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Binge Read: Can Congress Fix the FEC?

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

National campaign finance takes center stage as presidential candidates ramp up the rhetoric following first quarter reports.

How Congress Can Help Fix the Federal Election Commission [Brennan Center]

“The FEC isn’t doing its job…and out of touch.” So goes the Brennan Center’s indictment of the regulatory agency. In their new report, “Fixing the FEC: An Agenda for Reform,” the nonpartisan law and policy institute addresses the “perpetual partisan gridlock” and the FEC’s failure to do its job, specifically in the “rapidly evolving legal and technological landscape.”

The Brennan Center claims that: “The FEC’s dysfunction has made it more difficult for political candidates to follow the law and easier for those who are breaking it. It has allowed more than $1 billion in dark money to infiltrate U.S. elections. It has failed to prevent candidates from collaborating extensively with lightly-regulated super PACs. And the FEC has done nothing to respond to Russian meddling in the 2016 election, as documented in the Mueller report.”

Through a statistical analysis and subsequent prescriptive recommendations, the report “proposes key reforms that Congress can pursue to help address the agency’s maladies.”

Gillibrand proposes public campaign financing plan [Politico]

On Wednesday, Presidential hopeful Kirsten Gillibrand entered into the policy debate with her “Democracy Dollars” program, a “clean elections” plan that “aims to reduce the influence of special-interest money in politics.”

How? Voters would register for FEC-provided to donate up to $100 in a primary election and $100 in a general election each cycle, $200 in all for each type of federal election—House, Senate and presidential—with voters limited to candidates in their state. However, there is a caveat: in order for candidates to accept this donation, they would have to restrict themselves to accepting only donations of $200 or less.

Gillibrand isn’t the only candidate making campaign finance reform priority during the Democratic primary. As we’ve reported in a previous Binge Read, Sludge is tracking campaign finance pledges made by the candidates, updating when promises are broken:

If you haven’t yet, head over to Sludge and check out the full tracker.

Powerful Environmental Groups Are Teaming Up To Create A Fundraising Machine To Defeat Trump [Buzzfeed News]

On Tuesday, LCV Victory Fund, NRDC Action Fund PAC, and NextGen America expanded their GiveGreen fundraising platform and launched the Beat Trump Presidential Climate Unity Fund to support President Donald Trump’s Democratic opponent in 2020.

In addition to contributing to the yet-to-be-decided candidate, donors will also be able to give to individual nominees. Nine Democratic candidates have already met the qualifications of committing to tackling climate change once in office, with more to be added on a rolling basis.

Democrats in N.Y. Find Unexpected Foe in Campaign Finance Overhaul [The New York Times]

New York’s progressive lawmakers have come up against an unexpected obstacle in their efforts to reduce the influence of money in politics: Mario Cilento, the president of the New York A.F.L.-C.I.O., issued a warning claiming that, “Now is not the time,” derailing an effort to introduce a small-donor matching system to state candidates.

Historically, unions are stalwart Democratic allies, but they also play are major players when it comes to leveraging their financial resources during elections, with the New York A.F.L.-C.I.O. having spent more than $3.9 million since the start of 2018 on state and local elections.

Your mutual fund may have a political bias—and that could cost you [CNBC]

According to soon to be published research by Yaoyi Xi, assistant professor of finance at San Diego State University’s Fowler College of Business, and M. Babajide Wintoki, associate professor of finance at the University of Kansas School of Business, “mutual fund managers tend to put more money into companies that are led by executives who share their political ideologies or party affiliations.”

A Lawsuit About Trump and the NRA Could Upend How the Government Polices Campaign Finance [Mother Jones]

We initially covered this story last week, but the full gravity of the Giffords and Campaign Legal Center lawsuit against the FEC has come to light, with the lawsuit “poised to act as a major test for the FEC chair’s new strategy to try and force the agency to take more aggressive action to police campaign finance.” There are claims that it could very well result in the first use of a “nuclear option,” where FEC chair Ellen Weintraub would “effectively sabotage her own agency in order to enforce campaign finance law.”

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