Archive for the ‘2012’ Category

Republican candidates raise thousands in campaign cash in race to replace Ron Paul

Posted on: March 14th, 2012 by Teddy Wilson No Comments

Rep. Ron Paul is not seeking another term in Congress in order to focus on his presidential bid.

As Rep. Ron Paul continues in the race for the Republican nomination for president, another race is taking place to determine who will be the Republican nominee to replace Paul in the Fourteenth Congressional District in Texas. A dozen candidates have filed for the Republican primary, but so far four of them lead the field in fundraising.

According to Center for Responsive Politics data, Jay Old leads all of the candidates with more than $430,000 in campaign contributions including nearly $50,000 in self financing. Old, who graduated from Texas A&M University and went to law school at Texas Tech University, is a defense attorney for doctors, hospitals, building contractors, and others. The largest single contributor to Old’s campaign is employees of Modern Group, which is an industrial distributor with interests in material handling, industrial distribution and services, power generation and construction.

Randy Weber has self financed his campaign more than any other candidate, contributing more than $102,000 to his campaign so far. In total Weber has raised over $313,000, which is the second most in the campaign. Elected to the Texas State House of Representatives in 2008, Weber was reelected in 2010 to represent District 29 which includes much of Matagoria and Brazoria counties. Weber, who is the founder and owner of Weber’s Air & Heat, has received more campaign contributions from lawyers and law firms than any other profession, collecting more than $14,000.

Former Perry-appointed Texas State University System regent, Michael Truncale, has so far raised nearly $270,000 in campaign contributions. With a degree from Lamar University in Beaumont and a law degree from the University of North Texas, he also served as a member of the State Republican Executive Committee. Fellow lawyers and law firms have contributed heavily to his campaign, donating more than $24,000. Truncale has received over $37,000 from those in the health care industry, more than any other candidate.

Felicia Harris, a Texas A&M graduate, has given to her own campaign more than individual contributors have. Of the $161,000 Harris has raised, $100,000 has come from self financing, representing 62% of the total. The South Texas College of Law graduate has received more contributions from lawyers and law firms than any other industry, as they have contributed over $13,000.

While the top four candidates in campaign cash have raised more than $1.1 million combined, the other eight candidates in the race have raised a total of just over $67,000. Nearly all of the campaign contributions have come from within the state, as just $9,000 in contributions have come from outside Texas. Unlike the U.S. senate campaign, no outside expenditure groups have spent money in the district so far.

Millions in campaign cash being raised for Republican primary fights in Texas

Posted on: March 6th, 2012 by Teddy Wilson 2 Comments

(Image: Jared Rodriguez / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: Thomas Hawk, Rob Shenk)

As political campaigns in Texas shift into high gear after a court ruling finally set the date of the Texas primaries, candidates will continue to raise millions of dollars in campaign cash to add to the millions that have already been raised. However, much of the campaign cash is going into campaigns that will face either little or no opposition on the ballot in November.

According to an analysis of data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, as of January 31 Texas candidates for house and senate have raised a total of $40.3 million for the 2012 election cycle. During the entire 2010 election cycle Texas candidates raised $47.2 million, and the 2008 election cycle saw $73.7 million raised by Texas candidates. With outside expenditure groups also spending money on the campaigns, millions more will be raised and spent in Texas elections.

The vast majority of the campaign cash raised so far has gone to Republican candidates, as they have out-raised their Democratic counterparts by more than $28.4 million. In the senate campaign, more than $16 million has already been raised by four Republican primary candidates. In the house campaigns, Republicans have raised $18 million compared to $5.9 million raised by Democrats.

The senate Republican primary campaign has so far been among the most expensive campaigns in the nation. The $19.5 million raised so far in the senate campaign in Texas is second only to the $22.7 million raised in the senate campaign in Massachusetts. The $8.6 million already spent in Texas is also second to the $10.6 million spent in Massachusetts.

Both Republican senate candidate Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert are among the top ten candidates nationally in campaign funds raised. Each has raised $6 million, while Tea Party favorite former Texas Solicitor Gen. Ted Cruz has raised nearly $4 million.

While the campaign for the senate seat in Texas will essentially be over after the Republican primary, the Massachusetts campaign between Republican Senator Scott Brown and likely Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren will continue into November.

Mark Jones, professor and chair of the political science department at Rice University, told the Texas Independent fundraising is important in two respects for the Republican primary, where there are two distinct electoral contests taking place.

“Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst clearly has the personal wealth and donor support to allow him to outspend all of his opponents combined by a good margin,” said Jones. “Dewhurst will use his copious funds in an attempt to win the primary in the first round, obviating the need to face one of his rivals, Ted Cruz in particular, in a low turnout runoff in the dead of summer.”

Jones says that while Dewhurst will clearly have more than enough funds to be on television statewide during the crucial final four to six weeks of the primary campaign as well as to engage in other forms of contact with primary voters such as direct mail, Ted Cruz, Craig James, and Tom Leppert are in a battle to finish second on May 29, while simultaneously forcing Dewhurst into a runoff.

“At this stage fundraising is crucial for them, not compared to Dewhurst, but compared to each other,” said Jones. “While none will have the resources to match Dewhurst’s presence on television, their goal is to raise enough money to support targeted television buys, direct mail campaigns, and conduct get out the vote drives focused on their core supporters.”

Among the three candidates challenging Dewhurst, Leppert may well be able to match Dewhurst’s ability to self finance a campaign. Leppert’s $3.1 million of self financing so far is more than $1 million more than Dewhurst has self financed. Leppert and Dewhurst are third and fourth nationally in self financing.

There is no parallel among the campaigns for the house in Texas, as the candidates who are raising the most campaign funds have either token or no opposition at all. The $1.6 million raised by Rep. Jeb Hensarling (TX-5) is the most of any house candidate in Texas, and he has no primary opponent and will face a Democrat in November who has not reported any campaign fundraising. Rep. Bill Flores (TX-17) and Rep. Lamar Smith (TX-21) have raised $1 million and $972,000, but neither candidate faces a primary or general election opponent.

“The best way to ensure that a candidate has no primary or general election opposition is to have such a large campaign war chest that all serious challengers consider any attempt to defeat you to be futile,” said Jones. “PACS and wealthy donors tend to give to the most influential members of congress, who also happen to normally reside in safe Republican or Democratic districts and are normally well respected in their party.”

It isn’t unexpected, says Jones, that incumbent members of congress raise such significant amounts of campaign funds with little or no opposition. “It is unsurprising that representatives such as Jeb Hensarling, chairman of the House Republican Conference, and Pete Sessions, chairman of the NRCC, are among the top fundraisers in spite of the fact that both will be re-elected regardless of whether they spend five thousand or five million on their reelection campaigns.” Session has raised $932,000 and is not facing a primary or general election opponent.

Because of the uncompetitive nature of the general election campaigns in Texas, Jones says that the campaign cash is likely to have more of an impact in a select number of primaries than in the November election. “Of the 36 Texas seats, 33 are either safe Republican or safe Democrat, and only one, District 23, falls into the category of being truly competitive,” said Jones. “As a result, fundraising will only have a significant impact on the outcome of at most 3 of 36 seats in November.”

With the primary date finally set, it appears that the most heated campaign battles for congress in Texas will be waged in the spring rather than the fall. “In the May primaries, there are approximately a half dozen races on both sides of the aisle where fundraising will play a major role in determining which Republican or Democrat will be the party’s nominee in the fall,” said Jones. “In most cases the races are for safe Republican or Democratic seats, signifying that a victory in the primary virtually ensures victory in the Fall.”

Florida counties that implemented new elections law saw fewer voters, study says

Posted on: March 5th, 2012 by The American Independent 1 Comment

According to newly released research, Florida’s controversial new elections law affected early voting turnout in this year’s presidential primary, despite claims from proponents of the bill that it would not negatively affect accessibility of early voting. (more…)

Opponents of emergency financial manager law turn in signatures to put law on ballot

Posted on: February 29th, 2012 by Todd Heywood 3 Comments

LANSING — Hundreds of opponents of the controversial emergency financial manager law marched to the Richard Austin Building — home of the Michigan Secretary of State — to turn in hundreds of thousands of signatures to repeal the law.

If approved, the measure will be on the 2012 ballot, and the law will be suspended until the results of that election are complete.

But Ari Adler, spokesman for Speaker of the House Jase Bolger (R-Marshall) says there has been discussion within the caucus about how to deal with the “chaos,” should the law be suspended.

“There has been discussion of a temporary law that would provide some protection for taxpayers and on fiscal accountability,” Adler said.

He denied there was any plan to introduce legislation which would include an appropriation. Such a move would make the new bill, if signed into law, ballot proof.

A group of more than 250 people marched from a downtown church to the Bureau of Elections to deliver 50 boxes of signatures. The signatures represent voters in every county in the state and will now be culled by the elections staff to certify the validity of the signatures.

Supporters of the ballot measure say they turned in 24,167 petition pages, representing 226,637 individual signatures. To qualify for the ballot, the measure needs only 161,305 valid signatures.

Boxes of petitions to repeal the emergency financial manager law in Michigan.

Officials at the Secretary of State’s office have 60 days to sample the petitions and provide a report to the four-member Board of Canvassers. The Board must approve or reject the measure in that same time frame, says Fred Woohams, spokesperson for the department. He says the Board can request an additional 15-days for certification.

If the signatures are approved, the law will be frozen until after the 2012 election.

The law has drawn national attention as it provides for what opponents say is a dictator. Under the law, once a state financial review has declared a local government in financial distress, the governor can appoint a manager. The manager has broad powers including the ability to unilaterally end negotiated contracts, sell public property, and suspend the authority of elected officials to act.

Since it was signed into law, the legislation has been a point of deep contention, with many arguing the law was being used to attack mostly minority communities. The Detroit Public Schools, Flint, Benton Harbor, and Pontiac are currently under an EMF. Meanwhile, people in Inkster, the City of Detroit, and the Highland Parks Schools are facing financial reviews.

The law is being challenged in state court, and the Ingham County Circuit Court ruled two weeks ago that emergency financial review teams were required to meet in public under the state’s open meetings act. That ruling revoked the appointment of an Emergency Financial Manager in Highland Park Schools, and last week, the legislature voted to move state aide for that district — which is apportioned, in part, by student census — to neighboring districts.

In announcing the House passage of the legislation, House Speaker Jase Bolger (R-Marshall) had this to say:

“The Highland Park school district has financially collapsed. There are no excuses for the bad decisions made by the adults in charge but we had to act to protect the students. Not one dime of the Distressed District Student Transition Grant will go to the legal entity of the Highland Park School District because they have proven they cannot manage money responsibly. The students and parents of Highland Park are the victims of a district that has failed them for years. Today, the House Democrats tried to turn their backs on those victims and I’m proud of the House Republican caucus for standing up and doing the right thing.”

Bolger said the Highland Park Schools had been spending $16,000 per student since August of last year.

In a statement released to the media on the submission of signatures, the law’s original sponsor, Rep. Al Pscholka (R-St. Joseph), had this to say about the turning in of the signatures:

The simple truth is that the Fiscal Accountability Act protects hard-working taxpayers from the repeated poor financial decisions of some local governments and school districts. There is no fine print, no other motive. These entities need to remember that they answer to hard-working taxpayers, not powerful special interest groups who are angered by the accountability measures these taxpayers demand.

Over the course of several years, and in some cases decades, some local governments and school districts have overspent, misappropriated, and misallocated millions of tax dollars. For example, Highland Park Schools has lost roughly 2,000 students over the last six years, but they have failed to make spending reforms necessary to continue operating on their own, causing repeated, massive deficits despite three separate emergency loans.

But Rev. Alexander Bullock of Rainbow PUSH of Detroit says the problem is much deeper than the way supporters of the law paint the crisis. He notes that both federal and state policies have driven the financial insolvency of many communities and that federal trade policy has driven hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs out of the state and into other countries. On top of that, he says, the state has not been supplying the statutorily required amounts of revenue sharing with local governments.

But the final insult, he said, was the move to cut taxes on businesses.

“What we have here is a perfect storm,” Bullock told TAI. “We know that cutting business taxes has led to rising tides and leading those to drowning without a boat.”

The state legislature approved legislation last May that resulted in a $1.3 billion tax cut to businesses, while creating taxes on pensions and eliminating many low income tax credits.

House Democrats praised the submission of signatures in a press release Wednesday.

“These signatures are a win for the people of our state to show Legislative Republicans that Michiganders do not tolerate extreme breaches of power by their government,” said House Democratic Leader Richard E. Hammel (D-Mt. Morris Township). “Our caucus has heard numerous complaints about this law from residents and have consistently fought against the seizing of local control by the governor’s administration. It is time to let the people of Michigan decide if these broad reaching powers are something they’d like to give to their government.”

But Adler says the problem is the failure of local leaders to live within their budgets, and that without action the current financial emergencies appearing across the state will result in bankruptcy proceedings for those local governments.

“If you wanna see a loss of democracy, wait until you’re standing before a bankruptcy court,” Adler said.

Glenn unites tea party, religious right in Michigan Senate race

Posted on: February 28th, 2012 by Andy Birkey 2 Comments

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Gary Glenn won over Michigan’s tea Party membership at a convention on Saturday. Glenn runs the American Family Association of Michigan, a state-based branch of the national AFA that opposes rights for LGBT Michiganders.
(more…)

Texas businesses lead the nation in Super PAC contributions

Posted on: February 23rd, 2012 by Mary Tuma 3 Comments

Texas-based corporations top a national list of businesses giving to Super PACs, according to a recent study from policy research groups Demos and U.S. PIRG Education Fund. The report, titled “Auctioning Democracy,” traces business contributions to Super PACs and which top Super PACs are on the receiving end of big corporate money. The study notes more than 500 businesses donated $31 million since the inception of Super PACs, accounting for 17 percent of total itemized Super PAC fundraising. In 2011, businesses gave $17 million, or 18 percent of total Super PAC fundraising. And the newly formed committees, able to receive unlimited campaign contributions from individuals, unions and corporations, have generated the bulk of those corporate funds from Texas.

Texas businesses lead the country in contributing to Super PACs, giving some $7.8 million to the newly formed committees, overall. Texas stands alone in doling out more than $5 million in Super PAC funds, a bracket unmatched by any other state. In 2011, no state gave more than $5 million, with Texas, Oklahoma, Indiana, Florida and Idaho giving the most, between $1 million and $5 million each.

“Texas businesses are really taking advantage of the new Super PAC vehicle and having a large influence on the primary base so far,” said Blair Bowie of U.S. PIRG and co-author of the report. Bowie said she didn’t necessarily expect Texas to lead the way in Super PAC donations, considering its low-key impact as a primary state.

“I was a little surprised to find that the bulk of businesses contributing to Super PACs come from Texas, given the state hasn’t been a battleground in the primary race,” said Bowie. “It’s also surprising in particular to see hardly any contributions from New Hampshire–of them, o­nly Florida has gotten really involved.”

Of the leading 25 businesses giving to Super PACs overall, Texas-based Contran Corporation ($3 million), led by Harold Simmons, and TRT Holdings ($2.34 million), owner of Golds Gyms and Omni Hotels and headed by former UT Regent Robert Rowling rank first and second. Also on the list of Super PAC-friendly Texas companies is Crow Holdings ($900,000), run by Dallas-based real estate businessman Harlan Crow.

In general, the number of unique businesses in Texas donating to Super PACs far exceeds that of other states–some 124 companies in the state contributed to the political committees, compared to 67 in California and 52 in Florida.

On the receiving end, pro-Rick Perry Super PAC “Make Us Great Again,” ($1.7 million) comes in as the third highest grossing of its kind, overall. Simmons and Rowling both contributed generously to the Perry Super PAC, as well as to Karl Rove-aligned American Crossroads, as the Texas Independent reported.

Andrew Wheat of Texans for Public Justice, a nonprofit research group that tracks state political corruption and corporate abuses, said the results shouldn’t surprise anyone living in Texas. The major Super PAC players, like Simmons and Rowling, have been influencing Texas legislation and national politics for years.

“It’s part of the cowboy political culture that was already firmly rooted here in Texas before the explosion of Super PACs on a national level,” said Wheat. “So the findings make a lot of sense.”

The Texas political system imposes no restrictions on campaign contributions to state candidates (aside from judicial candidates), said Wheat. PACs and individuals can give unlimited amounts of money to candidates, leading to what he considers the undermining of an already fragile democracy.

Rowling and Crow top another list, as the Texas Independent previously reported. Prolific donations to Republican and conservative causes and candidates solidify the wealthy Texans as part of the “Political One Percent of the One Percent”– an influential group of donors within the economic elite.

Bowie said she noticed a trend since the inception of the Super PAC machine. While campaign contributions have been traditionally concentrated, coming from major cities like New York, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., those donations are now coming from Texas as well.

“Though campaign contributions have shifted from many traditional city centers, the concentration in some key areas is still there, and still a problem for democracy. We don’t want certain areas and the wealthy individuals and businesses they own to have more of a say in our elections than the average earning citizen,” said Bowie.

By eliminating contribution limits for unions and corporations, the Citizens United decision only serves to exacerbate one of the major symptoms plaguing a healthy democracy, argues Bowie.

“A lot of power is being concentrated and not being spread in a way that represents one person, one vote,” she said. “For a long time special interests held too much power–now those interests have a more direct way to influence elections.”

Conservative group aims to ‘clean up’ voter rolls

Posted on: February 15th, 2012 by The American Independent No Comments
A right-wing group has announced it will “pressure states and localities” through lawsuits, if necessary, “to clean up voter registration rolls pursuant to Section 8 of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA).” The group claims that several states have voters on their registration rolls who are ineligible to vote. (more…)

Colorado civil unions debate rekindles old arguments for and against rights for gay couples

Posted on: February 15th, 2012 by The American Independent 3 Comments

Denver state Sen. Pat Steadman’s re-introduced same-sex civil unions bill is being heard this afternoon in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Although the bill will be passed easily by the committee’s Democratic majority, the hearing will be the staging ground for this year’s arguments for and against it, drawing the attention of political analysts, members of the public, and lawmakers in both chambers of the legislature looking to gauge the direction and intensity of political winds in an especially charged election year. (more…)