06/19/2012 06:46 pm ET

HUFFPOST FUNDRACE -- Tour Down Dark Money Lane

Mother Jones' Andy Kroll pens an extensive report on the history of the divergent forces at work in campaign finance policy, "For decades, the campaign finance wars have pitted two ideological foes against each other: one side clamoring to dam the flow while the other seeks to open the floodgates. The self-styled good-government types believe that unregulated political money inherently corrupts. A healthy democracy, they say, needs robust regulation—clear disclosure, tough limits on campaign spending and donations, and publicly financed presidential and congressional elections. The dean of this movement is 73-year-old Fred Wertheimer, the former president of the advocacy outfit Common Cause, who now runs the reform group Democracy 21. On the other side are conservatives and libertarians who consider laws regulating political money an assault on free markets and free speech. They want to deregulate campaign finance—knock down spending and giving limits and roll back disclosure laws. Their leaders include Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), conservative lawyer James Bopp Jr., and former FEC commissioner Brad Smith, who now chairs the Center for Competitive Politics, which fights campaign finance regulation. In this ongoing battle, the upper hand shifts regularly. Wertheimer and his allies scored historic victories in the 1970s in the wake of Watergate and again in the early aughts. Yet more recently, the deregulation camp has won a series of court decisions—FEC v. Wisconsin Right to Life, SpeechNow.org v. FEC, and, of course, Citizens United—that have toppled more campaign finance regulations in less time than ever before. Even the Tillman Act's century-old corporate contribution ban is under siege by conservative interest groups. Meanwhile, money is flooding the political system like never before. This has forced lawmakers, as many of them will forlornly admit, onto an endless fundraising hamster wheel in which they spend more and more time beating the bushes for campaign cash and less and less time actually legislating. In the 2012 election, experts project spending could top a staggering $11 billion—more than double the 2008 total. What few people realize is how close Wertheimer and Congress came to blocking the deluge."

The Obama campaign filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission alleging that Crossroads GPS, a social welfare nonprofit founded by Karl Rove, should register as a political committee and disclose its donors. HuffPost reports, "The Obama campaign's complaint, first reported by The New York Times andobtained by The Huffington Post, came from campaign legal counsel Bob Bauer and stated that a recent appeals court decision requires the government to explicitly define what constitutes a political committee. The complaint was sent to both the FEC and to Crossroads GPS president Steven Law and founder Karl Rove. 'The FEC may, and by statutory mandate should, apply a test to the activities of organizations like Crossroads that will inevitably reveal them to be 'political committees', not charities, because their 'major purpose' is to elect candidates to federal office,' wrote Bauer, citing a June 12 ruling by the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in the case of Real Truth About Obama v. FEC. Crossroads GPS meets the definition of a political committee under the FEC's tests, the letter said. These include the content of the group's advertisements and the founding of the organization by a coterie of Republican Party operatives, including former White House political director Rove."

Some of Obama's biggest fundraisers are sidelined after receiving plum positions in his administration. HuffPost's Howard Fineman writes, "Facing a tidal wave super PAC spending from the likes of GOP-backing billionaires Sheldon Adelson and the Koch brothers, the Democratic president lacks countervailing help from the super pack of well-heeled allies he drew in 2008 -– and rewarded with government jobs abroad. Call them the Bundler-Ambassadors: wealthy individuals, most of them with deep ties to the business community or corporate law, who gave money of their own, and, more importantly, hit up wealthy friends for “bundled” Obama cash. In exchange, though no one exactly called it that, the president nominated many of them for plum diplomatic assignments, in cities from Paris, London and Berlin to Tokyo, Amsterdam and even Bratislava, Slovakia. There is no sign that the ambassadors are eager to come home and bundle again. Indeed, a Huffington Post sampling on background via email revealed that none were planning to return to bundle campaign contributions for the president's reelection."

Sheldon Adelson has given $1 million to a super PAC backing Rep. Connie Mack's Senate bid in Florida, according to Politico.

The Washington Post reports on Leo Linbeck and his Campaign for Primary Accountability.

Salon follows the connections that campaigns have to independent groups through consultants.

The AFL-CIO's super PAC is using Ohio's hatred of LeBron James in an ad hitting Republican Senate candidate Josh Mandel.


Help us populate our list of campaign videos. Send any notable TV, radio or web ads that you see to Fundrace. Send your submissions to paulblumenthal@huffingtonpost.com.

Committee: Restore Our Future
Candidate Opposed: Barack Obama
Spot: "Doing Fine"
Market: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
Buy: ~$7 million.

Committee: Priorities USA Action
Candidate Opposed: Mitt Romney
Spot: "Romney and Stage Stores"
Market: Unknown.
Buy: Undisclosed.

Committee: Barack Obama for President
Spot: "How Emily Benefits from the Affordable Care Act"
Market: Unknown.
Buy: Undisclosed

Committee: Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee
Candidate Opposed: Rick Berg
Spot: "Spelled"
Market: North Dakota.
Buy: Undisclosed.

Committee: John Brunner for Senate
Candidate Opposed: Sarah Steelman
Spot: "Sarah Steelman's Tax Increasing Record"
Market: Missouri.
Buy: Undisclosed.

Committee: Mike Pence for Governor
Spot: "Hoosier Heartland"
Market: Indiana.
Buy: Undisclosed


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.

Presidential Race:
Mitt Romney (R), $7,327,516 to support, $16,503,880 to oppose.
Barack Obama (D), $553,481 to support, $1,777,893 to oppose. (Oppose: +$2,467)

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.


National Federation of Independent Business/Save America's Free Enterprise Trust, $51,440 to support Orrin Hatch for Senate in Utah.
FreedomWorks for America, $1,555 to oppose Orrin Hatch for Senate in Utah.
FreedomWorks for America, $650 to oppose Sherrod Brown for Senate in Ohio.
FreedomWorks for America, $48,243 to support Josh Mandel for Senate in Ohio.
American Society of Anesthesiologists PAC, $19,387 to support John Sullivan for Congress in Oklahoma's 1st District.
American Academy of Ophthalmology Inc PAC, $18,000 to support John Sullivan for Congress in Oklahoma's 1st District.
Campaign to Defeat Barack Obama, $2,467 to oppose Barack Obama for President.


Special Operations for America, Whitefish, Mont., Treasurer: Christopher S. Hyatt. (Super PAC)
Citizens for Prosperity and Reform Movement, Irvine, Calif., Treasurer: Bill Sidhu. (Super PAC)
United Americans for a Brighter Future, Palm Harbor, Fla., Treasurer: Dominique Samei.

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