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VA winners pledge money-in-politics reform, Seattle democracy voucher candidates win, and more news for 11/8/17

November 8, 2017 | Laura Friedenbach

In an election in which big donors drove record-busting fundraising, Virginia candidates ran and won on a pledge to fight big money. Every single one of Every Voice’s 19 endorsed candidates for the House of Delegates in both incumbent and competitive races won after pledging to prioritize passing policies to strengthen our democracy and reduce the power of big money. Governor-elect Ralph Northam also ran on a pledge to pass campaign finance reform. Remember, Virginia has zero limits on what wealthy and corporate donors can give to candidates, but that might all change now with these leaders heading to the state capitol.

Every Voice’s David Donnelly: “The eye-popping fundraising numbers this election season are just the latest sign that Virginia’s ‘anything goes’ approach to campaign financing is handing too much power to rich donors. Most voters feel like they don’t have a say in our political system, and now they’ve elected real leaders who will do something about it.”

Over in Seattle, there was a clean sweep of another kind: Candidates running mostly with the backing of democracy vouchers and small donors won in every race where democracy vouchers were available for the first time. These elected leaders were able to run and win without the backing of big donors, that’s to this first-in-the-nation program.

Lorena González and Teresa Mosqueda won their City Council races, bringing the number of women on the Council to six out of nine. Pete Holmes won the race Seattle City Attorney with the backing of democracy vouchers, against a privately funded candidate. The Seattle Democracy Voucher program is already meeting its goals by producing historic numbers of small donors, increased the diversity of the donor base to better reflect the people of Seattle, and limiting the power of big donors.

In other news, Democrats won control of the Washington Senate and now have full control of the state government. One of the key issue this could affect? Campaign finance reform.

Former Goldman Sachs executive and major Democratic donor Phil Murphy will replace Chris Christie as governor of New Jersey.

Campaign Finance/Election Law

The Village Voice: First Rule of Elections: It’s All About Money
Reporter turned New York state senate candidate Ross Barkan reflects on what he’s learned since beginning to fundraise for his campaign: “what I’ve found is how little the people covering politics — including me (until now) — comprehend how much money rules your universe once you’re in a campaign…. When you’re living in a system that prizes money above all else and creates such perverse incentives in the people trying to get elected, you start to see it differently. It becomes the pressing issue.

Congress/Administration

The Hill: GOP lawmaker: Donors are pushing me to get tax reform done
In this political era, apparently politicians are freely admitting that they are working in the interest of their donors. Yesterday, Rep. Chris Collins said on tax reform, “My donors are basically saying, ‘Get it done or don’t ever call me again,’”

The Guardian: The seven Republican super-donors who keep money in tax havens
“Seven Republican super-donors helped bankroll the conservative push for power in the 2016 election cycle, between them pumping more than $350m (£264m) into federal and state races. The Paradise Papers illuminate another aspect of these vastly wealthy men – their propensity to nurture offshore some of their combined fortunes, estimated by Forbes at $142bn, largely beyond the reach of public scrutiny and tax authorities.” A top Democratic donor is also stashing his cash offshore. Full investigation by ICIJ here.

Center for Public Integrity: Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross sells shipping investment
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has divested his interest in Diamond S Shipping Group Inc. following a Center for Public Integrity investigation that found that “the company’s operations raised complex conflict-of-interest concerns.”

Roll Call: Sweeping Changes Proposed for Foreign Lobbying Law
New bill that “would have far-reaching consequences” was introduced by Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Grassley in response to the Russia probe to require anyone representing foreign companies, not just foreign governments and parties, to register as a foreign agent.

Yesterday, Syria joined the Paris climate agreement, leaving the United States as the only country not on board. Would things be different big donors didn’t have so much sway in Congress?

The Hill: Dem donor on MSNBC: ‘Hopefully we’ll get our sh– together’
Would Democrats (or MSNBC) give guys like this the time of day if they didn’t have gobs of money? Donor and Las Vegas businessman Stephen Cloobeck says he’s threatened to cut off Democrats if they don’t adopt centrist policies: “And I’ve made it very clear; I’ll cut your money off. And others will do the same. We’ve had enough.”

States/Other

Michigan Radio: Mailers, commercials, and donations: Tracking all the money in local elections is not easy
A reminder that even though it’s an off-year, “there’s still plenty of money being poured into these local races – dark money, out-of-state money, and SuperPAC money.” Craig Mauger of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network explains how it’s often hard to track that money.

Herald-Whig: With court ruling, Missouri Legislature should act on campaign finance
“Most Missourians see the need to rein in exorbitant spending and reduce the influence of big money in political campaigns. Voters need to make sure members in the Missouri House and Senate know that should be a priority and demand meaningful legislation.”

Laura Friedenbach

Laura is Every Voice's Deputy Communications Director