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Big donors are getting bigger and small donors are getting smaller, and more news for 4/14/17

April 14, 2017 | Adam Smith

The final tally for the 2016 election is $6.5 billion, the Center for Responsive Politics reports. Here are the key points that stand out to me:

  • Big donors are getting bigger: the top 200 donors spent a combined $1 billion on the election. “The group’s political contributions more than doubled from 2012 to 2016, from about $390 million to nearly $948 million.
  • While small donors are providing a smaller share of the total: “the share of total contributions considered ‘small,” or made by individuals giving $200 or less in a cycle, fell by more than 4 percent from 2012 to 2016.

And you know what’s good for democracy? More people running for office: “Interviews with organizers training female candidates around the country suggest that a staggering 16,000 women have sought professional advice on how to run for office since Donald Trump’s was elected president.”

Campaign Finance/Election Law

Washington Post:
Trump’s pledge to allow churches to support candidates may be part of tax bill

This is a bad idea: “As Republicans struggle to craft a sweeping tax package — a process already rife with political land mines — they are preparing to add another volatile element to the mix: a provision that would end a six-decade-old ban on churches and other tax-exempt organizations supporting political candidates.” But don’t take it from me–here are 100 faith groups who think so: “Permitting electioneering in churches would give partisan groups incentive to use congregations as a conduit for political activity and expenditures. Changing the law would also make them vulnerable to individuals and corporations who could offer large donations or a politician promising social service contracts in exchange for taking a position on a candidate…”At a town hall last night, Sen. Jeff Flake weighed in against repeal.

The Nation: Iowa’s New Voter-ID Law Would Have Disenfranchised My Grandmother
Must-read from Ari Berman on Iowa’s new voter suppression law.

ELB: In Surprise Move, Trump DOJ Defends McCain-Feingold’s Soft Money Limits at #SCOTUS
Hmm: “But the motion reads like a motion that would have been filed by the Obama DOJ; there’s not a hint that the issue is one the Court should hear. It has just the right tone for a brief of this type to say: nothing new here, and this is not the right vehicle to make a big change in campaign finance law.”

Letter to the editor in Missouri: “I would like to thank Sen. Claire McCaskill for her principled vote against the Neil Gorsuch confirmation. If you believe that our nation’s perilous path from democracy to oligopoly must be halted, this was the correct vote.”

The Hill: GOP senator faces town hall anger over Supreme Court, healthcare
Also at Flake’s town hall: he “faced jeers for his defense of the GOP invoking the so-called ‘nuclear option’ to confirm Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Flake said Gorsuch faced unprecedented obstructionism by Democrats.”

Sun Sentinel: South Florida congressman wants to change Constitution to curb money in politics
“Speaking to about 150 people at a town hall meeting in Wilton Manors, [Rep. Ted] Deutch repeated his call for amending the Constitution to limit the influence of money in politics.”

Congress/Administration

Mother Jones: Donald Trump Is Making the United States an Anti-Corruption Laughingstock
Donald Trump is profiting off the presidency and that’s undermining America’s image abroad: “But interviews with more than a dozen US and foreign experts show that the nation is losing its credibility as the world leader in clean government and fighting corruption, which is in turn affecting global efforts to combat government corruption.” As of last night, he is now on his seventh visit to Mar-a-Lago since inauguration.

Reuters: Exclusive: Inside edge – Trump advisor Icahn’s big bet against biofuels credits
Related: “Billionaire investor Carl Icahn’s oil refining company, CVR Energy,, made a massive bet in 2016 that prices for U.S. government biofuels credits would fall – just before Icahn started advising President Donald Trump on regulations driving that market.”

The Intercept: Lawmakers Who Championed Repeal of Web Browsing Privacy Protections Raked in Telecom Campaign Cash
“The two lawmakers most responsible for rolling back landmark internet browsing privacy protections were richly rewarded by telecommunication giants. ”

Post-Dispatch: McCaskill greets friendly crowds at town halls, takes shot at bashful Republican colleagues
During Sen. Claire McCaskill’s town hall this week, “she saved some of her heaviest criticism for the state of campaign finance. She said she was preparing for an onslaught of attacks ads funded by conservative nonprofits that don’t have to disclose their donors.”

White House aide Sebastian Gorka told Bill O’Reilly’s audience to “read Art of the Deal.” Is that an ethics violation?

CNN: We the people do care about Trump’s taxes
Public Citizen’s Lisa Gilbert has this op-ed ahead of tomorrow’s tax marches around the country: “Disclosure of Trump’s returns is vital for understanding his conflicts of interest, but the Tax Marches are about more than just the need for an open, ethical and transparent government. They are also about Americans standing up against a rigged tax system in which billionaires pay a lower rate than secretaries, some profitable multinational corporations pay no federal income tax at all (due to corporate offshoring) and small businesses and hardworking families are forced to pick up the tab to create the society we want to live in.”

Trump’s about face on the Ex-Im Bank came after a conversation with the CEO of Boeing, a company that pledged $1M to his inauguration.

Washington Post: GAO launches probe of Trump transition
“An arm of Congress is launching an investigation into President Trump’s transition operation, including its public spending, private fundraising and how it managed communications with foreign governments.”

CNN: Pro-Trump nonprofit, with new leadership, launches ad campaign
What stands out to me here is that the ads are running in Alabama and South Carolina: “The beleaguered nonprofit once intended to be the central outside group to boost President Donald Trump is jumpstarting a new television campaign now that it has new leadership at the helm.”

Some more first quarter numbers are coming in: Sen. Tester raised $2M in the past three months, the Adelsons like Ted Cruz again,

The Hill: House Dems’ campaign arm raises $31M in first quarter
“The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) raised $13.2 million in March, closing out the first fundraising quarter with a record $31 million in donations.”

States/Other

Ed Gillespie’s lobbyist past came up in last night’s Republican gubernatorial debate in Virginia.

Adam Smith

Adam Smith is Every Voice's communications director.