Articles on this Page
- 10/27/16--04:02: _The surprising way ...
- 10/28/16--02:02: _Democratic megadono...
- 10/28/16--08:30: _Hillary’s big money...
- 10/28/16--12:25: _Wisconsin’s richest...
- 11/01/16--06:25: _A nonpartisan guide...
- 11/01/16--05:07: _Pro-Hillary Clinton...
- 11/01/16--06:59: _A nonpartisan guide...
- 11/01/16--02:02: _Use Center for Publ...
- 11/01/16--13:47: _Electoral mischief ...
- 11/02/16--08:55: _Class-action lawsui...
- 11/02/16--11:23: _Without fear or favor
- 11/03/16--06:36: _Pro-Trump super PAC...
- 11/03/16--04:02: _10 things to know a...
- 11/03/16--11:32: _Pakistan’s Supreme ...
- 11/04/16--09:28: _Super PACs, ‘dark m...
- 11/04/16--09:03: _Is Donald Trump a t...
- 11/05/16--02:02: _Best of the Center ...
- 11/07/16--02:01: _Liberal super PAC d...
- 11/07/16--11:50: _Clinton’s super-siz...
- 11/08/16--09:15: _FEC inspector gener...
- 10/28/16--02:02: Democratic megadonor bankrolls ‘Republicans for Clinton’ super PAC
- 10/28/16--08:30: Hillary’s big money machine steams toward Election Day
- 11/01/16--05:07: Pro-Hillary Clinton super PAC accepted illegal contributions
- To learn how much has been raised, spent and is still available for spending in the presidential race, through the latest campaign filing deadline, please visit this all-in-one interactive, available here.
- To learn how much has been spent on the ad wars in federal races, visit this interactive, here.
- To learn what state races have been the most costly, visit this interactive, here.
- To learn who is behind secretive “dark money” groups and super PACs visit our Source Check feature here.
- To learn more about the races, read some of the Center’s investigative profiles and analyses of the campaign so far by visiting our Buying of the President 2016 page.
- 11/01/16--13:47: Electoral mischief is goal of new pro-Gary Johnson super PAC
- 11/02/16--11:23: Without fear or favor
- 11/03/16--06:36: Pro-Trump super PAC back in the fray — this time in Spanish
- 11/03/16--04:02: 10 things to know about 2016's state elections
- 11/03/16--11:32: Pakistan’s Supreme Court hears PM’s Panama Papers reply
- 11/04/16--09:28: Super PACs, ‘dark money’ groups eschew presidential race for Senate
- 11/04/16--09:03: Is Donald Trump a threat to animals?
- 11/05/16--02:02: Best of the Center for Public Integrity's 2016 election coverage
Shadow candidates: Who’s more transparent, Clinton or Trump?
How ‘Citizens United’ is helping Hillary Clinton win the White House
Reclusive mega-donor fueling Donald Trump's White House hopes
Analysis: Donald Trump, propagandist-in-chief?
A nonpartisan guide to Trump's national security and foreign policy positions
A nonpartisan guide to Clinton's national security and foreign policy positions
Trump’s organization did business with Iranian bank later linked to terrorism
Small businesses for Trump: ‘Just get somebody different in there’
Donald Trump’s big money bait-and-switch
Sanders, Clinton want campaign finance overhaul, but face huge obstacles
Democrats want reform — but court big money in the meantime
Democratic megadonor bankrolls ‘Republicans for Clinton’ super PAC
Journalists shower Hillary Clinton with campaign cash
Two very different Donalds, one White House goal
Koch brothers’ plight likened to that of civil rights workers in the 1950s
- Tracking TV ads in the 2016 presidential race
Tracking TV ads in the 2016 state races
Tight governors' races loosen political purse strings
The surprising way that governor candidates namedrop Trump, Clinton and Obama into their TV ads
Insurers give big to races determining their regulators
Close North Carolina governor's race fought by outsiders
National groups spar over South Dakota ballot measure
- High profits fertilize five new marijuana ballot measures
- 11/07/16--02:01: Liberal super PAC dispatches army of door knockers
- 11/07/16--11:50: Clinton’s super-sized fundraising machine pushes legal boundaries
- Billionaire entertainment mogul Haim Saban, head of Univision, and his wife, Cheryl Saban
- Billionaire Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz, and his wife, Cari Tuna
- Billionaire Napster co-founder Sean Parker, and his wife, Alexandra Parker
- Billionaire Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer
- Billionaire Laurene Powell Jobs, widow of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs
- Billionaire Amy Goldman Fowler, daughter of the late real estate developer Sol Goldman
- Billionaire Dish Network co-founder Charles Ergen
- Billionaire Qualcomm co-founder Irwin Jacobs, and his wife, Joan Klein Jacobs
- Billionaire venture capitalist J.B. Pritzker, an heir to the Hyatt Hotel fortune, and his wife, Mary Kathryn Pritzker
- Billionaire Thomas Secunda, co-founder of Bloomberg LP, and his wife, Cynthia Secunda
- Billionaire siblings Jon Stryker and Pat Stryker, grandchildren of the man who founded the medical equipment company Stryker Corp.
- Billionaire Alice Walton, daughter Walmart founder Sam Walton
- Carrie Walton Penner and Sam Rawlings Walton, grandchildren of the Walmart founder
- Filmmakers J.J. Abrams, James Cameron, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Seth MacFarlane and Steven Spielberg
- Fashion designers Calvin Klein and Vera Wang
- Texas trial lawyer Amber Mostyn
- Bay Area philanthropist Laure Woods
- Chicago media magnate Fred Eychaner
- Hedge fund manager S. Donald Sussman
- Sugar industry tycoon Alfonso Fanjul of Florida Crystals Corp.
- Herbert Sandler, co-founder of mortgage lender Golden West Financial Corp.
- Philanthropist Alex Soros, son of billionaire financier George Soros*
- Richard Anderson, the former CEO of Delta Airlines, and his wife, Susan Anderson
- Susie Tompkins Buell, co-founder of the Esprit clothing brand
- Lynn Forester de Rothschild, a die-hard Clinton supporter who backed Republican John McCain for president in 2008 after Clinton lost the Democratic nomination to Obama
- Miami businessman Paul Cejas, who served as the U.S. ambassador to Belgium under President Bill Clinton
- Software entrepreneur and gay rights activist Tim Gill, and his husband, Scott Miller
- Democratic super lawyer David Boies, who represented Vice President Al Gore before the U.S. Supreme Court in Bush v. Gorein 2000
- Chris Catrambone, who operates the Malta-based Migrant Offshore Aid Station to assist refugees and migrants in the Mediterranean Sea
- Bob Pohlad, and his wife, Rebecca Pohlad, members of the family that owns the Minnesota Twins baseball team
- Avie Glazer, part of the family that owns the Tampa Bay Buccaneers football team and the Manchester United soccer team in England
- The Puyallup Tribe of Indians in Washington
Several Democratic gubernatorial candidates are running ads against their party's leader, President Barack Obama, and their nominee, Hillary Clinton — even as she appears headed for a landslide victory.
In fact, more than 97 percent of the gubernatorial TV ads mentioning the presidency are either anti-Obama, anti-Clinton or against them both, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of Kantar Media/CMAG data from January 2015 through Oct. 24 of this year. Of course, that also includes plenty of ads from Republicans and conservative political groups who are slamming Obama and Clinton.
What stands out, though, are the Democrats who are distancing themselves from the standard bearers of their own party. In Montana, for example, Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock cites Obama, but his presidential name dropping is not an attempt to ride a coattail. It’s intended to help him jump as far from Obama as possible.
“A lot of politicians treat coal like it’s a political game. But not Steve Bullock,” says a Montana coal worker in one of Bullock’s re-election ads that has been airing this fall. “As governor, he listened to us and stood up to President Obama to defend our coal jobs.”
So why the snubs when Obama enjoys favorable ratings from a majority of Americans and polls show Clinton leading Republican nominee Donald Trump? The answer is rooted in the country’s fractured political geography. While the national map tilts in Democrats’ favor this year, many of the 12 races for governor are taking place in Republican strongholds, such as West Virginia, Missouri and Montana.
It’s part of a broader power imbalance that has state-level Democrats playing defense. Currently, Republicans hold 31 of the governors' mansions, while Democrats control only 18. (Alaska has an independent in office.)
"Even though the Democrats are deep in the hole, they control the majority of the governorships up this year and many are in red states,” said Kyle Kondik, who analyzes gubernatorial races for the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. “So in order to get elected, they’ve got to win some percentage of Trump voters.”
Like Bullock in Montana, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster and West Virginia’s Jim Justice publicly distanced themselves from the president with their ads, despite belonging to his party.
By comparison, Trump is a ghost. Very few of the ads from either party go so far as to mention the Republican, either with praise or damnation.
To be sure, the messages in most gubernatorial race ads have nothing to do with the president or the White House race. Just over one out of every 10 broadcast TV ads about gubernatorial elections occurring this year mentions either Clinton, Trump or Obama, according to the Kantar Media/CMAG data. Instead, the ads typically focus on policies such as jobs, taxes, energy, crime and corruption.
Kantar Media/CMAG data, the media tracking company, monitors 211 TV markets around the country. It does not track local cable ads or messages used on the radio, the internet or for direct mail.
Few of the 2016 candidates’ campaigns returned requests for comment about why they ran such ads.
Yet by injecting the White House in these state-level campaigns, the candidates can quickly signal to voters clues about their alliances and positions with just a few words. This code-word messaging is not new, even about Obama. In 2014, a similar proportion of state election ads mentioned Obama or his signature health care law.
Interestingly, while some Democrats are willing to differentiate themselves from Clinton, no Republican candidates have dinged their nominee, Trump, in TV ads. And few of those Republicans have aligned themselves with him. Being anti-Obama and anti-Clinton does not equal being pro-Trump.
“Even in red states, a lot of Republicans are keeping their distance from Trump,” said Kondik of the UVA Center for Politics.
The Kantar Media/CMAG data show that only one gubernatorial candidate is running pro-Trump ads: West Virginia’s Republican nominee and state Senate President Bill Cole.
The Mountain State is forecast to be firmly in Trump’s corner. So much so that Cole is actively campaigning with Trump and using his name as much as possible — including three times in the narration of a single ad.
“Bill Cole stands with Donald Trump because Donald Trump stands up for our coal industry,” says the ad amid images of them campaigning together as if they were running mates. “Together, the Bill Cole-Donald Trump team will fight for working families, helping make West Virginia — and America — great again.”
Cole campaign consultant Kent Gates said that such messages are extremely important in a state whose economy is so dependent on coal. They help voters know that Cole is standing with Trump in the fight to get the Environmental Protection Agency out of the state’s way, he said.
Few Democrats are opting to spend their TV air time knocking Trump. The sole candidate still in the running who has aired anti-Trump ads is Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat seeking a second term who has tried to tar his Republican opponent Bill Bryant by associating him with Trump. (A Vermont candidate, Matt Dunne, who was knocked out in the Democratic primary also ran an anti-Trump ad.)
Bryant’s senior adviser Jason Roe said his candidate has already said he doesn’t support Trump. He noted that presidential candidates are irrelevant to voters when they choose their governor. “He’s using Trump as a bogeyman so he doesn’t have to face the facts on his record of failures in the last four years,” Roe said.
The use of Trump’s name in TV ads for governor did not appreciably change since this month’s release of the 2005 Access Hollywood video that prompted 11 women to come forward with allegations that Trump made unwanted physical sexual advances toward them. The clip — and Trump’s response to it — helped change national polls yet didn’t catalyze candidates to disavow him in their state race messaging.
In West Virginia, the power of Trump means that Cole’s Democratic opponent, Jim Justice, goes further than any other Democratic candidate for governor by running an ad that distances himself from both Obama and Clinton. The billionaire coal magnate and resort owner was registered as a Republican until three months before he announced his candidacy in 2015.
“Let’s get this straight: I’m a coal man,” Justice says in the ad. “I have never given money to Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. In fact, I didn’t even vote for Obama.”
He later tacks on a diplomatic note that he’ll “find a way” to work with whoever is elected president.
“Being a Democrat who opposes Clinton and Obama lets Justice play both sides of the fence, appealing to Democrats on the basis of shared partisanship and also Republicans on the basis of shared policy priorities,” said Erin Cassese, a West Virginia University associate professor of political science.
In Washington, it’s a different story. Inslee started running an ad on Monday featuring Obama stumping for him, the boldest gubernatorial TV ad this election cycle to try to capitalize on the president.
Additionally, Democrat Sue Minter, who is seeking to replace Vermont’s departing Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin, mentions Obama in a positive, yet more muted, way in one broadcast TV message. She touts her service on a White House task force on climate change, specifically mentioning the president’s name. A radio ad released Wednesday, though, goes further and features Obama endorsing her.
Namechecking the president is a logical move for her, according to Eric Davis, professor emeritus of political science at Middlebury College in Vermont.
“Obama did better in Vermont than in any other state in the continental U.S.,” Davis said. “It’s politically advantageous to associate yourself with Obama in Vermont.”
In other states with governors’ races, not so much. And Clinton fares even worse than Obama. It does not appear that any of the gubernatorial candidates or the political groups backing them has used TV ads to embrace Clinton — and that includes the Democrats.
According to a Center for Public Integrity review of new campaign finance filings, Moskovitz has contributed $250,000 to the R4C16 super PAC. That represents about 70 percent of the group’s income through Oct. 19.
R4C16 nevertheless touts itself as “a grassroots movement” of “concerned Republicans who are committed to vote for Hillary Clinton for president to defeat Donald Trump.”
During the final presidential debate last week in Nevada, the super PAC sponsored an anti-Trump mobile billboard with the message “DON’T GROPE. VOTE,” which traversed the Las Vegas strip for hours.
The ad’s sponsor
R4C16 officially registered as a super PAC with the Federal Election Commission in early September. Super PACs may raise and spend unlimited amounts of money to advocate for or against political candidates. They may not coordinate their spending with those candidates.
Who’s behind it?
R4C16 was co-founded by John Stubbs and Ricardo Reyes, who both previously worked in Republican President George W. Bush's administration.
Reyes, a former deputy assistant U.S. trade representative for media and public affairs, has also held senior positions at Silicon Valley companies including Google, Square and Tesla.
Stubbs, a former senior adviser to the U.S. trade representative, went on to found his own consulting firm, Romulus Global Issues Management. He’s currently a fellow at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society.
Then there’s Moskovitz, the Facebook co-founder.
Last month, Moskovitz and his wife, Cari Tuna, pledged to spend $20 million to help elect Democrats in 2016.
“Though we’ve voted for the Democratic nominee each of the times we’ve cast a ballot, we’ve considered ourselves independent thinkers who respect candidates and positions from both sides of the aisle,” the couple wrote in an article on Medium at the time.
“Like many Democratic voters, we don’t support every plank of the platform, but it is clear that if Secretary Clinton wins the election, America will advance much further toward the world we hope to see,” they continued. “If Donald Trump wins, the country will fall backward.”
In August, Moskovitz and Tuna each contributed $416,100 to the Hillary Victory Fund, a joint fundraising committee that benefits Clinton’s campaign as well as the Democratic National Committee and Democratic parties in several states. Campaign finance records show the couple has given more than $21 million to federal political candidates and groups so far this year. All are liberal-leaning.
Stubbs told the Center for Public Integrity that there was no disconnect for his Republican super PAC to be receiving so much money from a Democratic megadonor.
“Our mission is country above party,” Stubbs said, adding that the super PAC had attracted support from Republicans, Democrats and independents because “our effort is about breaking down nonsensical Red Team vs. Blue Team barriers.”
Campaign finance records show that both Granieri and Conte have donated $2,700 to Clinton’s campaign while having financially backed a non-Trump GOP presidential contender as well.
Granieri donated $2,700 in January to the failed presidential bid of U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida — and another $24,000 to a super PAC that backed him — before donating to Clinton in August.
For her part, Conte gave $2,700 to the failed presidential campaign of former New York Gov. George Pataki — and an additional $25,000 to a super PAC that backed Pataki.
Why it matters
Not only does the R4C16 super PAC want Republicans to vote for Clinton, the group is also encouraging all voters to consider voting “strategically” — especially if you live in a swing state and are leaning toward a minor-party candidate such as Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein or Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson.
Stubbs said that R4C16’s website had already connected “connected thousands of voters” who plan on trading votes. The super PAC’s vote-trading gambit works like this: Stein and Johnson supporters living in swing states agree to vote for Clinton, and in return, Clinton supporters in non-swing states agree to in return to support a minor-party candidate.
One trade that Stubbs said the super PAC has helped initiate: An upcoming swap between Anlin Wang, a Stein supporter in Pennsylvania, where polls show Clinton with a narrow lead, and Sadiq Khan, a Clinton supporter in New Jersey, a state that Clinton is expected to carry handily.
Stubbs said the two voters will be meeting at Independence Hall in Philadelphia on Saturday, where they plan to fill out their absentee ballots and then walk to the post office together to mail them.
“What do supporters of Gary Johnson, Jill Stein or Republicans for Clinton have in common?” Stubbs continued. “We all agree Donald Trump is the worst option in 2016.”
Before Democrat Hillary Clinton “overturns Citizens United,” curtails “secret, unaccountable money in politics” and ends “the stranglehold that the wealthy and special interests have on so much of our government,” she has some business left to do.
Namely, obliterating Republican Donald Trump with her historically massive, big-dollar, lobbyist-loaded campaign cash machine — one she says she’ll gladly disassemble once she wins the White House, but not before.
And new campaign finance reports show Clinton is sticking to that plan as Election 2016 enters its final days.
In the last campaign finance filing before the election Clinton and her super PAC allies have reported raising $702 million through Oct. 19, compared to Trump and his supportive groups, who have raised $312 million.
It is a startling rebuke to the no-longer-so-true truism that Republicans are the primary beneficiary of big political money.
Clinton’s advantage will likely to hold to the end, as she and her super PAC allies reported $79 million in the bank as of Oct. 19, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of new campaign finance reports. Compare that to Trump and his super PAC supporters, who have about $32 million in reserve.
Clinton’s campaign committee alone has raised more than twice as much money as Trump’s: $513 million versus $255 million.
Her $62.4 million cash on hand as of Oct. 19 is nearly four times Trump’s $16 million.
And, in a reverse of four years ago when Republicans more quickly embraced super PACs and their ability to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money, Clinton’s cadre of supportive super PACs have outraised comparable pro-Trump groups by a more than three-to-one margin: $189 million to $57 million.
Trump-backing super PACs filed anemic reports showing few big contributions in October, a sign donors are shifting money elsewhere as Trump falters.
Clinton has also utilized “joint fundraising committees” to a far greater extent than Trump. These political groups collect six-figure checks from donors and then split the proceeds among the candidate’s own campaign and national and state parties.
Clinton’s financial might, buoyed by her campaign’s embrace of the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, has helped her play offense and defense against a billionaire who once pledged to invest $600 million of his own money on a presidential run.
Trump appears poised to actually spend just a fraction of that sum.
It’s a special sort of indignity for Trump. He predicated his presidential run on his business brilliance and cunning. “We need a leader that wrote ‘The Art of the Deal,’” he said during his June 2015 announcement speech, referencing his 1987 best-selling book. His wealth, Trump reasoned, would both propel his presidential ambitions and inoculate him from politics’ seedier side, populated by super PACs, professional lobbyists and partisan hangers-on.
"I'm self-funding my own campaign. It's my money,” Trump declared earlier this year.
“I don’t need anybody’s money,” he said another time.
But as Trump vanquished his remaining Republican primary opponents and turned toward the general election, his tenor changed.
No longer did he disavow political groups that sought to raise huge amounts of money to support him. Nor did Trump maintain he’d be the overwhelming source of his campaign’s cash. Instead, his campaign launched aggressive fundraising efforts aimed at filling his coffers, and quickly.
When Trump’s campaign called Republican ad guru Fred Davis last year and reiterated that Trump would spend up to half a billion dollars of his own money to fuel a presidential campaign, Davis listened — but “never found it credible,” he told the Center for Public Integrity.
Davis’ instincts proved correct: Trump has only invested about $56 million into his effort overall, and just $10 million since June 1, when Trump had all but secured the Republican nomination. (If Trump changes his mind and gives his campaign more than $1,000 between now and the election, he must, by law, report the cash to the Federal Election Commission within 48 hours of making the donation.)
Perhaps only the political gods could ever divine whether an additional $100 million — or $500 million — could have helped Trump assuage the damage done to his campaign this autumn, much self-inflicted.
First came Trump’s fat-shaming of a former Miss Universe.
Then, Trump’s talk of genital grabbing on the tape prompted numerouswomentoaccuse him of something far more sobering than “locker room talk” — attacking, groping or otherwise inappropriately touching them. Trump has denied the accusations as “pure fiction.”
One might almost forget about Trump’s other problems. New York state is hammering his nonprofit Trump Foundation for “fraud.” Former clients of Trump University are arguing in federal court that Trump cheated them of their money. And Trump, as the Center for Public Integrity and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists reported, once rented space in one of his Manhattan skyscrapers to an Iranian bank that U.S. authorities have linked to terrorism.
So while Trump for months benefited from the outsized — and cost-free — attention news outlets showered on his candidacy, it “all has turned into horrific, negative Trump free press” made worse by Trump’s limited ability to push back through paid advertisements, Davis said.
“He gave Clinton so much ammo,” said Davis, whose presidential campaign client list includes George W. Bush, John McCain and, most recently, a pro-John Kasich super PAC.
Particularly in swing states, where the presidential campaign will be won and lost, Team Clinton has overwhelmed Team Trump in TV advertising, thanks in large part to Clinton’s campaign cash advantage.
Since the primaries ended in June, Clinton and her supporters have aired about 292,000 broadcast and national cable TV ads, compared to about 87,000 aired by Trump and his allies, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of data provided by ad tracking firm Kantar Media/CMAG.
Most TV ads have targeted traditional battleground states such as Florida and Ohio. Clinton and her allies have dramatically outgunned Trump in all of them.
Since mid-June, Team Clinton has aired more than five times as many TV ads as Team Trump in both Iowa and Nevada, according to Kantar Media/CMAG. In North Carolina, that ratio is nearly four-to-one.
In Florida and Ohio, Team Clinton has aired more than three times as many TV ads as Team Trump since mid-June. And in Pennsylvania, likewise, it’s nearly three-to-one as well, according to Kantar Media/CMAG.
And during the third week of October alone, the most recent week for which data is available from Kantar Media/CMAG, Team Clinton is even investing modest advertising dollars into several historically Republican-leaning states, such as Arizona, Georgia and Texas, where Democrats have a small, but growing chance of winning.
Trump’s comparatively small advertising budget means his campaign isn’t amplifying Clinton’s own set of troubles — her State Departmentemail server scandal, foreign influence peddling within the Clinton Foundation, Wikileaks’ revelations of potential pay-to-play politicking, the for-hire private speeches she gave to Wall Street banks — nearly as much as it could be.
Consider that at comparable times in their campaigns, Bush in 2000 ($22.3 million), Bush again in 2004 ($22.4 million), McCain in 2008 ($21.3 million), Mitt Romney in 2012 ($52.7 million), all had more money on hand than Trump’s campaign committee alone ($16 million) has in its account.
And although super PACs may theoretically raise as much money as they want, including from corporations, unions, certain nonprofits and individuals, Trump’s collection of supportive super PACs are underperforming compared to those that aid Clinton. That’s particularly true in recent weeks.
Take the Robert Mercer-backed Make America Number 1 PAC. The Mercer family has ranked among Trump’s staunchest supporters. Nonetheless, it reported raising nothing from Oct. 1 to Oct. 19 — a departure for the group, which has reported raising seven-figure amounts every month since the Mercer family threw their support behind Trump at the end of June.
The super PAC spent about $2.1 million during early- and mid-October, mainly on ads and other media opposing Clinton. It had less than $2 million on hand for the final run-up to Election Day.
In contrast, Priorities USA Action, the flagship pro-Clinton super PAC, had more than seven times the available cash. Priorities USA Action has raised more than $175 million this election cycle, including $18 million between Oct. 1 and Oct. 19 alone.
Justin Barasky, a spokesman for Priorities USA Action, said the big numbers reflect steady support from major donors. “Donors have understood what’s at stake and are invested in seeing Hillary win and Trump lose,” he said.
Hillary for America Campaign Manager Robby Mook likewise struck a confident pose.
“We are able to close out the final days of this campaign by running an unprecedented coordinated campaign to mobilize voters who will help elect Democratic candidates up and down the ballot," Mook said in a statement Thursday night.
A key indication of how primed Clinton is to help her partisan brethren down-ballot are her joint fundraising groups, particularly the “Hillary Victory Fund.”
They’ve raised about $516 million during the election cycle, while Trump’s comparable joint fundraising committees with national and state Republican party affiliates have only raised about $292 million.
Clinton and Trump each transferred about 30 percent of those hauls back into their own campaign war chests, while the rest was spent by their respective parties on efforts that aided them and other candidates on their tickets.
Prior to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2014 decision in McCutcheonv. Federal Election Commission, individual donors were prohibited from donating more than about $123,000 to joint fundraising committees. However, because of the McCutcheon ruling, that aggregate limit on individuals is gone.
Shaun McCutcheon, a Republican-backing Alabama businessman who successfully petitioned the Supreme Court in the McCutcheon case, says Trump and the Republicans only have themselves to blame for their financial lot.
“Give it to the Democrats — they’ve done a great job fundraising,” McCutcheon said. “And they’ve taken advantage of the McCutcheon and Citizens United decisions. Trump said early on he was going to pay his own way, so now that he’s not doing it, it hurts.”
Chris Zubak-Skees contributed to this report.
Since mid-September, the super PAC has spent $3.4 million on ads critical of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and another $2.2 million lambasting Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Russ Feingold, who’s in the midst of a rematch with incumbent Republican Sen. Ron Johnson.
According to data provided to the Center for Public Integrity by ad tracking firm Kantar Media/CMAG, the Reform America Fund has aired about 2,400 anti-Clinton ads in Wisconsin — accounting for roughly 55 percent of all presidential-focused ads in the state since the primaries ended.
No other group has been as big a player on the TV airwaves in Wisconsin in the presidential race.
The ads’ messages
On its website, the Reform America Fund says Clinton — a former secretary of state, U.S. senator and first lady — “simply can’t be trusted.”
It’s a message the super PAC has hit repeatedly in its TV and digital ads at a time when Clinton has been battling criticisms of potential pay-to-play politicking, foreign influence peddling and mishandling of classified emails.
“C is for Clinton, whose campaign is sliding,” a narrator states in one of the group’s ads. “And C’s for the classified emails she’s hiding.”
A second website operated by the Refund American Fund allows people to share various “C is for Clinton” memes online.
Who’s behind it?
Hendricks, co-founder and chairman of ABC Supply, the largest wholesale distributor of roofing in the United States, is well known in GOP circles.
Hendricks donated $5 million to a super PAC that supported Walker — about one-fifth of the group’s overall receipts.
In May, Hendricks was named a vice chairwoman of the Trump Victory committee. Since then, she’s donated $212,700 to the joint fundraising group that benefits Trump’s campaign as well as the Republican National Committee and several state parties.
Among her other notable political contribution this election: Hendricks has donated $4 million to the Freedom Partners Action Fund, the super PAC backed by the conservative billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch of Koch Industries. And she gave $400,000 to the committee that hosted the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July.
As a super PAC, the Reform America Fund may collect unlimited amounts of money from individuals, corporations and labor unions — so long as it doesn’t coordinate its spending with candidates’ own campaigns.
In addition to Hendricks, who also serves on Trump’s economic policy council, several other Midwestern business executives rank among Reform America Fund’s top donors.
In addition to the $5.6 million that the Reform America Fund has already spent directly attacking Clinton and Feingold, the super PAC has also transferred about $740,000 to a related super PAC called the Reform Wisconsin Fund. That money has been spent on additional anti-Feingold ads in Wisconsin’s Senate race.
Why it matters
Wisconsin’s Senate seat is hotly contested, with Johnson in danger of losing to Feingold, who has maintained a modest lead in recent polls.
The winner of this seat could help determine whether Democrats or Republicans control the U.S. Senate come January.
Moreover, super PACs like the Reform America Fund make it easy for wealthy individuals with political passions to become more involved.
Hendricks, herself, has expressed a desire for Wisconsin to turn into a “completely red” state.
Such motivated megadonors often make it onto politician’s radars.
Earlier this month, at a campaign event in Wisconsin, Trump himself praised Hendricks, who was in attendance, as “amazing” and called her one of the state’s “great successful people.”
This article was co-published with Salon.com.
According to Hillary Clinton and her supporters, Donald Trump is crazy friendly with Russian president Vladimir Putin, a bad man who hates America and threatens its interests, and therefore Trump cannot be trusted even with U.S. intelligence secrets, much less the presidency. He is so thin-skinned and impetuous that he could drop nuclear bombs on someone who criticized him, so insulting to nearly everyone outside his family that the country would become dangerously isolated during his presidency, unable to address challenges like ISIS that we cannot take on alone. Trump’s incendiary rhetoric about Muslims is a potent recruiting tool for jihadists. And he is so unconcerned about the welfare of others that he wouldn’t blink at severing defense ties with allies who don’t send us a lot more cash, provoking them to create or expand their own arsenals of nuclear arms — which is actually okay with him. His campaign slogan might as well be, let global chaos reign.
According to Donald Trump and his supporters, Hillary Clinton is a seminal figure in Washington’s corrupt establishment, which has weakened our military and made the country a patsy of friends and foes alike, unwilling to stand up to the likes of Saudi Arabia, Mexico, China, and Japan, whether the issue is immigration, trade or national security. She’s a prisoner of monied interests, not just Wall Street powerbrokers, but cringe-worthy countries like Qatar, which gave huge sums to the Clinton Foundation. And she’s been so careless handling national secrets that she could have – and should have – been jailed for ignoring the State Department’s own secrecy rules and for defying a congressional demand to surrender all her emails. Her campaign slogan might as well be, I’m going to look after my friends and I’m not going to tell you anything.
These are some of the milder claims being made during this year’s acrimonious race to become America’s 45th president. And while national security issues might not be foremost in voters’ minds on Nov. 8, the debates over America’s proper place in the world have touched on broader questions about the candidates’ character, integrity, and temperament.
And so the Center for Public Integrity has prepared a voter-friendly guide to what the contenders really stand for on defense and foreign policy and how they will likely act if they wind up as the occupant of the Oval Office.
Today, we look at Donald Trump. Tomorrow, we look at Hillary Clinton.
So what would Trump do, exactly? His rhetoric on foreign policy issues has been all over the map.
Trump has tenuous connections to the Republican Party, but he remains the party standard-bearer. And so it’s worth citing a few of the national security goals enumerated in the party’s platform: Lifting a congressional cap on defense spending; expanding the Army; deploying a more robust missile defense; and spending more in particular on nuclear weapons. The Obama administration’s nuclear arms deal with the Russians, the platform says, has flimsy verification provisions and wrongly allows Russia “to build up its nuclear arsenal while reducing ours.” The platform also states: “We will meet the return of Russian belligerence with the same resolve that led to the collapse of the Soviet Union…We will not accept any territorial change in Eastern Europe imposed by force.”
Trump has separately discussed adding more troops to the Marines as well as the Army, and boosting the number of U.S. military ships and planes. He hasn’t detailed how to pay for all this, except to suggest that he would negotiate lower prices. Weapons, he says, “come in at costs that are so far above what they were supposed to be, because we don’t have people that know what they’re doing.” He says our military power overseas should be focused on defeating the Islamic State (ISIS).
Okay, but let’s get to the urgent stuff: Is Trump a Russian agent, or as Clinton suggested at the Alfred E. Smith dinner in New York on Oct. 20, akin to the horse “Vladimir Putin rides around on”?
This issue is more than a little odd. Typically, it’s been Republican presidential candidates who have inveighed against Democrats for supporting rapprochement with the country Mitt Romney called “our number one geopolitical foe” in 2012. Democratic candidates have usually responded that it’s the Republicans who don’t understand the need for global peace — Obama reminded Romney in a debate that year “the Cold War’s been over for 20 years.” This year, these stances have been turned upside down, with Clinton depicting Russia as an aggressive and meddling adversary bent on undermining our democracy, and Trump describing the Russian leader as a future partner that he is eager to meet between winning the election and taking the oath of office.
So what’s the deal here? Is Trump a modern-day Manchurian candidate, with Putin secretly pulling his strings? Sen. Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) suggested at one point that Trump shouldn’t be given the usual pre-election briefing by U.S. intelligence officials because he’s so dangerous.
Trump has visited Moscow, where he tried to do some business, but he admitted during the second debate that “I know nothing about Russia – I know about Russia, but I know nothing about the inner workings of Russia.” From a distance, Trump has admired Putin for being “very much of a leader” and someone with robust popularity. But Trump has an exaggerated sense of Putin’s return admiration, believing that Putin called him brilliant and a genius; actually Putin called him talented and used a Russian word correctly translated as “colorful” or bold rather than brilliant.
“If we got along well, that would be good,” Trump said of Putin at the third debate. He also has said, with an odd casualness, that “I don’t happen to like the system” in Russia, but he hasn’t acknowledged the systematic stifling of dissent under Putin, which led to street protests by tens of thousands of citizens between 2011 and 2013 (Putin has alleged that Clinton, while at the State Department, helped finance and stoke those demonstrations, giving him ample motive to try to subvert her campaign).
Some of those who are close to Trump or contributors to his campaign do have ties to Moscow. A Russian-American businessman, Simon Grigorievich Kukes, who was installed as the head of the Yukos oil empire after Putin’s government ousted one of his critics from that job, contributed more than $150,000 to Trump’s campaign and a related joint fundraising committee, according to OpenSecrets.org, a nonpartisan group. A businessman who Trump identified earlier this year as a foreign policy adviser, Carter Page, has worked with state-owned Russian energy companies subsequently punished by U.S. sanctions — which Trump might want to lift. Moreover, Trump’s campaign manager for four months this year, Paul Manafort—a longtime consultant to dictators and others of ill repute on the international stage — resigned from his managerial post shortly after new Ukrainian documents surfaced that linked him to the political party of a Putin ally.
So Trump is likely not as hostile to Russia as many in Washington. Does this mean he’s in the Russians’ camp, as Clinton’s campaign has claimed?
Two years ago, Trump said “we should definitely do sanctions” in response to Russia’s takeover of Crimea by military force, rather than annexation through peaceful political means. (The Russian military’s occupation preceded a pro-Russian vote by Crimea’s population, representing a classic “rigged election” of the type Trump has been warning about at home.) But more recently, breaking with a broad consensus in Washington and allied European capitals, Trump has noted neutrally that “the people of Crimea…would rather be with Russia than where they were. And you have to look at that.” He said his administration “will be looking at” lifting anti-Russian sanctions.
Also, using exceptionally awkward phrasing, Trump said in a July 31 television interview that Putin’s “not going to go into Ukraine, all right? You can mark it down.” When the moderator gently responded that “he's already there, isn't he?" Trump replied, "OK — well, he's there in a certain way.” He then cleaned up his remarks with tweets saying he meant any further into Ukraine, following an established pattern of loose talk-followed-by-clarifications that seems likely to persist if Trump reaches the White House.
In another stark dissent from Washington consensus, Trump has repeatedly refused to blame Putin’s government for the computer hacking of email accounts for Clinton aides and Democratic Party officials. He falsely insisted during the third debate that “our country has no idea” who did it, even though, before that event, the Obama administration pointedly said its intelligence community knows Russia was the culprit. Adm. Michael Rogers, the head of the National Security Agency, reiterated that view at a Baltimore cybersecurity symposium on Oct. 20.
Does any of this make Trump disloyal? Clinton has suggested as much, saying that Trump has “shown a very troubling willingness to back up Putin, to support Putin” and that this “raises national security issues.”
Trump’s remarks make it clear he would interrupt the current trajectory — the declining trajectory — of U.S.-Russian relations. But the claim that President Trump would deliberately pursue Russia’s interests instead of what he considers U.S. interests, is utterly unsubstantiated. Trump himself hasn’t offered an articulate rebuttal: “No puppet, no puppet,” he said during the third debate, as if he was channeling one of Alec Baldwin’s Saturday Night Live parodies. But the fact that he would start from a different place than Clinton in a future negotiation with Putin does not mean he intends to capitulate; it just means the outcome could be different. “Trump is not a foreign agent,” says Masha Gessen, a Russian-American journalist who wrote a widely-praised, critical biography of Putin.
But didn’t Trump actually invite Russia to use a computer hack to find and divulge the tens of thousands of official emails Clinton’s aides destroyed? He actually said, "Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find” them. This is like saying, come spy on us. Clinton has even charged him with “giving aid and comfort to our adversaries,” like a traitor.
That’s hardly credible. Russia does not need an invitation to spy; both countries do this all the time, as a matter of routine. And Trump has said he was just being sarcastic.
Is this believable?
Yes. He’s not a professional politician or a diplomat, or even been a close observer of America’s international relations. As everyone now knows, he regularly talks in public as if he’s sitting at a college fraternity’s bar late on a Saturday night, after a few beers; he taunts, teases, jokes, and puts all his resentments and raw emotions on display. These traits endear him to his supporters, and make others pull their hair out.
Trump has collected the public endorsement of 88 former retired U.S. generals and admirals. Isn’t that an impressive haul?
It’s actually less than a fifth of the number of admirals and generals who publicly supported Mitt Romney in 2012, according to a tally by the Atlantic. And while it includes several former U.S. Army commanders in Europe and others who held senior Pentagon posts, many of those involved may have been inspired by a single issue: their opposition to a U.N.-approved deal to control and monitor Iran’s nuclear program. Roughly 60 percent of the Trump military signers also appeared on a September 2015 letter opposing that deal, according to the Center’s estimate. The anti-Iran deal letter was organized by a member of the board of advisers to the Jewish Institute for National Security. The Trump-supporting letter, according to his campaign, was also organized by a member of the Institute’s board.
Taking an opposite tack, 50 national security experts who said they worked for Republican presidents — including 24 who had jobs at the White House and the National Security Council — signed a joint letter in August declaring Trump unqualified and claiming he would put the country’s security at risk. They further said he had dangerous personal qualities and called him ignorant of U.S. laws and vital national interests.
Didn’t they also say he lacked “the temperament” to be President?
So this pulls us into a whole new bucket of issues. What are we to make of the Clinton campaign’s claim that Trump is simply too dangerous to be given access to nuclear weapons? Could he really, singularly, make an unlivable mess of the planet in a fit of pique?
It might seem odd, in a democracy built on pluralism, that nuclear weapons actually function as the private arsenal of a single American – under what former launch control officer Bruce Blair has referred to as “a nuclear monarchy.” Only the president can launch a nuclear attack (others can step in if he dies), and the military’s nuclear officers are rigorously trained to follow a president’s precise orders. Although the nation’s defense secretary is supposed to confirm the order before it’s carried out, he or she doesn’t actually have veto power; any resistance would constitute insubordination. That’s why Richard Nixon is said to have once bragged, as his impeachment neared, that “I can go into my office and pick up the telephone, and in 25 minutes 70 million people will be dead.”
Since the United States presently has around 900 deployed nuclear warheads on missiles subject to launch within less than a half hour (another 480 are associated with bombers that function more slowly), it’s an inescapable fact that this rigid protocol of singular command and unblinking, system-wide nuclear response raises the stakes of every presidential election. As ten former launch nuclear launch control officers said in a joint statement on Oct. 13, “the pressures…are staggering, and require enormous composure, judgment, restraint and diplomatic skill.”
They went on to complain that Trump doesn’t have these qualities.
Is this fair? Trump did say in a primary debate that “we have to be extremely vigilant and extremely careful when it comes to nuclear.” He might be erratic, and uninformed; after all, he called the New Start nuclear arms treaty the “Start Up” treaty, as if he was weighing a new investment. But would he really want to put dozens of gleaming Trump Towers and hotels, Trump Plazas, and Trump golf courses in 40 cities, plus the nation’s population, at risk by initiating a nuclear exchange?
Clinton strikingly accused Trump in the third debate of being “very cavalier, even casual about the use of nuclear weapons.” She also said Trump had told Asian nations engaged in a nuclear competition to “go ahead, enjoy yourselves, folks.”
Trump has called these claims a distortion. In March he said “maybe it’s not so bad…if Japan had that nuclear threat.” He also said this is “going to happen whether we like it or not,” and that other countries such as South Korea and Saudi Arabia might also get the bomb unless the world gets “rid of them entirely.” But this seemed like more of a prediction than an endorsement, particularly when viewed alongside his remark last January that nuclear proliferation – including the seizure of a warhead by a madman — is “the single biggest problem that our country faces right now.” When asked again about Japan that month, however, Trump muddied the water further: “Maybe they would be better off — including with nukes, yes, including with nukes.”
Separately, at a rally before the Wisconsin primary the following month, Trump said if war one day broke out between Japan and North Korea, Japan would “wipe them out pretty quick.” He also said “it would be a terrible thing” but then added, in a characteristically flippant way, “Good luck. Enjoy yourself, folks,” according to The Guardian’s account of his remarks. He was not, he told Clinton at the third debate, endorsing a nuclear exchange between the two.
But didn’t he also ask some foreign policy expert why – if we have nuclear weapons – can’t we use them? This remark has been cited widely. Isn’t this scary, as Clinton’s supporters say?
The quote originated in a claim by Joe Scarborough, a popular cable TV host who has distanced himself from Trump. But Scarborough hasn’t said who he heard it from, so there hasn’t been any corroboration; Trump, moreover, has denied saying it. Even if he did, he wouldn’t be the first non-expert to attempt to understand what, exactly, the massive U.S. arsenal of nuclear weapons is for. Just asking the question doesn’t make him trigger-happy.
Okay, but this is still confusing. Trump has said he wants to build more nuclear warheads – only the Russians are doing that now, he says—but at the same time he warns countries in Europe and Asia that depend on our nuclear arsenal that they will have to go it alone, unless they pay us a lot more money.
Clinton has attacked Trump’s position, claiming that “he wants to tear up our alliances.” But Trump’s argument is economic, not political. It’s based on the fact that key U.S. allies – such as Japan, Germany, and South Korea — contribute only a small portion of the costs of defending their territory from attack, as a legacy of policies dating from World War II. The U.S. share of total defense spending in Europe by all NATO members, for example, exceeds 70 percent, although some of this spending is for forces that can be used elsewhere in the world. Washington’s share of NATO’s direct budget (for its operations and staff) is far less — roughly 22 percent — but still larger than anyone else's.
Here are Trump’s words at the third debate: “We’re defending other countries. We are spending a fortune doing it. They have the bargain of the century…We have to renegotiate those agreements.” He went on: “South Korea, these are very rich, powerful countries. Saudi Arabia, nothing but money. We protect Saudi Arabia. Why aren’t they paying?” Actually, they do pay billions of dollars to reimburse some U.S. costs. But senior U.S. officials, including Obama himself, have repeatedly expressed identical frustrations; in April, Obama colorfully called them “free riders,” virtually echoing Trump.
There still seem to be many other disagreements between Trump and Clinton. Do they agree about anything related to the nation’s defense?
Yes. Both have proposed policies that almost certainly would require an increase in military spending. But this is at best an uncertain prospect, since Democratic lawmakers have said they will agree only if Republicans agree to commensurate increases in non-defense spending, which most Republicans still oppose. Although the makeup of Congress will doubtless change next year, this deadlock could persist.
Pro-Hillary Clinton super PAC Correct the Record accepted $250,000 in illegal contributions from a charity backed by a Boston-based construction firm already in trouble this year for its political donations.
Suffolk Cares Inc., a nonprofit charity registered under section 501(c)(3) of federal tax code, gave Correct the Record $100,000 on Sept. 8 and another $150,000 on Oct. 12, according to federal campaign finance documents. Charities of this kind are explicitly prohibited from making political contributions under federal law.
Asked about the contributions by the Center for Public Integrity, Correct the Record spokeswoman Elizabeth Shappell said the super PAC is giving the money back to Suffolk Cares Inc. today.
"When we learned this donation came from a 501(c)(3), we returned it,” Shappell said.
Suffolk Cares Inc. is funded by Suffolk Construction Company Inc. and company chairman and CEO John Fish, according to the charity’s tax return for fiscal year 2015, its most recent. Fish is a major political donor who’s personally spread hundreds of thousands of dollars among various political candidates and groups, mostly Democratic. Fish also serves as chairman and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, having been appointed by the Federal Reserve last year.
Dan Antonellis, a spokesman for Suffolk Construction, said the contribution to Correct the Record was an “accounting error” — he did not elaborate — and confirmed that Correct the Record has returned the money.
Suffolk Construction is one of the nation’s largest privately owned construction firms. It’s portfolio includes dozens of completed private sector and public sector projects, including facilities operated by the federal government. Since 2008, the federal government has awarded Suffolk Construction about $170 million in contracts, according to federal contracting records.
The IRS states that "501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office."
The IRS continues: “Contributions to political campaign funds or public statements of position (verbal or written) made on behalf of the organization in favor of or in opposition to any candidate for public office clearly violate the prohibition against political campaign activity.”
The $250,000 Correct the Record is giving back to Suffolk Cares Inc. represents more than 8 percent of the super PAC’s income since July 1, federal campaign finance records indicate.
Launched as a stand-alone group in 2015 and based in Washington, D.C., Correct the Record is part of collection of political committees and nonprofits connected to David Brock, a one-time Clinton foe who in recent years has become one of her most loyal advocates.
Although federal law prohibits super PACs from coordinating paid messaging with the candidates they support, Correct the Record is workingintimately with Clinton’s own campaign operation. For example, the Clinton campaign has paid Correct the Record nearly $300,000 for “research” work.
Recent Correct the Record videos and commentary include those entitled “Trump lies about Iraq war, insults military and praises Putin” and “Trump ‘left nothing but ruins everywhere he’s gone.’”Correct the Record operates as a rapid response attack machine, using web videos, blog items and fact-check dispatches to slam Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at most every turn.
In April, the Center for Public Integrity reported that Suffolk Construction had contributed $200,000 to another pro-Clinton super PAC, Priorities USA Action — problematic because Suffolk Construction is a government contractor, and government contractors are prohibited from making corporate political contributions.
Priorities USA Action, which like all super PACs may raise and spend unlimited amounts of money to advocate for and against political candidates, returned Suffolk Construction’s money in July.
The Campaign Legal Center and Democracy21, nonprofit campaign finance reform advocacy organizations, nevertheless filed a complaint with the FEC in July accusing Priorities USA Action and Suffolk Construction of violating federal election laws.
Brendan Fischer, associate counsel at the Campaign Legal Center, said his organization would “certainly look at filing a complaint” with the IRS regarding Suffolk Cares Inc.’s contributions to Correct the Record.
“Correct the Record did the right thing giving the money back,” Fischer said. “But [the contribution] was against IRS rules, and this raises significant questions about a government contractor buying influence.”
Throughout Election 2016, Clinton’s presidential effort has greatly benefited from a series of federal court decisions, including the Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision in 2010, that have loosened rules governing campaign contributions.
All the while, Clinton has vowed to fight against the influence of big money in politics — after becoming president.
“We have to end the flood of secret, unaccountable money that is distorting our election, corrupting our political process, drowning out the voices and votes of people,” Clinton said in a speech last year.
This story was co-published with TIME.
This article was co-published with Salon.com.
According to Donald Trump and his supporters, Hillary Clinton is a seminal figure in Washington’s corrupt establishment — an establishment that weakened our military and turned America into a patsy of friends and foes alike, unwilling to stand up to the likes of Saudi Arabia, Mexico, China, and Japan, whether the issue is immigration, trade or national security. She’s a prisoner of monied interests, not just Wall Street powerbrokers, but also cringe-worthy foreign donors like Qatar, which gave cash to the Clinton Foundation. And she’s been so careless handling national secrets that she could have — and should have — been jailed for ignoring the State Department’s own secrecy rules and defying congressional demands for her emails. Her campaign slogan might as well be, I’m going to look after my friends and not tell you anything.
According to Hillary Clinton and her backers, Donald Trump is a pal and admirer of Russian president Vladimir Putin, and therefore cannot be trusted even with U.S. intelligence secrets, much less the presidency. Trump is so thin-skinned and impetuous that he could drop nuclear bombs in response to criticism, so insulting to nearly everyone that the country would become dangerously isolated during his presidency, unable to address challenges like ISIS that demand a multi-lateral response. To make matters worse, Trump’s incendiary rhetoric about Muslims is actually a potent jihadist recruiting tool. And the GOP nominee is so unconcerned about the welfare of others that he wouldn’t blink at severing defense ties with allies who don’t send us a lot more cash. That might in turn provoke those allies to create or expand their own arsenals of nuclear arms – but that’s okay with him. His campaign slogan might as well be, let global chaos reign.
These are some of the tamer claims being made during this year’s contentious race for the White House. And while national security issues might not be at the top of voters’ agendas a week from now the debates over America’s proper prole in the world have touched on broader questions about the candidates’ character, integrity, and temperament.
And so the Center has prepared a voter-friendly guide to what the contenders really stand for on defense and foreign policy and how they will likely act if they wind up as the occupant of the Oval Office.
Yesterday, we looked at Donald Trump. Today, we look at Hillary Clinton.
Foreign policy during the Obama administration was mostly run from the White House, so it’s not easy to see Secretary of State Clinton’s fingerprints on much. Can you please remind us what she did for four years?
From 2009 to 2013, Clinton traveled the world as an unquestionably articulate and popular spokesperson for U.S. interests. With vigorous White House support, her appointees helped negotiate international backing for sanctions against Iran, which paved the way for the U.N.-backed nuclear deal. They also aggressively promoted the export of U.S. products, including American weapons. Clinton helped manage the U.S. diplomatic opening to Burma/Myanmar. And Clinton was among the senior officials who voted for a special forces’ raid that wound up killing Osama bin Laden (at a key meeting, she differed from then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Vice President Biden, and the director of the National Counterterrorism Center). But Foreign Affairs magazine also observed in a 2013 profile that “she left office without a signature doctrine, strategy, or diplomatic triumph,” unlike many others who held the State Department’s top job.
Her campaign has spent a lot of time attacking Trump. So it’s hard to figure out what she would actually do, as president.
The Democratic Party’s platform includes a handful of concrete, albeit unsurprising, foreign policy goals: defeating ISIS, abstaining from torture, maintaining a limited troop presence in Afghanistan and closing the military detention center in Guantanamo Bay. But many of its other foreign policy positions are more slogans than measureable goals: “We will seek a more agile and flexible force and rid the military of outdated Cold-War systems….We must end waste in the defense budget….We will work to reduce excessive spending on nuclear weapons-related programs….[We] must lead in forging a robust global solution to the climate crisis.”
Clinton has also called repeatedly for an “intelligence surge” against ISIS, without clarifying what that means or how it would differ from the Obama administration’s robust intelligence-gathering, which has led to targeted killings of some key ISIS leaders. In fact, her rhetoric has historically been so vague that some experts are confused about whether she would be more likely than Obama to send U.S. troops overseas. Micah Zenko at the Council on Foreign Relations says, for example, that “she has consistently endorsed starting new wars and expanding others,” citing her past support for the disastrous war in Iraq, the unavailing dispatch in 2009 of more U.S. troops to Afghanistan and the messy 2011 Western intervention in Libya. But Harvard professor Stephen Walt, a critic of these interventions, predicts that Clinton’s “activist tendencies” will be curtailed by her heavy interest in domestic programs and by a shortage of funds for overseas conflicts.
In her campaign, Clinton has called Putin a bully and promised to “confine, contain, deter Russian aggression.” Does this mean she’s going to push America into a conflict with him?
Her private comments about Putin are more measured and less blustery than these public statements. In a 2013 speech to New York investors that she declined to release to the public (excerpts were eventually obtained by hackers and given to Wikileaks*), Clinton called Putin an “engaging and… very interesting conversationalist.” She separately told Goldman Sachs that year that “obviously we would very much like to have a positive relationship with Russia and we would like to see Putin be less defensive toward a relationship with the United States.” Although Putin has “a redwood chip on his shoulder” about Mother Russia, “I always tried to figure out some way to connect with him.” she told a Chicago audience that year. While she has endorsed creating a no-fly zone in Syria to protect insurgents there – an idea that Moscow might try to block militarily – Clinton said in the third debate that she would try to win Russian and Syrian backing for it through negotiations.
Okay. But please address the issue on our minds right now: What is this dispute involving Secretary Clinton’s emails about? Trump says it shows she’s committed criminal acts and probably betrayed U.S. secrets. The FBI, after earlier declaring there was no evidence of criminal wrongdoing – just extreme carelessness on Clinton’s part – has suddenly started investigating the mess, again.
Clinton’s use of her own computer server (installed in the basement of her New York home) to send and receive emails while serving as Secretary was well known to close aides but kept hidden from the public until 26 months after her departure. Although it has clearly undermined her political standing, she resisted calling the decision a mistake, according to private emails among her aides in 2015 that were leaked in October.
Three controversies surround her decision:
1. Clinton was able to maintain personal control over a trove of records normally considered public property, despite regulations and federal laws that demand emails be officially maintained to preserve a historical record and ensure officeholders are held accountable.
In this case, Clinton purged 32,000 of her emails before turning another 30,000 over to the State Department, which sought them to comply with a congressional demand. She said the discarded ones contained personal information not pertinent to her work. Trump said at the third debate that the email destruction (in early March 2015) occurred after she got a congressional subpoena for them, amounting to a criminal act. But Clinton’s aides say they actually ordered the destruction three months earlier; the fact that it was actually carried out two weeks after the subpoena was issued was accidental, not deliberate, they said.
In any event, the vetting of the now-discarded emails was done by Clinton’s longtime loyalists and no independent reviewers saw them first. So the public has no way to know for sure if her actions were appropriate or not. Even law enforcement officials seem worried that they didn’t see everything relevant to their inquiry into what Clinton did — as evidenced by the FBI’s startling Oct. 28 announcement that it was still probing the matter.
2. The use of the private server may have made her communications less secure, and therefore compromised U.S. intelligence information, according to the FBI. After a lengthy probe, FBI director James Comey said “we assess it is possible that hostile actors gained access” to Clinton’s emails, which he said included seven email chains incorporating information that should have been classified Top Secret/Special Access, one of the highest levels.
3. Clinton has made statements about the emails and the server that turned out not to be true. She said, for example, that none included classified information, but intelligence officials — including former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell — said some contained information that should have been treated as highly classified.
They weren’t clearly marked as such in Clinton’s copies, and she has said she did not understand that paragraphs marked with a “C” were supposed to be considered “confidential.” But many intelligence professionals privately express skepticism about this claim, arguing that Clinton would have regularly seen classified documents that incorporated such “portion” markings. And some FBI and State Department officials bristled — and resisted — when a longtime Clinton loyalist at the State Department, Patrick Kennedy, attempted last year to persuade the FBI that some of the emails deemed “classified” in retrospect should not be marked that way.
This has been going on for a year. So why is all this suddenly in the news again?
The FBI stumbled across a trove of emails passed to or from Clinton while searching a computer in the possession of a top aide’s husband. After subpoenaing the documents, the bureau now plans to review them to see if they contain classified material or shed some other light on Clinton’s use of the server.
Is the criticism of Clinton fair? Did she know that mishandling her communications posed security risks?
Everyone at the State Department had reason to be vigilant about cybersecurity, given that the theft and leak of 250,000 of its diplomatic cables (by the U.S. defense intelligence analyst then known as Bradley Manning) occurred in 2010, a year after Clinton took office. Clinton notably said in an April 2014 speech at the University of Connecticut — a year after leaving office — that “at the State Department, we were attacked every hour, more than once an hour by incoming efforts to penetrate everything we had…When I would go to China, or I would go to Russia, we would leave all of our electronic equipment on the plane, with the batteries out, because this is a new frontier. And they’re trying to [go]…after the personal emails of people who worked in the State Department.”
But State’s own auditors said the issue did not get adequate attention under her watch: In late 2013, the inspector general warned that the department’s computer systems still had “control weaknesses” that could lead to security breaches. Comey said at one point that the FBI “developed evidence that the security culture of the State Department in general, and with respect to use of unclassified e-mail systems in particular, was generally lacking.”
Clinton has said she wasn’t told that routing her emails through a personal server was a problem, and that she didn’t see an all-hands-on-deck warning sent to all State Department officials — under her own name — in June 2011 that said, don’t use personal email accounts for official business because they’re not secure. She also said she initially didn’t know that she wasn’t supposed to bring her personal Blackberry — a potential listening device for foreign spies — into her office suite, where she regularly stored it in a desk drawer.
Doesn’t this indicate a startlingly casual approach to an important matter? And what about everybody else? How could she have communicated with others in the administration without them knowing about the irregular pathway those emails took?
The FBI probe makes clear that other top officials in the Obama administration — including the president himself, his national security adviser, and former CENTCOM commander and CIA chief David Petraeus — were aware that Clinton regularly used a personal email address (Petraeus sent roughly a thousand emails to it). But they have said they didn’t know she used a personal server.
Clinton has said the server was installed purely as a matter of convenience – that she wanted to keep using one smartphone for both personal and official business, without making her exchanges with friends and family “accessible to the State Department.” But wasn’t her real motive simply to put her emails outside of the reach of Freedom of Information Act laws that apply to such records?
Clinton denies this, and says it was her impression that the emails would be captured anyway on the accounts of her aides. FBI director Comey said his agency “did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information” or that emails were deleted in a deliberate attempt to conceal them.
The FBI’s report noted, however, that Colin Powell — who was Secretary of State from 2001 to 2005 — warned her in a January 2009 email that if her emails were treated as public records, they would become subject to disclosure, and also that Powell told her he got around this by “not using systems that captured the data.” The FBI also noted that when Clinton’s personal Blackberry malfunctioned in 2011 and an aide requested a State Department-issued phone to use on an urgent basis, two senior officials emailed warnings to her assistants that if Clinton got such a phone, its contents would be subject to public disclosure. The FBI’s memo doesn’t state whether she saw these warnings, but she did not get such a phone. She told the FBI only that she wasn’t sure why.
So was sensitive information really stolen?
Only foreign spies appear to know if it fell into the wrong hands. The server in question experienced “brute force” login attempts by unauthorized users, but no evidence was found of a successful hack. The FBI said its probe was hampered by the fact that agents never obtained any of the 13 mobile devices Clinton used to transmit emails or two of the five iPads she used. The FBI also said hackers might not have left any observable traces.
This isn’t the only foreign policy-related controversy swirling around Clinton. What about Trump’s claim that her family-run charity, the Clinton Foundation, was a criminal enterprise that collected checks from businesses and countries that got State Department favors?
The Clinton Foundation, founded by then-President Bill Clinton in 1997, has collected roughly $2 billion from donors, with a significant portion going to AIDs patients in the Third World, and to countries like Haiti hit by natural calamities. During the third debate, Hillary Clinton — who served on its board from 2013 to 2015 — said “I'm thrilled to talk about the Clinton Foundation because it is a world-renowned charity and I'm so proud of the work that it does.”
In 2011, when the foundation’s operating expenses were around $20 million a year, however, two highly respected lawyers Chelsea Clinton hired to review the foundation’s operation concluded it had not been properly run. After conducting 38 interviews of foundation officials, including former President Clinton, co-founder Douglas Band, and foundation adviser John Podesta, they sent Podesta a highly critical, 22-page report warning that the foundation had poor internal controls and weak management. It specifically called for new measures to “manage conflicts of interest,” which it said the staff had no idea how to flag and clear up. Some donors, it said, “may have an expectation of quid pro quo benefits in return for gifts.”
The foundation’s board, they complained, was comprised solely of “insiders,” rather than independent directors; it lacked “members with strong financial know-how.” Board meetings were rarely held; the minutes were not signed but were instead “cloned” from one year to another; and its members did not set “measureable goals and objectives.” Without citing specific names, it said some of the foundation’s officers were drawing private salaries and keeping gifts, making employees confused and disgruntled. “Interviewees reported their belief that certain employees abuse expense privileges” by charging the foundation for personal expenses, such as spousal travel.
Okay, but this suggests mismanagement rather than criminal activity.
Numerous publications have reported that the FBI has looked at the foundation’s activities, but so far, the agency has come up dry. The Charity Navigator, a watchdog group, had the foundation on its watch list until last December, but in September it awarded the group four stars, its top rating, after gaining access to more of its financial data.
So that means everything was just fine there?
The Clintons have been criticized for not erecting higher walls between their charitable fundraising, personal enrichment, and policy work. One of Clinton’s chief aides at the State Department, Huma Abedin, was simultaneously on the foundation’s payroll for several years. A foundation official repeatedly asked Clinton’s top aides to arrange meetings between major donors and top State Department officials. Although the foundation promised it would not accept new foreign donations during Clinton’s State Department tenure, it collected an odd new donation from Algeria — a country seeking better treatment in Washington — that was earmarked for Haiti.
Neither former President Clinton nor his daughter drew a salary from the foundation. But many foundation donors also lobbied the State Department and paid the Clintons fees for giving speeches (several of Bill Clinton’s came from Russian companies). The former president also used the foundation to orchestrate his globetrotting, often on private jets supplied by its corporate donors. Band, a co-founder and officer of the charity, said in a 2011 internal memo — shortly before his departure — that he had helped raise funds for the former president’s 65th birthday party (a three-day Hollywood-centered extravaganza), for his recovery from heart surgery and “many other arrangements of this kind.”
Band, who described himself as the “primary contact and point of management for President Clinton’s activities” related to the foundation as well as his speechmaking and “family/personal needs,” also said that private clients of a firm he operated while also serving at the foundation had “generated over $3 million in paid speeches for President Clinton.” One donor – Coca Cola – had agreed to support political candidates that Clinton favored, and another big donor – Laureate International Universities – gave Clinton $3.5 million a year for his advice and assistance, Band boasted. “We have also solicited and obtained, as appropriate, in-kind services for the President and his family – for personal travel, hospitality, vacation and the like.”
On the other hand, no one has presented evidence that a donation directly provoked a policy change at the State Department during Clinton’s tenure there.
This sounds like what Trump has been accused of doing– using a charity to enhance his personal life and fortune. After all, he spent funds from his foundation on a portrait of himself and on repairs to a fountain in front of one of his hotels. So are there any differences between these candidates?
Yes. It’s obvious, from reading the private remarks Hillary Clinton made to foundation donors and others after leaving the State Department, that she has a deep reservoir of knowledge about global issues. While speaking to Goldman Sachs and other bankers, she articulately describes the challenges America faces in the Middle East and sometimes caustically assesses the roles played by others, such as Saudi Arabia. It’s ironic, of course, that these remarks reached the public only because of a computer hack of the email account of Podesta, her campaign director.
Trump has repeatedly said while he has less experience than Clinton, his instincts and business experience will bring him more success in foreign policy and national security matters. Clinton says accurately that, unlike Trump, “I have some experience with the tough calls and the hard work of statecraft.” Whether or not you admire her achievements or her way of conducting and managing her work, it is indisputable that she would not be starting fresh in dealing with the most urgent global problems.
* The Clinton speeches, Foundation documents and emails quoted in this article were released by Wikileaks after being stolen from the email accounts of John Podesta and other top Clinton aides. Wikileaks has not said how it obtained them, but U.S. intelligence officials say that the Russian government was behind the hacking. Clinton’s campaign has declined to authenticate the material, but also has not disputed it.
Election 2016 is on track to be the most expensive in U.S. history. For months, the Center for Public Integrity's money in politics staff has been investigating the candidates and political groups behind the over $2 billion raised so far in the race for the White House as well as the tens of millions of dollars that has been spent on TV ads in state-level races.
For expert commentary and analysis on super PACs, "dark money," spending in the states, Hillary Clinton’s considerable war chest and Donald Trump’s supposedly self-funded campaign, we offer access to some of our most skilled reporters and editors to reporters.
For interviews with our federal politics team, including Political Editor and Deputy Executive Editor JOHN DUNBAR; and politics editors and reporters DAVE LEVINTHAL, CARRIE LEVINE and MICHAEL BECKEL; as well as state politics project manager KYTJA WEIR, please contact communications director Sophia Qureshi: firstname.lastname@example.org, 202-997-4211. Or email our reporters directly.
Founded in 1989, the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Public Integrity is one of the country's oldest and largest nonpartisan, nonprofit investigative news organizations. Our mission: To serve democracy by revealing abuses of power, corruption and betrayal of public trust by powerful public and private institutions, using the tools of investigative journalism.
A newly formed super PAC named after the Norse trickster god Loki hopes to make electoral mischief by supporting Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson.
Johnson isn’t likely to be more than a spoiler in a race dominated by Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump. But make no mistake: Loki PAC wants Johnson to become the next president of the United States.
So what path to victory does the group see for Johnson, who is currently polling around 4 percent nationally?
Loki PAC’s first digital ad explains how the U.S. House of Representatives, rather than the voters, could decide the election. This would happen only if both Clinton and Trump fail to earn the 270 Electoral College votes needed to secure the presidency.
“Gov. Johnson could very well deny Trump or Hillary the votes they need in order to win the Electoral College," a narrator implores in the two-minute spot. "Your vote this year may mean more than it's ever meant in any year before."
Joe Trotter, the founder and executive director of Loki PAC, admits that this is a long shot. But he argues that 2016 is a “historic opportunity” for a minor-party candidate like Johnson, given the high unfavorable ratings of both Clinton (about 55 percent) and Trump (about 60 percent).
Independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin could also conceivably win Utah and its six Electoral College votes, potentially cutting into the total number of electoral votes available to Clinton and Trump.
“We want to show there is another option, another choice,” Trotter told the Center for Public Integrity, adding that it’s “not a wasted vote to go for a third party.”
The ad’s sponsor
The super PAC’s honorary chairman is Austin Petersen, owner of the news magazine and website LibertarianRepublic.com, who unsuccessfully sought the Libertarian Party presidential nomination earlier this year.
Trotter — a veteran of the Virginia-based Center for Competitive Politics, which advocates against most campaign finance regulations — is Loki PAC’s founder and executive director. Trotter also previously worked as the communications director for Petersen’s failed presidential campaign.
As a super PAC, Loki PAC may collect contributions of unlimited size from individuals, corporations and labor unions.
Because it formed so late in the election, Loki PAC will not be required to disclose its donors before Election Day. But Trotter told the Center for Public Integrity that Loki PAC has so far raised $10,000 from a single donor — hedge fund manager Disque Deane Jr., who specializes in water-related investments and is a registered Libertarian in Florida.
In an interview with the Center for Public Integrity, Deane described himself as “fiscally conservative and socially liberal, in that order” and praised Johnson as the “best choice” in the presidential race.
Deane added that he was intrigued by the intricacies of how the Electoral College worked — and said most Americans don’t understand that the U.S. House of Representatives plays such a pivotal role if there’s no winner on Election Day.
Loki PAC’s first digital ad buy cost about $2,500, according to official campaign finance filings.
Trotter said people shouldn’t expect “multimillion-dollar ad buys” from Loki PAC, although it will use its limited budget to boost Johnson during the final week of the election.
He added that the super PAC plans to continue playing a role in electoral politics after Election Day.
Why it matters
Johnson, whose official presidential campaign committee has raised $11.4 million through Oct. 19, may not be polling more than a few percentage points nationally, but even that level of support could provide decisive in key swing states.
Moreover, Johnson is already on pace to earn more votes than he did four years ago, when he garnered about 1 percent of the popular vote. Should he earn more than 8.4 percent of the vote nationally, he’d be the highest-performing minor-party presidential candidate since businessman H. Ross Perot in 1996.
Pro-Libertarian super PACs, such as Loki PAC and its brethren, are hoping to help him run up the score — potentially taking votes away from Trump and Clinton in several crucial states in the process.
One of America’s most renowned medical centers — The Johns Hopkins Hospital — intentionally defrauded hundreds of sick coal miners out of compensation and health benefits while pocketing large sums from coal companies, according to a class action lawsuit filed by the families of two coal miners who died of black lung disease.
The lawsuit, which also targets a longtime Hopkins doctor, draws heavily from revelations in an investigative report by the Center for Public Integrity, in partnership with ABC News, about a unit of radiologists who for decades provided coal companies X-ray readings that almost always said the miner didn't have black lung, helping the companies avoid paying benefits under a program administered by the federal government.
In response to a request for comment, a Johns Hopkins spokesperson said, "We are reviewing the complaint."
The Center investigation found that the longtime leader of the unit, Dr. Paul Wheeler, had read X-rays in more than 1,500 cases just since 2000 but never once found a case of severe black lung, despite the fact that other doctors looking at the same films found evidence of the disease hundreds of times. Wheeler’s credentials and longtime affiliation with Johns Hopkins often trumped those of all other doctors involved, and administrative judges credited his reports over those of other doctors and denied more than 800 claims.
Yet the Center found that in more than 100 cases, biopsies or autopsies proved Wheeler wrong.
That is what happened in the case of longtime miner Steve Day, whose family members are lead plaintiffs in the new lawsuit, filed in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City. After more than 30 years working in the mines, Day applied in 2005 for benefits through a program administered by the federal government. A half-dozen doctors saw advanced black lung on his X-rays and CT scans. But the judge deferred to the credentials of Wheeler and two colleagues at Johns Hopkins who said they saw no evidence of the disease, denying Day’s claim. After the Center featured Day’s story, he reapplied for benefits but died while the case was ongoing. An autopsy revealed a severe case of black lung, and his surviving family members continued and won the benefits claim.
A similar story played out in the claim of Junior Barr, whose family members are the other lead plaintiffs in the suit. The Day and Barr families, represented by lawyers Jonathan Nace and Chris Nidel, say in the complaint that their cases are representative of perhaps hundreds of others and ask a Baltimore City judge to allow the case to proceed as a class action.
The allegations against Johns Hopkins and Wheeler in the complaint include fraud, unjust enrichment, and violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, the federal law best known as a tool used against organized crime. Johns Hopkins and Wheeler "have engaged in a pattern and practice with the intent to defraud at least hundreds of toxically injured coal miners of federally earned benefits," the lawsuit alleges.
The focus of the suit is the method Wheeler used to interpret X-rays. Doctors who want to read X-rays as part of the benefits program overseen by the Labor Department have to follow standards established by the International Labour Organization. But records reviewed by the Center in its investigation showed that he didn’t follow these rules, and Wheeler himself confirmed this in an interview.
He said he has his own criteria for what black lung looks like on an X-ray, leading him to mark some films as negative for disease even though federal rules say he should have marked them positive.
The lawsuit claims that this "willful refusal to interpret chest X-rays in compliance with the ILO classification system" has led to the wrongful denials of hundreds of miners’ claims.
After the Center investigation, released in 2013, Johns Hopkins suspended the work of Wheeler’s unit and began an internal review. Two years later, after concluding the review, the hospital said that it had permanently ended the unit’s work and that Wheeler had retired.
In 2014, the Labor Department instructed its officials not to credit Wheeler’s readings unless coal companies produced evidence that rebutted the findings by the Center and ABC, and it informed more than 1,000 miners that their claims may have been wrongfully denied because of Wheeler’s involvement. This year, the government agency that oversees the X-ray-reading program set up a quality control system to weed out doctors who aren’t following the rules. Members of bothhouses of Congress have introduced legislation that would make sweeping reforms to the benefits system, but the bills have remained stuck in committees.
Chris Hamby, a former reporter with the Center for Public Integrity, works for BuzzFeed News.
The upcoming election will go down in history as the most divisive and obsessively fascinating in decades. With a week of campaigning left, the team at the Center for Public Integrity is still pushing hard and giving no quarter.
Journalists giving to politicians
That includes to our fellow journalists. Federal politics reporters Dave Levinthal and Michael Beckel took on the entrenched interests of their own profession with a fascinating piece on journalists who showed up in campaign finance data: the vast majority of them supporting Hillary Clinton.
Of course it played into the Trump narrative – which was never our intention as such – with The Donald tweeting the story as evidence of bias against him. Perhaps more importantly, it generated hundreds of thousands of views on our site and on the site of the partner which ran it, the Columbia Journalism Review. It also generated significant debate across the media and among colleagues over whether journalists should contribute to politics.
I realized I am quite old fashioned in my belief – honed in years at Reuters – that it is beyond the pale for an active reporter to contribute to any political cause. Turns out many do and many organizations permit it. The Center has a strict policy forbidding journalist and non-journalist staff from any political activity— but would it stand up to a court challenge?
Emily Nussbaum, the New Yorker critic who covered the Republican National Convention and was identified by Dave and Michael as contributing $250 to Hillary, addressed the issue rather adroitly in her latest piece in the New Yorker, disarming us with: “Full disclosure: late one night, while watching Fox News, I donated two hundred and fifty dollars to Hillary Clinton’s campaign…My bias, in sum, is as blatant as a Celtic arm tattoo.”
Help? Who do I believe about Donald and Hillary?
Our sage National Security managing editor R. Jeffrey Smith– a Pulitzer Prize-winning hand formerly of the Washington Post– stepped into the federal politics beat with a brace of stories packed with humor so dry it almost combusted with the cynicism he exposed in the conduct of both presidential campaigns on foreign policy issues.
In an illuminating and entertaining pair of stories, carefully labeled “A nonpartisan guide” Jeff examined the bromance between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin and the bizarre, partially baked policy ideas of the Republican candidate, saying Clinton supporters might sum up his campaign slogan as “let global chaos reign.” In the second piece Jeff took apart the record of Clinton as Secretary of State, suggesting that to her enemies her slogan could be: “I’m going to look after my friends and not tell you anything. “
Jeff also used the story as vehicle to get into the remarkable and so far underreported contents of the emails – no not those emails – between Clinton campaign boss John Podesta and Douglas Band, a long-time Clinton flunky, which show the dark underbelly of how money and influence really work in Washington. It’s a genuinely exciting and interesting read either with us or over on Salon.com which partnered on it and Part 1.
A strong collection
I have been really remiss in not writing this note for a little while— for which I apologize to my team and those kind enough to give us feedback.
A few stories during the past few weeks which I think warrant calling out include:
- Allan Holmes, our telecom specialist, whom I urged to enter the fray of the AT&T/Time Warner merger in light of his deep reporting experience in this area. He has written gracefully on how the exiting oligopoly on cable and broadband delivers a terrible deal to all Americans and a really terrible deal to poor Americans. Here’s his take on AT&T/TW.
- our work on broadband (featuring Chris Zubak-Skees) was cited by the judges in the Editor & Publisher Eppy Awards last month, recognizing the Center for Public Integrity with an award for data journalism and visualization.
- data is central to story-telling at the Center and Chris’ work was also prominent in the launch project of the Carbon Wars series by Jim Morris’ environment team. It’s a major series and will last a couple of years, starting with this piece by Jamie Smith Hopkins explaining the daily reality of climate change right here.
- away from the Presidential race our powerful states team, led by Kytja Weir, has been tracking ad spending across the country and looking at the down ballot races and how candidates differentiate themselves from the somewhat unappealing presidential duo – even those on the same ticket. Much more from the team in Who’s Calling the Shots in State Politics.
What we’re reading and thinking about
I thought George Packer’s analysis on the disaffection of white, working class, American voters in the New Yorker last week was one of the finest pieces of long-form analysis I had read on a phenomenon that had gone ignored by the media and politicians until the shock of Trump. It quotes from a book which has also been something of a revelation in explaining that phenomenon, J.D. Vance’s pull-up-your-socks memoir and libertarian treatise Hillbilly Elegy: A memoir of a family and a culture in crisis.
Also in books— and highly relevant given Vladimir Putin’s voices-off-stage role in the election— is former Financial Times Moscow correspondent David Satter’s wonderful take down of Putin: “The less you know, the better you sleep: Russia's Road to Terror and Dictatorship under Yeltsin and Putin” If you ever find yourself wondering if Putin can be so bad and if maybe Donald has a point, it is worth reading that book to set yourself straight.
I welcome feedback on this note.
CEO, The Center for Public Integrity
Republican super PAC Future45 is back, with fresh cash from casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and Spanish-language ads attacking Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton for past remarks she’s made about illegal immigration.
The new Spanish-language ads urge Latino voters to think twice about voting for Clinton. They also serve as an opportunity for Republicans to reconnect with Latino voters at a time when GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump has alienated many of them with his comments about Mexicans and immigrants.
The ads are running on the Spanish-language channels Telemundo and Univision nationally, as well as in presidential battleground states such as Arizona, Florida and Nevada. They include clips of Clinton, in 2003, describing herself as “adamantly against illegal immigrants” and saying “people need to stop employing illegal immigrants.”
The ads’ sponsor
As a super PAC, Future45 can accept unlimited contributions from donors that it must then disclose to the Federal Elections Commission.
Another top funder is Joe Ricketts, founder of online brokerage TD Ameritrade and patriarch of the family that owns the Chicago Cubs baseball team, which defeated the Cleveland Indians early Thursday morning to win its first World Series since 1908.
Ricketts donated $1 million to Future45 in late September — something that would have seemed implausible just a few months ago.
Ricketts paired his latest contribution with a blog post called “Why I’m supporting Future45.” It read, in part: “This election comes down to a binary choice between extending the failed Obama-Clinton economic policies and believing that Messrs. Trump and Pence bring fresh thinking to how we can reignite the engines of economic opportunity.”
Adelson, the Las Vegas casino magnate, and his wife, Miriam Adelson, each donated $5 million to Future45 in September, according to campaign finance records.
And earlier this week, Adelson was reported to have committed an additional $25 million to Future45.
That appears to be on top of money Adelson has reportedly infused into Future45’s sister nonprofit, the 45Committee. (As an issue advocacy organization, the 45Committee may legally keep its donors secret as long as it doesn’t make electoral politics its primary purpose.)
Other Future45 donors include Joe Craft, the CEO of coal producer Alliance Resource Partners ($750,000) and Petco Petroleum Corp. owner Jay Bergman ($500,000).
The group spent about $730,000 on media and advertising early in the 2016 presidential race before going dark in February. Its previous ads hit Clinton’s record in the Middle East and blamed Clinton for the rise of the Islamic State terrorist group in Syria.
Filings with the Federal Election Commission show Future45 was largely inactive from February until September.
Future45’s chairman, Ron Weiser, left in May when he was named a vice chairman of the Trump campaign fundraising committee.
Now flush with 11th-hour cash, Future45 announced this week a new $10 million advertising campaign to capitalize on the “bombshell” dropped by FBI Director James Comey, when he disclosed the agency was looking into new emails that might be related to the case against Clinton.
And Future45 is spending at least $1.5 million on its Spanish-language ads.
Why it matters
Trump has not aired a single Spanish-language ad, according to data provided to the Center for Public Integrity by ad tracking firm Kantar Media/CMAG. So he certainly could use the outside help in a late bid to appeal Spanish speakers.
Through Oct. 19, Trump’s campaign and the super PACs supporting it had raised $312 million — compared to $702 million raised by Clinton and her super PAC allies.
The Republican outreach to Latino voters, in particular, makes sense win, lose or draw, Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, a political science professor at the University of Texas, told the Center for Public Integrity.
“Latinos that are closer to the immigration experience and closer to Mexico tend to be more conservative,” she said. “So Republicans are saying ‘hey, remember there’s a Republican party [that shares Latinos’ socially conservative values].’”
Officials at Future45 did not respond to requests for comment.
This article was co-published with NBC News.
Amid the ongoing circus that is this year’s presidential election, it may be easy to forget all the other races on the ballot.
Voters will be picking 12 governors, several thousand legislators and scores of other state officeholders on Nov. 8. They will also decide policies on marijuana, minimum wage, gun control, tobacco, drug prices and other key issues in 162 statewide ballot measures.
The Center for Public Integrity is tracking the political TV ads that are shaping those races.
So far, more than half a billion dollars has been spent to air ads about those campaigns around the country. Here’s where some of that money went:
Sources: Center for Public Integrity analysis of Kantar Media/CMAG data current through Oct. 31; U.S. Census/Bureau of Labor Statistics Current Population Survey.
The Prime Minister of Pakistan defended himself before the nation’s highest court today as part of an ongoing and highly politicized response to the Panama Papers in the world’s sixth most populated country.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s lawyer told the Supreme Court that Sharif does not own any shell companies or property through offshore holdings.
Sharif did not address the offshore links of his children. The Supreme Court reportedly gave Sharif’s children, some of whom appear in Panama Papers, a “last chance” to submit their own statements to the court by Monday.
The Supreme Court also appointed a one-person commission to investigate the Panama Papers case and decided to set its own terms of reference for the probe, after political wrangling stalled the process in the country’s parliament. According to news reports, the commission will be led by a sitting Supreme Court judge and will have the full powers of the court at its disposal to investigate the scandal that has dogged the Sharif family since April.
Sharif, who was reportedly “upbeat” before the hearing, told a meeting of his cabinet that he was glad the issue was now to be decided by the courts.
Days before the hearing, Imran Khan, a former cricketer turned opposition party leader, called off a planned protest and organized instead a “thanksgiving” rally on Wednesday to celebrate the court’s decision to take over the Panama Papers commission. Thousands of Khan’s supporters reveled in the streets of Islamabad.
Pakistani commentators and media gave differing accounts of the week’s events, with some declaring the cancellation of the protest a victory for Sharif’s government after days of clashes, arrests and roadblocks in the country’s capital.
Pakistan’s government and opposition parties have been locked in dispute about the response to the Panama Papers since April. The two sides had failed to agree on the terms of reference for a judicial commission proposed by the government two days after the Panama Papers were released.
Elsewhere, the United Kingdom’s tax office disclosed recently that it had identified 40 wealthy Britons from the Panama Papers data. The tax office’s fraud investigation service and high net worth unit will assess the individuals and consider civil and criminal investigations if necessary, according to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs.
In Germany, the Finance Minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, announced new legislation – reportedly dubbed the “Panama law” within government—that requires Germans to disclose their business dealings with offshore companies.
In Armenia, the Special Investigative Service confirmed the ongoing investigation of Mihran Poghosyan, the former Chief Compulsory Enforcement Officer, who resigned following revelations of an offshore company.
In a striking departure from the 2012 election, super PACs and other non-candidate organizations have spent more on U.S. Senate races in July, August and September than on the presidential election, a new analysis shows.
The spending pattern may be the best evidence yet that the big money that would normally go to supporting the GOP frontrunner has instead migrated down ballot, especially to U.S. Senate races where there is a strong chance Democrats may take control.
Donald Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, at least initially showed disdain for super PACs, but has since changed his position and has actively courted them.
And yet, no group dedicated primarily to supporting Trump’s presidential candidacy ranks among the top 15 biggest spenders among super PACs and similar political groups, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Meanwhile super PACs supporting Senate and even House candidates are flush with cash as the Nov. 8 election looms.
Smart money bet?
Travis Ridout, a co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project, which tracks advertising in federal elections, said donors may just be attempting to spend their money wisely.
“When one [presidential] candidate is ahead by 6 percentage points, it just doesn’t make all that much sense to try to invest hundreds of millions of dollars,” he said. “Whereas you’ve got a Senate race in, take Missouri, which looks to be within 2 percentage points. There’s a race where advertising could have an impact and it’s going to cost you a lot less to have an impact.”
The Wesleyan Media Project reported that, as of late August, involvement in Senate races by “outside” groups — they include political action committees, super PACs, labor unions, trade associations and social welfare nonprofits, including “dark money groups” that aren’t required to disclose their donors — had reached an all-time high, accounting for nearly 50 percent of TV ads to that point.
As a whole, as of mid-October, the number of presidential ads run by candidates, political parties and outside groups such as super PACs was less than half of what it was in 2012.
The 2016 presidential election stands in significant contrast with the 2012 election, the first election after the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which unleashed gushers of outside money into federal elections.
In 2012, Restore Our Future, the main super PAC dedicated to supporting Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, ranked second on the list of highest-spending super PAC and nonprofit groups.
Only the combined spending of the Karl Rove-backed super PAC American Crossroads and its related nonprofit, Crossroads GPS, eclipsed Restore Our Future. The two Crossroads groups together spent about $114 million to boost Romney and bash President Barack Obama.
No help for Trump
Flash forward to Election 2016. Restore Our Future has all but shuttered its operations and hasn’t spent a dime helping Trump. The two Crossroads groups are veritable nonentities this presidential campaign, spending less than $140,000 on messages attacking Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Matters are much different down the ballot. Surges in contributions to congressionally focused conservative super PACs have tracked some of Trump’s dips in the polls, suggesting his performance at the top of the ticket has spurred the flow of resources into congressional races.
Take the conservative Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC that has largely superseded its sister Crossroads organizations. It raised $2.6 million in July. It then raised $28.2 million — more than 10 times as much — in August.
Coincidence? Unlikely. August was a rough month for Trump that included, among other things, a war of words with the Muslim parents of Capt. Humayun Khan, a fallen American war hero.
Senate Leadership Fund leader Steven Law announced an additional $25 million in spending on October 25, fueled by late donations and aimed at seven competitive Senate races. Senate Leadership Fund has pulled in seven-figure checks from major Republican donors who aren’t spending any money to support Trump, including New York investor Paul Singer, Arkansas investment banker Warren Stephens and Blackstone Group CEO and Chairman Stephen Schwarzman.
The boost came after panicking Republicans saw Democrats were shifting resources from the presidential election to the fight for control of Congress. Democrats were emboldened by Trump’s sinking poll numbers and the reaction to a newly released “Access Hollywood” tape from years ago that caught Trump lewdly describing how he might sexually assault women. (Trump has downplayed his comments, calling them “locker room talk.”)
Republican donors were also motivated by stories that suggested Republicans were on the verge of being outspent in key Senate races, as they fought to maintain control of Congress’ upper chamber in a year where the battleground map was already viewed as friendlier to Democrats.
Republicans have made their move “especially in the last two weeks,” said Ian Prior, a spokesman for the network of groups that includes the Senate Leadership Fund, the New Hampshire-oriented super PAC Granite State Solutions and the nonprofit group One Nation.
Senate Leadership Fund’s most recent filing showed an $11 million contribution from One Nation, which is not required to reveal its donors.
‘Dark money’ deluges Senate races
A search of records maintained by the FEC shows it appears to be the largest single ever contribution by a so-called “dark money” group to a super PAC. Super PACs may raise and spend unlimited amounts of money and must disclose their donors. But they’re permitted to accept money from nonprofit groups that don’t.
One Nation has itself spent $3.4 million on what it describes as postage, printing and production costs backing Republican Senate candidates in Indiana, Missouri, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Nevada.
In addition, according to a report released by the Center for Responsive Politics and the Wesleyan Media Project, the group spent more than $23 million running so-called issue ads in Senate races earlier this election cycle. Because the ads aired more than 60 days before the election and didn’t explicitly ask viewers to vote for or against a candidate, they did not have to be reported to the Federal Election Commission.
On Wednesday, Senate Leadership Fund announced it was beginning a new $2 million ad campaign in Wisconsin.
Meanwhile, Priorities USA Action, the flagship super PAC supporting Clinton’s presidential bid, is the top spender among all super PACs this cycle. It has poured more than $117 million into the election so far, with the overwhelming amount used to promote Clinton or attack Trump.
Such spending is almost twice what the super PAC spent in 2012, when it helped Obama win re-election.
While still mainly concentrated on the presidential race, Priorities USA Action is also running TV ads to boost congressional candidates in three races: Iowa’s first House district and the New Hampshire and Pennsylvania Senate races.
This is because many Democrats believe Clinton’s perceived lead in key battleground states afford them the luxury to divert resources toward congressional races.
“While our main goal has always been and continues to be ensuring Hillary wins in as many places as possible by as much as possible, we also want to surround her with Democrats in Washington that can help move the country forward,” said Justin Barasky, a spokesman for Priorities USA Action.
Democrats pro-Senate super PAC
Barasky said Clinton is running strongly in those areas, and the group decided to use the already reserved airtime to “make a difference in a down-ballot race.”
SenateMajority PAC, the primary outside spending group concentrated on Senate races for the Democrats, has seen its receipts steadily climb and reported a new high of $19.3 million raised from Oct. 1 to Oct. 19.
Democrats, like Republicans, have been boosted by nonprofits that keep donors secret.
Majority Forward, a nonprofit group formed in 2015 that has been described as an affiliated organization that shared office space and staff with Senate Majority PAC, has paid Senate Majority PAC nearly $700,000 for salary, rent and insurance expenses so far this election cycle.
In addition, Majority Forward has spent $9.4 million on television and radio ads to aid Democratic candidates, according to reports filed with the FEC, almost all in connection with Senate races in Pennsylvania, Nevada, Missouri and North Carolina. About two-thirds of that money has been spent since Sept. 29, the reports show.
Majority Forward has also spent millions of dollars on ads that don’t have to be reported to the FEC.
The burst of Democratic spending is causing heartburn for operatives working to keep the Senate in Republican hands.
“I worry every day, and every day it’s a different state,” said Scott Reed, the senior political strategist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber has spent $32 million boosting Republican congressional candidates, according to FEC filings.
But in October, two weeks before the election, Reed found himself watching Trump taking time to attend an event at his new hotel in Washington, D.C., while vice presidential nominee Mike Pence headed to a rally in Utah, a state Republicans haven’t lost in decades.
“You couldn’t make it up,” he sighed.
The U.S. Chamber, which doesn’t intervene in presidential elections, is now concentrating on Senate races in six states: Nevada, North Carolina, Missouri, Indiana, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire.
“The Access Hollywood tape kicked it into high gear,” Reed said of donor interest in the Chamber’s congressionally focused efforts. “Three weeks ago, we saw a big spending deficit in these six key states and I can tell you…we’re almost at par.”
Reed said he’s turned his efforts to voter turnout.
Heather Hargreaves, vice president of the national program at NextGen Climate Action Committee, the liberal super PAC funded by billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer focused on climate change, said her group has focused its effort on field work this cycle.
NextGen, which reported receiving $66 million from Steyer so far this election cycle, has spent a total of about $52 million, Hargreaves said. About $31.5 has been spent on Senate races, and the rest on the presidential contest.
The group has thrown its support behind candidates it considers “climate champions,” she said, including Clinton and an array of Senate candidates. It has worked to educate voters on candidates’ positions on issues, primarily climate change, she said, and is employing digital methods such as text messaging to reach millennial voters.
“What’s important right now is getting millennials to the polls,” she said.
Clarification (12:23 p.m. Nov. 4, 2016): This story has been updated to reflect that NextGen Climate Action Committee's expenditures are publically reported.
Recent ads from the animal welfare group — which are airing in the battleground state of Virginia — begin with a picture of Trump’s sons, Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr., holding up a dead leopard they shot during a hunting trip.
“A picture is worth a thousand words,” the narrator says. “So, what does this one say about a Donald Trump presidency?”
The hunting habits of Trump’s sons are only part of the problem, according to the group. What’s more alarming, the ad says, is that the younger Trumps are gunning for seats in the presidential cabinet.
Photos of a confined hog, a shabby dog and a distressed horse appear in the same shots in the TV ad as Summit Agricultural Group CEO Bruce Rastetter, Lucas Oil CEO Forrest Lucas and Oklahoma state Sen. Eddie Fields — men Trump appointed in August to his agricultural advisory committee.
And as the ad closes, the admonishment that “a Trump presidency would be a threat to animals everywhere” is displayed next to a grid image of Trump’s face, which is composed of animal photos.
The ads’ sponsor
The Humane Society Legislative Fund formed in 2004 as the lobbying arm of the Humane Society of the United States, a public charity to which donations are tax-deductible.
Donations to the Humane Society Legislative Fund, however, are not tax-deductible, as it’s organized as a “social welfare” nonprofit under section 501(c)(4) of the U.S. tax code.
Electoral politics cannot be the primary focus of charities or social welfare nonprofits, but thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision in 2010, social welfare groups are allowed to run political ads that call for the election or defeat of federal candidates.
For its part, the Humane Society Legislative Fund casts itself as nonpartisan, endorsing candidates based on their stands on animal protection issues.
This year, they’re rooting for the donkey to win the White House.
“Trump represents the greatest threat ever to federal policy-making and implementation of animal protection laws, and we are taking the unusual step of wading actively into a presidential campaign,” Michael Markarian, the Humane Society Legislative Fund’s chief operating officer, wrote in an October blog post.
The group previously endorsed Democrat Barack Obama’s presidential bid in 2008 but did not spend money on ads in prior presidential elections.
Trump himself has said little about animal welfare issues during the campaign, and he has not released a formal policy positions on such matters. But Trump this month accepted a $5,000 contribution from a political committee sponsored by the Safari Club International — the group supports big game hunting — and has periodically panned animal rights activists.
“Ringling Brothers is phasing out their elephants. I, for one, will never go again. They probably used the animal rights stuff to reduce costs,” Trump wrote last year in a tweet after the circus decided to retire its performing pachyderms.
Sara Amundson, the executive director of the Humane Society Legislative Fund, said a big difference between the 2008 election and the 2016 election is money.
“We did not have the expansion of resources to engage [in 2008],” she told the Center for Public Integrity. “In this election cycle, we were very excited to be in the race.”
Who’s bankrolling this foray into Election 2016? It’s not exactly clear.
Amundson insisted her group was “transparent,” but she declined to identify any of its funders.
She simply said the majority of the Humane Society Legislative Fund’s resources come from individual donors.
The Doris Day Animal League, another social welfare nonprofit that lobbies for animal protection, gave it $1.3 million that year — representing more than 30 percent of the money the Humane Society Legislative Fund received in contributions in 2014.
Tax documents also show America Votes— a group that works to help elect Democrats and bills itself as the “coordination hub of the progressive community” — donated $100,000 to the Humane Society Legislative Fund during its own 2012-2013 fiscal year.
Campaign finance records show the Humane Society Legislative Fund has spent more than $1 million on ads targeting federal races this election, including $170,000 on TV ads opposing Trump.
The animal welfare group launched its attack on Trump in early October, purchasing $10,000 worth of cable ads in Washington, D.C., that appeared on Fox, Fox News and MSNBC, said to Tim Kay, the director of political strategy at advertising firm NCC Media.
Its ads are currently airing in the Richmond, Virginia, media market, according to data provided to the Center for Public Integrity by ad tracking firm Kantar Media/CMAG. That’s a state Clinton hopes to carry on Election Day, and recent polls show her with about a 3 percentage point lead over Trump.
John Cleveland, a spokesman for the Humane Society Legislative Fund, said Virginia was chosen because they thought it’d be a competitive state.
“In recent elections, polling has not been reflective of final margins, and we hoped that launching there would have the effect of shoring up support among pro-animal voters, who span both parties,” he told the Center for Public Integrity.
He added that the group had also purchased online advertising targeting voters in the battleground states of Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
The Humane Society Legislative Fund has also spent about $400,000 on ads to help elect Wisconsin Democrat Russ Feingold to the U.S. Senate again after losing his seat to Republican Ron Johnson in 2010.
Amundson told the Center for Public Integrity that any additional TV ads in 2016 would depend on an influx of money from donors.
In the meantime, it has also opted to partner with the political action committee of liberal group MoveOn.org to further promote Clinton in an online advertisement entitled “I’m With Purr.”
Why it matters
Outrage over the treatment of animals has been at the forefront of the public’s attention after high-profile cases involving animal deaths like Harambe the gorilla this year and Cecil the lion last year.
As president, Trump’s positions on animal welfare — and his sons’ trophy hunting — might not go over well with the nearly 80 million U.S. households that own pets.
On the campaign trail, Clinton herself once noted that “Trump and his kids have killed a lot of animals.”
The Humane Society Legislative Fund’s ads show that lobbying groups are making a last-ditch effort to use this hot-button issue to target swing states and undecided voters.
Without question, the 2016 presidential election will go down as one of the strangest in history.
From the emergence of socialist U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont as a viable opponent to Hillary Clinton to the stunning takeover of the Republican Party by Donald Trump, this cycle everything we thought we knew about money in politics, and politics in general, has been turned on its head.
As a special feature, we’ve selected what we consider to be some of our best and most useful coverage of not only the presidential race, but also key races in the states, for some pre-election reading.
The Race for President
In the States
Political advertising may get more attention but with Election Day hours away, a liberal super PAC is betting direct outreach to voters is actually more effective.
For Our Future has “a goal of 8,093,518 knocks by Election Day,” according to its most recent publicly posted strategy memo.
The group was formed last June and supports Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Democratic candidates for Congress, including U.S. Senate candidates Katie McGinty in Pennsylvania, Catherine Cortez Masto in Nevada, Russ Feingold in Wisconsin and Deborah Ross in North Carolina.
It has since spent millions of dollars on digital outreach and a field organizing program.
Super PACs must operate independently from campaigns, but For Our Future has been publicly posting updates on its plans and work, which allows campaigns to take those efforts into account when planning their own outreach.
In addition to knocking on doors, the super PAC is sending direct mail and using phone calls and texts to reach potential voters. It’s targets, as identified in strategy memos, are “sporadic voters” — those who lean toward supporting Clinton and the Democratic slate, but are not necessarily motivated to get out and vote.
Who’s behind it?
For Our Future is a collaboration between NextGen Climate Action, which is backed by billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer, and an assortment of unions: the AFL-CIO; the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association.
Unions are traditionally among the organizing powerhouses of the Democratic party.
The super PAC is run by a cadre of experience Democratic operatives, including Paul Tewes, who directed the Obama campaign’s 2008 Iowa caucus efforts.
The super PAC took in $34.3 million through Oct. 19, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.
Of that amount, unions collectively contributed more than $21 million, with the largest contributions coming from AFSCME ($5.2 million), the AFL-CIO ($4.75 million) and AFT (about $4.1 million).
NextGen Climate Action contributed $6.5 million. Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz and his wife, Cari Tuna, each contributed $2.5 million.
The super PAC reported spending $32.4 million through Oct. 19, according to disclosure reports filed with the FEC and analyzed by the Center for Public Integrity, including more than $7 million on the presidential election.
Other expenses include canvassing, digital advertisement production, robo-calls, direct mail and print ads in Asian publications.
Why it matters
For Our Future allows unions and other groups to more easily coordinate their organizing efforts, carving up territory and pooling resources.
In addition, For Our Future is trying to get out the Democratic vote by providing “sporadic” voters with information about issues, as well as where and when to vote.
Pay attention to the fine print and you’ll see that some of the online messages touting Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton are paid for by “Hillary for America,” while others are sponsored by the “Hillary Victory Fund.”
How powerful is this two-word change? It means the difference between ads funded by donors who may legally give Clinton up to $2,700 — or by those who may give hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Joint fundraising committees, often called “victory funds,” are not new in federal politics. Candidates routinely raise money through these collaborative operations that, by design, split the funds they collect among a number of beneficiaries, such as national and state party committees, as well as the candidate’s own campaign.
But instead of just transferring its cash to the signatories of the joint fundraising agreement, the Clinton campaign is also using a significant amount of the money the Hillary Victory Fund collects to finance pro-Clinton advertising.
This is innovative, to say the least. But it’s also worrisome to campaign finance reformers who see it as a way to shift costs onto groups funded by big donors, thereby evading campaign contribution limits.
And in that respect, critics see Clinton’s big-money operation as a way for well-heeled donors to better access and influence the woman who may be the next president of the United States.
Larry Noble, general counsel at the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center, which advocates for stricter campaign finance regulations, told the Center for Public Integrity that Clinton’s team had taken the interpretation of a joint fundraising committee “to another level.”
Videos produced by the Hillary Victory Fund, and appearing online on websites like YouTube and Twitter, “are basically campaign ads,” Noble said. “This is a problem.”
Democratic operatives, however, argue that Clinton and her party allies should use all available financial weapons to fight Republicans.
Josh Schwerin, a spokesman for the Clinton campaign, told the Center for Public Integrity that online videos help “give people a reason to donate” to the Hillary Victory Fund, which he called “critical to funding the coordinated campaigns that are helping elect Democrats up and down the ballot.”
To the average viewer, the online videos sponsored by the Hillary Victory Fund are almost indistinguishable from those sponsored by Hillary for America, the official name of Clinton’s presidential campaign committee, which is legally allowed to accept no more than $2,700 per donor.
The ads have featured testimonials from Americans across the country as well as updates from campaign staffers and excerpts of remarks made by Clinton and her Republican rival, Donald Trump.
One such video features New York resident Mae Wiggins, an African-American woman. She recalls how, in 1963, she was “denied an apartment in the Trump buildings based on the color of my skin." The Department of Justice eventually sued the Trump organization, which settled the lawsuit without admitting guilt.
The video, which runs more than three minutes, also feature interviews with Clinton’s running mate, Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, and civil rights activist Eleanor Holmes Norton, now the District of Columbia’s delegate in the U.S. House of Representatives.
In the video, Wiggins, who struggles to hold back tears, goes on to say that Trump is “not worthy of becoming president of this country.”
Another features Monique Corzilius Luiz, who, as a 3-year-old in 1964, starred in President Lyndon Johnson’s infamous “Daisy” political ad. She expresses dismay at what she considers Trump’s cavalier attitude toward nuclear proliferation, and she encourages viewers to vote for Clinton.
Yet another video features Clinton campaign press secretary Brian Fallon pushing back against the recent news that the FBI had discovered new e-mails that appear “to be pertinent” to its earlier investigation into Clinton’s handling of classified emails on a private server during her tenure as secretary of state.
One thing all of the Hillary Victory Fund videos have in common? The final seconds of the ads show a fundraising message, asking viewers to text the campaign to make a donation to the Hillary Victory Fund.
This is important, campaign finance experts say, because joint fundraising committees are allowed to use the money they collect to pay for their own fundraising costs.
But these online videos are not your typical solicitations.
Paul S. Ryan, vice president of policy and litigation at Common Cause, told the Center for Public Integrity that if you are “not a lawyer or a journalist,” then “you would just perceive it to be a candidate campaign ad.”
Why is that potentially problematic?
“Under a strict reading of the law, candidate campaign ads should, and must, be paid for with money raised under the low candidate contribution limit,” said Ryan. “A joint fundraising committee is a way for the Clinton campaign to offload campaign costs onto others.”
Campaign finance records show that the Hillary Victory Fund raised more than $473 million from its inception on Sept. 10, 2015, through Oct. 19, 2016, the date covered by its most recent report.
By contrast, President Barack Obama’s 2012 victory fund raised about $456 million, and his joint fundraising operation in 2008 pulled in about $198 million.
One reason Clinton has been able to collect so much cash: Donors are able to give larger sums than they were in either 2012 or 2008.
In 2014, in a case known as McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the aggregate campaign contribution limit that had prohibited individuals from giving more than about $123,000 combined to all federal candidates, parties and political action committees during a two-year election cycle.
The ruling freed individuals to donate the legal maximum to as many candidates, parties or PACs as they desired.
Therefore, individual donors may contribute hundreds of thousands of dollars directly to the Hillary Victory Fund, which raises money for Clinton’s presidential campaign as well as the Democratic National Committee and state parties in 38 states. A handful have even given the Hillary Victory Fund more than $750,000, according to campaign finance records.
When the McCutcheon decision came down, Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook reacted, in part, by saying, “Gotta have the state parties in the joint — so much money on the table,” according to hacked e-mail records that have been released by WikiLeaks.
Their ranks include Hollywood icons, Silicon Valley visionaries and a plethora of other mega-rich Americans.
Some of these deep-pocketed contributors — including Sussman, the Pritzkers and the Sabans — are also major donors to Priorities USA Action, the main super PAC established to help elect Clinton.
For his part, Trump operates a joint fundraising committee with the Republican National Committee that also benefits 21 state Republican parties.
About $1 of every $4 the Hillary Victory Fund has raised — about $120 million — has been spent on its own “operating expenditures.”
That includes more than $54 million for what’s described in campaign finance reports as “online advertising.”
At the same time, the Hillary Victory Fund has transferred the majority of the money it’s raised to its designated beneficiaries — more than $266 million, or about 56 percent of its receipts through Oct. 19.
That includes about $139 million transferred to the Clinton campaign and about $55 million transferred directly to the DNC.
Tens of millions of dollars have also been transferred to state Democratic parties, though a sizeable portion of those funds were transferred back to the DNC by the state parties — an arrangement campaign finance watchdogs have said falls into a “gray area” of the law.
Why it matters
If Clinton wins, the people who made the largest contributions to the Hillary Victory Fund are likely to enjoy special access and other perks from a President Hillary Clinton.
And regardless of whether she wins or loses on Election Day, Clinton’s joint fundraising operation will have a legacy of redefining the roles of such groups in presidential elections.
Matthew Sanderson, a Republican lawyer at the Washington, D.C., firm Caplin & Drysdale, predicted that there will be “more and more advertisements” structured in a fashion similar to how the Hillary Victory Fund designed its barrage of online videos this year.
He said candidates have a “a natural inclination” to find ways to spend funds directly out of a joint fundraising operation, especially as they have “ballooned in size.”
Ryan, of Common Cause, agreed.
“My prediction is that these joint fundraising committees will become bigger and more sophisticated,” he said.
“Super joint fundraising committees raising six-figure checks,” Ryan added, “are now the new normal in presidential campaigning.”
He continued: “I think we’re seeing just the beginning of the tip of the iceberg.”
Chris Zubak-Skees contributed to this report.
A version of this story was co-published with NBC News.
A Federal Election Commission manager allegedly duped the agency’s inspector general into releasing hundreds of confidential employee comments that have lambasted poor leadership there as part of a morale study.
Four current FEC staffers and one former employee with knowledge of the situation tell the Center for Public Integrity that the senior manager in question is Patricia Orrock, the FEC’s chief compliance officer and deputy staff director. The FEC staffers asked to remain anonymous for fear of losing their jobs.
FEC Inspector General Lynne McFarland told agency staffers in an Oct. 6 email that a “senior management leader” — Orrock, apparently — asked her office for the employees comments on behalf of a joint labor-management working group that’s attempting to boost morale among agency staffers, who consistently rank among the federal government’s most bedraggled.
One problem: The union representing FEC employees says it is "absolutely false" that its side of the labor-management group had ever been involved in the request. McFarland likewise said the senior manager "misled" her "as to the reason for the request" for confidential employee comments.
Morale sinks even deeper
The revelation has worsened already dismal relations between workers and management at the agency that regulates and enforces the nation’s election laws.
“I thought our office was assisting in building trust and cohesiveness between management and staff in order to move forward in a positive direction,” wrote McFarland, who did not return requests for comment. “Instead, I am sorry to say the action taken by Management solidifies the issues presented in the Morale Study, and I too am saddened and disappointed.”
McFarland added: “My office will take these acts very seriously and will be committed to investigating your concerns to the fullest.”
The employee comments obtained by Orrock and shared with top FEC managers don’t identify employees by name or title. That’s because McFarland’s office had redacted that and other potentially identifying information before giving it to Orrock, according to McFarland’s email to FEC staffers.
But the FEC is one of the federal government’s smaller agencies — it employs about 350 people — and top managers could conceivably identify who wrote certain comments based on which manager or agency functions an employee is criticizing. An employee’s writing style or figures of speech could also be giveaways.
This year, 185 FEC employees completed a survey on agency morale that the Office of Inspector General administered. The Office of Inspector General also personally interviewed 78 agency staffers and conducted four focus group sessions.
When the Office of Inspector General released its findings in July, it concluded that habitually bickering commissioners, ineffective managers and poor internal communication primarily contribute to many staffers bleak view of the agency and their jobs.
The FEC’s Office of Inspector General, as McFarland noted in her email, is required by law to “protect the identity of anyone who wishes to communicate with our office and remain anonymous.”
But in an Oct. 20 email addressed to FEC staff, Palmer acknowledged that a “senior manager” had obtained the confidential employee comments and shared them with three other top FEC officials, including Palmer himself. The agency's human resources director and deputy staff director for management are the other officials who received the comments, McFarland acknowledged.
“The intent of the senior manager was to better understand morale concerns in order to address them with the Labor Management Forum, and not to violate any employee confidences,” Palmer wrote. “On behalf of myself and the other managers involved, I apologize for any distress this has created.”
Palmer added that he takes “very seriously any allegations of retaliation against any employee at the agency” and that reports of FEC managers retaliating against FEC staffers “will be promptly addressed through appropriate means.”
FEC Chairman Matthew Petersen declined to comment on whether Orrock was involved in obtaining employees’ confidential comments and whether agency officials are in any way investigating her.
Petersen did, however, express concern about the improper access of employee comments, saying, “we’re definitely taking the issue seriously.” He also praised agency staff.
Employees are 'valued'
“The employees here are valued, and their efforts are valued — I know I value them,” said Petersen, one of three Republican appointees on the six-member, bipartisan commission. “But we’re not able to fulfill our mission to the greatest extent of our ability if people don’t like working here.”
FEC Vice Chairman Steven Walther, a Democratic appointee who identifies as an independent, declined to comment, as did Democratic commissioners Ellen Weintraub and Ann Ravel. Republican Commissioners Caroline Hunter and Lee Goodman did not return messages requesting comment.
National Treasury Employees Union President Anthony Reardon, in a letter to Petersen, called the situation “inexcusable” and a “serious breach of confidentiality” that won’t be tolerated.
“The FEC’s assurances of confidentiality seem like empty promises,” wrote Reardon, whose union represents FEC rank-and-file staffers. “A large part of increasing morale at FEC is trying to build trust between management and employees, and this violation of trust will make that job incredibly difficult.”
The FEC’s Office of Inspector General conducted its morale study in response to the agency’s horrid marks in an annual employee satisfaction report commissioned by the federal government.
In addition to low employee morale, the FEC been dogged by a five of six agency commissioners continuing to serve at the agency without a mandate, their terms having expired months, even years ago.
FEC commissioners serve six-year terms and are nominated by the president and confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
Several top agency jobs have also gone unfilled for years at a time, most notably the position of general counsel, who oversees the FEC’s legal team and is arguably the most powerful official at the agency after the commissioners themselves.
Since General Counsel Tony Hermann resigned in July 2013, commissioners have failed to hire a permanent replacement.
Deputy General Counsel Lisa Stevenson now serves as acting general counsel.