Category Archives: campaigns

Young and Independent Voters Want Campaigns to Leave Them Alone

A new survey by Civics finds that young and independent voters do not appreciate unsolicited emails and text messages from multiple campaigns and they would rather they stopped.

The survey analysts conclude: “Democrats are at risk of burning out their base of grassroots donors and driving away independent voters by continuing to send huge volumes of unsolicited emails and text messages.”

Key findings of the survey include:

  • A full 72% of independents and 67% of 18–34-year-olds indicated they would elect to stop receiving all political campaign emails and texts if that were possible.
  • Clear majorities of independents (57%) and 18–34-year-olds (59%) agreed with the statement: “I get too many impersonal emails and text messages from Democratic campaigns that I never signed up for.”
  • Among the crucial 18-34 demographic that played a major role in propelling many Democratic campaigns to victory, a full 50% described Democratic fundraising emails as “mostly annoying” while just 5% described them as “mostly helpful.”

The survey was conducted online between November 10-14 among 1,260 self-identified Democrats and Independents who voted Democratic in the 2016 or 2020 presidential elections.

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“Social media firms are prepping for the midterms. Experts say it may not be enough”

NPR:

With two months to go until the midterms, tech companies are getting ready: rolling out fact checks, labeling misleading claims and setting up voting guides.

The election playbooks being used by FacebookTwitter, Google-owned YouTube and TikTok are largely in line with those they used in 2020, when they warned that both foreign and domestic actors were seeking to undermine confidence in the results.

But the wave of falsehoods in the wake of that election — including the “big lie” that Donald Trump won — has continued to spread, espoused by hundreds of Republican candidates on ballots this fall.

That’s left experts who study social media wondering what lessons tech companies have learned from 2020 — and whether they are doing enough this year.

The host of election-related announcements in recent weeks add up to a “business as usual” approach, said Katie Harbath, a former elections policy director at Facebook who’s now a fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center.

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“How a Record Cash Haul Vanished for Senate Republicans”

NYT:

The committee had squeezed donors with hyperaggressive new tactics. And all the money coming in obscured just how much the committee was spending advertising for donors. Then inflation sapped online giving for Republicans nationwide. And the money that had rolled in came at an ethical price.

One fund-raising scheme used by the Senate committee, which has not previously been disclosed, involved sending an estimated millions of text messages that asked provocative questions — “Should Biden resign?” — followed by a request for cash: “Reply YES to donate.” Those who replied “YES” had their donation processed immediately, though the text did not reveal in advance where the money was going.

Privately, some Republicans complained the tactic was exploitative. WinRed, the party’s main donation-processing platform, recently stepped in and took the unusual step of blocking the committee from engaging in the practice, according to four people familiar with the matter.

The texts had been part of a concerted push that successfully juiced fund-raising, though it used methods that experts say will eventually exhaust even the most loyal givers.

One internal N.R.S.C. budget document from earlier this year, obtained by The Times, shows that $23.3 million was poured into investments to find new donors between June 2021 and January 2022. In that time, the contributors the organization found gave $6.1 million — a more than $17 million deficit.

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“Inside The Right’s Historic Billion-Dollar Dark Money Transfer”

The Lever/ProPublica:

An elderly, ultra-secretive Chicago businessman has given the largest known donation to a political advocacy group in U.S. history — worth $1.6 billion — and the recipient is one of the prime architects of conservatives’ efforts to reshape the American judicial system, including the Supreme Court.

Through a series of opaque transactions over the past two years, Barre Seid, a 90-year-old manufacturing magnate, gave the massive sum to a nonprofit run by Leonard Leo, who co-chairs the conservative legal group the Federalist Society.

The donation was first reported by The New York Times on Monday. The Lever and ProPublica confirmed the information from documents received independently by the news organizations.

Our reporting sheds additional light on how the two men, one a judicial kingmaker and the other a mysterious but prolific donor to conservative causes, came together to create a political war chest that will likely supercharge efforts to further shift American politics to the right….

The creators of the Marble Freedom Trust shrouded their project in secrecy for more than two years.

The group’s name does not appear in any public database of business, tax or securities records. The Marble Freedom Trust is organized for legal purposes as a trust, rather than as a corporation. That means it did not have to publicly disclose basic details like its name, directors and address.

The trust was formed in Utah. Its address is a house in North Salt Lake owned by Tyler Green, a lawyer who clerked for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Green is listed in the trust’s tax return as an administrative trustee. The donation does not appear to violate any laws.

Seid’s $1.6 billion donation is a landmark in the era of deregulated political spending ushered in by the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision. That case, along with subsequent changes and weak federal oversight, empowered a tiny group of the super rich in both parties to fund groups that can spend unlimited sums to support candidates and political causes. In the last decade, donations in the millions and sometimes tens of millions of dollars have become common.

Individuals could give unlimited amounts of money to nonprofit groups prior to Citizens United, but the decision allowed those nonprofits to more directly influence elections. A handful of billionaires such as the Koch family and Soros have spent billions to achieve epochal political influence by bankrolling networks of nonprofits.

Even in this money-drenched world, Seid’s $1.6 billion gift exceeds all publicly known one-time donations to a politically oriented group….

illionaires tend to craft intricate estate plans to pass the family business to the next generation, fortified from taxation and protective of their vision. The apparently childless Seid didn’t have that option, but starting in April 2020, he set in motion a plan to make sure his fortune would go toward his favored causes.

That month, the Marble Freedom Trust was created, and Seid subsequently transferred his 100% ownership stake in Tripp Lite to the trust, according to the documents reviewed by The Lever and ProPublica.

In February 2021, Tripp Lite filed its annual reports with the state of Illinois as it had done for decades. But this time, Seid’s typewritten name had been crossed out as an officer of the company. Added as an officer, written in by hand, was Leonard Leo.

A Tripp Lite subsidiary in Nova Scotia, Canada, similarly removed Seid as a director and added Leo as a director in March 2021, according to disclosure filings.

Then, later that same month, Eaton Corporation, a large publicly traded company, acquired Tripp Lite for $1.65 billion.

The transactions appear to have been carefully sequenced to reap massive tax savings. Selling a company that has grown in value after decades of ownership is treated the same way for tax purposes as a person selling a share of stock. If the property has grown in value, capital gains taxes are due when it is sold.Give A Gift Subscription

But Seid transferred Tripp Lite to the Marble Freedom Trust, a nonprofit that is exempt from income tax, before the electronics company was sold. As a result, lawyers say, Seid avoided up to $400 million in state and federal income tax, preserving those funds for Leo’s operation.

“If the person who had owned the stock had sold the stock himself, he would’ve been taxed on the appreciation in the stock,” said Ellen Aprill, a tax law professor at Loyola Marymount University. “Whereas if you give it to the 501(c)(4), there’s no charitable deduction for giving the money, but you avoid the tax on all of that appreciation.”

Political advocacy nonprofits like the Marble Freedom Trust are formally called 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations, after the section of the tax code. Informally, they are known as dark-money groups because donors can remain secret, in contrast to the public disclosures required of gifts to political campaigns or super PACs. While they can spend money directly advocating for or against candidates in political campaigns, such spending cannot be their primary purpose.

In giving to such a dark money group, Seid also avoided another federal levy, the gift tax, thanks to a change signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2015.

There’s a reason why giving money specifically to a trust might have been attractive for an older and ideological donor such as Seid. The founding documents that lay out how the trust will spend money can be harder to change than the governing documents of a corporation, according to Lloyd Hitoshi Mayer, a professor at Notre Dame Law School.

Mayer added that while corporations usually have at least three directors, trusts can have just a single trustee in charge of the organization’s activities.

Leo is the trustee and chairman of the Marble Freedom Trust. In other words, Leo is now in charge of the massive sum of money.

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“NC Dems demand investigation of Forsyth DA Jim O’Neill. Party claims he made false statements about AG Josh Stein.”

Winston-Salem Journal:

The N.C. Democratic Party wants the Wake County District Attorney’s Office to open a criminal investigation into statements that Forsyth County District Attorney Jim O’Neill made during his 2020 race to unseat N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein.

The party claims that O’Neill, a Republican, violated a state law prohibiting false and derogatory statements that could hurt a candidate’s chances at getting elected. O’Neill narrowly lost to Stein in the general election in 2020.

Wake County prosecutors have been pursuing potential criminal charges against Stein, a Democrat, for what O’Neill claims was a false and defamatory political ad that aired in 2020. O’Neill said the ad falsely pegged him as responsible for 1,500 untested rape kits being held at law-enforcement agencies in Forsyth County. O’Neill is currently running against retired judge Denise Hartsfield for a fourth term as Forsyth County district attorney.

The Democratic Party’s demand comes a day after U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles refused to block a state law underpinning the Wake County District Attorney’s Office criminal investigation into Stein’s political ad.

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“Court Upholds N.C. Statute That Criminalizes Knowingly/Recklessly Libelous Statements About Candidates”

Eugene Volokh blogs:

Grimmett v. Costa, decided today by Judge Catherine Eagles (M.D.N.C.), refused to issue a preliminary injunction against a N.C. statute that makes it a misdemeanor

[f]or any person to publish or cause to be circulated derogatory reports with reference to any candidate in any primary or election, knowing such report to be false or in reckless disregard of its truth or falsity, when such report is calculated or intended to affect the chances of such candidate for nomination or election.

From the opinion, which I think is likely correct as to such narrow statutes focused on libels of candidates (because [1] narrowly crafted criminal libel statutes are generally constitutional under Supreme Court precedents, even though [2] broader laws banning lies in election campaigns, including ones that aren’t libelous of particular individuals, are likely unconstitutional)…

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“Senate GOP escalates its attack on Google over email spam”

WaPo:

The National Republican Senatorial Committee, the campaign arm of the Republican caucus, is preparing to escalate its attack on Google over the company’s email spam filter, which it blames for recent fundraising disappointments, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post.

A draft memo on NRSC letterhead, and addressed to Google, claims that “Google and its algorithms have handed a distinct advantage to Democrat fundraising efforts, resulting in Republicans raising millions of dollars less than they should be able to.” And a Wednesday afternoon email from an NRSC official to chiefs of staff and legislative directors for Republican senators asks them to have their bosses sign the letter before leaving for their August recess.

The email states that Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) is spearheading the effort. In a May meeting, Grassley told Google representatives that Gmail should operate like a post office and suggested that sending emails to spam was equivalent to a post office refusing to deliver the mail, according to three people in the room who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the private meeting.

The basis for the GOP’s allegations, which Google denies, is a March study published by researchers at North Carolina State University finding that Gmail sent 77 percent of right-wing candidate emails to spam in 2020, compared with 10 percent of left-wing candidate emails.ADVERTISING

Google took issue with the study, saying it relied on a small sample size and old data while not accounting for which candidates had used recommended tools when sending bulk emails. People familiar with the company’s thinking said Google is being scapegoated by Republican consultants seeking to shift the blame for poor fundraising caused by lists that have grown stale and recipients who have tired of incessant appeals, especially those coming from entities that have rented or purchased email addresses. The GOP’s online fundraising has fallen off in recent months, declining by about 11 percent in the second quarter of the year, compared with the first, according to federal filings from WinRed,the main donation-processing portal for Republicans.

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“The Effect of Television Advertising in United States Elections”

New in APSR from Sides, Vavreck, and Warshaw. Abstract:

We provide a comprehensive assessment of the influence of television advertising on United States election outcomes from 2000–2018. We expand on previous research by including presidential, Senate, House, gubernatorial, Attorney General, and state Treasurer elections and using both difference-in-differences and border-discontinuity research designs to help identify the causal effect of advertising. We find that televised broadcast campaign advertising matters up and down the ballot, but it has much larger effects in down-ballot elections than in presidential elections. Using survey and voter registration data from multiple election cycles, we also show that the primary mechanism for ad effects is persuasion, not the mobilization of partisans. Our results have implications for the study of campaigns and elections as well as voter decision making and information processing.

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“Democratic Dollars Flow Once Again to Likely Lost Causes”

NYT:

Gary Chambers Jr. burst onto the national scene in 2020 with a viral video of him castigating the racism of the East Baton Rouge school district. Now, he has captured the hearts and wallets of young liberals with a video for his improbable Senate campaign that shows him smoking a large joint and calling for the legalization of marijuana.

He has almost no paths to victory over a sitting Republican senator in a red state like Louisiana. But he has raised $1.2 million.

The same most likely goes for the Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, a gay minister who has raised $1.4 million to oust Representative Madison Cawthorn, the far-right Republican, from his North Carolina seat. And for Marcus Flowers, a cowboy-hat-wearing veteran in Georgia who raised $2.4 million just in the first three months of the year to try to dislodge Marjorie Taylor Greene from a heavily Republican district.

Every election year in recent cycles, celebrity Democratic candidates have emerged — either on the strength of their personalities, the notoriety of their Republican opponents or both — to rake in campaign cash, then lose impossible elections. Some Democrats say such races are draining money from more winnable campaigns, but the candidates insist that even in losing, they are helping the party by pulling voters in for statewide races, bolstering the Democratic brand and broadening the party’s appeal.

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“2024 hopefuls are already in a dark-money arms race”

Politico:

When Mike Pompeo announced his political action committee last June, he set off a wave of news stories heralding the move as a potential step toward a 2024 presidential campaign. But the former secretary of State kept his next big launch behind the scenes.

Two months later, Pompeo allies including Ulrich Brechbuhl, a close friend,West Point classmate and former State Department official, quietly formed a nonprofit group — Champion American Values Fund — to work alongside Pompeo’s Champion American Values PAC. According to corporate records from Delaware and Virginia, Brechbuhl serves as president of the organization, which can raise and spend unlimited funds without disclosing its donors — an increasingly popular feature for politicians eyeing the White House.

At least a dozen potential candidates for president in 2024 have active nonprofit groups aligned with them, according to a review of corporate filings, campaign disclosures and financial records obtained by POLITICO. Some of them, like the nonprofits affiliated with Pompeo or Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), have never been publicly revealed before. Others, like those supporting President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump, have been operating in the open for years.

What they all have in common is the ability to pay staffers, fund polling and policy research, run ads and accept money from megadonors without divulging those funders’ names — or much information about any spending until many months after the fact. It’s the latest escalation in a fundraising arms race that has seen personal benefactors, super PACs and now secret money become common building blocks of presidential campaigns.

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“Abrams files lawsuit to use fundraising law meant to aid Kemp”

Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams filed a federal lawsuit Monday seeking court approval to use a law that gives Republican Gov. Brian Kemp a massive fundraising advantage in his reelection bid this year.

The challenge asks the court to require state officials to let her use a leadership committee under a law approved last year by the Republican-controlled General Assembly.

The lawsuit says Abrams’ campaign has already created such a committee, One Georgia, and it has been raising money since shortly after she filed to run against Kemp earlier this month.

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