Our Common Good

Stephen learns how to give Colbert Super PAC money to himself and thereby hide it forever from all eyes and use it in a way that he wishes.

(via The Colbert Report - 2012-12-11)

sunfoundation:

Outside spenders’ return on investment

Tuesday’s elections produced some big winners — and some really big losers — whose names never appeared on any ballot. After outside groups spent more than $1.3 billion in independent expenditures to influence the outcome of the election, we now get to see just what all that money bought them — or didn’t.

sunfoundation:

Outside spenders’ return on investment

Tuesday’s elections produced some big winners — and some really big losers — whose names never appeared on any ballot. After outside groups spent more than $1.3 billion in independent expenditures to influence the outcome of the election, we now get to see just what all that money bought them — or didn’t.

Man Behind Sudden Millions To FreedomWorks: I’m Not ‘Shadowy’

thealliesofawesome:

His name is William Rose. He is a resident of Knoxville, Tenn. And a company he formed on Sept. 26 currently holds the title of biggest corporate contributor in the 2012 election, according to The Center for Public Integrity, thanks to the nearly $5.3 million the company gave to a prominent conservative super PAC between Oct. 1 and Oct. 11.

The fact that one of his company’s first orders of business was giving away several million dollars has earned Rose some unwanted attention. And on Monday, The Knoxville News Sentinel published a six-page press release written by Rose, dated Nov. 3, written in the first person, and intended, in the author’s words, “to address various media reports and inquiries related to Specialty Group, Inc. and its recent contributions to FreedomWorks of America, Inc.”

“I am the CEO, President and General Counsel of Specialty Group,” Rose wrote in the release. “I am also a member of the Board of Directors. Specialty Group is not, as has been insinuated in the media, a ‘shadowy’ entity or an ‘unregistered’ (and therefore, unlawful) political action committee. Specialty Group is a Tennessee corporation formed to buy, sell, develop and invest in a variety of real estate ventures and investments. Although the entity was only recently formed, Specialty Group is developing land that my family has owned for over 50 years and pursuing investment opportunities that I’ve worked on for the past several years.”

According to the News Sentinel, Rose gave the document to a reporter during a meeting Saturday at a Panera Bread restaurant in Knoxville, a meeting at which Rose declined to answer additional questions. The paper also reports that the Knoxville City Council “recently approved the purchase of property on Ledgerwood Avenue that is owned by a trust whose trustee is Rose. According to the city, the property is a chronic blight offender.”

In the press release, Rose described himself as a “disappointed, yet staunchly patriotic, Baby Boomer,” as well as a single father “rearing a couple of young sons, trying to make a living in this cratered economy.” (He has been described in reports as an attorney, but the Tennessee Bar Association does not list a William Rose among its members.) Rose railed against the Obama administration’s responses to the December 2010 death of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, the Fast and Furious scandal, and the recent attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.

“Common sense - a notion seemingly lost in 2012 American politics - tells me that if the Obama administration had a truthful, reasonable explanation for Agent Terry’s death and for the attacks and resulting casualties in Benghazi, the administration and its political operatives would run post-haste to every microphone, town hall, and political rally to laud the leadership of the President and his team,” Rose wrote. “Silence on these issues can only mean one thing, namely, the administration must hide the truth from the American people until after the election.”

Rose expressed surprise that anyone would be interested in “my opinion in regard to these matters, but I’ve been besieged for an ‘explanation’ of why Specialty Group has
donated its money in a particular legal fashion.” He maintained that he had no reason to answer the questions being asked of him:

I just want to be left alone by the prying media who seem hell bent on asking a private citizen about private facts, rather than asking the President, the Vice President, and other administration officials about ‘what they knew’ and ‘when did they know it’ in regard to ‘Operation Fast and Furious’ and the attacks in Benghazi.

With this said, Specialty Group is a private corporation which uses private capital for lawful business, social, and political purposes, as specifically addressed by the 2010 United States Supreme Court in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case and later, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit case, Speechnow.org v. Federal Election Commission.

A couple of reporters who have contacted me have suggested that I have
some ‘duty’ to disclose otherwise private information. No such ‘duty’ exists.

The document ends in a perhaps unintentionally mysterious way. After relating a story from his youth, the time when his father confided in Rose how much was paid each month to rent their house, Rose wrote that “[t]he business of Specialty Group is my ‘family secret,’ a secret that will be kept — as allowed by applicable law — for at least another 50 years.”

Read Rose’s whole release here.

Tuesday’s elections produced some big winners — and some really big losers — whose names never appeared on any ballot.  After outside groups spent more than $1.3 billion in independent expenditures to influence the outcome of the election, we now get to see just what all that money bought them — or didn’t.

Turns out some of the smart money wasn’t so smart after all when it came to making political bets. This year, the pro-business GOP Crossroads fundraising combine and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce weren’t as good at picking winners as the labor movement, which appears to be one of the surprise winners of Election Day.

Using Follow the Unlimited Money, Sunlight calculated returns on investment for the outside groups that gave the most during this year’s general election campaign. This includes super PACs, non-profit organizations and political party committees.

Some of the findings:

AMERICAN CROSSROADS

  • 1.29% of $103,559,672 spent in the general election and ended in the desired result.

CROSSROADS GRASSROOTS POLICY STRATEGIES

  • 14.40% of $70,710,008 spent in the general election and ended in the desired result.

US CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

  • 6.90% of $31,937,037 spent in the general election and ended in the desired result.

FREEDOMWORKS FOR AMERICA

  • 24.51% of $16,674,305 spent in the general election and ended in the desired result.

NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA POLITICAL VICTORY FUND

  • 0.81% of $10,955,688 spent in the general election and ended in the desired result.

WOMEN VOTE!

  • 73.16% of $6,072,693 spent in the general election and ended in the desired result.

Planned Parenthood Action Fund Inc.

  • 97.82% of $5,141,216 spent in the general election and ended in the desired result.

There is a lot more, so check it out.

Found in a meth house in Colorado, they were somewhat of a mystery, holding files on 23 conservative candidates in state races in Montana. They were filled with candidate surveys and mailers that said they were paid for by campaigns, and fliers and bank records from outside spending groups. One folder was labeled “Montana $ Bomb.”

The documents pointed to one outside group pulling the candidates’ strings: a social welfare nonprofit called Western Tradition Partnership, or WTP.

Altogether, the records added up to possible illegal “coordination” between the nonprofit and candidates for office in 2008 and 2010, said a Montana investigator and a former Federal Election Commission chairman who reviewed the material. Outside groups are allowed to spend money on political campaigns, but not to coordinate with candidates.

[…]

The boxes were examined by Frontline and ProPublica as part of an investigation into the growing influence on elections of dark money groups, tax-exempt organizations that can accept unlimited contributions and do not have to identify their donors. The documents offer a rare glimpse into the world of dark money, showing how Western Tradition Partnership appealed to donors, interacted with candidates and helped shape their election efforts.

Though WTP’s spending has been at the state level, it’s best-known nationally for bringing a lawsuit that successfully challenged Montana’s ban on corporate spending in elections, extending the provisions of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Citizens United decision to all states.

The tax code allows nonprofits like WTP to engage in some political activity, but they are supposed to have social welfare as their primary purpose. As reported previously by ProPublica and Frontline, when WTP applied for recognition of its tax-exempt status, it told the IRS under penalty of perjury that it would not directly or indirectly attempt to influence elections — even though it already had.

The group is now locked in an ongoing dispute with Montana authorities, who ruled in October 2010 that the nonprofit should have registered as a political committee and should have to disclose its donors. WTP sued. A hearing is set for March.

In the meantime, the group has changed its name to American Tradition Partnership, reflecting its larger ambitions. This month, it sent Montana voters a mailer in the form of a newspaper called the Montana Statesman that claimed to be the state’s “largest & most trusted news source.”

The front page accused the Democratic gubernatorial candidate of being soft on sex offenders.

Donny Ferguson, American Tradition Partnership’s spokesman and executive director, did not specifically address the documents found in Colorado or allegations of coordination made against WTP.

“American Tradition Partnership always obeys every letter of every applicable law,” he wrote in an emailed response to questions. “ATP does not, and never will, endorse candidates or urge voters to vote for or against candidates. … These false allegations are old hat.”

On its website, the group says its primary purpose is issue advocacy and combating radical environmentalists, whom it sometimes calls “gang green.” It describes itself as a grassroots group backed by a broad membership of small donors.

When asked about the documents found in Colorado, Jim Brown, a lawyer for the group, said he was unfamiliar with them.

After being shown some of the documents by Frontline, Brown, in a follow up email, said his review indicated that they appeared to belong to a company called Direct Mail. Direct Mail and Communications is a print shop in Livingston, Mont., run by a one-time key player in WTP and his wife.

Brown urged Frontline to turn over the documents. “If the documents are purported to be what you say they are, then you may knowingly be in possession of stolen property,” Brown wrote.

The records are in the hands of the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices, which considers them public and reviewable upon request.

[…]

Trevor Potter, a former federal election commissioner who now runs the Campaign Legal Center, a watchdog group that advocates for more restrictions on money in politics, reviewed the documents found in the boxes.

“This is the sort of information that is, in fact, campaign strategy, campaign plans that candidates cannot share with an outside group without making it coordinated,” Potter said.

“You need to know more, but certainly if I were back in my FEC days as a commissioner, I would say we had grounds to proceed with an investigation and put people under oath and show them these documents, and ask where they came from and where they were.”

[…]

This year, American Tradition Partnership is as active as ever. It’s suing to try to overturn contribution limits in Montana, so far unsuccessfully. The group sent out mailers attacking candidates before the June primary in Montana, reporting none of them to the state as political expenditures. It later put out a press release saying that 12 of the 14 candidates it backed had won.

For the general election, the group appears to be targeting Montana’s attorney general, Steve Bullock, the Democratic candidate for governor. As attorney general, Bullock fought the partnership’s lawsuits against the state, including the one that ended up in the Supreme Court.

The first issue of the partnership’s Montana Statesman newspaper, dated Oct. 7, which a group press release said was sent to 180,000 voters, featured four photographs on the front page: Three of registered sex offenders, and one of Bullock, accusing him of allowing one in four sex offenders to go unregistered. “Bullock admits failure,” the headline announced. A full-page ad accused Bullock of taking illegal corporate contributions and of “criminal hypocrisy.”

The Statesman’s editor and publisher is none other than Ferguson, the partnership’s executive director, described as an “award-winning newspaper veteran” who has been “commended by other newspapers for his ‘honest, intelligent and issue-oriented’ approach.”

Ferguson didn’t respond to a question about his journalism credentials.

“Conservative group American Tradition Partnership now one of nation’s biggest media outlets,” said a press release on the group’s website, adding that the newspaper would publish “several” editions through Election Day and into 2013.

Read the rest…

The anti-abortion PAC Susan B. Anthony List announced on Wednesday that it is launching a new super-PAC, Women Speak Out, to counter the electoral advocacy of pro-choice groups.

The Susan B. Anthony List is a 20-year-old PAC launched to support anti-abortion candidates, which has become strongly aligned with the Republican Party in recent years. While the group has always spent money to elect anti-abortion candidates, the new super-PAC will allow it to raise unlimited funds to deploy in key states and districts. Women Speak Out says it plans to spend $500,000 on ads in swing states.

Americans for Prosperity (AFP), the nonprofit financed by David Koch and other wealthy Republican businessmen, has spent some $31 million on anti-Obama ads since April. The group recently opened 98 Get-Out-the-Vote offices, hired some 200 field staffers, and has been distributing its state of the art voter targeting technology on Samsung tablet computers to its volunteers. Now AFP is hoping to win hearts and minds with gifts of free gas.

AFP is hosting events at gas stations across the country to provide gasoline to motorists for the price of $1.84 per gallon. The group is paying for up to 15 gallons for 100-150 drivers at each station, telling them that the $1.84 price symbolizes the price per a gallon before Obama took office in 2009.

[…]

The Koch’s political operatives are hoping drivers forget the fact prices peaked over $4.00 under Bush, that the prices in January 2009 were artificially low because of the financial crisis, and that there’s little a president can do to affect oil prices. There’s also the hypocrisy problem. Koch Industries, the company that invented the oil derivative, considers itself one of the world’s biggest players, up there with Goldman Sachs, engaged in the type of commodity speculation that many experts believe is a key driver in rising gas prices. AFP is also providing free barbeque to at its anti-Obama rallies as well as gift cards to its phone bankers, which in the past have been as high as $200 each for the most productive volunteers.

AFP’s giveaways seem to be increasing at a time when other related groups are adding more incentives for people to volunteer against Obama. Last Thursday, the Republican Jewish Coalition, another undisclosed group associated with a small set of wealthy patrons, including Mel Sembler and Sheldon Adelson, began giving away iPads to its most active volunteers. The Huffington Post reported on the RJC’s efforts to “woo” volunteers:

Put in at least 20 hours at an official RJC phone bank in California, Florida, Pennsylvania, New York or here in Washington and receive a $100 American Express gift card. Up that to 30 hours and one gets an older model iPad 2 (worth about $200). And to volunteers who dial up Jewish voters for 50 hours or more, the RJC will give a new 32GB iPad 3, worth $599. Less time gets a lesser tablet, with 40 hours on the phone equaling a 16GB iPad 3 ($499).
 
Of course, some pro-Obama groups are providing minor gifts to their supporters as well. As far I know, it’s been limited to free pizza, or in one case, a $5 gift card for an evening of phone banking.

kohenari:

U.S. billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson has set a new record in political donations by giving $70 million to help Republicans in the 2012 elections, nearly triple the previous highest amount, according to news outlet Politico on Monday.

Just for one minute today, let’s try to imagine all the people who might have been helped by the $70M that Sheldon Adelson has pumped into Super PACs for the 2012 election. I’m not saying that Adelson’s money has been wasted — it’s too soon to know whether he’s backing some election winners — but I am saying that the people who might have been helped are different people from the ones he’s helping.

It’s not my business, of course, to tell Adelson that he ought to donate to this charity or that. I just think it’s noteworthy that Americans have almost unlimited resources to spend on political campaigns … and that hunger and homelessness are problems in our society.

The Politico piece — with its interview with Adelson — is here.

bohemiansouth:

The AP’s Mark Sherman (formerly of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution) reports:

Americans don’t like all the cash that’s going to super political action committees and other outside groups that are pouring millions of dollars into races for president and Congress.

More than 8 in 10 Americans in a poll by The Associated Press and the National Constitution Center support limits on the amount of money given to groups that are trying to influence U.S. elections.

But they might have to change the Constitution first. The Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in the Citizens United case removed limits on independent campaign spending by businesses and labor unions, calling it a constitutionally protected form of political speech.

source2012:

Ten weeks out from Election Day, outside spending passes 2008 total

With the end of the Democratic convention today, we’ve only just now reached the beginning of the traditional presidential election season, but that hasn’t stopped outside groups from unleashing a torrent of advertising on the political landscape early on in this election cycle.


The amount spent by super PACs, political non profit groups and other non-political party entities on the presidential and congressional races, about $306.2 million as of September 5th, is already more than such groups spent during the entirety of the last presidential election cycle, about $301.6 million. 


Read More | OpenSecrets Blog

source2012:

Ten weeks out from Election Day, outside spending passes 2008 total


With the end of the Democratic convention today, we’ve only just now reached the beginning of the traditional presidential election season, but that hasn’t stopped outside groups from unleashing a torrent of advertising on the political landscape early on in this election cycle.

The amount spent by super PACs, political non profit groups and other non-political party entities on the presidential and congressional races, about $306.2 million as of September 5th, is already more than such groups spent during the entirety of the last presidential election cycle, about $301.6 million. 

A Conservative super PAC Campaign for American Values released an ad campaign to hit President Obama for supporting marriage equality. The ad will be released in Charlotte, South Carolina to counter the Democratic National Convention, when in fact, the stupid is so strong in this video, it highlights exactly why equality is so important.

Glad to see that the video has 5236 downvotes.

On the final morning of the Republican National Convention, Karl Rove took the stage at the Tampa Club to provide an exclusive breakfast briefing to about 70 of the Republican party’s highest-earning and most powerful donors. During the more than hour-long session, Rove explained to an audience dotted with hedge fund billionaires and investors—including John Paulson and Wilbur Ross—how his super PAC, American Crossroads, will persuade undecided voters in crucial swing states to vote against Barack Obama. He also detailed plans for Senate and House races, and joked, “We should sink Todd Akin. If he’s found mysteriously murdered, don’t look for my whereabouts!”

Then Rove pleaded with his audience for more money—much more.

[…]

The morning began with an address about the urgency of defeating Obama by Florida’s Republican Senator Marco Rubio. Crossroads Chief Executive Officer Steven Law followed and introduced some of the super PAC’s staff, referring to general counsel Tom Josefiak as “the guy who keeps us from ever having to wear orange jumpsuits.”

Then came the main event: Rove, joined by former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, laid out his strategy for winning the White House. “The people we’ve got to win in this election, by and large, voted for Barack Obama,” Rove said, in a soothing, professorial tone, explaining why the campaign hadn’t launched more pointed attacks on the president’s character.

Rove explained that Crossroads had conducted extensive focus groups and shared polling and focus group data with “all the major groups that are playing” in the election. “As many of you know, one of the most important things about Crossroads is: We don’t try and do this alone. We have partners,” he said. “The Kochs—you name it.”

What had emerged from that data is an “acute understanding of the nature of those undecided, persuadable” voters. “If you say he’s a socialist, they’ll go to defend him. If you call him a ‘far out left-winger,’ they’ll say, ‘no, no, he’s not.’” The proper strategy, Rove declared, was criticizing Obama without really criticizing him—by reminding voters of what the president said that he was going to do and comparing it to what he’s actually done. “If you keep it focused on the facts and adopt a respectful tone, then they’re gonna agree with you.”

[…]

Rove spoke almost exclusively about defeating Barack Obama and retaking control of the White House. There was sparse praise for Mitt Romney—either as a candidate or as a future leader and policy maker.

[…]

Rove’s analysis of the Senate races was technical and masterly. The Republicans need four seats to gain a majority, and Rove said he feels “really good” about Nebraska and is optimistic about North Dakota, even though Democrats have a strong candidate in former state Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp. “We’re deeply engaged” there, Rove said. In Wisconsin, former Governor Tommy Thompson “has an excellent shot to win—he has a quirky, cross-party appeal.” Virginia is going to be tight and will likely mirror the way the state votes in the presidential race. Of those, Rove declared, “we can win three.”

In Connecticut, Rove noted that Linda McMahon, the former head of World Wrestling Entertainment, whom he had once written off, was running a “really smart campaign.” And the state, he noted, had moved more to the right. “Those affluent, socially liberal, economically conservative people in Fairfield County and the New York suburbs have finally figured out that their pocketbooks matter more than abortion.”

There are six Republican incumbents Rove identified as in jeopardy, but the biggest risk to Republican hopes of retaking the Senate is Todd Akin in Missouri, following his comments about “legitimate rape.” Rove urged every attendee to apply pressure on Akin to convince him to leave the race. “We have five people who are interested” in replacing Akin, Rove said. “We don’t care who the nominee is, other than get Akin out.”

Just to get the “juices flowing” of the billionaires in the room, Rove shared a little anecdote. Someone he described as a “benefactor” had recently contacted him, offering to donate $10 million to be deployed in Florida—$5 million for Republican Congressman Connie Mack’s Senate race against incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson and $5 million for the presidential race. But the donor placed two conditions on the money. One, his donation had to be matched by other donors. And two, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush had to start making phone calls on their behalf. Rove paused for effect and announced: “Jeb’s making phone calls for us!” The crowd erupted.

“In the 2004 general election, our big donors were still important to the extent that we needed them to give to the [Republican National Committee], but we were basically done fundraising by the time the convention rolled around because we accepted public financing,” Schlapp said. “Whereas now, it’s important for the campaigns, the super PACs, the 501(c)4s and the national parties to shepherd the big donors all the way through the elections, because they’re going to be getting asked for big checks right up until Election Day.”

The exclusive and sometimes secretive big donor events in Tampa are being organized by super PACs, Romney’s campaign and even some of the biggest donors, themselves, who, POLITICO has learned, have organized their own series of dinners and panels that are expected to draw big names as well.

The Romney campaign has designated two waterfront hotels — the Westin Tampa Harbour Island and the Marriott Renaissance Vinoy Resort & Golf Club — for its bundlers. Those who have committed to raising $250,000 or more – “Stars,” in the campaign’s parlance — get to attend briefings with Jeb Bush, Rice, Haley, Tim Pawlenty, Bob McDonnell and other big names, according to an agenda obtained by POLITICO.

American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, which were founded by Rove, have lined up some high-powered names for a Thursday morning breakfast briefing for donors and prospective donors. In addition to Rove and Barbour, the former Mississippi governor who has been raising cash for Crossroads, speakers are expected to include Florida Sen. Rubio and Jeb Bush.

The event is closed to the press, said spokesman Jonathan Collegio, who a few months ago had said Crossroads wasn’t planning to have any kind of presence at the convention.

Restore Our Future, the super PAC devoted to boosting Romney, is holding a briefing Wednesday, though officials from the group declined to comment on it.

And Americans for Prosperity – the nonprofit that last week announced a $25 million ad campaign expressing disappointment in President Barack Obama – is planning a Thursday reception honoring Koch, and fellow big donor Art Pope, a North Carolina businessman.

newyorker:

Jane Mayer on Obama, Super PACs, and “Obama’s Last Stand,” the new e-book by Politico’s Glenn Thrush: http://nyr.kr/NfOCHl

newyorker:

Jane Mayer on Obama, Super PACs, and “Obama’s Last Stand,” the new e-book by Politico’s Glenn Thrush: http://nyr.kr/NfOCHl