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Empower small donors, why Philly needs public financing, and more news for 10/26/17

October 26, 2017 | Laura Friedenbach

Small donor public financing programs are empowering small donors across the country. Don’t miss this International Business Times piece by Alex Kotch that provides a detailed overview of how states and cities across the country are using public financing of elections to reduce the power of big donors, even while leaders in Washington fail to act.

Every Voice Center’s Nick Nyhart told the International Business Times: “We don’t really have a democracy yet. With redistricting, barriers to voting, and money in politics, there’s a real battle going on about whether we have ‘one person, one vote’ where everyone is equal, or a few people making all the decisions.” And “Nothing is more important to democracy than the voices of everyday people being heard by those who make the laws, and [public financing] is a way that everyday people can be heard again.”

And, if it hasn’t already, public financing could come to a city near you next. The latest: Following a hearing in Philadelphia this week to consider bringing small-donor public financing to the city, the Inquirer’s editorial board weighed in on why the Philly needs public financing of elections: “Philadelphia’s neighborhoods are brimming with smart, concerned advocates. But they have little chance against incumbents or the dominant Democratic Party because they can’t raise enough money.” And it “would be another blow against the corrupting influence of money in politics.”

Campaign Finance/Election Law

Philly Voice: NYC’s matching funds program enhances role of voters in government
Amy Loprest, executive director of the New York City Campaign Finance Board, voices support for bringing public financing to Philly: “I commend the Philadelphia Board of Elections for endorsing a proposal to provide public funding for political candidates for city offices. If approved in the City Council, this proposal would mirror the program administered by the New York City Campaign Finance Board (CFB).”

Bloomberg BNA: FEC Drops Foreign Money Case Involving Super PAC Contributions
Yet again, Republican-appointed Federal Election Commissioners refuse to investigate opportunities to enforce our campaign finance laws: “The Federal Election Commission voted not to investigate allegations that a Florida real estate developer funneled illegal campaign money from Chinese nationals into a super political action committee that supported the 2016 Senate campaign of former Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Fla.).”

NJ Advance Media: Was it a bribe? A $600K political debate at the Menendez trial
Senator Robert Menendez’s trial continues. Senators Cory Booker & Lindsey Graham will testify as character witnesses.

Congress/Administration

Washington Post: With business booming under Trump, private prison giant’s leaders gathered at president’s resort
GEO, a group that profits from private prison contracts with the government, gave $250,000 to Trump’s inaugural committee and a subsidiary gave $225,000 to a pro-Trump super PAC: “In recent years, the private prison company GEO Group has held its annual leadership conference at venues near its Boca Raton headquarters. But this year, the company moved its gathering to a Miami-area golf resort owned by President Trump.”

USA Today: Trump offer to pay Russia probe legal bills for aides is a terrible idea
Norman Eisen and Conor Shaw of CREW: “President Trump’s reported pledge of $430,000 to help White House and campaign staffers pay for legal costs associated with the Russia investigation is an ethics minefield. Because the president himself is under investigation, such a gift risks increasing both his and his aides’ exposure to liability for obstruction of justice and violating government ethics rules. It would also raise serious legal ethics questions for the recipients’ attorneys.”

The Hill: Puerto Rico gov requests audit into contract awarded to tiny energy company
“The governor of Puerto Rico is requesting an audit into how a small energy company from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s Montana hometown won a multimillion-dollar contract to restore power to Puerto Rico.” Not to mention the company’s connection to a major GOP donor.

Associated Press: Bannon’s war exposes GOP donor divisions
“Steve Bannon’s war on the GOP establishment has caught the party’s most powerful donors in the crossfire. Deep-pocketed supporters of Trump’s agenda are divided over how best to spend their dollars to advance the Trump agenda. Once a whispered concern, the division was out front this week as donors who support President Donald Trump huddled deep in the Texas desert to discuss their strategy.”

Bloomberg BNA: DNC Fundraising Committee Allows Large Contributions
Issue One is highlighting how the DNC is creating a “roadmap” for allowing wealthy people to give large amounts to influence elections: “A newly registered Democratic Party joint fundraising committee will be able to solicit annual contributions of more than $540,000 per individual donor, or about $1.1 million per year from a married couple, according to the nonprofit Issue One, which seeks to control the influence of money in politics.”

Houston Chronicle: Trump heads to Dallas for GOP fundraiser
This fundraiser, postponed because of Hurricane Harvey, is expected to rake in $4 million from donors giving as much as $100,000: “President Donald Trump is heading back to Texas Wednesday to headline a high-dollar fundraiser to benefit his re-election campaign and the Republican National Committee.” And he’ll be flying there using taxpayer dollars.

The New York Times has a great visualization of how much money Administration officials could save taxpayers by flying commercial.

Politico: Big GOP donors launch group to elect Republican women
“A broad network of conservative operatives and Republican donors has been working the past year to build a conservative counterweight to EMILY’s List, the powerhouse organization that backs Democratic female candidates who support abortion rights.”

Mic: “We’re not afraid to take risks”: Obama veterans promise aggressive, if risky, state strategy
“You could call Forward Majority the Uber of political campaigns — in fact, they’d prefer that you do. The new super PAC has made bold predictions about the influence it will yield in state legislature elections across the United States in 2018. It aims to raise $100 million through 2020, largely from major donors, to help Democrats win state legislative races — enough to gain control of state governments.”

States/Other

The Republic: Tempe considers ballot measure to curb ‘dark money’ influence in elections
In Tempe, Arizona the City Council is deciding whether they’ll send the Sunshine Ordinance to voters to give them the chance to limit dark money influencing municipal elections by requiring groups spending more than $1,000 to disclose their backers.

One state over in New Mexico, the Albuquerque Journal’s editorial board said a recent rule put in place by the Secretary of State did not adequately address the problem of dark money statewide: “when the secretary of state says her rule will ‘help to shine a light on the dark money that has been plaguing our state’s campaigns,’ know it’s a flashlight, not a spotlight.”

A second Republican candidate for governor in Connecticut has raised enough small donations to receive a matching grant from the Citizens Election Program–good thing Republicans in the legislature backed off an effort to do defund with the system.

Laura Friedenbach

Laura is Every Voice's Deputy Communications Director