CD8 Heats Up

The candidates and the super PAC have been boating away at each other all afternoon. John Fritze in the Sun assesses the impact of the Mayday super PAC ad on behalf of Jamie Raskin in CD8.

Kathleen Matthews’ campaign for Congress fired back Tuesday at a super PAC supporting state Sen. Jamie Raskin, arguing the group focused on campaign finance reform was making “outrageous false claims.”

Noting Raskin’s record on campaign finance as a member of the state legislature, Mayday PAC held an event in Takoma Park on Monday to back his candidacy. The group was founded as a “super PAC to end all super PACs,” supporting candidates who embrace changes to campaign funding.
But as the group worked to lift Raskin up, it also took several hard swings at Matthews. In a web video released Monday, Mayday CEO and former New York gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout said Matthews “has been a corporate lobbyist in D.C.”
Matthews was never a registered lobbyist for Marriott. The former WJLA-TV reporter and anchor did oversee the division at the Bethesda-based company that handled both communications and government affairs.
“This week supporters of Jamie Raskin launched the first negative attack of the campaign,” the Matthews campaign wrote in an email to supporters. “Hiding behind an out-of-state super PAC, they’re distorting Kathleen’s record and making outrageous false claims.”
Matthews’ email to supporters focuses its ire at Raskin but, by law, super PACs operate independently of the campaigns they are supporting. Another proof Raskin wasn’t coordinating his message with the PAC: His camp was trying to pitch a story about a different endorsement — that of Montgomery County Del. Kathleen M. Dumais — to reporters on the same day.

The Raskin campaign blasted right back.

 Raskin’s campaign said it was not involved with the attacks.

“Senator Raskin, as the Matthews campaign knows, has nothing to do, and will have nothing to do, with this or any other super PAC in America,” campaign manager Marshall Cohen said in a statement. “But Jamie welcomes the opportunity to have a public discussion with Ms. Matthews about his extensive record as a campaign finance reform advocate and his proposals to abolish corporate dark money in our elections, as well as any new ideas she wants to present.”
The back-and-forth represents a break from the mostly genteel tone that has dominated the 8th District race so far — and it underscores the impact outside groups can have, even in primary elections. Mayday raised $11 million in the 2014 cycle, and it has committed to raising at least $100,000 for Raskin.

There’s some stuff in the middle about Mayday, which inaccurately referred to Matthews as a lobbyist, then tried to defend it, then brought up the months old “but, but she gave to Roy Blunt” silliness. When the arguments of the super PAC begin to become indistinguishable from those being made by the candidate, voters in Democratic primaries tend to get really aggravated. As to the rest of this “delicious irony,” I said what I had to say, and I stand by it. No good will come to Jamie Raskin from this group’s “help.”

NYT Follows The Money

And finds that more than half of the amounts being spent on the 2016 presidential race – including super PACs – was contributed by only 158 families, and overwhelmingly to Republican candidates.

They are overwhelmingly white, rich, older and male, in a nation that is being remade by the young, by women, and by black and brown voters. Across a sprawling country, they reside in an archipelago of wealth, exclusive neighborhoods dotting a handful of cities and towns. And in an economy that has minted billionaires in a dizzying array of industries, most made their fortunes in just two: finance and energy.

Now they are deploying their vast wealth in the political arena, providing almost half of all the seed money raised to support Democratic and Republican presidential candidates. Just 158 families, along with companies they own or control, contributed $176 million in the first phase of the campaign, a New York Times investigation found. Not since before Watergate have so few people and businesses provided so much early money in a campaign, most of it through channels legalized by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision five years ago.
These donors’ fortunes reflect the shifting composition of the country’s economic elite. Relatively few work in the traditional ranks of corporate America, or hail from dynasties of inherited wealth. Most built their own businesses, parlaying talent and an appetite for risk into huge wealth: They founded hedge funds in New York, bought up undervalued oil leases in Texas, made blockbusters in Hollywood. More than a dozen of the elite donors were born outside the United States, immigrating from countries like Cuba, the old Soviet Union, Pakistan, India and Israel.
But regardless of industry, the families investing the most in presidential politics overwhelmingly lean right, contributing tens of millions of dollars to support Republican candidates who have pledged to pare regulations; cut taxes on income, capital gains and inheritances; and shrink entitlement programs. While such measures would help protect their own wealth, the donors describe their embrace of them more broadly, as the surest means of promoting economic growth and preserving a system that would allow others to prosper, too.

It’s not just that the uber-rich are spending so much money, it’s that what they stand for is diametrically opposed to the interests and preferences of the broad mass of American voters.

In marshaling their financial resources chiefly behind Republican candidates, the donors are also serving as a kind of financial check on demographic forces that have been nudging the electorate toward support for the Democratic Party and its economic policies. Two-thirds of Americans support higher taxes on those earning $1 million or more a year, according to a June New York Times/CBS News poll, while six in 10 favor more government intervention to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor. According to the Pew Research Center, nearly seven in 10 favor preserving Social Security and Medicare benefits as they are.

* * *

“The campaign finance system is now a countervailing force to the way the actual voters of the country are evolving and the policies they want,” said Ruy Teixeira*, a political and demographic expert at the left-leaning Center for American Progress.

* A local MoCo resident and a guy I’ve respected and admired for a long time. As usual, Teixeira boils down the problem to a single clear sentence.

Reason #3,653,871 why campaign finance reform is essential to the future of our democracy.

Big Donor List

Yesterday, I linked to a Washington Post list of the presidential candidates, with a clickable link to the mega-donors who gave to each candidate.

Today, I give you an even better chart from the New York Times: a list of the 64 big donors ($1 million plus) with a brief bio and the candidates who got the money from each donor. Again, here’s a picture – go read the rest. But don’t do it after lunch, or I won’t be responsible for the laundry bill after you puke up your panini. 


Follow The Money

In keeping with the exhortations of its most famous source (at least in the movie version of the story), the Post has compiled a lovely chart with the fundraising numbers for all the presidential candidates, complete with totals and the names of major donors. And it’s clickable so you can see the names and figure out their almost assuredly honorable occupations – environmental rapist, corporate looter, hedge fund parasite, health care skimmer, you name it.

So when you want to know who’s bought and paid for your government in future years, you can identify the culprits as well as the candidates who sold out to them.

Here’s a pretty picture. Go have fun checking out the whole thing.


Edwards, Van Hollen Feud Over Money

The Huffington Post has a good rundown of the recent escalation in the feud between Donna Edwards and Chris Van Hollen over the impact of outside money in the Senate primary.

Maryland’s U.S. Senate Democratic primary between Reps. Chris Van Hollen and Donna Edwards, both strong proponents of campaign finance reform, is descending into a battle over who can be the biggest opponent of big money in politics.

Van Hollen sparked the latest clash began on July 16, when he proposed to Edwards that they both pledge to keep independent groups from spending on their behalf. Such pledges have been made in other races, such as Massachusetts’ 2012 campaign between Elizabeth Warren (D) and Scott Brown (R), and the 2013 special primary election between Democrats Ed Markey and Stephen Lynch.
Edwards rejected Van Hollen’s proposal, calling the offer an attempt to silence her supporters.
Edwards’ rebuff sheds light on the state of the hotly contested Democratic primary in Maryland, but the ensuing sniping between the campaigns reveals how potent the issue of campaign finance has become to the Democratic Party since the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United.

The article also gives a good background to the state of the money race between the two candidates, and how they plan to continue to raise money in the future.

Van Hollen leads the money race in Maryland so far, with $4.2 million. Edwards has raised just short of $1 million. But Edwards has received prominent endorsements from Emily’s List, Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Democracy for America — all groups that could help her fill that fundraising gap rapidly with appeals and independent spending.

It’s no surprise that the Edwards campaign sees Van Hollen’s pledge as a cynical attempt to freeze her allies out of the race.
“We’re not going to give in to a gag order for women, progressives and working families,” Edwards spokesman Benjamin Gerdes told The Huffington Post.
The Van Hollen campaign fired back that Edwards is the cynical one for not living up to her opposition to Citizens United and rejecting the path that Warren, the senator she has said she most wants to emulate, has taken.

A final point: this is not just an academic exercise or a simple fight between candidates. This issue matters to Democratic primary voters – a lot.

Democrats have almost universally lined up behind legislative attempts to fix the Citizens United ruling’s effect on campaigns. That includes Van Hollen’s Disclose Act as well as a proposed constitutional amendment that would overturn the court decision.

The party has found that email fundraising solicitations mentioning the billionaire Koch brothers or the Citizens United decision get grassroots Democrats to open their wallets unlike any other issues. Calls to overturn the court decision often get the loudest applause from presidential candidates, whether it’s Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) or Hillary Clinton.

 So expect this fight to continue, because whoever is perceived as getting the better of it is likely to gain a real advantage in the minds of not just donors – but also likely primary voters too.

Andrews on Gerrymandering

I share former Councilmember Phil Andrews’ goals on redistricting reform, open primaries and public financing, but it’s not going to happen any time soon. Too many legislators just don’t want to take the risk of bucking the system to advocate for a more open electoral process.

Reforming gerrymandering is imperative, but not sufficient alone to bring about truly representative legislative bodies. In addition to eliminating gerrymandering, public financing of campaigns (used by Governor Hogan, but not available to state legislative candidates) to provide candidates with an alternative to big money from the wealthy and from PACs, and opening primaries to all voters comprise the trifecta of political reform that would produce a far more representative Congress and state legislature.

But it should happen, and it should happen now, because both parties in Maryland have a great deal at risk in the governor’s race in 2018. If the Democrats win back the position, GOP gains will likely be lost in the next map drawing exercise. If Larry Hogan is reelected, the carnage for Democratic incumbents in places like Anne Arundel County and elsewhere will be immense, conceivably threatening a functional if not actual Democratic House majority in 2022.
There’s a right-left axis of legislators that should come together to make this happen, but my sense is that it won’t happen because both sides see the prospect of ultimate victory following the 2018 election. The time for compromise – an independent redistricting process – is now, right now, before we get past 2016 and the battle lines are drawn for 2018. I still don’t think it will happen, but it should.

DFE to Lead $$ Task Force

Donna Edwards has been named by Nancy Pelosi to head a Democratic task force to address campaign finance reform issues. Bloomberg has the story, and has remarks made by Edwards at today’s press conference:

“It doesn’t take the landing of a gyrocopter on the Capitol to underscore the frustration that the American people feel about our campaign finance and election system,” said Edwards. “It’s not the kind of corruption that lands you necessarily in a cell, but it’s the kind of corruption that corrodes the election process and degrades it to a point where it’s meaningless.”

A strategy, said Edwards, is for task force members and other Democrats to pay visits to college campuses, “communities of color,” good government groups, and others to let them know that Democrats have solutions for this.

“I think the fact is nothing moves in Congress on its own,” said Edwards of the effort to build outside support for the Democrats’ package of proposed election law changes. “Frankly, if Democrats were in charge it would move.”

Chris Van Hollen was also at the press conference, per Bloomberg, but didn’t get a quote.

Bronrott Out

He only recently joined the CD8 list and now he’s out. And for the same reason Nancy Floreen bailed. Money. More precisely, the raising of it. From Bethesda Magazine:

The potential field of candidates for the 8th District seat narrowed a bit late Thursday, when former Del. Bill Bronrott, D-Bethesda, said he had decided against running.

“This would be a dream job for me. But now is not the time to spend the next year and a half on the phone, every day, having to beg for money,” said Bronrott, who was an aide to then 8th District Rep. Michael Barnes before serving almost 12 years in the House of Delegates from Bethesda-based District 16.

* * *

“Three million bucks just to get elected, and then to be on the phone every day after that just to stay elected, is just not something that I really want to do at this stage of my life,” said Bronrott, 59, who recently resigned as deputy administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration after almost five years in that post.

Referring to what he sees as an imperative to reform the current system of campaign finance, Bronrott added: “I hope the next congressperson from the 8thDistrict will take this on as a priority project and work with those on the outside as well as colleagues on the inside to do everything they can to cut out this cancer in our political system. It is serious, and it’s corrosive.”

That’s a very realistic assessment of the demands of the job.

I believe that leaves us at 10 candidates. Let’s see who among the delegates and senators just out of session jumps in first. Anyone got a guess? 

Exclusive Audio – Chris Van Hollen, John Sarbanes and Phil Andrews on Campaign Finance Reform

Hot off the presses audio you won’t find anywhere else!

Maryland PIRG had an event in College Park last night to discuss campaign finance issues. Scheduled to appear were Chris Van Hollen, Donna Edwards, John Sarbanes and former Montgomery County Councilman Phil Andrews (author of the county’s public financing law passed last year).

Van Hollen gave opening remarks and then left for another engagement. Sarbanes and Andrews spoke at length and stayed for questions and answers. Donna Edwards did not attend.

Courtesy of this establishment’s chief research minion, here is audio of Van Hollen, Sarbanes and Andrews discussing campaign finance issues. The first file is Van Hollen speaking. The recording starts about a minute into his speech.

The second file contains the remainder of the panel’s opening remarks. Sarbanes’ remarks start at about 13:35. Andrews’ speech begins at 32:05.

It’s an interesting discussion of a vitally important issue.