In a complaint filed with the FEC, the Campaign Legal Center claimed that former President Donald Trump`s campaign violated the rule by allegedly directing $769 million through American Made Media Consultants, a shell company that served as a channel to “launder funds” and “hide campaign transactions.” Cunningham and Tillis` candidate committees spent 72 percent and 63 percent of their total spending on screen strategies and onMessage, respectively, with little detailed accounting, according to OpenSecrets, a news site owned by campaign finance watchdog group Center for Responsive Politics. The Trump campaign reportedly used the shell company to hide the disbursement of funds and pay family members None of the Red Dome Group`s expenses for Dowless, nor any of its expenses for people collecting ballots, have been publicly disclosed. Financial disclosures from the Harris campaign to the FEC were limited to the Red Dome Group. ➂ Money influences politics. What is the question? For Fischer, the answer is clear: “We see again and again that the candidate who raises the most money wins in the overwhelming majority of elections. There are certainly exceptions to the rule, but for the most part, the candidate who raises the most money wins. Once the elections are over, incumbents will have to constantly fight for more money. Corruption is rare, Fischer said; Most donors and politicians are more demanding than that. But the influence is not: “A new member of Congress spends 30 hours a week fundraising, and that appeal time means that members interfere with donors, listen to their suggestions, feel special and valued, and when faced with a difficult vote, which could upset some of these donors, There will be a lot of pressure on an incumbent to side with the interests of its donors.
Keating urged reporters to be more skeptical about the power of political money. The so-called “black money” accounts for only about 5 percent of all campaign spending, he said. Among the candidates happy with the expenses that have run out lately are Michael Bloomberg, Jeb Bush and Tom Steyer. Hall, the former executive director of Democracy NC, said that if the FEC had required the disclosure of subcontractors, as required by the recent petition, the Harris campaign would have been tasked with disclosing the Red Dome Group`s major subcontractors, including Dowless. The FEC punished campaigns in these circumstances or when subcontractors did not have an “arm`s length” relationship with the campaign committee, the petition says. “Campaigns are becoming more and more expensive and more of the money goes through consultants,” Hall said. “It becomes even more urgent to get better disclosure because we`re essentially losing information about the campaigns they`re spending their money on.” The FEC allows campaigns to declare lump sums to subcontractors without naming individual expenses. Nevertheless, the Commission prohibits campaigns from using these companies as mere channels of money. ➃ The cost of elections has skyrocketed. Whatever the role of money in politics, there is no doubt that there is much more. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, whose website opensecrets.org is a favorite place for journalists, more than $14 billion was spent on the 2020 election — about twice as much as in 2016, with just over half spent on congressional campaigns, the rest on presidential campaigns.
The power of small donations has also been remarkable in recent years. So far in 2021, Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont, has the highest performance in the Senate, while the rest of the top 10 is divided between Republicans and Democrats. In the House of Representatives, Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) are No. 1 and No. 2 in small-dollar fundraising. Hall said the campaign`s disclosure has become more transparent in recent years, but some submissions still lack details. Hall pointed out that in 2020, Senator Joyce Krawiec, a Republican from Forsyth County and chair of the Senate Health Committee, reported several expenses of more than $100,000 on expenses whose goals were given only in the form of “threads” and “advertising.” But none of American Made`s ads for the Trump campaign appeared on Facebook, Google, Reddit or Snapchat, according to a report co-authored by Duke`s Scott Babwah Brennen. If the million-dollar media company didn`t buy ads on these mainstream platforms, he wonders where and if the money was spent.
It is still unclear where the U.S. media money went. While the FCC requires campaign committees and contractors to disclose expenses for radio and television advertising (and the stations themselves must keep records), there are no such rules for digital media. However, the current loophole in the law makes it “very difficult to identify violations of reporting obligations,” said Brendan Fischer, director of federal reform at the Campaign Legal Center. In 2018, the campaign of Mark Harris, a Republican candidate in Congressional 9th District, paid nearly $550,000 to the consulting firm Red Dome Group. The location of the money was not disclosed until an investigation by the Elections Office revealed that Red Dome paid more than $130,000 to Deputy Governor and political agent McCrae Dowless. This was based on Dowless`s $4 to $5 fee for each absentee vote request form it submitted, plus a monthly fee of $1,625, Policy Watch previously reported. What Screen Strategies Media and Onmessage did next with these sums is not known to the public. That doesn`t have to be the case. Current election laws allow political campaigns to channel their money through consulting firms, thus disguising the identity of the final beneficiaries – also known as “sub-suppliers” – of the funds. In the final two months of the 2020 general election, the campaign of Cal Cunningham, the Democratic candidate for a U.S. Senate seat in North Carolina, donated $25 million to consulting firm Screen Strategies Media, apparently for advertising.
➁ A case currently before the U.S. Supreme Court could change the campaign finance landscape. The case, Americans for Prosperity Foundation v. Bonta (see scotusblog review), does not deal directly with campaign funds. Instead, it challenges a California requirement that nonprofits submit a confidential copy of their donor lists to the state. The plaintiff, who is part of a network of conservative organizations linked to billionaire Charles Koch, says the requirement is unconstitutional. The link to campaign finance? If the plaintiffs win, the case could lay the groundwork for further erosion of public disclosure of individuals who donate to organizations that aim to influence voters. The case depends on a case from the 1950s that concluded that the NAACP did not have to comply with a similar disclosure rule adopted in Alabama because NAACP members in Jim Crow South were subjected to public or private harassment when their names were disclosed. “If the court buys these arguments, there is a real risk that this narrow exception. expanded to go beyond marginalized groups to include very wealthy and powerful donors who simply want to gain influence in secret without having to face any kind of public scrutiny or criticism for their political activity,” Fischer said. ➀ The upcoming voting rights legislation would also result in significant changes to campaign finance laws.
The huge For the People Act – H.R. 1 – received a lot of attention in 2021 for the changes it would bring to voting and reclassification. But it would also rewrite campaign finance laws. Brendan Fischer, who handles campaign finance issues for the Campaign Legal Center, said legislation passed by the House of Representatives but which has more difficult prospects in the Senate would strengthen disclosure laws, end so-called “black money,” restrict joint coordination between candidates and super-PACs and revise the Federal Election Commission. Fischer supports the law. David Keating, president of the Institute for Free Speech, who advocates for fewer regulations on campaign donations, rejects the provisions of H.R. 1, including those that change the composition of the FEC. Keating said it would give control to the president`s party — and thus the ability to pursue political enemies. At the moment, the FEC has a 50/50 credit. “It took a lot of work on our part and a lot of work on the part of several journalists to change the relationship between .
the Trump campaign and American Made, and it`s not, it`s just not possible in many cases,” Fischer said. ➄ Journalists must be looking for perennial stuffed animals. A panel of leading campaign finance journalists gave advice on how to avoid common and embarrassing mistakes. CNN`s Fredreka Schouten: On these crazy nights of campaign finance disclosure, make sure they`re fresh — not changes from previous reports. Michael Beckel of Issue One: Pay attention to double counting, such as when a campaign lists a credit card transaction and then also displays the payment of the monthly credit card bill. Washington Post`s Anu Narayanswamy: Watch for FEC disclosure forms on memo field; If there is an “X” in it, do not count this element.