Binge Read: Money Influences Politics…Right?

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

If a tree falls in the woods, but no one is around to hear it, does money influence politics?

Everyone Knows Money Influences Politics…Except Scientists [FiveThirtyEight]

Political scientist Amy McKay saw the Affordable Care Act as an opportunity to answer one of the most fundamental questions in politics: Does money matter? More specifically, could one curry political favor with a politician by donating to said politician before he’s elected.

Image: Pew Research Center

Most Americans (to the tune of 72 percent) already agree that it does, but before McKay published her 10-year study, there was no definitive answer, at least in the scientific sense.

And even though this study offered the best evidence to date that money does, in fact, influence politics, McKay will be the first to say that she only ended up more cynical—which led FiveThirtyEight to ponder: “Does evidence matter when it tells us something we’d already thought was true?”

Bullock introduces plan to keep foreign money out of US elections [The Hill]

Montana Governor Steve Bullock likely won’t be among the Presidential hopefuls taking the stage for the first Democratic debates on June 26-27, that’s not holding him back from inserting himself into the conversation. On Wednesday, Bullock released the “Check the Box” proposal, a plan that “would add a checkbox to IRS and Federal Election Commission forms that super PACs and so-called dark money groups must fill in to certify they are not using foreign money in their political contributions. Dark money groups are not required to disclose their donors.”

Beto O’Rourke’s proposed election reforms seek to simplify voting registration, get big money out of politics [Texas Tribune]

On Wednesday, Presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke released his Voting Rights plan, the fifth policy rollout for his campaign, with the goal of “increasing the number of registered voters in the United States by 50 million, pushing the turnout rate to a record-high 65% and driving 35 million new voters to the polls in 2024, the biggest increase ever in a presidential election.”

The proposal promises to get money out of politics by calling for legislation that will:

  • End the inappropriate influence of Political Action Committees by
    • banning PAC contributions to campaigns;
    • limiting contributions to issue PACs, inaugural committees & post-retirement foundations to $2,000 (indexed with inflation); and
    • requiring PACs to disclose all donors at any amount.
  • Support low dollar contributions by providing a match for contributions up to $500 and make them tax deductible.
  • Bring transparency to corporate donations by requiring public companies, large private companies and all government contractors to disclose all political contributions and federal lobbying efforts.
  • Institute real-time transparency for donations of $1000 or more by requiring disclosure within 48 hours.
  • Prevent U.S. companies with substantial foreign ownership from inappropriately spending money to affect our elections.
  • Reduce contribution limits for political parties. Currently, a single donor can give more than $2.5 million to state and national committees of a political party.

Democrats Take Aim at Silicon Valley. They Take Its Cash, Too. [The New York Times]

Will Democratic presidential candidates be able to balance calls for accountability and regulation in Silicon Valley—taking the tech giants to task for “monopolistic behavior, social media misinformation and lax privacy protections”—with fundraising out of one of the “nation’s wealthiest and most liberal bastions.”

Previously, The New York Times reported that “four of the biggest technology companies are amassing an army of lobbyists as they prepare for what could be an epic fight over their futures.”

Ginni Thomas Plans New Conservative Supergroup To “Protect President Trump” [The Intercept]

Conservative activist Virginia Thomas, the wife of United States Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, announced plans to launch “American D-Day,” a new project aimed at protecting President Donald Trump. The American D-Day PAC and 501(c)(4) nonprofit are part of a larger Crowdsourcers initiatives, which calls itself an “incubator for culture and liberty.”

Image: The Intercept

In 2009, Thomas founded Liberty Central, a 501(c)(4) whose mission was to protect “the core founding principles of the United States. The grassroots organization raised $1.5 million from anonymous donors, paying Thomas a $120,000 salary. A year before that project folded in 2012, she founded Liberty Consulting where she claimed to serve as an ambassador for Tea Party Republicans in Congress.

Legislature poised to send amendment to voters [Mail Tribune]

Oregon state legislature is poised to send a constitutional amendment to voters to make it clear that limiting campaign money is constitutional. The state is one of 11 with no cap on how much individuals can donate to a campaign. In 1998, the Oregon Supreme Court decided that “the constitutional right to free speech protected election activity,” meaning that campaign contributions couldn’t be limited.

In the meantime, legislators are already working on a bill so they’re ready to go following the vote: “House Bill 2714 would cap individual donations to a candidate for state representative at $1,000, for state senator or circuit court judge at $1,500, and for a statewide candidate at $2,800. However, political parties and legislative caucus committees would be excused from the limits, as would ‘small donor committees,’ which can’t take more than $250 from any one person.”

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