News aggregator

Companies that funded Trump’s inauguration came up big in 2017

Open Secrets - Fri, 01/19/2018 - 12:25

(Photo by Aude Guerrucci-Pool/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump’s inaugural committee raised a record $107 million with the help of wealthy benefactors but also through donations from more than 200 corporations and anonymous LLCs, some of which held government contracts.

On the one-year anniversary of Trump’s inauguration, OpenSecrets took a look at the 63 federal contractors that collectively contributed $16.3 million to finance the festivities to see how they’ve fared in the first year of his presidency.

Some have received lucrative contracts; others have shed executives who now sit among Trump’s political appointees; and still others have earned an unprecedented level of access to the new administration.

Contracts and the pay-to-play loophole

Of the 63 federal contractors that donated to the inauguration, more than half won multimillion-dollar bids in 2017, federal records show. Six companies earned contracts last year after not receiving any awards in 2016.

Federal law forbids government contractors from making contributions to candidates and political action committees. However, there is no such rule against contributions to post-election activities like the presidential inauguration, a loophole that allows contractors to dole out unlimited donations in hopes of bolstering their chances of landing contracts with the new administration.

“Pay-to-play politics – in which government contractors make campaign contributions to those responsible for awarding government contracts – is one of the most pernicious forms of undue influence peddling at the local, state and federal levels,” said Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen.

And government contractors are taking advantage of this unregulated loophole provided by lavish inaugurations, Holman said.

“[I]naugural committees are not covered by pay-to-play laws … as a result, the single largest bloc of money given to presidential inaugural committees typically comes from corporations who are seeking government contracts,” he said.

For his 2009 inauguration, Obama refused contributions from federal contractors. He reversed course in 2013 but ultimately raised a comparatively paltry $1.6 million from 23 contractors; 13 also funded Trump’s 2017 inauguration.

Apollo Education Group, which manages several for-profit educational institutions including University of Phoenix, was among the corporate donors who fared well in bidding last year.

Apollo has historically received federal money through the GI Bill to cover tuition costs for veterans. Federal assistance fell after 2011, however – until last year, when one of the company’s subsidiaries received a $500,000 contract for IT software.

Apollo donated $250,000 to Trump’s inauguration.

Other well-established contractors have seen huge boosts in awards since Trump took office.

CoreCivic, which owns and operates private prisons, has seen a 935 percent increase in federal contract awards from 2016 to 2017 thanks to a change of heart at the Department of Justice.

Fifteen days after being confirmed U.S. attorney general, Jeff Sessions rescinded an Obama-era order designed to phase out for-profit prisons for federal inmates. The phase-out followed a DOJ report that found poor management practices at a CoreCivic facility contributed to an inmate riot that killed a prison guard in 2012.

Since Sessions’ announcement, the DOJ has awarded $388 million in federal contracts to CoreCivic. The company contributed $250,000 to Trump’s inauguration through a subsidiary.

The largest for-profit prison provider, Geo Group, also contributed $250,000 to the inauguration along with $225,000 to Rebuilding America Now, a super PAC that backed Trump during his 2016 presidential bid.  

The contractor, which received half a billion dollars in federal payments has come under scrutiny for violating the pay-to-play rules but claims that it is exempt as the contributions were made by a non contracting subsidiary of the organization.

Another inauguration company linked to the prison industry, Union Supply Group, has seen an 18 percent increase in contract awards since 2016. The organization provides commissary services for federal prisons and received $138,000 from the DOJ in 2017 contracts.

The two companies that received the most in federal contracts also contributed to the inauguration efforts last year and have seen benefits in the first year of the Trump presidency.  

Lockheed Martin, the top recipient of federal money, received $46 billion in contract awards, a 14 percent increase from 2016.

Boeing, the second-largest government contractor, ran into early opposition from Trump in December 2016 when Trump tweeted the following about Boeing’s Air Force One contract, which he claimed was over budget.

Boeing is building a brand new 747 Air Force One for future presidents, but costs are out of control, more than $4 billion. Cancel order!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 6, 2016

In September 2017 Boeing ultimately won the bidding process for the $600 million contract to build the Air Force One replacements.  

Contributions to the inaugural fund didn’t necessarily guarantee lucrative government awards, however. For instance, BP America, saw a 58 percent reduction in government contracts in Trump’s first year despite contributing a sizable $500,000 to his inauguration.  

In total, just over half of the companies that gave to the inauguration saw an increase in contract money from 2016 to 2017.


Some companies that donated to Trump’s inauguration didn’t secure government contracts last year but benefited in other ways.

In 2016, Dow Chemical was awarded both a $1.9 million federal grant for bioenergy research and $1 million as part of an ongoing agreement with the Energy Department. The company gave $1 million to Trump’s inauguration but didn’t receive federal contracts or grants last year.

However, Dow benefited tremendously last year in two major ways: First, the DOJ approved their $130 billion merger with DuPont in spite of a number of antitrust concerns that had previously delayed the merger.  

The new entity, DowDuPont, has prospered in the last year as the result of an amenable EPA, which includes business friendly leadership in Scott Pruitt and Nancy Beck, the top deputy of the toxic chemicals division. Beck is a former executive at the American Chemistry Council, the trade association that represents companies in the chemical industry like DowDuPont.  

The EPA recently rejected a recommended ban on chlorpyrifos, a Dow pesticide that studies suggest has adverse effects on humans. The agency also appears to be streamlining the chemical approval process, which will allow companies such as DowDuPont to get its products to market faster.  

Other inaugural contributors that won big in the first year of Trump’s presidency include six telecommunication and electronics companies – AT&T,  Verizon, Charter Communications, Comcast, Intel and Qualcomm – which contributed a combined $4.1 million to the inauguration.

The companies opposed the net neutrality rules promulgated by the Obama administration that were ultimately repealed by the FCC in December.

Perhaps the most glaring instance of an inaugural donor receiving special treatment last year was Robert Murray, the executive of Murray Energy, which contributed $300,000 to the inauguration from its corporate coffers.  

Last week, The New York Times reported Murray sent a memo in March to Vice President Mike Pence entitled “Action Plan for the Administration of President Donald J. Trump,” which outlined 16 policy requests the Trump administration has either completed or is working to fulfill.

Inaugural underwriters were also treated with direct access to members of the Trump administration, such as candlelight dinners with Pence and his wife or lunch with Cabinet appointees.

Researcher Josh Finkelstein contributed to this report.

The post Companies that funded Trump’s inauguration came up big in 2017 appeared first on OpenSecrets Blog.

Categories: Further Reading

Trump’s top donors: Where are they now?

Open Secrets - Thu, 01/18/2018 - 13:21

President Donald Trump gives his Inaugural Address(Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

One year ago, President Donald Trump’s inauguration broke records – not in turnout, but in inaugural donations.

Trump pulled in $107 million in individual contributions, nearly doubling President Barack Obama’s 2009 record of $53 million. With the donations came a set of perks for top donors“intimate” dinners with Vice President Mike Pence; exclusive luncheons with Cabinet appointees and congressional leaders; tickets to inaugural balls, dinners and luncheons with appearances by Trump.

The money came flooding in from corporate executives, owners of U.S. sports teams and other wealthy benefactors. And this year, some came calling back.

The Center for Responsive Politics assessed Trump’s relationships with his top donors a year after the January 20, 2017 inauguration. Some now hold ambassador positions while others have developed close relationships with the administration.

Inaugural donors

The Adelsons (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Chief among the top donors was Sheldon Adelson, a GOP megadonor and CEO of the largest casino company in the United States, Las Vegas Sands Corp. He doled out $5 million for Trump’s inauguration fund.

The donation was not only Trump’s largest inaugural contribution, but the largest individual donation made to any presidential inaugural committee. He and his wife, Miriam Adelson, also donated nearly $83 million to Republicans in the 2016 election.

In the past year Adelson has pressed Trump to follow through on his campaign pledge to relocate the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, a move Trump announced in December.

“The Adelsons reportedly have been disappointed in Trump’s failure to keep a campaign pledge to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem on his first day in office,” wrote the Las Vegas Review-Journal after Adelson’s October meeting with Trump. The paper is owned by the Adelson family.

(Home Depot CEO Bernie Marcus, who donated $7 million to Trump’s campaign effort but was not an inaugural donor, also has a vested interest in the region as founder of the Israel Democracy Institute).

But he is not the only inaugural donor who may have turned his contribution into special access to the administration.

In April, coal baron Robert Murray, who donated $300,000 to the inauguration, gave Trump a detailed to-do list of environmental rollbacks, according to The New York Times. Since then, the administration is on track to check off most of Murray’s wish list.

The son of R.W. Habboush, a Venezuelan lobbyist who donated $666,000 to the inauguration, sat in on meetings about sanctions on Venezuela.

In the past year, a series of Trump donors or their close relatives have also been appointed U.S. ambassadors.

Notable among them is Robert Wood Johnson, the owner of the New York Jets. Johnson donated $1 million to the inauguration. In August, he was sworn in as the U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom.

Joseph Craft III, president and CEO of Alliance Resource Partners, was another million-dollar donor to the inaugural committee. His wife, Kelly Knight Craft, was sworn in as the U.S. ambassador to Canada in September.

Doug Manchester, owner of Manchester Financial Group and another $1 million inaugural donor, was nominated for a position as the U.S. ambassador to the Bahamas in May. Manchester is now awaiting a re-nomination from Trump because of a Senate rule.

Campaign donors

Many of the top inaugural donors also donated millions in support of Trump’s presidential campaign.

Trump’s top campaign donor, Robert Mercer, the billionaire co-CEO of the hedge fund Renaissance Technologies, poured more than $15 million into outside groups to get Trump elected. Mercer also donated $1 million to the Trump inaugural committee. PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel donated $1 million to Trump’s campaign efforts and $100,000 to the inauguration.

Each were top campaign donors and each held close relationships to the administration.

Of the more than $400 million raised to elect Trump, about $50 million was raised by Trump’s top 13 contributors (below) – many of whom have found themselves in the Trump administration’s inner circle.

DonorsOrganizationTotalCampaignOutside Groups Mercer, Robert L. & DianaRenaissance Technologies$15,510,800 $10,800 $15,500,000 Marcus, Bernard & Billi WilmaBernard Marcus Family Foundation$7,000,000 $0 $7,000,000 McMahon, Linda & VincentMcMahon Ventures$6,002,700 $2,700 $6,000,000 Palmer, Geoff & AnneGH Palmer AssociateS$5,005,400 $5,400 $5,000,000 Perlmutter, Isaac & LauraMarvel Entertainment$5,005,400 $5,400 $5,000,000 Beal, Andrew & SimonaBeal Bank$2,105,400 $5,400 $2,100,000 Cameron, Ronald & NinaMountaire Corp.$2,013,500 $13,500 $2,000,000 McNair, Robert & JaniceHouston Texans$2,010,800 $10,800 $2,000,000 Feinberg, Stephen & GisellaCerberus Capital Management$1,485,800 $10,800 $1,475,000 Zieve, Peter & MariaElectroimpact Inc$1,003,027 $3,027 $1,000,000 Thiel, PeterThiel Capital$1,002,700 $2,700 $1,000,000 Moskowitz, Irving & ChernaHawaiian Gardens Casino$1,000,000 $0 $1,000,000 Buckley, Walter & MarjorieBuckley Muething Capital Management$1,000,000 $0 $1,000,000

Some like Linda McMahon, owner of McMahon Ventures and co-founder of the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) empire, donated over $6 million to getting Trump elected. Much of that was donated to Trump-aligned super PACs, such as Future45 and Rebuilding America Now.

McMahon was later appointed administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration.

In 2009, Dallas banker Andrew Beal, who donated $2.1 million toward Trump’s presidential bid and $1 million for the inauguration, worked with Carl Ichan in an attempt to take control of the bankrupt Trump Entertainment Resorts Inc. Ichan served as an advisor in the early months of the administration until he resigned ahead of a story detailing potential conflicts of interest.

Others toted close relationships to the administration like Stephen Feinburg, who donated $1.5 million to campaign efforts and had a close military ear in the Trump administration. That was before ex-White House Chief Strategist Stephen Bannon’s departure from the administration.

Steve Bannon (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Many of Trump’s top donors have stepped into the political spotlight in the wake of Trump and Bannon’s public feud.

Contributors like Feinburg, Thiel and Marcus – Trump’s second largest campaign donor – held close relationships to Bannon.

Some of them, such as GOP megadonors Adelson and the Mercer family, have since distanced themselves from Bannon in support of Trump. Rebekah Mercer, the billionaire daughter of Robert Mercer who runs the family business, severed ties with Bannon in a January statement to The Washington Post.

“I support President Trump and the platform upon which he was elected,” Rebekah Mercer said. “My family and I have not communicated with Steve Bannon in many months and have provided no financial support to his political agenda, nor do we support his recent actions and statements.”

The post Trump’s top donors: Where are they now? appeared first on OpenSecrets Blog.

Categories: Further Reading

Conservative outside spending dominates Pennsylvania special election

Open Secrets - Thu, 01/18/2018 - 07:32

Conor Lamb (D) (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

With less than two months until the special election pitting Republican Rick Saccone against Democrat Conor Lamb in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District, two conservative outside groups have hit the Southwestern Pennsylvania airwaves within the last week, spending nearly $350,000 on advertisements in the race to replace eight-term Republican representative Tim Murphy.

Both groups are bankrolled by Joe Ricketts, the founder and former CEO of TD Ameritrade, who boasted a net worth of $2.1 billion in 2017, according to Forbes.

45Committee, a 501(c)(4) that does not have to disclose its donors, spent $248,298 split evenly on advertisements supporting Saccone and opposing Lamb – including $40,000 on online advertising, paid in two $20,000 installments to Arena Online.

TV spots included two payments of $98,079 to Mentzer Media Services Inc. and two payments of $6,070 to McCarthy Hennings Whalen Inc.

Ending Spending added $100,000 in TV advertisements supporting Saccone, also purchased from Mentzer Media Services Inc. The group also spent $413,386 on Saccone the previous week. OpenSecrets Blog wrote about the two groups’ ties to Ricketts earlier this year.

According to The Washington Post, a recent 45Committee attack ad depicts Lamb in a photo next to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi – a loathed figure in the district – despite the fact that the photos of Lamb and Pelosi were taken at different events and made to appear as if the two were standing together, and despite the candidate’s repeated rebukes of Pelosi and his promise to oppose her in any race for speaker of the house.

The race has also been the target of $102,526 in spending by the Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC closely linked to the Republican House leadership, split equally between attacking Lamb and supporting Saccone.

No outside expenditures have been made in support of Lamb. The special election, which will be the first of 2018, is scheduled for March 13.

The 18th District yielded a 19-point victory for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election, despite the fact that Democrats maintain a 6-point registration advantage over Republicans.

This week, the president will hit the campaign trail on behalf of Saccone, the veteran and former Pennsylvania state representative who had filed to run for Senate in 2018 before getting the nod at the special election Republican convention to run for Murphy’s seat. Lamb, a Marine who has never held elected office, is pro-life and pro-gun rights – both of which could make him an unusually appealing candidate to a crucial demographic of Republican voters.

The special election is the first opportunity for both parties to test out campaign messaging after the passage of the GOP tax reform bill, and results could set the tone for the upcoming midterm election.


The post Conservative outside spending dominates Pennsylvania special election appeared first on OpenSecrets Blog.

Categories: Further Reading

Political donations by lobbyists rising

Open Secrets - Thu, 01/11/2018 - 11:36

A view of K Street in Washington DC. (Photo by Brooks Kraft/ Getty Images)

Of the $75.8 million that federal lobbyists have donated to members of Congress since 2011, $58.9 million came from lobbyists who worked on issues related to taxes, according to lobbying records.

That doesn’t include the final three months of 2017, when lobbyists scrambled to influence the final version of the Republican rewrite of the tax code.

Contributions since 2011 from these 2,544 “tax lobbyists” benefited lawmakers from both parties, particularly Republicans in the first nine months of 2017, when GOP leaders worked on the first draft of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

In the nine months leading up to the House version of the bill released in November, lobbyists who had registered and actively lobbied on tax-related issues in 2017 donated nearly $9.6 million to congressional campaigns and leadership PACs.

In the 2016 election cycle, lobbyists donated about $27 million to current members of Congress and their leadership PACs.


TABLE: Contributions to current members of Congress by registered lobbyists Cycle Total Democrats Republicans Candidate Committees Leadership PACs Dem Rep 2012 $17,081,452 $9,365,886 $7,683,172 $14,614,680 $2,466,772 55% 45% 2014 $19,729,788 $8,537,318 $11,184,095 $16,699,239 $3,030,549 43% 57% 2016 $26,987,408 $10,947,920 $16,012,706 $23,820,031 $3,167,377 41% 59% *2018 $12,020,715 $5,094,788 $6,889,800 $10,845,350 $1,175,365 42% 57% (*Includes contributions during the first nine months of cycle)


In the first nine months of the 2018 cycle, all registered and active lobbyists donated $12 million.

About 80 percent of those donations, or $9.6 million, came from lobbyists who worked at least part time on tax issues even though they represented just 58 percent of all lobbyists. Of the 11,078 registered and active lobbyists, 4,657 were not involved in taxes, according to their quarterly disclosures.


TABLE: Contributions to members of Congress by lobbyists who worked on tax-related issues Year Total Democrats Republicans Candidate Committees Leadership PACs Dem Rep 2011 $6,917,178 $3,746,975 $3,167,753 $5,972,884 $944,294 54% 46% 2012 $5,756,450 $3,043,067 $2,691,789 $4,749,601 $1,006,849 53% 47% 2013 $7,527,583 $3,188,683 $4,335,900 $6,318,591 $1,208,992 42% 58% 2014 $7,798,470 $3,244,961 $4,550,009 $6,513,504 $1,284,966 42% 58% 2015 $10,861,314 $4,417,532 $6,436,832 $9,483,592 $1,377,722 41% 59% 2016 $10,377,007 $3,838,366 $6,520,809 $9,147,106 $1,229,901 37% 63% *2017 $9,610,078 $3,947,226 $5,627,252 $8,662,128 $947,950 41% 59% (*Includes contributions during the first nine months of 2017)


Fewer tax lobbyists are driving an uptick in political contributions: The number of registered lobbyists and lobbyist donors who worked on taxes declined during the first nine months of the 2018 cycle over the same period in the 2016 cycle while average donations increased.


TABLE: Donations from tax lobbyists in the first three quarters of the year Year (Jan-Sep) Tax Lobbyist Donors Donated Average Donation 2013 1,789 $9,696,587 $5,420 2015 1,573 $9,384,241 $5,966 2017 1,476 $9,623,128 $6,520

In the fourth quarter of 2016, tax lobbyists donated $1.5 million to lawmakers, setting up the possibility of a record-setting pace for the 2018 midterms.

Year-end campaign finance reports are due to the Federal Election Commission by Jan. 31.

Researcher Dan Auble contributed to this report.


The post Political donations by lobbyists rising appeared first on OpenSecrets Blog.

Categories: Further Reading

Tax lobbyists donated millions to members of Congress

Open Secrets - Fri, 12/22/2017 - 15:13

Photo by Ben Rosett on Unsplash

President Donald Trump rubber-stamped his party’s revision to the U.S. tax code on Friday, capping a year in which lobbyists working to influence tax law poured millions into the reelection campaigns of Congress.

Lobbyists working on issues related to taxes donated $9.6 million to members of Congress during the first nine months of 2017.

Among the 11,078 total lobbyists who have registered and actively lobbied so far in 2017, about 58 percent – or 6,421 – lobbied on the issue of taxes, according to quarterly disclosure forms filed between January and September.

Almost a quarter of these “tax lobbyists” – or 1,476 – made political contributions. Their combined average contribution during the first three quarters of the 2018 cycle was $6,520.

The remaining 705 lobbyists who donated to members of Congress, but were not involved in tax issues, contributed an average of $3,397.

Fourteen lobbyists working at least part time on taxes donated more than $50,000 – the majority of which went to Republican members.

TABLE: Top ‘tax lobbyist’ donors to Congress and leadership PACs (Q1-Q3, 2017)

Lobbyist Employer Donated Dems Repubs Brownstein, Norman Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck $60,500 $44,300 $16,200 Burgos, Tonio Tonio Burgos and Associates $103,800 $90,000 $11,100 Daschle, Linda LHD & Associates $57,050 $57,050 $0 Fields, Jack Twenty-First Century Group $67,529 $3,000 $64,529 Geduldig, Sam CGCN Group $76,200 $0 $76,200 Goldstein, Lon Goldstein Policy Solutions $54,400 $2,500 $51,900 Hirschmann, Susan Williams & Jensen $80,100 $0 $80,100 Kies, Kenneth Federal Policy Group $72,347 $2,499 $69,848 Kimbell, Jeffrey Kimbell & Associates $50,700 $0 $50,700 Kimberly, Richard Kimberly Consulting $51,500 $0 $51,500 MacKinnon, Jeffrey Farragut Partners $95,450 $0 $95,450 McGivern, Tim Ogilvy Government Relations $51,778 $0 $51,778 Milne, John The Ingram Group $62,225 $1,500 $60,725 Nathanson, Melanie Nathanson & Hauck $53,100 $53,100 $0 Total     $253,949 $680,030

Eighteen lawmakers received more than $100,000 in political contributions from tax-lobbying donors. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) were the largest recipients.

Ryan ($357,200) and Hatch ($314,974) held a ceremonial signing of the GOP tax bill this week. After signing the paperwork, Ryan handed the pen to Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), the House architect of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which Trump signed Friday.

Brady, chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, received about $116,000 from tax lobbyists during the first three quarters of 2017.

TABLE: Members of Congress who received more than $100,000 from ‘tax lobbyists’

Member Party State Chamber Total Ryan, Paul R WI House $357,200 Hatch, Orrin R UT Senate $314,974 Heitkamp, Heidi D ND Senate $301,775 McCarthy, Kevin R CA House $274,000 Nelson, Bill D FL Senate $236,950 Brown, Sherrod D OH Senate $230,372 Tester, Jon D MT Senate $174,750 Kaine, Tim D VA Senate $163,850 Walden, Greg R OR House $156,346 Heller, Dean R NV Senate $147,200 Cantwell, Maria D WA Senate $136,825 Tiberi, Pat R OH House $130,550 Heinrich, Martin D NM Senate $128,975 Casey, Bob D PA Senate $127,906 McCaskill, Claire D MO Senate $121,615 Brady, Kevin R TX House $116,425 Scalise, Steve R LA House $111,400 Donnelly, Joe D IN Senate $110,549


The post Tax lobbyists donated millions to members of Congress appeared first on OpenSecrets Blog.

Categories: Further Reading

Happy Holidays

Open Secrets - Thu, 12/21/2017 - 11:44

Photo by Hide Obara on Unsplash













We will be closed until January 2

If you are a reporter with an urgent press question, please email

Happy Holidays from!

The post Happy Holidays appeared first on OpenSecrets Blog.

Categories: Further Reading

Best of 2017: 10 Stories of Money and Politics

Open Secrets - Wed, 12/20/2017 - 15:12

A billionaire president surrounded by the wealthiest cabinet in modern history. Special elections that shattered records for campaign spending. A foreign government spending millions on Facebook ads to influence an election.

Keeping pace with the news cycle in 2017 was not easy – but fear not.

For your holiday reading the OpenSecrets blog team has put together some of our favorite stories from this very memorable year in politics.

FEC is after Trump and his JFCs for anonymous donations, other violations

Mere days before his inauguration, then-President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign committee received a sharply worded letter from the Federal Election Commission about multiple campaign finance violations – from accepting contributions the legal limit to pocketing those from anonymous donors. “Refused” and “Anonymous” were frequent donors of Trump’s candidacy.

Senate vote on prescription drug price legislation calls loyalties into question

Americans want cheaper prescription drug prices, yet a proposal for importing lower-cost drugs from Canada failed in the Senate. Our analysis showed that senators who voted against the amendment had received vastly higher political contributions from the U.S. pharmaceutical industry.

Seven years later: Blurred boundaries, more money

Next month is the eighth anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark Citizens United ruling that gave birth to super PACs and a mechanism for funneling unlimited cash to influence U.S. political campaigns. We reflected on the 5-4 court decision last year by tracking the rise of super PAC spending that has no appearance of stopping anytime soon.

More than Mar-a-Lago: Members of all Trump clubs could have access to the president

Mar-a-Lago resort is not only Trump’s so-called “Winter White House” but also an opportunity to mingle with the new president – assuming you can afford the $200,000 annual membership. A CRP analysis found that the Mar-a-Lagians whose names have been publicized have spent a minimum of $4.9 million on federal-level political contributions since 1989. More than three-quarters of that has gone to Republicans. 

Wellspring’s dark money crucial to judicial group, helps others in Trump orbit

A single conservative mega donor poured millions into a campaign that blocked Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, from filling the empty court seat later filled by Trump’s choice, Neil Gorsuch. CRP broke the story in its analysis of tax documents filed by Judicial Crisis Network, the small nonprofit behind the campaign.

250 donors shelled out $100k or more for Trump’s inauguration, providing 91% of funds

President Donald Trump raised over $100 million for his 2017 inaugural festivities, shattering previous records. In this story, we detailed the generous donors who funded Trump’s 2017 celebrations. For more, see the donors who gave more than $100,000 for recent inaugurations.

Dark money, super PAC spending surges ahead of 2018 midterms

Shadowy politically active nonprofits (or “dark money” groups), deep-pocketed super PACs and other outside groups have never spent so much, so early in an election cycle, our data shows. Outside groups spent nearly $48 million through August – or more than double the $21 million the groups spent at this point in the 2016 presidential election cycle.

Audit shows NRA spending surged $100 million amidst pro-Trump push in 2016

The National Rifle Association’s spending surged by more than $100 million in 2016, surpassing any previous annual NRA spending totals on record, according to documents obtained by CRP. The NRA’s unprecedented spending helped deliver Donald Trump the White House and for Republicans, control of Congress.            

Money flows into net neutrality debate ahead of FCC vote

Roughly eight of 10 Americans opposed the Federal Communications Commission’s planned repeal of Obama-era net neutrality protections. It didn’t matter. The repeal passed 3-2 by along party lines, with the FCC’s Republican commissioners siding with the interests of internet service providers (ISPs).

Out of the swamp … or into the shadows?

Hordes of federal lobbyists have deliberately moved into the shadows to avoid the spotlight (and the reporting requirements) of an FEC-registered lobbyist, a CRP special report reveals. Our investigation found nearly a third of previously registered lobbyists who stayed at the same organization but are no longer registered have titles that indicate they may still be working on influencing policy.

Looking to the future:

The 2017 special elections continue into the 2018, following a string of resignations this month. The 2018 midterms, which could determine which party controls the House of Representatives are only 11 months away. Stay tuned…


The post Best of 2017: 10 Stories of Money and Politics appeared first on OpenSecrets Blog.

Categories: Further Reading

Controversial West Virginia coal magnate jumps into U.S. Senate race

Open Secrets - Mon, 12/18/2017 - 10:38

Don Blankenship before the Senate Appropriations Committee. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Don Blankenship, the former CEO and chair of Massey Energy, filed federal candidacy papers in December, officially launching his U.S. Senate campaign in West Virginia.

Blankenship’s early rhetoric fits the mold of some of the anti-establishment characters backed this election cycle by former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon, who’s declared a “war” on the GOP status quo. The difference in this case though is that the 67-year-old coal magnate was just released from prison.

Blankenship spent one year in federal prison on a misdemeanor count of conspiring to violate mine safety and health standards following an explosion at one of Massey Energy’s West Virginia coal mines in which 29 miners were killed in 2010. He was released in May.

Now, he’s running for Senate in a state whose economy has long been fueled by coal.

Blankenship’s candidacy

On November 29, a local TV station in West Virginia announced via Twitter that Blankenship would run in the state’s Republican primary. Blankenship filed his statement of candidacy a couple days later.

Eyeing the Senate seat currently held by Democrat Joe Manchin, Blankenship has entered a crowded field of Republican primary candidates, including state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, coal miner Bo Copley and U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins.

The Senate race is considered a toss-up, according to the Cook Political Report. And it could become another GOP battleground for Bannon and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) as the two back different Republican candidates. Bannon has expressed support for Morrisey while McConnell has reportedly maintained that Jenkins is his preferred choice for the race. Robert Mercer, the billionaire GOP donor affiliated with Bannon, initially donated to Jenkins’ campaign but has switched support to Morrisey.

Bannon and Mercer may have already chosen their favorites in the race, but Blankenship shares many of their anti-establishment goals. Despite having twice donated $1,000 to McConnell’s campaigns, Blankenship no longer supports the majority leader.

In an August 2014 blog post, Blankenship characterized McConnell as a “quintessential politician” who doesn’t care about the interests of the coal industry.

“If he is fighting for coal he is not very good at it,” Blankenship, a Kentucky native, wrote in his blog post.

Despite donations to state and national Republican Party committees spanning two decades, Blankenship paints himself as a political outsider. Already, he has suggested government corruption will be a cornerstone of his campaign. Other priority areas include guaranteeing Americans the right to a fair trial and free speech — priority areas inspired by his own legal battles.

Since the Upper Big Branch Mine explosion in 2010, which led to his prison time, Blankenship has railed against the U.S. Department of Labor and the government at large, which he accused of orchestrating a cover-up on the scale of Watergate.

“Politicians put me in prison for political and self-serving reasons,” he wrote from prison in a 65-page booklet titled “An American Political Prisoner.”

Political contributions

Blankenship may be a newcomer to this Senate race, but he’s an experienced political donor. Massey Energy, the company he led from 2000 to 2010, was also active in federal lobbying.

Between 1989 and 2014, Blankenship donated $195,200 to Republican candidates and party committees. Of this total, $31,400 went toward the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Among current members of Congress, eight have received contributions directly from Blankenship since 1989. All eight are Republicans, including U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski (Ind.) and Sens. Pat Toomey (Penn.) and Rob Portman (Ohio).

Legal problems

Blankenship has had his fair share of controversy.

Praised by some in Appalachia for leading a relatively successful business for years, Blankenship has also been condemned for his disregard for his employees’ health and work conditions.

In 2010, industrial equipment in the Upper Big Branch Mine owned by Massey Energy kicked up sparks. The sparks ignited a pocket of methane, setting up a chain of explosions in the mine that killed and injured dozens of miners.

At trial following the disaster, it was revealed that Blankenship, whose company had a history of flouting regulations under his leadership, hid safety violations from federal safety inspectors.

According to grand jury testimony, Massey Energy had amassed 835 citations and accrued $900,000 worth of fines in the late 2000s for repeatedly violating mandatory federal mine safety standards.

Consequently, Blankenship initially faced up to 30 years in prison on several charges including felony conspiracy. This was later changed in 2015 to a misdemeanor charge that came with a one-year prison sentence and a $250,000 fine.

This high-profile case was not Blankenship’s first run-in with the law. Facing a $50 million fraud judgement in 2004, Blankenship, as head of Massey Energy in 2004, donated $5,000 to the political action committee West Virginians for Life, and another $2.5 million to the And for the Sake of the Kids PAC.

The latter PAC funded attack ads against then-West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals Justice Warren McGraw. After losing the election, McGraw was replaced by Brent Benjamin, a little-known attorney, who overturned the $50 million verdict in a case that inspired a John Grisham novel.

West Virginia race

As the West Virginia race heats up and an increasing number of candidates enter the race, so too have campaign contributions.

According to the latest FEC data, Jenkins had raised about $900,000 as of December 15, and Morrisey has raised about $675,000. Copley has yet to report contributions to his campaign. Manchin has raised close to $4 million, so far.

Blankenship has yet to receive contributions for the race, but he’s active on social media and already released several political ads. He has a Vimeo account with four followers and announced last month on Twitter that he planned to run political ads on “TV, Facebook and more,” a tweet that drew 48 mixed comments.

The post Controversial West Virginia coal magnate jumps into U.S. Senate race appeared first on OpenSecrets Blog.

Categories: Further Reading

Money flows into net neutrality debate ahead of FCC vote

Open Secrets - Thu, 12/14/2017 - 08:29

Ajit Varadaraj Pai at FOX Studios on November 10, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images)

After nearly a year of lobbying on both sides of the FCC’s proposed repeal of net neutrality protections, tech companies and internet service providers await an FCC ruling Thursday to determine the fate of plans opposed by roughly eight out of 10 Americans, polling suggests.

Nearly 100 quarterly reports filed by those who lobbied the FCC this year cite the words “net neutrality” or “internet freedom.”

The reports represent at least 18 telecommunications companies, trade organizations and conservative advocacy groups who lobbied the FCC in opposition of net neutrality. Collectively, the organizations have spent $110 million in federal lobbying this year.

Another 24 groups have lobbied the FCC to maintain its existing net neutrality protections, including tech companies and web content providers such as Amazon, Facebook and Twitter. Together, this coalition spent just over $39 million.

Both sides of net neutrality sought to influence the FCC while simultaneously dumping $6.5 million into the campaigns of both Republicans and Democrats. (The figure includes contributions to candidate committees and their leadership PACs from individuals and political action committees).

Since January, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) has received the largest contribution from pro- and anti-net neutrality groups ($100,800), according to CRP’s analysis of campaign filings, split almost equally between entities that support and oppose net neutrality

The second highest Republican recipient was Oregon Rep. Greg Walden ($88,700) who was greeted this summer in his home district with billboards criticizing his harsh critique of the FCC’s initial 2015 ruling on net neutrality. More than 83 percent of those contributions came from entities that oppose net neutrality.

The groups who have lobbied the FCC this year in support of net neutrality have contributed a combined $5 million to 484 current members of Congress. Contributions aren’t directly donated by corporations, but rather from employees and their family members as well as from corporate PACs.

Those seeking to overturn the FCC’s ruling in favor of deregulations – specifically, internet service providers, such as Comcast, Verizon and AT&T – have contributed roughly $1.5 million to 273 members of Congress.

Of the 535 members of Congress, 495 (or 93 percent) have received campaign contributions from groups who lobbied the FCC on net neutrality. Those members included 265 Republicans, 228 Democrats and two Independents – Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine.

The post Money flows into net neutrality debate ahead of FCC vote appeared first on OpenSecrets Blog.

Categories: Further Reading

Koch nonprofit president’s anti-net neutrality campaign

Open Secrets - Wed, 12/13/2017 - 13:00

Photo by Avi Richards on Unsplash

For the past three years, American Commitment, a small nonprofit with ties to the donor network spearheaded by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch, has been actively opposing net neutrality with social media, commentaries, and a little-known coalition whose members include other Koch nonprofits and prominent conservative groups.

Before the FCC’s ruling in 2015 to protect net neutrality, American Commitment President Phil Kerpen actively opposed the policy with coordinated anti-net neutrality comment submissions and blog posts.

Since the new FCC Chairman, former Verizon lawyer Ajit Pai, announced on November 21 his plan to overturn the 2015 net neutrality ruling, Kerpen has supported its repeal to his over 26,000 Twitter followers, posting over 40 tweets and retweets about net neutrality in that period. He also has argued against net neutrality in commentaries published by CNS News and Townhall.

The FCC is expected to vote Thursday in favor of repealing the net neutrality protections as outlined in Pai’s proposal.


According to American Commitment, nearly 370,000 anti-net neutrality comments have been submitted to lawmakers through its website. In 2015, however, Kerpen came under scrutiny when language matching email templates from American Commitment appeared in fraudulent anti-net neutrality emails to lawmakers. The emails purported to be from those lawmakers’ constituents, but the firm managing some lawmakers’ “contact” pages later found that many did not originate in the districts they claimed.

American Commitment’s 2016 tax documents show that the nonprofit’s funding was almost entirely made up of contributions in the tens of thousands. As a 501(c)(4) social welfare organization, the nonprofit is not required to disclose its donors, however, so it’s unknown whether any telecommunications companies with a stake in ending net neutrality have funded the group’s operations.

Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, the financial hub of the Koch donor network, gave $50,000 to American Commitment in 2016, according to the former’s tax filings.  

Earlier this year, a memo attributed to Kerpen argued that dominant web platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Google should be required by law to disclose “how traffic is treated” and “the standards used for limiting speech” because the companies, he said, were “systematically promoting liberal views and limiting or even banning conservatives.”

The disclosure proposal would “put us on the offense on the net neutrality issue,” according to the memo, which mentions Pai’s plans to revoke the FCC’s classification of internet service providers as common carriers under Title II and suggests Congress should be the body to establish net neutrality rules.

“That draft memo represented preliminary thoughts on complex issues and was not intended for publication,” Kerpen said in an email to CRP when asked about the memo. 

Pai, the FCC chairman, raised the same point made in the memo in a recent Washington Times op-ed. “Large Silicon Valley platforms today pose a far greater threat to a free and open internet than do internet service providers,” Pai wrote. 

Kerpen chairs the Internet Freedom Coalition (IFC), a collection of educational and social welfare nonprofits and conservative platforms including American Commitment, Americans for Tax Reform, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and other politically active nonprofits. Verizon, Comcast, Sprint and AT&T have all been members of ALEC or held positions on its committees.

Of the IFC’s 22-member organizations, three are currently or were formerly linked to the Kochs. Kerpen’s own ties to the Kochs go back to his days as vice president of policy at Americans for Prosperity, the Koch brothers’ flagship political group.

In an email to CRP, Kerpen said that the IFC was “not a legal entity” but rather an “ad hoc coalition of groups generally opposed to taxation, regulation, and United Nations control of the Internet.” (He opposes both U.S. and international net neutrality regulation).

Berin Szoka of, which is listed as a member on IFC’s website, said Lori Armistead, a former American Commitment consultant, approached his organization to join the coalition five years ago.

“I haven’t talked to her since then, or otherwise heard of the coalition,” said Szoka, TechFreedom’s president.

According to Szoka, Armistead said IFC’s activities included coordinating media opportunities, publicizing its members’ positions on social media and submitting public comments to the FCC.

IFC’s website was created in 2006, and the site’s copyright reads 2009.

Earlier this year, two IFC members – the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste and Americans for Tax Reform – lobbied Congress to approve a joint resolution that would nullify an FCC rule extending consumer privacy rules to broadband and telecommunications services. The resolution passed in March and signed into law by President Donald Trump in April.

Todd O’Boyle, a media program director at the pro-net neutrality watchdog group Common Cause, said he had not heard of the Kerpen’s coalition.

Timothy Karr, director of the pro-net neutrality advocacy group Free Press, described Kerpen’s impact on the net neutrality debate as “minimal.”

According to tax filings obtained by CRP, Kerpen’s member organizations have collectively received about $550,000 in grants since 2015 from the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA), the major trade group representing internet and cable TV providers.

The post Koch nonprofit president’s anti-net neutrality campaign appeared first on OpenSecrets Blog.

Categories: Further Reading

Endowment tax affecting Republican districts with GOP support

Open Secrets - Fri, 12/08/2017 - 11:44

Grinnell College via Wikimedia Commons

The GOP-led proposals to levy an excise tax on the investment income of some private colleges and universities would affect dozens of schools represented by a Republican lawmaker.

In a previous article, we wrote about how the proposed 1.4 percent excise tax on the endowment of private colleges and universities in particular would impact institutions with employees whose campaign contributions are predominantly Democratic Party-leaning.

The provisions were included in the tax reform proposals by the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance committees, whose combined members include 13 Republican senators and three representatives from states or congressional districts with schools likely affected, according to an analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Of the estimated 68 schools that would be impacted by the House excise tax, 35 are located in districts or states represented by Republican lawmakers, each of whom voted for the broader tax reform bill.

Three House Republicans – Claudia Tenney of New York, Pat Meehan of Pennsylvania and Todd Rokita of Indiana – were elected in districts with two private schools in jeopardy of paying the endowment tax, which higher education officials oppose for its effect on program services, tuition costs and financial aid for students.

Tenny, Meehan and Rokita each voted in favor of the House tax plan.

The 68-school estimate is based on an analysis of 2014-2015 enrollment and endowment data compiled by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and provided to CRP.

Below is a list of schools that would be subject to the endowment tax based on NCES’ analysis along with their congressional districts and representatives.

Eight of the 39 members on the House Ways and Means committee — where the House bill originated — represent a district with at least one school facing the endowment provision. Of the eight members, three are Republican. Thirteen members of the Senate Finance Committee represent 21 schools on the list.

Grinnell College, an Iowa liberal arts school of about 1,700 students, is one of the 68 schools facing the new tax burden. The college is represented in Washington by three Republicans, two senators and Rep. Rod Blum.

The endowment tax would be particularly painful for smaller schools such as Grinnell, which has fewer revenue streams compared to larger schools, said Raynard S. Kington, school president.

Endowment revenue provides critical research funding and assists the school’s historically large contributions to student financial aid, Kington said.

“Over 85 percent of our students receive some form of financial aid. So if you look at the demographics of our students compared to our peers, we have a lower percentage of students paying the full ride,” he said. “This means that other schools have millions of dollars in revenue that we don’t have.”

Grinnell wouldn’t be the only small liberal arts institution impacted by the GOP proposals. Of the 68 schools on the list, half are liberal arts colleges. They range from Pomona College, which had a 2014 endowment of about $1.27 million per student, to Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, which had an endowment of about $255,000 per student.

Rep. Blum voted yes on the House bill in November.

Kington said he was told by Blum’s office the congressman intended to sign a “Dear Colleague” letter addressed to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) objecting to the excise tax.

Whether Blum actually signed the letter or McConnell received it is unclear. Blum’s office did not respond to multiple emails and phone calls seeking to confirm the letter’s whereabouts.

While he cited on his website education as an important policy issue, Blum received scarce campaign contributions from employees of the education industry in the 2016 cycle. Most of the contributions to his campaign came from the finance and agribusiness industries.

Other House Republicans from districts will schools potentially affected include Meehan (Bryn Mawr College and Haverford College) and Indiana’s Jackie Walorski, whose district includes the University of Notre Dame. Each voted for the House tax bill as well.

Neither Meehan or Walorski has received overwhelming support from their local colleges and universities. For instance, while Walorski’s campaign received $4,416 from individuals affiliated with Notre Dame in the 2016 election cycle, her Democratic opponent, Lynn Coleman, received around $12,475.

Despite the proposed endowment tax, higher education advocates say that representatives from both sides of the aisle appear receptive of their concerns.

Joseph Verardo, the vice president of the National Association of Graduate-Professional Students, said public outcry may have influenced the Senate’s decision to remove some other controversial higher education-related provisions in the House bill.

“Along with many other groups, we have worked together to ensure that senators are aware of the impact of these provisions,” Verardo said. “There has also been a large volume of calls made by students and others concerned about the impact this will have on higher education.”

The post Endowment tax affecting Republican districts with GOP support appeared first on OpenSecrets Blog.

Categories: Further Reading

Democrats donate Franken PAC contributions to charity

Open Secrets - Wed, 12/06/2017 - 15:44

US Senator Al Franken, (JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

In the wake of sexual harassment allegations against Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), a number of his fellow Democrats have stated that they have donated the money their campaigns received from Midwest Values PAC, a political action committee affiliated with Franken.  

So far in the 2018 election cycle, Midwest Values PAC has contributed $145,500 to 26 candidates, including 17 of Franken’s Senate colleagues.

At least 21 Democrats who have received contributions from Franken’s PAC this election cycle have pledged to return or donate to charities the PAC contributions, according to official statements and news reports.

Abby Finkenauer, who is running for Congress against incumbent Republican Rep. Rod Blum of Iowa, has reportedly donated the $1,500 she received in late September from the Midwest Values PAC.

In a statement issued by her campaign, Finkenauer said, “I’ve decided to donate Senator Franken’s donation to my campaign to the Riverview Center, a nonprofit in Iowa that helps individuals affected by sexual assault.”

Last month, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) said in a tweet that she will donate the $30,000 she’s received from Franken’s PAC over the past three election cycles to a food bank.

Similarly, Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) also said in a tweet that he will donate the $25,000 he’s received from the PAC to the Montana Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence.

Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) donated $20,000 she has received to WOVIN: the Women Veterans Initiative on November 16th.

*Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) last month donated the $20,000 she received during the 2012 and 2018 cycles to Girls Inc. of Lynn. Warren also donated to charity contributions from former film executive Harvey Weinstein after he was accused of sexual harassment and sexual assault.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Democratic congressional candidate Angie Craig from Franken’s home state of Minnesota are among others who have reportedly vowed to donate contributions from Midwest Values.

Representatives who have remained mum about their intentions include Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota.

On December 7th, Franken announced his intention to resign from the Senate.

*UPDATE: Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s office told MassLive in mid-November that contributions from Midwest Values PAC were donated to charity.

The post Democrats donate Franken PAC contributions to charity appeared first on OpenSecrets Blog.

Categories: Further Reading

Higher Ed in the crosshairs of GOP tax bills

Open Secrets - Fri, 12/01/2017 - 13:51

The tax proposals being pushed by Congressional Republicans carry consequences for one of the GOP’s least important donors – those affiliated with colleges and universities.

In November, the House Committee on Ways and Means unveiled a tax bill that included several provisions impacting the ecosystem of higher education. The proposal included placing a tax on the net investment income of qualifying private colleges and universities, eliminating the tax deduction on student loan interest payments, and counting tuition waivers as taxable income. The Senate bill retained the tax on endowments.

Under both the Senate and House versions of the bill, private schools with at least 500 full-time students and an endowment of at least $250,000 per full-time student would pay a 1.4 percent tax on their investment income. The threshold in the original House bill was $100,000 per student but was later raised to $250,000, cutting the number of schools subject to the tax by about half to around 60 to 70, according to various estimates.

Unique to the Senate bill, however, is the stipulation that the excise tax would only apply to those schools with tuition-paying students – that would save another two schools based on 2014-2015 enrollment and endowment data, according to an analysis by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

The House version would impact 68 institutions and 66 schools would qualify under the Senate bill, according to NCES’ analysis.

Universities argue that the tax would make schools more expensive for students as an important part of endowment income is applied to financial aid.

Duke University’s endowment reached a record $7.9 billion in 2017 and would be subject to the tax under both bills.

*Five percent of the total value of the school’s endowment, calculated on a rolling three-year average at the end of each fiscal year, is transferred to its operating budget. And the majority of those funds are spent on student assistance, support for programs and research as well as faculty positions, said Michael Schoenfeld, a spokesman for Duke University.

“If you take $20 million out of circulation, it either has to come from somewhere else or something needs to get eliminated,” Schoenfeld said. “In many cases, what would be eliminated is support for student scholarships or jobs.”

Political contributions from Duke University employees generally support the Democratic Party, which isn’t unique in the education industry.

In the 2016 election cycle, donations from those affiliated with the 20 colleges or universities that made the largest political contributions overwhelmingly leaned left. And of the $81.7 million donated by those across the education sector, 86 percent benefited Democratic candidates, parties and outside groups.

In the 2018 election cycle, the top 20 are also predominantly supporting Democrats with two exceptions – Bridgepoint Education, a for-profit education services company, and Thompson Education Center, an education community development project in the Catskills geared toward Chinese investors.

According to NCES’ 2014 fiscal year data, private schools with the top 50 largest endowments ranged from Harvard University’s $36.4 billion to Baylor University’s $1.15 billion. Sixty-six percent of the schools had employees contribute almost exclusively to Democratic candidates, party committees, leadership PACs and liberal outside groups in 2016. (“Almost exclusively” is defined as at least 90 percent).

In the 2016 cycle, Columbia University, which had an endowment of a little more than $9 billion in 2014, had 97 percent of its employees’ $1.7 million in contributions going toward Democratic Party candidates or committees. Harvard University, the school with by far the largest endowment, had 90 percent of its $2.4 million total contributions going toward Democrats.

Among the private schools with the 50 largest endowments in 2014, the only ones where employees donated the majority to Republicans were the University of Richmond (57 percent) and Baylor (82 percent).

The totals below reflect contributions from those affiliated with the schools including donations to leadership PACs and 527 organizations.

Private Colleges and Universities 2014 Endowment (1000’s) Cycle Total Dems Repubs Harvard $36,429,256 2018 $501,040 $446,707 $49,600 2016 $2,383,451 $2,136,823 $241,018 Yale $23,858,561 2018 $158,635 $155,705 $2,600 2016 $942,812 $921,235 $19,168 Stanford $21,466,006 2018 $426,277 $415,603 $10,042 2016 $2,851,560 $2,161,437 $680,233 Princeton $20,576,361 2018 $90,509 $86,815 $3,450 2016 $486,161 $465,607 $20,354 MIT $12,425,131 2018 $128,902 $121,198 $7,208 2016 $968,720 $886,761 $74,260 University of Pennsylvania $9,582,335 2018 $124,252 $122,368 $500 2016 $1,118,809 $1,088,400 $27,584 Columbia $9,223,047 2018 $216,362 $209,443 $5,375 2016 $1,704,391 $1,624,825 $50,356 Notre Dame $8,189,096 2018 $20,311 $18,834 $1,300 2016 $198,982 $138,451 $60,531 Northwestern $7,501,116 2018 $102,759 $95,169 $7,550 2016 $637,702 $534,297 $99,155 Duke $7,036,776 2018 $57,561 $52,827 $4,375 2016 $750,146 $726,041 $20,490 Emory $6,981,308 2018 $118,134 $110,929 $7,090 2016 $486,466 $453,671 $21,455 Washington University In St. Louis $6,719,449 2018 $26,196 $25,936 $250 2016 $112,730 $109,484 $2,746 University of Chicago $6,539,290 2018 $86,893 $86,239 $200 2016 $579,730 $545,617 $32,746 Rice $5,553,717 2018 $44,957 $44,915 $0 2016 $199,084 $179,613 $18,596 Cornell $4,646,134 2018 $67,694 $64,373 $1,656 2016 $621,897 $599,289 $20,024 University of Southern California $4,593,014 2018 $95,698 $81,616 $13,857 2016 $793,191 $667,120 $124,521 Dartmouth College $4,468,220 2018 $30,870 $30,440 $0 2016 $342,243 $242,298 $99,945 Vanderbilt $4,046,250 2018 $117,666 $61,227 $56,406 2016 $478,862 $319,645 $157,867 New York University $3,435,034 2018 $130,601 $121,473 $8,756 2016 $1,192,142 $1,147,311 $38,550 Johns Hopkins $3,392,529 2018 $134,308 $127,930 $5,927 2016 $880,399 $842,747 $33,923 Brown $2,999,749 2018 $33,540 $33,425 $0 2016 $239,376 $235,059 $4,145 Purdue $2,445,542 2018 $21,119 $19,490 $1,281 2016 $198,949 $130,480 $66,165 University of Richmond $2,313,305 2018 $3,426 $3,321 $100 2016 $78,721 $33,673 $45,048 Amherst $2,149,203 2018 $5,042 $5,015 $0 2016 $41,604 $1,500 Williams College $2,143,153 2018 $43,104 $5,790 $0 2016 $46,932 $45,860 $250 California Institute of Technology $2,118,100 2018 $36,585 $31,969 $4,616 2016 $176,966 $154,064 $13,527 Boston College $2,105,654 2018 $18,871 $18,516 $0 2016 $146,276 $141,016 $2,560 Pomona College $2,101,461 2018 $3,505 $2,905 $600 2016 $44,291 $44,291 $0 University of Rochester $2,015,283 2018 $21,425 $18,974 $2,410 2016 $139,220 $127,581 $11,636 Swarthmore College $1,876,669 2018 $4,371 $4,371 $0 2016 $50,865 $50,837 $28 Wellesley College $1,834,137 2018 $5,807 $5,607 $0 2016 $98,368 $98,368 $0 Grinnell College $1,829,521 2018 $3,041 $3,037 $0 2016 $21,378 $21,058 $80 Case Western Reserve University $1,758,570 2018 $52,667 $51,407 $1,000 2016 $81,729 $74,317 $7,412 Smith College $1,755,755 2018 $18,963 $18,916 $0 2016 $84,456 $82,284 $100 Boston University $1,616,004 2018 $63,866 $59,321 $3,750 2016 $391,768 $375,504 $12,214 Tufts $1,590,045 2018 $113,756 $113,181 $300 2016 $374,544 $369,882 $4,342 George Washington $1,576,508 2018 $59,518 $57,528 $1,775 2016 $426,999 $407,368 $18,694 Washington and Lee $1,477,923 2018 $7,445 $7,443 $0 2016 $15,526 $10,635 $4,891 Brigham Young $1,470,770 2018 $15,112 $7,692 $6,420 2016 $74,821 $60,677 $12,609 Georgetown $1,461,276 2018 $94,177 $93,672 $450 2016 $1,076,259 $943,424 $130,235 Southern Methodist $1,425,146 2018 $9,285 $8,650 $635 2016 $43,720 $22,021 $21,699 Texas Christian University $1,393,241 2018 $5,729 $4,179 $1,550 2016 $41,803 $20,869 $20,494 Soka University of America $1,249,761 2018 $234 $134 $0 2016 $4,639 $4,631 $8 Carnegie Mellon $1,235,968 2018 $22,430 $18,521 $3,535 2016 $235,186 $197,817 $33,809 Bowdoin College $1,216,030 2018 $9,605 $3,424 $0 2016 $15,900 $14,550 $0 Lehigh University $1,215,926 2018 $2,427 $2,407 $0 2016 $50,883 $46,833 $4,050 Trinity (TX) $1,187,929 2018 $297 $297 $0 2016 $30,898 $30,210 $688 Syracuse $1,183,244 2018 $21,810 $17,826 $3,900 2016 $174,857 $113,916 $60,749 Tulane $1,169,060 2018 $12,561 $11,586 $905 2016 $162,508 $137,266 $24,373 Baylor $1,151,200 2018 $11,002 $7,991 $3,001 2016 $151,956 $27,402 $124,554

*Correction: An earlier version of the story stated 5 percent of the revenue generated by Duke University’s endowment is transferred to its annual operating budget. The transfer is 5 percent of the total value of the endowment, not the revenue. We regret this error.

The post Higher Ed in the crosshairs of GOP tax bills appeared first on OpenSecrets Blog.

Categories: Further Reading

Outside spending targets Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin

Open Secrets - Wed, 11/29/2017 - 12:26

Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis. (Photo by Kris Connor/Getty Images for EMILY’s List)

Outside spending against Democratic incumbent Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin has so far exceeded the combined outside spending against the other 21 Democratic Party senators up for reelection in 2018 by a factor of 5.

There has been $3.1 million in outside spending against Baldwin, and about $532,000 against the other Democratic incumbents combined. (Another $6,214 has been spent against Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who caucuses with Democrats).  

Baldwin is one of 10 Senate Democrats running for reelection in states that President Donald Trump carried in 2016. Nearly all of the conservative-aligned outside spending has targeted Baldwin, however.

Baldwin has been a senator since 2013 and was formerly the representative for Wisconsin’s 2nd Congressional District.

Among Democratic senators in Trump-carried states, the next largest amount was about $47,000 targeting West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin. About $42,000 has been spent against Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill, according to FEC data.

“Outside spending” refers to political expenditures by groups or individuals not coordinated with candidates’ fundraising committees.

Outside spending against Democratic senators in states Trump won in 2016 State Senator Spending Against Wisconsin Tammy Baldwin $3,065,342 West Virginia Joe Manchin $46,801 Missouri Claire McCaskill $42,416 North Dakota Heidi Heitkamp $30,656 Indiana Joe Donnelly $23,008 Michigan Debbie Stabenow $9,377 Ohio Sherrod Brown $9,013 Pennsylvania Bob Casey $1,513 Montana Jon Tester $1,056 Florida Bill Nelson $0    Total $3,229,182

On the Republican side, outside spending against GOP Senate candidates is even higher.

In the 2018 cycle, about $4.7 million of the roughly $5.2 million – or around 90 percent – of outside spending against all Republican candidates for the Senate has targeted Alabama’s Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore. All but about $295,000 of the $4.7 million targeted Moore before the Republican primary in September. Outside spending after the primary has come from two groups, The Advocacy Fund and Highway 31.

Among Republicans, the next highest total was the $28,000 targeting one of Baldwin’s Republican challengers, Kevin Nicholson, who has the support of former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon.

Nicholson is a former Democrat who once worked for the Democratic National Committee and even spoke at its 2000 convention.

Uline Inc, a Wisconsin-based shipping supply company owned by Illinois-based conservative donor Richard Uihlein, gave $3.5 million to the pro-Nicholson super PAC Solutions for Wisconsin. Uihlein’s investments also include several resorts, spas and restaurants in the state.

Solutions for Wisconsin, in turn, has contributed $1.5 million to Americas PAC and Restoration PAC, which represent the second and third largest outside spenders opposing Baldwin. Uihlein also gave $250,000 directly to Americas PAC. He is the chief donor to a super PAC that has funded ads benefiting Moore as well, The Daily Beast reported.

Two advisors Nicholson is replacing on his campaign are taking positions at Solutions for Wisconsin.

So far in the 2018 cycle, Uihlein has funded roughly $6.1 million in outside spending, all of which went toward conservative groups.

The outside spending group that has spent the most against Baldwin is Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, a politically active nonprofit that serves as the fundraising hub of the donor network spearheaded by billionaire industrialists David and Charles Koch.

Freedom Partners has spent around $1.7 million to defeat Baldwin, and as a 501(c)(6) trade association, it is not required to disclose its donors.

The post Outside spending targets Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin appeared first on OpenSecrets Blog.

Categories: Further Reading

Center for Responsive Politics Closed for Thanksgiving

Open Secrets - Wed, 11/22/2017 - 09:01

The Center for Responsive Politics will be closed all day Thursday and Friday in observance of the Thanksgiving holiday. The Center will be reopen at 9 a.m. on Monday, November 27th.’s numerous data sets will continue to be updated during this time. And please check OpenSecrets Blog for the latest money in politics news.

Thanks to you, more than 7 million users freely accessed our data and research last year. And thanks to you, CRP data appeared in more than 29,000 news reports, allowing this information to reach more people than ever before.

You have been so generous to support our work over the last 35 years, so today we give thanks to you. Have a wonderful holiday.

The post Center for Responsive Politics Closed for Thanksgiving appeared first on OpenSecrets Blog.

Categories: Further Reading

Web of secret money hides one mega-donor funding conservative court

Open Secrets - Tue, 11/21/2017 - 11:59

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neal Gorsuch speaks during an event at Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

This story was cross-posted at McClatchy

When a small nonprofit called the Judicial Crisis Network poured millions into a campaign to stop the Senate from confirming Barack Obama’s Supreme Court pick last year, and then spent millions more supporting President Donald Trump’s choice for the same seat, political observers assumed conservatives from around the country were showering the group with donations.

Not so.

Newly obtained tax documents show that JCN’s money came almost entirely from yet another secretive nonprofit, the Wellspring Committee, which flooded JCN with nearly $23.5 million in 2016.

Most of Wellspring’s funds, in turn, came from a single mysterious donor who gave the organization almost $28.5 million — nearly 90 percent of its $32.2 million in revenues.

Like JCN, Wellspring — at one time tied to the donor network spearheaded by conservative industrialists Charles and David Koch — is a nonprofit that is supposed to be dedicated to social welfare functions and doesn’t have to disclose the names of its benefactors. Since the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court decision loosened certain constraints on political spending, these and other 501(c)(4) groups have become increasingly politically active while providing anonymity to their donors. Often one group, like Wellspring, will act as a conduit, giving most of its funds to other, similar groups with political agendas.

“It sounds like Wellspring Committee acted as a dark money conduit to provide an extra layer of secrecy to whomever was bankrolling the Judicial Crisis Network ads,” Brendan Fischer of the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center in Washington said in an email interview. “This has the effect of layering secrecy on top of secrecy, and almost entirely insulating donors from any form of public accountability.”

But, Fischer added, “Even though the public doesn’t know who is really behind the tens of millions spent, there is nothing stopping these secret donors from making their identities known to the beneficiaries of that spending.”

Illinois Policy Action was another organization that benefited from Wellspring’s grants in 2016, receiving $2.5 million; it’s the lobbying arm of the Illinois Policy Institute, a conservative Chicago think tank in Chicago that has ties to the state’s billionaire governor, Republican Bruce Rauner, according to the Chicago Tribune. In 2016, the institute released a documentary critical of Rauner’s political opponent, Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan, a Democrat.

The American Future Fund, another former Koch “dark money” nonprofit, pulled in $2 million from Wellspring last year. It spent more than $12.7 million in 2016 federal elections without disclosing its donors.

Early in the Republican presidential primaries, AFF appeared to be supporting Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) through attacks on his GOP opponents, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Donald Trump.

When the group ran ads highlighting lawsuits against Trump University, the Republican frontrunner tweeted “Phony Rubio commercial. I could have settled, but won’t out of principle!” Trump did eventually settle the lawsuit for $25 million after becoming president.

Wellspring also paid out $750,000 to a firm called BH Group LLC, not as a grant but for “public relations” services.

The corporation is nearly untraceable beyond an address for a “virtual office” in Arlington, Va. A representative of the company that manages the space, Regus, said that the BH Group has no physical presence and that all its mail is forwarded to another address. The representative would not provide a forwarding address or any names of individuals affiliated with BH Group “for security reasons.”

BH Group LLC’s only other appearance in the public record? On the list of Trump inaugural donors: It gave $1 million to help pay for the festivities. Virginia incorporation records show the LLC wasn’t formed until the end of August 2016. That means Wellspring’s payment to it was made between then and the end of the year — right around when the Trump inaugural committee was doing the bulk of its fundraising.

As for the Judicial Crisis Network, when Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch was sworn in last April, the group’s chief counsel was there, snapping pictures in the White House Rose Garden.

The post Web of secret money hides one mega-donor funding conservative court appeared first on OpenSecrets Blog.

Categories: Further Reading

Democratic women running more, giving more money heading into 2018

Open Secrets - Fri, 11/17/2017 - 12:07

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) has the highest percentage of contributions from women among candidates running this cycle (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

While historically men have dominated campaign finance contributions, women have been an important source of money for some candidates — female Democrats in particular.

In 2016, Hillary Clinton got 52 percent of her individual contributions from women while Trump received only 29 percent of his individual donations from women.

Since 2000, Democratic women running in House races have received the highest percentage of campaign contributions from women — 39.7 percent per cycle on average — while Republican men have drawn the lowest percentage from women (23.7 percent).

So far in the 2018 election cycle, the disparity has only increased.

Percentage of contributions from women to House candidates since 2000

Cycle Democratic Women Democratic Men Republican Women Republican Men 2018 44.2% 35.2% 27.7% 23.2% 2016 40.3% 29.1% 28.6% 24.1% 2014 39.2% 27.5% 28.4% 23.3% 2012 38.9% 27.5% 28.5% 23.6% 2010 36.9% 25.7% 29.2% 24.5% 2008 37.8% 26.3% 27.5% 23.3% 2006 40.2% 27.5% 26.1% 23.5% 2004 39.4% 26.1% 27.1% 22.2% 2002 39.5% 25.7% 29.5% 24.4% 2000 41.0% 25.4% 27.5% 24.5%

The current cycle follows a predictable pattern with important twists: There is an increase in both the number of Democratic women running for House seats and financial support from female donors to Democratic candidates overall. Republican House candidates meanwhile have seen a slight decline in the percentage of contributions from women.

Also this cycle, nine Senate candidates — all of whom are either Democrats or caucus with Democrats — have received the majority of their individual contributions from women. In the 2008 cycle, only one Senate candidate — Democrat Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer of Minnesota — received a majority of their contributions from women.

House candidates who have raised itemized individual contributions

Cycle Democratic Women Democratic Men Republican Women Republican Men 2018 266 538 50 380 2016 187 472 102 658 2014 176 450 96 678 2012 191 563 104 767 2010 146 499 128 967 2008 162 524 61 590 2006 153 523 66 506 2004 120 444 77 555 2002 125 458 61 588 2000 113 429 62 547

A record number of Democratic women are running for House seats along with 538  Democratic men. Among Democratic candidates, about 33 percent are women.

In contrast, fewer Republican women are running and raising money in House races than usual this cycle.

While women tend to favor female candidates — particularly Democratic women — there is a noticeable split based on occupation. Women who identify as homemakers favor Republicans and conservative outside groups while other female donors lean left. This split has become more pronounced in the current cycle, driven by a shift from non-homemakers to the left.

*Partisan preference of female donors (Homemakers vs. non-Homemakers)

Cycle Homemakers Non-Homemakers 2018 30% 72% 2016 35% 66% 2014 29% 59% 2012 29% 55% 2010 41% 61% 2008 44% 69% 2006 43% 61% 2004 39% 62% 2002 38% 54% 2000 39% 49%

*Data reflects the percentage of contributions going either to Democratic candidates, party committees and leadership PACs or liberal outside groups.

Campaign contributions as previously noted remain male dominated, but the percentage of overall contributions from female homemakers has fluctuated dramatically in time. The percentage from other women has remained more constant.

The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 effectively reduced campaign contribution limits by eliminating soft money. In the cycle it first took effect, the percentage from female homemakers jumped from 2 percent to 7 percent.

More recently, the percentage from female homemakers has slowly declined in the wake of the Citizens United decision (2010) and the McCutcheon decision (2014.) Both court rulings effectively raised the limits for campaign contributions.

Percentage of individual contributions from women

Cycle Homemakers Non-Homemakers 2018 3% 27% 2016 3% 26% 2014 5% 20% 2012 6% 23% 2010 6% 20% 2008 6% 25% 2006 7% 20% 2004 7% 22% 2002 2% 22% 2000 2% 24%

What we are seeing in the 2018 cycle thus far is a surge in both Democratic women running for office and female financial support for Democratic candidates. Female donors (excluding homemakers) are contributing to House Democrats at above-average rates and favoring Democrats regardless of gender.  

For whatever reason, the historical tendency of women to contribute to Democrats and run as Democrats has intensified this cycle. While it is still early in the cycle, it is possible that the 2018 election will turn out to be a Year of the Democratic Women.

Read more about gender in the 2018 cycle here

The post Democratic women running more, giving more money heading into 2018 appeared first on OpenSecrets Blog.

Categories: Further Reading

McConnell-allied nonprofit received millions from Rove-linked group in 2016; neither disclosed donors

Open Secrets - Fri, 11/17/2017 - 07:43

One of the most active political organizations in the 2016 election cycle wasn’t a political organization at all. It was a nonprofit allied with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that received all of its money from anonymous donors and hardly reported any of its political spending to the Federal Election Commission (FEC).

Known as One Nation, it drew from a war chest that swelled with seven- and eight-figure checks from a few secret donors and spent tens of millions of dollars not on employees — it has none — or social welfare programs — it didn’t really have those either — but on expensive ad campaigns to help Republicans keep their majority in the Senate.

Form 990 annual tax filings obtained by The Center for Responsive Politics show that One Nation spent nearly $73 million in 2015 and 2016, and at least $40 million was spent assisting Republicans’ successful campaign to hold their majority in the Senate.

Social welfare organizations, such as One Nation, are supposed to have social welfare as their primary purpose — hence the name “social welfare organization” — but the IRS has never defined what “primary purpose” actually means. As a result, it is generally interpreted to be less than 50 percent of overall spending. One Nation’s $40 million of election-related spending could put it well over the 50 percent mark, at a minimum, potentially jeopardizing its tax-exempt status, if the IRS decides to scrutinize the group’s activities.

The only known donor to One Nation, according to a separate tax return obtained by The Center for Responsive Politics, was Crossroads GPS, another social welfare organization that is run by the same people who run One Nation and which, like One Nation, doesn’t have to disclose its donors.

Ground support for Senate Republicans

The number of ads One Nation bought for 2016 Senate elections ranked 27th on a list of top 50 outside groups over a cumulative 16-year period, according to a joint report published last year by the Wesleyan Media Project and CRP. That is, in a single year, One Nation beat out groups that had been buying ads for years, even decades, including super PACs, which exist solely for political purposes.

In addition to its direct ad buys, One Nation also channeled $21.7 million into the coffers of the Senate Leadership Fund (SLF), making it the biggest donor to the super PAC. SLF shares an office and staff with One Nation.

In addition to its TV ads and super PAC contributions, the group’s then-spokesman Ian Prior told CRP in an email last year that what the group didn’t spend on issue ads and direct political ads — a balance more than $11.6 million — went toward “non-television issue advocacy.” He didn’t clarify what that was specifically.

Non-broadcast ads — whether they are mailers or digital ads on the internet — generally don’t have to be reported to the FEC, unless they make direct appeals to support or oppose candidates, meaning that One Nation could have sent “issue” mailers or bought digital ads close to any election without reporting the spending. For example, in September and October, when the FEC’s reporting window had opened, One Nation was still adding positive issue ads, cheering on Senator Burr and others, but none of the ads were reported to the FEC — either because they were only meant for Youtube, and therefore cost nothing to place, or they were part of a costly digital ad campaign that the FEC simply doesn’t require groups like One Nation to report.

“With all due respect to what Ian [Prior] has said, the 990 statements speak for themselves,” Chris Pack, the group’s new spokesman, said in an email when asked about the totals Prior provided. “They are filed by calendar year. Those have been submitted as fact.”

Asked if One Nation disputed the amounts Prior provided last year, Pack reiterated that “the 990 forms, which are broken down by year, speak for themselves.”

In its 990, One Nation only counted its direct political appeals — the $3.4 million it reported to the FEC — and its SLF donations as political spending, arriving at a total of $25.1 million in “political campaign activity expenditures.”

The IRS is unlikely to challenge that narrative in any way, since the agency rarely takes the time to conduct a thorough audit of a particular group’s finances. Furthermore, since One Nation is not actually a new group, but an old group that was taken over by new people, the IRS has already approved its application for tax-exempt status.

If the IRS did audit One Nation’s activities, it would find that One Nation spent tens of millions on “grassroots advocacy” in states with tight Senate races during periods when such ads did not have to be reported to the FEC, and that the subjects of those ads, or their opponents, often became the targets of direct appeals for support or opposition once the FEC’s reporting window opened. It’s a strategy many “dark money” groups use to maximize political impact while reporting as little spending as possible.

For example, One Nation began running ads supporting Missouri Senator Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) as far back as October of 2015. But once the FEC’s reporting window opened, One Nation began directly challenging Democrats, including Blunt’s opponent Jason Kander (D-Mo.), who was hit with $478,342 in negative ads in the final weeks of the election. Blunt went on to win re-election.

Another notable discrepancy is that Prior wasn’t even including One Nation’s super PAC donations as part of the group’s political activity. Since a super PAC is, by definition, a political entity, the contributions would likely raise One Nation’s potential political spending to over $61 million, which was more than 80 percent of the group’s overall spending over two years.

Lots of money, no disclosure

In 2016, One Nation got most of its money from 13 anonymous donors giving more than $1 million. Three of those donors gave more than $10 million. The largest was $18.2 million. This is building off the previous year when the group received 61 percent of its funding from just four anonymous donors giving $1 million or more.

The identity of the second largest donor, who gave $11.9 million, is revealed in another tax return obtained by The Center for Responsive Politics. The source was Crossroads GPS, the once-powerful political behemoth whose creation was spearheaded by Karl Rove. The donation accounted for nearly 74 percent of Crossroads GPS’ spending in 2016.

Steven Law, president of Crossroads GPS, is also president of One Nation, and the treasurer of both organizations is Caleb Crosby.

Law and Crosby also run the Senate Leadership Fund, and all three groups operate out of the same office.

But knowing that Crossroads GPS was the source of one of One Nation’s largest grants does little to help us understand what prominent corporation or wealthy individual might have provided the funds, because Crossroads GPS, like One Nation, does not have to disclose donors.

Crossroads GPS received most of its funding in 2016 from just three donors: Two who gave $5 million and one who gave $2 million.

The post McConnell-allied nonprofit received millions from Rove-linked group in 2016; neither disclosed donors appeared first on OpenSecrets Blog.

Categories: Further Reading

Republican female candidates face fundraising hurdles going into 2018

Open Secrets - Thu, 11/16/2017 - 13:34

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN)  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

As we reported earlier this fall, members of the 115th Congress are likely to face far more — and better funded — challengers than in previous cycles. In particular, Democrats are fielding an unusually high number of challengers. But, despite political action committees from both parties attempting to boost involvement in politics by women, this year’s batch of early challengers has no more women, proportionally, than the current Congress. This is particularly true for Democrats: Of the 481 Democratic challengers who have filed financial reports, 164 are women — just around 34 percent. Currently, 33 percent of the Democratic members of Congress are women. Fourteen percent of Republican challengers are female, an increase over the 9 percent of female Republicans in Congress.

These counts do not tell the whole story. Democratic female challengers and Democratic women running in open seats are doing at least as well as male candidates in the same kinds of races.  Republican women, however, face significant and severe fundraising deficits.

Average net receipts as of 9/30 by female and male challengers in House elections  MaleFemale Democrat$127,348 (305)$118,037 (160) Republican$69,238 (101)$14,907 (19)

While Democratic female challengers have raised about 93 percent of what Democratic male challengers have raised, Republican female challengers have only raised 22 percent of what Republican men have raised. This is almost certainly related to the races these candidates are running in — only 3 Republican women are running as challengers in competitive House races as identified by Cook Political, compared to 75 Democratic women running in competitive races.  Competitive races will generally see more spending overall.

In races for open House seats, Republican women fare better. They raise, on average, about the same amount that their male counterparts have raised, while female Democrats raise about 160 percent of male Democrats.

Average net receipts as of 9/30 by female and male candidates in open House seats  Male Female Democrat$115,354 (65)$192,701 (27) Republican$174,967 (50)$174,249 (12)

The sources of funds vary depending on the candidate’s gender and party as well. In general, Democrats this cycle are getting more money as a percentage of their total fundraising haul from individual donors than Republicans, although the difference is not large. Republican women challengers or those running in open seats take in more money from small donors than do their male counterparts, but both male and female Republicans take in 64 percent of their total fundraising haul from individual donors. Democratic women in the same races take in 83 percent of their money from individual donors, while Democratic men take 77 percent from individual donors.

Percentages of total fundraising, challenger and open seat candidates  Large Donors (>$199)Small Donors (<$200)Candidate money Female Republican47%17%32% Male Republican52%12%34% Female Democrat54%29%14% Male Democrat51%26%24%
Percentages of total fundraising, incumbents  Large Donors (>200)
Small Donors (<200)PACs Female Republican41%9%43% Male Republican40%5%50% Female Democrat40%11%46% Male Democrat40%7%52%

For challengers and candidates in open seats, regardless of gender, very little money comes from PACs — and most of that goes to candidates in open seats. This is not so for incumbents, who receive the plurality of their campaign contributions through PAC donations regardless of party or gender. However, while male incumbents of both parties receive over 50 percent of their campaign donations from PACs, female incumbents receive less than 50 percent from PACs — and Republican women get even less than Democrats. Although the differences are small, female incumbents generally get more of their campaign cash from individuals, while men get more from PACs.

Read more about gender in the 2018 cycle here

The post Republican female candidates face fundraising hurdles going into 2018 appeared first on OpenSecrets Blog.

Categories: Further Reading

Audit shows NRA spending surged $100 million amidst pro-Trump push in 2016

Open Secrets - Wed, 11/15/2017 - 16:26

The logo of the National Rifle Association  (Photo credit Dominick Reuter/AFP/Getty Images)

The National Rifle Association’s overall spending surged by more than $100 million in 2016, surpassing any previous annual NRA spending totals on record, according to an audit obtained by the Center for Responsive Politics.

The explosion in spending came as the NRA poured unprecedented amounts of money into efforts to deliver Donald Trump the White House and help Republicans hold both houses of Congress.

The audit filed with the state of North Carolina shows that the NRA’s total expenditures exploded to more than $419 million, up from $312 million the prior year.

The jump is even more stark when compared to its spending during the previous two presidential elections in 2012 and 2008, when their outlays topped out at $261 million and $204 million, respectively, according to similar audits.These spending totals include all of the NRA’s operations in 2016, from law enforcement programs and hunter services to education and training.

The main driver of the growth in spending, however, came from two program areas: legislative programs and public affairs, which together accounted for about $75 million in the overall growth. The two program areas are not defined in the financial audit, nor do they have a standard definition in accounting practices, but they likely include the NRA’s historic political spending in the 2016 elections.

Reports filed with the Federal Election Commission show that the PAC and nonprofit arms of the NRA spent a combined $54.4 million in the 2016 elections. Most of that spending, $35.2 million, was channeled through the NRA Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA), the powerful lobbying arm of the NRA.

As a 501(c)(4) social welfare organization, the NRA-ILA does not have to disclose the donors who fueled its record spending. And in 2016 elections alone, this “dark money”  arm of the NRA spent as much as it had in every election going back to 1992, combined.

The NRA did not respond to questions from the Center for Responsive Politics by time of publication.

Republicans in the House and Senate rode into power in 2016 on a wave of NRA money, and career NRA support for some members members of the 115th Congress now reach well into the seven-figure range.

But no politician benefited more from the NRA’s 2016 spending binge than President Donald Trump. The NRA spent over $30 million in support of Trump’s candidacy — or more than its combined spending in all races during the 2008 and 2012 presidential election cycles, which include 45 Senate and 145 House races.

As president, Trump has promised to be a champion for the NRA. In April, he told a gathering of gun rights advocates that the “eight-year assault on your Second Amendment freedoms has come to a crashing end.”

And while mass shootings in Las Vegas, Sutherland Springs and Tehama County grabbed the nation’s attention, the administration has shied away from discussing measures that might anger the NRA.

On the revenue side of the equation, the growth was far more modest, going from just under $343 million in 2015 to $375 million in 2016. That growth had little to do with dues paid by NRA members, which actually dropped by more than $2 million. Rather, most of the growth was fueled by $31 million in non-dues contributions.

As a 501(c)(4) social welfare organization, the NRA can receive unlimited contributions from individuals and corporations without disclosing those donors to the public, so there is no full accounting of who contributed to the organization or how much. But gun manufacturers like Smith & Wesson, Beretta and Sturm, Ruger & Co — which profit from the NRA’s message — have publicly announced large donations to the NRA in the past, according to CNN.

This information is coming out now because nonprofit organizations like the NRA file tax returns and other information long after the end of their fiscal year–which, in the case of the NRA, is a calendar year. This lag between the date the spending takes place and the date it’s actually reported to the IRS is why audits and other filings are often the first glimpse into a group’s financials.

While audits do use different accounting standards than annual form 990s filed with the IRS, the totals do generally track with one another over time.

The finances reported in the audit are not only a testament to the power the NRA wields in Washington but also to the comparative advantage it holds over its analogues in the gun control arena, where groups like Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Americans for Responsible Solutions measure their finances in the millions and tens of millions and where their spending in elections is bested more than 18 times over by the NRA.

In 2017, the NRA is not laying low. With a sympathetic Congress and an administration keen to support them, the NRA has already spent more on lobbying in the first three quarters of this year than it has spent in any full year in the past.

The post Audit shows NRA spending surged $100 million amidst pro-Trump push in 2016 appeared first on OpenSecrets Blog.

Categories: Further Reading

To manage site Login