The Fund for Jobs and Growth - a Washington D.C. super PAC - is suing New Jersey’s Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) to allow the group raise unlimited funds based on the Citizens United decision. In March, the ELEC ruled that the Fund could not receive unlimited contributions from individuals if there purpose is make independent expenditures to influence New Jersey elections. This is the third ruling dealing with independent expenditures, and in the prior rulings, the ELEC determined that the groups did not have a “major purpose” of influencing New Jersey elections (Source). New Jersey has not allowed super PACs to raise unlimited funds, and thus, the Fund is challenging the constitutionality of the state’s requirement that the Fund register and abide by contribution limits.
Last year, the FEC approved of text fundraising, and this week, the Texas Ethics Commission also approved of text fundraising (Source). The request for the new rules were made by the Harris County Republican Party (Source). The new rules will allow for contributions by text if the PAC is able to obtain the contributor information required by law (name, address, occupation & employer). The TEC opinion did not a limit on text donations (and there are no contribution limits under Texas law, except for judicial candidates), but Roll Call notes that phone companies usually limits contributions to $5-$10. Texas now joins California and Maryland as the states allowing fundraising by text.
You can read the opinion here.
Julián and Joaquín Castro were on Face the Nation discussing the future of Texas and how it will eventually turn blue (Source). With the Hispanic population growing, nearly every commentator and observer expects Texas to turn blue eventually, since Hispanics tend to vote Democratic.1
However, for this to happen Texas Democrats must increase Hispanic voter turnout, which has been poor, and the Castros, as well as other Democratic officials, concede that point. They’re ready to do the work; the issue is whether or not they will have the money. Texas Democrats contribute most of their money out of state, and the state party and other Democratic organizations have been weakened by that outflow (Sources: Amarillo Globe-News, KUT, Texas Tribune).
Related article: With Obama fundraising, Latinos demonstrate growing clout
1. I think this assumption is partially true, but expecting Hispanics to remain solidly Democratic as they become the majority population doesn’t match historical political trends; this assumes 2 things: 1) Republicans adjust their message on issues like immigration, and 2) they make a serious effort to appeal to Hispanic voters.
Citizens United obviously altered the money equation in this year’s Presidential and Congressional elections, particularly in terms of the amounts spent on independent expenditures, which have grown exponentially since 2010 (Source); however, the results for the big money spenders wasn’t necessarily favourable.
As this analysis from OpenSecrets shows, conservative groups/individuals overwhelmingly outspent liberal groups/individuals, yet did not see much return on their dollar. The Center for Public Integrity looked at the amount spent in selected races and found that the outside spending did not have a significant impact, and the Sunlight Foundation broke down the return on investment.
That was in the General Election. The results in the primary were somewhat different, and just from a scan of the results, it would appear that they had more success in primary elections, as this report from Stuart Rothenberg noted in May.
As Rothenberg suggests, the effect of Citizens United may be that the candidates become increasingly ideological, as “a small group of wealthy ideologues will use the new organizations to nominate and elect a large enough number of extreme Members.” When combined with redistricting efforts that promote ideological extremes, it may exponentially increase the changes of success for less moderate candidates.
This would seem to coincide with recent research regarding the effect of Citizens United (see here and here) suggesting that the new sources of campaign funds have not really impacted the partisan balance.
The six party committees - DNC, DSCC, DCCC, RNC, RSCC and RCCC - raised a combined $404 million in 2011 compared to $86 million combined by Democrat and Republican affiliated Super PACs (Source). The study was conducted by the Campaign Finance Institute, and you can view the tables showing the historical rates of fundraising here.
The Democratic National Committee has raised more than the Republican National Committee, but the RNC raised more money from smaller donors than the DNC - presumably from the grassroots supporters who have not contributed to the Republican Presidential candidates. The DNC has also been helped by holding joint fundraisers with President Obama and tapping into his awesome fundraising network.
Personally, I see it as a good sign that the parties are raising these amounts considering that unlimited contributions can be made to super PACs; however, we haven’t reached the general election yet, and that is where the parties will put this money to use, so it remains to be seen how their spending in particular races will compare to those of super PACs.
Exploring possible agendas and messages, Occupy Wall Street may begin to focus on campaign finance reform as a direction for their efforts, since it ties together many of their concerns. But are their concerns about campaign finance justified?
According to Roll Call, a new study of political spending by S&P 500 companies show that more companies are not spending money on lobbying or campaigns, and that a large number of companies say they will not use independent expenditures. You can find the complete study here. If companies are spending less on campaigns and lobbying (if - because this study is by no means conclusive), then the real need for these proposals is possibly less than the perceived need for them.
Monkey Cage has gather together some of the literature about money in politics, and I think some folks may find some of the conclusions, such as that our perceptions of money’s role in politics are influenced by the media’s over stating and exaggerating of the campaign finance race, and that lobbying has little influence on the outcome of legislation, to be surprising. However, studies of money in politics show mixed conclusions regarding how money actually effects election outcomes.
Ultimately, there is no way to get money completely out of politics - it’s been part of the process since politics has existed, although it’s probably not the mother’s milk - and many of the reforms push the money into channels where there is less control over how it is spent and even less disclosure.
The specific proposal coming from OWS is called the Electoral Reform Act of 2012, which has one bullet point for campaign funding:
Proposed, to eliminate all federal and corporate financing of campaigns, and all political action committees while creating a public Electoral Trust Fund (300M citizens x $10 each = 3 billion a year). Air time for all candidates is free and equal.
There isn’t much detail that I can find on this proposal and how it is supposed to work (if anyone has anything let me know).
Any reforms, including the above, have to be cognizant of the potential for the reforms to push money into other channels and must be realistic rather than a reaction to false perceptions, e.g., the perception of corruption that lead to the soft money ban has contributed to the current situation with 527’s, 501c4’s and Super PACs (the money that went to political parties has gone to these groups with less oversight, and the Citizens United ruling has only fueled that fire).