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[l] at 7/30/20 2:12pm
Kansas Rep. Sharice Davids (D-KS03) is a top target for Republicans this cycle.
(Whitney Curtis/Getty Images)

As Republicans look to take back Kansas’ 3rd Congressional district seat, two GOP candidates are finding financial and establishment support ahead of Tuesday’s primary.

Amanda Adkins — the former chairwoman of the Kansas Republican Party — is endorsed by a number of prominent conservatives, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-Fla.). So far, Adkins has raised $969,000 as of July 15 —  the most of the five candidates seeking the Republican nomination. She currently has $427,000 cash on hand. 

The former CEO of the National Down Syndrome Society, Sara Hart Weir labels herself as a consensus maker with proven results in Washington. She has raised $715,000 — $143,000 is her own cash — during her election bid. Weir currently has $323,000 left in the bank. Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.), who also serves as the recruitment chair for the district, endorsed Wier, along with a number of other former and current members of Congress.

Andrienne Vallejo Foster — former Roeland Park mayor — is the only other candidate to raise large sums for their campaign but trails the other two candidates. Since the start of her campaign, she has raised $371,000 and had only $35,000 cash on hand. Foster has been endorsed by a small number of former members of Congress and Kansas state legislators. 

The winner of the nomination will face Rep. Sharice Davids (D-Kan.) — and her $2.5 million war chest — in the general election. She has already spent $1.1 million this cycle.

In 2018, Davids rode the “blue wave” to victory in the district, which contains Kansas City and its surrounding suburbs. She won the seat with 54 percent of the vote, defeating incumbent Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-Kan.). 

The seat is one of a number of suburban-based districts that helped deliver Democrats the House of Representatives two years ago. It is more diverse and has a higher concentration of college graduates than other districts in the mostly red state. Now, the 2020 cycle will test the durability of Democratic gains made in suburbs across the country in 2018. The seat has been rated as a “lean Democratic” by Cook Political Report.

Although Adkins already has a significant fundraising lead, one super PAC — the only major outside spender in the race — has made big investments in her election bid — and the major donor is Adkins’ father.

The Kansas City Star reported that Alan Landes, Adkins’ father, contributed more than $113,000 to Heartland USA PAC, along with another $100,000 in contributions from other donors to help Adkins’ candidacy. As a single candidate super PAC, the group has spent over $213,000 backing Adkins.. The PAC released an attack ad against Weir, challenging her credentials as a true Republican, the Associated Press reported. Weir criticized the attack ad as sexist, and has attacked Adkins as a Washington insider. 

Members of Congress have also made their preferences known through contributions. Weir has received nearly $31,000 from leadership PACs, while these PACs have contributed $11,000 to Adkins. Weir has also received $77,000 from ideological groups, while Adkins has only raised $24,000. 

The post Republicans split over who should challenge freshman Democrat in Kansas appeared first on OpenSecrets News.

[Category: Election 2020, Amanda Adkins, Jeb Bush, KS-03, Markwayne Mullin, Sara Hart Weir, Ted Cruz]

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[l] at 7/30/20 11:06am
coronavirus Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

Controversial liability protections for businesses that are a top priority for the influential U.S. Chamber of Commerce are included in the Republican proposal for a second round of COVID-19 stimulus. It’s a move strongly opposed by the American Association for Justice, a powerful trade group representing trial lawyers who would theoretically represent plaintiffs in such cases. 

Both trade groups are among the most powerful lobbying forces on the Hill, with the Chamber generally supporting Republicans and the Association for Justice propping up Democrats.

A July 16 letter from the Chamber to President Donald Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the provision is necessary because “employers are confronting the possibility of unwarranted lawsuits related to COVID.”  A statement from the American Association for Justice released after Republicans unveiled their proposal said “businesses will be allowed to act unreasonably knowing they are immune from accountability,” adding that such behavior could “prolong the pandemic.” 

The immunity, laid out in a provision introduced by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), would only apply to businesses that make “reasonable efforts” to follow government safety guidelines, though whether those are state, city or federal guidelines is unclear. McConnell has said any stimulus bill without such liability protections would be a nonstarter. Democrats are expected to fight the measure, which led Trump to tell Fox News’ Chris Wallace In a July 20 interview that Democrats were “in the back pocket of trial lawyers.”

The Chamber of Commerce and the American Association for Justice are among the most powerful lobbying groups in the country. The Chamber has been the largest lobbying spender every year since 2001. The group has also contributed $436,000 to federal races in the 2020 cycle and spent nearly $2 million to air ads almost exclusively benefitting Republican candidates. 

The American Association for Justice is among the top 2 percent of lobbying spenders who have disclosed work on issues related to COVID-19 between April and July. The group’s PAC contributed over $1.5 million to Democratic federal candidates and gave nearly $300,000 to Democratic committees and $928,500 to other liberal groups. The PAC also bundled $484,000 for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in the second half of 2019, before the outbreak.

Another top Chamber priority adopted by Republicans is the cut to federal unemployment supplements. The Republican bill’s proposal slashes benefits even further than the Chamber proposed. If passed, expiring $600 unemployment supplements will be slashed to $200 until October. At that point, under the Republican proposal, benefits will be 70 percent of the receivers’ previous wages, a number even lower than the 80 to 90 percent suggested by the Chamber. The structure and timeline of the changes mirrors the Chamber’s proposal almost identically. 

The issue has emerged as one of the key sticking points between Democrats and Republicans, as GOP infighting and stalled negotiations threaten swift passage in the Senate. Expanded unemployment benefits expire Friday, with around 30 million people nationwide currently collecting payments and more than one in 10 people out of work.

Republicans did not take several other suggestions from the Chamber that have received bipartisan support. Notably absent is increased funding for state and local governments that have been hit hard by the pandemic. An earlier stimulus proposal from House Democrats included $875 billion for local governments. The Democratic proposal, which suggests $3 trillion in federal spending compared to the $1 trillion proposed by Republicans, passed the House in May but is not being considered by the Republican controlled Senate.

The Republican proposal also did not address a Chamber request for increased funding for job training. Negotiations over the stimulus package have stalled. Both Democratic and Republican leadership have accused each other of refusing to cooperate. And Republican infighting over certain provisions, like earmarking $1.75 billion for a new FBI building, a presidential priority, seem to have dashed McConnell’s hopes of a swift vote in the Senate.

The post Influential lobbying groups battle over GOP coronavirus liability proposal appeared first on OpenSecrets News.

[Category: Influence & Lobbying, American Association for Justice, coronavirus, Ian Karbal, John Cornyn, lawyers, Mitch McConnell, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. Chamber of Commerce]

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[l] at 7/30/20 9:00am
Tom Cotton Senator Tom Cotton (Tom Brenner/Getty Images)

A “dark money” group launched by allies of Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) is spending on digital attack ads targeting incumbent Democrats facing reelection in congressional districts President Donald Trump won in 2016.

America One Policies was launched by Cotton’s former aide and allies in July 2019 with Cotton facing re-election in 2020.

A representative of America One Policies told Arkansas news outlet Talk Business & Politics the group planned to raise $2 million in the 2020 election cycle for “advocacy efforts around conservative issues, such as national security and free enterprise, which could help other federal and state Republican candidates on issue messaging.” But the 501(c)(4) nonprofit was not officially approved for IRS tax exempt status until May 2020 and filed a tax return disclosing that it did not raise or spend more than $50,000 before the end of 2019, its first year in operation.

Months after Cotton allies created the dark money group, Cotton’s Democratic challenger dropped out and the Arkansas Democratic Party announced that there was no legally-allowed path to replace him since Arkansas’ filing deadline had passed. That freed America One Policies to spend on races beyond Cotton’s Senate contest. 

Cotton, a strong Trump supporter, is widely speculated to be a potential 2024 presidential candidate. As Cotton’s controversial statements about the coronavirus pandemic and U.S.-China policy increased his national profile, the dark money group began ramping up spending in key races across the nation as well. 

Since it started buying digital ads in mid-June, America One Policies has quickly poured more than $36,000 into digital ads on Google and Facebook attacking House Democrats on China and the coronavirus pandemic ahead of 2020 elections. A sixth of that went to Facebook ads in the last week alone, according to digital ad spending analyzed by OpenSecrets.

Multiple ads bankrolled by America One Policies target House Democrats running for re-election in districts where Trump won by multiple points, consistent with the Republican Party game plan to flip the House by targeting Democrats in districts Trump won by a wide margin in the 2016 election.

Attack ad targets are largely freshman House Democrats elected in “blue wave” of the 2018 midterm elections such as Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.), who represents Michigan’s 8th District where Trump won by nearly 7 points, and Rep. Anthony Brindisi (D-N.Y.), who won his House seat in by less than 2 points in 2018 in a district Trump won by 15 points two years earlier.

The dark money group also targeted Rep. Jared Golden (D-Maine), the first challenger to unseat an incumbent in Maine’s 2nd District since 1916 in the first trial of the state’s ranked-choice voting system in congressional elections. Trump won the district with more than a 10-point margin in 2016 but the stakes of the presidential election are especially high in Maine, which is one of two states that allocates electoral votes by district. 

The group’s digital ads also target Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) in Minnesota’s 7th District where Trump won by a whopping 31 points in 2016.

The attack ads are nearly indistinguishable and follow the same script but customized to target different Democratic candidates, calling on viewers to tell each candidate “to hold Communist China accountable.”

In addition to House Democrats, America One Policies’s Facebook ads also target Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ga.) with a generic version of the attack ad targeting “Congress” instead of naming a specific candidate.

Dark money groups often create series of nearly identical ads framed as “issue advocacy” to skirt Federal Election Commission disclosure rules. The FEC does not require spending on attack ads that stop short of using words like “vote for” or “vote against” to be reported by dark money groups if the ads are only promoted on digital platforms even if they are purchased in the window before elections when spending on TV ads containing the same content would be required to be disclosed. 

Because America One Policies’ digital ads attack candidates without explicitly advocating for their election or defeat, the dark money group’s spending may never be disclosed to the FEC. 

America One Policies was incorporated by Jonathan Hiler, Cotton’s former Senate legislative director and a former adviser to Vice President Mike Pence. Hiler is a Trump appointee on the U.S. Naval Academy Board of Visitors who simultaneously works as a lobbyist at Miller Strategies, a lobbying firm created by a top Trump fundraiser days after his inauguration that has seen its earnings continue to surge. Hiler’s lobbying clients range from Apple and General Electric to the Blackstone Group.

The dark money group’s directors include Ted Dickey, a real estate fund manager at CDFP Capital Management and CapRocq who was recently appointed to the University of Arkansas System board of trustees.

The registered agent listed in America One Policies’ incorporation records is Cogency Global, a firm that received payments from conservative political groups reported in FEC filings and has a history of ties to other dark money operations

The group’s website is largely centered around issue pages such as “prosperity through security,” which promotes increased spending of federal government funds on the military and opposes “Communist China.” The website includes a “news” page that posts and links to articles by various authors originally published on other sites that largely support the viewpoints described in its other “issue” pages, which largely reflect Cotton’s hardline stance on China. 

The post ‘Dark money’ group tied to Tom Cotton targets Democrats in Trump-won districts appeared first on OpenSecrets News.

[Category: 2020 election, 501(c)4), 501cs, America One Policies, Anna Massoglia, arkansas, bundlers, china, Cogency Global, coronavirus, dark money, digital ads, Donald Trump, facebook, Facebook ads, general electric, google, google ads, issue ads, Mike Pence, Miller Strategies, political nonprofits, swing states, tom cotton, Trump Campaign]

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[l] at 7/29/20 12:36pm
Kansas Senate (Captured via YouTube: “Lose” – Plains PAC)

Outside groups are injecting over $10 million into Kansas’ Senate race to blanket the airwaves with inflammatory ads aimed at influencing Republican primary voters.

About two-thirds of that spending comes from groups that won’t disclose their donors before the Aug. 4 election takes place. That’s because “pop-up” super PACs tied to both parties are abusing loopholes in election law to keep their sources of funding secret from primary voters. 

Mysterious and misleading ad blitzes center around Republican candidate Kris Kobach. The former Kansas secretary of state lost the 2018 governor’s race to Democrat Laura Kelly, and Republicans fear his nomination would put the deep-red Senate seat in play. Democrats are attempting to prop up Kobach over the GOP establishment’s preferred candidate, Rep. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), while Republicans are doing the opposite. 

A new group called Sunflower State PAC spent $3.2 million airing ads attacking Marshall as a “creature of the D.C. swamp” while touting Kobach as the true conservative in the race. But the super PAC appears to be affiliated with Democrats, as it uses the same ad buyer as Unite the Country, an outside group supporting Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden.

Sunflower State launched its first anti-Kobach ad on July 15, placing it just within the pre-primary reporting period where the super PAC would have to disclose its donors. The group swiftly notified the Federal Election Commission it would report its donors on a monthly basis. This way, Sunflower State does not have to disclose its sources of funding until Aug. 20, well after primary voters make their choice. This strategy deprives primary voters of access to information they could use to judge the legitimacy — and the motives — of groups behind these political messages. 

One week earlier, a new group called Plains PAC emerged to attack Kobach on the airwaves, calling him a “failed candidate” and linking his campaign to white nationalists. Using Republican campaign consultants and ad buyers, the super PAC has spent $3.3 million to oppose Kobach. One of the group’s most recent ads references Democrats’ apparent attempt to boost the controversial Republican.

“Democrats are spending millions to help Kris Kobach win the Republican primary. They know Kobach would lose our Republican Senate seat,” the narrator says. 

Plains PAC aired its first ad on July 7. Like Sunflower State, the Republican-linked super PAC told the FEC it would report its donors monthly, thus avoiding disclosing that information until long after Election Day.

This isn’t the first time this cycle that a party-linked outside group has meddled in the other party’s primary election. The Senate Leadership Fund, connected to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), injected $2 million into a group that spent $2 million trying to influence the Democratic Senate primary in North Carolina. Using a pop-up PAC that didn’t disclose its donors until after the election, national Democrats responded by spending $4.5 million to help get their preferred nominee, Cal Cunningham, through the finish line.

The Senate Leadership Fund also jumped into the Kansas race last week with a $1.2 million ad campaign backing Marshall. 

Democratic state Sen. Barbara Bollier is expected to face off with the Republican nominee. Like many other Democrats battling for a Senate seat, she is breaking fundraising records and has far more money than Republicans in the race. Bollier has raised $7.8 million, with 68 percent of her fundraising coming from outside Kansas. Bollier is running as if Kobach is already the Republican nominee, often running online ads that show a poll of her narrowly beating Kobach in a head-to-head matchup.

Kobach raised less than $934,000 through mid-July and had just $136,000 in the bank. Marshall is faring better, raising $2.7 million with $1 million on hand. Another Republican candidate, businessman Bob Hamilton, poured $3.5 million of his own money into his Senate bid. 

Marshall has the establishment endorsements and substantial outside support. In addition to the party-linked super PACs, Keep Kansas Great PAC has spent $472,000 to support Marshal over his primary opponents. That group is funded by an obscure Kansas company, the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons and the PAC of a Sioux Falls, S.D., biofuel company, among others. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce added $329,000 in “dark money” spending to praise Marshall on the airwaves. Republicans in Congress have lined up to support Marshall. Retiring Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) endorsed Marshall as his replacement last week. 

“I believe Roger Marshall will continue the fight for the same issues that ensured my re-election for the last 40 years,” Roberts wrote, stressing Marshall’s electability in the general election. 

Kobach has supporters of his own beyond Democrats who think Bollier could beat him in November. Billionaire venture capitalist Peter Thiel, a major backer of President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, is bankrolling a pro-Kobach group. Free Forever PAC has spent $1.1 million attacking Marshall and boosting Kobach. The anti-tax Club for Growth Action also launched a six-figure ad campaign attacking Marshall earlier this year.

The post Pop-up super PACs hide donors as they influence GOP Kansas Senate primary appeared first on OpenSecrets News.

[Category: GOP, Kansas, Kansas Senate, karl evers-hillstrom, Kobach, KSS1, meddle, pop-up, Roger Marshall, senate, super PAC]

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[l] at 7/28/20 11:38am
drones (Missy Ryan/ The Washington Post via Getty Images)

The White House last week announced loosened restrictions on the sales of certain military-grade drones to foreign countries, benefiting some powerful defense companies. 

The decision primarily impacts Northrop Grumman and General Atomics, two drone manufacturers that may now sell some of their unmanned aircrafts abroad under less stringent rules. Northrop Grumman is the largest lobbying spender in the defense aerospace industry. General Atomics, the fourth-largest industry spender, manufactures the MQ-9 Reaper used in the January airstrike that killed Iranian military leader Qassim Soleimani and can now be sold abroad with less scrutiny.

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, the drone division of the larger company, spent $270,000 on lobbying between April and June. This accounted for about 20 percent of all lobbying spending by General Atomics and its other subsidiaries. While both General Atomics and the company’s drone division had their most expensive six-month period to date, General Atomics’ second-quarter spending of $1.4 million, trailed the previous quarter and the same period last year. The larger company deploys 35 lobbyists, 15 dedicated to its unmanned aircraft division. Of the total, 21 are “revolvers” who previously held positions in government. 

Lobbying disclosures show that General Atomics lobbyists worked on issues related to foreign weapon sales and unmanned aircraft in the first half of this year.

Northrop Grumman, which manufactures the RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aircraft, spent $7.3 million on lobbying so far in 2020, though the firm has seen a general decrease in lobbying since 2017, lining up with an industry-wide trend. This year, the firm deployed 49 lobbyists, with 36 revolvers, including some with ties to the Department of Defense and the White House. 

President Donald Trump’s unilateral move was accomplished without legislation. It reinterprets nonbinding guidelines set by the Missile Technology Control Regime, a voluntary partnership of 35 countries, including the U.S., established in 1987 to slow the proliferation of missile technology. 

Trump sought to loosen international restrictions on drones since at least 2017, as reported by Defense News, which also broke the news of last week’s change in U.S. guidelines. A press release from the White House said “these outdated standards give an unfair advantage to countries outside of the MTCR and hurt United States industry.” 

The primary drone sellers that don’t abide by the pact are China and Israel. The release also stressed that the U.S. was not breaking compliance with the international guidelines despite reinterpreting them, and that “exports continue to be subject to rigorous review.”

The military technology pact guidelines include restrictions on sales of slower-flying drones capable of carrying large payloads over 186 miles. While such sales are possible, they are rare and subject to intense scrutiny by pact partner governments overseeing the sale. 

Critics such as Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, say the new rules could give other countries leeway to also reinterpret the Missile Technology Control Regime rules as they see fit. A Thursday statement from Menendez said “to disregard this policy now is likely to undermine the credibility and influence of the MTCR more generally, which also coordinates international controls on the sale and spread of dangerous ballistic missiles and technology around the world.”

The post Trump’s new rules on drone sales benefit influential defense contractors appeared first on OpenSecrets News.

[Category: Influence & Lobbying, defense, defense aerospace, Donald Trump, drones, General Atomics, Ian Karbal, lobbying, Missile Technology Control Regime, MTCR, Northrop Grumman]

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[l] at 7/28/20 9:25am
Indiana Democrats see a pickup opportunity in the wake of the impending retirement of Rep. Susan Brooks of Indiana. (Photo by GREG NASH/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Indiana is considered the “crossroads of America” — the state people don’t go to, but go through. But in one of the most conservative states outside the Deep South, House Democrats see an opportunity to expand their ranks in Indiana’s 5th Congressional District

The race pits Republican state Sen. Victoria Spartz against former Democratic state Rep. Christina Hale in a battle for the suburban district. If fundraising numbers were votes, Democrats would already hold the advantage. From April to June, Hale raised about $535,000, nearly doubling Spartz’s $279,000.

Spartz’s background as an immigrant from then-socialist Ukraine is central to her campaign in an effort to brandish her support for the free market and entrepreneurship. She was appointed to her state Senate seat in 2017. 

Hale takes a bipartisan approach in her election bid, focusing on kitchen table issues and her bipartisan record in Indiana’s legislature. Over 60 of her bills passed in the state House during her four-year tenure, even as Democrats only controlled a third of seats in the chamber.

In June, Spartz sailed to victory in the Republican primary, receiving 40 percent of the vote in a crowded 15-person field. Hale received 41 percent of the vote in her five-way race. 

Rep. Susan Brooks (R-Ind.) has represented the district since 2013. She shocked many members of her conference with her retirement, citing her belief in term limits, though she vowed to help keep the district in Republican hands, Politico reported. She won the district, which covers the northside of Indianapolis and its suburbs, by 14 points in 2018. The seat has a Cook Partisan Voter Index of R+9, and the Cook Political Report rates the 2020 race as a “toss up.” 

Democrats see the suburban shift toward their party in 2018 as a sign that, without an incumbent, this traditionally Republican district could be delivered to Democrats this cycle, the Indianapolis Star reported

Hale has raised a total of $1.5 million since the start of the campaign, compared to Spartz’s $1.3 million. Hale finished the quarter with over $726,000 cash on hand, while Spartz only had $170,000 in the bank. 

Spartz self-financed a large majority of the funds used in her election bid. A little more than $1 million — or 78 percent — of Spartz’s campaign funding has been loaned by the candidate herself. 

Other than herself, Spartz only has one other major group backing her campaign — the conservative power-house Club for Growth. Club for Growth has directed nearly $38,000 in conduit donations to Spartz. 

A majority of Hale’s cash raised — 66 percent — came from inside Indiana, while Spartz barely misses the majority marker, receiving just under half of her fundraising haul from in-state. 

For Hale, ideological and single issue groups have been critical to her fundraising success. EMILY’s List, a group dedicated to electing more pro-choice women to Congress, has raised $46,000 for her campaign from individual donors and gave $10,000 from its PAC. Labor unions have also lent their financial support to Hale, having given more than $82,000. 

Ideological groups are not taking a backseat in the race for endorsements either. Each candidate has received ringing endorsements from conservative and liberal organizations alike. 

Hale has been endorsed by gun rights groups, such as Moms Demand Action and Giffords PAC. She has also received support from Planned Parenthood Action Fund and NARAL Pro-Choice America, prominent women’s groups. The Latino Victory Fund and Bold PAC also endorsed Hale, who would become the state’s first Latina to serve in Congress. 

Spartz has been endorsed by hallmark conservative organizations. Indiana Right to Life and the National Rifle Association have both endorsed her. Spartz also received the endorsement of legendary Notre Dame University football coach Lou Holtz.

The post Democrats eye quickly changing district in ruby-red Indiana appeared first on OpenSecrets News.

[Category: Election 2020, Christina Hale, IN05, indiana, latino victory fund, Susan Brooks, Victoria Spartz, Zamone Perez]

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[l] at 7/24/20 2:19pm
K Street (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Total lobbying spending slipped during the second quarter of 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic ravaged the nation and lawmakers failed to find middle ground on how best to address its devastating consequences.

From April through June, lobbying spending totaled $821 million, according to OpenSecrets’ initial review of second quarter filings. That’s significantly less than the near $860 million total shelled out during the same period last year. 

Despite the drop-off, each of the top lobbying firms actually increased their revenue thanks to an influx of new clients. That disconnect suggests clients are looking to established, well-connected K Street powerhouses to navigate a Washington in crisis. 

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Second-quarter lobbying spending dropped to its lowest level since President Donald Trump took office. It also dipped far below the first quarter of 2020, when lobbying spending reached a record-breaking $938 million. Spending is typically higher in the first quarter, but this kind of drop is unprecedented. 

Even so, each of the top 20 highest-paid lobbying firms increased their second quarter revenue over the same period last year. Together that relatively small collection of firms raked in $117 million over three months as their clients sought to influence Congress and the Trump administration. 

Topping the list nearly every year, Akin, Gump and Brownstein, Hyatt brought in $12.5 and $12.3 million, both record second-quarter revenues for the influential K Street firms. Veteran firm Holland & Knight increased its second quarter revenue to nearly $7.2 million over $6 million this time last year. Each of those firms signed 20 or more new clients since April. 

Lobbying firms that market their close ties with President Trump also enjoyed massive jumps in revenue. Ballard Partners saw its year-over-year revenue rise to $6.5 million from $4.7 million last year, signing 25 new clients since April. Run by prolific Trump fundraiser Brian Ballard, the company ranks among the top firms despite deploying only eight registered lobbyists.

American Continental Group, run by Trump campaign adviser David Urban, brought in $4.4 million, its best quarter to date. Miller Strategies, whose top lobbyist has raised millions for Trump’s reelection campaign, increased its year-over-year haul to $3.4 million from $2.1 million. 

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Established K Street firms and lobbying shops with close ties to Trump are thriving. Clients shelled out $418 million in lobbying contracts to outside firms, the highest second quarter mark on record. However, overall lobbying spending dropped because companies, trade associations and other groups reduced their spending on their own internal government affairs departments. Self-reported lobbying spending totaled $560 million, down from $621 million this time last year.

Groups spending less include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the annual top lobbying spender. The Chamber is pushing to get payroll tax cuts and COVID-19 liability protections for businesses included in the next relief package. The powerful business group failed to get many of its priorities in the CARES Act when it spent $22 million on lobbying to start the year. The Chamber spent a relatively low $15 million in the second quarter of 2020, a year-over-year drop of almost $3 million. Senate Republicans’ proposal does not include a payroll tax cut, which would do nothing to help millions of unemployed Americans.

The $2.2 trillion CARES Act was the second most-lobbied bill of all time, drawing clients from every major industry, and lawmakers were under heavy pressure to pass bipartisan legislation quickly. Congress is being far more careful — and sluggish — with its next stimulus package. 

“This package is more methodical,” Rich Gold, public policy and regulation group leader at Holland & Knight, told the Hill. “I also think staff are definitely more in the heavy vetting stage because these programs are more mature now. They really want to make sure what you’re asking for, there’s more opposition to it. Which is both right and good.”

Many influential industry groups did not get what they asked for in the first round of COVID-19 relief packages. House Democrats passed their own $3 trillion relief package in May but Republican leaders in the Senate flatly rejected the bill. Senate Republicans and the White House have largely negotiated the next stimulus package — expected to cost $1 trillion — without input from Democrats. The urgency to pass legislation comes as millions of Americans who lost their jobs due to COVID-19 could lose expanded unemployment benefits if Congress doesn’t extend them.

Researcher Dan Auble contributed to this report.

The post Second quarter lobbying spending falls off but top K Street firms still thrive appeared first on OpenSecrets News.

[Category: Influence & Lobbying, firms, K Street, karl evers-hillstrom, lobbying, Q2, second quarter, spending, trump]

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[l] at 7/23/20 9:20am
loans (Igor Golovniov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Government rescue loans meant for struggling small businesses went to a number of well-connected firms whose executives are major contributors to lawmakers’ campaigns and political parties. 

Employees and PACs connected to firms that received loans under the Paycheck Protection Program — and in some cases the companies themselves — contributed at least $52 million to federal committees during the 2020 election cycle. Republicans and conservative groups got $27 million from these donors, while Democrats and liberal groups received $24 million. That’s according to OpenSecrets’ analysis of partial loan data released by the Small Business Administration this month.

OpenSecrets found that employees linked to roughly 4,800 businesses made political donations of $1,000 or more during the 2020 election cycle. That’s a small slice of the 650,000 businesses disclosed as receiving a loan of $150,000 or more.

Congress authorized PPP to help businesses keep employees on their payroll amid the devastating COVID-19 pandemic. While many small businesses waited on loans during the program’s rollout, larger companies with access to big banks got loans first. Powerful lobbying firms, hedge funds and real estate companies received aid while tens of thousands of small businesses closed for good. Some small businesses still haven’t received a loan, and parts of the country are nearing Great Depression levels of unemployment. 

The $670 billion loan program is so widespread that it’s not surprising to see political donors’ companies get access to it. Companies run by donors to President Donald Trump were among the first to receive loans, but there is no concrete evidence that the small business loan program prioritized political donors.

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Party committees boosting Republican candidates — typically a top target of business owners aiming to gain influence with the party — are among the top recipients of donors whose firms got PPP loans. Although Trump’s Republican National Committee is the top recipient, presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden received more campaign cash from these donors than Trump. 

Biden is boosted by Morgan & Morgan, a Florida personal injury law firm whose employees gave $437,000 to his campaign. The firm’s founder hosted an extravagant fundraiser for the former vice president during the early days of his White House bid. Morgan & Morgan, which says it employs more than 500 experienced lawyers, pulled in several PPP loans meant for struggling small businesses. Its Tampa location received a loan worth at least $5 million while its Fort Myers and Jacksonville locations each received loans worth at least $2 million.

A subsidiary of Ryan LLC, a Texas-based consulting and tax firm with thousands of employees, pulled in a PPP loan worth over $150,000. Its employees have given $439,000 to Republican committees during the 2020 election cycle. The firm’s advocacy arm employs Jeff Miller, an ascendant lobbyist with close ties to President Trump who has raised over $2.7 million for Trump’s reelection campaign. 

Top lawyers at another Texas-based firm, Baron & Budd, held a fundraiser for Biden last year, and the company’s employees gave $250,000 to Democrats. It received a loan worth at least $2 million. Another PPP loan of at least $350,000 went to New York personal injury law firm Kramer Dillof Livingston & Moore. Late last year, the firm gave $100,000 from its corporate reserves to Unite the Country, the only super PAC supporting Biden’s presidential bid at the time. 

That’s one of a few cases of companies injecting corporate funds directly into outside groups backing campaigns of lawmakers or presidential candidates before getting a forgivable loan funded by taxpayers.

Vital Pharmaceuticals, the company behind Bang Energy drink, got a PPP loan worth at least $5 million in early April as the program dolled out its first batch of loans. Last year the company gave $250,000 in corporate money to Trump’s preferred super PAC, America First Action

The Cooperative of American Physicians, a California medical malpractice insurance firm, received a loan of at least $2 million. The company poured nearly $943,000 directly into its own super PAC, which spends six to seven figures backing its preferred California lawmakers every election cycle. 

Among other PPP recipients, the Center for Popular Democracy contributed $113,000 in nonprofit funds to New Florida Majority, a PAC that supported Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) in the Democratic primary. New Orleans transportation company Harvey Gulf International Marine — backed by a loan of more than $5 million — gave $100,000 in corporate funds to Make Louisiana Great Again, a super PAC supporting area Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.). 

Federally recognized Native American tribes, which are allowed to donate corporate money to candidates and parties under individual contribution limits, also received aid after spending big on politics. The Pechanga Band of Luiseno Mission Indians in California, Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians and the extremely wealthy Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community in Minnesota are among tribes that gave big to political parties affiliated with congressional Democrats and Republicans before taking PPP loans. The Oneida Indian Nation in New York made a $200,000 donation to Senate Majority PAC, a super PAC affiliated with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). The Small Business Administration allowed tribal gaming operations to apply for PPP loans in April after tribes pushed for aid. 

The Small Business Administration released unclear guidance about the program and didn’t enforce some of its own rules. Investment firms were not supposed to be included in PPP, but many took loans anyway. Texas hedge fund Kleinheinz Capital Partners — whose owner is a major donor to Trump and Republican party committees — received a loan worth upwards of $150,000 in early April. 

Companies tied to lawmakers and government officials also received loans thanks to a Small Business Administration waiver that allowed them to bypass ethics rules. Rep. Susie Lee (D-Nev.) pushed for the program to include casinos, allowing her husband’s Las Vegas casino company to receive millions in loans. 

The loan program’s effectiveness is difficult to gauge because the data released earlier this month was riddled with errors. Companies reported inconsistent numbers of jobs saved thanks to the program, and banks that handled PPP loans found that the government data differed from their numbers. 

Now Congress and the Trump administration are negotiating another stimulus package as expanded unemployment benefits near their expiration date with millions still out of work and widespread testing issues persist. Washington leaders are expected to pass a $1 trillion bill that will include increased funding for testing and schools and pay for another batch of PPP loans.

Disclosure: The Center for Responsive Politics received a Paycheck Protection Program loan worth $285,100.

The post Political donors whose businesses got PPP loans injected $52 million into 2020 election appeared first on OpenSecrets News.

[Category: Election 2020, biden, coronavirus, COVID-19, donors, karl evers-hillstrom, loans, Paycheck Protection Program, PPP, RNC, stimulus, trump]

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[l] at 7/22/20 2:28pm
Qanon (captured via Youtube)

On June 8, the day before Republican candidate Marjorie Taylor Greene secured the most votes in Georgia’s 14th District House primary, KochPAC, the political action committee of Koch Industries, contributed $5,000 to her campaign. 

The PAC, affiliated with Koch Industries CEO and conservative megadonor Charles Koch, requested a refund of its donation within weeks. 

The reversal came after Greene was scrutinized by media and politicians for previous racist comments and support for the QAnon conspiracy theory. The move came as the Koch network was in the throes of a rebrand, reflecting a focus on unity over partisanship. Koch has pushed this new idea for months amid criticism of the Republican Party under President Donald Trump

Greene is headed to an Aug. 11 runoff after earning 41 percent of the vote in the nine-way primary, more than double that of her runoff rival, neurosurgeon John Cowan. The winner of the Republican primary fight to replace retiring Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ga.) will likely take the deep red district’s House seat in November. 

Greene’s second quarter KochPAC donation came after photos emerged of her posing with known neo-Nazi leader Chester Doles and members of right-wing militia groups, as well as her vocal support for the QAnon conspiracy theory. According to David Dziok, the director of communications at Koch industries, the PAC leaders were unaware of Greene’s controversial history. 

“Upon learning of Ms. Greene’s comments last month, we immediately requested a refund of our contribution,” Dziok said in an email. “We do not condone such harmful and divisive rhetoric, and we deeply regret our decision to contribute. KOCHPAC is committed to supporting candidates and lawmakers who are dedicated to helping people improve their lives, not hurting and dividing us.”

The PAC donation came days after Greene’s campaign earned national news coverage when one of her ads was pulled from Facebook for “inciting violence.” In the ad, an AR15-wielding Greene threatened “ANTIFA terrorists,” and tied the movement to Democratic megadonor George Soros, who frequently figures in anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, as well as “Hollywood elites” and presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s campaign. Several outlets, including OpenSecrets, were already reporting on Greene’s QAnon support and racist comments.

Greene’s committee did not respond to requests for clarification, and KochPAC representatives did not respond to follow up questions about the state of the refund or how the PAC decided to contribute to Greene in the first place.

Several primarily conservative fundraising groups are supporting Greene, who has been disavowed by House GOP leaders for racist comments made in Facebook and YouTube videos that first earned Greene a viral following.

Despite leadership’s rejection, the House Freedom Fund, the House Freedom Caucus’ PAC, has directed over $70,000 in earmarked contributions to Greene’s campaign and made its own $5,000 contribution. Contributions continued even after Freedom Caucus member Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.) publicly denounced Greene on Facebook, calling some of the candidate’s statements “appalling and deeply troubling.” The House Freedom Fund has also made $35,000 in outside expenditures supporting Greene. Even after Hice spoke out against the candidate, the House Freedom Fund still lists Greene on its website as an endorsed candidate.

Trump has also voiced support for Greene. On June 11, he called Greene “a big winner” after her primary. Trump and Greene share a lawyer in former White House Counsel Stefan Passantino. 

Other lawmakers have also backed Greene. Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), founder of the House Freedom Caucus, and Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) have endorsed her. Recent FEC filings show that Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) gave $1,000 to Greene’s campaign after she led primary voting and major news outlets reported on her espoused racism. A leadership PAC associated with White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows also contributed to her campaign in March.

Gun rights groups are also supporting Greene. The National Association for Gun Rights and Gun Owners of America, lobbying groups that both claim millions of civilian members and have positioned themselves to the right of the National Rifle Association, endorsed her and their PACs contributed $1,000 and $5,000 to her campaign, respectively. Neither have responded to questions about whether they were aware of the candidate’s controversial statements before endorsing her.

The Right Women PAC, which supports conservative women running for Congress also endorsed Greene. The PAC spent $17,500 before the primary opposing Cowan, Greene’s rival in the upcoming runoff.

This quarter Cowan outraised Greene $62,000 to $12,000 in contributions from PACs, including Republican Leadership PACs, suggesting broader party support, including in Georgia. Committees associated with eight congressional Republicans, led by House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and including Georgia Reps. Buddy Carter and Austin Scott all contributed to Cowan’s campaign. Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and Georgia State House Rep. Bert Reeves also contributed to Cowan. 

Greene still raised more overall, largely through a $200,000 to her own campaign, bringing her self-financing total to $900,000. Cowan put $100,000 to his own campaign this quarter, adding to another $100,000 before the primary. For Greene, self-financing makes up 60 percent of her total fundraising. Small donations make about 15 percent of her fundraising total.

This cycle, there are more than 60 QAnon promoting candidates who have run for federal office, according to reporting released by liberal nonprofit Media Matters. Thirteen have already secured spots on November’s ballot, though none seem to have earned the wide support from established political groups that Greene has. Eighteen of the QAnon-promoting candidates have yet to face primaries, and 29 have already lost or dropped out.

Another Georgia House candidate, Angela Stanton-King, has also made multiple social media posts promoting the QAnon conspiracy theory, according to the New York Times. Stanton-King received contributions from the Republican National Committee and the Georgia Republican Party. She entered the 5th District race as a Republican after being pardoned by Trump in February. She was convicted in 2004 for aiding in a car-theft ring. The district was represented by recently deceased civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.).

The post Koch PAC requests refund of donation to QAnon candidate as others stand pat appeared first on OpenSecrets News.

[Category: Campaign finance, GA14, Gun Owners of America, Ian Karbal, John Cowan, koch, Koch Industries, KochPAC, Marjorie Greene, Marjorie Taylor Greene, National Association for Gun Rights, QAnon, Right Women PAC]

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[l] at 7/22/20 9:50am
Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg
(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Plagued by criticisms of its moderating practices, a congressional antitrust probe and a recent executive order from President Donald Trump explicitly naming the company as a potential threat to free speech, Facebook spent $4.8 million on lobbying in the second quarter of 2020, following a record-breaking first quarter that saw the company spend over $5 million.

Facebook is on pace to spend more on lobbying in 2020 than it ever has in a single year. This follows two consecutive record-setting years for the company that saw it spend $12.6 million and $16.7 million on lobbying, respectively. The social media giant currently deploys 65 lobbyists. 

The company, and the tech industry more broadly, is facing bipartisan scrutiny from lawmakers who have proposed multiple bills aimed at eliminating legal immunity that currently prevents social media platforms from being held accountable for content posted by users under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Calls for reform, which vary in shape and scope, have come from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and even presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

One of these bills, the EARN IT Act, was advanced by the Senate Judiciary Committee on July 2. The bill, introduced by Sens. Graham and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), aims to tackle the issue of child pornography on the internet by laying out a set of best practices for tech companies to follow, and stripping Section 230 immunity for those that don’t meet its standards.  But some experts have warned the bill’s language is overly-vague and could potentially threaten encrypted communication, an important tool for journalists, dissidents, members of the government and citizens concerned about privacy. Facebook, Apple, Google and Twitter have all cited the bill specifically on recent lobbying disclosures.

Another bipartisan bill, The PACT Act, sponsored by Sens. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and John Thune (R-S.D.) was introduced in the final week of June. It purports to be a less controversial alternative to the EARN IT Act and will go before the Senate Communications, Technology, Innovation and the Internet subcommittee on July 28.

Facebook also hired prominent lobbyist Dave Lugar of the Lugar Hellman Group, marking the company’s first outside lobbying hire of the year. Lugar was hired on June 1 to lobby on “Issues related to online advertising, content and platform transparency efforts.” Lugar has represented Google on similar issues. 

The hire came a month before the impending release of an independent civil rights audit that lambasted Facebook’s refusal to moderate hate speech, inaccurate or misleading posts aimed at suppressing or confusing voters, as well as the company’s blanket refusal to regulate politicians. American Civil Liberties Union executive Laura Murphy wrote that in spite of some progress fighting discrimination, extremism and attempts at voter supression, “those gains could be obscured by the vexing and heartbreaking decisions Facebook has made that represent significant setbacks for civil rights.” 

Facebook appears to have reversed course, just today adding a label encouraging people to get voting information to a Trump post that claimed voting by mail will lead to a “CORRUPT ELECTION,” and affixing the same message to a post by Biden. The company says the link to its own page on voting information will be attached to all future posts about voting, whether they violate the company’s policies, come from a politician, or otherwise. The move, which doesn’t actually fact-check the posts, has been criticized by the Biden campaign and Facebook critics.

In a separate decision, Facebook will also add a label to all politicians’ tweets that violate the company’s policies that incites violence or aims to suppress voting. The aim is to strike a balance between allowing for newsworthy posts from important figures and the company’s own rules on harmful content.

More recently, the company has been scrutinized for what many activists see as a willing refusal to moderate hate speech and extremism, the focus of Murphy’s report. The outrage has led to a boycott by nearly 1,000 advertisers, including major companies Ford, Microsoft and Coca-Cola. In late May, a number of Facebook employees staged a virtual walkout in protest of the company’s moderation policies.

Facebook’s most recent disclosure shows the company lobbying on a number of issues such as immigration reform and DACA, cyber security, internet privacy, free speech and a number of trade agreements. 

Facebook and Google CEOs, Mark Zuckerberg and Sundar Pichai, as well as Apple CEO Tim Cook and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, have agreed to testify before Congress for an ongoing antitrust investigation of the tech industry. Of the executives, only Bezos has never testified on the Hill before. The companies spent a combined $53.6 million on lobbying in 2019, led by Amazon with $16.8 million. So far this year, their combined spending is $27.6 million

The hearing will be held on July 27, the day before the PACT Act will get a subcommittee hearing. Details on the format, including how or whether the four competitors should be questioned together, are still being discussed. But a spate of letters from Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) have threatened to turn the antitrust probe into a spectacle. On July 7, Jordan sent a letter to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), asking to move the hearing out of the antitrust subcommittee and in front of the full committee. The letter accused Democrats on the subcommittee of not taking the hearing seriously and of misrepresenting Republican views to the companies’ lawyers.

Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), chairman of the antitrust subcommittee, has long pushed for such an investigation. In a March 2019 letter to the Federal Trade Commission, Cicilline wrote “given all that we’ve learned recently about Facebook’s predatory behavior, it’s clear that serious enforcement is long overdue.”

While a representative of Twitter will not attend the hearing, Jordan also sent a letter on July 8 to CEO Jack Dorsey requesting information on the company’s moderating policies. The letter appears to be a response to Twitter’s decision to affix a warning to some of Trump’s tweets, labeling them misinformation or potential calls to violence. Twitter’s decision apparently spurred the executive order from the president. In the letter, Jordan references the popular, but unproven, claim of “discrimination against conservative voices” by the platform. 

Twitter has spent $740,000 on lobbying this year on issues including “content moderating practices,” “misinformation,” and the “Executive Order on Preventing Online Censorship.”

The post Facebook spends big on lobbying as key hearing nears appeared first on OpenSecrets News.

[Category: Influence & Lobbying, 230, amazon, antitrust, apple, brian schatz, EARN IT, facebook, google, Ian Karbal, John Thune, Lindsey Graham, lobbying, mark zuckerbrg, PACT Act, Richard Blumenthal, Section 230, twitter]

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[l] at 7/21/20 12:51pm
super PACs (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Super PACs directly connected to party leaders in the House and Senate are sitting on $294 million as they prepare to flood the airwaves with inflammatory ads this fall. 

Wealthy donors wielding significant influence with top lawmakers — and those giving anonymously through “dark money” groups — account for most of the outside groups’ fundraising efforts. 

The Senate Leadership Fund, tied to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), now has $97 million in the bank thanks to a $25 million cash infusion from Sheldon and Miriam Adelson in June. That’s the first multi-million dollar contribution the billionaire couple has made this election cycle after being the top donor in the 2018 midterms. 

The group raised over $30 million in June, giving it more cash than any other congressional super PAC. Almost all of that money came from just a handful of donors. Investors William Oberndorf and Paul Singer, along with natural gas executive Michael Smith, each chipped in $1 million. Oil giant Chevron added $300,000 from its corporate funds. 

Democrats’ Senate Majority PAC also raised $30 million in June and has $87 million in the bank. The group was boosted by over two dozen six-figure contributions, including $500,000 each from Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and Bain Capital executive Josh Bekenstein. Groups tied to the Laborers’ International Union of North America gave $2 million. 

The urgency comes as Republicans increasingly worry they could lose the Senate amid President Donald Trump’s low approval numbers and Democratic candidates’ record-breaking fundraising hauls. Democrats only need to win three or four seats in November, depending on whether they take the presidency, to capture the Senate. Incumbents Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) are trailing their Democratic challengers in recent polls. The two leading super PACs have reserved their biggest ad buys — nearly $48 million combined — in North Carolina, where Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) is slightly trailing Democrat Cal Cunningham in polls. 

In the super PAC world, the battle for the Senate appears to be significantly more expensive than the race for the Democratic-owned House. Both parties are gearing up for the possibility of Supreme Court vacancies, making the Senate contest critical for wealthy donors invested in ideological battles. 

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Top lawmakers are tasked with courting big donations to their allied super PACs while also negotiating terms of the next COVID-19 relief package. Both sides have yet to come to an agreement on next steps as increased unemployment benefits near their expiration date. 

House Majority PAC, the outside group allied with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), raised nearly $11 million in June. Billionaire liberal donor George Soros gave $2 million to the super PAC through his own group, Democracy PAC. House Majority PAC received $1.5 million in dark money from House Majority Forward, an allied nonprofit that shares its name and employees with the super PAC. 

House Republicans’ Congressional Leadership Fund has received $20 million — nearly one-third of its total fundraising — from an allied dark money group, American Action Network, which also shares its office and staff with the super PAC it is funding. The super PAC raised $16 million in June, with over $7 million coming from its connected nonprofit. It’s increasingly common for dark money groups to funnel money to allied super PACs rather than spend it all themselves, depriving voters of information about who is funding these often contentious ads.

Democratic candidates for House are dwarfing Republicans’ fundraising efforts this election cycle amid unprecedented enthusiasm from donors. Active Democratic House candidates have raised $544 million compared to Republicans’ $450 million. Democrats in key battleground districts hold an even greater financial advantage.

The post Super PACs tied to congressional leaders amass nearly $300 million appeared first on OpenSecrets News.

[Category: Outside Money, adelson, Congressional Leadership Fund, Cory Gardner, dark money, Donald Trump, George Soros, House Majority PAC, karl evers-hillstrom, Martha McSally, megadonor, Mitch McConnell, senate leadership fund, Senate Majority PAC, sheldon, Thom Tillis]

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[l] at 7/21/20 11:10am
Montana Montana Governor and Senate candidate Steve Bullock (Joshua Lott/Getty Images)

With less than four months to go until Election Day, Montana’s Senate race has already shattered fundraising records. Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock more than doubled the previous record for single quarterly fundraising for a Senate race in the state.

Bullock raised $7.7 million from April to June this year — the largest single-quarter amount since Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) raised $3.7 million in the third quarter of 2018. Bullock’s opponent, incumbent Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), collected more than $4.8 million in the same period. 

Daines has raised more than $12.9 million as of the end of June, while Bullock trails with nearly $11 million since entering the race in March. Each candidate, though, finished the second quarter with roughly the same amount in the bank. Bullock edged out the incumbent with nearly $7.6 million cash on hand, compared to more than $7.1 million for Daines. 

Daines was first elected in 2014, after one term representing Montana’s lone House seat. Bullock, who is term-limited, won two consecutive terms to the governor’s mansion after serving as the state’s attorney general. In 2016, he was reelected with a little more than 50 percent of the vote, even as Republican President Donald Trump won the state by more than 20 points

Despite his strong showing in a traditionally conservative state, Bullock remained hesitant to run for Daines’ seat. During his brief stint running for president, Bullock would not answer questions about running for the Senate if he dropped out of the presidential primary. After much lobbying from major Democratic players, including former President Barack Obama and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Bullock made an eleventh hour entry into the race, the New York Times reported

The national nature of the race, much like other competitive Senate races across the country, has become more pronounced in the fundraising numbers from the two campaigns. Most of the cash for both campaigns is also coming from out of state. Daines has raised 71 percent from outside of Montana, while Bullock has raised 88 percent from out-of-state donors. Leadership PACs tied to lawmakers and ideological organizations are also spending heavily in the campaign. Republican and conservative groups have donated $803,000 to Daines, along with another $541,000 from leadership PACs. Bullock, on the other hand, received a similar $857,000 from Democratic and liberal groups, and leadership PACs donated nearly $207,000 to his reelection bid. 

Although Bullock has outraised Daines, outside spending favors the incumbent. 

In a sign of the race’s importance for Republicans retaining their majority, well-known conservative groups have spent large amounts in the race. The National Republican Senatorial Committee has spent $1.3 million attacking Bullock, along with $148,000 spent by the Senate Leadership Fund.

Americans for Prosperity Action — a group supporting smaller government and grassroots conservative activism — has spent $532,000 supporting Daines’ reelection bid. The Senate Conservatives Fund — a super PAC dedicated to electing Republicans to the Senate — spent $146,000 to support Daines, while Senate Majority PAC  spent $1.6 million attacking the incumbent.

Bullock, in comparison, has received little outside spending to support his campaign. The only major outside spender for Bullock comes from the newly formed Lincoln Project — a group of Republicans dedicated to defeating “Trumpism” — which has spent nearly $130,000 supporting Bullock. 

Republicans, though, are also putting money behind a third-party challenge. It is a tactic used by candidates in many states. But in Montana, where margins of victory between Democrats and Republicans are often slim, third-party candidates can be the difference between victory and defeat. Usually, potential Republican voters support Libertarian candidates, while potential Democrats support the Green Party.

In the 2012 Senate elections, Tester used the Libertarian candidate running to his advantage, the Missoulian reported. A mysterious group backing Tester spent $1.2 million attacking the GOP candidate and urging conservatives to vote for the Libertarian. Tester eventually won 49 percent to the GOP nominee’s 45 percent, with the Libertarian candidate receiving 7 percent of the vote.

In this cycle, however, a Green Party candidate, in addition to a Libertarian candidate, is expected to appear on the ballot. Go Green Montana has paid Arena — a Republican political consulting firm — to help get Green Party candidate Wendie Fredrickson on the ballot in Montana, the Missoula Current reported

Go Green Montana PAC has ties with a conservative group from Texas, and the Montana Green Party in a Facebook post decried Fredrickson’s candidacy, calling the PAC and candidate “conservative backed.” The state Repubican Party also spent six figures to get Fredrickson on this November’s ballot, the Helena Independent Record reported.

Polls have shown a tightening race within the margin of error. Bullock led Daines 46 percent to 44 percent in a recent poll of 1,200 registered voters. Cook Political Report moved the race into the “toss up” category — one of the clearest signs of the race’s competitiveness in both polling and fundraising.

The post Montana’s Senate race already surpassed fundraising records appeared first on OpenSecrets News.

[Category: Election 2020, Barack Obama, Chuck Schumer, Donald Trump, Jon Tester, MTS1, National Republican Senatorial Committee, Steve Bullock, steve daines, Zamone Perez]

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[l] at 7/17/20 12:03pm
Michigan (JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP via Getty Images)

As Republicans around the country struggle to keep up with their Democratic rivals’ fundraising, a Republican Senate candidate in Michigan is outperforming the Democratic incumbent he’s challenging, according to newly released quarterly filings.

John James, a Michigan businessman, Army veteran and second-time Senate candidate, raised $6.4 million between April and July compared to incumbent Sen. Gary Peters’ (D-Mich.) $5.2 million haul in the same period. It’s the fourth consecutive quarter that James has outraised his rival. Peters still leads in overall fundraising by a roughly $1 million margin, and has $3 million more in his campaign coffers.

In 2018, James ran for Michigan’s other Senate seat against long-time Democratic incumbent Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), losing by a 6.5 percent margin. A political newcomer, his performance and fundraising prowess came as a welcome surprise for Republican lawmakers, many of whom encouraged him to run again this year. 

And this cycle, James has managed to do what many Republicans have not. He’s found a way to speak about George Floyd’s killing and racial injustice in a way that translates that anger for a largely older and white conservative base. 

James has spoken about his own interactions with police as a Black man, having conversations with his son about recent protests and why “all lives matter” is a hurtful slogan. If elected, James would be the second Black Republican senator serving in the current Congress.

Despite party support and strong fundraising, James is still struggling in the polls. Some Republican analysts have attributed this to his relation to President Donald Trump, who briefly considered him for the role of U.N. Ambassador. For the most part, James has refused to criticize Trump’s rhetoric and handling of the protests. 

A recent New York Times profile revealed that many Republicans, including James’ own donors, believe this might be a mistake. It could be hurting his chances. A July 1 poll still showed him trailing Peters by eight points. Polling has also shown Trump slipping behind presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden in a state Trump carried by a narrow margin in 2016 and was key to his upset victory.

James, who has Trump’s support and met with the president while considering a 2020 run, has refused to criticize the administration on a number of other controversial issues. Asked how he felt about Trump’s call to slow COVID-19 testing, James deferred, saying it was important to listen to experts. Asked how he felt about Russian bounties on American troops, he said it’s a shame they’re being politicized. And asked about his feelings on Trump retweeting a video of his supporters chanting white power, James said he didn’t pay attention to the president’s Twitter feed. 

Yet a leaked recording of a May meeting with Black community leaders showed James privately taking a different stance, openly criticizing a number of the president’s actions. 

Trump has tweeted in support of James both this cycle and in 2018.

James’ endorsements reflect his broad party support in the state. The Michigan Chamber of Commerce recently endorsed him, adding their voice to conservative groups including Right to Life of Michigan, Campaign for Working Families, Citizens United Political Victory Fund and the Senate Conservatives Fund.

Outside spending for James and against Peters has also topped $7 million, with the biggest conservative spender being the National Republican Senatorial Committee which put $2.8 million in the race. The other top conservative groups contributing to outside include Better Future Michigan Fund and Restoration PAC, super PACs funded by the family of Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos and Republican megadonor Richard Uihlien, respectively. Each have spent over $1 million, all opposing Peters.

But outside spending from liberal groups has topped that from conservatives, with $8.7 million, mostly opposing James. The biggest liberal spending group, the Senate Majority PAC associated with top Democrats in the chamber, put $5.2 million into the race.

Peters also has an advantage in PAC donations directly to his campaign, with $3.3 million to James’ $464,000, a typical advantage for an incumbent. 

While James is running on a platform of unity and bipartisanship, which his recent ads reflect, a number of his stances place him firmly on the right side of the political spectrum. He’s stated support for repealing the Affordable Care Act, compared abortion to “genocide” in his 2018 campaign, calling for a repeal of Roe vs. Wade, and opposed the legalization of recreational marijuana months before Michigan voters passed a ballot initiative by a 56 to 44 percent margin.

Peters, on the other hand, was a 2020 recipient of the Jefferson-Hamilton Award for Bipartisanship by the national Chamber of Commerce and, while firmly liberal, ranks high among Senators in getting bipartisan bill sponsorship and joining bipartisan bills, according to GovTrack.

The post John James outraises Democratic incumbent as other Republicans fall short appeared first on OpenSecrets News.

[Category: Hot Race, Donald Trump, Gary Peters, Ian Karbal, John James, michigan, michigan senate, MIS1, Q2, quarterly filing]

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[l] at 7/16/20 12:24pm
super PAC House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA)
(Alex Wong/Getty Images)

House Republicans’ flagship super PAC is relying heavily on “dark money” funding from an allied nonprofit to bolster its reserves as it plans an aggressive push to reclaim the House.

The Congressional Leadership Fund has received nearly $20 million from American Action Network, a closely tied nonprofit that does not disclose its donors. That total — which includes some in-kind contributions for research work — makes up nearly one-third of the super PAC’s fundraising this cycle. The Congressional Leadership Fund brought in over $7 million from its allied dark money group in June alone, according to new Federal Election Commission filings

The cash boost comes as the super PAC readies a flurry of ads to boost Republican House candidates over their Democratic counterparts. The Congressional Leadership Fund plans to go on the offensive, reserving $43 million in Fall ads mostly targeting Democratic freshmen. Democrats hold a substantial majority in the House after flipping 41 seats in the 2018 midterms. 

American Action Network launched its own $4 million issue ad campaign Thursday in support of House Republicans’ drug pricing bill. The group’s ads attack the drug pricing plan offered by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and celebrates Republican lawmakers — most of them in battleground districts — who support the Republican bill. 

Allied with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), the Congressional Leadership Fund has nearly $51 million in the bank to shell out on election ads. Its top targets include freshman Reps. Lizzie Fletcher (D-Texas), Anthony Brindisi (D-N.Y.), Kendra Horn (D-Okla.) and Joe Cunningham (D-S.C.), each of whom narrowly won their 2018 races, flipping seats long-held by the GOP. 

Democrats, on the other hand, aim to expand their majority in November by heavily targeting races they barely lost. Their optimism is fueled by an immense fundraising advantage and generic congressional polls that show Democrats ahead of Republicans by an average of 8 points. 

The Congressional Leadership Fund has already spent $4.5 million this cycle, significantly more than its Democratic counterpart, House Majority PAC. It spent $1.3 million defending Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas) from a primary challenge and another $2.4 million boosting Rep. Dan Bishop (R-N.C.) over Dan McCready in last year’s all-time expensive special election

The super PAC spent $138 million to influence the 2018 midterms, with over $26 million of its funding coming from American Action Network. It’s increasingly common for super PACs to take big money from dark money groups. Each of the leading super PACs tied to leaders of both parties in the House and Senate are bolstered by varying amounts of secret funds. As a result, direct dark money spending is down, but spending by outside groups that only partially disclose their true sources of funding is up. 

Two super PACs supporting presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden recently took in millions from an influential dark money group. A pop-up super PAC that influenced Colorado’s Democratic Senate primary revealed this week that it was actually funded by Majority Forward, a dark money group tied to Democratic leaders in the Senate.

The post House GOP super PAC relies on ‘dark money’ in bid to take back lost seats appeared first on OpenSecrets News.

[Category: Outside Money, 2020 election, Congressional Leadership Fund, dark money, Kevin McCarthy, republicans, super PACs]

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[l] at 7/16/20 12:19pm
Maine Senate U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) (Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images)

Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon sailed to victory in Maine’s Democratic Senate primary this week to challenge Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) in the general election matchup critical to Democrats’ quest to take control of the Senate. 

Already, Gideon is outpacing Collins in fundraising. 

Gideon raised nearly $24.2 million to run against Collins, who has raised only $16.8 million. Throughout the primary campaign, Collins, who had no primary challenger, spent $12.7 million, and Gideon spent nearly $18.8 million. Heading into the general election, both candidates have roughly similar amounts of cash on hand. Collins has $5.6 million in the bank, while Gideon has $5.4 million.

Gideon resoundingly defeated two other Democrats — lobbyist Elizabeth Sweet and attorney Bre Kidman — with more than 70 percent of the vote with 95 percent of precincts reporting. 

Support from multiple establishment groups that helped propel Gideon to victory Tuesday. She was endorsed by major women’s groups, such as NARAL Pro-Choice America and EMILY’s List, and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the campaign arm of Senate Democrats. Gideon’s main opponent, Sweet, received 23 percent of the vote. She was endorsed by multiple progressive groups, including Justice Democrats, Our Revolution and Brand New Congress

Gideon, already significantly outpacing Collins, will also have an influx of $3.7 million headed her way. After Collins’ vote in 2018 to confirm Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, activists, outraged over his stance against abortion rights, began a crowdfunding campaign for the eventual Democratic challenger to Collins. With her victory Tuesday night, Gideon is expected to receive that money, Roll Call reported

Collins, who was first elected to the Senate in 1996, has been a formidable candidate in past cycles. Since her first election, she has consistently grown her vote share, winning her 2014 election with 69 percent

She also enjoyed some of the highest approval ratings in the Senate before 2018, according to a Morning Consult poll. The tide in Collins popularity, however, turned when she voted to confirm Kavanaugh in 2018. As of the last quarter of 2019, Collins’ favorability rating was underwater, with 52 percent disapproving and 42 percent approving of her job performance. 

Outside groups are pouring large amounts of money into the Maine Senate race, with the majority opposing Collins’ reelection. The largest spender against Collins is Senate Majority PAC, a super PAC tied to Democratic leaders in the Senate. The group spent $2.5million to oppose Collins. 

End Citizens United, which endorsed Gideon in the primary, has spent nearly $2.1 million against Collins. That is part of more than $5.3 million to mainly attack Republican incumbents. A liberal hybrid PAC, VoteVets.org, has also spent $1.2 million to attack Collins. Collins has been the target of $6.4 million in opposition spending thus far. 

1820 PAC, a group dedicated to supporting Collins, has spent $2.7 million supporting her candidacy, while spending $1.1 million to oppose Gideon. The National Republican Senatorial Committee spent $590,000 on behalf of Collins, and the US Chamber of Commerce also lent support to Collins with $610,000 in spending. 

Gideon’s support from outside groups, though, has lagged behind Collins. So far, Gideon has only had $713,000 spent on her behalf. Her largest advocate has been Priorities USA Action, which has spent $192,000. Other well known organizations have spent money to prop up Gideon. The Lincoln Project, a group of Republicans dedicated to defeating President Donald Trump and his allies, have spent nearly $23,000 attacking Collins. 

A majority of the money spent to attack Gideon has come from the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which has spent just under $3.3 million against her. This sort of attack spending from an establishment group highlights the competitive, and national, nature of the race. A vast majority of both the candidate’s fundraising totals have come from out of state. Data from pre-primary reports of fundraising through June 21st showed Gideon has received 87 percent of fundraising from outside of Maine, less than Collins’ 93 percent. 

Polls have shown the race between Gideon and Collins tightening. A Public Policy Polling poll had Gideon ahead of Collins by four points, with 46 percent of respondents saying they would support Gideon. Collins received 42 percent in the polls. The margin of error was plus or minus 3 percent.

The post Collins challenger Sara Gideon gets big money boost heading into the general appeared first on OpenSecrets News.

[Category: Politicians & Elections, 1820 PAC, Bre Kidman, Elizabeth Sweet, End Citizens United, ME Senate, mes1, National Republican Senatorial Committee, Priorities USA Action, Sara Gideon, Susan Collins, US Chamber of Commerce, votevets.org]

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[l] at 7/16/20 8:04am
Joe Biden Joe Biden speaks at a Clean Energy event on July 14 (OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

Sixteen Thirty Fund, an expansive liberal “dark money” network that emerged as a key player in the 2018 midterms, is injecting millions of untraceable dollars into super PACs backing presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden

The influential nonprofit donated a total of $5.7 million to two pro-Biden groups, Unite the Country and American Bridge 21st Century, on June 30, according to Federal Election Commission filings

Together those super PACs have spent $35 million backing Biden and attacking President Donald Trump on the airwaves. American Bridge recently launched a $25 million ad campaign in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania — the key states to Trump’s 2016 upset — bashing Trump over his response to the devastating coronavirus pandemic. 

Sixteen Thirty Fund made the donation through a recently formed joint fundraising committee called Victory 2020. These committees typically distribute large donations from wealthy individual donors to a number of campaigns and party committees. It’s rare to see a joint fundraising committee raise cash for super PACs — and fund them with dark money. 

Organized as a 501(c)(4), Sixteen Thirty Fund is best known for bankrolling Demand Justice, an effort that opposed Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. The group hammered Republican senators with negative ads over the confirmation battle, then proceeded to target Republican candidates with “issue ads” ahead of the 2018 midterms under several different aliases. It also posed as news outlets in an attempt to influence voters. In total, the group spent $141 million supporting liberal and progressive causes in 2018.

Late last year, the group aired issue ads pressuring Republican lawmakers to vote for Trump’s impeachment. Recently, Sixteen Thirty Fund emerged as a major player in a Missouri ballot initiative to expand Medicaid. It also poured dark money into an effort to get a paid family leave measure on the November ballot in Colorado. 

Sixteen Thirty Fund also poured nearly $6.8 million into LCV Victory Fund, a super PAC that spent $5.9 million attacking Trump this cycle over his administration’s environmental policies.

Biden has pledged to crack down on dark money and coordination between campaigns and billionaire-backed super PACs if he is elected president. But Democrats have maintained throughout the Citizens United era that their willingness to implement stricter campaign finance laws will not stop them from abusing existing loopholes to win elections. 

Sixteen Thirty Fund isn’t the only dark money group boosting American Bridge, which raised $18 million from April through June. The super PAC brought in $6.8 million worth of in-kind donations from its own 501(c)(4) arm that doesn’t disclose its donors. 

Biden’s campaign signaled to donors in May that Priorities USA Action was its preferred outside group before partially walking back that statement. That super PAC, which is also partly funded by its own dark money 501(c)(4) arm, has spent a whopping $34 million boosting Biden over Trump. Its most recent multi-million dollar TV and digital ad campaign aims to encourage Black and Latino voters in battleground states to vote by mail in November. 

It’s becoming more common for dark money groups to steer money to super PACs rather than fund political ads themselves. Each of the top super PACs tied to House and Senate Democrats have received large donations from nonprofits that don’t disclose their sources of funding. A mysterious super PAC that meddled in Colorado’s Democratic Senate primary revealed this week that it was funded entirely by Majority Forward, a dark money group tied to Democratic leadership.

Trump has his own preferred super PAC, America First Action. It has also received some dark money help from its own closely tied 501(c)(4), America First Policies. The super PAC has spent nearly $16 million attacking Biden. It’s planning a $23 million ad campaign attacking Biden in Arizona, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. 

The post Influential ‘dark money’ network steers millions to pro-Biden super PACs appeared first on OpenSecrets News.

[Category: Outside Money, American Bridge, dark money, Donald Trump, Joe Biden, Pres2020, Priorities USA, Sixteen Thirty Fund, super PAC, Unite the Country]

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[l] at 7/15/20 2:25pm
Lincoln Project Captured via Youtube from The Lincoln Project ad “ Law and Order.

A prominent anti-Trump super PAC run by Republican operatives is bringing in big money from billionaire Democratic donors.

The Lincoln Project raised $16.8 million from April through June, with 45 percent of its fundraising coming from small donors giving $200 or less, according to new Federal Election Commission filings. The Lincoln Project’s strategy of frequently producing viral attack ads against President Donald Trump but spending relatively little to place them on traditional airwaves in swing states has come under scrutiny. But that unorthodox approach helped the super PAC bring in millions from online donors. 

Some politically active billionaires are starting to take notice. Staunch supporters of the Democratic Party and major donors to liberal super PACs started bankrolling The Lincoln Project in June as the Republican-led group slammed Trump over his response to peaceful protesters and the coronavirus pandemic. 

Billionaire investor Stephen Mandel — a longtime backer of Democratic groups — gave $1 million to The Lincoln Project last month. Bain Capital executive Joshua Bekenstein chipped in $100,000 to the group. He and his wife Anita have given $6.4 million mostly to Democratic causes during the 2020 cycle, making them the 20th most generous donors. The Bekensteins gave big to two other super PACs supporting presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, Unite the Country and Priorities USA Action.

DreamWorks founder David Geffen — a million-dollar donor to Democratic super PACs in 2018 — also gave $100,000 to the Republican-led group. So did billionaire cable TV pioneer Amos Hostetter, another major Democratic donor. Retail developer Joseph Kaempfer added $75,000 after giving $500,000 to pro-Biden super PAC American Bridge 21st Century earlier this year.

Some current and former Republican donors also bankrolled The Lincoln Project in the second quarter. Investor and former Jeb Bush backer David Seldin gave $75,000. His political contributions have shifted entirely to Democrats in the Trump era. Michigan oil executive Sidney Jansma, who is backing critical Republican congressional candidates in his state such as John James and Peter Meijer, donated $100,000. 

The Lincoln Project is making the case that all of Trump’s allies in Congress need to be voted out. The group spent $464,000 on ads opposing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and six figures attacking other Republicans facing tough reelection battles such as Sens. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and Martha McSally (R-Ariz.). Its recent ad telling viewers to “never ever” trust Republican senators again over their support for Trump garnered 1.8 million views on YouTube in less than a week. 

The Lincoln Project has shelled out a total of $5.7 million on independent expenditures, with $3.7 million attacking Trump and $723,000 supporting Biden. The group has $10.8 million on hand to unleash many more attack ads in the leadup to Election Day.

As of the group’s newest filings, the vast majority of its spending went to firms run by The Lincoln Project’s board members such as Summit Strategic Communications and TUSK Digital. The super PAC still appears to use sub-vendors that conceal the ultimate recipient of donors’ money. Prominent Republicans have accused the Lincoln Project’s founders of using the operation to line their pockets. Conservative super PAC Club for Growth Action even launched a highly unusual attack ad against the group repeating those allegations.

The Lincoln Project was founded by prominent Republicans who left the party over its support for Trump, such as political consultant Rick Wilson and lawyer George Conway, who is married to Trump aide Kellyanne Conway. GOP lawmakers have expressed frustration with the group’s existence in recent weeks as its ads went viral on social media. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) tweeted this week that The Lincoln Project is “working to advance the socialist, anarchist agenda of the radical left” after the super PAC ran ads opposing his reelection bid. 

The post Billionaire Democratic donors give big to anti-Trump Lincoln Project appeared first on OpenSecrets News.

[Category: Outside Money, Democratic, Donald Trump, donors, fundraising, karl evers-hillstrom, Lincoln Project, Priorities USA, Unite the Country]

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[l] at 7/13/20 2:13pm
TikTok (Mustafa Murat Kaynak / Anadolu Agency)

TikTok is one of the most popular and fastest-growing apps in the U.S. But unless its pricey lobbying campaign pays dividends, the video sharing app’s time in the limelight could be coming to an end.

Both President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have said the U.S. is considering banning TikTok, which is run by the Chinese company ByteDance, amid concerns that users’ data could be shared with the Chinese Communist Party. White House trade advisor Peter Navarro told viewers during an interview with Fox News Sunday to expect “strong action” against TikTok and other apps owned by Chinese companies. 

TikTok, which recently hired former Disney executive Kevin Mayer to run its U.S. operations, says it doesn’t share data with the Chinese government. To stave off a U.S. ban, the company is banking on its roster of Washington insiders, including a lobbyist who has close ties with both Trump and Pompeo and former aides to Democratic leaders.

TikTok’s Beijing-based parent company, ByteDance, didn’t start lobbying until the second half of 2019, spending $270,000. In the first three months of 2020 alone, the company spent $300,000 to dispatch 27 lobbyists from four different K Street firms. 

The most crucial lobbyist for TikTok’s future might be David Urban, a key player in Trump’s 2016 win in Pennsylvania and an adviser to Trump’s reelection campaign. Hired by TikTok in January, Urban’s firm American Continental Group has seen its revenue explode to new highs in the Trump era as companies attempt to leverage Urban’s connection to the president.

Urban was a West Point classmate of Pompeo and reportedly recommended the former Kansas congressman for Trump’s cabinet. His influence with Pompeo was underscored by his success in securing a meeting with Pompeo on behalf of defense contractor Raytheon just before the State Department froze congressional holds on arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the New York Times reported. That freeze allowed Raytheon to sell billions of dollars worth of weapons to the two nations.

TikTok’s roster also includes influencers with close ties to top Democrats in Congress. TikTok recently restructured its internal lobbying team by adding several well-connected lobbyists, CNBC reported. Among the company’s new hires is Michael Hacker, former senior adviser to House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) and Michael Bloom, a former senior adviser to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). That’s after TikTok hired Michael Beckerman, former CEO of the Internet Association lobbying group, earlier this year. 

Former House Science Committee Chairman Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.), a partner at K&L Gates, also lobbies for TikTok. 

While Republicans such as Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) are the most vocal critics of TikTok in Congress, some top Democrats are also wary of the widely popular app. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called on Transportation Security Administration workers to stop using the app earlier this year. 

The federal government has put pressure on TikTok before. The Federal Trade Commission fined the app maker $5.7 million early last year for illegally collecting information about users under the age of 13. The fine was a record penalty under child privacy laws but made up only a fraction of the company’s revenue. 

While Pompeo has made statements on TikTok’s possible national security risk, Trump is considering banning the app to punish China for the coronavirus pandemic, which experts believe originated in China’s Hubei province. The U.S. has become the epicenter of the outbreak, with COVID-19 infecting over 3 million Americans and killing more than 135,000

Former American TikTok employees told the Washington Post last year that its Chinese parent company had the final say on what content was censored. TikTok has attempted to distance itself from China, noting that ByteDance offers a separate app that adheres to the country’s strict censorship standards for its Chinese users. TikTok recently left the Hong Kong market after Beijing imposed a controversial national security law that will force internet companies to comply with government data requests and censorship.

The post TikTok deploys lobbyists tied to Trump, top Democrats as US considers ban appeared first on OpenSecrets News.

[Category: Influence & Lobbying, ban, china, David Urban, Donald Trump, karl evers-hillstrom, lobbying, Mike Pompeo, Social Media, tiktok]

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[l] at 7/13/20 1:36pm
Alabama Captured via Youtube – Jerry Carl

In Alabama’s 1st and 2nd Congressional District runoffs, Republican candidates are struggling to put daylight between similar platforms as endorsements divide powerful pro-business interest groups. As a result, instead of fighting on the issues, candidates and outside groups have unleashed a torrent of ads painting their opponents as “Never Trumpers” ahead of Tuesday’s vote.

“Bill Hightower admitted on Twitter he’s disgusted with voting for Trump,” claims an ad bearing the approval of 1st District candidate and Mobile County Commissioner Jerry Carl about his competitor. A dueling ad from former state Sen. Hightower claims Carl “donated thousands against Trump.” OpenSecrets data appears to dispute this, showing Carl donated $500 to candidate Ben Carson in the 2016 Republican primaries, and later giving $800 to Trump’s campaign in the general.

The candidates have also slung accusations at one another of photoshopping images, taking surreptitious video at private donor dinners and backroom deals to profit from public funds.

The contention comes after Hightower earned the support of the Club For Growth, a conservative special interest group that opposes higher taxes. Carl seized on the endorsement as an attack line since the group initially opposed President Donald Trump in 2016. The Club for Growth has spent nearly $1.4 million in the race, more than any other in the country. Almost all has gone to opposing Carl.

The Club for Growth received the largest share of its funding from Richard Uihlein, an Illinois conservative megadonor who donated $16.5 million to its super PAC this year.

Carl has the endorsement of the Chamber of Commerce, another powerful Conservative pro-business group and the highest-spending lobbying group in the country. The opposition is notable because of the groups’ closely aligned core missions, especially in a race between candidates with similar platforms.

While the Chamber has yet to put money towards Hightower’s campaign, it has spent big in the district before. In 2016, the Chamber spent $250,000 on Rep. Bradley Byrne’s (R-Ala.) re-election campaign. Byrne, who announced his retirement last year to run an unsuccessful Senate bid, also endorsed Carl. The primary winner will be positioned for a long tenure in the district that hasn’t had a Democratic Representative since 1963.

Carl leads Hightower in fundraising $1.5 million to $1.2 million, with nearly $570,000 self-financed. The race is already the most expensive in the district since 2002.

A similar race shapes up in the 2nd District

The Club for Growth and the Chamber of Commerce are also influencing Alabama’s 2nd District race, where businessman Jeff Coleman and former state Rep. Barry Moore are competing to replace retiring Rep. Martha Roby (R-Ala.).

Coleman, who won a much larger share of the vote than Moore in the original March 3 primary, is backed by the Chamber and Roby. Moore has the support of the Club for Growth as well as the House Freedom Fund

And like in the 1st district, Moore’s endorsement has drawn the ire of his opponent. In a July 7 debate, Coleman highlighted the Club for Growth’s attack ads against Trump in 2016.

Coleman pointed out that Moore did not vote for Trump in the 2016 presidential primary, and has since painted Roby’s endorsement of Moore as an endorsement from “the swamp” of Washington, D.C.

Yet the candidates’ platforms are nearly identical. Both support a southern border wall, pro-life legislation, combatting gun control, increased focused on argribusiness jobs in the rural district and protections for veterans.

Coleman has raised $2.4 million, with nearly $1 million being self-financed. All told, Coleman raised nearly five times Moore’s $482,000 haul, but outside spending has helped close the spending gap. The Club for Growth and House Freedom Fund have collectively put just over $800,000 into the race, opposing Coleman and supporting Moore. Like in the 1st District, the Chamber of Commerce has yet to drop any money on the race, but also spent over $250,000 in 2016 supporting the incumbent.

The post Conservative business interests face off in Alabama runoffs appeared first on OpenSecrets News.

[Category: Congressional Elections, hot race, AL01, al02, alabama, Barry Moore, Bill Hightower, Chamber of Commerce, Club for Growth, Ian Karbal, Jeff Coleman, Jerry Carl]

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[l] at 7/13/20 10:22am
Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

The primary race between Democratic candidates Mike Siegel and Pritesh Gandhi is coming down to a competition between progressive endorsements and a well-funded opponent in Texas’ 10th Congressional district

Siegel, a former civil rights attorney and public school teacher, is considered the progressive in the race with his support of hallmark progressive policies, such as universal healthcare and a Green New Deal. He won endorsements from former presidential candidates and progressive leaders Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). The AFL-CIO, Sierra Club and Our Revolution also endorsed his candidacy. 

Gandhi is a primary care doctor, and he has received progressive organizational support in his own right. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) endorsed Gandhi, along with a small number of House members. Planned Parenthood Action Fund and gun control group Giffords both support his campaign. Gandhi, though, is considered more moderate, as he does not support some hallmark progressive policies such as Medicare for All. 

On Super Tuesday, Siegel won the first round of voting with 44 percent of the vote, missing the 50 percent threshold to win the nomination outright. Gandhi received 33 percent, and Shannon Hutcheson, an attorney, came in third place with 23 percent of the vote. The race has come down to a second round of voting between Siegel and Gandhi.

The winner of the contest will challenge incumbent Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) in the general election. If Siegel wins the nomination, it would be a rematch for the two candidates. McCaul, who has represented the district since 2005, defeated Siegel narrowly by four points in 2018 — the closest margin of victory in McCaul’s tenure. The district has a Cook Political rating of “lean R” and a Cook partisan voting index of R+9. 

Earlier this year, Texas was a disappointment for progressives who saw an opportunity to win the state for Sanders in March, but former Vice President Joe Biden won the state after his sweeping win in South Carolina and coalition of support from centrists. Now, though, progressives have found new targets in local congressional races, the Texas Tribune reported.

Since the start of the race, Gandhi raised more than $1.2 million, while Siegel only raised $833,000. As of now, Gandhi has roughly $93,000 cash on hand, compared to the nearly $171,000 Siegel has in the bank. 

Fundraising trends in this year’s cycle, though, have dwarfed that of 2018. Last cycle, Siegel raised only $481,000, while McCaul was able to raise just over $1.7 million. In 2020, McCaul has raised north of $1.9 million, while the three Democratic candidates have collectively raised nearly $3.3 million. 

Outside groups have spent more than $474,000 to support Gandhi’s candidacy. A majority of that spending has come from the 314 Action Fund, a liberal hybrid PAC dedicated to electing more scientists and candidates with STEM backgrounds to Congress. The group has also spent $108,000 opposing Siegel’s candidacy. 

The candidates’ past experience has also played into their fundraising. Gandhi, who currently works in healthcare, has received $181,000 from healthcare professionals. On the other hand, Siegel, a former educator, has received nearly $54,000 from donors in the education industry. 

The post Texas progressives eye GOP seat that got away in 2018 appeared first on OpenSecrets News.

[Category: Campaign finance, Politicians & Elections, Michael McCaul, Mike Siegel, Pritesh Gandhi, texas, TX-10, Zamone Perez]

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[l] at 7/9/20 11:46am
Texas Dr. Ronny Jackson (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Everything is bigger in Texas. In Texas’ 13th district Republican primary runoff, Josh Winegarner and Ronny Jackson are engaged in a big-spending contest, pitting President Donald Trump’s endorsement against a candidate backed by agricultural interests.

Winegarner, a former lobbyist for the Texas Cattle Feeders Association, is running with establishment support from within the state. He has endorsements from a slew of current and former Texas public officials, including the district’s retiring incumbent, Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas). 

Jackson, the former White House physician to Trump, was also the president’s nominee for Secretary of Veterans Affairs, but withdrew after allegations of misconduct and promoting a hostile work environment. The president endorsed Jackson’s congressional run, and several organizations affiliated with the tea party movement, such as Eagle Forum and Texas Right to Life, are also endorsing Jackson’s bid. But Jackson is getting  institutional support of his own, with endorsements from Sens. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). 

The district is considered the most conservative congressional district in the country with a Cook PVI rating of “R+33.” The winner of the runoff will most likely represent the Texas Panhandle in the next Congress. 

In the first round of voting, Winegarner received 39 percent of the vote. Jackson finished second with 20 percent. Although Winegarner held a large lead in the first round, Chris Ekstrom, who finished third with 15 percent, later endorsed Jackson. No other candidate in the 15-way race received more than 10 percent of the vote. 

Each candidate has raised large amounts for the race. Winegarner brought in $1.1 million compared to Jackson’s almost $900,000 fundraising haul since the start of the campaign. However, Jackson reported just over $207,000 cash on hand in the final days before the primary. Winegarner trails Jackson with little more than $170,000 cash on hand.  

Despite strong fundraising hauls for both candidates, outside groups have descended on the race, and the competition for outside spending is lopsided. 

Outside groups have spent more than $871,000 to support Jackson’s campaign, while Winegarner has received a little more than $406,000 in outside support. 

Club for Growth Action spent more than $301,000 on behalf of Jackson’s candidacy.  The influential group that supports fiscal conservatives has spent $13 million to exert influence in more than 30 races this cycle. Miles of Greatness Fund, a single-candidate super PAC funded by Texas donors, has spent nearly $498,000 backing Jackson. 

Winegarner’s main source of outside spending and contributions comes from livestock and agricultural interests, rather than groups united in conservative ideology. 

Ag Together PAC has spent nearly $238,000 on behalf of Winegarner’s campaign, including an additional $137,000 opposing Jackson. The major source of funding for Ag Together came from Winegarner’s former employer, the Texas Cattle Feeders Association, and its affiliates, Sludge reported. His campaign has also received more than $309,000 in donations from livestock and agriculture interests. 

Winegarner has also been supported by the Texas Farm Bureau with more than $113,000 in outside spending. 

Support from the livestock and agriculture industries, though, has put Winegarner under the spotlight for his time as a lobbyist. Jackson has unleashed a barrage of attacks throughout the campaign, referencing the times Winegarner opposed Trump administration initiatives when he was still a lobbyist in 2017, Texas Scorecard reported

Winegarner has attacked Jackson as a carpetbagger who only decided to run for Congress after withdrawing his nomination as Secretary of Veterans Affairs. The move by Winegarner’s campaign came under scrutiny from veterans in the district, and Jackson said he would not apologize for his military service or wanting to serve veterans in that post before running for Congress. 

The post Conservative and agricultural interests clash in runoff with Trump’s former doctor appeared first on OpenSecrets News.

[Category: Election 2020, Club for Growth, Donald Trump, Josh Winegarner, lobbyist, Mac Thornberry, Ronny Jackson, TX13, Zamone Perez]

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