Tag Archive: campaign finance

Buying Elections

I received an email today from Ballotpedia (an organization that provides election information) that contained some interesting statistics about election self-funders. Do you know who has the record for the largest self-funding campaign? It’s our former Governor and Goldman Sachs…
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What’s Your Trump Era Top 5?

I’ve been thinking about that scene in Forrest Gump when he runs back and forth across the country for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours. He gains a following. People find purpose in what he’s doing. He’s peppered with questions…
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McCutcheon vs. FEC: U.S. Supreme Court Strikes Down Another Campaign Finance Law

The Court that brought you the Citizens United decision, upholding the concept of “corporate personhood” and allowing corporations and unions to spend unlimited money independently to influence elections, today struck down federal limits on overall campaign contributions the biggest individual donors may make to candidates, political parties and political action committees. Your $35 check, even your $1,000 check, is now worth maybe a little less in the new world of how campaigns are paid for.

Though the contribution limits to candidates for president or Congress stays the same – $2,600 – the Court decided that limits on the total amount given are unconstitutional. This removes the ceiling for wealthy donors, who no longer have to add up all their checks written to make sure they haven’t exceeded the cap currently set by the federal government.

It was a 5-4 decision, with Chief Justice Roberts writing the decision. The Court found that the limits violate the First Amendment rights of contributors. It’s a green light to superwealthy donors. They, and everyone else have been restricted from giving no more than $48,600 to federal candidates, and $74,600 to political action committees during a two-year election cycle, for a maximum of $123,200. Those limits were part of post-Watergate reforms, to make it harder for big contributors to buy elections with their outsized wallets, and to restore public confidence in campaign finance.

We’re moving backwards now.

The victory goes to Shaun McCutcheon, an Alabama businessman and GOP activist who challenged the cap on contributions. The RNC is already on record cheering the decision.

  • Here’s the decision – McCutcheon et al vs. Federal Election Commission.

  • Here’s a list of federal primary candidates on the NJ ballot.

  • Mother Jones walks through the implications.

  • Washington Post has the decision’s Winners & Losers.

  • Always worth reading – SCOTUSblog. Also, their live-blog from this morning.


  • East Orange Mayor Says Sex In Government Office and Campaign Finance Violations Are A Private Issue

    promoted by Rosi

    Cross-Posted On FireDogLake

    Embattled East Orange New Jersey Mayor Robert Bowser has an interesting theory. In a press conference on Friday Mayor Bowser told reporters that his admission of a sexual affair with a subordinate in a sexual harassment deposition is a private issue and belongs between him and his wife. The mayor read a prepared statement and refused to answer any questions as a spokesman referred reporters to a written form of the statement the mayor gave and the contact information for the mayor’s lawyer.

    But is this a reasonable assertion?

    According to The Star-Ledger, which obtained a copy of the sealed sexual harassment deposition, the affair was between the mayor and a subordinate city employee and sex acts occurred inside the mayor’s office on government time.

    According to the deposition obtained by The Star-Ledger, Corletta Hicks, Bowser’s former research assistant, gave him oral sex on multiple occasions, including in his city hall office, while she was working for him…

    The mayor previously denied having a relationship with Hicks while she worked for him in city hall, maintaining they had “no personal relationship throughout her tenure in my office.”

    The mayor also disclosed payments were made after each sexual encounter and that Ms. Hicks at one point resisted his sexual advances.

    In the Jan. 3 deposition, Bowser, 77, admitted the affair started roughly four months into Hicks’ tenure and lasted until late 2010. He said he would give her money after the encounters, estimating he paid her roughly $3,000…

    Bowser initially denied that he sexually harassed Hicks but admitted in the deposition that Hicks resisted his sexual advances on one occasion, according to the document.

    Furthermore the mayor used money from his campaign fund to buy gifts for Hicks’ child according to the deposition.

    According to the documents, Bowser wrote a $400 check to Erika Prince, the daughter of his former research assistant Corletta Hicks, who in 2011 filed a discrimination suit against the mayor which included claims of sexual harassment.

    Bowser said the money was for a “book scholarship” for Prince “at the time she was taking some courses,” he said in the document, a copy of which was obtained by The Star-Ledger.

    Bowser acknowledged in the deposition that the gift had nothing to do with his campaign. According to the Election Law Enforcement Commission, personal use of campaign funds could result in fines of up to $7,600 per violation and, in some cases, could become a criminal matter.

    Is it really a private issue between spouses when one of the spouses violates campaign finance law to give gifts to his mistress’ child and engages in sexual activity inside his government office when he is supposed to be working for the taxpayers? Tough sell.

    (more after the jump)

    They give in a shadow afraid to be known

    Who are these people and organizations? What are their names? How much do they contribute? Assembly Bill 3863 would require disclosure of contributions received and expenditures made by committees or organizations not affiliated or coordinated with any candidate.

    The bill passed the Assembly State Government Committee with the three Democrats, Linda Stender, John McKeon, and Herb Conaway in support. The two Republicans, Donna Simon and Chris Brown, abstained and issued a Minority Report. It pays lip service to transparency but serves as a preamble for likely opposition from other Republicans and from the governor who expects significant contributions to go to “independent” groups which support him.

    Following the Citizens United court ruling at least 27 states have strengthened their campaign finance laws. It is important that New Jersey do so as well. The Assembly and Senate Democrats should be willing to make some accommodations to avert a veto or gain enough Republican support to override a veto. We need more sunshine and less shadow.  

    Ending Campaign Finance Secrecy: Our Last Best Chance During the Gubernatorial Campaign

    Following Citizens United at least 27 states have made changes to their election laws regarding expenditures, disclosure or both. NJ has not. Do you remember Reform Jersey Now and the Committee for Our Children’s future which operated under a veil of secrecy to support Governor Christie? Because of Citizens United and the rise of super PACS we can not prevent the onslaught of big money into the gubernatorial campaign. We can, however, enforce more disclosure.

    When a person at an event last month complained about campaign finance laws, Governor Christie responded, “It’s all permitted under the laws … If you don’t like it, then change the laws.”

    That is exactly what Assemblyman Reed Gusciora is proposing. Tomorrow an Assembly Committee will take up his bill A3863. It requires disclosure of the contributions received and the expenditures made by committees or organizations that are not affiliated or coordinated with a candidate, the candidates committee or joint candidates committee. It also requires similar disclosure for a committee organized to support or oppose a public question.

    This bill will poke a light into the dark caverns where individuals, corporations, and interest groups can pour in sums of money that they are not allowed to contribute directly to campaigns. And by all reports the caverns will be overflowing with funds.  

    $1.8 million for the guy NOT on the ballot

    You want to know what’s wrong with campaign finance? Just take a look at the spending for the candidate not on the ballot in this election cycle:

    Gov. Chris Christie wasn’t on the ballot this year, but he was still featured in a positive television ad that ran in the weeks before the election and overlapped with Hurricane Sandy.

    The Committee for Our Children’s Future, an issues-advocacy group established by a group of Christie’s college friends, spent $1.8 million airing the spot across the state from Oct. 15 to the middle of last week, spokesman Brian Jones said.

    Ah, but it wasn’t just the $1.8 million at the end of the election he wasn’t running in:

    That brings the committee’s total spending on pro-Christie spots to $7.8 million since the group formed in September 2011. As a 501(c)(4) organization, the committee does not have to disclose its donors.

    $7.8 million spent to puff up Chris Christie. And while that group doesn’t disclose its donors, we do know that the taxpayers were forced to foot the bill for Christie’s nationwide tour leading up to the Presidential election.  But that’s not all, because this latest group follows Reform Jersey Now, which raised over $600K to push Christie’s Agenda. And then there was the Center for a Better New Jersey, which helped fund the Christie and Republican redistricting efforts. That doesn’t even count the spending from the groups pushing his voucher and charter efforts.  So the next time the Governor complains about all those big bad groups spending all kinds of money against him, someone should start playing the world’s smallest violin.

    Just how much does money corrupt politics?

    One of the best lectures I’ve ever heard – ever, on any subject – was presented by Harvard Professor Lawrence Lessig at Netroots Nation 2008 in Austin (watch the 2nd video clip at this link, and see part of what I mean). Lessig spoke of the corrosive effect of money in politics – real and perceived – which led him to launch Change Congress (later Fix Congress First), which has evolved into Rootstrikers.org, “a network of activists fighting the corrupting influence of money in politics.”

    He has now written a book, “Republic, Lost: A Declaration of Independence,” setting forth his conclusions about how extensively money has corrupted politics. And it couldn’t be better timed, as noted by Huffpost:

    The protesters occupying Wall Street have been famously without a formal manifesto. But if they wanted one, firebrand Harvard Professor Lawrence Lessig’s new book about how money has corrupted Congress might be a contender.

    And, he’s coming to New Jersey to talk about it. This Monday, October 17th at 7:30 at Ramapo College, Trustees Pavilion in Mahwah, Lessig will present “The Best Government Money Can Buy” – a free lecture co-sponsored by North Jersey Public Policy Network, BlueWave NJ and the Ramapo College Department of Law and Society. The event is part of the North Jersey Public Policy Network’s Distinguished Expert Series.

    I’ll be there. And, if you want to have your mind blown by one of the leading thinkers in America, on an issue of the utmost importance to our democracy, you may just want to join me.