Category Archives: campaigns

“RFK Jr.’s super PAC runs a $7M ad during the Super Bowl”


The super PAC backing Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s presidential campaign aired a costly Super Bowl ad that didn’t just draw direct parallels between the independent candidate and his uncle, former president John F. Kennedy — it also used the exact same ad template.

The ad — seen by tens of millions of viewers — comes as Democratic concerns grow that Kennedy’s presidential run could pose a threat to President Joe Biden in critical battleground states. And it was an unusual dose of Mad Men-era political nostalgia amid the high gloss slate of expensive commercials.

The biggest difference between the ad that ran Sunday night and the JFK ad that ran in 1960 was, perhaps, the cost. The ad run by The American Values 2024 in support of Robert Kennedy Jr. ran nationally and cost the super PAC $7 million, according to an official at the committee. In 1960, that would have been a roughly $675,000 expense for the John F. Kennedy Jr. campaign, according to inflation calculators.

Shortly after the ad aired, members of the Kennedy family took to X to express fury with it.

“My cousin’s Super Bowl ad used our uncle’s faces- and my Mother’s. She would be appalled by his deadly health care views. Respect for science, vaccines, & health care equity were in her DNA,” wrote Bobby Shriver, an activist and attorney.

Robert Kennedy Jr. responded apologetically by saying that the “ad was created and aired by the American Values Super PAC without any involvement or approval from my campaign. FEC rules prohibit Super PACs from consulting with me or my staff. I love you all. God bless you.”

As of Monday morning, however, the ad remained pinned to the top of his profile page on X.

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Special Counsel Report on Biden Classified Documents Probe Calls Him “a sympathetic, well-meaning elderly man with a poor memory.”

This is going to have big political implications. (quote is on p. 6 of the report)

More detail:

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“Trump’s PACs Spent Roughly $50 Million on Legal Expenses in 2023”


Donald J. Trump piled up legal expenses in 2023 as he was indicted four times, spending approximately $50 million in donor money on legal bills and investigation-related expenses last year, according to two people briefed on the figure.

It is a staggering sum. His lone remaining rival in the 2024 Republican primary, Nikki Haley, raised roughly the same amount of money across all her committees in the last year as Mr. Trump’s political accounts spent paying the bills stemming from his various legal defenses, including lawyers for witnesses….

Mr. Trump, who has long been loath to pay lawyers himself and has a history of stiffing those who represent him, has used funds in his political action committee, known as Save America, to underwrite his legal bills. The account was originally flooded with donations that were collected during the period immediately after the 2020 election when he was making widespread and false claims of voting fraud.

But with Save America’s coffers nearly drained last year, Mr. Trump sought to refill them through a highly unusual transaction: He asked for a refund of $60 million that he had initially transferred to a different group, a pro-Trump super PAC called MAGA Inc., to support his 2024 campaign.

In addition, Mr. Trump has been directing 10 percent of donations raised online to Save America, meaning 10 cents of every dollar he has received from supporters is going to a PAC that chiefly funds his lawyers.

Mr. Trump has paid legal expenses through both Save America and a second account, called the Make America Great Again PAC, which is an outgrowth of his 2020 re-election committee. In the first half of 2023, Save America transferred $5.85 million to the Make America Great Again PAC, which spent almost all of that sum on legal and investigation-related costs.

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“Biden Super PAC Plans a Historic $250 Million Ad Blitz”


The main Democratic super PAC supporting President Biden’s re-election bid, Future Forward, is beginning this week to reserve $250 million in advertising across the most important battleground states, a blitz that it says is the largest single purchase of political advertising by a super PAC in the nation’s history.

The ads, which are to be split between $140 million on television and $110 million on digital and streaming platforms, will start the day after the Democratic National Convention concludes in August and will run through Election Day, the super PAC said.

The ad reservation covers seven states that are seen as the main presidential battlegrounds: Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The super PAC said it was reserving more than $16 million in broadcast and cable advertising in Atlanta and $12 million in the Phoenix TV markets — the biggest in the two states that Mr. Biden brought into the Democratic column in 2020 for the first time in years. It is also spending heavily in smaller markets in battleground states: $3 million each in Madison, Wis., and Reno, Nev., and $2 million in Flint, Mich.

The digital reservation includes roughly $35 million on YouTube, with more on other streaming platforms, including Hulu, Roku and Vevo, plus the streaming services of the Spanish-language giants Telemundo and Univision.

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“Pro-Biden PAC launches $1 million campaign to pay social media influencers”


LaToi Storr, a 42-year-old content creator and lifestyle blogger based in Philadelphia, normally posts Instagram and TikTok videos of local restaurants and skincare tips, mingled with some community-focused material on Black mental health care.

Last fall, she started posting a new kind of message on her feeds.

In an Instagram reel in October, she urged her 16,500 followers to register for a Pennsylvania election for state judges and district attorneys. She posted the same video on TikTok. Then, she posted another reel reminding people to get out to vote.

For her political posts, she was paid by Priorities USA, a super PAC supporting President Joe Biden’s reelection.

The influential Democratic PAC is spending $1 million for its first-ever “creator” program, enlisting Storr and 150 other influencers to post on social media in the 2024 election cycle, according to details first shared with POLITICO.

The effort is part of a larger Democratic strategy to lure young voters in battleground states, who polls show are increasingly critical of Biden, whether over his age or issues like his stance towards Israel. Biden’s reelection campaign itself is amping up its work with social media influencers in 2024, though those partnerships are currently unpaid, Daniel Wessel, a Biden campaign spokesperson, told POLITICO. The White House team separately is also flexing its creator game, throwing its first-ever influencer Christmas party last December.

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“News Outlets Make an Early Call in Iowa, and a Backlash Ensues”


While news outlets typically refrain from announcing a projection until after polls have closed, Iowa’s caucuses are not typical. Voters must be present by 7 p.m., when the caucus doors close, and The A.P. considers this moment the equivalent of a poll closing. In 2020, The A.P. projected Mr. Trump as the winner after 25 minutes.

That year, Mr. Trump was an incumbent president running virtually unopposed. He faced more competition at Monday’s caucus, and the second-place finisher — either Mr. DeSantis or Nikki Haley — was a source of suspense for several hours on Monday night. Some voters and campaign aides believed the early call for Mr. Trump could affect voters’ decisions at caucuses that had barely begun.

“The early call rubs a lot of voters the wrong way,” said Mosheh Oinounou, the founder of Mo News and a former executive producer at CBS. “These results were widely expected. At the same time, we have been talking about things like election interference, our democracy and the media trying to earn the trust of people again.”

“Just because you can call it that early,” he added, “should you?”

For its part, The A.P. said that it had analyzed early results from eight Iowa counties that were received within the first half-hour after caucusing began, which showed that Mr. Trump had received “far more than half of the total votes counted.” That data gelled with The A.P.’s proprietary voter survey, which the outlet said “showed Trump with an insurmountable lead” among men and women, and across every age group and geographic region of Iowa. (The New York Times relied upon The A.P.’s race call in reporting its own results.)

CNN actually beat The A.P. by one minute in projecting Mr. Trump as the night’s winner. The network’s projection relied in part on a so-called entrance poll conducted by Edison Research on behalf of several major television networks. On air, Jake Tapper told viewers that Mr. Trump’s expected victory was “based on his overwhelming lead in our entrance poll of Iowa caucusgoers and some initial votes that are coming in.”

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“Super PACs have broken records with their spending in Iowa”


utside groups have poured tens of millions of dollars into Iowa to boost — or knock — the Republican presidential candidates.

Since the start of 2023, super PACs have spent more than $85 million on TV ads across the nine media markets that cover some portion of Iowa, according to a POLITICO analysis of data from AdImpact, which tracks political advertising. The groups have spent $136 million in overall independent expenditure spending in the state, according to FEC filings. That far exceeds the $32 million in outside spending in Iowa that Republicans reported to the FEC in 2016.

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Can Trump Campaign From Jail If He’s Held? “Imran Khan deploys AI clone to campaign from behind bars in Pakistan”

The Guardian:

Artificial intelligence allowed Pakistan’s former prime minister Imran Khan to campaign from behind bars on Monday, with a voice clone of the opposition leader giving an impassioned speech on his behalf.

Khan has been locked up since August and is being tried for leaking classified documents, allegations he says have been trumped up to stop him contesting general elections due in February.

His Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party used artificial intelligence to make a four-minute message from the 71-year-old, headlining a “virtual rally” hosted on social media overnight on Sunday into Monday despite internet disruptions that monitor NetBlocks said were consistent with previous attempts to censor Khan.

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“Trump confronts ‘scheduling nightmare’ as court cases collide with campaign”


Donald Trump’s upcoming court calendar is creating a logistical headache for his presidential campaign.

“It’s a scheduling nightmare,” Trump senior adviser Susie Wiles told reporters Saturday. “There’s no way to sugarcoat that.”

Already ricocheting from the courtroom to the campaign trail, Trump’s bid for a second term is now on a collision course with court dates for the myriad legal challenges he’s facing.

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“Ron DeSantis wanted to change the way campaigns were funded. Then the fights started.”

Washington Post:

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis entered the Republican presidential race with an unmatched war chest and a $269 million plan to change how campaigns are usually funded.

His first campaign manager, Generra Peck, developed the strategy and selected the leadership to lead a massive new super PAC called Never Back Down. Lawyer-supervised meetings between the campaign-in-waiting and the super PAC’s team fine-tuned the mission — setting the stage for a historic paid door-knocking effort in early states.

Under campaign finance rules, the two operations could not privately coordinate most of their spending. But they aimed to function as an integrated whole — built with the candidate’s approval, advised by a single law firm, overseen by a board that included DeSantis confidants and seeded with $82.5 million that DeSantis had raised for his gubernatorial reelection. It was the first time a major campaign ceded so much of its operations to an entity it could not legally control.

With just weeks to go before the Iowa caucuses, the experiment is now in tatters. The super PAC that funded almost all of the DeSantis advertising and field programs and much of the candidate’s travel and events has been sidelined by the people that created it.

It’s an interesting look at the limitations of super PACs post-Citizens United. For some things, there’s no substitute for candidate control of the campaign.

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“Kansas Supreme Court rules against Kris Kobach and Scott Schwab in election law case”

From the Topeka Capital-Journal:

The Kansas Supreme Court has sided with voter advocacy groups in a lawsuit against Secretary of State Scott Schwab and Attorney General Kris Kobach challenging the legality of an election law enacted by the Republican-controlled Legislature over the veto of Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly.

Justice Caleb Stegall, the high court’s most conservative member, wrote the unanimous opinion released Friday.

“Today we hold that when the Legislature criminalizes speech and does not — within the elements of the crime — provide a high degree of specificity and clarity demonstrating that the only speech being criminalized is constitutionally unprotected speech, the law is sufficiently unclear to confer pre-enforcement standing on a plaintiff challenging the law,” Stegall wrote.

The decision in League of Women Voters of Kansas v. Schwab is here.

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“AI chatbot got election info wrong 30 percent of time, European study finds”

Washington Post:

Want accurate information about elections? Don’t ask an AI chatbot, experts warn — even if it seems confident of its answers and cites seemingly trustworthy sources.

New research from a pair of European nonprofits finds that Microsoft’s Bing AI chatbot, recently rebranded as Microsoft Copilot, gave inaccurate answers to 1 out of every 3 basic questions about candidates, polls, scandals and voting in a pair of recent election cycles in Germany and Switzerland. In many cases, the chatbot misquoted its sources.

The problems were not limited to Europe, with similar questions eliciting inaccurate responses about the 2024 U.S. elections as well.

There has been a concerted effort to move state and local governments to dot-gov domains, and perhaps there will be more pressure to channel voters to official sites for election information, too.

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