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Big money in House special elections, and more from the news on 4/10/17

April 10, 2017 | Adam Smith

The special election to replace Rep. Tom Price is next week in Georgia, and big corporate interests are funding the super PAC attacking Democrat Jon Ossoff, the Huffington Post’s Paul Blumenthal reports: “Some contributors to Congressional Leadership Fund’s attacks on Ossoff are known. The largest known donor is the petroleum giant Chevron Corp., which gave $250,000 to the super PAC in March.

GEO Group Holdings, the nation’s second-largest for-profit prison company, chipped in $100,000.” The Intercept notes the group is chaired by Norm Coleman, a Saudi lobbyist.

Here’s how Ossoff’s own fundraising stacks up against everyone else in the race: “The former congressional aide has raised more than five times as much money as all the other contenders in the 18-candidate field combined. And he has about twice as much money remaining in his campaign coffers for the final weeks of the race than all his opponents have together.”

Oh, and about that other special election in Kansas: “Vice President Mike Pence recorded a robo-call backing the GOP candidate, Ron Estes. The National Republican Congressional Committee is spending nearly $100,000 on ads in the closing days. And Texas Sen. Ted Cruz — who won the state’s 2016 Republican presidential primary — is headed there for a Monday afternoon event.”

After breaking the rules to help Donald Trump, Senate Republicans gave corporate special interests their dream Supreme Court Justice on Friday by confirming Neil Gorsuch. “Neil Gorsuch is a gift to the billionaires and corporate interests trying to buy policies to pollute our water and help Wall Street banks cheat people out of their savings. On the Supreme Court, Gorsuch will be another thumb on the scales of justice for the powerful, and we fear the Court will continue to make it harder for everyday people to be heard in our elections,” Every Voice’s David Donnelly said.

A letter to the editor in Montana praising Sen. Jon Tester for standing strong against Gorsuch: “But Sen. Tester was not intimidated by these enemies of democracy. Sen. Tester announced his decision to vote against Judge Gorsuch, because of the nominee’s judicial record supporting giving corporations even more political power than even Citizens United allowed, his record giving some corporations the right to practice religion, and his abysmal record on women’s rights issues.”

And one in Ohio: “Gorsuch’s record on money in politics is particularly concerning … I am glad Sen. Sherrod Brown listened to his constituents and stood up against Gorsuch’s nomination.”

Ed Gillespie is just the son of an immigrant, not the slick corporate lobbyist and super PAC adviser, he’d like voters in Virginia to believe, CNN reports: “Candidates have long sought to publicly play down their connections to wealthy donors in favor of a cracker-barrel profile that endears them to regular voters. But the politics are perhaps never so obvious as they are at this moment, led by a president who has often bellowed to the country that today’s donors are corrupting and unseemly.”

With this background, and decision to introduce a minor ethics plan last week as a way to combat it, the Virginia race could shape up to be a real debate about money in politics.

Campaign Finance/Election Law

Capital Times: 105 state municipalities now want Citizens United repealed, Democracy Campaign reports
Nice work by our friends in Wisconsin: ” all eight referendums in Tuesday’s balloting to ask for a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United Supreme Court decision that gave First Amendment rights to corporations passed easily. That makes 105 communities in Wisconsin, representing about 48 percent of the state’s population, to have passed such measures.”

Campaign Legal Center: Gov. Martinez Vetoes Disclosure Bill, Rejecting Bipartisan Push for Government Transparency
New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, who once famously jumped out of an airplane into the waiting arms of campaign donors, has vetoed bipartisan legislation to bring more transparency to state politics: “Today, New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez vetoed Senate Bill 96, which would have required groups attempting to influence New Mexico elections to provide critical information to voters before Election Day. ”

Congress/Administration

Did you know? Fundraising reports for the first quarter of the year are due to the FEC on Saturday. Get excited!

Daily Beast: Pro-Trump PAC Raising Money Off Syria Strikes
Oh man: “President Trump ordered a military strike on Syria Thursday night in response to a recent chemical attack. By Friday afternoon, a supportive PAC was fundraising off of the strike.” But, an early #TBT to the time Mitch McConnell said your $25 would stop a North Korean nuclear attack.

Pollitico: White House on edge as 100-day judgment nears
After filling beachhead teams with lobbyists, failing to have former aides sign ethics pledges, violating ethics rules multiple times, and giving big donors lots of access, aides say they hope to show Trump has been “following through on swamp-draining campaign promises such as lobbying restrictions,” in their accomplishments for the first 100 days. Here’s our full report with Public Citizen two weeks ago on Trump’s first two months.

Politico: Trump makes nice with Koch brothers
The benefit of this happening at Mar-a-Lago is he could befriend donors while personally making money off them: “President Donald Trump on Saturday night had a friendly chat at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach with twin mega-donor brothers David and Bill Koch, whose family had clashed with Trump during the campaign.”

Washington Post: Who’s visiting the White House? Watchdog groups are suing to find out.
CREW, The National Security Archive, and Knight First Amendment Institute: “A coalition of government watchdog groups plans to sue the Trump administration on Monday with the aim of compelling the White House to continue President Barack Obama’s practice of releasing logs of lobbyists and others who visit the complex.” The lawsuit.

Politico: Nunes Blames ‘Left-Wing’ Activists For His Ethics Investigation, But That’s Not Quite Right
Great rundown of how the ethics investigation process works in Congress: “Committee investigations launched under Rule 18(a) do not involve a full investigative subcommittee, and can be as simple as a Google search. The committee can decide to take up a formal investigation after this first step, but it’s never a certainty that it will.”

ThinkProgress: Ambassador’s tweet accidentally reveals that Trump is violating the Constitution
“Now that Trump is in the White House, however, the Constitution’s chief protection against foreign bribes has become one of the primary controversies of his presidency — and on Thursday, a Georgian ambassador inadvertently showed why.”

Funny nugget in this story on KT McFarland losing her Deputy National Security Adviser job: “For example, while addressing the staff at a meeting after Mr. Flynn’s ouster, Ms. McFarland ‘noted that she was wearing shoes from Ivanka Trump’s brand, according to an official who was present.”

Washington Post: Trump has visited a Trump-branded property every 2.8 days of his presidency
Alt headline: Trump has profited off the presidency every 2.8 days.

CNN: Border tax is latest flashpoint between Kochs and the GOP
“The political network funded by Charles and David Koch is seizing the break on Capitol Hill to try to torpedo a key part of the Republican tax bill, exposing yet another fissure within the GOP and gambling that it won’t sink the entire effort.”

States/Other

New York Times: Alabama Governor Faces Impeachment Hearing in Scandal of Sex and Power
“Three days after a plea for forgiveness, the release of a damning investigative report and a swirl of legal drama, the political future of Gov. Robert Bentley of Alabama faces a new test on Monday as state lawmakers begin to hear evidence that could lead to his impeachment.”

From the Bentley report, this: “Governor Robert Bentley’s former top advisor and secret paramour Rebekah Mason led a politically-motivated effort in 2015 to close 31 driver’s license offices in mostly black counties, a move that embarrassed the state and was later reversed.”

Adam Smith

Adam Smith is Every Voice's communications director.