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    President Barack Obama has the dictator vote, at least according to a super PAC run by evangelical leader Gary Bauer.

    Hours before Obama and GOP nominee Mitt Romney began a debate on foreign policy, Bauer’s super PAC released an ad with quotes from Cuba’s Fidel Castro, Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Russia’s Vladimir Putin, expressing their admiration for the president.

    “Obama secured the dictator vote,” the narrator says. “Does he have yours?”

    Bauer’s Campaign for American Values PAC has spent more than a half-million dollars on ads supporting Romney and opposing Obama.

    An August ad said Obama is “forcing gay marriage on the country.” Another accused the president of “bowing to Islam.” And a third asked, “Why was God booed by Obama’s delegates” at the Democratic National Convention?

    Bauer, a former adviser to the Reagan administration, is also president of American Values, a nonprofit, and president of Campaign for Working Families, a political action committee. All oppose abortion and gay marriage.

    The Campaign for American Values PAC has received $892,000 in contributions this election cycle. A full $600,000 has come from an obscure corporation called Corporate Land Management.

    Mother Jones identified Tim Horner, the president of the jewelry company Premier Designs Inc., as the man behind it. Premier Designs’ mission includes advocating for Christian causes, like creating opportunity for “mothers to be able to stay home more with their children,” according to its website.

    Bauer is also the former president of the conservative Christian group, Family Research Council, and the former vice president of Focus on the Family, which runs a politically active nonprofit called CitizenLink that has spent $1.8 million on socially conservative candidates for U.S. Senate.

    Bauer considers himself “unapologetically pro-family [and] pro-life” and a “staunch supporter of President Bush’s war on terrorism.” He ran for president in 2000 before dropping out and endorsing Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

    He is also on the board of the hawkish Emergency Committee for Israel, founded by neoconservative Bill Kristol, founder and editor of the Weekly Standard. The committee has spent almost $800,000 opposing Obama, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

    In other outside spending news:

    • SEIU PEA-Federal, the super PAC of the Service Employees International Union, reported spending $3.9 million on ads in the presidential, U.S. House and U.S. Senate races.
    • Conservative nonprofit Crossroads GPS reported spending $389,000 on ads opposing Cheri Bustos, the Democratic candidate for U.S. House in Illinois’ 17th District. The alderwoman faces Republican Rep. Bobby Schilling in one of the most expensive House races for outside spenders in the country.
    • YG Network, a conservative nonprofit, reported spending $343,000 on “Pennsylvania Values,” an ad opposing Rep. Mark Critz, D-Pa. Critz faces Republican Keith Rothfus, an attorney.
    • Club for Growth Action, a conservative super PAC, also weighed in on the Critz-Rothfus matchup with “Views.”
    • The NFIB, the Voice of Free Enterprise Inc., a nonprofit affiliated with the National Federation of Independent Businesses, reported spending $1 million supporting Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel in his bid for U.S. Senate.
    • The National Republican Senatorial Committee reported spending $4.2 million opposing Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate in Nevada, North Dakota, Montana, Indiana, Virginia, Wisconsin and Arizona.
    • The Congressional Leadership Fund, a conservative super PAC affiliated with the American Action Network, released “Out of Touch,” opposing Rep. Leonard Boswell, D-Iowa, and “Cherry Hill Tax,” opposing Democrat Shelley Adler, who is running for U.S. House in New Jersey’s 3rd District. Adler is an attorney and the wife of the late Rep. John Adler, D-N.J.
    • Day One,” from House Majority PAC, a super PAC supporting House Democrats, opposes businessman Chris Collins, the Republican running for U.S. House in New York’s 27th District against Democratic Rep. Kathy Hochul.
    • American Future Fund, a conservative nonprofit, released “Responsibility,” criticizing Obama for the way his administration handled security at the U.S. embassy in Libya.
    • Destroy” from the nonprofit Center Forward, formerly the Blue Dog Democrats, opposes attorney Andy Barr, the Republican candidate for U.S. House in Kentucky’s 6th District.

    Who paid for that political ad? You might be surprised by the answer. Email us and we will try to find out. Describe the advertisement — was it mean or nice? Will it affect your vote? When and where did it run and what were the names of the candidates? And PLEASE tell us what the disclaimer at the end says, and we will check it out.


    Former GOP presidential hopeful and evangelical leader Gary Bauer runs the super PAC that produced "The Dictator Vote," an anti-Obama ad. Rachael Marcus http://www.publicintegrity.org/authors/rachael-marcus http://www.publicintegrity.org/2012/10/23/11595/daily-disclosure-bauer-backed-super-pac-assails-president

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    Mitt Romney hasn't talked much about his charitable work in public, and with outside spending focused on attack ads, even Republicans have been concerned that the GOP presidential nominee appears too aloof.

    Two new ads from outside spenders are hoping to change that. “Genuinely Cares” from the pro-Romney super PAC Restore Our Future and “Mitt and David” from the conservative nonprofit Crossroads GPS tell the stories of two individuals who received support from Romney.

    They are a sharp departure from both groups’ standard attack ads. Restore Our Future has spent a little more than $99 million thus far this election, with 86 percent going toward negative advertising and other campaign materials.

    “Genuinely Cares” features Army National Guard Sgt. Peter Damon, an Iraq War veteran, telling about how Gov. Romney took an interest in him when they met while Damon was recovering from an accident in the Army’s Walter Reed Medical Center that left him a double amputee.

    Damon discusses Romney’s work with a charity called Homes for Troops that builds houses for seriously wounded veterans. Damon says he received one of the homes.

    "The Mitt Romney I know cares deeply about people who are struggling," Damon tells the camera. "Mitt Romney helped make a huge difference in my life."

    The ad, along with the anti-Obama “Better” are part of a $17.7 million ad blitz in 10 swing states.

    Mitt and David” recalls a story first told at the Republican National Convention about Romney’s relationship with the Oparowski family, who knew him from church. Their 14-year-old son David was terminally ill with Hodgkin’s disease, and Romney visited him regularly.

    Romney helped the boy write his will and establish his last wishes, such as being buried in his Boy Scout uniform.

    “To spend time with a 14-year-old boy in his last days — you cannot help but know that he is caring,” Pat Oparowski says. “He cares about people and their needs. I think he’s going to be able to get us back on track.”

    Restore Our Future had $16.6 million in the bank at the end of September. Crossroads GPS has reported spending $21 million but millions more has gone toward unreported “issue advertising.”

    In other outside spending news:

    In addition to “Mitt and David,” Crossroads GPS released a spate of new ads, totaling $4.9 million:

    • Biggest Votes” opposes Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., who is running for U.S. Senate;
    • Tilting” opposes former Maine Gov. Angus King, an independent running for U.S. Senate;
    • Favorite” opposes Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., who is running for U.S. Senate;
    • Simple” opposes former North Dakota Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp and supports Rep. Rick Berg, R-N.D., who are competing for a U.S. Senate seat;
    • Dragging” opposes Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio;
    • Ideas” opposes former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in the state;
    • Taxing Tammy” opposes Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., who is running for U.S. Senate.

    House Majority PAC, a super PAC backing Democratic U.S. House candidates, released seven ads opposing Republican candidates in U.S. House races:

    • Opportunity” opposes Georgia state Rep. Lee Anderson in Georgia’s 12th District;
    • Forgotten” opposes Rep. Mary Bono Mack in California’s 36th District;
    • Board” opposes attorney Keith Rothfus in Pennsylvania’s 12th District;
    • Cloud” opposes Rep. Jim Renacci in Ohio’s 16th District;
    • How Much?” opposes Rep. Brian Bilbray in California’s 52nd District;
    • Color” opposes Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle in New York’s 24th District;
    • Halloween” opposes Rep. Quico Canseco in Texas’ 23rd District.

    Majority PAC, super PAC supporting Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate, released ads in Pennsylvania, Nevada, Indiana and Montana:

    • Education” supports Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., and opposes businessman Tom Smith, his Republican challenger;
    • Nine Times” opposes Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev.;
    • Inflict” opposes Indiana Treasurer Richard Mourdock;
    • Issues” opposes Rep. Rick Berg, R-N.D.

    American Crossroads, a conservative super PAC, released thee ads opposing Democrats:

    SEIU COPE, the political action committee of the Service Employees International Union released:

    • Chance” opposing Chris Collins, the Republican candidate for U.S. House in New York’s 27th District;
    • Luchando por Nuestro Futuro” and “Luchando Por Nuestra Comunidad” support Obama;
    • Putting Politics before Our Families,” another Spanish-language ad, opposes Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev.;
    • Education” supports Kaine  and opposes George Allen, the Republican, in Virginia’s race for U.S. Senate.
    • AFSCME PEOPLE, the political action committee of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees released “Chances” opposing Chris Collins, the Republican candidate for U.S. House in New York’s 27th District, “Nice” opposing Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., and “Education” supporting former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine’s bid for U.S. Senate. AFSCME also paid for the radio ad “Contrast,” which opposes Rep. Chip Cravaack, R-Minn.
    • Conservative nonprofit Let Freedom Ring USA released eight ads opposing Obama: “1967 Borders,” “Contiguous Palestine,” “Fining Charities,” “Gas Prices,” “Medicaid,”  “Missing Workers,” “Reform Promises” and “Washington Culture.”
    • Conservative nonprofit American Future Fund opposes Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate and Obama in “Hoosier.” It reported spending $508,000 on a handful of ads.
    • Sierra Club Independent Action opposes Rep. Quico Canseco, R-Texas, and supports his Democratic challenger Pete Gallego in “La Mascara.”
    • Conservative nonprofit American Commitment released “Moment” supporting Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.
    • The conservative nonprofit Americans for Job Security released “Healthcare Machine” opposing Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., who is running for U.S. Senate.
    • Pro-Obama super PAC Priorities USA Action released “Same Promises” opposing Romney.
    • The conservative nonprofit American Action Network released “Again” opposing former Rep. Rick Nolan, the Democratic candidate for U.S. House in Minnesota’s 8th District.
    • Conservative nonprofit Americans for Tax Reform reported spending $3.6 million opposing Democrats running for Congress.
    • The Hardworking Americans Committee, a super PAC established at the end of September, reported its first independent expenditure — $1 million opposing Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., who is being challenged by former Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich.

    Who paid for that political ad? You might be surprised by the answer. Email us and we will try to find out. Describe the advertisement — was it mean or nice? Will it affect your vote? When and where did it run and what were the names of the candidates? And PLEASE tell us what the disclaimer at the end says, and we will check it out.

    This ad from Crossroads GPS features  Iraq War veteran Peter Damon veteran benefited from Romney's help.Rachael Marcushttp://www.publicintegrity.org/authors/rachael-marcushttp://www.publicintegrity.org/2012/10/24/11607/daily-disclosure-mitt-romney-genuinely-cares

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    Joe Ricketts, a billionaire who pioneered online stock trading by founding TD Ameritrade Inc., was far and away the biggest donor to super PACs last month, having given $11.4 million to the Ending Spending Action Fund.

    The donations rocket Ricketts to No. 4 on the list of top donors to super PACs, according to data provided by the Center for Responsive Politics and analyzed by Center for Public Integrity.

    The amount is equal to about 90 percent of his total giving to the controversial political organizations.

    Also entering the top 10 this month is the United Auto Workers union, which, in September, contributed $5.4 million to its super PAC, the new UAW Education Fund. The donations rank it at No. 9.

    The top 10 super PAC “super donors” have collectively given about $135 million to these unlimited spending groups so far this election cycle, about 25 percent of the $546 million that all super PACs have raised, according to CRP.

    Ricketts and his super PAC pledged to spend $12 million this election with $10 million opposing Obama and $2 million helping Republicans in Congress.

    The UAW backs Democrats, especially President Barack Obama, who authorized an $81 billion bailout of Chrysler and GM in 2008. Obama will no doubt enjoy UAW support in Ohio, which once again has emerged as the pivotal swing state in the presidential election.

    The UAW super PAC gave $1 million to Priorities USA Action, a super PAC supporting the president.

    Super PACs were formed in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision and a lower court ruling that allowed unlimited corporate and union spending on elections. Super PACs collect the funds from donors and spend them on advertising and other materials. The groups are banned from coordinating their spending with candidates’ campaigns.

    Among the other big donors last month and over the third quarter were Texas homebuilder Bob Perry, who continues to write seven-figure checks. Perry gave $3.5 million to super PACs in September, including $2 million to pro-Mitt Romney Restore Our Future. Perry ranks No. 3 at $20.5 million.

    Second is fellow Texan Harold Simmons, a billionaire businessman who gave $2.5 million to conservative super PAC American Crossroads in September. Simmons, his wife Annette and Contran Corp., which he controls, have given $21.9 million thus far this election cycle.

    Casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson and his family are still on top, having given $38.5 million. In early October he gave $1.5 million to a super PAC backing Republican George Allen's Senate bid in Virginia and $190,000 to the Hispanic Leadership Fund, which has fought for donor anonymity. These contributions move his total beyond the $40 million mark at the close of the next filing period.

    Three other unions and two wealthy liberals round out the Center’s list of the top 10 super donors.

    The National Education Association (No. 5, $8.8 million), Service Employees International Union (No. 8, $6 million) and AFL-CIO (No. 10, $5.5 million), each increased their super PAC giving during the last month.

    Meanwhile, Chicago media mogul Fred Eychaner (No. 6 at $7.8 million) and James Simons (No. 7 at $7.5 million), the founder and former CEO of Long Island-based hedge fund Renaissance Technologies, are the only two Democratic-aligned individual donors to rank among the top 10.

    Overall, according to CRP, conservative super PACs have raised nearly $340 million — or about 62 percent of all super PAC receipts — while liberal super PACs have raised roughly $195 million.

    Nonpartisan groups, such as the super PACs of the National Association of Realtors and the Cooperative of American Physicians, account for the remaining funds.

    For a complete list of the most prolific donors, a set of super donor playing cards and more profiles please go here.

    Andrea Fuller contributed to this report.

    TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts.John Dunbarhttp://www.publicintegrity.org/authors/john-dunbarMichael Beckelhttp://www.publicintegrity.org/authors/michael-beckelhttp://www.publicintegrity.org/2012/10/24/11610/ameritrade-founder-auto-union-among-top-super-pac-donors

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    While President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, heartily disagree about the role of money in politics, campaign finance reform was never breached in any of the three presidential debates this month.

    But the issue was front and center during a debate Tuesday in Chicago sponsored by the nonprofit Free and Equal Elections Foundation that featured four dark-horse presidential candidates.

    During the debate, which was moderated by former CNN host Larry King, Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein advocated for a constitutional amendment to “clarify that money is not speech and corporations are not people.”

    Rocky Anderson, the former Democratic mayor of Salt Lake City Mayor now running for president under the banner of the Justice Party, assailed the “corrupting influence” of money and alleged that both Obama and Romney have been “bought and paid for.”

    Former Virginia Congressman Virgil Goode, the nominee of the conservative Constitution Party, called for the elimination of all political action committees, including super PACs, saying the nation should sever ties with the groups just as we “threw off” King George during the American Revolution.

    Even Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson, the former two-term GOP governor of New Mexico, suggested that politicians be required to wear NASCAR-like jackets with the logos of their sponsors.

    Stein, Anderson, Goode and Johnson were barred from participating in the three presidential debates between Obama and Romney, but their names will appear on the ballot across the country.

    The Libertarian Party is qualified for the ballot in nearly all 50 states, and both the Green Party and Constitution Party will appear on the ballot in dozens of states. The Justice Party will appear on the ballot in 16 states, including the swing states of Colorado and Florida.

    During the 90-minute debate, both Stein and Anderson promoted the idea of a WPA-style program for green jobs, while Johnson and Goode endorsed curbing the size of government.

    The four candidates also discussed — and frequently disagreed on — the legalization of marijuana, the drug war, immigration policy, the affordability of higher education, climate change, term limits, poverty and taxes.

    Third-party presidential candidates typically don’t receive a significant portion of the vote — a point countered by Johnson with one of the most memorable lines of the night.

    "Wasting your vote is voting for somebody you don't believe in," Johnson declared. "Waste your vote on me."

    Both Johnson and Stein have qualified to receive public funding for their presidential campaigns.

    Records show that Johnson has raised more than $2.1 million for his presidential quest through the end of September, including about $333,750 in public financing, while Stein has raised about $644,000, including $100,000 in public funds.

    Through the end of September, Goode raised about $193,000, including $94,000 transferred from his old congressional campaign committee, while Anderson raised about $46,000 through the end of June. A campaign finance report detailing his third-quarter fundraising has not yet been posted to the Federal Election Commission website.

    Neither Obama nor Romney is utilizing the nation’s public financing program — with its associated spending caps — making this the first election in which neither major-party candidate has participated since the program was implemented in the wake of the Watergate scandal in the 1970s. Obama also rejected the public financing program in 2008, when he raised a record $750 million.

    This year, both Obama and Romney are raising hundreds of millions of dollars in private contributions, though individuals are prohibited from donating more than $5,000 to either man’s campaign.

    For his part, Obama, who hammered those trying to “buy this election” in his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention last month, has said that the country should “seriously consider mobilizing a constitutional amendment process to overturn Citizens United,” the U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2010 that lifted restrictions on corporate and union electioneering.

    Romney, meanwhile, has called for campaign contribution limits to be lifted and opposes a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.

    The Republican Party platform additionally calls for the repeal of the campaign finance reform law authored by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Russ Feingold, D-Wis., and opposes the DISCLOSE Act, Democratic-sponsored legislation that seeks to implement new disclosure requirements for groups that run political ads.

    Michael Beckelhttp://www.publicintegrity.org/authors/michael-beckelhttp://www.publicintegrity.org/2012/10/24/11611/dark-horse-presidential-candidates-berate-role-money-politics

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    Federal officials will focus on possible Medicare overbilling by doctors and hospitals that use electronic medical records, a top government fraud investigator said  Wednesday, in announcing investigative priorities for the coming year.

    “Electronic medical records can improve quality of care and efficiency and help us uncover cases of fraud and abuse. At the same time, we must guard against the use of electronic records to cover up crime,” said Daniel Levinson, the Department of Health and Human Services inspector general, in a video presentation.

    The video posted on the agency’s website on Wednesday summarized the inspector general’s “work plan,” for 2013, a listing of Medicare and Medicaid fraud fighting efforts the agency plans to emphasize.  

    The plan states that the agency “will identify fraud and abuse vulnerabilities in electronic health records (EHR) systems as articulated in literature and by experts to determine how certified EHR systems address these vulnerabilities.” The agency did not provide further details of its review. 

    The economics of switching to electronic health records is receiving new scrutiny in the wake of the Center for Public Integrity’s “Cracking the Codes” series, which found that thousands of medical professionals have steadily billed higher rates for treating seniors on Medicare over the last decade — adding $11 billion or more to their fees. The investigation suggested that Medicare billing errors and abuses are worsening as doctors and hospitals switch to electronic health records. A similar report was subsequently published by the New York Times.

    Earlier this month, Dr. Farzad Mostashari, the Obama administration’s National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, said he would ask a panel of policy experts to examine the billing controversy. Mostashari said he wants to find out if the digital systems are triggering higher billing codes by allowing doctors to cut and paste records from prior encounters with a patient, a practice known as “cloning.”

    Many experts say that this process can raise the size of a patient’s bill, even though it reflects little in the way of added or necessary medical service.

    Dr. Stephen R. Levinson, a Connecticut physician and expert on medical coding and billing issues, called the inspector general’s focus a “warning shot across the bow” for physicians. While Medicare requires an efficient auditing effort, Levinson also criticized the “punitive nature” of the audits, which are “turning physicians off.”

    Other critics have noted that the software itself may encourage medical professionals to bill for more complex and costly services than they actually deliver — a practice known as “upcoding.”

    Republicans in Congress also are expressing concern about the government’s program to spend more than $30 billion helping doctors and hospital purchase digital record keeping systems—and to use them as a means to improve the quality of medical care.

    In an Oct. 17 letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, four Republican senators raised questions about whether electronic health records are hiking the number of medical tests doctors ordered as well as boosting billing and “thereby [increasing] the overall costs of the program” to taxpayers. 

    Daniel R. Levinson, Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, at a press conference in February 2012.Fred Schultehttp://www.publicintegrity.org/authors/fred-schultehttp://www.publicintegrity.org/2012/10/24/11615/impact-hhs-ig-pledges-focus-medicare-billing-abuse-involving-electronic-records

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    Arguing that African-American and disabled students’ rights are being systematically violated, the U.S. Department of Justice filed an unusual lawsuit Wednesday against the state of Mississippi, Lauderdale County and the city of Meridian.

    The suit alleges that the state, county and city “help to operate a school-to-prison pipeline in which the rights of children in Meridian are repeatedly and routinely violated,” said a Department of Justice press release.  “As a result, children in Meridian have been systematically incarcerated for allegedly committing minor offenses, including school disciplinary infractions, and are punished disproportionately without due process of law.”

    The department alleges that some disabled students’ behavior intervention plans prescribe “juvenile detention center” to deal with school discipline problems,  and that students have been handcuffed and arrested at school and placed in detention for days at a time – 80 miles away -- without sufficient legal representation or a timely hearing.

    The department also alleges that students who have been arrested can end up incarcerated for parole violations involving minor school infractions, including  wearing the wrong color socks, having a shirt untucked, using vulgar language or being tardy.

    The Center for Public Integrity published a report in September about the Justice Department’s allegations of a pattern of overly harsh punishment of African-American and disabled students in Meridian. In August, the department had issued a letter of “findings” to state and local officials in Meridian, detailing the charges and requesting cooperation to correct alleged violations.

    According to the Associated Press, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Roy Austin, Jr., said that the lawsuit represents the first attempt by the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division to stop an alleged “school-to-prison pipeline” in a local jurisdiction through litigation.  A department investigation into similar allegations of violations in Shelby County, Tenn., has led to corrective action.

    “It is disappointing that the local and state government agencies involved in the administration of juvenile justice in Lauderdale County have not worked cooperatively with the Justice Department to resolve these violations,” said Gregory Davis, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi, in a Justice press release Wednesday.

    The Associated Press reported that local and state officials either declined comment or didn’t respond to requests for comment.  But last month, the Center reported that representatives of the city of Meridian and Lauderdale County rejected the Justice Department’s initial findings, dismissing the allegations as based only on “a few” cases and  “unsubstantiated” claims. 

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    Big outside money is pouring into the race for U.S. Senate in Virginia, and for one super PAC, “outside” means from across the country.

    Independence Virginia, a super PAC supporting former U.S. Senator and Gov. George Allen, the Republican candidate, reported Wednesday spending $1.5 million on ads opposing the Democratic candidate, former Gov. Tim Kaine.

    Two weeks ago, casino magnate and super donor Sheldon Adelson, who lives in Las Vegas, gave Independence Virginia $1.5 million, according to the super PAC’s most recent donor disclosure report to the Federal Election Commission.

    Adelson and has family have topped $40 million in giving to conservative super PACs this election, making them No. 1.

    But Adelson’s Las Vegas money isn’t the only contribution to have traveled a long way to Virginia. Texas homebuilder Bob Perry, another top super PAC donor, gave $1 million to Independence Virginia in August and September, which was just disclosed last week.

    Perry, who has given $20.5 million to conservative super PACs this election, is the third-biggest super PAC donor.

    Wyoming investor Foster Friess, another prolific donor gave the group $10,000.

    Independence Virginia has spent $3.9 million this election, entirely on anti-Kaine ads.

    The race to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Jim Webb has attracted more money than any other outside spending race, according to the Center for Responsive Politics — $33 million, not counting Wednesday’s Independence Virginia ad buys.

    The conservative nonprofit Crossroads GPS has reported spending $8 million backing Allen, making it the top outside spender in the race. Majority PAC, a super PAC supporting Senate Democrats, is in second place with $5 million, according to CRP.

    In other outside spending news:

    • Pro-Romney super PAC Restore Our Future reported spending $18.3 million on ads supporting Romney and opposing Obama. The Daily Disclosure reported on the ads, “Genuinely Cares” and “Better” Wednesday.
    • Conservative super PAC American Crossroads reported spending $11.3million on ads supporting Romney and opposing Obama. It released three anti-Obama ads: “Bow,” “At Stake” and “Survive.” “At Stake” stars actor Clint Eastwood, who famously talked to an empty chair at the Republican National Convention.
    • Its sister nonprofit Crossroads GPS reported spending $3.3million on pro-Romney/anti-Obama ads and an additional $1.1 million on ads opposing Rep. Joe Donnelly, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Indiana.
    • The conservative nonprofit Americans for Job Security reported spending $2.5 million opposing Obama.
    • Pro-Obama super PAC Priorities USA Action reported spending $4 million opposing Romney.
    • The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee reported spending $9.4 million opposing Republican candidates for U.S. House.
    • The conservative nonprofit American Action Network reported spending $925,000 opposing Democrats in three U.S. House races. A full $628,000 was dedicated to ads opposing former NASA astronaut Jose Hernandez, the Democratic candidate in California’s 10th District.
    • Majority PAC, a super PAC supporting Senate Democrats, reported spending $3 million opposing Republican candidates in Virginia, North Dakota, Montana and Wisconsin.
    • House Majority PAC, a super PAC backing House Democrats, reported spending $2.6 million opposing Republicans in numerous House races. It released “About Values,” opposing Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Fla., on Wednesday.
    • Americans for Tax Reform, a conservative nonprofit, released “Wrong Prescription for Florida,” which opposes Al Lawson, the Democratic candidate running for U.S. House against Southerland in Florida’s 2nd District.
    • Planned Parenthood Votes released an ad opposing Rep. Denny Rehberg, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Montana.
    • We Stand for Coal” from the conservative nonprofit Americans for Prosperity opposes Obama.
    • Patriot Majority PAC, a liberal political action committee affiliated with the nonprofit Patriot Majority USA, released “Romney is Bain.”
    • FreedomWorks for America, a conservative nonprofit, released 11 news ads: seven oppose Obama and Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate in Ohio, Florida, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Arizona, and four support the Republican candidates in several of those races.
    • Conservative super PAC Let Freedom Ring USA, which released eight ads Wednesday, put out another four:  “Stand Up for Your Faith” (with the Pennsylvania Catholics Network), “Mother Teresa,” “Persecuting” and “You Didn’t Build That.”

    Who paid for that political ad? You might be surprised by the answer. Email us and we will try to find out. Describe the advertisement — was it mean or nice? Will it affect your vote? When and where did it run and what were the names of the candidates? And PLEASE tell us what the disclaimer at the end says, and we will check it out.


    Republican candidate George Allen, right, and Democratic candidate Tim Kaine shake hands during a Senatorial debate for the Virginia U.S. Senate seat.Rachael Marcushttp://www.publicintegrity.org/authors/rachael-marcushttp://www.publicintegrity.org/2012/10/25/11618/daily-disclosure-adelson-spends-big-virginia-us-senate-race

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    The dearth of large contributions being made by big corporations to super PACs so far this election has ended.

    Chevron Corp., ranked No. 3 on the Fortune 500 list of largest U.S. companies, made a $2.5 million contribution on Oct. 7 to the conservative Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC dedicated to electing Republicans to the House and Senate.

    Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010, which allowed corporate money to be spent on elections, there were predictions that companies would tap their treasuries and flood races with unlimited cash.

    Instead, the bulk of the giving has come from individuals — like casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. Adelson and wife Miriam gave at least $14.5 million in the first 17 days of October, boosting his total giving to the controversial political organizations to a remarkable $53 million. It would take 10,600 contributions of $5,000, the maxiumum allowed to candidates, for Adleson to reach that amount were he giving directly to campaigns.

    Super PACs filed their final reports before the Nov. 6 election on Thursday with the Federal Election Commission. Adelson is far and away the biggest donor to the organizations this election cycle.

    Chevron, the No. 2 oil and gas company in the U.S. with 2011 revenue of nearly a quarter-trillion dollars, is active in nearly every aspect of the energy business, including the highly controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” a means of extracting natural gas from shale deposits.

    The company spent $9.5 million lobbying the federal government in 2011 and $5.3 million so far this year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

    Chevron becomes at least the fifth Fortune 500 company to give to super PACs this election, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of corporate giving, and by far, the largest. Others include Florida-based Fidelity National Information Services (425th), which gave the pro-Mitt Romney super PAC Restore Our Future $75,000; CONSOL Energy (399th), which donated $150,000 to the group; Alpha Natural Resources (356th), which gave $100,000 to American Crossroads; and Caesars Entertainment Corp. (288th), which gave $150,000 to Majority PAC.

    Chevron’s donation to the Congressional Leadership Fund represented the bulk of the group’s receipts for the reporting period. The super PAC took in $3.1 million through the first part of October, entering the home stretch with $8.7 million in the bank.

    The Adelsons gave $10 million to Restore Our Future over the reporting period, bringing the organization’s receipts to a whopping $20.2 million, more than it raised for the entire month of September.

    Restore Our Future also benefitted from $1 million from Jerry Perenchio, former owner of Spanish-language broadcast company Univision; $1 million from super donor Harold Simmons; $1 million from real estate mogul Edward St. John; and $1 million from hedge fund pioneer Julian Robertson.

    Restore Our Future’s fundraising easily eclipsed that of Priorities USA Action, the super PAC supporting President Barack Obama, which brought in $13 million. The pro-Obama group had outraised Restore Our Future for the past two months.

    Priorities received seven $1 million contributions all from individual donors. They include Mark Pincus, the CEO of Zynga, the online game maker, hedge fund billionaire George Soros* and LinkedIn founder Reid Garrett Hoffman.

    Restore reported $24.2 million in cash going into the home stretch while Priorities had $10.1 million, according to FEC records.

    In the final months of campaign, more super PACs dedicated to the election of U.S. House and Senate candidates have emerged.

    Treasure Coast Jobs Coalition, a super PAC supporting Republican Rep. Allen West in Florida’s 18th District, received $1 million from the Adelsons. So did Freedom PAC, which supports Rep. Connie Mack’s quest for U.S. Senate in Florida.

    Adelson is also helping former Virginia Gov. and Sen. George Allen in the state. Allen lost a close race to Sen. Jim Webb, the Democrat, in 2006, who is not running for re-election. He faces former Gov. Tim Kaine in a close race for the Senate seat.

    Adelson gave $1.5 million to Independence Virginia, which is supporting Allen. The couple also gave $1 million to Joe RickettsEnding Spending Action Fund, a super PAC that supports fiscally conservative candidates.

    Ending Spending, which has promised to spend at least $12 million in the weeks leading up to the election, reported $4 million in cash on hand. While it has only raised $1 million so far in October, its founder Ricketts gave more than $11 million to the super PAC in September.

    American Crossroads, the conservative super PAC co-founded by Republican strategist Karl Rove, brought in $11.7 million in the first part of October, thanks largely to a $4 million contribution from super donor Simmons and $1 million each from Texas homebuilder Bob Perry and oil man and hedge fund chief T. Boone Pickens, another Texan.

    American Crossroads had $6.4 million in the bank as of Oct. 17.

    Democratic donors also kept their checkbooks open in October. Fred Eychaner, the CEO of Newsweb Corp., gave $2 million to House Majority PAC, which supports Democratic U.S. House candidates, and $2 million to Majority PAC, which supports Senate Democrats.

    Majority PAC took in $9.9 million, including a $1 million contribution from Tennessee real estate mogul Franklin Haney and $900,000 from Arnold Hiatt, the former president of the Stride Rite footwear company.

    It reported $7.5 million cash on hand as of Oct. 17.

    Hiatt also gave $900,000 to House Majority PAC, which raised $6.7 million and had $5.2 million on hand as of Oct. 17.

    In other outside spending news:

    • The Democratic Senatorial Congressional Committee reported spending $8.5 million opposing Republican candidates for U.S. Senate.
    • The Republican National Committee reported spending $5.2 million opposing Obama, and the National Republican Senatorial Committee reported spending $7.8 million opposing Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate.
    • Conservative nonprofit Crossroads GPS reported spending $3.7 million opposing Obama and Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate and House in several races.
    • Majority PAC, a super PAC backing Senate Democrats, reported spending $3.1 million opposing Republican candidates in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Montana, Indiana, Nevada, Virginia and New Jersey.
    • House Majority PAC reported spending $2.3 million opposing Republicans in numerous races. The super PAC released three news ads: “False Start” opposes Richard Tisei, the Republican candidate in Massachusetts’ 6th District; “Person” opposing Randy Altschuler, the Republican candidate in New York’s 1st District, and “Our Choice,” supporting Bill Enyart, the Democratic candidate for U.S. House in Illinois’ 12th District.
    • Women Vote!, a pro-abortion rights super PAC, reported spending $1 million opposing Republican House and Senate candidates.
    • Ending Spending Action Fund reported spending $1 million opposing Obama, former Democratic Sen. Bob Kerrey in Nebraska, who is running to get his old job back, and Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio. The spending also supported Romney and Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel, Brown’s Republican challenger.
    • American Action Network, a conservative nonprofit, released “Rail” opposing Democratic House candidate Jose Hernandez in California’s 10th District, and “Spending” opposing former Democratic Rep. Carol Shea-Porter in New Hampshire’s 1st District.
    • American Unity PAC, a conservative super PAC, released “Putting People Ahead of Politics,” supporting Rep. Richard Hanna, R-N.Y., and “Politics Aside,” supporting Andrew Roraback in Connecticut’s 5th District and former wrestling executive Linda McMahon for U.S. Senate in Connecticut.
    • The 60 Plus Association, a conservative nonprofit, released “Strengthen,” starring Pat Boone and opposing Obama.
    • American Future Fund, a conservative nonprofit, released four new ads: “Reno Gazette-Journal Endorsement” and “Orlando Sentinel Endorsement” oppose Obama, “Paper” opposes Rep. Tammy Baldwin, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in Wisconsin; and “Raises” opposes Democratic California Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, running for U.S. House in the state’s 26th District.

    Michael Beckel contributed to this report.

    *George Soros is the chairman of Open Society Foundation, which provides financial support to the Center for Public Integrity. For a list of the Center’s donors, visit the website.

    Who paid for that political ad? You might be surprised by the answer. Email us and we will try to find out. Describe the advertisement — was it mean or nice? Will it affect your vote? When and where did it run and what were the names of the candidates? And PLEASE tell us what the disclaimer at the end says, and we will check it out.

    ChevronRachael Marcushttp://www.publicintegrity.org/authors/rachael-marcusJohn Dunbarhttp://www.publicintegrity.org/authors/john-dunbarhttp://www.publicintegrity.org/2012/10/26/11622/daily-disclosure-chevron-gives-25-million-conservative-super-pac

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    The origin story of the secretive nonprofit that is leading efforts to invalidate Montana’s campaign finance laws keeps getting murkier.

    In a document filed with the Internal Revenue Service, the group claimed Jacob Jabs as its “primary donor” who had “agreed to provide $300,000” to get the group rolling in 2008.

    It appears the group was referring to Jacob Jabs, the president and CEO of American Furniture Warehouse, based in Colorado, where ATP was created.

    But a spokeswoman for Jabs said he's never heard of the group. ATP’s current executive director says he wasn’t with the organization at the time. The woman who signed the document would not return calls from the Center for Public Integrity.

    “Someone is not coming clean,” said Marcus Owens, the former director of the division that handles nonprofit corporations at the IRS. “A knowing effort to mislead the IRS is a crime and people go to jail for that.”

    Jabs has been a major supporter of Republican candidates and causes. He gave heavily to an anti-union ballot initiative in Colorado in 2008, and is a donor to Mitt Romney.

    As for the gift to ATP, Jabs claims it didn’t happen.

    “Mr. Jabs has not heard of this group, nor did he give them money,” said Charlie Saulis, Jabs’ spokeswoman.

    Athena Dalton signed the September 2008 letter to the IRS which referenced a communication with the furniture magnate, during which Jabs “assured us that he will no longer contribute” if ATP did not receive its exempt status in the next two weeks.

    A public records search reveals 17 listings for Jacob Jabs nationwide. Most of the listings refer to retail locations for Jabs’ American Furniture Warehouse. Two of the Jabs listed are deceased. Another Jacob Jabs resides in an Ohio home valued at a quarter of the alleged donation to ATP.

    Then there is the Montana-born owner of American Furniture Warehouse, whose current residence is listed as a 5,000-square-foot mansion in Colorado valued at $1.8 million.

    Dalton pressed the IRS, claiming that ATP would “be virtually unable to operate any of our programs,” and would “cease to exist” without the Jabs contribution.

    The IRS approved the group’s application four days later. Shortly after, it sent out mailers in a dozen Montana legislative races attacking candidates. Voters don’t know who paid for the ads, which prompted an investigation into the group by Montana officials.

    Athena Dalton is currently a staff member with the Colorado Senate Republican office. She did not respond to multiple calls and emails requesting comment on the 2008 letter she signed.

    ATP’s executive director Donald Ferguson said he was “not around” the organization when the letter was sent to the IRS, and declined to respond to further questions.

    Scott Shires, the Colorado consultant who signed ATP’s 2008 application for exempt status, said he “doesn’t remember” Dalton or the letter she signed listing Jabs as a donor.

    ATP, with help from lawyer Jim Bopp, who has made a name for himself challenging campaign finance rules in court, compelled Montana to abide by the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling and give up its century-old ban on corporate spending on elections.

    It has also sued over the state’s disclosure rules and its low dollar limits on contributions to candidates. In its legal challenges, ATP has faced off with Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock, who is locked in a tight race for governor.

    The group has launched direct mail campaigns attacking environmentalist forces it calls “Gang Green,” and now it’s going after Bullock.

    In addition to the questions surrounding the Jabs donation, ATP’s filings with the IRS in subsequent years are difficult to track, and raise further legal questions.

    In its 2008 application for exempt status, the IRS asked ATP if it planned to “spend any money attempting to influence the selection, nomination, election or appointment” of candidates for public office. It also asked if ATP published pamphlets, brochures, newsletters “or similar material.”

    ATP answered “no” to both questions.

    This application, says Owens, “was signed under penalty of perjury.”

    Its spending activity is hard to track. ATP’s Form 990 tax filings for 2009, 2010 and 2011 are not accessible online and there appears to be no record of them. ATP failed to respond to a Center for Public Integrity request for those filings.

    IRS rules require nonprofit organizations to make their three most recent annual returns publicly available.

    The Center did obtain a copy of the group’s 2009 return prepared by Shires, but unsigned. In it, the group reports receiving about $100,000 in revenue, of which it says it spent $67,000 on “mailings concerning public issues.”

    Nonprofits like ATP cannot make political activities their primary function, according to IRS rules.

    Jake JabsPaul Abowdhttp://www.publicintegrity.org/authors/paul-abowdhttp://www.publicintegrity.org/2012/10/26/11624/mystery-deepens-over-origins-nonprofit-battling-montana-spending-limits

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    Editor's note: This story was first published by the Center for Responsive Politics, where Robert Maguire is a researcher and Viveca Novak is the editorial and communications director.

    When Crossroads GPS went up with an ad last week accusing Democrat Tim Kaine of wanting to raise taxes, it wasn't the first time he'd heard that claim from a conservative group. Nor was it the first time the Virginia candidate for U.S. Senate had been the subject of an attack ad -- far from it.

    And it sure wasn't the first time he'd been pilloried by a group that won't say where it gets its money.

    That has become increasingly common in the 2012 political landscape. Outside spending so far this election cycle, by super PACs and other groups, has eclipsed that in all previous cycles combined at this point, going back to 1990. And in that universe, money spent by groups that don't disclose their donors is playing a far bigger role than it ever has.

    Kaine ranks No. 3 on our list of the 10 candidates who have attracted the most spending by these groups whose funding streams are a mystery. Shadow money organizations like Crossroads GPS -- which GOP operative Karl Rove helped start, and for which he still raises funds and strategizes -- have spent $11.4  million attacking him, nearly two-thirds of the more than $18 million in outside money that's been spent against him (not including spending by political parties). Crossroads is responsible for a staggering $8 million of that.

    This week, spending by Crossroads GPS, Americans for Prosperity, Patriot Majority and other nondisclosing groups broke $200 million. Almost all of it -- 88 percent -- went for attack ads, and 83 percent of that negative spending was directed against Democrats. On the flip side, nearly three-quarters of the shadow money spent to support candidates went to help Republicans.  

    And that's counting only the spending that has to be reported to the Federal Election Commission: ads explicitly calling for a candidate's election or defeat, plus "issue ads" that feature a candidate and run in the weeks before an election. Millions more have been spent on issue ads running far enough before an election that they don't need to be reported anywhere.

    While much of the focus this election season has been on super PACs -- which can take money from almost any source, but must report their donors to the FEC on a regular basis -- these other outside groups have escaped the same scrutiny. That's in part because we know much less about them, other than the limited spending totals they have to report. Most are 501(c)(4) "social welfare" organizations under the tax code, and their donors can present them with $5 million, $50 million -- any amount at all -- without fear of having their names made public. Even the IRS will see only group's topmost donors.

    Presidential Disparity

    There's a striking difference in how shadow money is being deployed in the presidential race. More than fourteen times as much has been spent opposing President Barack Obama as has been spent attacking Mitt Romney. At the same time, Romney has benefited from about eight times as much supportive shadow money spending.  In fact, while Romney is second in terms of the total amount of shadow money directed towards his candidacy, he is sixth in terms of overall negative shadow money -- behind Obama, Kaine, Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) and Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.), all Democrats.

    More evidence that spending by these nondisclosing groups is overwhelmingly anti-Democrat or pro-Republican: The share of the total shadow money spent on Mitt Romney and Dean Heller -- the only two Republicans in the top 10 -- that went to support them is far higher than it is for almost any of the other candidates. More than 60 percent of the shadow money spending directed at Romney has been supportive. For Heller, that number is about 14 percent.  

    The story is very different for the Democrats.

    Supportive spending makes up between 0 and 1 percent of the shadow money outlays for seven of the eight Democrats in the top 10. Nearly all of the Democrats on the list have higher total negative shadow money totals than Mitt Romney. Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) is the exception, at 19 percent positive spending.

    Of the top 10 races receiving attention from shadow money groups, the presidential contest is by far the highest with more than $89 million spent so far.  

    On the congressional side, the 10 races with the most shadow money spending are all in the Senate.

    The majority -- more than 53 percent -- of the outside spending in these ten races was done by groups that don't disclose their donors. In fact, in all races where shadow money spending came to at least $1 million, those groups accounted for 56 percent of all outside spending.

    In the House, spending by nondisclosing groups so far has made up nearly all of the outside spending in two races, for New York's 25th and 21st Districts. In the 21st, about 2.3 million in shadow money has been spent against the incumbent Democrat, Rep. Bill Owens, while about $462,000 has been spent attacking the GOP challenger, Matt Doheny. In the 25th, the entire $1.1 million in outside money that's been used to go after another incumbent Democrat, Rep. Louise Slaughter, has come from shadow money groups.

    The two biggest spenders in the races -- Rove's Crossroads GPS in the 25th, spending $866,000 so far, and Americans for Tax Reform in the 21st, laying out $834,000 as of Oct. 25 -- are among a collection of GOP groups that strategize together on a regular basis. In 2010, Crossroads even shared funds with ATR, giving the anti-tax group $4 million -- more than a third of what ATR spent that year.

    Again, these numbers don't account for the fact that much of the spending by shadow money groups, on issue ads that don't run close to an election date, isn't reported to the FEC. Ohio's Democratic Senate candidate Sherrod Brown, for instance, was the target of an ad blitz over the summer, much of which was never reported.

    In the 100 congressional races where there's been some shadow money spending since the beginning of September, all told more than 44 percent of the outside spending was done by shadow money groups.

    About one-fourth of the outside money spent on the presidential race since September came from groups that don't disclose their funding sources, totaling more than $57 million.  

    And of the top 20 shadow money groups that have bought ads for or against the top 10 candidates, 16 are conservative and four are liberal.  These 20 groups have spent $142 million for or against these candidates, and 91 percent of that total was spent by the conservative groups.

    The three groups doing the most spending -- Crossroads GPS, Americans for Prosperity and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce -- are all conservative, and the sums they have spent together dwarf the spending by the next 17 organizations combined.

    This article is part of an exclusive series by the Center for Responsive Politics on politically active tax-exempt organizations that don't disclose their donors. You can read the other stories in that series here.

    Viveca Novakhttp://www.publicintegrity.org/authors/viveca-novakRobert Maguirehttp://www.publicintegrity.org/authors/robert-maguirehttp://www.publicintegrity.org/2012/10/26/11625/secret-money-thrives-presidential-high-profile-congressional-contests

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    Ranking: 8

    Total contributions to super PACs: $8.3 million*

    • $6.8 million to RGA Right Direction PAC (pro-Republican)
    • $1.5 million to Republican Governors Association Ohio (pro-Republican)

    Notable state-level contributions:

    • $8.3 million to the Florida Republican Party (2010)
    • $6 million to Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (2010)
    • $3 million to Texas Gov. Rick Perry (2010)


    The Republican Governors Association’s appearance on a list of top donors to super PACs — which were formed to spend money on federal races — at first glance appears to be a mistake. But a close look at the Washington, D.C.-based “527” organization’s disclosure filings show it is using super PACs to funnel funds into state races.

    The recipient of the RGA’s generosity is a super PAC called “RGA Right Direction PAC.” The super PAC takes the money it receives from the RGA — which as a 527 can accept unlimited funds from corporations and wealthy individuals — and spends it on state races.

    In a recent filing, Right Direction disclosed a $250,000 contribution to North Dakota’s Republican Gov. Jack Dalrymple, who assumed the job in 2010 when then-Gov.John Hoeven resigned to become a U.S. Senator.

    In North Dakota, corporate donations to candidates are prohibited but contributions from political action committees to candidates are unlimited, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The Center also reported that Right Direction gave $1 million to Mike Pence, the Republican running for governor, where corporate contributions are limited.

    The RGA has been working to put Republicans in the nation’s governor’s mansions for almost 50 years. Its past leaders include some of the biggest names in the Republican Party: former President Ronald Reagan, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour.

    Over the past few months, the Center for Public Integrity has exposed the complex money-moving schemes the RGA uses to benefit Republican governors’ campaigns. In this year’s North Carolina election, the group has spent millions on ads underwritten by corporations who were unaware of how their money was being spent.

    In Florida’s 2010 election, the RGA took advantage of a loophole in state law when it gave $8.3 million to the Florida Republican Party, which in turn contributed $5.2 million to winning candidate Gov. Rick Scott.

    And in Pennsylvania, the RGA contributed $6 million of the $28.7 million Gov. Tom Corbett raised, including a $1.5 million contribution from an affiliated group whose donors are unknown.

    Last updated: Oct. 28, 2012

    *2011-2012 election cycle. Source: Center for Responsive Politics and Center for Public Integrity analysis of Federal Election Commission records. Totals include contributions from individuals, family members and corporations that are controlled by the individual super donor.

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    The big five health insurance companies have begun reporting their third quarter 2012 earnings and so far, they are pleasing their shareholders with profits that are better than Wall Street expected, in large part because they are doing especially well in one key area: Medicare.

    Over the past several years, the largest insurers — Unitedhealth, WellPoint, Aetna, Cigna and Humana — have reported record profits, even during the quarters when enrollment in their employer-based and individually purchased health plans declined because of the recession. They’ve been able to do this in two ways: by taking in significantly more in premiums from their commercial customers than they have paid out in medical claims, and by persuading increasing numbers of retirees to enroll in their Medicare Advantage plans. If you enroll in one of their plans, the government sends a check to the insurance company you choose for your coverage. The amount varies depending on where you live. You might have to pay an additional premium out of your own pocket for better drug coverage, a broader network of providers, reduced copayments and discounts on gym memberships.

    Many lawmakers have wanted to privatize Medicare for years and saw the Medicare Advantage program as an ideal way to begin that process. But insurers wouldn’t offer the plans without a significant financial incentive to do so. So several years ago the government started padding the checks it sends the insurers to get them to participate. By 2010 the cost to the government of Medicare Advantage patients on average was 117 percent of regular fee-for-service Medicare.

    Because of Uncle Sam’s generosity, insurers allocate much of their marketing budgets to attract seniors. That strategy has paid off.  Enrollment in Medicare Advantage plans increased from 5.3 million in 2004 to a 13.1 million this year, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. That’s about 27 percent of the total number of Medicare-eligible Americans.

    The first two insurers to report earnings this month — Unitedhealth and Aetna—had combined profits during the third quarter (July, August and September) of more than $3.1 billion, up from $2.6 billion in the same months last year. This despite the fact that the companies reported a decline of more than 210,000 people in their commercial risk-based health plans for individuals and small businesses. That loss was more than made up by the nearly 450,000 people they added to their Medicare Advantage rolls.

    This is not a new trend. Insurers for years have been jacking up the premiums of the health plans they offer to individuals and small businesses far more than many of them can afford, which explains why many of them have dropped coverage, swelling the ranks of the uninsured. While they’ve been purging customers under the age of 65, they’ve been competing vigorously for the seniors they want to enroll.

    And why wouldn’t they? According to a recent analysis by Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), which advocates for a single payer system, the federal government has overpaid private insurance companies under the Medicare Advantage program and its predecessors more than $282 billion over the past 27 years.

    Why? Lobbyists for private insurers persuaded lawmakers that they could provide medical care for Medicare beneficiaries more cost-effectively than the traditional Medicare program. Generous campaign contributions, to Democrats as well as Republicans, also helped, of course. But instead of being more cost-effective, the plans actually cost taxpayers more than traditional Medicare.

    Because the Medicare Advantage plans are so profitable, it’s little wonder why health insurers are contributing millions of dollars to candidates who voted against the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), which will eventually eliminate the overpayments, and who voted for Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan to further privatize Medicare.

    Under Ryan’s plan, seniors would receive a voucher to buy coverage from private insurers or from the traditional government-run program. Because the healthiest seniors likely would be persuaded to enroll in a private plan, many health policy experts predict that the traditional program would over time attract only the oldest and sickest beneficiaries. That would eventually lead to the collapse of the Medicare program, as we know it.

    A recent analysis of Public Campaign Action Fund (PCAF) and the health reform advocacy group Health Care for America Now showed that members of Congress who voted for Ryan’s plan have received almost twice as much in campaign contributions from the insurance industry this election cycle as members who voted against it ($14 million to $7.4 million). That’s understandable when you consider the windfall insurers would receive. Harvard economist David Cutler estimates that about $31 billion in Medicare funds would be newly available to private plans in 2023 if Ryan’s plan became law.

    Insurers would fare better under a Romney-Ryan administration in another important way: Romney says he would restore the bonuses to Medicare Advantage plans that Obamacare would gradually eliminate.

    A Romney-Ryan victory likely would be the equivalent of winning the lottery for the big institutional investors that own the majority of health insurance company stock. Citigroup analyst Carl McDonald predicts that should Romney win and the GOP take the Senate, the value of health insurers’ shares would rise 10 to 20 percent.

    So if you think Romney and Ryan are going to win, you might want to buy all the stock in the big five you can afford.  Those quarterly earnings reports undoubtedly would be even more jaw dropping than they already are. 

    Republican vice-presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., right, introduces his mother, Betty Ryan Douglas, to supporters at a campaign rally in The Villages, Fla. Health insurance companies have donated heavily to support Ryan's plan to increase the privatization of Medicare.Wendell Potterhttp://www.publicintegrity.org/authors/wendell-potterhttp://www.publicintegrity.org/2012/10/29/11644/opinion-who-wins-medicare-advantage

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    After Rep. Jim Renacci, R-Ohio, cancelled more than $800,000 in network television advertising last week, the conservative Congressional Leadership Fund super PAC stepped in to fill the void.

    Renacci, a Republican just finishing his freshman term, faces Rep. Betty Sutton, a three-term Democrat, in Ohio’s newly redrawn 16th District, which has attracted more outside spending than any other House race, according to the Center for Responsive Politics — more than $8.8 million.

    Chevron Corp., ranked No. 3 on the Fortune 500 list of largest U.S. companies, made a $2.5 million contribution on Oct. 7 to the Leadership Fund, which is dedicated to electing Republicans to the House and Senate, as The Center for Public Integrity reported last week.

    Renacci said the market had reached saturation and people were simply tuning out the ads. The New York Times reported that next to Las Vegas, the Cleveland area has seen more political ads than any other market.

    This weekend’s “Hall of Fame,” the Leadership Fund’s newest anti-Sutton ad, is the second in a $1.8 million buy, according to a press release.

    The narrator calls the congresswoman “hall of fame tax-and-spender Betty Sutton,” and it details her support for the stimulus, cap-and-trade legislation to control carbon emissions and the Wall Street bank bailout.

    The first ad in the October campaign, “Busy Betty,” premiered last week. It comes after the super PAC spent more than $1 million against Sutton in September, when the Leadership Fund first began airing ads in the district.

    The group has reported spending $2.4 million on the race to date, Federal Election Commission records show.

    House Majority PAC, one of the top Democratic outside spenders active in the race, has also spent about $2.4 million since September, when it first started airing ads in the district, FEC records show.

    Last week, House Majority PAC released “Cloud” opposing Renacci. The ad is running for one week in the Cleveland market and cost $730,000, according to a press release.

    Cloud” hits Renacci for trying to “avoid paying taxes on nearly $14 million.”  This claim has been made in anti-Renacci ads from Sutton herself, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

    The statement is true, according to PolitiFact– Renacci and his wife underreported their income in 2000 by $13.6 million, as the Cleveland Plain Dealerreported Oct. 19, and the couple is still disputing the penalty.

    The Renacci campaign is continuing to run ads on cable channels, though to a lesser extent, the Akron Beacon Journal reported.

    In other outside spending news:

    The Congressional Leadership Fund reported spending $2.6 million over the weekend and also released three other ads:

    • Trick or Treat” opposes Rep. Kathy Hochul, D-N.Y.;
    • Imagine” opposes former Wisconsin Sen. Pat Kreitlow, the Democrat running for U.S. House in Wisconsin’s 7th District;
    • Twinkle” and the Spanish version “Estrellita” oppose Rep. Lois Capps, D-Calif.

    American Action Network, a conservative nonprofit, reported spending $4.4 million and released four news ads:

    • Pumping Iron” and “Levantando pesas” oppose Nevada Assemblyman John Oceguera, the Democratic candidate for U.S. House in the state’s 3rd District.
    • Mad Science” opposes physician David Gill, the Democratic candidate for U.S. House in Illinois’ 13th District.
    • Standing” opposes former Rep. Rick Nolan, the Democratic candidate for U.S. House in Minnesota’s 8th District.

    Conservative super PAC Ending Spending Action Fund reported spending $2.6 million and released four new ads:

    • Wrong” opposes former U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in Arizona.
    • Energy Virginia” opposes President Barack Obama and former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, who is running for U.S. Senate.
    • Distorting” opposes Sen. Bob Kerrey, D-Neb., and supports his challenger, Nebraska state Sen. Deb Fischer, a Republican.
    • Energy Ohio” opposes Obama and Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio.

    House Majority PAC reported spending $1.9 million and released three new ads:

    • Game” opposes Connecticut state Sen. Andrew Roraback, the Republican candidate for U.S. House in the state’s 5th District.
    • Our Time” opposes Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa.
    • Today” supports former Florida state Sen. Al Laswon, the Democratic candidate for U.S. House in Florida’s 2nd District.

    The U.S. Chamber of Commerce reported spending $3 million and released two new ads: “What’s Tim Kaine’s Plan for Virginia?” opposing the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in the state, and “A Serious Threat to Jobs” opposing Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., who is running for U.S. Senate.

    Conservative nonprofit American Future Fund released “Hands” and “Real Solutions” supporting Mitt Romney and his running mate Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. It reported spending $2.7 million over the weekend.

    The National Republican Congressional Committee reported spending $6.6 million on ads opposing Democrats and supporting Republicans.

    Who paid for that political ad? You might be surprised by the answer. Email us and we will try to find out. Describe the advertisement — was it mean or nice? Will it affect your vote? When and where did it run and what were the names of the candidates? And PLEASE tell us what the disclaimer at the end says, and we will check it out.

    Rep. Jim Renacci, R-OhioRachael Marcushttp://www.publicintegrity.org/authors/rachael-marcushttp://www.publicintegrity.org/2012/10/29/11647/daily-disclosure-congressman-gets-help-chevron-powered-super-pac

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    Super PACs and nonprofits unleashed by the Citizens United Supreme Court decision have spent more than $840 million on the 2012 election, with the overwhelming majority favoring Republicans, particularly GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

    An estimated $577 million, or roughly 69 percent, was spent by conservative groups, compared with $237 million spent by liberal groups, or about 28 percent, with the remainder expended by other organizations.

    Of all outside spending in the 2012 election, more than $450 million was dedicated to the presidential election with more than $350 million spent helping Romney and about $100 million spent to help President Barack Obama.

    The spending helped close the gap on Obama’s considerable fundraising advantage over Romney. As Election Day approaches, Romney and Obama are neck-and-neck in national polls.

    The totals are from a joint analysis of Federal Election Commission data by the Center for Responsive Politics and the Center for Public Integrity. The Centers' analysis covers the period from Jan. 1, 2011 through Oct. 28, 2012, and does not include independent spending by the political party committees.

    The final tally will be higher as spending continues to accelerate before Election Day.

    Obama's campaign raised more than $632 million in the 2012 election, 62 percent more than Romney's $389 million. Even when including money raised by the Democratic and Republican National Committees, Obama still has an edge of more than $166 million: $924 million for the president’s re-election team versus $758 million for Romney and the GOP.

    The president’s campaign committee was bankrolled to a great degree by money from grassroots supporters, while Romney relied more heavily on larger donors. Individuals who gave $200 or less accounted for 34 percent of Obama’s war chest. Meanwhile, such small-dollar donors were responsible for only 18 percent of the Romney campaign’s haul.

    The deluge of outside spending was made possible by the 2010 Citizens United decision and a lower court ruling that allowed individuals, labor unions and corporations to give money to outside spending groups — mostly nonprofits and super PACs — to buy advertising attacking or supporting candidates.

    Super PACs were generally backed by super donors. Billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and his family, for example, gave $54 million to Republican super PACs as of mid-October, far more than any other donor this election cycle.

    Nonprofit “social welfare” groups and trade associations can raise just as much money, but are not required to report their donors. The lack of transparency sparked legislation to require disclosure, but it was defeated.

    Nonprofits were responsible for more than $245 million, or about 30 percent, of the $840 million in total outside spending. That’s about $100 million more than they spent in 2010.

    Spending surge helps Romney

    During the week of Sept. 30, about $16.5 million was spent by outside groups benefiting Romney, mostly on ads attacking Obama. Three weeks later, the seven-day total jumped to more than $55 million, according to FEC filings.

    Outside spending benefiting Obama over the same period never exceeded $14 million, records show.

    The GOP candidate, facing the Obama fundraising juggernaut, needed the help of outside groups to keep pace.

    The Obama campaign aired nearly three times as many ads as the Romney campaign between late April and late October, according to a recent study by the Wesleyan Media Project.

    Wesleyan found that the 460,500 ads aired by the Obama campaign in the presidential election was more than the Romney campaign, the RNC and seven other Republican-aligned outside spending groups combined — including the top GOP super PACs Restore Our Future and American Crossroads and conservative nonprofits Crossroads GPS and Americans for Prosperity.

    Super PACs in the 2012 election raised about $660 million.

    Restore Our Future alone accounted for about $1 out of every $5 of all super PAC donations received. The pro-Romney group raised more than $130 million, much of which was spent decimating Romney’s rivals during the GOP primaries.

    The Obama-backing Priorities USA Action, by contrast, raised $64 million.

    In 2010, during their first year of existence, all super PACs combined raised just $85 million.

    The top 149 individual super PAC donors — each of whom has contributed at least $500,000 — are responsible for $290 million of funds raised.

    And 858 individuals who contributed at least $50,000 to super PACs accounted for nearly 60 percent of all money the groups collected in the 2012 election. The median household income in 2011, by way of comparison, was $50,054, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

    Donations from large, publicly traded corporations have been relatively rare, but in the waning weeks of the campaign, oil and gas giant Chevron wrote a $2.5 million check to the Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC backing Republican candidates that is closely associated with House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.

    The emergence of super PACs has been heralded by some, such as Republican lawyer Brad Smith, the former chairman of the Federal Election Commission who co-founded the conservative Center for Competitive Politics.

    “[Super PACs] have helped to level the playing field between Romney and Obama, whereas otherwise Obama’s spending advantage would have been substantial,” said Smith. “And in some cases they have raised issues that concern voters that the candidates have chosen to avoid.”

    Others disagree.

    “When elected officials rely on the most-wealthy of wealthy Americans, it means the voices of everyday people lose out,” said Nick Nyhart, president of the advocacy group Public Campaign, which favors publicly financed elections.

    Unlike traditional political action committees, super PACs have no contribution limits and the funds they raise can't be directly donated to candidates. Instead, the money they raise has primarily been used to fund attack ads.

    Prior to Citizens United, groups that wanted to expressly advocate for or against a candidate were limited to receiving no more than $5,000 per donor per calendar year.

    Donations shrouded in secrecy

    As important as super PACs were in the 2012 election, the loosening of political spending rules for non-disclosing, nonprofit organizations was also a key development following the Citizens United decision.

    GOP-aligned nonprofits have outspent their Democratic counterparts by a ratio of more than 8 to 1.

    Notably, this figure represents a conservative tally of nonprofits’ political spending.

    Federal law requires spending to be reported only if a group's advertisements encourage viewers to vote for or against a candidate, or if they mention a candidate shortly before a political convention or election.

    Justice Anthony Kennedy, the author of the Court's Citizens United 5-4 opinion, made a point of saying that disclosure was a key part of the court’s rationale. Disclosure would allow citizens to monitor the new political activity.

    "This transparency enables the electorate to make informed decisions and give proper weight to different speakers and messages," he wrote.

    But the tax-exempt groups — some of which clearly exist for no other reason than to elect favored candidates — are spared by Internal Revenue Service and FEC rules from having to publicly reveal their donors.

    Crossroads GPS, co-founded by GOP strategist Karl Rove, claims in press releases to have spent more than $120 million since January 2011, of which only $57 million has been reported to the FEC. At least $12 million has been spent attacking Obama, according to FEC records.

    Voters watching its ads have no idea where the money is coming from. Nor do they know who is funding the work of liberal organizations doing the same thing, albeit with a lot less money.

    Patriot Majority has reported spending $6.5 million on ads, more than half of which has opposed Rep. Dean Heller, the Republican who is running for U.S. Senate in Nevada.

    Not all secret money is coming from nonprofits. Throughout the election season, mystery corporations have popped up, spending huge sums.

    Specialty Group Inc. of Knoxville, Tenn., wrote seven checks totaling $5.2 million to pro-tea party super PAC FreedomWorks for America in early October. The corporation was created on Sept. 26. The name and address listed on incorporation records are those of a Knoxville, Tenn., area attorney. His published phone line has been disconnected.

    The source of the funds, as of this writing, is unknown.

    Meanwhile, more than $10 million in funds given to super PACs, which disclose donors regularly, have come from nonprofits, showing that even the groups required to be transparent about their funding sources can still shield the names of donors.

    Going negative

    The explosion in outside spending has coarsened the political debate, flooding the airwaves in Ohio, Florida, Virginia and other battleground states with negative, often inaccurate ads.

    Roughly 80 percent of all spending by both conservative groups and liberal groups has been negative, FEC records indicate.

    Fully 100 percent of the nearly $57 million Priorities USA Action reported spending has been on negative ads.

    The group, which coined the slogan “If Mitt Romney wins, the middle class loses,” linked Romney to the death of a woman who lost her battle with cancer.

    Another of the super PAC’s most memorable ads featured a worker describing how building the stage on which officials announced the plant’s closure, after it was bought by Bain Capital, was like building his “own coffin” and made him “sick.”

    Eighty-eight percent of Restore Our Future's spending went toward negative ads, as did 95 percent of American Crossroads' expenditures.

    Many of these ads have criticized Obama’s handling of the economy, arguing that the country “can’t afford” four more years of Obama’s policies. One spot features a small-business owner saying, “We can’t create more jobs until Obama loses his.”

    Others ads have featured disillusioned Obama supporters from 2008 expressing disappointment with the president.

    The winners in the post-Citizens United campaign finance regime won’t be known for certain until after Election Day. But Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, an assistant professor of law at Stetson University's law school who previously worked as an attorney with the Brennan Center for Justice, said it won’t be the voters.

    “I fear that we have lost elections on a human scale with post-Citizens United spending by super PACs” and non-disclosing groups, she said. “The losers here are voters who get carpet bombed with political ads full of half-truths and distortions.”

    Researchers Robert Maguire of the Center for Responsive Politics and Alexandra Duszak of the Center for Public Integrity contributed to this report. Graphic design by Paul Williams of the Center for Public Integrity.

    This story is a collaboration between the Center for Public Integrity and the Center for Responsive Politics. For up-to-date news on outside spending in the 2012 election, follow our Source2012 Tumblr and the hashtag #Source2012 on Twitter.

    Michael Beckelhttp://www.publicintegrity.org/authors/michael-beckelRuss Chomahttp://www.publicintegrity.org/authors/russ-chomahttp://www.publicintegrity.org/2012/10/29/11630/super-pacs-nonprofits-favored-romney-over-obama

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    Republican Rep. Scott DesJarlais of Tennessee was hit for the second time in as many weeks over an alleged affair he had with a patient, whom he reportedly pressured to have an abortion.

    The second ad from the Democratic House Majority PAC, brings the super PAC’s buys in the race to $280,000, according to a press release.

    The new ad, “Quotes,” features the narrator quoting from the Chattanooga Times Free Press’endorsement of his Democratic opponent, Tennessee state Sen. Eric Stewart.

    “DesJarlais is not only a hypocrite, but a fraud,” the editorial reads, citing that he claims to be an anti-abortion advocate yet allegedly encouraged his pregnant mistress a decade ago to undergo the procedure.

    So far, House Majority PAC is the only outside spender in this race to invest significant funds. “Trust,” House Majority PAC’s first ad opposing DesJarlais, debuted Oct. 19 and cost $100,000, according to a press release.

    The super PAC’s top donor is Newsweb CEO Fred Eychaner who has contributed $3.8 million. Eychaner has given $12 million to Democratic super PACs.

    Meanwhile, the the same newspaper reported that the congressman had a second affair. Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester called for the congressman to step down, according to the Free Press. DesJarlais' campaign called the attacks a "smear campaign" and a distraction from the issues.

    In other outside spending news:

    House Majority PAC released four other ads:

    • Everywhere” and “Four Dollars” oppose Rep. Allen West, R-Fla.;
    • Right Choice” supports John Ewing, the Democratic candidate for U.S. House in Nebraska’s 2nd District;
    • Believe” opposes businessman Chris Collins, the Republican candidate for U.S. House in New York’s 27th District.

    The NRA Institute for Legislative Action, the politically active nonprofit arm of the National Rifle Association, released an ad supporting former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in the state, and an ad supporting Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., who is running for U.S. Senate. It reported spending $350,000 on ads.

    American Unity PAC, a conservative super PAC, released “Home,” which supports Rep. Nan Hayworth, R-N.Y., “Clear Choice,” which supports Rep. Judy Biggert, R-Ill., and “Deserve Better,” which supports Richard Tisei, the Republican candidate for U.S. House in Massachusetts’ 6th District.

    Conservative nonprofits Let Freedom Ring and Independent Women’s Voices released two pro-Mitt Romney ads, “Feeling Guilty” and “Mr. Dependable.”

    The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee reported spending $7.5 million on numerous House races.

    The League of Conservation Voters released “Winners and Losers” with Majority PAC in opposition to former Sen. George Allen, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Virginia. LCV also released “Romney Opposes Wind Energy Tax Credit.”

    Who paid for that political ad? You might be surprised by the answer. Email us and we will try to find out. Describe the advertisement — was it mean or nice? Will it affect your vote? When and where did it run and what were the names of the candidates? And PLEASE tell us what the disclaimer at the end says, and we will check it out.



    Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn.Rachael Marcushttp://www.publicintegrity.org/authors/rachael-marcushttp://www.publicintegrity.org/2012/10/30/11653/daily-disclosure-tennessee-congressman-targeted-ads-over-alleged-affair

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    Editor's note: This story was also published by the Center for Responsive Politics, where Viveca Novak is the editorial and communications director.

    Illinois' 17th Congressional District looks like it was drawn by an X-acto knife on crack, pitted with divots large and small and tendrils leading nowhere.

    This misshapen plot of land, dubbed the "rabbit on a skateboard," is the result of a redistricting process that made it slightly more Democratic territory.

    That means first-term Rep. Bobby Schilling, a Republican, doesn't exactly have a smooth glide-path to re-election. In fact, he’s in a fight — an expensive one. Through Oct. 17, Schilling and his Democratic opponent, Cheri Bustos together have spent $3.3 million on the race ($1.9 by Schilling, $1.4 million by Bustos).

    But that's not the half of it. Another $6 million has been spent by outside groups, a cool $2.7 million more than the candidates themselves have laid out.

    That makes the contest one of 26 House elections in which outside spending adds up to more than spending by the candidates, according to Center for Responsive Politics data.

    (Totals are through Oct. 17, the last date for which candidate spending data is available.)

    Clearly in each case the groups saw their assistance was needed and that there was a good chance their candidate could win if they stepped in. In several instances, such as the Illinois 17th, it was plain that changes in the district's boundaries opened the door to a possible Democratic pickup. Elsewhere, redistricting has handed opportunity to the Republicans.

    In the Schilling-Bustos faceoff, most of the outside spending can be attributed to the heavy- hitting party committees: The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee together have spent more than $4.5 million as of Oct. 30, the vast majority of it badmouthing the other party's candidate.

    But other groups have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars each in the race: On the liberal side, they include Women Vote!, the Service Employees International Union, House Majority PAC and AFSCME; the conservative big spenders have included the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the New Prosperity Foundation and Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS.

    The disparities between candidate outlays and outside spending are in some cases much more dramatic than in Illinois' 8th. The 8th District of Minnesota (one of our Hot Races), for example, is on that list: Republican incumbent Rep. Chip Cravaack had spent $1.2 million through Oct. 17, while Democrat Rick Nolan had spent just $536,000.

    But outside spending comes to $5 million as of Oct. 17 — about three times the candidates' combined outlays. The House party committees accounted for about half of that, but the conservative American Action Network spent $772,000 (which has since leaped to $1.7 million) and the liberal House Majority Committee laid out $632,000 (since up to $762,000).

    That race is one of two in the House where even non-party outside spending had outstripped that of the candidates by more than $500,000 by Oct. 17.

    The other is California's 10th District, another re-drawn piece of territory, where freshman GOP Rep. Jeff Denham was hoping to hold onto his seat against Democratic challenger and former astronaut Jose Hernandez. In that contest, American Action Network has spent more than either of the party committees — more than $2.5 million.


    Rep. Bobby Schilling, R-Ill.Viveca Novakhttp://www.publicintegrity.org/authors/viveca-novakhttp://www.publicintegrity.org/2012/10/30/11659/outside-groups-outspend-candidates-26-house-races

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    In the 2012 election, nonprofits have been the preferred vehicle for donors who prefer to keep their identities secret. But with the right lawyers, super PACs, which are supposedly transparent about their donors, can accomplish the same feat.

    Social welfare nonprofits, known as 501(c)(4)s by the Internal Revenue Service, file tax returns with the IRS. The names of their top donors are revealed to the IRS — but not to the public.

    Super PACs, on the other hand, do report their donors. In some instances, though, those donors are nonprofits. Or the funds might come from shell corporations, which have passed through millions of dollars to the political organizations from unidentified donors in this election.

    Aetna’s oops

    Occasionally, the veil is lifted on the secrecy of these groups, sometimes inadvertently.

    Insurance giant Aetna accidentally disclosed to insurance regulators earlier this year that in 2011, it had contributed $3 million to the American Action Network, a 501(c)(4) group that has spent $11 million targeting mostly Democratic candidates for Congress.

    The company later scrubbed the disclosure from its filing and declined to elaborate on it despite demands from institutional shareholders for an explanation.

    Last week, the American Energy Opportunity Fund, a 501(c)(4) group led by two executives at an oil and gas company, revealed it had paid for nearly $800,000 in radio ads targeting President Barack Obama on his energy policy and the funds came thanks to a donation from Las Vegas casino titan Sheldon Adelson.

    Adelson and his family have given more than $53 million to super PACs this election.

    Shell corporations

    Not all secret money comes from nonprofits.

    On Sept. 26, a corporation was formed in Knoxville, Tenn., with the most mundane of names: Specialty Group, Inc. On its registration paperwork, one name was listed, that of attorney William S. Rose Jr. The address provided was a home owned by Rose.

    Specialty sent several checks totaling $5.2 million to FreedomWorks for America, a super PAC affiliated with the tea party network and with former Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey.

    The donations make Specialty Group the fifth-largest organization contributing money to super PACs, and only a handful of individuals have contributed more.

    Rose could not be reached for comment and all listed phone numbers have been disconnected.

    Specialty Group, Inc., isn't the first apparent shell corporation — a company with no known physical presence, product or staff — to throw cash into the post-Citizens United campaign finance arena.

    In 2011, two other shell companies, one called Eli Publishing and the other called F8 LLC, both incorporated at the same address in an office building in downtown Provo, Utah, contributed $1 million to Restore Our Future, the super PAC backing Mitt Romney.

    The suite number given for both corporations doesn't actually exist, and there is no office, but the registered agents for both companies had connections to Nu Skin, a cosmetic company whose chairman is Utah resident Steve Lund.

    No official confirmation has ever been made, however, and Lund and his wife have gone on to contribute a combined $1 million, in their own names, to Restore Our Future.

    The extended money trail

    Taking money from hard to track shell corporations isn't the only way for a super PAC to skirt disclosure rules.

    Another common tactic is for a nonprofit to give money to a super PAC. This happens frequently when a nonprofit is closely affiliated with the super PAC it is giving money to.

    In total, Center for Responsive Politics data shows that 501(c)(4) groups contributed at least $10 million to super PACs.

    Sen. Dick Lugar, R-Ind.’s failed bid for re-election stopped at the primary when he lost to Richard Mourdock, his tea party-affiliated opponent. He was helped by a group called Indiana Values Super PAC, which spent $459,000 opposing Mourdock.

    The super PAC received $137,000 of its funds from a 501(c)(4) group also called Indiana Values, based out of the office of a lobbying firm on K Street in Washington, D.C., where the money trail ends.

    Sometimes the chain is longer, but with a similar result.

    In Pennsylvania, a super PAC called Freedom Fund for America's Future spent $175,000 attacking Republican Senate candidate Tom Smith during the primary.

    At least $165,000 of that money came from another super PAC, called Fight for the Dream, based out of a post office box at a UPS Store in Allentown. Fight for the Dream in turn got all of its money from a nonprofit called Restore the Dream, based out of the very same post office box.

    Organizers told the Center for Responsive Politics that the group was designed with the help of their legal counsel, a lawyer named Anthony Ferate. Ferate is also an in-house lobbyist for natural gas company Devon Energy.

    He denied there was anything improper about the setup, and said in an interview with CRP that it is a widespread practice.

    "This was set up within federal election laws," he said. "I would disagree that there's anything to question about transfers between super PACS. In fact, the Democrats are coordinating between their super PACs."

    According to a CRP analysis, the super PAC that is the single largest recipient of cash from a nonprofit is FreedomWorks for America, the same super PAC that received $5.2 million from the Tennessee shell corporation.

    CRP data shows the group received $2.3 million from its own nonprofit, FreedomWorks. That means that although the group has disclosed $15.4 million in donations, $7.5 million of it is untraceable.

    This story is a collaboration between the Center for Public Integrity and the Center for Responsive Politics. For up-to-date news on outside spending in the 2012 election, follow our Source2012 Tumblr and the hashtag #Source2012 on Twitter.

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    Candidate-specific super PACs, once exclusively associated with presidential hopefuls, have moved down-ticket and are now supporting candidates in congressional races this election.

    Super PACs devoted solely to supporting a congressional candidate spent $28 million in the 2012 election with about $22 million going toward helping conservative candidates, according to a Center for Responsive Politics analysis of campaign data.

    Federal Election Commission rules prohibit "coordination" between a candidate and an outside spending group, but many super PACs have gotten around those rules by hiring operatives who previously worked for the campaign.

    The groups became prominent during the Republican presidential primary when each candidate had a supporting chorus in the form of a super PAC. The largest by far was Restore Our Future, which backs GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

    Restore Our Future raised nearly $133 million this election cycle, or one of every five dollars raised by super PACs.

    By far the biggest player in the congressional candidate-specific super PAC world is the Texas Conservatives Fund, which spent $5.5 million on independent expenditures, all of it during the Texas GOP primary battle for U.S. Senate.

    The money was spent in opposition to Ted Cruz, the tea party candidate, in hopes of electing Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who was considered the favorite of the Republican establishment. Cruz won the primary and is expected to easily win the general election.

    The primary became an all-out spending war that attracted nearly $15 million. The pro-Dewhurst group was outspent by Club for Growth Action Fund, a tea party-aligned super PAC that targeted moderate Republicans in primaries in other states.

    The Texas Conservatives Fund's top donors are a roll call of super donors. The largest source of cash was Harold Simmons, the Texas billionaire who owns Contran Corp. Simmons, the No. 2 donor to super PACs this election, gave the Fund $1.1 million. Fellow Texan Bob Perry, the No. 3 overall donor to super PACs, gave $600,000. Sheldon Adelson, the top donor to super PACs, chipped in $250,000.

    Both Adelson and Perry have also given money to Independence Virginia PAC, a super PAC targeting Virginia's Democratic Senate candidate Tim Kaine, with $2.5 million — the group has only raised $2.6 million.

    Adelson gave $2 million to Florida Freedom PAC, a super PAC that has spent $2.6 million on advertising in support of Rep. Connie Mack, R-Fla., who is running for Senate. Perry has given the group $250,000 while Rick Santorum-backer Foster Friess and hedge fund boss Robert Mercer have also chipped in.

    Super PACS dedicated to a single candidate have fought for Democrats, as well.

    End the Gridlock targeted Deb Fischer, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate from Nebraska. She faces former U.S. Sen. Bob Kerrey, who is trying to get his old job back. Kerrey has a money edge over Fischer, having spent $5 million to her $3.4 million but has trailed in polls.

    In other instances, like the Texas Senate race, they have proven to be a way for donors like Adelson, Simmons and Perry to wage intra-party warfare, making sure their favorite candidate has support against an insurgent.

    In the incumbent vs. incumbent matchup in California's 30th District, pitting Brad Sherman against Howard Berman, both Democratic House members, a candidate-specific super PAC called the Committee to Elect Effective Valley Congressman has injected $1.2 million into the race, all of it in support of Berman.

    This story is a collaboration between the Center for Public Integrity and the Center for Responsive Politics. For up-to-date news on outside spending in the 2012 election, follow our Source2012 Tumblr and the hashtag #Source2012 on Twitter.

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    DETROIT — In an economically distressed pocket of southwest Detroit known by its ZIP code — 48217 — the weekend of September 7-9 was one of the worst, pollution-wise, residents like Theresa Shaw could remember.

    “I started smelling it on Thursday,” said Shaw, who immediately suspected the Marathon Petroleum Co. refinery a half-mile from her house. “I kept the windows closed because I couldn’t breathe. On Friday, I thought, ‘What the heck are they doing?’ My eyes were just burning, my throat was hurting, my stomach was hurting. I was having migraine headaches.

    “The smell, it was like this burning tar, with that benzene and that sulfur. I wanted to scream.”

    Shaw retreated to her sister’s house on the north side of town. Responding to citizen complaints, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality traced the powerful odor to Marathon, which had been cleaning several large vessels, and wrote up the company for a nuisance violation.

    Marathon says it is “committed to environmental responsibility” and acted quickly to correct the odor problem, a byproduct of plant maintenance.

    Yet the episode further eroded residents’ trust in the company and underscored their fears about a $2.2 billion refinery expansion that will allow Marathon to process more high-sulfur Canadian crude oil.

    The build-out, nearly complete, won’t add to the air pollution burden, Marathon promises. In fact, the Ohio-based company vows, emissions of some pollutants will go down and job numbers will go up.

    Shaw doesn’t buy it. “They’ve disrespected us in this neighborhood over and over and over again,” she said.

    The conflict in southwest Detroit is one piece of a larger environmental struggle being waged in communities nationwide. At the core of the debate: Plans by a number of oil companies to step up refining of heavier, dirtier crude, much of it from Alberta’s tar sands formation, a deposit whose reserves are eclipsed only by the vast Saudi Arabian oil fields.

    From the Great Lakes to Texas, people in already polluted neighborhoods are watching warily as refineries grow to accommodate the Canadian oil. Thus far, much of the controversy over tar sands has centered on the environmental damage caused by extraction and the risks of a spill from the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry the fuel to Gulf Coast refineries.

    But the next stage in the process has been largely overlooked: The oil has to be refined somewhere.

    Heavy oil from Canada is already reaching Marathon and other refineries. Between 2006 and 2011, imports of such crude more than tripled, a Center for Public Integrity analysis of data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration found.

    Some worry that government approval of Keystone XL would accelerate this trend, providing wider access to tar sands. Construction has begun on the southern portion of the pipeline, between Oklahoma and Texas, but the northern section is on hold pending further analysis by the U.S. Department of State. The thick, asphalt-like crude, known as bitumen, requires more processing than lighter forms of oil, which could lead to increases in pollution if not controlled. The burden would fall most often on communities, like southwest Detroit, populated mainly by low-income people of color.

    The Environmental Protection Agency expressed concern about this prospect in June 2011. Commenting on a draft State Department environmental assessment of Keystone XL, the EPA urged the department to “provide a clearer analysis of potential environmental and health impacts to communities from refinery air emissions and other environmental stressors.”

    Yet the EPA has conducted no evaluations of its own and isn’t keeping track of the refinery expansions around the nation, an agency spokeswoman said in a statement to the Center.

    The State Department has looked only at the possible impacts of Keystone XL and maintains there is no evidence that the pipeline’s potential approval has prompted any of the current refinery expansions. The department referred Center inquiries to its published evaluations, one of which says significant expansions should trigger rules requiring refiners to install better pollution control equipment.

    Some advocates contend, however, that companies are underestimating the projects’ air impacts in an attempt to avoid such requirements.

    “This has all been done very quietly in the regulatory backrooms, and people aren’t aware of it,” said Josh Mogerman, who tracks developments related to tar sands for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “These refineries have a lot of problems, and it’s hard to believe that’s going to get better by moving to process one of the dirtiest fuels on the planet.”

    Two trade groups representing the oil industry, the American Petroleum Institute and the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, did not respond to interview requests, but both have supported increased use of tar sands, arguing that America would benefit economically and secure a more stable energy source.

    ‘Sacrifice zones’

    Typically, the refinery expansions are unfolding in places that have long suffered from air and water pollution.

    At the end of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, for example, lie hazy Gulf Coast cities dominated by the petrochemical industry. Last year, the mayor of Houston wrote the State Department, expressing concern that oil companies’ easy access to tar sands could lead to further deterioration of air quality. Refineries in nearby Texas City and Port Arthur have expanded or are in the process of doing so.

    “These communities become the sacrifice zones,” said Leslie Fields, the Sierra Club’s environmental justice and community partnerships director in Washington, D.C. “They will never be availed of any kind of green, sustainable, clean future. This is where [industries] are forever going to be expanding.”

    Health worries abound, with particular concern over asthma and cancer.

    In July, the Michigan Department of Community Health announced the preliminary results of a study of 48217 and three other ZIP codes in southwest Detroit: Rates of newly diagnosed cases of cancers of the lung and bronchus were “significantly higher” than those in the rest of the state outside of Wayne County (which includes Detroit), the department said, as were death rates.

    “It’s like a Frankenstein lab experiment,” Theresa Landrum, a community leader and cancer survivor, said of the airborne chemicals that pour from industry in or near 48217 — including volatile organic compounds, many of which are carcinogens, and sulfur dioxide, a respiratory irritant. “We actually are lab rats.”

    Indeed, data submitted by Marathon to state regulators show that emissions of volatile organic compounds from the refinery increased by 36 percent from 2009 to 2011. The company declined to comment on the increase, saying only that it had obtained “all the necessary permits” for its air emissions from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

    The refinery expansion in Detroit had its genesis in 2007, when the City Council agreed to give Marathon a $175 million, 20-year tax abatement. The company played Detroit off against two other cities in which it operated refineries, St. Paul Park, Minn., where it has since sold its plant, and Robinson, Ill. “Overall,” Marathon warned in one communication with the city, “the system of property taxation is more favorable for refinery investment in Illinois and Minnesota, as compared to that in Michigan and the City of Detroit.”

    In exchange for the tax break, Marathon promised to create 60 full-time refinery jobs and 75 full-time contractor jobs, which, it said, collectively would add $16.5 million to the annual $74 million payroll. Even with the abatement, Marathon said, the city would reap $230 million in new tax revenue through 2030. In much the same way, the American Petroleum Institute has promoted the use of tar sands as an economic boon to the United States that would lead to thousands of new jobs.

    Marathon’s plan was an easy sell in one of America’s most desperate urban areas. Whether it was a good deal remains to be seen.

    “It can’t just be about jobs,” said state Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a Democrat who represents the neighborhoods around the refinery. “My residents and I feel that jobs can’t fix cancer. It has to be about the fact that this massive refinery is living next to a very poor, minority community in Detroit with no real protection. When my residents hear sirens, they cross their fingers and hope it’s not some sort of huge explosion.

    “They don’t feel like the city or the state has done everything in their power to hold the company accountable.”

    City Councilman Kwame Kenyatta said he was annoyed that a Marathon representative failed to appear Oct. 1 before the council’s Public Health and Safety Committee, which was seeking information on a Sept. 5 refinery fire.

    “They always have someone at the table when there’s an issue of them applying for a tax credit or some other incentive that they want from the city,” Kenyatta said. “But when it’s time for the citizens to get their questions answered and their safety issues addressed, there’s no one there.”

    In a statement to the Center, Marathon said it “did not receive adequate notification” of the Oct. 1 committee meeting. The company attended a rescheduled meeting two weeks later and described the Sept. 5 fire as small, saying one employee suffered minor injuries.

    Kenyatta said he agreed to the 2007 tax abatement only after Marathon promised to share some of the economic benefits of the refinery expansion with the community.

    “I think that Marathon has not been that good of a corporate neighbor to the people in southwest Detroit,” the councilman said. “There were some promises made to train and hire people from the area. Based on the information I’ve gotten back, that did not happen.”

    Asked to comment, a Marathon spokesman referred a Center reporter to the company’s website. The site says that Marathon, in consultation with the Detroit Workforce Development Department, “has created a workshop that will offer assistance to Detroit residents in taking pre-employment tests” and has committed to offering 10 community college scholarships per year for at least 10 years for those interested in refinery operator positions.

    Marathon also says it plans to hire “as many Detroit residents … as possible” for the 75 contractor jobs it expects to add once the refinery expansion is completed.

    Before it could start its expansion, Marathon had to secure a permit from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality — the MDEQ.

    On paper, the project looked like a winner. Marathon would be able to run more crude through its refinery, which opened in 1959, and new pollution-control equipment would reduce the poisons released into the air. Emissions of sulfur dioxide and volatile organic compounds, for example, would go down compared to current levels, Marathon said, though emissions of hydrogen sulfide — a gas known for its rotten-egg odor and potentially fatal in sufficient concentrations — would increase.

    The MDEQ and EPA reviewed the permit and decreed that the project was not big enough to trigger federal “Prevention of Significant Deterioration” rules, which would have forced Marathon to install more controls.

    The Sierra Club, invited by residents to intervene, won modest concessions from Marathon in 2008. The company agreed, among other things, to additional air monitoring and further emissions reductions.

    “At the time, I think it was the best we could do,” said Rhonda Anderson, a Detroit-based organizer for the Sierra Club’s environmental justice program. “The state had already given them their permit. They didn’t have to do anything.”

    The state and the EPA say the pollution projections in Marathon’s permit are credible, but others are skeptical — citing previous industry case studies.

    ‘Funny math’

    Five years ago, residents of Whiting, Ind., heard similar claims from BP: After it completed its nearly $4 billion refinery expansion to allow processing of more heavy crude, emissions of many pollutants would decrease, the company said. The project, BP said, wasn’t big enough to trigger stricter pollution controls.

    Staffers with the Natural Resources Defense Council weren’t convinced. After digging through the thousands of pages BP had filed with the state in applying for a permit, the NRDC determined that many of the company’s claims stemmed from “funny math,” said Ann Alexander, a lawyer for the organization. “They both over-counted the reductions and undercounted the increases,” she said.

    BP assumed, for example, that the three new flares — devices that burn off waste gases and can be major sources of pollution at refineries — it was installing would produce no emissions, Alexander said.

    The EPA agreed with many of the complaints lodged by the NRDC and other environmental groups and intervened in 2009. In May, the EPA announced that it and the groups had reached an agreement with BP. Among other things, the company said it would spend an additional $400 million on pollution control equipment.

    “This facility’s expansion is really the poster child for what’s wrong with this system,” Alexander said. “It’s part of a pattern.”

    BP spokesman Scott Dean, asked to respond to the allegation, said, “We settled that matter to both parties’ satisfaction.” The Whiting project, scheduled to be completed in the second half of 2013, will allow the refinery to process up to 85 percent heavy crude, compared with the 20 percent it currently processes, Dean said. Overall, he said, emissions should drop.

    Pattern of violations

    Oil refineries have long been a target of state and federal regulators. Since 2000, the EPA has cracked down on the industry under a special initiative focusing on air pollution, collecting tens of millions of dollars in civil penalties and requiring billions to be spent on pollution-control upgrades.

    Marathon is no exception. In April, the EPA and the U.S. Department of Justice announced that the company had agreed to install “state-of-the-art controls” on flares at its six refineries, ultimately keeping 5,400 tons of pollutants from reaching the atmosphere each year. Marathon also will pay a $460,000 fine to settle alleged Clean Air Act and other violations.

    The MDEQ has issued 13 air pollution violation notices to the Detroit refinery since 2001. None resulted in penalties because Marathon took quick corrective action, said Wilhemina McLemore, Detroit district supervisor for the MDEQ’s Air Quality Division. “If they’re out of compliance for a short period, they usually resolve whatever the issue is in a timely manner,” McLemore said.

    On the other hand, air sampling performed by residents and overseen by Global Community Monitor, an environmental group based in California, in 2010 found high levels of benzene — a carcinogen — and hydrogen sulfide near the refinery. In one case, more than 20 chemicals, including benzene, were detected in a resident’s basement. An EPA investigation traced the contamination to Marathon’s dumping of wastewater into the city sewer system.

    “We were shocked to learn they did not have their own discharge pipe into a body of water like, I believe, every other refinery in the United States,” said Denny Larson, Global Community Monitor’s executive director.

    An EPA spokesman said Marathon installed “carbon beds and a peroxide system to remove petroleum compounds from the wastewater discharge” in February of last year. Monitoring afterward showed that the technique worked and that benzene concentrations had fallen to “non-detect levels,” the spokesman said.

    Larson said he finds it troubling that the state has imposed no fines on Marathon since 2001. He believes the EPA might not have struck this year’s agreement with the company but for the publicity surrounding the 2010 air sampling.

    “Enforcement without penalties doesn’t work,” Larson said. “That, obviously, is why the citizens jumped in with their own testing. They weren’t satisfied with the state of Michigan’s opinion that Marathon was a good operator. There’s a complete disconnect between what the state says and the experience of people who have to live along the fence line.”

    In Whiting, Global Community Monitor and the Calumet Project, a local environmental group, made a deal with BP — independent of the NRDC lawsuit — that requires the refiner to conduct what’s known as open-path air monitoring. Instead of measuring chemicals within “three inches of air” and possibly missing large releases, Larson said, BP will use ultraviolet rays to scan thousands of feet along its fence line and post the monitoring data on a public website within 24 hours.

    No such arrangement is in place in Detroit. Since January, Marathon has operated three monitors on its property and one at an elementary school. The devices have turned up little of concern, apart from elevated particulate levels linked to construction, the MDEQ’s McLemore said.

    ‘This is our way out’

    To some residents of 48217, there’s a simple solution to the perpetual tug-of-war between Marathon and a community grown weary of bad air: buyouts.

    Marathon is acquiring homes in a decaying neighborhood called Oakwood Heights, on the north side of Interstate 75, just blocks from the refinery. Among those waiting for their appraisal in late August were Roland and Linda Wahl, who have lived on South Colonial Street for 38 years.

    “This was a nice neighborhood,” said Roland Wahl, 68. Now, a number of houses are abandoned, burned out or falling down. “When Marathon announced this buyout,” Wahl said, “I told my wife, ‘Hallelujah, this is our way out.’”

    Linda Wahl, 69, said that five of the eight people in the family’s house, including her 11-year-old grandson, have asthma. “At times, [the pollution] has been so bad that we’ve had to close our windows in the summer,” she said. “We’re seniors. We don’t have money for air conditioning.”

    People on the other side of I-75 have yet to convince Marathon to relieve them of their homes.

    “I want to move,” Theresa Shaw said. When Shaw broached the idea with Marathon a few weeks ago, she was rebuffed. A company representative told her that Marathon was picking up properties only in Oakwood Heights, though Shaw lives about a quarter-mile from the Wahls and breathes the same air.

    Shaw doesn’t believe Marathon when it says the air will be cleaner after the bigger refinery goes on line. “I’m allergic to sulfur, and I know sulfur is one of the emissions of that tar sands,” she said. “This is really a disaster.”

    The Marathon refinery in Detroit has nearly finished a $2.2 billion expansion that will allow it to process more high-sulfur “tar sands” crude from Canada.Jim Morrishttp://www.publicintegrity.org/authors/jim-morrisChris Hambyhttp://www.publicintegrity.org/authors/chris-hambyhttp://www.publicintegrity.org/2012/10/31/11566/detroit-refinery-expansion-adds-more-canadian-crude-brings-more-worries

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    Outside spenders are getting in the holiday spirit with Halloween-themed ads designed to scare voters away from the targeted candidates.

    A foggy cemetery, a haunted house and shadowy figures loom in House Majority PAC’s ad, as the narrator speaks in a quivering voice pretending to be a ghost, explaining why voters should be afraid of Rep. Francisco “Quico” Canseco, the Republican candidate running in Texas’ 23rd District.

    The narrator suddenly cuts the ghost voice and says, “This isn’t a Halloween story, though it is scary. It’s Quico Canseco’s — a person and a story that fits right into Washington.”

    One of the ads main claims — that Canseco owes hundreds of thousands in liens over unpaid payroll taxes and contracting fees — was reported by the San Antonio Express-News in July 2010.

    Canseco disputes the claim. He said the bulk of what is owed is a result of disagreements between contractors and tenants on properties he owns and that he was only named because he is the landlord.

    Canseco faces Democratic challenger Pete Gallego, a Texas state representative. House Majority PAC’s Halloween ad is part of a $415,000 buy in Texas’ 23rd District, a Republican-leaning swing district.

    The race has seen $6.6 million in outside spending, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

    Conservative spenders are also using the holiday to their advantage.

    “Kathy Hochul promised us lots of treats…But Hochul tricked us!” says the childlike narrator of the Congressional Leadership Fund’s new ad opposing the Democratic congresswoman in New York’s 27th District.

    The animated “Trick or Treat,” which shows children in costumes, ghosts gliding by and bats flapping across the screen, says “Hochul treated herself – personally profiting from companies that outsource and do business with China.”

    The claim is supposedly based on Hochul’s personal investments in companies that manufacture products in China; however, an accusation first made by the conservative news outlet, Washington Free Beacon.

    Hochul has also criticized her Republican challenger, businessman Chris Collins, for benefitting from outsourcing, though the Buffalo News has called those claims misleading.

    The trick-or-treat ad, airing in Buffalo and Rochester, cost $900,000, according to a press release. New York’s 27th District has seen more than $5 million in outside spending, according to CRP.

    First-term incumbent Hochul is considered one of the most vulnerable Democrats, according to The New York Times.

    In other outside spending news:

    Conservative super PAC American Crossroads reported spending $14.1 million on ads opposing President Barack Obama and Democrats in U.S. Senate and House races. It also released two new ads: “Silent” opposes Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont. “No Slate” opposes Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., who is running for U.S. Senate.

    Its sister nonprofit Crossroads GPS reported spending $5.1 million and released a handful of new ads opposing Democrats:

    • Blew It” opposes former Maine Gov. Angus King, the independent candidate for U.S. Senate in the state;
    • Dictionary” opposes Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., who is running for U.S. Senate in the state;
    • Roadblock” opposes former North Dakota Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in the state;
    • Down” opposes Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio;
    • MeadWestvaco” and “Both” oppose former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in the state;
    • Mesa de cocina” opposes Obama.

    House Majority PAC also released:

    • Insider” opposing Rodney Davis, the Republican candidate for U.S. House in Illinois’ 13th District;
    • Representing You” opposing Rep. Brian Bilbray, R-Calif.;
    • Extreme” opposing Jackie Walorski, the Republican candidate for U.S. House in Indiana’s 2nd District
    • Dine” opposing Georgia state Rep. Lee Anderson, the Republican candidate for U.S. House in Georgia’s 12th District;
    • Who We Are” opposing Rep. Chip Cravaack, R-Minn.
    • About Women” opposing Vernon Parker, the Republican candidate for U.S. House in Arizona’s 9th District;
    • Why” opposing Jonathan Paton, the Republican candidate for U.S. House in Arizona’s 1st District;
    • Play by the Rules” opposing Quico Canseco (co-released with LCV Victory Fund, affiliated with the League of Conservation Voters);
    • Dream” supports Pete Gallego, Canseco’s Democratic challenger in Texas’ 23rd District.

    Congressional Leadership Fund also released ads opposing Democratic candidates for U.S. House in four races:

    • Join Me’” opposes Rep. John Barrow, D-Ga.;
    • Duck Hunt” opposes Gallego in Texas’ 23rd District;
    • Swept” opposes Rep. Gary McDowell, D-Mich;
    • Leech” opposes former Arizona state Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, the Democratic candidate in Arizona’s 9th District.

    Conservative nonprofit Americans for Tax Reform released four new ads opposing Democrats:

    • Control” opposes former Rep. Charlie Wilson, running in Ohio’s 6th District;
    • Wrong Prescription for New York” and “Shocking” oppose Rep. Bill Owens, D-N.Y.;
    • Napkin” opposes Colorado state Rep. Sal Pace, the Democratic candidate for U.S. House in Colorado’s 3rd District.

    Who paid for that political ad? You might be surprised by the answer. Email us and we will try to find out. Describe the advertisement — was it mean or nice? Will it affect your vote? When and where did it run and what were the names of the candidates? And PLEASE tell us what the disclaimer at the end says, and we will check it out.

    This Halloween-themed ad from the Congressional Leadership Fund opposes Rep. Kathy Hochul, D-N.Y.Rachael Marcushttp://www.publicintegrity.org/authors/rachael-marcushttp://www.publicintegrity.org/2012/10/31/11664/daily-disclosure-super-pacs-aim-spook-voters-halloween-ads

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