Campaign Finance

The Empire

New group, led by old political hands, backs Cuomo on campaign finance reform

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

By Karen DeWitt, New York State Public Radio Capital Bureau Chief

A new bipartisan coalition of former elected officials, business and civic leaders, is endorsing Governor Andrew Cuomo’s plan for campaign finance reform.

The group, called NY LEAD, includes wealthy civic leaders including David Rockefeller, Jonathan Soros, the son of George Soros, and Frederick A.O. Schwartz, who is now with NYU’s Brennan Center as well as former elected officials of both major parties. Former congressman Scott Murphy says it’s simply wrong that the state’s contribution limits are at $60,000, 12 times more than the amount permitted for the presidential race. And he says donations to party housekeeping accounts is unlimited.

“This system right now is built for the big donor,” Murphy said. “It’s not built for the average donor.”

Murphy compares the battle for a level campaign playing field open to all challengers to the recent Grammy wins by singer Adele. He says she was not supported by big money recording studios- and got her start on YouTube.

Update: An earlier version of this story listed the former congressman as Chris Murphy. It's been updated to reflect the correct name.

Read More

Comments [1]

It's A Free Country ®

SuperPAC Totals Only Tip of the Corporate Cash Iceberg: Watchdog

Monday, February 06, 2012

Thousands of pages of Federal Election Commission Filings released at the end of January show that businesses have helped Super PACs raise over $40 million so far. But current disclosure practices ensure there's no way to know how much corporations are really spending on elections, according to a campaign finance reform advocate.


The Leonard Lopate Show

Backstory: Super-PACs

Thursday, February 02, 2012

ProPublica’s Kim Barker and Al Shaw take a look at the role Super-PACs are playing in the 2012 election.

Comments [2]

The Takeaway

Stephen Colbert's Super PAC Man Trevor Potter

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Stephen Colbert's super PAC, Making a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow has raised more than $1 million since getting a green-light from the Federal Election Commission last June. Making a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow has managed to find hilarity in the minutiae of campaign finance — and revealed its inner workings to millions of Americans. But none of this would've been possible without Trevor Potter, Colbert’s attorney and the former FEC Commissioner.


It's A Free Country ®

Explainer: Can Foreign Companies Make Political Donations?

Friday, January 20, 2012

Political Action Committees connected to foreign corporations have already raised over $5 million for the 2012 elections, continuing a trend of increasing contributions from U.S. subsidiaries of foreign interests.

Comments [3]

The Brian Lehrer Show

Citizens United and the Super PACs

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Emily Bazelon, senior editor at Slate, talks about how the Citizens United ruling is affecting this campaign season, and plays with our new Super Pac Name Generator.

Generate your Super Super Pac Name now! Words and patterns by Stephen Reader; Generator Tool by John Keefe

Comments [22]

The Empire

Updated NY State campaign filings reveal big returns for Team Cuomo

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

NYPIRG's Bill Mahoney continues to update his spreadsheet showing the results of the latest fundraising filings this week. The results so far show that Governor Andrew Cuomo hasn't just been busy with legislation. His campaign fundraising efforts show an equal verve.

As Mahoney points out, Cuomo has blown by the previous elected governor's fundraising numbers at the same time in their tenures. According to Mahoney, Governor Cuomo has raised nearly twice what Governor Spitzer had raised after his first year in office.

As it stands, Cuomo is sitting on more than $14 million in campaign funds. The Governor's top-ten donors in this filing (list below) consist of corporate and personal injury law firms,a prominent arts philanthropist who is married to a hedge fund manager, the head of a hotel company, and a real estate developer, among others.

Read More

Comments [1]

The Takeaway

Floyd Abrams on Super PACs and the Legacy of Citizens United

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Nearly two years ago, a bitterly divided Supreme Court ruled that the American government could not ban political spending by corporations and labor unions during electoral campaigns. The case, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, overruled important precedents about the First Amendment rights of corporations and dramatically altered the way campaigns are conducted. 

Comments [3]

It's A Free Blog

Opinion: Why I'm Voting for Stephen Colbert for President...of South Carolina

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Stephen Colbert is able to focus on some of the most ridiculous aspects of our political system, and use them against themselves. Enter Colbert's latest stunt stroke of genius. He announced that he was turning over control of his SuperPAC to fellow Comedy Central political satirist, Jon Stewart, so he would then be eligible to run for president... of South Carolina.

Read More

Comments [2]

It's A Free Country ®

Trump Blows More Smoke About Presidential Bid, But is There a Fire?

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

A series of e-mails from the tax-exempt 527 group "Should Trump Run?" is attempting to stoke new speculation about—and donations to—another campaign for The Donald.

Comments [4]

It's A Free Country ®

The Process is Political: Targeting Manhattan Fundraisers

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Republican challenger targets incumbent's link to Bloomberg and "New York liberals." A fundraiser for Mitt Romney is disrupted by dressed-up Occupy Tampa protesters. Former presidential campaign strategist Howard Wolfson explains his move from Washington to local government. 


The Leonard Lopate Show

Backstory: The Increasing Influence of Money in Judicial Elections

Thursday, November 10, 2011

In the last decade, spending on campaigns for state Supreme Court positions has more than doubled. On today’s second Backstory, Adam Skaggs, senior counsel for the Brennan Center for Justice, discusses why these races are attracting more and more money and what it means for our judiciary system.

Comments [3]

On The Media

From Milk Prices to SuperPACs

Friday, November 04, 2011

The 2012 election is the first presidential race in the post-Citizens United era - and the first in which SuperPACs are expected to have a major impact. Peter Overby, Power, Money and Influence reporter for NPR, traces the history of campaign spending, from Watergate-era donations by milk companies through Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS.

Kid Loco - "The Viaduct"

Comments [2]

Transportation Nation

See Who Is Lobbying and Donating to Key Transpo Congressmen

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Coalition Builder Image of the Lobbying Activity on Transportation Legislation via First Street Research Group)

As Congress contemplates deficit reduction plans and job creation strategies, transportation and infrastructure spending has become a divisive topic and a political battleground. Using a new tool from Congressional Quarterly CQ Press and the campaign finance database from the Center for Responsive Politics, here's a peek at who is funding the campaigns of the top congressmen when it comes to transportation policy.

If you want to see your lobbying in visual form, CQ Press (formerly a part of Congressional Quarterly) has launched a research arm, First Street Research Group which offers a tool to create an influence map (login required) of the power brokers of transportation policy, and how they are connected through funding sources and staffing relationships.

There are two major House committees with oversight over transportation policy. The top members of each from both parties all take money from the industries affected by their legislation. Here's a sampling of some campaign financing data, and a peek at who the people they're connected to.

Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) Chair of the House Transportation Committee

Industry associations are Mica's bread and butter, and mostly in transportation. Berkshire-Hathaway was also a large contributor.

John Mica (R-Fla.) campaign donations 2011-2012 by industry. (Center for Responsive Politics at

DONATIONS 2011-2012 Session --

(For a detailed list, go here.) The top five industries by amount given are:

1) Sea Transport / Cruises

2) Railroads

3) Trucking

4) Transportation Unions

5) Air Transport / Airlines

LOBBYIST CONNECTIONS -- First Street points out: "Three former prominent members of his staff have gone on to lobby transportation issues for their clients, one of which donated to Rep. Mica and lobbied on bills he introduced." Those staffers represent the cruise and airline industry as well as local municipalities seeking Transportation and Housing and Urban Development appropriations.


Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.V.), ranking member of the House Transportation Committee

Rahall's largest donors by far come from unions, including the Air Traffic Controllers Association, and unions representing mine workers, truck drivers, transit workers, pilots and others. Berkshire Hathaway is the fourth largest individual contributor.

Nick Rahall (D-W.V) campaign donations 2011-2012 by industry. (Center for Responsive Politics at

DONATIONS 2011-2012 Session --

(For a detailed list, go here.) The top five industries by amount given are:

1) Transportation Unions

2) Railroads

3) Air Transport / Airlines

4) Industrial Unions

5) Lobbyists

LOBBYIST CONNECTIONS -- One former staffer works for a lobbying firm that represents the United Motorcoach Association as well as several airline clients. See list here.


Rep. Tom Latham (R-Iowa) Chair of the Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development

Berkshire-Hathaway is the largest campaign contributor to Latham by far, at $17,500 for the 2011-2012 session. The number two contributor, Reynolds American, the tobacco company, donated $11,000. First Street notes, "In 2009, he tried unsuccessfully to reduce by $3 billion a $4 billion boost in high-speed rail funding Democrats inserted into the spending bill. But in that same measure he helped get millions of dollars for local infrastructure projects."


Rep. Tom Latham (R-Iowa) campaign donations 2011-2012 by industry. (Center for Responsive Politics at

DONATIONS -- (For a detailed list, go here.) The top five industries by amount given are:

1) Leadership PACs

2) Lobbyists

3) Health Professionals

4) Electric Utilities

5) Pharmaceuticals

LOBBYIST CONNECTIONS --  One former staffer is now a lobbyist, who lobbied Latham on non-transportation legislation.


Rep. John Olver (D-Mass.) Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development

Olver is set to retire at the end of the term and has thus raised considerably less money than his counterparts. First Street finds that he "doesn't have any big name companies with transportation interests donating large amounts to his campaign, [though] some of the bigger unions have donated to his Political Action Committee."


John Olver (D-Mass.) campaign donations 2011-2012 by industry. (Center for Responsive Politics at

DONATIONS -- (For a detailed list, go here.) The top five industries by amount given are:

1) Transportation Unions

2) Real Estate

3) Building Trade Unions

4) Lawyers and Law Firms

5) Retired Individuals

LOBBYIST CONNECTIONS -- Two former staffers currently lobby on transportation issues, representing airports, a limousine association and a infrastructure construction firm.

Read More


It's A Free Country ®

The Process is Political: Transparency and Obama Supporters' Lobbying Ties

Monday, October 31, 2011

Obama "Transparent" About Bundlers: After the New York Times reported last week that donors with clear ties to lobbying are among President Obama campaign donation bundlers — in violation of the spirit of the president's pledge not to take money from lobbyists — Obama campaign strategist argued that ...


It's A Free Country ®

The Process is Political: A PAC's Home Address

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A campaign finance 'mill' in Florida, where four Super PACS and 19 PACs have registered their address, Palo Alto Online breaks down the various ways the president's reelection campaign is trying to pull in some Bay Area dollars, and the Bloomberg trial brings up a sordid campaign finance debacle. Here's our look at the details that can change everything.


It's A Free Country ®

The Process is Political: Alleging Voter Fraud in WV Special Election

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Democrat wins special election West Virginia, and Republican leader alleges voter fraud. Minnesota's news disclosure rules for groups spending on ballot questions. And Arizona Republicans feel burned by redistricted map drawn up by independent commission.  


It's A Free Country ®

Why Starbucks' CEO Wants to Freeze Campaign Contributions

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

The gap between the haves and have-nots is widening. The amount of revenue that state and local municipalities have is going to cut social services in America, and this is why it's so vitally important for corporations to recognize that their pursuit of profitability as a singular goal is quite shallow. It needs to be balanced with a social conscience.

— Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz on The Brian Lehrer Show.

Comments [29]

It's A Free Country ®

The Process is Political: Caucus vs. Football, Bachmann's Campaign Cash Flow

Monday, October 03, 2011

Our daily look at the details that can change everything.


It's A Free Country ®

PACs and Money on Democracy

Thursday, September 29, 2011

If the public is concerned about $2,500 going to a candidate from a particular individual, then I think they should really be concerned about, you know, millions of dollars.

Paul Blumenthal, reporter for the Huffington Post and former senior writer for the Sunlight Foundation, on The Brian Lehrer Show.

Comments [4]