It was the best of years or it was the worst of years, depending on your perspective. The Supreme Court’s McCutcheon decision and Congress’ green light allowing national party committees to set up additional accounts — and accept a lot more money — were the big legal developments of the year in terms of political cash-counting, shifting the landscape yet again. But OpenSecrets Blog found many other stories worth writing about. Herewith some of our favorites:
Millionaires Club: For the First Time Most Lawmakers are Worth $1 Million-Plus, Russ Choma, 1/9/2014: Our analysis of the personal financial disclosure statements of current members of Congress showed that most of them have an average net worth of more than $1 million. Not bad for government work.
This 2,143-Page IRS Document Could Be Yours for Just $428.60 (Plus Shipping), Robert Maguire, 7/21/2014: A paen to the absurdity of trying to obtain ostensibly public documents filed with the IRS by 501(c)(4) dark money groups. “An epic tragicomedy” — anonymous Yelp reviewer.
One GOP Consultant, Two Campaigns and a Snarl of Outside Groups, Russ Choma, 7/28/2014: An investigation into political consultant Nick Ayers, who was working simultaneously for two candidates and a mysterious network of outside groups supporting them. A second piece about Ayers’ activities, further demonstrating that the Kochs don’t have a lock on complicated political money networks, is here.
Two Grand Juries Continuing Probe Into 2012 Iowa Payola Scandal, Russ Choma, 9/4/2014: OpenSecrets Blog has led the reporting on how the 2012 presidential campaigns of Reps. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and Ron Paul (R-Texas) tried to buy the support of a state senator in the Iowa caucuses, unearthing details about the investigations, the accusations and the evidence. Other pieces on the topic are here and here.
Super Pac(ked) With Out-of-State Money, Lalita Clozel, 10/3/2014: A deep dive into how homegrown-sounding single-candidate super PACs were often fueled almost exclusively with out-of-state money. Features an official of one such group saying, “We are all born and raised Alaskans so we are all very involved in talking to Alaskans in an Alaskan language — so it’s an Alaskan super PAC.” Defensive much?
Straw Into Gold: Candidates Trading Leadership PAC Dollars for Campaign Cash, Viveca Novak and John Sugden, 10/31/2014: A trick we hadn’t seen before, but popular this cycle with Democrats running for Senate: Candidate A’s leadership PAC gives to Candidate B’s campaign, and Candidate B’s leadership PAC gives to Candidate A’s campaign — often on the same day. The exchanges turned far less useful leadership PAC money into much-needed campaign cash.
Money Won on Tuesday, But Rules of the Game Changed, Russ Choma, 11/5/2014: When all was said and done, the 2014 midterms revealed several trends worth watching: Though more was spent than in the 2010 elections, the funds came from fewer donors; campaigns spent less, but outside groups spent more; the sharpest spending increase was by groups that don’t disclose their donors, and two-thirds of their money went to support Republicans.
And there were many wonderful money-in-politics pieces published elsewhere — too many to mention here, but these are a few that were memorable:
Koch-Backed political network, built to shield donors, raised $400 million in 2012, Matea Gold, Washington Post, 1/5/2014: Working with OpenSecrets.org, thePost calculated that the 17 groups in the political network of the billionaire industrialist Koch brothers raised more than $400 million in the 2012 election cycle, more than any other node of outside spending organizations. Most of the 17 were tax-exempt political nonprofits — also known as dark money groups.
Click here to read the complete article at OpenSecrets.org.