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Facebook, Google gave $1.6M to lawmakers grilling them, and more news for 11/1/17

November 1, 2017 | Laura Friedenbach

This week, as Google and Facebook testify before Congress about Russian interference in our elections, they’ll face lawmakers who they have “splashed with cash.” To be exact, Politico reports the companies and their employees have contributed to all but three of the 55 members of Congress on the committees grilling them this week with donations totally $1.6 million. For more on the political giving by Google, Facebook, and Twitter, check out the Center for Responsive Politics.

John Wonderlich of the Sunlight Foundation summed up the problem telling Politico, “Russian interference in U.S. elections requires the undivided attention of lawmakers, despite the ubiquitous fundraising that comes with running for re-election. When lawmakers oversee or regulate their donors, this represents, at minimum, a complication in their incentives.”

Meanwhile, Campaign Legal Center and the conservative Take Back Action Fund teamed up to call on the Federal Election Commission to clarify online ad disclosure rules within 60 days.

Campaign Finance/Election Law

In case you missed it last night, ABC’s The Mayor dedicated its most recent episode to exploring the challenges of creating a democracy that works for everyone, not just big donors. Join fans of the show in the conversation about how to create an accountable and inclusive democracy by visiting IfIWasTheMayor.com and following #IfIWasTheMayor.

Politico: The Supreme Court Has An Ethics Problem
Senator Elizabeth Warren takes aim at Justice Gorsuch for his Speech at Trump International Hotel: “Think about that: Just as the ink was drying on the court’s announcement that it would hear Janus, Justice Gorsuch was off to hobnob with some of the biggest supporters for one side of this important case—the side that wants to deny workers the freedom to build a future that doesn’t hang by a thread at the whim of a few billionaires.”

Washington Post: Record-shattering Virginia fundraising leaves candidates neck-and-neck in money race
According to analysis by the Virginia Public Access Project, “The late flood of campaign money is unprecedented in modern Virginia history”. Only one candidate at the top of the ticket has a plan to ensure this is the last election in which candidates have to rely on big donors to win elections.

Observer: Independent Groups Spend $10.6 Million in NJ Governor’s Race
Jeff Brindle of the state Election Law Enforcement Commission: “This type of spending is now a fixture in both gubernatorial and legislative campaigns.”

Congress/Administration

Atlantic: How the Manafort Indictment Gave Bite to a Toothless Law
This week we saw indictments in the most significant prosecution of a Foreign Agents Registration Act violation ever: “The Department of Justice’s FARA unit is small and it’s easy to skirt or violate the law and get away with it, and it’s commonplace on K Street to do so. This is why the possibility that Manafort and Gates could go to prison for violating FARA could have reverberations across the lobbying world.”

Associated Press: Bill shielding Mueller from Trump unlikely soon in Senate
“Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell exhibited no interest Tuesday in considering legislation shielding the special counsel from Donald Trump, even as Republicans warn the president against interfering with Robert Mueller’s investigation.”

Reuters: U.S. Lobbying Trade Group Urges Congress to Revamp Disclosure Laws
“An industry group for lobbyists on Tuesday called on Congress to overhaul the transparency laws that govern their activity in the wake of indictments of two lobbyists, including Paul Manafort, a former campaign manager for U.S. President Donald Trump.”

Rolling Stone: Bernie Sanders: Trump ‘Does Not Understand the Constitution’
On Late Night with Seth Meyers, Sen. Bernie Sanders criticized the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision that “allow[s] billionaires to buy elections” and concluded, “Of all the enormous issues facing this country, making sure we fight to protect and revitalize American democracy and take on all of those people who want to undermine what men and women fought and died to defend, that is our major task”

Twelve members of the California congressional delegation are calling on the California Public Employees’ Retirement System–one of the largest public pension funds in the country–to divest from a real estate trust that indirectly benefits the Trump Organization and the President.

States/Other

A New York Times editorial said “Thanks, but No Thanks” to the idea of fixing our democracy through a Constitutional Convention, yet nonetheless had this harsh rebuke of the current state of New York’s democracy: “That the mechanisms of New York State governance require serious repair is beyond dispute. A campaign finance system that fosters corruption and creates kingmakers of moneyed interests cries out for a thorough overhaul.”

Laura Friedenbach

Laura is Every Voice's Deputy Communications Director