Dark Money Groups Gone Wild
You couldn't devise a better political hit-and-run.
In the summer of 2010, an unknown group called the Commission on Hope, Growth, and Opportunity (CHGO) asked (PDF) the Internal Revenue Service to grant it 501(c)(4) tax-exempt status. The organization told the IRS it didn't plan to spend a penny on politics. Once the IRS gave CHGO the green light, however, the group plunged into the 2010 political season. It would ultimately raise $4.8 million—$4 million of that from a single anonymous donor—and spend $2.3 million on TV ads attacking 11 House Democrats running for re-election. (Ten of them lost.)
Later, on its 2010 and 2011 tax returns, CHGO claimed it hadn't spent money on politics. Watchdogs filed complaints against CHGO alleging it had flouted tax and election laws. But sometime in 2011, after the Republicans' 2010 "shellacking," CHGO quietly disappeared. The group, and the anonymous individuals behind it, has yet to face any punishment. READ MORE
Influence Industry: Small group makes big dent on super PAC individual donations, study says
The Washington Post
It’s no secret that some very rich people support the super PACs and other groups that have inundated the 2012 campaign with unlimited sums of cash. But a study to be released Thursday details the extent to which this kind of donating is the sport of the One Percent.
Just 47 people account for more than half (57.1 percent) of the $230 million raised by super PACs from individual donors, according to the study by U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) and Demos, two liberal research and advocacy organizations. Just over 1,000 donors giving $10,000 or more were responsible for 94 percent of the money raised. READ MORE
FEC should encourage small donations by text message
The Washington Post - Editorial
IN AN ELECTION cycle marked by the emergence of multimillion-dollar contributions, everything possible should be done to encourage small-money donors. Such a proposal is now before the Federal Election Commission (FEC), which is being called on to clear the way for campaigns to solicit and receive donations through text message.
As President Obama dramatically demonstrated during the 2008 campaign, the Internet can be a powerful, and lucrative, fundraising tool. Its technological cousin, the cell phone, presents a similarly promising mechanism. According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 83 percent of Americans use mobile phones, and 73 percent of those users text. According to Pew, at least 30 million Americans have texted a contribution to a charitable cause. Maryland and California allow political contributions by text message. READ MORE
2012 Election Will Be Costliest Yet, With Outside Spending a Wild Card
The 2012 presidential and congressional elections will be the most expensive on record, the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics estimates -- though not by much. The Center predicts, based on data from 18 months of fundraising and spending, that the elections will cost $5.8 billion, an increase of 7 percent from the 2008 cost of $5.4 billion. But outside spending, which is soaring while presidential candidate spending declines, is a wild card that makes predictions tricky.
So far overall in the first 18 months of the 2012 cycle, $2.2 billion has been spent, compared with $2.4 billion in 2008. READ MORE
DARE Campaign Finance Reform Endorsed By Nancy Pelosi, Other House Dems
The House Democratic leadership stepped out of the Capitol on Wednesday to offer their full support for a package of proposed electoral reforms, including a constitutional amendment to reverse the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision.
The DARE agenda -- "disclose, amend, reform and elect" -- was endorsed at an afternoon press conference led by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn (S.C.), House Democratic Caucus chair John Larson (Conn.) and Disclose Act sponsor Chris Van Hollen (Md.). READ MORE
Further Review for Secret Donations
The New York Times - Editorial
The ploy of disguising secretly financed political machines as tax-exempt “social welfare” organizations has become one of the alarming trademarks of modern, big-money politics. Under cover of the tax code, the identities of donors are kept secret while they pay for attack ads against candidates, all the while claiming their main purpose is civic and nonpartisan. Operatives from both parties have gotten deep into this shell game.
Fortunately, the Internal Revenue Service is, at last, promising to review and consider changing 50-year-old rules governing the limits of political activity for social welfare nonprofits that enjoy exemptions under section 501(c)(4) of the tax code. This is encouraging news for voters in the dark as ads thunder away and for taxpayers who underwrite the abuse. It follows a court finding that the Federal Election Commission had arbitrarily weakened disclosure requirements. READ MORE
Massachusetts Becomes Seventh State To Call For A Constitutional Amendment To Overturn Citizens United
Enews Park Forest
Massachusetts is now the seventh state to stand up against the corporate takeover of elections and call for a constitutional amendment to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which allows corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections. The Massachusetts House voted late last night by voice vote to pass a resolution supporting an amendment, following in the footsteps of the state Senate’s bipartisan passage of the resolution via a 35-1 vote last week.
With the passage of this measure, Massachusetts joins California, Hawaii, New Mexico, Vermont, Rhode Island and Maryland in calling for a constitutional amendment. The final vote in the Massachusetts House comes just weeks after California’s passage of a similar bill, signaling growing nationwide support for Congress to act. READ MORE