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Tags: SuperPACs

2012’s Last Campaign Is Resolved



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Over the weekend, the final congressional race of 2012 was resolved: Representative Charles Boustany Jr. was reelected, defeating Representative Jeff Landry, 61 percent to 39 percent, in a runoff.

The AP summarizes:

The district design favored Boustany, a traditional Republican candidate allied with House Speaker John Boehner. Landry, a freshman congressman, was the tea party favorite, but he was unable to build enough grassroots support to oust Boustany.

Pearson Cross, chairman of the political science department at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, said Boustany was the “de-facto incumbent” throughout the race.

“Most voters in the district have voted for Charles Boustany, think he’s done a good job, are comfortable with him,” Cross said.

Tags: SuperPACs , Jeff Landry

The Last House Race of 2012 and the First One of 2013



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The Morning Jolt returns from its holiday hiatus, with a look at two House races — one not quite resolved, another coming soon in 2013 . . .

So, What Fun Can We Have With Chicago’s Upcoming Special House Election?

Moe Lane has a crazy idea for the upcoming special House election in Illinois, where Jesse Jackson Jr. has resigned, after increasingly bizarre behavior, a long disappearance from the public eye, and an announcement that he was on medical leave earlier this year for treatment of bipolar disorder.

Hold on, hear me out. Let’s jump back for a second to 2009. You might remember that in 2009 Rahm Emanuel resigned his House seat (IL-05) in order to bungle being White House Chief of Staff. Well, that caused a special election to trigger, and at the time I took the position that hey, how’s about trying to, maybe, I don’t know: win it? . . . And I was told, quietly but firmly, no. Folks didn’t like the candidate, didn’t like the idea of spending the money, didn’t want to contest the seat. And that’s fine; but here’s the thing. The Democrat who won (Mike Quigley) the primary was cordially hated by the rest of the Illinois Combine, and the general election he beat Rosanna Pulido, 30.6K to 10.6K. Two years later, Quigley’s opponent David Ratowitz got 38.9 K votes in the 2010 general election. Didn’t matter then, because Quigley got 108.3K votes . . . but it shows that there were in fact enough potential Republican voters in the IL-05 to win a low-turnout special election, if sufficiently motivated.

Now, let’s look at IL-02. In the last election Jackson got 181K votes to Brian Woodworth’s 67.4K. But Jesse Jackson’s quitting in, frankly, disgrace: and there’s going to be a vicious internal Democratic fight for his seat; and it’s a special election, which means low turnout. If the GOP does nothing, none of that will matter. If the GOP decides to make the Democrats work for the seat . . . it still may not matter. But . . . then again, it might. We won’t know until we actually try. What we do know is that doing nothing doesn’t work*.

All of which leads up to the observation that if anybody reading this has a clever plan about how to boost turnout in traditionally unfriendly districts, then there’s going to be a Republican campaign in Illinois in the very near future that is probably going to want to hear from you.

You can check out the oh-so-precise district lines here.

Jazz Shaw appears game, and already talking tactics:

So how do you do it? The first thing to settle on is what you don’t do. You don’t dump a ton of money into an air war that gets the Democrats noticing that there’s a race going on. What you do instead is bring back a very old, but mostly forgotten idea which we used to great effect in 2010: Precinct Captains. Invest the available resources in identifying one solid Republican in each and every precinct. Get them the data from pouring through registration stats to identify every single Republican and potential independent in the few miles around their house. Help them round up a few friends and quietly begin going door to door explaining the situation. Save your money for the final week before the special election and then hit a direct mail bomb targeting only the people on those lists.

The message is fairly simple. “Hey. There’s an election on Tuesday, and for the first time in living memory you’ve got a chance to have your voice heard. All you have to do is show up, because the liberals aren’t going to. Hell, we’ll even come give you a ride.”

Would it work, even in such a dismally conservative-poor area? You won’t know unless you try. But if it did, it would send shock waves across the country and be used as a model for the next cycle, demonstrating that 21st century election science is a game that both parties can play, not just Team Obama.

The schedule is coming together:

Cook County Clerk David Orr said Wednesday that he hopes to hold a primary election in February to replace Jesse Jackson Jr.’s seat in Congress.

Jackson announced his resignation mere weeks after handily winning re-election.

Most of the precincts included in the 2nd Congressional District already have a special election February 26, and all precincts have general elections planned for April 9. Chicago is the only place in Illinois not already holding a primary election in February; those Chicago precincts would be the only added cost.

And at this early point, it looks like the Democrats will probably have a messy primary:

Since Jackson announced on Wednesday that he was leaving office after 17 years for mental-health reasons, the local media have cited a number of sources saying they want to represent Illinois’ Second District. They include his wife, Chicago Alderman Sandi Jackson; his brother, John Jackson; and former US Rep. Debbie Halvorson, who lost to Congressman Jackson in the March Democratic primary.

Other names include Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Illinois State Sen. Toi Hutchinson, and Sam Adams, an Illinois attorney who led former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s defense team.

Some Democrats see a danger in so many would-be members of congressman. “My fear is that there is going to be so many wannabes blinded by ambition . . . that we could find a tea party” candidate winning, said Rep. Bobby Rush, who represents Illinois’ First District, hours after Jackson’s resignation.

Both Jackson’s brother and wife are both thinking of running for his suddenly-vacated congressional office? Boy, and you thought there was tension at your Thanksgiving table.

Election 2012, Not Quite Over Everywhere . . .

There’s one more House race to be resolved, down in Louisiana, pitting two incumbent House Republicans against each other: Charles Boustany and Jeff Landry. If you feel like the GOP needs to be pushed in a particular direction after the 2012 general election, here’s the first chance to weigh in:

But in a field of five candidates, neither incumbent mustered more than 50 percent of the vote, which is required to claim an outright win.

In Louisiana’s open primary system, all candidates for an office appear on the same ballot, regardless of party.

Boustany, of Lafayette, drew 45 percent of the vote and Landry, from New Iberia, drew 30 percent, according to unofficial results from the Louisiana secretary of state.

Democratic challenger Ron Richard peeled off almost 22 percent of the vote, and two other candidates finished with less than 4 percent combined.

Boustany, considered a moderate Republican, raised $3 million for the campaign, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, almost 50 percent more than Landry, who had support from the Tea Party movement for smaller government. But endorsements from conservative political groups including FreedomWorks, Citizens United, Tea Party Nation and the Family Research Council strengthened Landry’s run.

Tags: SuperPACs , Chicago , Jeff Landry , Jesse Jackson Jr.

The Difference Between SuperPACs and 501(c)(4) Nonprofits



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Over at Talking Points Memo, Benjy Sarlin argues that my article today is wrong, and the media narrative of cash-strapped President Obama, victimized by big-spending super PACs, is right. The heart of Sarlin’s complaint is that my review of FEC data is wrong because it doesn’t count the spending that isn’t included in the FEC data.

Correct; I didn’t measure that which can’t be measured, or for which data is not available.

My article is careful: “Actual spending by super PACs so far this year tells a quite different story.”

Sarlin’s smoking gun is an ad campaign by “Crossroads GPS.” But Crossroads GPS is not a super PAC. As some media have pointed out, “American Crossroads is a super PAC, but Crossroads GPS is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit ‘dedicated to educating, equipping and engaging American citizens,’ according to IRS filing.” Unsurprisingly, some media accounts conflate the two groups.

As the Congressional Research Service notes, “Super PACs must follow the same reporting requirements as traditional PACs. This includes filing statements of organization and regular financial reports detailing most contributions and expenditures.”

“Issue ads” and other forms of political advertising may not be included in the FEC filings because groups themselves define whether an ad “opposes” or “support” a particular candidate. And it’s fair to argue that what some groups call “issue ads” come right up to the line of being what most viewers would consider a campaign ad. Unfortunately, classifying whether a group’s spending really does count as supporting or opposing a candidate would mean reviewing everything they do, a task beyond even my abilities. Short of that, we can look at what they’re telling the Federal Election Commission and work from there.

And as I noted in the article, data filed with the FEC can be erroneous, pointing to a DGA group listing expenditures as “supporting” Romney and misspelling the GOP nominee’s name several times.

But everything in my article is accurate, including the sums of the pro-Obama super PAC and comparison to all of the actual right-of-center super PACs, and is based on everything the FEC has in its databases, up to July 3. I would bet that 99.9 percent of political junkies had no idea that Priorities USA Action, founded by Obama’s former deputy White House press secretary, Bill Burton, had spent $13.5 million on “oppose Romney” efforts so far. And it is more specific and detailed data than any of the rest of the super PAC coverage. Yet Sarlin concludes this information is “worthless” as a measure of outside spending.

If the new narrative will be “501(c)(4) nonprofits are beating up on Obama” instead of “super PACs and groups making independent expenditures are beating up on Obama,” fine. Of course, it is worth noting that liberals have their own 501(c)(4) nonprofit groups as well — Media Matters Action Network, the Center for American Progress Action Fund, and the Natural Resources Defense Council Action Fund, to pick a few examples.

Tags: SuperPACs

Super PACs Are Attacking Romney a Lot More Than Obama



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Over on the home page, I take a look at the actual Federal Election Commission data to reveal that the narrative offered by President Obama, David Axelrod, other Democrats, and a friendly media is hogwash; it is in fact Mitt Romney who has been targeted more by well-funded super PACs — and it’s not even close, and it’s not even including the anti-Mitt ads run by super PACs that preferred his GOP primary rivals . . .

The truth is that the super PAC founded by top Obama staffers and its aligned “independent” groups are outspending groups that oppose the president by roughly two to one.

According to Federal Election Commission data filed from January 2011 through July 3, super PACs and all groups making “independent expenditures” in the political arena have spent $35.3 million in opposition to Romney, and only $9 million in opposition to Obama. Rove’s American Crossroads, for example, has spent $3.1 million this cycle. But only $158,126.17 of that has been spent in efforts opposing President Obama, and a separate $7,500 has been spent on Web ads supporting Mitt Romney. For perspective, the group spent $358,202.98 in mid-June in just one expenditure on “TV/Media Purchases” opposing Democratic Senate candidate Tim Kaine in Virginia, and then spent the same sum a week later in the same race.

What’s more, the advertising and other efforts by Obama’s allies have been relentlessly negative. Every expenditure by every independent group must be filed with the FEC (usually within a matter of days) and must be classified as in support of or in opposition to a particular candidate. The amounts range from millions of dollars for advertising campaigns to $12.50 for “staff time” spent on a press release or e-mail to support or oppose a candidate. Overall, in addition to the $35.3 million and $9 million mentioned above, independent groups have spent $7.7 million on ads and efforts classified as in support of Romney, while they spent only $961,854.62 in support of Obama.

. . . In fact, the president’s allies run the single biggest-spending and most negative super PAC of all: Priorities USA Action, founded by Obama’s former deputy White House press secretary, Bill Burton; Sean Sweeney, the former chief of staff to Rahm Emanuel; and Harold Ickes, who was deputy chief of staff to President Bill Clinton. This super PAC has spent $13.5 million in opposition to Romney so far, outspending all the super-PAC efforts opposing the president combined. While Priorities USA Action is often described as a “pro-Obama” super PAC in news coverage, it has yet to spend a single penny that it categorizes as “supporting” President Obama; all of its spending is classified as “opposing” Mitt Romney.

This completes my FEC data quadrology, which began with a look at MoveOn.org’s fundraising, continued to how the Obama campaign spends its money and the political donations of current U.S. Attorneys, and now today’s look at SuperPAC expenditures.

Tags: Barack Obama , Mitt Romney , SuperPACs

Pro-Romney SuperPAC Barely Outspending
Pro-Obama One



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David Axelrod, two weeks ago:

“It’s a great concern,” Axelrod said in an interview with WJLA ABC 7, a station owned by POLITICO’s corporate parent. “People are writing $10 million checks in one fell swoop to these super PACs — in many cases, they’re undisclosed.”

Yesterday, the pro-Obama SuperPAC “Priorities USA Action” filed a report saying they were spending $3.3 million, the third-largest sum of the entire campaign cycle, on television advertising. Much of it will be to fund the airing of this ad:

The fourth- and fifth-highest sums of this cycle also come from Priorities USA Action; $3.1 million spent in a report filed June 5 and $2.24 million spent in a report filed mid-May.

Of course, the two highest expenditures of the cycle were from the pro-Romney SuperPAC, Restore Our Future, Inc., which spent $4.9 million on ads hitting Newt Gingrich back in late January. The single largest expenditure of any SuperPAC in the cycle came about ten days ago, when Restore Our Future committed $7.1 million for television advertising, much of it on this ad:

In short, even though Obama’s SuperPAC ally is spending less than Romney’s allies, in the month of June the margin is pretty close — $6.4 million for anti-Romney ads to $7.1 million for anti-Obama ads.

Tags: Barack Obama , David Axelrod , Mitt Romney , SuperPACs

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