Friday, March 09, 2012

Money and Politics This Week

Every Friday, the Brennan Center will be compiling the latest news concerning the corrosive nature of money in New York State politics—and the ongoing need for public financing and robust campaign finance reform. We’ll also be linking to dispatches from around the country highlighting the national scope of this crisis. This week’s links were contributed by Matthew Ladd.

For more stories on an ongoing basis, follow the Twitter hashtag #moNeYpolitics and #fairelex.

New York Campaign Finance and Ethics News

1. Amidst the media’s recent focus on independent redistricting, New York City Council member Dan Garodnick encourages New Yorkers not to lose sight of the importance of campaign finance reform, highlighting the many benefits that the New York City public matching funds system has created for small donors, candidates for public office, and the voting public. Last week, Garodnick and 26 other City Council members sent a letter to Gov. Cuomo in support of his renewed pledge to support a statewide bill for public campaign financing.

2. Former US Representative Anthony Weiner claimed in an interview late last week that in the fall of 2010, he was privy to allegations that current Representative Michael Grimm (R—NY)—who has lately come under scrutiny for accepting questionable campaign donations—was himself attempting to extort political contributions from a well-known rabbi. Grimm’s attorney promptly released a statement denying the allegations, calling Weiner’s remarks part of a “Democratic smear campaign.”

3. The Republican candidate for the vacant seat of the New York State Assembly’s 145th District, Mickey Kearns, is facing a formal complaint that he violated state campaign laws by accepting individual and corporate contributions for the upcoming special election over the legal limit. How the complaint will be handled by the state Board of Elections, whose enforcement power is widely seen as ineffectual, remains to be seen.

National Campaign Finance News

1. “Even in an age of super PACs . . . small-dollar fund-raising matters: It provides not only cash, but a way to engage volunteers, measure enthusiasm and organize get-out-the-vote efforts.” According to the New York Times, this explains a critical vulnerability of Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, which has “relied overwhelmingly on his network of high-dollar donors.” By contrast, both Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich enjoyed bursts of small-donor enthusiasm following their primary victories. Unlike his competitors, Romney has failed to connect with grassroots donors, in large part due to widespread perception that Romney’s wealth obviates the need for contributions from small donors.

2. The Washington Post, however, notes that far from relying on small donors, the Santorum and Gingrich campaigns have been “kept on life support by billionaire supporters,” namely Foster Friess and Sheldon Adelson, “who have taken advantage of changes in campaign law to pour millions into independent super PACs.”

3. The Times also opined on Sunday that the upcoming presidential election will be heavily influenced not only by the economy, but also by “the huge sums of money sloshing around” in the wake of the Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in Citizens United, and that this flood of contributions has led to the most negative Republican primary since the Watergate scandal broke.

4. John Boehner’s decision on Saturday to share the fundraising stage in Florida with Representative Vern Buchanan, who is currently under federal investigation by the FBI and IRS for failure to disclose business holdings and raising campaign money through straw donations, did not escape the Times editorial board, which noted that Boehner’s appearance simply proved that “once again the mighty campaign dollar trumps all.”

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