Campaign Finance

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  • After Saying He Would Be An “Uncompensated” “Volunteer,” Roger Stone Pockets Pro-Trump Super PAC Money

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    Roger Stone received $12,000 from his pro-Trump super PAC despite previously bragging that he was working for the group as an “uncompensated” “volunteer.”

    Stone is a longtime ally and adviser to the Republican presidential nominee. In December 2015, he announced that he was joining the Committee To Restore America’s Greatness to support Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

    After Stone joined the super PAC, he reportedly “said ‘it would probably be wise’ for him to cease conversations with Trump about the campaign due to conflict of interest rules which bar coordination between the two entities.” Stone has nonetheless continued to talk regularly with Trump throughout the campaign and informally advises his campaign on strategy.

    When Stone made the move from the campaign to the super PAC, he dismissed the idea that he was trying to cash in on his Trump connections and emphasized on Twitter: “I am a volunteer and uncompensated as a matter of fact.”

    Stone has apparently changed his mind about taking contributor money, according to the Committee To Restore America’s Greatness’ recently filed Federal Election Commission report covering July 1 through September 30 of this year. The super PAC paid $12,000 in July to Drake Ventures for “consulting.” Stone owns Drake Ventures and used the LLC when he worked as a consultant for Trump’s presidential campaign last year. (The business registration is now technically inactive as it was revoked in September 2015 because of a failure to file an annual report, according to the Florida Department of State's website database).

    The Committee to Restore America’s Greatness' activities include spending $32,000 on its “Super Trump” advertisement   in Florida and the non-swing state of New York.

    Stone also heads the connected 527 group Stop the Steal, which aims “to stop the Democrats from stealing the election from Donald Trump.” The Guardian noted that Stone claims he has “around 1,300 volunteers” who will conduct “their own crowd-funded exit polling on election day, ostensibly due to fears that electronic voting machines in certain areas may have been ‘rigged.’” However, election experts told the newspaper that the tactic “could intimidate voters” and “exit polls in particular were a dangerously inaccurate way to gauge the legitimacy of an election.”

    Stop the Steal’s third quarterly report to the IRS stated that the group received only $7,162 during that period and transferred $63,000 to the Committee to Restore America's Greatness to “provide for programs of Stop the Steal.” (The committee gave Stop the Steal $50,000 in April.) Both Stop the Steal and the Committee to Restore America's Greatness share the same address and contact person.

    Stop the Steal’s website is currently signing up volunteers to be “vote protectors.” Its website also features headlines from conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ website and a bizarre “exit polls” map:

  • Right-Wing Media Use Misleading Report To Boost Trump’s Claim Of Media Bias

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Conservative media are using a report from the Center for Public Integrity (CPI) to reinforce Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s claim that the media is rigged against him, pointing to the report’s claim that media figures have donated more to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign than Trump’s. But according to The Washington Post, the report doesn’t “tell the whole story” and doesn’t prove “widespread bias” because it does not include any campaign trail reporters who influence coverage of the election.

  • STUDY: Networks Cover Trump's Illegal Pam Bondi Donation Three Times Less Than AP's Clinton Story

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    In just two days, broadcast news networks devoted more than three times as much airtime to baselessly scandalizing a flawed Associated Press (AP) report on Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton than covering a story about an illegal donation by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. The AP piece examined meetings Clinton took with Clinton Foundation donors as secretary of state, while the Trump story centered on an illegal donation he made to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.

    In the two days after the AP report was published, the broadcast news networks ABC, CBS, and NBC devoted 19 minutes and 10 seconds to covering the flawed August 23 report -- which dubiously hyped “possible ethics challenges” on behalf of Clinton. The same networks devoted merely six minutes of coverage to Trump’s illegal donation to Pam Bondi in the week following the revelation.

    In the report, the AP claimed that “More than half the people outside the government who met with Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of state gave money -- either personally or through companies or groups -- to the Clinton Foundation.” Journalists and media critics widely derided the report for "ignoring well over 1,000 official meetings with foreign leaders and an unknown number of meetings with domestic US officials" Clinton held at the State Department. Some in the media -- including broadcast and cable networks -- nonetheless hyped the report for the “breathtaking” and “disturbing” “optics,” even though the report found “no evidence” of “ethics breaches.” Despite the backlash, the AP issued a statement claiming it was “transparent in how it has reported this story.”

    The Washington Post reported on September 1 that the Trump Foundation paid the IRS a penalty after he illegally donated to a campaign group in 2013 for the re-election of Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. The Post explained that Trump paid the IRS a $2,500 penalty for “violat[ing] tax laws” with his donation. Bondi personally solicited the donation from Trump around the same time her office was considering joining the New York attorney general’s fraud investigation against Trump University. Shortly after Bondi received Trump’s donation, she decided not to join the case. Cable news hosts called the episode “ugly” and “a classic example” of pay-to-play politics.

    The Trump Foundation’s donation is also yet another example of Trump’s history of “breaking campaign finance laws” and “evading” legal donation limits, as CNN’s Jeff Zeleny explained. The New York Times wrote that Trump’s donation to Bondi was part of his “decades-long record of shattering political donation limits and circumventing the rules governing contributions and lobbying.”


    Media Matters searched Nexis and SnapStream for coverage of Donald Trump's donation to Pam Bondi between September 1, 2016, and September 7, 2016, on CBS, NBC, and ABC's morning, evening, and Sunday news programs using the terms: "Trump AND Bondi." Media Matters searched SnapStream for coverage of the AP report on meetings Clinton took with Clinton Foundation donors between August 24, 2016, and August 25, 2016, on CBS, NBC, and ABC’s morning and evening news programs using the terms: “Clinton OR Clinton Foundation.”

  • Broadcast News Outlets Essentially Ignored Trump Pay For Play Until This Weekend

    ››› ››› CAT DUFFY

    Broadcast news outlets largely ignored the allegations that the Trump Foundation engaged in pay to play with Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi until this weekend, after The Washington Post reported that Trump paid the IRS a penalty for his illegal donation in support of Bondi. The omission came despite reporting from other sources dating back to March on the charges made against the Trump Foundation and the fines the IRS leveled against it.

  • ProPublica Reporter Calls For Journalists To Be "More Skeptical" Of Researchers Backed By Corporate Interests

    ProPublica's Faturechi: Media Should "Ask Harder Questions" Before Quoting Or Publishing Corporate-Backed Research

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    ProPublica reporter Robert Faturechi is calling for journalists to “be more skeptical” and “ask harder questions” about the corporate funding and influence behind pundits and research organizations passing themselves off as independent.

    In an August 10 post published on The New York Times’ Room for Debate blog, Faturechi proclaimed: “It’s our job as journalists to make sure that lawmakers and the public aren’t making major policy decisions based on compromised studies." He added that journalists should "ask harder questions" about think tank researchers' corporate backing "[b]efore we quote them or their studies, or publish their op-eds." His post comes days after the Times published an investigative series about how think tank scholars offering themselves as independent arbiters “have become part of the corporate influence machine” affecting policy in Washington. One article examined 75 think tanks and found that many researchers “had simultaneously worked as registered lobbyists, members of corporate boards or outside consultants in litigation and regulatory disputes, with only intermittent disclosure of their dual roles.” Another explained that think tanks scholars are “pushing agendas important to corporate donors," which “blur[s] the line between researchers and lobbyists," and they're often doing it without disclosing their connections.

    Several Media Matters analyses have found that fossil fuel-funded pundits passing themselves off as independent experts often publish op-eds or are quoted in the news without disclosing their industry ties, and a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has found that oil-funded organizations are “more likely to have written and disseminated texts meant to polarize the climate change issue." Media Matters has also outlined how for-profit education companies and other corporations have backed a broad network of think tanks to influence education policy in their favor.

    From Faturechi’s Room for Debate post:

    It’s our job as journalists to make sure that lawmakers and the public aren’t making major policy decisions based on compromised studies. Big name universities and prestigious think tanks provide researchers with an imprimatur of independence. But as The New York Times and other outlets have shown, their work is often funded, and sometimes shaped, by special interests with a rooting interest in particular findings. Reporters and editors need to be more skeptical of experts, and the false sense of security that their name brand affiliations provide. Before we quote them or their studies, or publish their op-eds, we have to ask harder questions about their funding and their outside employment.

    Oftentimes simply asking won’t be enough. When the research is being done at a public university, we have an easier time digging up undisclosed conflicts. Emails between professors and their funders are typically subject to public records requests. Those communications can be revelatory, but they’re harder to come by when the researchers are working for private think tanks. In those cases, we have to rely on less straightforward entry points, like think tank researchers happening to communicate with government officials who are subject to FOIA. Or we have to hope for leaks. Neither method is particularly reliable.

    Research that is funded by a corporation, or any other special interest for that matter, isn’t necessarily flawed. And researchers who are moonlighting for outside groups aren’t necessarily untrustworthy. But lawmakers and the public deserve more visibility into the research that is shaping policy in Washington and in statehouses across the country. Investigative reporting is one remedy. Another would be stricter transparency rules.

  • Colorado Editorial Board Fails To Disclose Conflict Of Interest While Heralding Senate Candidate Darryl Glenn

    ››› ››› MARLEE PITTMAN

    The editorial board of The Gazette newspaper in Colorado Springs, CO, has consistently praised U.S. Senate candidate Darryl Glenn (R) without ever disclosing the financial ties between the editorial board and the campaign. Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings show that the wife of Colorado Springs Gazette editorial page editor Wayne Laugesen received over $3,000 for campaign consulting services in 2015.

  • Trump’s Reportedly Preferred Super PAC Funded By Major Investor In Breitbart News

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Donald Trump’s GOP presidential campaign is reportedly telling donors to give to a Super PAC backed by hedge fund manager Robert Mercer, who is also reportedly a major investor in the pro-Trump Breitbart News Network.

    Trump’s national finance chairman has directed a least one major donor to give to Make America Number I (also known as “Defeat Crooked Hillary PAC”), which is funded by Mercer, according to a June 23 Wall Street Journal report:

    Tech billionaire Darwin Deason, along with his son, Doug, and wife, Katerina, met with Mr. Trump and his top aides during the New York businessman’s swing through Texas last week, Doug Deason said in an interview. During the meeting, the Deasons asked Mr. Trump and his aides whether the campaign planned to endorse one of the several super PACs that have said they’re raising money to back him.

    In response, Steven Mnuchin, Mr. Trump’s national finance chairman, said the campaign preferred donors give to the Mercer-backed super PAC, Mr. Deason said.

    “He said that’ll be the one,” Mr. Deason said, adding that he hadn’t previously known about the group.


    A spokeswoman for the super PAC said Mr. Mercer would be the primary funder for the group, but that it would also solicit other donations. The group will air ads primarily against Democrat Hillary Clinton, rather than promoting Mr. Trump.

    Make America Number I is likely to be among the best-funded super PACs backing Mr. Trump.

    In an April 2015 article on Mercer’s support for a super PAC that backed Sen. Ted Cruz, Politico reported that Mercer “is also one of the most generous backers for Breitbart News Network, a group of right-wing news and opinion site that command considerable influence among the conservative base.”

    Breitbart News’ ridiculous shilling for Trump has been widely disparaged by media observers throughout his presidential campaign.

  • Movie Producer And Son Of Phillies Co-Owner Is The Big Donor Behind Roger Stone’s Controversial Group

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    Roger Stone’s pro-Trump super PAC raised roughly $310,000 in the first quarter of this year, with approximately 80 percent of the money coming from television and film producer John P. Middleton. Stone previously pledged his group would be “funded by small donors.”

    Stone is a longtime Trump friend and ally who heads the super PAC Committee to Restore America's Greatness. He is also involved with the newly formed and related 527 group Stop The Steal. Stone and the super PAC have been claiming that Republicans are attempting to “steal” the GOP presidential nomination from Donald Trump; they are also spreading false claims that Trump has been the victim of election fraud. Stone has come under heavy criticism for his plan to release the hotel room numbers of delegates who are purportedly stealing the nomination.

    The Committee to Restore America’s Greatness recently filed its quarterly report with the Federal Election Commission. The group states that it raised $310,806 from January through March, while spending $191,063.

    John P. Middleton gave the group $250,000 this year, accounting for roughly 80 percent of its total receipts. (Middleton gave $100,000 total and John Powers Middleton Companies gave $150,000.) Middleton, the son of Philadelphia Phillies co-owner John S. Middleton, is a regular Republican donor and activist. He works in the television and film industry and co-produced The Lego Movie and executive produced Run All Night, Bates Motel, and My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2. Middleton has promoted Trump on his Twitter account.

    Middleton is supporting Stone despite the consultant’s virulent attacks against the Bush family. Middleton hosted a 2015 fundraiser for a super PAC supporting Jeb Bush. Stone has said that Jeb and the Bush “crime family” ran drugs in Latin America; claimed the Bush family was behind the attempted assassination of President Reagan; and attacked Barbara Bush for being “shit face drunk.”  

    When he helped form Committee to Restore America's Greatness last year, Stone pledged the group would be funded by small donors, telling the Associated Press: "I don't expect large contributions from anybody. This will be funded by small donors who are opposed to Marco Rubio and the establishment Republican candidates.” At the time, Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski -- a target of Stone criticism -- called the group "a big-league scam.” Lewandowski’s power in the campaign now appears to have been diminished with the ascendancy of Stone’s former business partner and friend Paul Manafort.

    The PAC disbursed $84,000 to a Florida business called Citroen Associates. Citroen is owned by John Paul Kakanis, who is also the registered agent for Roger Stone Exploratory Committee LLC (Stone had explored a run for Marco Rubio’s Senate seat). Citroen received money for “voter fraud research and documentation.”

    The group also spent money on advertising with ($5,093) and Newsmax ($5,230).

  • Fox Hypes Anti-Clinton Ad Without Disclosing Fox Contributor Karl Rove's Ties To Super PAC

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Fox News promoted an anti-Hillary Clinton ad created by American Crossroads, a conservative Super PAC co-founded by Fox News contributor Karl Rove.

    On the April 14 edition of Fox News' The Five, co-host Kimberly Guilfoyle praised a new American Crossroads ad, comparing Hillary Clinton to Richard Nixon. After playing nearly the entire ad, Guilfoyle claimed the “dramatic attack ad” came from the “conservative Super PAC American Crossroads,” but did not disclose any other information about the group:

    KIMBERLY GUILFOYLE (CO-HOST): Sanders got some unsolicited help today from conservative Super PAC American Crossroads. They put out a dramatic attack ad, depicting his opponent as a modern day Richard Nixon.


    ED HENRY: I think it is important that you mentioned the context of the general election in terms of that American Crossroads ad, that’s a conservative group who will undoubtedly be pounding Hillary Clinton if she is the Democratic nominee, talking about the e-mails. But that's a stark contrast to what we are likely to see tonight. Bernie Sanders said at the very beginning of the first debate, he was taking the e-mails off the table. Very few debate moderators have pressed Hillary Clinton over the course of the last several months on that issue. Although there was a little hint from the Sanders camp today that you had both of these candidates yesterday on the picket lines with striking Verizon workers in the New York City area and the Sanders camp was saying, wait a second. It turned out Hillary Clinton was with the workers yesterday. But back in 2013 she gave one of those big paid speeches, over $200,000 paid for by, yes, Verizon. So she was standing up to the company yesterday, on behalf of the workers, but it turns out a couple years ago, was making big money from the company.

    Guilfoyle failed to disclose that American Crossroads was co-founded by Fox News political contributor Karl Rove. He joined the network in 2008, and helped create the Super PAC in 2010 where he still serves as an “informal adviser.”

    Fox News has a history of failing to disclose the ties of its hosts and contributors. And during the September 21, 2014 edition of Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace invited Karl Rove to discuss the 2014 midterm Senate races, without disclosing Rove's super PACs that poured millions into influencing the outcomes of the Senate races Rove was invited to discuss.



  • NPR Highlights Public Citizen’s New Analysis On Lack Of Campaign Finance Questions In Presidential Debates

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    NPR’s Peter Overby highlighted new analysis from Public Citizen pointing out that presidential candidates on both sides of the aisle “have raised a combined total of around $1 billion,” but that out of 1,000 debate questions and 21 debates so far in this campaign, only 15 questions related to political money have been asked and none addressed “candidates' views of the system or ways they would change it.”

    Despite polls showing Americans overwhelmingly disapprove of the post-Citizens United campaign finance landscape, most news outlets still provide little coverage of the current impact of money in politics and possibilities for campaign finance reform. A lack of questions on campaign finance reflect a larger trend of debate moderators not asking about substantive issues or policies, such as the impact of -- or plans to combat -- climate change.

    In an April 8 article, Overby quotes Public Citizen’s Congress Watch director Lisa Gilbert saying, “There's a disconnect between voters and the media, who are not paying attention to something that's front-and-center for most Americans as never before. They're unwilling to press the candidates on solutions":

    The politicians who would be president have a lot to say about money, at least when they're soliciting it.

    They and their sidekick superPACs have raised a combined total of around $1 billion, according to NPR calculations from data compiled by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

    But when it's time for a TV debate, the candidates aren't so eager to expound on their fundraising, the big donors they court for superPACs, or the legal rulings that give the wealthy more avenues for giving.

    A new analysis by the liberal advocacy group Public Citizen finds that Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump accounted for 92 percent of all commentary about political money and special interests in the 21 presidential primary debates through March 24.

    The analysis, called The Elephant in the Room, also found that Sanders, Clinton and Trump were also the only candidates to talk about repairing a campaign finance system that has unexpectedly become a flashpoint for voter anger in this election cycle.


    Public Citizen criticizes the debate questioners. In the 21 debates, they asked about political money in 15 of more than 1,000 questions. The analysis found no questions on candidates' views of the system or ways they would change it.

    Lisa Gilbert, director of Public Citizen's Congress Watch, said she was surprised that the candidates and questioners made only 13 mentions of Citizens United, the 2010 Supreme Court ruling that has come to represent the surge in big-dollar politics.

    "There's a disconnect between voters and the media, who are not paying attention to something that's front-and-center for most Americans as never before," she said. "They're unwilling to press the candidates on solutions."

  • Fox's Neil Cavuto Allows Florida AG To Praise Trump Without Disclosing Her Controversial Past With Trump University

    Blog ››› ››› DAYANITA RAMESH

    Fox News' Neil Cavuto allowed Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi to praise Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump without disclosing her controversial past with Trump which includes a $25,000 contribution from Trump to support Bondi's re-election and Bondi refusing to investigate Trump University for fraud.

    On the March 17 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto, host Neil Cavuto interviewed Bondi about her recent endorsement of GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump. Bondi, who once touted her relationship with Fox News in a pitch to win votes, appeared with Cavuto to explain why she endorsed Donald Trump for president.

    During the interview, Cavuto failed to question Bondi on her decision in 2013 to "declin[e] to prosecute one of Trump's businesses, Trump University, which faces fraud charges in New York." 

    In March, The Miami Herald reported that as Bondi "was preparing for a re-election bid" in the fall of 2013, Trump University "had just been sued by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman." In September 2013, "the Donald J. Trump Foundation ... contributed $25,000 to And Justice For All, a political committee controlled by Bondi."

    A spokesperson for Bondi claims the decision to not open an investigation "didn't involve Bondi directly" and the Trump campaign has yet to respond to questions regarding this matter. Her endorsement made her "the first big-name Republican official in the state" to endorse Trump.