Sunday, October 18, 2015

One More Thing About Campaign Contributions-- Well, 2 Things If You Count Trump's SuperPAC


Friday Bloomberg reporters Adam Pearce and Mora Rojanasakul wanted to see how much of the cash flowing into the various campaign coffers was coming from "real people." So they stripped out donations and loans from political committees and other sources as well as loans and contributions the candidates gave themselves. They also published charts showing how much of each candidate's haul came from small contributions-- defined as "less than $200"-- and how much came from rich people. You can see every candidate here. I just picked out the more interesting ones for sake of comparison, starting with the polar opposites in Bernie world and Hillary world.

In the Republican field, only two candidates got significant contributions from small donors: Facebook king Ben Carson and far right extremist Ted Cruz, the likely nominee. Carson took in $12.43 million from small donors, the only Republican, who took in significant money, to take in more from small donors than from big donors. Cruz was the only other Republican to take in over $5 million from small donors this quarter. Jeb, the biggest recipient of cash flow among Republicans got virtually all of it from large contributions and less than a million dollars from small donors.

Ever since we found out about the Trump SuperPAC, Make America Great Again SuperPAC, in August, I've been astounded how little attention it gets from the media, like basically none. Trump is a crook so there can be no question that his SuperPAC is a crooked operation. Finally, this evening, the Washington Post started what will hopefully turn into a closer look by news organizations with the budget to get to the bottom of the Trumpish shenanigans. For now we have an inside story by Matea Gold, Tom Hamburger and Jenna Johnson. Trump threatened to sue The Post, of course. That's the default position for a grotesque bully like him. They denied everything, until confronted with proof and then, hemmed and hawed a lot.

Trump's thuggish campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, denied that Trump or the campaign had given the green light to Make America Great Again, yet, as we reported in August, Trump was the guest of honor for two money raising events for the SuperPAC, one of which included a check from Trump's daughter's father-in-law, a billionaire and longtime Trump crony, Michael Kushner, who has served time in prison for-- of all things-- campaign finance fraud (and tax evasion and witness tampering).

Kushner, who has primarily given to Democratic crooks like Chuck Schumer, Joe Lieberman, Jon Corzine and Robert Mendoza, blames Chris Christie-- who was the prosecutor who sent him to prison-- for his legal woes. Maybe the only string attached to the $100,000 he gave to Trump's super-PAC was the satisfaction of seeing Christie get buried. But I doubt it; after all, Kushner is well-known for having once retaliated against his own sister by hiring a prostitute for her husband, taping it and sending her the tape. Trump was happy to get the $100,000, but has never allowed himself to be photographed with his pal Kushner. If someone doesn't want campaign contributions, why does he have a super-PAC? Does it have another function that no one ever told me about?

The Post reporters point out that Trumpy has been trumpeting how all his opponents are crooks for coordinating with SuperPACs and that he doesn't. The Post strongly implied he's lying, which, of course, he is. He claims he's going to go after Jeb and Hillary for illegal coordination. Pot, kettle, black.
“They’re in total cahoots with their [super] PACs, which they’re not allowed to be,” Trump told The Post earlier this month. “They’re all in total cahoots. They put their friends in there. One good thing about me: I’m not.”

Trump has been pressing that argument at his rallies, recently going after former Florida governor Jeb Bush and former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton.

“You know the candidate’s not allowed to talk to the PAC, right?” Trump asked a crowd in the Atlanta suburb of Norcross on Oct. 10. “They’re not allowed to talk to the PAC. You think that Bush is talking to his PAC?”

“Yeah!” the audience answered.

“You think that Hillary is talking to her PAC?”

“Yes!” those assembled responded.

“Not allowed to, by the way, not allowed to,” Trump continued. “I don’t.”

...The Make America Great Again PAC was registered with the FEC on July 1. A Denver lawyer named Jon Anderson sent in the paperwork. He did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

The super PAC’s Web site prominently features a photo of Trump and his quotes, as well as news articles about his campaign. “We believe in the conservative principles America was founded upon and know that with the right leadership the citizens of this country will come together to help Make America Great Again,” reads a statement on the site.

A nonprofit group called Make America Great Again that shares the same treasurer as the super PAC was also registered by Anderson, who submitted the incorporation papers in August with the Colorado secretary of state. Like super PACs, nonprofit groups can accept unlimited donations, but they are not required to disclose their contributors. Such organizations, set up under Section 501(c)(4) of the tax code, can do some political activity but that cannot be their primary purpose.

Over the summer, Trump attended at least two events for the Make America Great Again PAC: one in Manhattan in July at the home of a woman who is a longtime Trump business associate, as first reported by Politico, and another in August at the New Jersey beachfront mansion of Seryl and Charles Kushner, his daughter Ivanka’s in-laws, as CNN reported.

Guests did not have to donate to the super PAC to attend the Kushners’ event, but they were given information about how to make a contribution, and many wrote checks for various amounts, according to a person familiar with the situation.

Seryl Kushner also contributed $100,000 to the Make America Great Again PAC, according to a Kushner family spokesman, who said Trump did not solicit the donation.

Under FEC rules, candidates are allowed to appear at fundraisers for super PACs but they cannot request donations of more than $5,000.

Lewandowski said the two gatherings that Trump attended were not fundraisers, calling the party at the Kushner estate “a family event.”

When asked whether Trump knew the receptions were organized by the super PAC, Lewandowski did not respond directly. “They were both just a meet-and-greet,” he said. “He gave brief remarks and then left.”

Make America Great Again PAC has not yet reported making any expenditures. The group will not have to disclose any information about its donors until Jan. 31, the day before the Iowa caucuses.

On the trail, Trump has maintained that he has no idea who is setting up super PACs on his behalf.

When asked by a reporter in New Hampshire last week whether he would call on such groups to cease raising money, Trump responded: “I know nothing about them, because I have nothing to do with them. I don’t even know the people running them.”
Eventually, this is going to be a much bigger story.

Blue America encourages small contributions from grassroots donors. Our average contribution is less than $40. Regardless of who wins the presidency between Hillary and Bernie-- or, God-forbid, one of the Republican one-percenters-- we're going to need a bluer and more progressive Senate and a much bluer and much more progressive House. That's what those two links are for. And this page is just for candidates who have endorsed Bernie. Take your choice.

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