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Election Day 2017, NJ and VA set money in politics records, and more news for 11/7/17

November 7, 2017 | Laura Friedenbach

In Seattle, voters cast their vote for the first time for candidates running under the city’s first-in-the-nation Democracy Voucher program. The program reduces the power of big money and gives everyday people a bigger voice by allowing candidates to run with the support of Democracy Vouchers (available to every city resident to give to the candidates of their choice) and small donors, instead of big money. One thing is for sure, the system has already proven its worth by broadening and diversifying the donor pool so that campaign supporters look more like the residents of Seattle.

In Virginia, where there are zero limits on what wealthy donors and corporations can give to candidates, statewide candidates set new records by raking in historic amounts of money and legislative races are expected to be the most expensive in history. The International Business Times has a new piece on how the Koch brothers are coming to the aid of Ed Gillespie, the Republican nominee for Governor, and Politico has listed dozens of Washington lobbyists who have given to Gillespie, a former lobbyist himself.

A large number of candidates on the ballot are running for office with the aim of making this the last election in which big donors dominate. In nearly half the races for the Virginia House of Delegates and for Governor of Virginia, candidates pledged to prioritize working with their colleagues to reduce the power of big money and give everyday people a bigger voice in elections, following a statewide questionnaire from Every Voice.

New Jersey is also crushing election spending records and may elect a major Democratic donor to be their next governor.

If only it were so easy for everyone to run for office. The Center for Public Integrity reports that a historic number of women are on today’s ballots in Virginia and New Jersey in a ten-year record surge. Yet it will take more, including reducing the barriers money creates for candidates without personal wealth or wealthy connections, to close the gender gap. Spokesperson for Rutgers’ Center for American Women and Politics Chelsea Hill, explains: “Of course having more women candidates is going to help, but we need to look at the structures within that make it more viable for these candidates to actually make it into office”

Campaign Finance/Election Law

Mic: How a 2014 Supreme Court ruling helped the Clinton camp move money from state parties
Here’s an explainer on how understanding the Supreme Court’s McCutcheon decision helps us understand Donna Brazile’s accusations against the Clinton campaign: “the Supreme Court created incentives for powerful presidential campaigns to use their influence over other party organizations to create a giant slush fund for big donors.”

Politico: Menendez corruption trial goes to jury
“The fate of Sen. Robert Menendez is now in the jury’s hands.”

Congress/Administration

Politico: Trump coal backer wins big under Perry’s power plan
“A proposal by Energy Secretary Rick Perry to alter the nation’s electricity markets would provide a windfall for a small group of companies — most strikingly one owned by coal magnate Bob Murray, a prominent backer of President Donald Trump.”

As politicians give their thoughts and prayers for those affected by the Texas shooting, here’s a side-by-side with the millions in campaign money they’ve received from the NRA.

Politico: Tax lobbyists sprint to win changes to House bill
“The release of Republicans’ long-awaited tax bill has sent trade groups representing everything from architects to universities scrambling to secure changes to legislation they fear would harm their industries.”

Public Citizen has a new resource for tracking Trump’s conflicts of interest: corporatepresidency.org

Ross aide served on Navigator’s board while working at Commerce
“A top adviser to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross served on the board of Navigator Holdings, a shipping company whose clients include a Russian energy company with Kremlin ties, while she was working in the Trump administration.”

Common Cause has a new report, “Putin, Trump and Democracy’s Slippery Slope Towards Oligarchy.” Check it out at democracy-to-oligarchy.org

Real News: Trump Rewards Wealthy Donors With Political Offices
“As money in politics becomes an increasingly influential component of elections, donors have utilized it as a way to secure access, favors, and highly coveted positions. And while the practice of rewarding wealthy campaign donors with ambassador positions is hardly new, it shows no sign of abating under a Trump administration that came into power on promises to drain the swamp. So far, Trump has made 55 total appointments, over half of which were political favors to loyalists and donors.”

States/Other

Quad-City Times: Election rules in Illinois empower the rich
Illinois State Senator Daniel Biss: “The wealthy and well-connected have built a political system that keeps them in charge by pushing the rest of us out… it’s time to take a step back and ask where we went wrong. It’s time to ask whether we want to hold elections, or auctions.”

NBC Washington: Money, Power and Dead Bodies in DC’s Worst Hospital
A contractor who contributed $35,000 to DC’s mayor is now having to answer for a death at its hospital under questionable circumstances: “The cost of caring for the city’s most poor and vulnerable is high with little return, for sure. But in sorting through the contracts and connections, I can’t help but see money, politics and mismanagement contributing to the undependable health care.”

News Herald: Campaign finance reform group launches Ohio chapter
“American Promise, a grassroots nonprofit pushing for a constitutional amendment to reform campaign finance, made its Ohio launch in Port Clinton on Saturday, where both locals and others from around the region discussed the goal and the strategy to get there.”

Hartford Courant: Dave Walker Says He’s Close to Qualifying for Public Financing
“Dave Walker, the former U.S. Comptroller General who is running for governor, said Monday he has raised $250,000 in his quest to qualify for Connecticut’s public campaign financing program.”

In Maryland, where county by county new public financing systems are going into place, many candidates are opting out of the statewide public financing system because they feel they can’t run competitive campaigns under it. It’s another reminder that if you want public financing to effectively reduce the power of big money, policymakers must give them ongoing attention and adapt to changing times and needs.

CBC News: Trudeau’s chief fundraiser linked to Cayman Islands tax scheme
North of the border, Justin Trudeau’s top fundraiser was also exposed by the Paradise Papers: “Bronfman and his Montreal-based investment company, Claridge Inc., were key players linked to a $60-million US offshore trust in the Cayman Islands that may have cost Canadians millions in unpaid taxes.”

Laura Friedenbach

Laura is Every Voice's Deputy Communications Director