RNC to Supreme Court: Strike Individual Campaign Contribution Limits

Few Americans would argue that they want to see more big money flowing into our political system.

Yet yesterday the Republican National Committee asked the Supreme Court to strike down limits on the total amount an individual donor can contribute to campaigns in a single election cycle, filing an opening brief in what is sure to be a high-profile Supreme Court case.  If the RNC and the Republican donor who together filed the case in Shaun McCutcheon, et al. v. Federal Election Commission are successful, the limit on aggregate individual contributions per cycle could jump from $117,000 to $3 million. 

As PFAW noted in February, this case threatens to be the next stage in the ongoing attack on our country’s democracy.  By calling for a gutting of our country’s campaign finance reform regulations, Republicans are ignoring the majority of Americans who believe there is already far too much big money being poured into our elections.

PFAW Foundation

RNC Calls Upon ALEC to Dismantle Campaign Finance Reform

The powerful right-wing organization, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has long claimed that it “respects diversity of thought” and that it is a “non-partisan policy resource for its members,” Democrats and Republicans alike.  Indeed, in a television interview with FOX news, an ALEC spokesperson once stated, “we have legislators of all political stripes coming together to talk about the most critical issues facing the states,” and adamantly defended the non-partisan nature of the organization.

It does not take much examination of ALEC policies, funders, or public-sector membership rolls to put these claims into true perspective. ALEC’ s right wing policies are so extreme that over 43 corporations – from Wal-Mart to General Electric – have cut ties with the organization.  As documented by the Center For Media and Democracy, more than 99% of ALEC’s public sector leaders are Republican lawmakers.  And a quick perusal of ALEC funding reveals that the same funders who back the network are also major sponsors of many Republican initiatives.

Yet what may be the most telling evidence of ALEC’s ties to the GOP emerged just this morning. Today, the Republican National Committee (RNC) released its wide-ranging “autopsy” report in response to the party’s disastrous 2012 elections. The report, entitled “Growth and Opportunity Project,” outlines a variety of policy recommendations including, among other base ideas, abolishing campaign spending regulations and contribution limits. In the report, the RNC specifically calls on ALEC to help develop and implement model legislation to “improve” these campaign finance laws.

The RNC places ALEC alongside the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC)  and the RNC as an organization that is well-suited to “improve” campaign finance laws and propagate them nationwide:

The RNC has called upon ALEC to do its bidding because it knows that ALEC is 100% in support of its anti-democratic agenda.  Beyond pushing for Voter ID laws and adopting restrictive registration requirements – like the registration requirements that ALEC adopted years ago as model policy and that today are being argued over in the Supreme Court – ALEC has a history of opposing campaign finance reform.  The organization has consistently opposed public financing of elections and even issued a resolution in favor of the Supreme Court’s disastrous 2010 Citizens United decision.

If ALEC and the GOP were truly interested in “improving” campaign finance laws, they would be pushing for greater oversight, not trying to dismantle what little there is left of campaign finance regulation in America.  If they really cared about American democracy, they would join the growing chorus of voices who are calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and enact free and fair elections.

Yet ALEC and the GOP care more about gaming the system and rewarding their corporate constituents than empowering the American people.  As today’s report makes perfectly clear, their pro-corporate and anti-voter agendas unmistakably go hand in hand.

 

** Public Policy Intern Kyler Geoffroy contributed to this blog post

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Supreme Court to Consider Allowing Even More Money into Campaigns

The Supreme Court today announced that it will hear a case that threatens to be the next stage in the Roberts Court's assault on our country's democratic foundations. Shaun McCutcheon, et al. v. Federal Election Commission is a lawsuit challenging federal caps on how much money an individual can contribute in the aggregate during a two-year campaign cycle. The "et al." in the title is the Republican National Committee.

To give you an idea of how extreme it is that the Court is hearing this case, consider this: The lower court ruling upholding the FEC's regulations was written by conservative DC Circuit judge Janice Rogers Brown, no friend to progressives.

Under current FEC rules, during each two-year period starting in an odd-numbered year, no individual may contribute more than an aggregate of $46,200 to candidates and their authorized committees or more than $70,800 to anyone else. Of that $70,800, no more than $46,200 may be contributions to political committees that are not national political party committees. As the Solicitor General noted in urging the Court not to hear the appeal, these caps serve to prevent people from circumventing the individual contribution limits. Without the aggregate caps, it would be too easy to funnel money among candidates and organizations in such a way as to let an individual exceed the base contribution limits. In fact, way back in 1976's Buckley v. Valeo, the Supreme Court upheld the aggregate caps as "no more than a corollary of the basic individual contribution limitation" to candidates or political committees.

McCutcheon and the RNC argue that if the current aggregate caps are valid under Buckley, then the Court should overrule that decision.

Judge Brown ended her decision with the following paragraph:

Plaintiffs raise the troubling possibility that Citizens United undermined the entire contribution limits scheme, but whether that case will ultimately spur a new evaluation of Buckley is a question for the Supreme Court, not us.

Given its history, the Roberts Court may well answer that question in a way that does great harm to our democracy.

PFAW Foundation

Wisconsin Voter ID Undermined by Ethics Violation

Defenders of Wisconsin’s Act 23 (aka AB 7), a voter ID law sponsored by ALEC affiliated legislators and signed by ALEC alum Scott Walker, were dealt a blow last week when State Representatives Robin Vos and Bob Ziegelbauer were forced to end their attempt to intervene in court on behalf of the law. The Government Accountability Board determined that they received legal services in a manner inconsistent with the state ethics code.

Representatives Vos, himself an ALEC State Chair, and Ziegelbauer previously refused to state where they received political funds to cover their legal fees, but yesterday a Republican National Committee spokesperson revealed that the RNC was footing the bill.

Scot Ross, One Wisconsin Now:

The RNC involvement in this state lawsuit clearly reveals a strategy to use Wisconsin state legislators as pawns to advance legislation to suppress voting and gain partisan advantage in this battleground state.

For more information, check out The Right to Vote under Attack: The Campaign to Keep Millions of Americans from the Ballot Box, a Right Wing Watch: In Focus report by PFAW Foundation.

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Yes, There is a War on Women

In an interview with Bloomberg today, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Preibus claimed that accusing the Republican Party of waging a “war on women” is as absurd as accusing them of a “war on caterpillars”:

“If the Democrats said we had a war on caterpillars and every mainstream media outlet talked about the fact that Republicans have a war on caterpillars, then we’d have problems with caterpillars,” Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt” airing this weekend. “It’s a fiction.”

Perhaps Preibus should listen to women in his own party before declaring the GOP’s war on women to be a “fiction.” Speaking in Alaska today, Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski was very clear that the war on women exists and is alienating female voters. According to the Huffington Post:

"It makes no sense to make this attack on women," she said at a local Chamber of Commerce luncheon, according to the Homer News. "If you don't feel this is an attack, you need to go home and talk to your wife and your daughters."

She also said that she would continue to support funding for Planned Parenthood, adding that the courts have affirmed a legal right to an abortion and she stands by that.

Murkowski criticized GOP presidential candidates for not condemning Rush Limbaugh for calling Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke a "slut" and a "prostitute," which he later apologized for. Fluke was rejected as a witness before a panel on the Obama contraception mandate chaired by House Oversight And Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) last February. (She spoke Thursday to HuffPost in a Q&A.)

"To have those kind of slurs against a woman … you had candidates who want to be our president not say, 'That's wrong. That's offensive.' They did not condemn the rhetoric," she said.
 

PFAW

RNC Figures Out the Best Way to Attack Obamacare: Lie

Yesterday, the Republican National Committee released a web ad featuring the voice of Solicitor General Donald Verrilli haltingly defending the Affordable Care Act. After saying that “For more than 80 percent of Americans, the, ah, insurance system does provide effective access,” Verrilli trails off, coughing and stuttering for an incredibly long time.

But as Bloomberg News revealed, the awkward silence isn’t credible. It’s entirely doctored. In the actual audio of the case, Verrilli pauses only briefly before continuing “But for more than 40 million who do not have access to health insurance, either through their employer or through government programs such as Medicare or Medicaid, the system does not work.

Tom Goldstein of SCOTUSblog calls it “the single most classless and misleading thing I’ve ever seen related to the Court,” and he’s right.  But it shouldn’t come as any surprise that this is the tack taken by the GOP. From day one, Republicans decided that the best way to oppose President Obama’s health care reform agenda was by lying about it. Whether it’s about death panels, rationed care or the Solicitor General’ performance before the Supreme Court, Republicans have made clear that there’s no lie they won’t tell in order to damage the president and frustrate his agenda.

After the Citizens United decision, we’ve seen outside groups pushing sleazy “Swift Boat” style attack ads. The fact that the RNC itself chose to push such a blatant lie only underscores how comfortable with dishonesty--and how desperate--the party has become.

Republican leaders, including presidential contenders who hope to lead the party, should renounce these dishonest attacks.

PFAW

Encouraged by Citizens United, Right-Wing Groups Demand Even More Corporate Influence in Politics

While the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United overturned decades of precedent by granting corporations the right to spend money from their corporate treasuries to help elect or defeat candidates, many pro-corporate activists believe that the ruling didn’t go far enough and seek to eviscerate even more restrictions on corporate money in elections. Opponents of campaign finance reform are spearheading efforts to allow corporations to contribute directly to candidates for office, permit political groups to keep the identity of their donors a secret, and loosen restrictions on foreigners contributing to candidates. The Supreme Court is also set to consider a major case on the constitutionality of Arizona’s clean elections laws that provide public financing for qualifying candidates. Politico reports on the Right’s “sustained assault” on campaign laws:

Not satisfied by the 2010 Supreme Court ruling that opened the floodgates to corporate-sponsored election ads, conservative opponents of campaign finance regulations have opened up a series of new legal fronts in their effort to eliminate the remaining laws restricting the flow of money into politics.

They have taken to Congress, state legislatures and the lower courts to target almost every type of regulation on the books: disclosure requirements, bans on foreign and corporate contributions and – in a pair of cases the Supreme Court will consider this month – party spending limits and public financing of campaigns.

The sustained assault, combined with the Supreme Court’s rightward tilt on the issue, has some advocates for reducing the role of money in politics fretting about the possibility of an irreversible shift in the way campaigns are regulated and funded that would favor Republicans and corporate interests in the 2012 presidential race and beyond.



“Depending on its scope, an adverse ruling from the high court could undermine public financing systems across the country and increase still further the grossly disproportionate voice given to corporations and unions in our elections,” warns a memo by Gerry Hebert and Tara Malloy, lawyers at the pro-regulation Campaign Legal Center, which filed a brief defending the Arizona law.

“Just a year after the controversial decision in Citizens United v. FEC, the Court is once again poised to issue a ruling that could make it harder for ordinary citizens to compete with big money in our democracy,” their memo predicted.

Opponents of campaign rules argue that removing restrictions allows more voices to compete in the political marketplace. And they have a slew of other suits pending that could dramatically alter the political money landscape, including one challenging a rule that limited how much the Republican National Committee could spend supporting the unsuccessful 2010 reelection campaign of former Rep. Joseph Cao (R-La.).

The Supreme Court is set to decide on Friday whether to hear the case which is being handled by Jim Bopp, a Republican lawyer and leading opponent of campaign restrictions. The impact of the Cao case “could be real big,” if the court overturns the so-called coordination limits at issue, predicted Bopp, who has dozens of cases pending in courts around the country.

One seeks to advance the Citizens United ruling by challenging an Iowa law banning direct corporate contributions to state candidates, while a pair of others dispute whether non-profit groups called the Committee for Truth in Politics and The Real Truth About Obama that aired ads critical of then-candidate Barack Obama had to disclose their donors or activity.
PFAW

Behind The Republican Money Web

Yesterday’s vote does not mean the end for the many Super PACs and shadowy political organizations that have emerged this election season. By raising hundreds of millions of dollars from individuals and corporations, often without having to disclose their sources of funding, these groups are able to maintain their political apparatus and prepare for the 2012 election. American Crossroads, the Karl Rove-linked Super PAC, is already crafting its role for the next election. Mike Duncan, the former head of the Republican National Committee and Chair of American Crossroads, told the New York Times, “We’ve planted the flag for permanence, and we believe that we will play a major role for 2012.”

Back in September, Time magazine discussed how pro-GOP groups such as American Crossroads and the American Action Network were working with Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, the former RNC chief and current head of the Republican Governors Association. Republican notables and fundraisers “first convened at Karl Rove’s home,” and became nicknamed “the Weaver Terrace group, named for the Washington street on which Rove lives.” American Crossroads and its sister group Crossroads GPS, which does not disclose its donors, spent over $38 million combined to attack Democrats, and the American Action Network spent close to $20 million this year.

Now with the election over, Politico reveals that pro-GOP groups, the US Chamber of Commerce, and the National Republican Congressional Committee (an official Republican Party wing) were intensely coordinating their political efforts. Other Weaver Terrace group members, such as the 60 Plus Association and the American Future Fund, spent tens of millions of dollars against Democrats, but the US Chamber of Commerce and the NRCC made even bigger expenditures, spending $31.7 million and $44.5 million, respectively. As Jeanne Cummings of Politico described how “coordinated attacks” by Weaver Terrace group members “turned political campaigns largely into contests between business-backed, GOP outside groups and the Democratic incumbents.” Pro-GOP outside groups spent $187 million in 2010, more than double their pro-Democratic counterparts, and Cummings reveals how the organizations collaborated in order to maximize their impact:

The groups – including familiar names like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and American Crossroads – shared their target lists and TV-time data to ensure vulnerable Democrats got the full brunt of GOP spending.

Republican groups had never coordinated like this before, participants said, and backed by millions in corporate cash and contributions by secret donors, they were able to wield outsized influence on the results Tuesday night. The joint efforts were designed to spread the damage to as many of the majority Democrats as possible, without wasting money by doubling-up in races where others were already playing.

The National Republican Congressional Committee, which could not legally coordinate with the outside groups, even took the extraordinary step of publicly revealing its own ad buy strategy.



The Chamber, which set aside $75 million in undisclosed corporate donations for the political season, is listed by Center for Responsive Politics as the biggest of independent players, investing nearly $33 million in radio, television and direct mail advertising alone.

Directly behind the Chamber on the Center’s outside group ranking is the coalition of groups formed by Rove and Gillespie. They are: American Action Network, which spent $26 million; American Crossroads, which invested $21 million, and Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, which sank $17 million into ads and turnout communications in a plan to obliterate the Democrats’ Senate and House majorities.

Although donors to the Crossroads affiliates are largely unknown, the founders made no secret of the fact that they intended to take advantage of the Supreme Court ruling and tap into the vast resources of corporate America to raise more than $50 million help Republicans retake the Congress.

While that sum alone was enough to make Democrats’ nervous, the Crossroads founders also set out a more ambitious goal: To bring together the disparate new and old GOP political players so they could coordinate their efforts and maximize the damage on the political battlefield.

Cummings also shows how this plan worked out over the airways in competitive congressional districts:

In Pennsylvania, the Republican groups called in multiple players to bombard a half-dozen House Democrats, including some facing significantly underfunded Republican opponents. In the quest to oust Democrat Chris Carney, 60 Plus and the Chamber combined to spend about $1 million. The 60 Plus Association teamed up with the Center for Individual Freedom, another group that doesn’t disclose donors, to shell incumbent Democrat Rep. Paul Kanjorski with more than $600,000 worth of ads.

The close collaboration of pro-corporate groups only increases the need for greater transparency in the political process. Americans this election have seen dozens if not hundreds of ads and received substantial amounts of direct mail and phone calls from groups who reveal little information about themselves and do not have to disclose their sources of funding. Voters deserve the right to know who is working towards the election or defeat certain candidates for office, and overwhelmingly support disclosure laws. As such organizations creating new partnerships and intensifying their coordination, Congress needs to pass the DISCLOSE Act to allow the public to know who is behind these outside groups.

 

 

PFAW

Despite Anti-Choice Health Care Attacks, RNC Covered Abortion Services Since 1991

Despite 176 House Republicans voting for the Stupak amendment that makes it nearly impossible for private insurance companies participating in the new healthcare system to cover abortion services, as of yesterday, the Republican National Committee provided employees with an insurance plan that covered elective abortion procedures. The plan has been available to RNC employees since 1991.

According to the insurance provider, Cigna, customers can opt out of elective abortion coverage, but the RNC did not do so. RNC Chairman Michael Steele has instructed staff to stop providing the coverage to RNC employees. Steele said, "I don't know why this policy existed in the past, but it will not exist under my administration. Consider this issue settled."

Not only will women lose coverage for abortion services under the Stupak amendment, but Republican support of the amendment has caused the RNC to strip employees of coverage as well.

PFAW