Saturday, December 13, 2014

Tea party fumes over campaign finance plan


Tea party fumes over campaign finance plan

Activists see high dollar limits as a power grab by GOP establishment.

Former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli gestures as he addresses the Virginia GOP Convention in Roanoke, Va., Saturday, June 7, 2014.  The GOP is selecting a nominee to face US Sen. Mark Warner in the fall election.    (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Tea party activists are attacking a campaign finance rider in the $1.1 trillion spending bill that they view as a sneaky power grab by establishment Republicans designed to undermine outside conservative groups.
The provision would increase the amount of money a single donor could give to national party committees each year from $97,200 to as much as $777,600 by allowing them to set up different funds for certain expenses. The change would be a huge boost for party committees that have faced steep challenges in recent years from well-funded outside groups.
Disgruntled activists fear the committees will unleash the added cash against conservative candidates in primaries, making it even harder for them to unseat establishment-friendly incumbents. Most tea party groups have political action committees for which individual donations are capped at $10,000 per election cycle. Some also have super PACs, which do not have any contribution limits.
The same conservative activists have long advocated for looser campaign finance laws, but they argue the language of the rider in the 1,600-page bill gives the establishment wing an unfair advantage by tweaking the law specifically for donations to party committees.
“Conservatives support the First Amendment and believe there should be no limits on political speech,” said Ken Cuccinelli, president of the Senate Conservatives Fund. “Unfortunately, the new limits included in the omnibus only increase political speech for party insiders while silencing the majority of Americans who are fed up with Washington.”
Conservative talk radio host Mark Levin opened his show Wednesday night by warning listeners of the legislation. Calling the rider “an outrage among many outrages” in the spending bill, Levin characterized it as a “power hungry” move by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
“Do you know why he’s doing that? It’s to destroy any conservative any group that seeks to challenge an incumbent, to destroy the entire primary process,” Levin alleged. “That’s what McConnell is up to.”
McConnell was one of the Republican incumbents targeted by tea party activists in this year’s primaries. But, like most other establishment candidates this cycle, he defeated his primary opponent. He will take over as the Senate majority leader in January.
Asked to comment, McConnell’s office simply noted that the Kentucky Republican was not responsible for the proposed rider.
Under the campaign finance provision, party committees will be able to increase their overall contribution limit by setting up different funds for building and legal costs. At face value, the language would seem to forbid the new cash from being used to pay for television ads, polling or other electioneering.
But tea party activists fear – and lawyers and political scientists expect — that the parties will find creative ways to stretch the new cash.
“They’ve made nice little categories here, but the question is whether they’re going to play games in interpreting what fits into these categories,” said Ray La Raja, a University of Massachusetts professor who specializes in studying political parties.
Even if the new funds created by this week’s rider are exclusively used for the narrowly intended purposes, “it still frees up money for TV ads” by allowing the parties to defray other bills they previously would have been required to pay out of their general coffers, La Raja added.
He pointed out that, in the days before the 2002 McCain-Feingold law banned unlimited so-called “soft money” contributions to the parties, that cash was legally supposed to be used exclusively for “party building activities,” but the parties found ways to use it for TV ads that, to most viewers, seemed like plain old campaign ads.
Multiple GOP party committee officials declined to comment on the record. But a senior Republican Party official supportive of the rider argued: “The committees are the most transparent entities, so this is a step in the right direction for people who believe there’s too much money in politics.”
The tea party’s opposition to the rider puts it in rare agreement with progressives, who also are criticizing the provision but for different reasons. Democratic Party committees would also benefit from the measure, but they do not have the same level of intra-party strife as the Republicans.
In a statement calling on Democrats to oppose the spending bill, Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, said the rider would gut “campaign finance laws” and “would represent Democrats marching in the exact wrong direction.” Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has also cited the campaign finance provision as one of the two reasons for Democrats to sink the bill.
The tea party groups opposed to the rider include FreedomWorks and Citizens United, who argued the legislation was unfair.
“More and more, voters are evaluating candidates on their individual principles, not by political identity. So it’s important that all individuals can be heard in the process, not just the party machines,” said Jackie Bodnar, spokeswoman for FreedomWorks.
In a statement Thursday, Citizens United President David Bossie said: “What congressional leaders are doing is what they do best: protecting incumbents and the two-party system. The omnibus rider will only strengthen the Washington establishment in both parties and not create a level playing field for candidates who are outside the Beltway.”
In a column titled “The One Thing McConnell Will Fight For” in the Conservative Review, Daniel Horowitz made a point that further fanned the fury among the tea party activists: Establishment Republicans are fine with pushing campaign finance changes in the spending bill, but not with including legislation against President Barack Obama’s recent executive order on immigration.
“This is unreal,” Horowitz writes. “The Republican leader has no interest in fighting Obama’s illegal amnesty and is vehemently opposed to attaching a defund rider [on the immigration order] to the budget bill, yet he is willing to stand up and delay the sacrosanct budget bill in order to grow the power of the political parties.”
Kenneth P. Vogel contributed to this report.

Other area chambers of commerce

I wrote to the Birmingham Business Alliance on November 26th a letter about small business and money in politics.

My letter concerned the Represent.Us organization. My letter quoted that organization to the effect that: "The corruption in our political system is causing our elected officials to focus their time and effort to their campaign donors instead of serving their constituents. Represent.Us is building a grassroots movement to end this corruption."

My letter advised the Birmingham Business Alliance that, as part of the movement, the Represent.Us organization was conducting an initiative to obtain endorsements by small business owners of the provisions of the American Anti-Corruption Act.

My letter solicited of the Birmingham Business Alliance an opportunity for me to make a presentation to small business members about the  initiative of Represent.Us. (My full letter can be found at Small business and money in politics.)

I am now taking the step of communicating to other area chambers of commerce about the initiative of Represent.Us.

I will keep track of the area chambers of commerce I communicate to by compiling a list here, which I will update periodically.

Other area chambers of commerce I have communicated to:

1. Homewood Chamber of Commerce
2. Mountain Brook Chamber of Commerce

3. Trussville Chamber of Commerce

Friday, December 12, 2014

Another letter to Mark Lester

[Mark Lester was the Democratic candidate in the 2014 Alabama 6th Congressional district election. He lost to the Republican Gary Palmer.]

From: Rob Shattuck <>
Date: Fri, Dec 12, 2014 at 6:46 PM
Subject: Your September 9th press conference
To: mlester <>

Dear Professor Lester,

In your September 9th press conference, you said, "The most important issue in this campaign is that Congress is broken, and one of the great reasons that Congress is broken is that it is awash with special interest money." [Memorialized at Mark Lester on special interest money.]

I am continuing my campaign on this issue in the Alabama 6th Congressional district. See November 5, 2014.

MAYDAY.US, among other organizations, is prosecuting this issue on a national basis.

Yesterday, I dispatched this Dear Representative Sewell letter.

I solicit you to continue your involvement with this issue.

If you think it would be constructive for us to have a conversation, please let me know.

Thank you very much.

Rob Shattuck

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Dear Representative Sewell

Via Twitter
The Honorable Terri A. Sewell
Representative from the Alabama 7th Congressional District
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC.

Dear Representative Sewell,

I am following up on this communication I endeavored to make to you in June.

As that communication states, in my campaign as a Republican candidate in the Alabama 6th Congressional district this year, I contended that something is fundamentally wrong with Congress, and it critically needs addressing by the American people and Congress.

I continued my campaign even though I was not successful in the June 3rd primary election. 

Representative-elect Palmer will be my Representative from the 6th Congressional district in the new Congress.

My opinion is that he is going to fail abysmally as my Representative and as the Representative of other of his constituents. My opinion is due to Representative-elect Palmer's adamant refusal to address whether or not Congress is "broke." If he cannot address that question,  how can he possibly well serve the 6th Congressional district?

Congress being "broke" (or not) is critical beyond the 6th Congressional district, and, if my Representative will not address the matter, I have no problem in trying to communicate about it to Representatives (and voters) in other Congressional districts.

Your 7th Congressional district is adjacent to the 6th district, so I am turning my eyes towards you and voters in your district.

I do not expect you to respond to me on this.

I do think, however, that Congress is for the country as a whole, in addition to each Representative serving his or her district and constituents. If Congress is "broke," it should be the job of all in Congress  to address the matter for the country.

Accordingly, besides the campaign I am carrying on in the the 6th district, I am sending you this communication as a matter of information to you, and I will further be endeavoring to communicate to your constituents in the 7th district as well.

Thank you for your attention to this letter.

Rob Shattuck
Alabama 6th Congressional district resident

Rep.-elect Palmer: No comment

"I have no comment," says Alabama 6th Congressional district Representative-elect Gary Palmer.
[If Gary Palmer should provide a comment, I will be pleased to post it.]

'The Most Corrupting Campaign-Finance Provisions Ever Enacted'

Eric Thayer/Reuters
When Eric Cantor delivered his farewell address on the House floor this summer following his stunning primary defeat, the former majority leader cited the enactment of the Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act as "one of my proudest moments."
This was not a landmark piece of legislation, but it redirected federal dollars from the public funding of political conventions to pediatric research. It was a feel-good, impossible-to-oppose measure that won nearly 300 votes in the House and was passed by unanimous consent by the Senate. After all, who could argue that the quadrennial party conventions—glitzy coronations that long ago morphed into political infomercials—needed public funding in an electoral system awash with outside money? Didn't the two major parties get enough from private donors?
It turns out the answer to the second question was no. With a last-minute provision tacked onto page 1,599 of the 1,603-page, $1.013 trillion spending bill, Congress is moving to fill the void left by the stripping of public funds for the party conventions by dramatically increasing the amount that individual donors can contribute to the various Republican and Democratic committees.
Speaker John Boehner on Wednesday explained the change by pointing to the Kids First Research Act. "This provision was worked out in a bipartisan way to allow those who are organizing political conventions to raise the money from private sources as opposed to using taxpayer funds," he told reporters. Yet according to advocates for campaign-finance reform, the change will affect a lot more than the financing of political conventions. A single (presumably ultra-wealthy) donor who can currently give a maximum of $97,200 to national party committees would be able to contribute nearly eight times as much—a total of $776,000 a year—to those organizations.
Reform advocates were apoplectic when they saw the language, to say the least. “If enacted, these changes will be the most destructive and corrupting campaign-finance provisions ever enacted by Congress," Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, said in a phone interview Wednesday. The director of Public Citizen's Congress Watch division, Lisa Gilbert, said that the extent of the change "far exceeds the fears that we had."
"It opens the floodgates to even more special-interest money coming into the party committees," Representative Chris Van Hollen, a senior House Democrat, said in an interview Wednesday after announcing his opposition to the spending bill. He noted that the changes do not just allow bigger donations for conventions, but for the construction of buildings and legals fees for electoral recounts as well.Republican officials, including a former top aide to Cantor, said the change to campaign-finance laws had not been a major part of the discussions surrounding the pediatric research measure, which President Obama signed in April. "Our focus was on the bill itself and having more funds directed to pediatric research," the former Cantor adviser said. Reform advocates had opposed the bill because of fears that it would contribute to the dismantling of the public financing system, but the need to offset the loss of taxpayer funding with higher private limits "was definitely never explicitly said," Gilbert recalled. She said attributing the change as a follow-up to the Kids First Research Act was "a cover" for politicians who have been trying to loosen campaign-finance regulations since before a series of favorable Supreme Court decisions struck down important contribution limits.
Wertheimer said the extent of the changes took the reform community completely by surprise. "No one knew about this," he said. Of Boehner's argument that it was necessitated by the research measure earlier this year, he fired back: "That is the equivalent of the individual who kills his parents and then pleads for mercy as an orphan."
Beyond the sneaky inclusion of the change in the back of an unrelated, $1 trillion spending bill, the move highlights the new power of Mitch McConnell, the incoming Senate majority leader who has become one of the loudest champions of unrestricted political donations as a First Amendment cause. It was McConnell and Boehner, a Republican congressional aide said, who ensured that the campaign provision would be added to the omnibus in recent days. Progressive Democrats have long pushed for an expansion of public financing of elections, a movement that is now dead for the foreseeable future.
Democrats on Wednesday afternoon were scrambling to cut that provision out of the bill, along with another change rolling back a derivatives regulation in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law of 2010. “These provisions are destructive to middle class families and to the practice of our democracy. We must get them out of the omnibus package," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.
Already concerned about losing support from conservatives, Republican leaders need some Democratic votes to ensure passage of the bill by a Thursday midnight deadline for averting a government shutdown. With mounting opposition from liberals, that outcome could be in doubt. "It's just too hard to tell at this point," Van Hollen said.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Can Rep.-elect Palmer say anything?

Can Representative-elect Palmer say anything?

Can he say anything about fundamental reform? Whether the country needs it? Or doesn't need it? Whether he is for reform? What reform he is for? Whether he is against it? What reform he is specifically against?

This is not likely. Representative-elect Palmer has had ten months to make an utterance, and he has steadfastly declined. See Just answer the question, Gary Palmer.

So, whaddya gonna do?

Please watch the video below.

From: Lawrence Lessig <>
Date: Tue, Dec 9, 2014 at 2:39 PM
Subject: We can’t wait for the next election cycle – we must begin now.
To: Rob Shattuck <>
Rob —

Just after Election Day, we reported back on our initial findings about the election results. Over the past month, we’ve been digging into the data more to better understand what went right, what went wrong, and what direction we should take going forward.
Today we’re releasing our final report — plus all the data behind the report — and a sketch of what’s next.
I wanted to do both in writing. (Remember, Lessig the academic.) But the team finds my writing boring. So we asked a researcher and statistician, Karina Qian, to pull together a pretty comprehensive report about the election, and I shot this video to introduce it, and to introduce our plans for moving forward. Click here to watch.

Reporting Back

We've learned lots from this election. We have not learned to give up. And the most important thing that I’ve learned is from the emails that I’ve read from you: That we can’t wait for the next election. We must continue this work now.

So over the next year, that’s what we’re going to do. Our team is already spec-ing out a platform that will make it possible for our most important resource — you — to help us recruit members of Congress to support reform. That’s not a platform to ask for money. And it won’t demand much of the voters’ time. But it will enable us to recruit voters in targeted districts to make a simple ask of their incumbent representatives: Will you co-sponsor fundamental reform? And then to create the campaign to get them to yes.

We will launch this next stage formally at SXSW (South by Southwest) in March. And over the next three months, as we build this platform, we will keep you updated at least once a month, and we’ll ask for your advice and help. If you want to help us beta-test the platform as it's developed— both the online and offline components — click here. Because we will really need your help.

So stay tuned, and please stay committed. 90% of America wants what we want — to “reduce the corrupting influence of money in politics.” We are going to do everything we can to get us there. We’ve taken one important step. There are more to come.

You can read our final report here. And if you want to dig deep, you can download our data (CC-0 licensed) here.

Thank you for everything you have done over these past six months. If we were all together (and that would require Dodger Stadium), I’d also ask you to join me in thanking an amazing team — some paid, many volunteers, and all incredibly committed. I am grateful beyond any words for all of that, and hopeful — more hopeful than ever — about where we’re going.

Thank you.


P.S. If you like likening our work to the Rebels from Star Wars, you'll like this piece in Forbes. If you haven’t already, check out this great 6 minute film by Eugene Jarecki and the Nantucket Project which remixes one of my talks and has now been seen by more than 3 million across all platforms. And if you're up for long marches in cold weather, follow the walk across New Hampshire in January with the New Hampshire Rebellion.

Thursday, December 4, 2014