Category Archives: campaigns

“America’s Hidden Crisis of Power and Place”

From David Fontana in the Washington Post Magazine. Perhaps a little Wendell Berry in our politics! A snippet:

Paul Ryan was elected to Congress in 1998 from Janesville, Wis., current population about 64,000. Ryan attended college outside Wisconsin. He then moved to Washington, where he would work as an aide to one senator and a legislative director to another. He also worked for influential Republican Jack Kemp — learning things and building relationships far from Janesville that he later described as important in his career.

In 2017, Jon Ossoff ran in a special election in Georgia to fill an empty seat in the House of Representatives. Ossoff was raised in an area close to the district in which he was seeking office, but went to Georgetown University and attended graduate school in London. He had not lived in the area for some time and did not live in the district when he was running for office — so he could not even vote for himself. Ossoff touted his experience as a “national security aide” in Washington during the campaign. He lost that election, but in 2020 ran for the Senate — and won.

Ryan and Ossoff do not share the same ideology, but they do have one thing in common: Like so many of their colleagues, their path to power ran through places other than the ones they were from. It is telling that only about half of new members of Congress in 2021, according to Forbes, had a degree from a college or university in their state.

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“Push polls increase false memories for fake news stories”

New article in the journal Memory by Gillian Murphy, Laura Lynch, Elizabeth Loftus & Rebecca Egan. Abstract:

Push polls are an insidious means of disseminating information under the guise of a legitimate information-gathering poll (e.g., “Would you be more or less likely to vote for X if you heard they were being investigated for tax fraud?”). While previous research has shown that push polls can affect attitudes, the current study assessed whether exposure to push polls can increase false memories for corresponding fake news stories. Across four studies, we found that participants (N = 1,290) were significantly more likely to report a false memory for a corresponding fabricated news story after push poll exposure. This was true for positive and negative stories, concerning both fictitious characters and well-known public figures. Furthermore, this effect was stronger after a delay of one week between the push poll and the news story. Our findings suggest that push polls are a potent applied example of the misinformation effect and can significantly increase susceptibility to fake news stories.

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“Swiss Billionaire Quietly Becomes Influential Force Among Democrats”


He is not as well known as wealthy liberal patrons like George Soros or Tom Steyer. His political activism is channeled through a daisy chain of opaque organizations that mask the ultimate recipients of his money. But the Swiss billionaire Hansjörg Wyss has quietly become one of the most important donors to left-leaning advocacy groups and an increasingly influential force among Democrats.

Newly obtained tax filings show that Mr. Wyss’s foundations donated $208 million from 2016 through early last year to three nonprofit funds that doled out money to a wide array of groups that backed progressive causes and helped Democrats in their efforts to win the White House and control of Congress last year.

Mr. Wyss’s representatives say his foundations’ money is not being spent on political campaigning. But documents and interviews show that his foundations have come to play a prominent role in financing the political infrastructure that supports Democrats and their issues.

While most of his operation’s recent politically oriented giving was channeled through the three nonprofit funds, Mr. Wyss’s foundations also directly donated tens of millions of dollars since 2016 to groups that opposed former President Donald J. Trump and promoted Democrats and their causes.

Beneficiaries of his direct giving included prominent groups such as the Center for American Progress and Priorities USA, as well as organizations that ran voter registration and mobilization campaigns to increase Democratic turnout, built media outlets accused of slanting the news to favor Democrats and sought to block Mr. Trump’s nominees, prove he colluded with Russia and push for his impeachment.

Several officials from organizations started by Mr. Wyss and his team worked on the Biden transition or joined the administration, and on environmental policy in particular Mr. Wyss’s agenda appears to align with President Biden’s.

Mr. Wyss’s growing political influence attracted attention after he emerged last month as a leading bidder for the Tribune Publishing newspaper chain. Mr. Wyss later dropped out of the bidding for the papers.

Born in Switzerland and living in Wyoming, he has not disclosed publicly whether he holds citizenship or permanent residency in the United States. Foreign nationals without permanent residency are barred from donating directly to federal political candidates or political action committees, but not from giving to groups that seek to influence public policy — a legal distinction often lost on voters targeted by such groups.

This type of spending — which is usually channeled through nonprofit groups that do not have to disclose much information about their finances, including their donors — was embraced by conservatives after campaign spending restrictions were loosened by regulatory changes and court rulings, most notably the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in the Citizens United case.Keep up with the new Washington — get live updates on politics.

While progressives and election watchdogs denounced the developments as bestowing too much power to wealthy interests, Democratic donors and operatives increasingly made use of dark money. During the 2020 election cycle, groups aligned with Democrats spent more than $514 million in such funds, compared to about $200 million spent by groups aligned with Republicans, according to an analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Some of the groups financed by Mr. Wyss’s foundations played a key role in that shift, though the relatively limited disclosure requirements for these types of groups make it impossible to definitively conclude how they spent funds from the Wyss foundations.

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“The future of political advertising is connected TV”


Political advertising has quickly begun to migrate over to connected TV (CTV), or digital and streaming television, according to new data.

Why it matters: “If the current trends of explosive growth in CTV viewership continue, we could see a tipping point where CTV makes up nearly half of political digital ad spend as soon as 2022,” says Grace Briscoe, vice president of candidates and causes at Centro, a digital ad placement firm that works with hundreds of campaigns across the country….

This is a huge departure from the decades-long practice of campaigns buying TV ads that are targeted to local demographic market areas without much precision other than age and gender.

  • As more political ads are bought on connected TVs, more messages will be targeted much more narrowly to people based on their interests, purchasing behavior, etc. — just as they are online.
  • Another big shift will be the way these ads are purchased. Unlike traditional TV ads, which are typically purchased ahead of time for a set price, Centro says more than 60% of CTV ads are purchased via programmatic real-time bidding on the ad inventory, which complicates transparency measures.
  • “Providing information on advertiser spend isn’t a simple matter when transactions have millions of data points per minute that are also constantly changing,” Briscoe says.
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“CEOs Plan New Push on Voting Legislation”


Dozens of chief executives and other senior leaders gathered on Zoom this weekend to plot what several said big businesses should do next about new voting laws under way in Texas and other states.

Kenneth Chenault, the former chief executive of American Express Co. , and Kenneth Frazier, CEO of Merck & Co., urged the leaders to collectively call for greater voting access, according to several people who attended. Messrs. Chenault and Frazier cautioned businesses against dropping the issue and asked CEOs to sign a statement opposing what they view as discriminatory legislation on voting, the people said.

A statement could come early this week, the people said, and would build on one that 72 Black executives signed last month in the wake of changes to Georgia’s voting laws. Mr. Chenault told executives on the call that several leaders had signaled they would sign on, including executives at PepsiCo Inc., PayPal Holdings Inc., T. Rowe Price Group Inc. and Hess Corp. , among others, according to the people. PayPal confirmed it has signed the statement. PepsiCo, T. Rowe Price and Hess didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

As more companies and their leaders have spoken out on the issue in recent weeks, their stands have drawn the ire of Republican state and federal legislators who say companies are miscasting the matter and shouldn’t act as shadow lawmakers. Meanwhile, progressive activists and others who oppose the laws have said that the actions leaders are taking aren’t strong enough. Many CEOs now feel a duty, or pressure, to make their views explicitly known to employees and others, executive advisers said.

Plenty of companies remain wary of wading into politically charged areas. One executive from a Fortune 100 consumer-products company said board members, employees and vendors are pressing leaders to speak out, but doing so could put a bull’s-eye on the company.

“It’s really a no-win situation from a corporate standpoint,” the executive said.

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“Inside a stealth ‘persuasion machine’ promising Republican victories in 2022”


 Facebook page shows a child scampering down a school corridor, alerting Ohio families to a scholarship program.

Chatter fills the same page with news ranging from a state anti-corruption bill to the vibrant local real estate market. “It’s a great time to be selling a home in Columbus,” one post celebrates.

Titled Arise Ohio, the Facebook page is the creation of the American Culture Project — a nonprofit whose website says its mission is to “empower Americans with the tools and information necessary to make their voices heard in their local communities, statehouses and beyond.”

Undisclosed on the Facebook page is the nonprofit’s partisan goal. Arise Ohio and similar sites aimed at other politically pivotal states are part of a novel strategy by a little-known, Republican-aligned group to make today’s GOP more palatable to moderate voters ahead of the 2022 midterms by reshaping the “cultural narrative” on hot-button issues.ADADVERTISING

That goal, laid out in a private fundraising appeal sent last month to a Republican donor and reviewed by The Washington Post, relies on building new online communities that can be tapped at election time, with a focus on winning back Congress in 2022.

“We’ve created a persuasion machine that allows conservatives to reach, engage and move people to action like never before,” the solicitation states. “Now is the time to expand and capitalize on this machine, setting the political playing field in advance of the 2022 election.”…

The solicitation was sent to Warren Stephens, a billionaire banker based in Arkansas who backed President Donald Trump’s reelection effort. It was also inadvertently directed to someone who shared the communications with The Post. The documents provide an unusual glimpse into the inner workings of a group whose activities are ordinarily veiled and illustrate how the Republican Party, still largely defined by Trump, is straining to connect with the country’s political center.

Stephens, through a spokesman, declined to say whether he had made a contribution to the project.

Read the fundraising pitch outlining the American Culture Project’s objectives

The American Culture Project is set up as a social welfare organization exempt from disclosing its donors or paying federal income taxes but, in exchange, barred from making politics its primary focus. The project is led by an Illinois-based conservative activist, John Tillman, who also oversees a libertarian think tank and a news foundation that recently received grant money to highlight opposition to public health restrictions. Tillman, who declined to be interviewed for this story, wrote in an email that the American Culture Project’s objectives are “issue education and advocacy (not electioneering).”

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“How Trump Steered Supporters Into Unwitting Donations”

Must-read Shane Goldmacher NYT piece:

Stacy Blatt was in hospice care last September listening to Rush Limbaugh’s dire warnings about how badly Donald J. Trump’s campaign needed money when he went online and chipped in everything he could: $500.

It was a big sum for a 63-year-old battling cancer and living in Kansas City on less than $1,000 per month. But that single contribution — federal records show it was his first ever — quickly multiplied. Another $500 was withdrawn the next day, then $500 the next week and every week through mid-October, without his knowledge — until Mr. Blatt’s bank account had been depleted and frozen. When his utility and rent payments bounced, he called his brother, Russell, for help.

What the Blatts soon discovered was $3,000 in withdrawals by the Trump campaign in less than 30 days. They called their bank and said they thought they were victims of fraud.

“It felt,” Russell said, “like it was a scam.”

But what the Blatts believed was duplicity was actually an intentional scheme to boost revenues by the Trump campaign and the for-profit company that processed its online donations, WinRed. Facing a cash crunch and getting badly outspent by the Democrats, the campaign had begun last September to set up recurring donations by default for online donors, for every week until the election.

Contributors had to wade through a fine-print disclaimer and manually uncheck a box to opt out.

As the election neared, the Trump team made that disclaimer increasingly opaque, an investigation by The New York Times showed. It introduced a second prechecked box, known internally as a “money bomb,” that doubled a person’s contribution. Eventually its solicitations featured lines of text in bold and capital letters that overwhelmed the opt-out language.

The tactic ensnared scores of unsuspecting Trump loyalists — retirees, military veterans, nurses and even experienced political operatives. Soon, banks and credit card companies were inundated withfraud complaints from the president’s own supporters about donations they had not intended to make, sometimes for thousands of dollars.

“Bandits!” said Victor Amelino, a 78-year-old Californian, who made a $990 online donation to Mr. Trump in early September via WinRed. It recurred seven more times — adding up to almost $8,000. “I’m retired. I can’t afford to pay all that damn money.”

The sheer magnitude of the money involved is staggering for politics. In the final two and a half months of 2020, the Trump campaign, the Republican National Committee and their shared accounts issued more than 530,000 refunds worth $64.3 million to online donors. All campaigns make refunds for various reasons, including to people who give more than the legal limit. But the sum the Trump operation refunded dwarfed that of Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s campaign and his equivalent Democratic committees, which made 37,000 online refunds totaling $5.6 million in that time.

The recurring donations swelled Mr. Trump’s treasury in September and October, just as his finances were deteriorating. He was then able to use tens of millions of dollars he raised after the election, under the guise of fighting his unfounded fraud claims, to help cover the refunds he owed.


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“House GOP memo: Embrace of Trump agenda is only option for comeback”

Jonathan Swan for Axios:

On a flight Tuesday from Indianapolis to Fort Wayne, Ind., two leaders in the House Republican conference discussed a memo that argues that their party’s future demands they “embrace our new coalition” because “President Trump’s gift didn’t come with a receipt.”

Why it matters: The document, titled “Cementing GOP as the Working Class Party,” leaves no doubt that Republicans — at least in the House of Representatives — will be doubling down on Donald Trump for the foreseeable future….

When it comes to fundraising, Banks argues that members should effectively embrace their pariah status in corporate America and campaign against corporate fundraising.

“Members should use corporations’ preference for the Democrat [sic] Party to drive individual donations,” he writes. “It worked for me.”

“When Eli Lilly and several other corporate PACs blacklisted me” for objecting to the certification of President Biden’s victory on Jan. 6, “I reached out to individual donors, explained the situation, and asked for their support.”

“Once my supporters learned that liberal corporations blacklisted me because I refused to cave to their demands on January 6th, they were happy to make up the difference,” he writes. “That’s how, in the first quarter of this year, I regained every penny of the $241,000 I lost in corporate money through individual donations.

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“Trump, Hungry for Power, Tries to Wrestle Away G.O.P. Fund-Raising”


Mr. Trump’s maneuvering is born partly out of his anger toward Republican leaders who he feels were disloyal when they edged away from him after Jan. 6. The former president is also being encouraged by people like Dick Morris, the notorious political consultant known for flipping between the parties, who has been meeting with him in New York and encouraging him to take on the party he once led.

Mr. Trump’s actions could give him a stream of money at a time when his private company is struggling under the scrutiny of investigations, with some discussions of whether properties need to be sold. His business is now politics, and political action committees have few restrictions on how they operate and use their money, according to campaign finance experts.

The former president could, in theory, pay himself and his family members salaries from the money raised there.

“That sort of PAC has no meaningful restrictions on how it could spend its money,” said Adav Noti, the senior director of trial litigation at the Campaign Legal Center.

People close to the former president say there has been no discussion about Mr. Trump giving himself a salary. But historically, his political committees have paid to use his properties, among other things, indirectly enriching him.

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“Trump shares plans for new super PAC in Mar-a-Lago meeting”


President Donald Trump told political advisers Thursday that he’s chosen longtime ally Corey Lewandowski to run a yet-to-be-formed super PAC as part of his expanding post-presidential political apparatus, according to multiple people familiar with the discussion.

The decision was made in a multi-hour meeting at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate on Thursday. Trump gathered his top political lieutenants, including Donald Trump Jr., former campaign manager Bill Stepien, former deputy campaign manager Justin Clark, former campaign manager Brad Parscale, former White House social media director Dan Scavino and senior adviser Jason Miller. Alex Cannon, an attorney who has been advising the Trump team on the post-White House plans, was also present.

Lewandowski, himself a former campaign manager for Trump in 2016, did not respond to requests for comment. In a statement, Trump spokesman Jason Miller said the former president will announce more details about his political operation “in the coming weeks.”

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“Trump campaign enlisted influencer marketing firm”


In the second half of 2020, Donald Trump’s reelection campaign shelled out seven figures to an influencer marketing business linked to his White House’s former chief digital officer.

Why it matters: The payments bought promotion from prominent conservative brands and social media personalities, showing how campaigns are exploring new, often more opaque digital advertising channels as large social media companies crack down on political ads.

What’s new: Filings with the Federal Election Commission show the Trump campaign paid nearly $1.8 million during the second half of 2020 to Legendary Campaigns LLC for “online advertising.”

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