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 Robert Friedman.
New York Campaign Finance and Ethics News
1. Federal as well as state representatives are mired in ethics issues. Representative Michael Grimm of Staten Island has been cited for violating the House of Representatives’ rules on permissible fundraising emails, Staten Island Live reports. Representative Grimm sent a video of one of his speeches on the House floor in a solicitation for donations, a direct violation of the House rules for which Representative Grimm took responsibility.
National Campaign Finance and Ethics News
1. People remain fed up with the influx of cash into the political system. A new poll finds that 75 per cent of Americans think there is too much money in politics, and 76 per cent think the status quo enables wealthy individuals to have more influence than the average American. With billions expected to be spent on the next round of elections, the discontent will likely only grow.
2. Robust disclosure laws are integral to calculating the role of money in politics, but a number of members of Congress seem determined to keep the public in the dark. The Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee recently approved a bill that would shield federal contractors from laws that require disclosure of political spending and lobbying. While the new legislation has found considerable support in some corners, Mother Jones reports it is unlikely to become law any time soon because it lacks the backing of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who is responsible for bringing the bill to a vote.
3. The House’s decision to ban earmarks has failed to stop representatives from finding a way to give special treatment to political contributors. Representative Mike Fitzpatrick has introduced 12 bills to suspend tariffs on certain chemicals, and eight of the bills would directly benefit United Color Manufacturing, whose owner’s family has donated $26,000 to Fitzpatrick and $150,000 to other Republican candidates and party organizations over the past ten years, according to Roll Call. This type of tariff earmark may not strictly fit constitute the type of earmarks the House prohibits, but representatives are being urged to obey the spirit, not just the letter, of the rule.
4. One billion dollars. That’s the target amount a group of Super PACs has decided is necessary to support a presidential campaign, Politico reports. The group has plans to spend a billion dollars before the conclusion of the November elections.
5. Tradition, as it turns out, is not law. Though presidential candidates have routinely voluntarily disclosed the names of all of their fundraisers, campaign finance rules only require disclosure when the fundraiser is a lobbyist. Presidential candidate Mitt Romney is taking advantage of this gap in the current disclosure laws and refusing to disclose the names of fundraisers who are not lobbyists, according to a USA Today Report. The need for more robust mandatory disclosures is clear.