Posts Tagged ‘Campaign Finance’

Texas money is key to GOP success in November

Posted on: May 31st, 2012 by Teddy Wilson 1 Comment

As groups working to elect Mitt Romney president look to spend up to $1 billion in the months leading up to November, money in politics is poised to be one of the most prominent media narratives of the 2012 campaign.

Much of that money is coming from Texas, home to some of the most influential of ‘the political one percent of the one percent.’ A Sunlight Foundation report found that during the 2010 election cycle, many of the largest donors to federal political campaigns called Texas home.

In the 2012 election cycle these donors have opened up their pocketbooks again, and have contributed significant amounts to federal campaigns and Super PACs. According to an analysis by the Houston Chronicle, donors from Texas have contributed more cash to the twenty largest Super PACs than donors from any other state. The $36.5 million from Texans filling the coffers of Super PACs far outpaces the $22 million from California and $17 million from New York.

Two of the three biggest spenders in the country are among the biggest wallets in Texas, and five of the top twenty-five write checks from Texas zip codes. Only New York has more donors on the top twenty-five with seven, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics.

The combined contributions of the seven New York donors of $11 million does not equal the total of the biggest contributor from Texas, Harold Simmons, who has so far contributed $14.9 million to federal campaigns and PACs. In total the five Texans in the top twenty-five have contributed $26.8 million during the 2012 election cycle.

In addition to the money flowing out of Texas to Republicans and conservative committees, Democrats are also sending money out of the state. As the Chronicle reported, of the $21 million Texas Democrats have given to candidates running for federal office, Super PACs and party political committees in the 2012 election, only $4.8 million has gone to candidates from Texas.

“In the short-run, Texans who support the Democratic Party are likely to see their campaign donations have a much more substantial impact on the electoral process and policy process outside of Texas rather than inside the state,” said Mark Jones, a professor and chair of the political science department at Rice University. “In terms of the 36 U.S. House races, 34 to 35 are not considered to be competitive, that is we know they will either be won by a Democrat or a Republican even today. The same holds true for the presidential and U.S. Senate races in Texas.”

Jones says that in contrast, through donations to U.S. Senate races in states such as Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan and Missouri, Texas donors can play a major role in races which will determine which party holds a majority in the U.S. Senate next year, as well as affect the partisan composition of the U.S. House. “By comparison, barring something truly dramatic occurring, we know for a fact that the winner of the GOP U.S. Senate primary in Texas will assume office in D.C. in January,” said Jones.

While most of the attention is being paid to money donated to federal candidates and Super PACs, these same individuals have been quietly funding campaigns in Texas. With no campaign contribution limits in state races, some candidates have gotten checks in excess of $100,000. Operating in the same way as Super PACs, political action committees in Texas received huge checks even before the Supreme Court opened the door to unlimited campaign contributions. Texas PACs regularly receive contributions of $100,000 or more, sometimes as much as $500,000.

“Unlike the case at the national level where the outsized influence of the mega-rich on campaigns via Super PACs is relatively novel in the post Citizens United world, the mega-rich having an outsized influence on elections is the normal state of affairs in Texas, given our lack of any real limits on individual and PAC donations to candidates,” said Jones.

According to Jones, the very wealthy have a much greater impact on politics and public policy in Texas than they do in a large majority of states. “This is particularly the case when you take into account the large size of the Texas House and Senate districts, which make state legislative campaigns much more expensive than in all states except California and New York, both states which have ceilings for individual and PAC donations,” said Jones.

Bob Perry, a Houston home builder and perennial financial supporter of the Texas governor and Republican candidates, has contributed more than $3.4 million since the end of the 2010 campaign, Texas Ethics Commission records show. Perry’s contributions have been spread out to lawmakers and committees throughout the state, the vast majority of which have been to Republicans or right leaning committees.

Embattled Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, Republican Joe Straus has received $85,000 in contributions from Perry. A Democrat representing a district along the border, Rep. Eddie Lucio III has received $58,500. Even party switcher Republican Rep. Aaron Pena has pocketed $16,000.

Simmons, a Dallas businessman who owns Contran Corporation, has donated primarily to Republican candidates and right leaning committees throughout the state. In addition to $45,000 that Simons gave to Speaker Straus, Dallas Republican Rep. Dan Branch has received $75,000. Commissioner of the General Land Office and 2014 Lt. Governor candidate Jerry Patterson has received a total of $100,000.

Both Perry and Simmons have reserved their largest checks for political action committees. In fact, they are the two biggest funders of one of the most politically powerful organizations in the state. Texans for Lawsuit Reform, an organization that has successfully lobbied for tort reform in Texas, has received $750,000 from Simmons and $500,000 from Perry.

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

Is NOM acting right?

Posted on: May 17th, 2012 by Sofia Resnick 1 Comment
“NOM is not a partisan organization or a stalking horse for either party,” wrote National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown in March. “We are a movement of people of every race, creed, color — and party — willing to stand up for marriage.”


NOM docs show ties to anti-gay-marriage PAC

Posted on: March 27th, 2012 by Sofia Resnick No Comments

Recently unsealed court records and internal documents from the National Organization for Marriage illustrate the close ties between NOM and a committee formed in 2009 to repeal same-sex marriage in Maine. (more…)

Ethics Committee extends Vern Buchanan investigation

Posted on: March 23rd, 2012 by The American Independent 1 Comment

Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota (Pic via Facebook)

The U.S. House of Representative’s Committee on Ethics has decided to extend its investigation into Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla. According to a statement released today, the matter was transmitted to the Committee by the Office of Congressional Ethics on February 9, 2012.

The statement, in full, from the Committee on Ethics:

Pursuant to House Rule XI, Clause 3(a)(8)(A) and Committee Rules 17A(b)(1)(A) and 17A(c)(I), the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Committee on Ethics have jointly decided to extend the matter regarding Representative Vern Buchanan, which was transmitted to the Committee by the Office of Congressional Ethics on February 9, 2012.

The Committee notes that the mere fact of a referral or an extension, and the mandatory disclosure of such an extension and the name of the subject of the matter, does not itself indicate that any violation has occurred, or reflect any judgment on behalf of the Committee.

The Committee will announce its course of action in this matter on or before Wednesday, May 9, 2012.

Buchanan has been the subject of more than one investigation in recent years.

In 2009, the Federal Election Commission charged that Buchanan’s former business partner, Sam Kazran, and a dealership the two once co-owned had violated campaign laws by using funds from the company “to reimburse [dealership] employees, Kazran’s business partners, their family members and Kazran’s relatives for $67,900 in contributions to Buchanan’s 2006 and 2008 Congressional campaigns.”

Though Buchanan was never charged in the case, the FEC report reveals that many at the agency had doubts about his innocence. Both the Department of Justice and the Office of Congressional Ethics also launched investigations into the matter.

Last month, the details of an ethics investigation into discrepancies on Buchanan’s 2008-2011 financial disclosures were made public. According to its report, the board of the Office of Congressional Ethics recommended that the Committee on Ethics further review the allegations after finding “substantial reason to believe that Representative Buchanan violated House rules, standards of conduct, and federal law” during the course of its investigation.

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.

Minn. board opens investigation into marriage amendment supporters

Posted on: March 12th, 2012 by Andy Birkey No Comments

The Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board announced last week that it was launching an investigation into the campaign finance reporting of Minnesota for Marriage and the Minnesota Family Council. The two groups are working to pass a constitutional amendment in that state that would ban same-sex marriage. (more…)

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.”

Complaint alleges Minn. marriage amendment backers broke the law

Posted on: February 23rd, 2012 by Andy Birkey 8 Comments

Photo: New Yorkers celebrate the law legalizing gay marriage in June 2011 (source: Flickr/Zach Roberts).

A government watchdog group filed complaints on Wednesday with Minnesota’s campaign finance board alleging that two groups, the Minnesota Family Council and Minnesota for Marriage, violated the state’s campaign finance laws when they submitted reports to the state last month. Common Cause Minnesota said the groups “broke campaign laws” when they allegedly failed to disclose donors to an effort to pass a constitutional ban on gay marriage.