Binge Read: The FEC Fails on Fines, Will Take a Stance on Cybersecurity

Editor’s Note: At the end of each week, The Stacks rounds up the most important takeaways from campaign finance reporting around the country.

It’s Friday, so we’re going to jump right into it:

Cybersecurity proposal pits cyber pros against campaign finance hawks [Washington Post]

The FEC is faced with an important and divisive decision: whether or not to allow nonpartisan groups to offer political campaigns free cybersecurity services. Jointly proposed by Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign manager Robby Mook and Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign manager Matt Rhodes—and based on their own operations’ run-ins with Chinese and Russian hackers respectively—the plan has elicited opposing reactions from cybersecurity pros, who celebrate it, and good-government advocates, who argue that it is effectively a new loophole for what is currently considered an illegal campaign contribution.

(It’s important to note that Mook and Rhodes have partnered on Defending Digital Campaigns, a nonprofit spinoff of a Harvard cybersecurity project that will provide such cybersecurity services.)

For Campaign Finance Violators, Crime Pays [Take Care]

University of Virginia School of Law professor Michael D. Gilbert and third-year student Samir Sheth argue how a recent record-breaking FEC fine against the Jeb Bush-connected super PAC, Right to Rise, is demonstrative of a system that is failing.

A 2016 report in The Intercept led to an FEC investigation that proved that Neil Bush, brother to Jeb and agent of Right to Rise, solicited $1.3 million from APIC. Foreign nationals at APIC were involved, rendering the contribution a violation of federal law. The FEC fined Right to Rise $390,000, but the super PAC kept the rest. (The FEC also fined APIC $550,000, but that did not directly affect Right to Rise.)

Despite public cheers for the FEC and its supposedly decisive actions, Gilbert and Sheth claim that the fines will not deter future violations: “To discourage bad behavior, the costs of the conduct must exceed the benefits.  In this case, there were no prosecutions, no restrictions other than to follow the law going forward, and, as we’ve stated, Right to Rise came out $910,000 in the black.”

Biden sounds fundraising alarm in conference call [Politico]

On Thursday, former Vice President Joe Biden launched his 2020 presidential bid. His announcement video focused on a platform of “equal opportunity, equal rights, and equal justice,” featuring the Charlottesville rally and reaction as the defining moment that signaled “a battle for the soul of the nation.”

The day before, Biden choreographed his intent on a call with top donors and supporters, telling them: “The money’s important. We’re going to be judged by what we can do in the first 24 hours, the first week.”

Despite “sitting out” the first quarter, Biden has led both national and early primary state polls this year.

Newly revealed reports show that energy and utility giants poured $60 million into campaigns [Fast Company]

In 2010, the Supreme Court ruled that corporations are allowed to make unlimited political contributions. As a result, Fast Company reports that “about three dozen of the nation’s largest energy and utility companies pumped almost $60 million into campaign committees, ballot measures, trade associations, and nonprofits during 2017, according to a MapLight analysis.”

Group sues Federal Election Commission over allegation NRA broke campaign-finance law [CNN]

Giffords, a leading organization fighting gun violence in America, and Campaign Legal Center, “a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization to protect and strengthen the U.S. democratic process across all levels of government,” are suing the FEC, claiming the regulatory agency has missed a 120-day deadline to act on four complaints claiming that the National Rifle Association improperly coordinated its political spending with Donald Trump and other Republican candidates.

Gwyneth Paltrow, Bradley Whitford Among Co-Hosts for Pete Buttigieg’s Next L.A. Fundraising Swing [Variety]

While many critics contend that it’s a sign of “selling out,” there are few declarations that you have, indeed, arrived on the national stage as a Hollywood fundraiser. And with politically outspoken celebrities Gwyneth Paltrow and Bradley Whitford named among the co-hosts for an even on May 9, it’s safe to say that Pete Buttigieg is here to stay…at least for the next phase of the race.

#ICYMI: What First Quarter Fundraising Can Tell Us About 2020 [Center for Public Integrity]

Last week, The Stacks round up the most important takeaways from the FEC filings. We highlighted leaders in overall money raised, the rise of multi-candidate donors, and digital spends.

This week, we want to direct your attention to the comprehensive coverage provided by the Center for Public Integrity, in partnership with FiveThirtyEight. The two organizations are teaming up to track filings, updating the page each quarter.

In their first analysis for how the 2020 money race is shaping up, they included a telling chart comparing each Democratic candidates’ fundraising to their name recognition.

Head over to their website to dive deeper and read the rest of their impressive overview.

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