Politics: Video

Raw Footage: Crowds Cheer Outside White House

Add to Briefcase
May 1, 2011, 9:09 p.m.

The “front-run­ners in the” GOV race “took aim at one an­oth­er” 10/11, “cri­ti­ciz­ing each oth­er’s re­cords and cam­paign tac­tics dur­ing a live tele­vised de­bate at Bangor High School’s Peakes Aud­it­or­i­um.”

Wa­terville May­or Paul LePage (R) ac­cused ‘84 SEN nom­in­ee/‘90 ME-01 can­did­ate/state Sen­ate Pres./ex-state House Speak­er Libby Mitchell (D) “of hy­po­crisy for mock­ing” George W. Bush, while atty/ex-OMB As­soc. Dir. for Nat­ur­al Re­sources, En­ergy and Sci­ence/Jimmy Carter ex-aide Eli­ot Cut­ler (I) “cri­ti­cized LePage’s re­cord as may­or of Wa­terville and Mitchell for the level of state bor­row­ing dur­ing her time as Sen­ate pres­id­ent”

Want More On This Race? Check out the Hot­line Dash­board for a com­pre­hens­ive run­down of this race, in­clud­ing stor­ies, polls, ads, FEC num­bers, and more!

A “weeks-old sound bite” of LePage “say­ing he would tell” Pres. Obama “to ‘go to hell’ came up dur­ing the de­bate, but LePage “apo­lo­gized for the re­mark” and then “lobbed new cri­ti­cism” Mitchell. LePage: “I just saw a pic­ture of Sen. Mitchell hold­ing a pic­ture of Bush, call­ing him a ter­ror­ist.”

Mitchell: “I don’t know what he’s talk­ing about”

LePage: “I’ll send you the pic­ture” (Cov­er, Port­land Press Her­ald, 10/12)

“After ap­par­ently see­ing the pic­ture after the de­bate, Mitchell re­leased a state­ment.” Mitchell, in the state­ment: “After see­ing this pic­ture for the first time to­night, I re­gret the pos­sible dis­respect it may show to the of­fice of the pres­id­ent. I am very sorry for hav­ing posed with this item.”

LePage, on his com­ments to Obama: “The choice of words was wrong, and I apo­lo­gize to Main­ers and to the pres­id­ent. But the pres­id­ent should not be dock­ing our boats and tak­ing our fish­er­men off the wa­ter.”

“The latest skir­mish comes on the heels of two polls show­ing that the once-siz­able gap between LePage and Mitchell has all but evap­or­ated” (Cov­er, Port­land Press Her­ald, 10/12).

Two years ago this week, the Su­preme Court dealt a blow to ad­voc­ates of strict cam­paign fin­ance re­form. But the de­cision in Cit­izens United v. Fed­er­al Elec­tion Com­mis­sion hurt more than just the pro­vi­sions of the Bi­par­tis­an Cam­paign Re­form Act it struck down. The case ex­posed the new real­ity that, even at a time of unique dis­con­tent with the status quo in Wash­ing­ton, the av­er­age Amer­ic­an has a far smal­ler say in today’s polit­ics than at any time since the Wa­ter­gate era.

The Re­pub­lic­an pres­id­en­tial primar­ies this year have been an ex­hib­i­tion in big-money polit­ics. Su­per PACs back­ing one can­did­ate or an­oth­er have already spent more than $27.5 mil­lion on tele­vi­sion ad­vert­ise­ments, ac­cord­ing to data com­piled by the Cen­ter for Re­spons­ive Polit­ics. And that’s only with­in the Re­pub­lic­an primary — Amer­ic­an Cross­roads, the Amer­ic­an Ac­tion Net­work, the House Ma­jor­ity PAC, and Pri­or­it­ies USA, to name but a few, are stock­pil­ing mil­lions to spend on in­de­pend­ent ads this year.

Those out­side groups, fun­ded by a re­l­at­ively few very wealthy donors, are likely to ac­count for a lar­ger per­cent­age of polit­ic­al spend­ing this year than they have in years past. Pres­id­ent Obama’s cam­paign, and that of his even­tu­al Re­pub­lic­an rival, will take in most of their money from donors giv­ing less than $100 each, while the largest su­per PACs will be­ne­fit from dona­tions that come in sev­en-fig­ure in­cre­ments.

In truth, Cit­izens United was hardly the wa­ter­shed mo­ment at which money began flow­ing freely in­to polit­ics. Money in polit­ics is like wa­ter: No mat­ter how hard the sur­face, no mat­ter how im­per­meable, it will find a way in. After the Mc­Cain-Fein­gold re­form law passed in 2002, sup­posedly lim­it­ing the in­flu­ence of out­side groups, fed­er­al courts began rolling back parts of it. In 2006, in FEC v. Wis­con­sin Right to Life, the courts said it was un­con­sti­tu­tion­al to lim­it is­sue ads dur­ing elec­tion sea­son. In 2009, a suit brought by the Demo­crat­ic or­gan­iz­a­tion EMILY’s List al­lowed some soft money back in­to the sys­tem.

Over the years, new out­side or­gan­iz­a­tions have mastered the art of find­ing loop­holes with­in ex­ist­ing law, al­low­ing them to spend heav­ily on in­de­pend­ent ads that in­flu­enced key races. Lib­er­al groups like Cam­paign for Amer­ica’s Fu­ture and Amer­ic­ans United for Change and con­ser­vat­ive groups like the Swift Boat Vet­er­ans for Truth — all or­gan­ized un­der Sec­tion 527 of the In­tern­al Rev­en­ue Ser­vice code — played big roles in 2004 on be­half of both George W. Bush and John Kerry.

More sharply defined out­side groups like the Si­erra Club and the Club for Growth spent heav­ily on be­half of both parties in 2006. And by 2008, out­side spend­ing had bal­looned to more than $119 mil­lion on House and Sen­ate can­did­ates alone, ac­cord­ing to a 2010 re­port by the Cam­paign Fin­ance In­sti­tute, and an­oth­er $162 mil­lion on the pres­id­en­tial race, ac­cord­ing to FEC data.

Even be­fore the Su­preme Court weighed in with the Cit­izens United de­cision, out­side groups were get­ting bet­ter at fun­nel­ing money to polit­ic­al cam­paigns. Con­sider the 2010 spe­cial elec­tion in Mas­sachu­setts to re­place the late Sen. Ed­ward Kennedy: In the weeks lead­ing up to the Janu­ary elec­tion, which took place the week be­fore the Cit­izens United de­cision came down, out­side groups spent more than $2.5 mil­lion on elec­tion­eer­ing com­mu­nic­a­tions alone — a fig­ure that doesn’t in­clude mil­lions more spent by uni­ons, the Tea Party Ex­press, and oth­er groups on more heav­ily reg­u­lated dir­ect ad­vocacy.

Out­side spend­ing this year is go­ing to make the 2008 elec­tion cycle’s look re­l­at­ively cheap.

Amer­ic­ans say they don’t ac­tu­ally want that money in the polit­ic­al sys­tem. A Pew Re­search Cen­ter poll re­leased on Tues­day shows 65 per­cent of voters be­lieve Cit­izens United has had a neg­at­ive im­pact on polit­ics, an opin­ion that spans par­tis­an di­vides.

And yet those opin­ions hardly mat­ter, both be­cause voters don’t cast bal­lots based on the way can­did­ates fund their cam­paigns and the in­fra­struc­ture that once pushed Mc­Cain-Fein­gold has been left without a seat at the table.

There is plenty of evid­ence that voters don’t make their de­cisions based on how a cam­paign is fun­ded. Demo­crats com­plained bit­terly about out­side-group spend­ing in ad­vance of the 2010 cam­paign; that didn’t save a single one of the 63 seats they lost that year. In the last month, Newt Gin­grich, hammered by a su­per PAC that backs Mitt Rom­ney’s cam­paign, has sought to high­light that out­side spend­ing; get­ting bogged down in the pro­cess so much has blun­ted any ef­forts to draw real dis­tinc­tions between the can­did­ates, to the ex­tent that Rom­ney now openly en­gages his rivals on such pro­cess ar­gu­ments.

But of­ten over­looked is the ex­tent to which the pro-cam­paign fin­ance re­form com­munity has suffered in Wash­ing­ton. Of the four biggest back­ers of the ori­gin­al re­form meas­ure that passed in 2002, three of them — former Sen. Rus­sell Fein­gold, D-Wis., and Reps. Chris­toph­er Shays, D-Conn., and Mar­tin Mee­han, D-Mass. — have lost reelec­tion bids or re­tired. Only Sen. John Mc­Cain, R-Ar­iz., is still in of­fice; and since his 2008 pres­id­en­tial cam­paign, he has not put for­ward fol­low-up le­gis­la­tion.

Even a hard push from Mc­Cain and his re­form al­lies wouldn’t do much good, be­cause the real obstacle to any new cam­paign fin­ance le­gis­la­tion comes from the man who leads Mc­Cain’s con­fer­ence. Sen­ate Minor­ity Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell led the ini­tial op­pos­i­tion to Mc­Cain-Fein­gold; he was the lead plaintiff in the first ma­jor chal­lenge to the law, a 2003 case in which the Su­preme Court up­held the le­gis­la­tion’s ban on soft money in most cases.

Mc­Con­nell’s op­pos­i­tion to any new re­form le­gis­la­tion has been the one con­stant in the cam­paign fin­ance de­bate. And his po­s­i­tion atop the Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­an Con­fer­ence gives him an in­flu­ence over the agenda that re­form ad­voc­ates simply can’t match. In es­sence, the groups that ad­voc­ate cam­paign fin­ance re­form have no seat at the table; Mc­Con­nell and his al­lies sit very near the head.

We have not yet seen the full ex­tent of the Cit­izens United rul­ing, giv­en the breadth and scope of the role that out­side groups will take in this year’s elec­tions. But what is clear is that two years after the Su­preme Court opened the floodgates, ef­forts to roll back that de­cision have neither the polit­ic­al nor the le­gis­lat­ive strength be­hind them to move in any mean­ing­ful way.


What We're Following See More »
Why Yes, Mueller Is Looking into Trump Businesses
3 hours ago

In addition to ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, Robert Mueller's team is also "examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates, according to a person familiar with the probe. FBI investigators and others are looking at Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development in New York with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow, and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008, the person said. The investigation also has absorbed a money-laundering probe begun by federal prosecutors in New York into Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort."

House Reauthorizes DHS
4 hours ago

"The House voted Thursday to reauthorize the Department of Homeland Security. The bipartisan measure passed easily by a vote of 386-41, with nine Republicans and 32 Democrats voting in opposition. If the bill makes it through the Senate, it would be the first-ever reauthorization of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) since it was created in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks." Among the provisions it contains is a mandate that the Senate confirm the Secret Service director. It also boosts funding for the Urban Area Security Initiative by $195 million per year.

AFT’s Weingarten Likens Voucher Support to Segregation
4 hours ago

In remarks scheduled to be delivered today at the American Federation of Teachers' summer conference, President Randi Weingarten "likens U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to a climate-change denier" and "says the Trump administration's school choice plans are secretly intended to starve funding from public schools. She calls taxpayer-funded private school vouchers, tuition tax credits and the like 'only slightly more polite cousins of segregation.'" The pro-voucher Center for Education Reform said teachers should "consider inviting Weingarten’s resignation."

Trump Has Confidence in Sessions
5 hours ago

"President Trump has confidence in Attorney General Jeff Sessions, despite his criticism of the Justice Department head's decision to recuse himself from the Russia probe, the White House said Thursday. 'Clearly he has confidence in him or he would not be the attorney general,' spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters at an off-camera briefing."

ACLU Suing Trump Administration for Planned Executive Order
7 hours ago

"The American Civil Liberties Union is suing the Trump administration for records on an executive order President Trump reportedly planned to release targeting the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. In a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on Thursday, ACLU claimed the departments of Health and Human Services, Justice, Labor, and Treasury violated the Freedom of Information Act by failing to release the records it requested on the reported draft order."


Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.