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The News for August 2, 2018 – Corporate donations are new test for Democratic candidates

August 2, 2018 | Laura Friedenbach

This midterm election, rejecting corporate donations is the new test for Democratic candidatesreports the Associated Press: “Long considered a peripheral issue in midterm elections, money in politics is emerging as a new litmus test for Democratic candidates. In ads, stump speeches and debates, scores of politicians are pledging to reject corporate PAC donations.”

End Citizens United tallies more than 170 federal candidates who have taken the no corporate PAC pledge. End Citizens United’s Tiffany Muller: “This is about taking action to show voters that you’re on their side.”

As the Fix Democracy Now campaign continues this week, elected leaders and candidates at the federal, state, and local level continue to highlight their plans to fix democracy now by reducing the influence of money in politics, expanding voting rights, and ending gerrymandering. Over two dozen congressional candidates have pledged to fix democracy now, including from many of the most competitive races in the country that will determine control of the House of Representatives. More are expected to join their ranks throughout the week.

Every Voice’s David Donnelly: “Candidates in some of the most competitive races in the country understand that pledging to fix democracy is a winning issue with voters and absolutely essential to their ability to deliver for their constituents once in office.”

Here are some recent highlights:

  • As part of Fix Democracy Now week, Joe Cunningham (SC-1) released his reform plan, saying, “Our political system is fundamentally broken right now… People are sick and tired of career politicians and their cronies abusing the public trust and padding their own pockets in the process. It’s time to elect honest and ethical leaders who will care more about doing their job than keeping their job.”
  • NBC’s WILX News 10 reported that at a press conference earlier in the week with End Citizens United’s Tiffany Muller, Elissa Slotkin (MI-8) highlighted her democracy reform plan saying, “This issue of campaign finance and money in politics undercuts every issue we’re trying to make progress on”
  • Zephyr Teachout, running for Attorney General of New York released a new video: “If you ask 100 people what they think the worst political problem is, you probably will get 100 different answers, but they all have one thing in common: the poison of corporate monopolies with their corporate PAC money in politics.”
  • Progressive leader Keith Ellison who is running for Attorney General in Minnesota tweeted “We can #FixDemocracyNow” and pledged to fight for overturning Citizens United, restoring the VRA, ending gerrymandering, fighting back against voter suppression, and increasing access to the ballot box.
  • Fix Democracy Now partner End Citizens United’s state project, Fight for Reform, announced their endorsement of 49 state-level candidates who are committed to reform – including Edward Nelson (TN-HD-19), who tweeted about #FixDemocracy Now:
  • Baltimore City Councilman Kristerfer Burnett: “Proud to have joined the fight to #FixDemocracyNow by introducing the Baltimore Fair Elections Fund bill, which was passed unanimously, and signed by @MayorPugh50″

Campaign Finance/Election Law

Washington Post: Democrats must fight harder for voting rights and fair elections
Paul Waldman has a message for Democrats: “If they want it to truly succeed, they need to put as much energy into rolling back the success Republicans have had at rigging the electoral game as they do into health care, taxes or any other issue. Because if they can’t succeed in fixing the system, everything else they try to do will fail.”

Brennan Center for Justice: Are the Last Key Campaign Finance Laws in Kavanaugh’s Sights?
“The role of money in politics, and the impact of the Court’s jurisprudence on it, is likely to play a prominent role in the upcoming Supreme Court confirmation fight.” What’s at stake are the last remaining campaign finance regulations: ” given the Court’s approach over the last decade, even these last remaining protections could be at risk. As Judge Brett Kavanaugh gets set to answer questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee, a look at his record offers cause for deep concern.”

Congress/Administration

New Yorker: Trump vs. Koch Is a Custody Battle Over Congress
This is a good read by Jane Mayer: “Charles Koch’s real beef may not be so much with the President, from whom he never expected all that much, and, who, like other Republican Presidents, has disappointed him. Instead, it is the Republicans in Congress whose campaigns he lavishly funded. Unforgivably, they have violated the age-old definition of an honest politician, one who, once bought, stays bought.”

Meanwhile, the Koch-Trump feud continued today as Trump tweeted the laughable statement that everyone is ignorant to the Koch’s donations: “Charles Koch of Koch Brothers, who claims to be giving away millions of dollars to politicians even though I know very few who have seen this (?)”

New analysis by the Wesleyan Media Project and Center for Responsive Politics on secret money’s influence on the midterms: “In the full cycle, just over half of all group-sponsored ads have come from dark money groups, those not publicly disclosing donors.”

New York Times: Trump Tells Sessions to ‘Stop This Rigged Witch Hunt Right Now’
“President Trump called on Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday to end the special counsel’s inquiry into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, issuing an unambiguous directive on Twitter to shut down an investigation that even now is scrutinizing his tweets for evidence of obstruction.”

Bloomberg: A Record Number of Democratic Challengers Are Outraising GOP Opponents
“Democrats are hoping a blue wave of support will carry them to victory in this fall’s elections. In the meantime, they’ve caught a green wave of cash—the torrent of money pouring into Democratic campaign coffers helped 73 House candidates outraise Republican incumbents and opponents in races for open seats in the second quarter”

Mercury News: ‘We need to reclaim this party:’ Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez fires up progressives in San Francisco
No matter how much you dislike money in politics, as a politician you still have to raise it to win and change the rules: “while [Ocasio-Cortez] railed against the influence of money in politics in her speech, she also held a fundraiser at a women-only clubhouse in the Mission where tickets went for up to $2,700.”

HuffPost: Kirsten Gillibrand Pays The Price For Speaking Out Against Al Franken
It’s a problem when big donors get to play kingmaker and decided who is able to run for higher office: “Gillibrand has attracted the ire of billionaire George Soros, who has long funded Democratic candidates and causes. Soros recently said he wasn’t sure whom he was supporting for 2020, but that it absolutely wouldn’t be Gillibrand. He accused her of going after Franken, “whom I admire,” to “improve her chances” for president.”

Roll Call: Federal Contractors Made Illegal Pro-Trump Super PAC Contributions, Complaint Says
Campaign Legal Center spots some fishy business: “A politically connected contractor made a $500,000 contribution this spring to a pro-Trump super PAC the day after it received a payment of almost the same amount as part of a Department of Defense contract, a watchdog group said.”

New York Times: Andrew Wheeler, New E.P.A. Chief, Details His Energy Lobbying Past
“The acting chief of the Environmental Protection Agency, Andrew Wheeler, has come under scrutiny for his years spent as a powerful energy lobbyist. He has represented an electric utility, a uranium producer, and, most significantly, a coal magnate who paid Mr. Wheeler’s former lobbying firm more than $2.7 million over eight years.”

CNN: Donald Trump’s Christmas in July — and 37 other memorable lines
CNN’S Chris Cillizza went through Trump’s campaign speech in Florida Tuesday night to pull out memorable lines including one in which he thanked David Bossie, the man behind the Citizens United lawsuit for being there, referring to him as one of his “great supporters.”

Associated Press: Ex-Playboy model seeks payment from top Trump fundraiser
“A former Playboy centerfold model who claims to have had an affair with a top fundraiser for President Donald Trump is asking a judge to compel him to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars she says she’s owed as part of a $1.6 million settlement”

The Onion: NRA Releases Downloadable Blueprints For First 3D-Printed Gun Lobbyists
The Onion pokes fun at the NRA’s influence: “‘Anyone with internet access and one of these precision 3D printers can, within hours, create a high-powered pro-gun advocate that will be ready for immediate use on K Street,’ said NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch, noting that the single-issue model, known as the Influencer, is capable of exerting the same force on lawmakers as a regular lobbyist, with the primary difference being that it won’t have to be registered and will be untraceable.”

States/Other

NM Political Report: ‘Burque Bucks’ campaign clears first hurdle
Exciting: “Albuquerque voters are one step closer to voting on a change to the city charter that would increase city funds to some municipal candidates…The proposed program, called Democracy Dollars and more recently dubbed Burque Bucks, would provide each Albuquerque resident a $25 voucher to contribute to the publicly-financed candidate of their choice.”

Chicago Sun-Times: Enough is enough — Illinois needs reforms to get big money out of our elections
Common Cause Illinois’ Ibie Hart: “Illinois voters deserve a campaign and candidates focused on their needs, not the wants of big-money donors and wealthy special interests. But it’s become increasingly clear that in both the Illinois gubernatorial race and the Chicago mayoral race, the candidates’ main focus is on fundraising and money.”

NBC 10 News: Common Cause RI calls for public financing of campaigns to curb influence
“Common Cause is concerned about the effects of campaign donations and keeps close tabs on whether there’s evidence of donations resulting in influence. That’s one reason the organization supports public financing of campaigns. In Rhode Island, that means candidates raise a minimum amount of money to receive twice as much from the state.”

Laura Friedenbach

Laura is Every Voice's Deputy Communications Director