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The News for July 25, 2018 – Cohen’s secret tape, Montanans take on dark money

July 25, 2018 | Laura Friedenbach

Yesterday, President Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen released the secret tape recordings of a conversation with then-candidate Trump that appear to show he was aware of hush money payments investigators are examining for campaign finance violations. CNN reports, “The recording offers the public a glimpse at the confidential discussions between Trump and Cohen, and it confirms the man who now occupies the Oval Office had contemporaneous knowledge of a proposal to buy the rights to the story of Karen McDougal, a woman who has alleged she had an extramarital affair with Trump about a decade ago.”

And then there is this, via pollster Matt McDermott: “Another tidbit from Trump tape: certainly appears possible the “Pam” he was talking to was Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who was in the news at the time for appearing to take a bribe from Trump to avoid Trump University investigation. Probably worth a follow up?”

By the way, happy 44th anniversary of United States v. Nixon, the Supreme Court decision that ordered Nixon to turn over the tapes!

Two top Montana politicians took on dark money yesterday.

Montana Governor Steve Bullock is suing the IRS, warning that the recent rule change to no longer require some nonprofits to identify their donors will allow dark money into our elections. Gov. Bullock: “The goal of the litigation is to make sure that dark money and foreign money isn’t flowing into our elections unchecked”

Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, Sen. Jon Tester of Montana introduced the Spotlight Act to reverse the IRS rule change. Sen. Tester: “This legislation will hold political groups accountable to the American people, and it will bring more transparency to campaigns… Dark money is a threat to our democracy…I will do everything I can to defend Montanans from this shadowy behavior because we need more light in our elections not less.”

Campaign Finance/Election Law

Press Herald: Legislative candidates ask judge to force LePage to release Clean Election funds
Maine Citizens for Clean Elections went to court yesterday to argue that Gov. Paul LePage must release the $1.4 million in public funds that are being withheld from candidates running using Maine’s Clean Elections program. Republicans in the state are attempting to use a typo in the law to undermine the twice voter-approved program that allows candidates to run free of big money and with the support of $5 donations and public funds instead.

Slate: The North Carolina GOP’s Plan to Deceive Voters About Its Radical Ballot Measures
“In November, North Carolina voters will have an opportunity to approve six constitutional amendments proposed by the state’s Republican-dominated Legislature. These amendments range from silly to atrocious, and a majority are designed to prevent the state’s Supreme Court and Democratic governor from protecting voting rights. But voters may have little idea what any of the amendments do, because Republicans have hatched a plan to give themselves the power to write the ballot language without any input from Democrats.”

Democratic candidate for Wisconsin governor Mike McCabe says he’s serious about ending “legal bribery” in politics: “Hunger for change in our political system and a very different kind of leadership is intense. That’s why I won’t take any single donation over $200. Wisconsin law allows candidates for governor to take $20,000 checks from individuals and $86,000 donations from special interest groups. But here’s the thing. Those huge donations come with strings attached. Favors are expected. Favors are given. Those huge donations are legal bribes.”

At a recent town hall, Democratic candidate for Congress (NY-22) Anthony Brindisi highlighted the need to get corporate money out of politics: “There should be more transparency in who’s funding these campaigns and disclosure as to who these donors are in campaigns. … I’ve got to lead by example; that’s why I decided not to accept corporate PAC money. … I’m very proud that out of all the campaigns being run across the country for Congress, we’re actually in the top 20 of all campaigns in terms of small donations. That’s how a campaign should be funded.”

Congress/Administration

New York Times: Ivanka Trump Is Shutting Down Her Fashion Brand
Right move, but happening way too late: “Ivanka Trump, President Trump’s elder daughter and a top White House adviser, said on Tuesday that she was shutting down her namesake fashion brand more than a year after stepping away from the company amid concerns over how Mr. Trump’s family might profit from his presidency.”

USA Today: Former Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle joins pro-Trump super PAC
Donald Trump Jr.’s girlfriend joins a so-called ‘independent’ super PAC directing millions to support her boyfriend’s father: “Guilfoyle will serve as vice chairwoman of America First Action, a super PAC formed by President Donald Trump’s allies to help elect candidates who support his agenda.”

Daily Beast: Meet the Eastern European Mystery Donors Behind the Trump-Allied Super PAC
Speaking of America First: “A mysterious company that made a huge contribution to a pro-Trump political group this year is run by two Soviet-born businessmen, one of whom was feted at a donor retreat at Mar-a-Lago in March. Global Energy Producers LLC donated $325,000 to America First Action”

New York Times: Two Trump Allies, Seeing Unlimited Opportunity, Instead Drew Scrutiny
Elliott Broidy, a top fundraiser for President Trump, paid the now indicted lobbyist Rick Gates at least $125,000 to help provide insight into the new administration: “Their financial arrangement, not previously reported, was emblematic of the way a small circle of Mr. Trump’s associates at the beginning of his presidency aggressively marketed their administration access to well-paying clients, and sheds light on the activities of Mr. Gates, who has emerged as a key figure in the investigation of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III.”

President Trump tweeted he’s headed to Missouri to be with the veterans group VFW, but that’s not entirely the case CNBC’s Christina Wilkie points out: RT @christinawilkie Trump’s schedule reveals that he will spend almost twice as much time in Missouri today w rich GOP donors than he will spend w VFW members. More accurate Trump tweet: “Millionaires bankrolling @HawleyMO’s Senate campaign, here we come!”

As Mike Pence travels the country to fundraise, he was greeted by protestors calling themselves the “Handmaid’s Tale Brigade” in Philadelphia. Pence visited Montana yesterday to raise money for Sen. Jon Tester’s challenger Matt Rosendale.

CNN: Top Democratic groups launch new push in final two weeks of Ohio special election
Three Democratic groups are pouring $140,000 into the Ohio 12th Congressional District special election including. Ads include this one hitting the Republican in the race for benefiting wealthy special interests: “Troy Balderson supported a massive tax giveaway to corporate special interests — and you pay for it”

Center for Responsive Politics: Donations up for Democrats in 39 states
“Donors in 39 states have given a larger share of their total contributions to Democratic candidates, party committees and liberal outside groups this election cycle than four years ago. The largest shifts in partisan donations are in Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin, where Senate Democrats face uncertain reelection.” CNBC reports that Democrats have the fundraising lead in eight of nine key battleground states.

Sludge: Former Lawmakers Ask FEC to Stop Politicians from Using PACs as Personal “Piggy Banks”
“Last week the nonpartisan watchdogs Campaign Legal Center and Issue One released a report detailing how political fundraising entities known as leadership PACs have been exploited by politicians to pay for golfing events, fine dining, and luxury resort stays. Today the groups are filing a petition with the Federal Election Commission calling on the agency to explicitly ban using leadership PAC funds for personal use. They are joined by five former members of Congress, from both sides of the aisle”

Sen. Marco Rubio bashed lobbying by the Chinese firm ZTE which spent $1.3 million successfully lobbying the Commerce Department to allow their imports: “This is how #China influences our government policies. They spent a small fortune lobbying congress to drop restrictions on #ZTE & it worked. Long term China is a bigger threat to America’s security than Russia, when are we going to take it seriously?”

Center for Responsive Politics: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez boosted by out-of-state donors after primary win
“Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the 28-year-old Democratic House candidate who upset Rep. Joe Crowley in New York’s 14th District race, saw an explosion of out-of-state campaign contributions in the days after she won the primary in June…In the four days between her primary win and the end of June, Ocasio-Cortez raked in more than $70,000 from out-of-state donors who contributed more than $200″

States/Other

Arizona Republic: Conservative groups sue to knock ‘dirty money’ measure off Arizona ballot
The billionaire Koch brothers are connected to a lawsuit in Arizona aimed at stopping the Outlaw Dirty Money campaign: “Conservative groups have filed a lawsuit attempting to prevent a citizen initiative that targets anonymous campaign spending in elections from appearing on the Arizona ballot.”

Indianapolis Star: Secret donations to fuel Hill’s defense against groping allegations
“Supporters of Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill have set up a legal fund to defend him against accusations that he inappropriately touched four women at a bar in March”. The fund was set up by none other than Jim Bopp, the lawyer who argued the Supreme Court’s Citizens United case, and the donors are secret.

State: David v. Goliath: Power companies dwarf solar in lobbying fight over SC’s energy future
“Deep-pocketed power companies outspent the solar industry nearly $3 to $1 as part of an intensive lobbying effort during an S.C. legislative session that included efforts to curb rooftop solar’s expansion in the state.”

Colorado Independent: Colorado campaign finance loophole allows dark money flyers
“Colorado’s campaign finance law has a loophole that allows printed literature, mailers or other materials about candidates to be distributed without disclosing who paid for them if they don’t include what an elections division manager with the Secretary of State calls ‘magic words’ such as ‘vote for’ or ‘vote against.'”

Laura Friedenbach

Laura is Every Voice's Deputy Communications Director