner Lindenbaum’s role in a recent series of votes.  (Disclosure: I was serving at the White House when Commissioner Lindenbaum was nominated.)

I haven’t had the chance to dig into the substance of the specific rulings highlighted in the piece, including the recent advisory opinions (and including the important AO on canvassing and coordination that Ned and Rick flagged a little over a month ago).  I tend to think that some of the critique of commission action and inaction is sometimes directed at the desire to change laws or regs rather than working with what the regs actually say, and I’d want to actually read the underlying legal materials before opining on the policy decisions.

The piece does highlight that “Ms. Lindenbaum’s work in the trenches of campaigns, where lawyers sort through the law’s gray areas to decide what can and cannot be done, that her supporters and detractors alike say has informed her thinking.”  And I agree with the profoundly informative nature of that experience.

The piece also highlights Marc Elias’s role in the series of recent votes: “One surprising thread through many of Ms. Lindenbaum’s most consequential decisions is that they were sought by Mr. Elias, who has become the face of voting-rights litigation on the left.”  But I think that thread may only be surprising if you’re the type to anoint someone as the “face of voting-rights litigation” for a diverse and hazily defined coalition of millions of voters with a whole lot of distinct voting-rights interests.  (The unrelenting focus of American political reporting on branding star personalities is not the only way to understand policy decisions or present narrative.)  Lawyers bring matters forward for a lot of reasons, including the interests of their clients and/or funders.

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