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HUFFPOST FUNDRACE -- Senate GOP Blocks Disclosure; Citizens United or McCain-Feingold?; Romney Victory's Others

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In case you haven't noticed HuffPost Fundrace has been MIA for a couple of days. That's because we are moving to a weekly schedule releasing one long look at the world of campaign finance and the advertising it funds each Tuesday. Feel free to send suggestions about what information on donors, ads, etc you'd like to see here.

I'VE GOT YOU BABE -- In a Groundhog Day-like spectacle, the Senate voted twice in two days on the DISCLOSE Act, a bill that would increase transparency for the independent groups that have been freed to raise and spend unlimited amounts in elections thanks to a number of court rulings, most prominently the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United ruling. HuffPost reported on last night's vote, "In a 51-44 vote, the DISCLOSE Act failed to obtain the 60 votes needed to clear a Republican filibuster. The bill would have required disclosure of anyone who donates to independent groups that spent more than $10,000 on campaign ads -- or their functional equivalent -- and other election spending. The bill was not expected to beat back the Republican filibuster, which was led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). McConnell, called the 'Darth Vader of campaign finance reform' in the past, recently made news by giving a series of speeches declaring that campaign finance disclosure amounted to nothing short of harassment and a suppression of speech. In one op-ed for USA Today McConnell called the DISCLOSE Act 'un-American' and 'an attempt to identify and punish political enemies, or at the very least, intimidate others from participating in the process.'"

"The Republican filibuster came after decades of statements by various Republicans that, while they opposed restrictions on campaign finance, they vehemently supported full disclosure. 'We need to have real disclosure,' McConnell said as recently as 2010 in a debate over the first iteration of the DISCLOSE Act. The 2010 version of the bill, which included provisions that went beyond simple disclosure, also was blocked by a Republican filibuster in a 59-41 vote. Republicans once considered staunch supporters of campaign finance disclosure, including Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) one of the two primary co-authors of the 2002 campaign finance reform bill, voted to block it. Other opponents Monday who in the past supported campaign finance disclosure or bemoaned the influence of groups that don't disclose, included Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), and Scott Brown (R-Mass.)."

AD WATCH

President Barack Obama blasts Republican candidate Mitt Romney over his offshore bank accounts in this ad as the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and an unaffiliated Democratic super PAC follow-up with similar attacks.

HuffPost's Sam Stein:

Democrats have entered the go-for-the-jugular stage of the presidential race, with President Barack Obama's campaign, the Democratic National Committee and an allied opposition research group all releasing videos Tuesday attacking Mitt Romney for his refusal to release more tax returns.

The videos are distinct. The Obama campaign clip will air on television in Pennsylvania, where Mitt Romney is campaigning today. The DNC's version craftily uses Sarah Palin to suggest that John McCain was so nervous about Romney's taxes that he made a historic roll of the dice with his running mate pick in 2008. The video put together by American Bridge 21st Century is a sharp edit job of clips of all the prominent GOP officials and pundits who have begun groaning about Romney's handling of the matter.

All three videos hit at the same theme: Romney's obstinacy on tax returns has become a crippling problem for his campaign and one that Democrats are intent on compounding. Romney has released his completed return for 2010 and his estimated return for 2011, showing an effective 2010 tax rate of 13.9 percent and financial accounts in Switzerland, Bermuda and the Cayman Islands.

The Republican National Committee brings this video highlighting the energy grants and loans given to companies connected to Obama bundler Steve Westly.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce continues its early investment in the 2012 elections with another ad buy to help Republican candidates in four Senate races. The ads include an anti-Heidi Heitkamp ad in North Dakota, an anti-Shelley Berkley spot in Nevada, a pro-Heather Wilson ad in New Mexico and a pro-Linda Lingle ad in Hawaii. The total cost for the campaign was reported at $1.16 million to the FEC.

CITIZENS UNITED OR MCCAIN-FEINGOLD -- The New York Times' Matt Bai writes that the real culprit for the rise in independent group spending is not the Citizens United ruling, but rather the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law, which drove unlimited contributions out of the parties and into the hands of non-party groups: "Richard L. Hasen, an expert on campaign finance at the University of California at Irvine, recently wrote an article for Slate titled, 'The Numbers Don’t Lie,' in which he showed that total outside spending, as measured through March 8 of every election season, seemed to explode after the Citizens United decision, reaching about $15.9 million in 2010 (compared with $1.8 million in the previous midterm cycle) and $88 million this year (compared with $37.5 million at the same point in 2008). 'If this was not caused by Citizens United,' he wrote, 'we have a mighty big coincidence on our hands.'

But there are alternate ways to interpret this data. The level of outside money increased 164 percent from 2004 to 2008. Then it rose 135 percent from 2008 to 2012. In other words, while the sheer amount of dollars seems considerably more ominous after Citizens United, the percentage of change from one presidential election to the next has remained pretty consistent since the passage of McCain-Feingold. And this suggests that the rising amount of outside money was probably bound to reach ever more staggering levels with or without Citizens United. The unintended consequence of McCain-Feingold was to begin a gradual migration of political might from inside the party structure to outside it."

The problem with Bai's argument is he glosses over the 2006 election, which saw both no soft money to parties and little independent group spending. The rise in outside spending in 2008 back to 2004 levels came after the Supreme Court's ruling in Wisconsin Right to Life v. Federal Election Commission (FEC) loosened McCain-Feingold restrictions on independent spending and a subsequent FEC rule created a loophole for groups to avoid disclosure. The real culprit would be the change in the Court's tentatively pro-reform majority with Sandra Day O'Connor's departure.

ROMNEY VICTORY'S OTHERS -- HuffPost reported on Monday about Romney's new fundraising vehicle, Romney Victory, and the $140 million it raised from April to June: "More than half of the $140 million came from just 1,355 individuals and political action committees, each giving more than $35,800 -- the maximum amount that can be transferred to the Romney campaign and the RNC. In total, these donors provided $72 million to Romney Victory, which included at least $24 million above the individual contribution limits of $5,000 to the Romney campaign and $30,800 to the RNC. The $24 million that cannot go to either the Romney campaign or the RNC will likely be diverted to the state party committees in Idaho, Massachusetts, Oklahoma and Vermont as part of a clever scheme to take advantage of loopholes in campaign finance law that allow one donor to provide more than the legal contribution limit to efforts in battleground states. ...Like all party committees, these four state parties can transfer unlimited dollars to other party committees. In this case, the committees receiving infusions from Romney Victory are expected to transfer money into state party committees in battlegrounds like Florida, Ohio or Virginia. ...While individual donors are limited to contributing $10,000 to a state party committee per year, a donor to Romney Victory could potentially provide a maximum of $10,000 to each of the Idaho, Massachusetts, Oklahoma and Vermont party committees for a total of $40,000. That $40,000 could then wind up being directed by those four committees to one of the handful of states that will be hotly contested in this election. In addition, a donor could give an additional $10,000 to a swing state party committee that is also receiving infusions of cash from one of the Romney Victory-linked state committees. That would put the total that one donor could provide to a battleground state party to $50,000 -- five times the legal contribution limit."

FILINGS & DONORS

Casino magnate and top super PAC donor Sheldon Adelson gave $250,000 to a super PAC supporting Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst's Senate campaign. No non-presidential candidate has seen as much money flow to super PACs specifically created to support their candidacy than Dewhurst. Here's the latest ad from a pro-Dewhurst super PAC, which is backed by a $1.35 million ad buy. It makes Obama's attack ads against Romney look fairly tame.

Incoming Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer is a bundler for the Obama campaign having raised between $100,000 and $200,000 this cycle.

White Castle, the corporation serving bite-sized sandwiches that some people refer to as burgers, gave $25,000 to a super PAC linked to the House Republican Majority.

The RNC reported a $5 million independent expenditure to the FEC attacking Obama on Monday.

TECHNICAL PROBLEMS AT THE DEATH STAR? -- Byron York speculates at The Washington Examiner as to what happened to the vaunted Romney attack machine, which devastated Republican opponents in the primary season. Here's one of the five reasons York gives: "[T]he general election campaign is here, and the talk is of the Obama killing machine, not the Romney death star. By most accounts, the Romney campaign is not displaying the super-aggressive effectiveness it showed in the primaries. Why? ...Romney’s business history and taxes are two issues left unresolved from the primary campaign. During the primaries, Republicans didn’t want to hear fellow Republicans criticizing Romney’s record at Bain Capital. Some characterized attacks on Romney’s Bain history as attacks on capitalism itself. Democrats and many independents don’t feel the same way, and Obama and his SuperPAC allies are relentlessly slamming Romney’s business history both nationally and in key states around the country. Likewise, while most Republicans were satisfied with Romney’s release of one year’s tax returns, and promise to release one more, that minimalist offering has met less success in the general election fight."

MORE LINKS TO READ

Boston Review hosts a debate on whether and how money in politics influences and warps the political system.

Sarah Silverman's very NSFW video proposition to super PAC funder Sheldon Adelson was funded by a super PAC.

The New York Times looks at the financial support provided to Romney by descendents of some early Mormon families.

House candidates raised over $566 million in the second quarter of the year, Politico reports.

Sheldon Adelson pumped $5 million into a super PAC run by former aides of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, HuffPost reports.

Mitt Romney's super PAC will report raising $20 million in June this Friday, according to HuffPost.

Democratic super PACs combined to raise $25 million in the second quarter of the year. That amount will likely be dwarfed by at least $10 million when the top GOP super PACs report their contributions on Friday.

Send tips, hints, submissions, rumors to HuffPost Fundrace at paulblumenthal@huffingtonpost.com.