Campaign Finance

Issues ››› Campaign Finance
  • CBS, PBS, And MSNBC Lead The Way While Overall Network And Cable Coverage Of Money In Politics Lags


    Since the start of the 2016 presidential election season, CBS and PBS have dedicated more coverage of the issues surrounding the crisis of money in politics and campaign finance than any other broadcast network, while MSNBC led in the coverage among cable news outlets. 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 reform.

  • Morning Joe's Pro-Koch Coverage Pays Off With "Exclusive, First-Ever Joint Interview"

    ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    Morning Joe hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski's tireless efforts to defend industrialists Charles and David Koch have paid off: the Koch brothers have granted them "an exclusive, first-ever joint interview" on MSNBC. The Morning Joe crew has called David Koch "a godsend," portrayed the billionaires as similar to "most Americans" in their political views, and dismissed attacks over their dark money spending as "stupid" and "embarrassing."

  • CNBC, Host Of GOP Economic Debate, Has Little Coverage Of Money In Politics


    A study of CNBC's coverage of the crisis of money in politics ahead of its October 28 Republican presidential debate reveals that the network has rarely explored the implications of an out-of-control campaign financing system and its effect on the political process. Media Matters analyzed the financial news network's content beginning on March 23, when the first 2016 presidential candidate officially entered the race and found that it has failed to report on the expanding influence of wealthy individuals and corporations who donate to campaigns, or the impact of the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision, which began a rollback of campaign finance reform measures that is negatively impacting not just elections, but the economy as well.

  • Media Are Missing Marco Rubio's Oil Ties In Coverage Of His Fossil Fuel-Friendly Energy Plan

    ››› ››› DENISE ROBBINS

    In coverage of GOP presidential candidate Marco Rubio's newly released energy plan, which calls for expanding oil production and rolling back environmental safeguards against pollution, media are failing to mention that Rubio has received campaign funding from the oil billionaire Koch brothers and other fossil fuel interests, and is reportedly a leading contender to benefit from hundreds of millions more in support from the Kochs.

  • Five Topics That Need To Be Discussed At The Next Democratic Debate

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The October 13 Democratic debate on CNN offered the public a first look at a slate of candidates whose policy positions offer a stark contrast to their counterparts in the Republican party. However, in an election season that could determine whether or not the country continues to make strides toward progressive goals or instead takes steps backwards, it is crucial that the next debate explore these substantive differences even further. Here are some suggestions for the second Democratic debate scheduled to be hosted by CBS, KCCI, and the Des Moines Register on November 14:

    1. Ask About The Crisis Of Money in Politics. Although the topic was brought up spontaneously, the next round of moderators should ask the candidates their thoughts on how to fix what is recognized to be an immediate threat to our democracy -- the explosion of barely regulated money flooding American political campaigns to the detriment of an informed electorate. As a unifying issue among the Democratic candidates, the wealthy's role in influencing politics in the wake of the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision should be highlighted in full in the next debate so Americans can decide which presidential candidate has the best chance to address the crisis. The numbers are as stark as the issue's importance: the New York Times reports that "just 158 families have provided nearly half the early money for efforts to capture the White House," an undue political influence that Americans largely reject. According to a recent Bloomberg Politics poll, 78 percent of those polled -- across the political spectrum -- are in favor of overturning Citizens United, a figure that was ignored by the media. Sanders, Clinton, O'Malley, Chafee, and Webb have all expressed concern over the role money currently plays in politics and they deserve an opportunity to explain their approaches to the American public who badly need a solution.
    2. Ask About The Concerted Attack On Reproductive Rights. Reproductive rights are under assault across the country, from statehouses to courtrooms to clinic entrances themselves, in an unprecedented fashion. Unlike the candidates across the political aisle, the Democratic slate recognizes this as a national emergency. The current Planned Parenthood defunding scheme was mentioned on stage on October 13, but does the electorate fully understand the threat and the right-wing forces behind it? For example, the Supreme Court will likely have a crucial role in deciding issues of access to reproductive health care in the coming 2015 session, with the Court likely to take on a case examining an anti-choice law in Texas, which mandates abortion providers have unnecessary admitting privileges at hospitals and comply with the same building guidelines as ambulatory surgical centers. As has been extensively documented, these laws are a thinly-veiled attempt to limit the reproductive rights of women whose health often depends on the availability of these targeted clinics. In Texas, the requirements -- if allowed by the Court -- could close all but ten abortion clinics in most in the state. Should Texas' law and similar ones be allowed to stand, the effect would perversely continue to allow abortion in theory, but in practice render it unavailable in many states as these unnecessary regulations block long-standing and safe providers from operating. It is likely the next president will have the opportunity to appoint new successors to the Court. With the wave of anti-choice legislation flooding the courts from conservative legislatures across the states, these possible appointments could very well determine the course of reproductive rights in this country.
    3. Ask About The Ongoing Civil Rights Revolution For The LGBT Community -- And The Backlash. There are still a number of important LGBT issues that presidential candidates can address now that the debate over marriage equality has been largely settled. One would be the candidates' positions on the Equality Act, a bill that would extend vital non-discrimination protections to LGBT people at the federal level, an extension of civil rights law that is opposed by many prominent Republicans. For example, even some current GOP presidential candidates are pushing for so-called religious protections for individuals who refuse to serve or recognize same-sex marriages, like the federal First Amendment Defense Act (FADA). Beyond non-discrimination protections, the next debate could address the fact that 2015 has seen an unprecedented spike in recorded murders of transgender women, and especially transgender women of color. Asking candidates about how they plan to address the most marginalized and victimized members of the LGBT community would help flesh out their substantive plans for fighting anti-LGBT bias beyond the marriage question.
    4. Ask About The Need To Protect Collective Bargaining And The American Worker. During the first Democratic presidential debate, the CNN moderators pressed the candidates with a range of questions pertaining to the American economy, but several important issues fell through the cracks. The candidates were not asked explicitly about their stances on proposals to raise the federal minimum wage, expand workplace protections guaranteeing women equal pay for equal work, or stimulate the economy through investments in vital infrastructure projects -- though several did offer unprompted outlines of their vision in those areas. The candidates were also not asked any questions about labor unions or workers' rights to collectively bargain, despite the Republican Party's continued assault on organized labor through so-called "right-to-work" laws implemented in cities and states around the country. For example, Gov. Scott Walker's (R-WI) decision to suspend his presidential campaign did not mark an end of his party's anti-worker antagonism, and conservative media continue to target unions in an attempt to strip workers of the hard-fought benefits they provide. The Democratic debate audience, and American voters as a whole, deserve to know where the candidates stand on these issues as the campaigns move forward.
    5. Ask About Our Children's Rights To Quality Education And Protections For The Teachers Who Provide It. Last night's debate included a substantive question on college debt and answers that focused on policy differences and referenced candidate plans, but the questioning avoided K-12 students and teachers completely. In fact, CNN's official transcript reveals that the words "teachers," "testing," "curriculum," and "Common Core" were never uttered. "Students" and "schools" received only passing mentions, mostly in the context of the candidates' backgrounds or in answering the question on college debt. The candidates themselves connected education policy priorities with other topics, such as income inequality and criminal justice reform, and briefly outlined their views on in-state college tuition for undocumented immigrants -- all important issues -- but the opportunity to discuss public schools and federal policy at length never materialized. How candidates will ensure quality K-12 education for all deserves more than a passing mention. The law that determines federal funding and support for schools across the country, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, is currently in the pipeline for a long-overdue reauthorization. Both of the nation's largest teachers' unions, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, have formally endorsed Clinton in the presidential race. National polls and the prevalence of the recent opt-out movement in several states indicate that voters would value a discussion of standardized testing and school accountability policies. Candidates and voters would benefit from the opportunity to combat misinformation around the Common Core state standards, teacher evaluations, school curriculum, voucher programs, and other "third rail" K-12 education topics, and to address policies that directly impact students, teachers, and parents.
  • New York Times And RH Reality Check Shed Light On The Big Money Funding Anti-Choice Groups And Candidates

    RH Reality Check Notes Two Families At Top Of List Are Also Major Donors To Anti-Choice Causes

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL LARRIS

    The New York Times reported just 158 families have contributed more than half of all early money supporting the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates, with 138 mostly supporting Republican candidates. RH Reality Check followed up on the Times' reporting to point out that two of these families are also top contributors to anti-choice causes and candidates.

    Times reporters Nicholas Confessore, Sarah Cohen and Karen Yourish wrote that, "Not since before Watergate have so few people and businesses provided so much early money in a campaign, most of it through channels legalized by the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision five years ago."

    From the October 10 edition of the Times (emphasis added):

    They are overwhelmingly white, rich, older and male, in a nation that is being remade by the young, by women, and by black and brown voters. Across a sprawling country, they reside in an archipelago of wealth, exclusive neighborhoods dotting a handful of cities and towns. And in an economy that has minted billionaires in a dizzying array of industries, most made their fortunes in just two: finance and energy.

    Now they are deploying their vast wealth in the political arena, providing almost half of all the seed money raised to support Democratic and Republican presidential candidates. Just 158 families, along with companies they own or control, contributed $176 million in the first phase of the campaign, a New York Times investigation found. Not since before Watergate have so few people and businesses provided so much early money in a campaign, most of it through channels legalized by the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision five years ago.

    Sharona Coutts of RH Reality Check examined the list of 158 families reported in The New York Times and wrote in RH Reality Check, "But what the report didn't mention was that the two families that have contributed the most to presidential campaigns also give prolifically to anti-choice groups and candidates."

    From the October 13 RH Reality Check report (emphasis added):

    But what the report didn't mention was that the two families that have contributed the most to presidential campaigns also give prolifically to anti-choice groups and candidates. This is consistent with a little-noticed trend on which RH Reality Check has been reporting for a while: the merging of political mega-donors with anti-choice activism. This fact is worth bearing in mind when listening to the anti-choice rhetoric being spouted by Republican presidential contenders.

    At the top of the New York Times list is the Wilks family, the fracking barons who are cementing their place as arch-conservative mega-donors. According to the Times analysis, brothers Farris and Dan, and their spouses Jo Ann and Staci, have contributed a combined $15 million during this campaign so far in support of Ted Cruz's campaign.


    As RH Reality Check has previously reported, the Wilkses are significant anti-choice donors, and have also plowed millions into a program that seeks to indoctrinate school children and university students with their right-wing views.

    While the Times did mention the Wilkses' anti-choice stance in a list of donors that accompanied the main piece, it's worth noting the extent of those activities.

    The Wilks family uses at least two foundations--the Thirteen Foundation and the Heavenly Father's Foundation--to funnel donations to dozens of right-wing organizations, including crisis pregnancy centers, anti-choice advocacy groups, and religious organizations that oppose the right to choose whether to carry a pregnancy to term.


    Second on the Times list are Robert Mercer, a Wall Street hedge fund manager, and his daughter, Rebekah Mercer. Also Cruz fans, the Mercers are reported to have given $11.3 million in campaign contributions so far.

    Mercer is emerging as a conservative presence within the more traditionally liberal enclaves of New York City. Between 2005 and 2013, his foundation, the Mercer Family Foundation, contributed nearly $40.1 million to mostly conservative causes, including some prominent anti-choice groups, federal tax records show. Some of his giving has gone to neutral groups or causes, such as the Mayo Clinic or supporting ovarian cancer research. However, he gave $10.5 million to the anti-choice, right-wing Media Research Center between 2008 and 2013, as well as a quarter of a million dollars to the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a legal group that takes on high-profile conservative cases.

  • Charles Koch Misleads CBS On Dark Money And Oil Subsidies

    ››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER

    In an interview on CBS Sunday Morning, oil industry billionaire Charles Koch made two false or highly implausible claims that were not addressed by CBS' Anthony Mason: that all of his political spending is "reported" and that he opposes all government subsidies. In reality, Koch-backed dark money groups are heavily involved in elections, and Koch Industries officials have lobbied to protect oil industry subsidies.

  • Major Broadcast News Networks Ignore Poll Showing 78 Percent Of Americans Want Citizens United Overturned


    A recent Bloomberg poll showing 78 percent of Americans in favor of overturning the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling received no coverage on national nightly news programs for ABC, CBS, NBC or PBS, nor Sunday morning political talk shows on ABC, FOX, or NBC. The court decision is once again having an enormous impact on the presidential election, with hundreds of millions of dollars expected to be raised and funneled into political super PACs through 2016.

  • The Overlooked Dirty Energy Money Behind Solar Net Metering Battles, And Why It Matters

    Blog ››› ››› DENISE ROBBINS

    solar roof

    Across the country, state and local lawmakers are battling over a solar energy policy called net metering. But while the reasons for disagreement vary from place to place, several share a common and oft-unreported thread: Many attacks on the solar policy are supported by fossil fuel interests.

    Net metering allows customers who have installed rooftop solar panels to generate their own electricity and send what they don't use into the electric grid for others to use -- like during the day, when the sun is shining but a family is at work or school. In exchange for the electricity provided to the grid, the customer gets a credit applied to their utility bill. The Interstate Renewable Energy Council has explained that solar panels "predictably produce energy during peak hours of the day, supporting the grid when most needed," and that net metering makes solar energy a "viable financial investment for many consumers." The policy has widespread support from liberals and conservatives alike, and has even spurred an offshoot of the Tea Party, called the "Green Tea Coalition," which connects environmentalists with Tea Partiers in support of net metering.

    The amount of credit solar energy users receive, however, is the subject of fierce debate in states across the country. Utilities have been pushing for legislation to roll back net metering credits by adding a cap or charging a flat fee for solar users. Net metering poses a distinct challenge for utilities because it disrupts their long-standing monopoly in the electricity market.

    Moreover, net-metered solar energy cuts into utilities' profits; with more distributed solar energy in the electric grid, utilities have no reason to invest in and build new power plants. As the Energy & Policy Institute's Matthew Kasper told The Washington Post, distributed solar energy prevents "the need to build new, expensive power plants or transmission lines." He added, "Utilities make their money by building big, new infrastructure projects and then sending ratepayers the bill, which is exactly why utilities want to eliminate solar."

    In coverage of net metering battles, the media has largely focused on opposition from utilities. But there are larger forces at play: Outside interests are influencing the battle through front groups and legislation. Here are just a few of the groups inserting themselves into net metering battles:

    Americans for Prosperity, which was created by the Koch brothers and acts as their political arm, has fought against net metering in Georgia and Florida, and pushed misleading claims that net metering policies "have resulted in rate hikes and did not result in solar becoming more economically viable." In March, PolitiFact rated this claim "Pants on Fire" and called it "completely wrong."

    Consumer Energy Alliance, which has received over $400,000 from the American Petroleum Institute and been affiliated with fossil fuel giants including BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Peabody Energy, and others, produced a phony petition in 2014 that attacked Wisconsin's net metering policy.

    The Institute for Energy Research, which has received funding from ExxonMobil, the American Petroleum Institute, and the Koch brothers' political network, released a report earlier this year claiming that net metering only benefits higher-income households.

    The National Black Chamber of Commerce, which has received $1 million in funding from the ExxonMobil Foundation, recently claimed (falsely) that Louisiana's net metering policies shift costs onto low-income families.

    The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a corporate front group that connects fossil fuel industry executives with legislators to push model bills serving industry interests, has released a resolution on net metering, calling it "antithetical to free markets."

    Several other fossil fuel front groups have been fighting against net metering, as detailed in a report by the Energy & Policy Institute:


    The involvement of these groups, who don't appear to have direct ties with local utilities, may seem strange. But not when you consider that net metering policies are causing an unprecedented increase in solar energy use and thereby helping wean Americans off fossil fuels.

    From 2010 to 2014, the amount of annual solar photovoltaic (PV) installations roughly increased by a factor of seven, and the U.S. had a record quarter for solar photovoltaics installations in the second quarter of 2015, reaching a total installed capacity high enough to power over four million homes.  Meanwhile, prices have dropped rapidly over the past 10 years: the cost of installing solar is now 73 percent lower than it was in 2006.  

    Nine of the 10 states with the most solar electricity installed per capita also have strong net metering policies. But policies to roll back net metering are already impacting solar companies. One company, Vivint, scrapped its plans to expand to Nevada after the state changed its policy to cap net metering at what solar advocates call an unreasonably low limit.  Massachusetts' net metering cap poses a similar threat to the solar industry there.

    Attack campaigns against net metering could halt the expansion of a clean energy industry that threatens the fossil fuel interests usually behind those attacks. Media coverage of net metering debates should make that fact loud and clear, so the public knows the real identity of who's against net metering, and why.

    Photo at top from Flickr user Wayne National Forest with a Creative Commons license.