Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell used a speech at the American Enterprise Institute today to argue that any effort to shine light on donors to political efforts is a violation of First Amendment rights and privacy. McConnell's central point is that donors, even when they are spending more than some campaigns, do not deserve and should not be subject to any scrutiny. HuffPost's Sam Stein writes, "The Kentucky Republican has long been one of Congress' foremost advocates of a far-reaching interpretation of First Amendment rights. And his remarks, first to Fox News, then to the Faith and Freedom Conference and finally to the American Enterprise Institute, followed in that vein.But in arguing against the Disclose Act -- which would require nonprofit groups that spend money on campaign-related advertisements to disclose their funders -- McConnell trotted out another wrinkle. Donors to politically active nonprofit groups, he said, do not deserve to be subjected to public scrutiny or backlash. 'My own view has always been that if you can’t convince people of the wisdom of your policies, then you should come up with some better arguments,' McConnell said in his American Enterprise Institute speech, according to advanced remarks. 'But for all its vaunted tolerance, the political left has consistently demonstrated a militant intolerance for dissent. Sadly, a growing number of people on the left, and now within government itself, appear to have concluded that they can’t win on the merits. So they’ve resorted to bullying and intimidation instead.' Atop McConnell's list of those threatening the principle of freedom of association and free speech stood the White House, whose tactics the senator described as Nixonian. The president had 'shown an alarming willingness ... to use the powers of government to silence' those groups with which he has an ideological disagreement, McConnell insisted. And his administration was being aided by allied groups, he argued."
McConnell's comments labeled the IRS' routine questioning of a number of Tea Party groups applying for non-profit status as political retribution. This misses the fact that the IRS has only sent these groups routine questionnaires to answer and has actually stripped more than one Democratic non-profit group of its non-profit status for being too overtly political.
Democracy 21's Fred Wertheimer responded in a statement, "Senator McConnell fails to mention in his speech that the Supreme Court in Citizens United by an 8 to 1 majority – including four of the five conservative Justices -- upheld as constitutional the campaign finance disclosure requirements for outside spending groups. What is really going on here is that Senator McConnell is cloaking his partisan opposition to disclosure in the rhetoric of free speech. Senator McConnell does not have a constitutional or policy leg to stand on. Senator McConnell’s speech today is about protecting the ability of groups, like the Chamber of Commerce and Crossroads GPS, to keep secret from the American people the identities of the donors who are financing their campaign expenditures. The Supreme Court said in Citizens United that disclosure requirements are constitutional because they serve important governmental interests in 'providing the electorate with information about the sources of election-related spending,' in order to help citizens 'make informed choices in the political marketplace.' The Court also said in Citizens United that it had earlier upheld disclosure laws to address the problem that 'independent groups were running election-related advertisements, while hiding behind dubious and misleading names.'"
McConnell also blamed former President George W. Bush for signing the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill. HuffPost's Jen Bendery writes, "Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Thursday that President George W. Bush 'made a mistake' when he signed campaign finance reform into law in 2002, a moment that he described as 'a low point.'"
Meanwhile, Sen. John McCain went way off script on the new top donor to efforts to elect Mitt Romney as president, Sheldon Adelson. The Associated Press reports, "Sen. John McCain said in an interview posted online Friday that 'foreign money' was helping fellow Republican Mitt Romney's presidential hopes and singled out one of his ally's most generous supporters. McCain, the GOP's 2008 presidential nominee, suggested casino magnate Sheldon Adelson's $10 million contribution to a pro-Romney super PAC was a conduit for Adelson to use profits from properties in Macau to shape American elections. McCain also criticized the Supreme Court ruling that allows individuals and corporations to make such unlimited donations to nominally independent political action committees."
Local activists and a coalition of reform groups have been holding events across the country this week to push for resolutions supporting a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and get money out of politics from local and state governments.
Politico's Ken Vogel goes deep inside the Koch World to find out the internal workings of their annual donor conference.
Former Rick Santorum super PAC donor Foster Friess tells Buzzfeed that he'll donate to Romney's super PAC, but likely through a 501(c)(4) nonprofit to hide his identity.
Campaign finance reformers have lost faith in President Barack Obama after hoping that he would carry their policy priorities.
The Obama campaign raises money by hawking designer schwag.
The Federal Communication Commission recently instituted new rules requiring broadcasters to put their file of political advertising buys online for the first time. (The files have long been available in person at each individual broadcast station.) This has led to a huge fight between broadcasters, who oppose this transparency, and the FCC. Republican congressmen have voted to refuse any funding for this proposal to the FCC in a recent bill. But, it turns out, that since 2010 Time Warner, a cable provider, already hosts their political file online for the public to see and none of the broadcaster's concerns have come true. The Sunlight Foundation's Keenan Steiner has the report and you can access Time Warner's database here.
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Committee: American Crossroads
Candidate Opposed: Barack Obama
Spot: "Wah Wahhh"
Committee: Dean Heller for Senate
Committee: Dennis Rehberg for Senate
Committee: Mike Pence for Governor
Spot: "Let's Get To Work"
TRACKING INDEPENDENT SPENDING:
These numbers represent spending by independent groups, like super PACs and non-profits, to support or oppose a particular candidate in 2012. Fundrace will update this spending daily to help show which candidates are gaining from the proliferation of independent groups in this coming election.
Mitt Romney (R), $7,327,516 to support, $16,488,271 to oppose.
Barack Obama (D), $509,622 to support, $1,672,958 to oppose. (Oppose: +$13,112)
Most Outside Spending for Congressional Candidates:
TX-Senate: Ted Cruz (R), $838,270 to support, $2,301,676 to oppose.
TX-Senate: David Dewhurst (R), $501,126 to support, $2,481,715 to oppose.
IN-Senate: Richard Mourdock (R), $1,442,961 to support, $634,899 to oppose.
IN-Senate: Dick Lugar (R), $208,628 to support, $1,671,841 to oppose.
OH-SEN: Josh Mandel (R), $109,681 to support, $1,535,258 to oppose. NEW
RECENT INDEPENDENT EXPENDITURES
FreedomWorks for America, $4,437 to support Dan Liljenquist for Senate in Utah.
FreedomWorks for America, $830 to oppose Orrin Hatch for Senate in Utah.
National Right to Life Victory Fund, $10,112 to oppose Barack Obama for President.
Majority PAC, $20,513 to oppose Rick Berg for Senate in North Dakota.
Majority PAC, $110,141 to support Claire McCaskill for Senate in Missouri.
American Crossroads, $3,000 to oppose Barack Obama for President.
Club for Growth PAC, $16,801 to support Jeff Flake for Senate in Arizona.
Club for Growth PAC, $11,299 to support Mark Neumann for Senate in Wisconsin.
Conservative Action Fund, $49,706 to support MarkWayne Mullin for Congress in Olkahoma's 2nd District.
Campaign for Primary Accountability, $1,892 to oppose Charles Rangel for Congress in New York's 13th District.
Campaign for Our Future, $30,500 to oppose Charles Rangel for Congress in New York's 13th District.
FreedomWorks for America, $2,178 to oppose Orrin Hatch for Senate in Utah.
Women Vote!, $15,473 to support Grace Meng for Congress in New York's 6th District.
RECENT POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE REGISTRATIONS
Affordable Health Care For America, New York, N.Y., Treasurer: J. Bailey Morgan. (Super PAC)
Urban Works USA, New York, N.Y., Treasurer: J. Bailey Morgan. (Super PAC)
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