Category Archives: Campaign finance

The Secret Power Behind Local Elections

By CHISUN LEE and LAWRENCE NORDEN, New York Times, June 25, 2016

WHEN the history of elections in 2016 is written, one of the central points is likely to be how little voters knew about the donors who influenced the contests. At the federal level, “dark money” groups — chiefly social welfare nonprofits and trade associations that aren’t required to disclose their donors and, thanks to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, can spend unlimited amounts on political advertising — have spent three times more in this election than they did at a comparable point in 2012.

Yet the rise of dark money may matter less in the race for president or Congress than for, say, the utilities commission in Arizona. Voters probably know much less about the candidates in contests like that, which get little news coverage but whose winner will have enormous power to affect energy company profits and what homeowners pay for electricity. For a relative pittance — less than $100,000 — corporations and others can use dark money to shape the outcome of a low-level race in which they have a direct stake….

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Filed under 2016 election, Campaign finance

Charles Koch “Expects a Return” on Political Spending, and Gets It

By Brendan Fischer, PRWatch, on November 4, 2015

Billionaire mega-donor Charles Koch admitted that the handful of billionaires who bankroll political campaigns are doing it because they expect something in return.

Yet the outsized influence of the .00001% doesn’t threaten democracy, he said, as long as a fellow billionaire thinks those big donors have the right intentions.

Koch appeared with his brother David on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” this week as part of a PR blitz to soften the Koch brothers’ image ahead of the 2016 elections, where the Koch network plans to spend $250 million on direct electoral activities and a total of nearly $1 billion on broader political work.

The fawning interview followed months of positive Koch coverage from the “Morning Joe” hosts, who attended a Koch donor confab earlier this year and have praised the Kochs as “awesome” and a “godsend.” (Neither MSNBC nor the Kochs will say who covered the hosts’ travel and other expenses to attend the summit.)

Although most of this week’s pre-recorded interview featured softball questions, host Joe Scarborough did ask:

“So let’s talk about money in politics. There was a New York Times article, I’m sure you saw it, a couple of weeks back, saying something like 150 families have contributed to the candidates that are in the race right now, the overwhelming amount of money. That’s not a way to run a democracy, is it?”…

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Filed under Campaign finance, Right Wing

Pa. charter schools buy influence with $10M in donations to politicians

By Daniel Simmons-Ritchie, For The Associated Press, Pottstown Mercury, 2/28/15

HARRISBURG >> It’s no secret that Harrisburg is a hive of lobbyists, each representing industries and interests that spend millions to persuade state lawmakers to bend laws in their favor.

But perhaps what makes the charter-school lobby unique among the pack, says State Rep. Bernie O’Neill, a Republican from Bucks County, is its ability to deploy children to its cause.

In 2014, O’Neill experienced that first hand after proposing changes to a funding formula that would affect charter schools. Parents and children stormed his office and barraged him with calls and emails.

“They were calling me the anti-Christ of everything,” O’Neill said. “Everybody was coming after me.”

In recent years, as charter schools have proliferated — particularly those run by for-profit management companies — so too has their influence on legislators. In few other places has that been more true than Pennsylvania, which is one of only 11 states that has no limits on campaign contributions from PACs or individuals.

According to a PennLive analysis of donations on Follow The Money, a campaign donation database, charter school advocates have donated more than $10 million to Pennsylvania politicians over the past nine years….

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Filed under Campaign finance, Education and schools, PA govt & politics

Democracy somewhere?

Democracy somewhere.jpg

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by | November 8, 2014 · 9:53 pm