How 'Citizens United' Is Helping Hillary Clinton's White House Tender

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Source:   —  April 07, 2016, at 1:05 PM

But is there a gap between the rhetoric and the reality? A Middle for Public Integrity investigation reveals that despite Clinton'south statements about campaign finance reform, corporations, unions and shadowy money nonprofits have already poured millions of dollars into a network of Clinton-boosting political organizations.

How 'Citizens United' Is Helping Hillary Clinton's White House Tender

In this year'south presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton has criticized the flood of so-called "shadowy money" that'south dominated presidential politics since the Supreme Court'south Citizens United decision. But is there a gap between the rhetoric and the reality?

A Middle for Public Integrity investigation reveals that despite Clinton'south statements about campaign finance reform, corporations, unions and dark money nonprofits have already poured millions of dollars into a network of Clinton-boosting political organizations. That'south on top of the tens of millions an elite club of Democratic megadonors, including billionaire financiers George Soros and Haim Saban, have contributed to pro-Hillary super PACs.

Three cash-flush super PACs exist nearly exclusively to strengthen Clinton'south presidential effort.

Priorities UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Action, for example, has already spent millions helping Clinton safe the Democratic nomination. Prepared PAC organizes and collects information from grassroots supporters. Exact the Record serves as a political SWAT unit attacking those who attack Clinton.

A fourth super PAC, American Bridge twenty-first Cent PAC, aids Democratic candidates in common with opposition research — and was praised by Clinton at its outset.

These four core pro-Clinton super PACs have together raised $86 million, according to a Middle for Public Integrity analysis of the most recent filings made with federal regulators. Of this haul, more than $tenth million collectively comes from dozens of corporate or nonprofit sources, making tracking the money to a human source challenging.

The two thousand ten Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling freed corporations, unions and certain nonprofits to lift and spend unlimited amounts of money to advocate for and against political candidates, and on balance, conservatives have embraced Citizens United much more than liberals, many of whom consider poorly regulated political money a poison that weakens democracy.

The high court'south decision was prompted by a dispute over an anti-Clinton film that conservative activist organization Citizens United wanted to broadcast during the final weeks of an election.

"Wouldn't you know that Hillary Clinton has become one of the greatest beneficiaries of the Citizens United Supreme Ct decision," Citizens United President David Bossie said. "It is an irony that'south not lost on me."

On the campaign trail, Clinton has assailed the system born out of this ruling.

In a speech latest year, Clinton said, "We have to finish the flood of secret, unaccountable money that's distorting our election, corrupting our political process, drowning out the voices and votes of people."

"As president, I'll appoint Supreme Ct justices who recognize that Citizens United is horrible for America. And if necessary, I'll fight for a constitutional amendment that overturns it," Clinton wrote in a CNN op-ed piece marking the sixth anniversary of the Citizens United decision.

"You're not going to discover anybody more committed to aggressive campaign finance reform than me," Clinton said on Feb. nine during a speech following the NH primary.

But she'south also had to field questions from reporters and her rival Bernie Sanders about her own campaign finances.

At a Democratic debate on Feb. eleven, Clinton responded to a question about millions of dollars liberal financiers Soros and Donald Sussman have poured into Priorities UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Action.

"You're referring to a super PAC that we don't coordinate with, that was set up maintain President Obama, that's presently decided that they want maintain me," Clinton said. "They are the ones who should reply to any questions. Let'south speak about our campaigns."

When Sanders later pressed her about Priorities UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Action, she shot back: "It's not my PAC."

Technically, Clinton is exact about her relationship with super PACs: Federal law prohibits her, or any presidential candidate, from commanding and controlling super PACs that back them. The Sanders campaign receives modest support from a few super PACs and a "dark money" nonprofit, and he can't legally force them to stop.

Josh Schwerin, Clinton'south spokesman, declined to address specific Middle for Public Integrity questions about secret and tough-to-track money that super PACs are using maintain her candidacy.

But the campaign argues it "cannot afford to unilaterally disarm" and quit the big-money game. That, they say, is because powerful conservative interests, most notably the secretive outfits backed by billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch, plan maintain the Republican presidential nominee with hundreds of millions of dollars. Trump, himself a billionaire, is using his own wealth as campaign fuel.

"When she's elected president, Hillary Clinton will create it a priority to restore a government of, by and for the people," Schwerin said.

Not satisfactory, declare some prominent liberals. Clinton'south supposedly reform-minded campaign, they continue, has instead tolerated if not embraced a Democratic operation similar to what the Koch brothers have wrought.

"It'd be love tobacco companies coming out and saying they wanted to fight against lung cancer," said Dylan Ratigan, the former MSNBC host and author of the NY Times bestseller "Greedy Bastards," who hasn't yet endorsed a presidential candidate. "In a way, the Koch brothers have more credibility than Clinton on election money issues — they're at minimum upfront about how they wish to utilize money to buy politics."

An online Middle for Public Integrity/Ipsos poll of more than 2.000 adults conducted in late Feb indicates many potential common election voters are likewise concerned about how serious Clinton is about remaking the nation'south campaign system — a goal the vast majority support yet would be a monumental challenge below any circumstance.

Half of all poll respondents — and nearly four in 10 self-identified Democrats — said Clinton is relying on super PACs and large money too much. That compares to eighteen % overall who said Clinton is relying on them the "right quantity" and five % who said "too little."

And when asked, "If elected president, which of the following would do the most to reform the campaign finance system and create it less reliant on large money?" Clinton trailed both Sanders and Trump among respondents.

A 'Milky Way' of Clinton groups

During the two thousand sixteen election cycle, most Republican presidential candidates, current and former, have enjoyed support from super PACs that exist for one reason: maintain the candidates' campaign.

The development represents the full flourishing of a trend that began during the two thousand twelve presidential election. While technically separate of the campaigns they back, the super PACs are frequently running by friends, associates or former staffers of the presidential candidate being supported.

The pro-Clinton groups are intimately linked to each other. Two of them — American Bridge twenty-first Cent PAC and Exact the Record — share office space in downtown Washington, D. C.

Federal records indicate all four regularly move millions of dollars in cash and resources among themselves, meaning an initial, anonymous contribution to one super PAC might additionally flow through any of the rest before it'south finally used to assistance Clinton.

Consider the $1 million Priorities UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Action gave Exact the Record in December. Exact the Record in turn gave American Bridge twenty-first Cent 0.000 later that month. And earlier in two thousand-fifteenth, American Bridge twenty-first Cent paid Prepared PAC $150.000 for personal information about its legions of supporters.

Priorities UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Action and Exact the Record have even together formed a federal joint fundraising committee called American Priorities sixteen, a vehicle that allows the two groups to more seamlessly solicit donations and swap resources.

Another thing these groups have in common is David Brock, the Clinton ally who either leads or has advised or assisted them all. Brock is also involved with several nonprofit organizations friendly to Clinton'south cause, such as Media Matters for America, which monitors conservative media for bias, and the American Independent Institute, which funds journalism exposing the "nexus of conservative power in Washington."

"She doesn't just have a constellation, she'south a galaxy — a Milky Way — of this exterior funding," says former RI Gov. Lincoln Chafee, who ran against Clinton in the Democratic presidential primary and dropped his tender in October.

Leaders of the pro-Clinton super PACs declare they serve an fundamental purpose: efficiently and effectively defending Clinton against Republicans who'll utilize the Citizens United decision against Clinton to the greatest extent possible.

Clinton, they continue, also can't be expected to battle unlimited political money with Ltd resources — the most a presidential candidate'south own campaign may accept from an individual donor during the common election is $2.700.

Brock, for his part, says he's "very pleased of the progressive infrastructure" that he'south helped construct in a tender to aid Clinton.

"Her solutions are robust, and I believe it when she says she'll chase through"

After the Citizens United decision, Brock said, Democrats and liberals had a choice.

They could bury their "collective heads in our ideals and principles and Relinquish the new political reality to the likes of Karl Rove and the Koch Brothers or play by the rules as they're and play to win," Brock said. "We made the decision, the exact and only one in our view, to play by the rules as they're and play to win so that progressives can gain sufficient political power to move America forward in a no of critical areas including campaign finance reform."

Added Justin Barasky, a Priorities UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Action spokesman: "To think we're not going to fight back against those attacks would be political malpractice. We're not going to authorize Republicans to purchase an election."

Barasky well-known that Priorities UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Action does support Clinton'south campaign finance reform platform and itself recently close down its sister nonprofit, Priorities USA, which had accepted millions of dollars in undisclosed contributions while it was still largely a vehicle for supporting President Barack Obama and his political agenda.

Campaign reform activists underwhelmed

Among the more than twenty campaign finance reform grouping executive the Middle for Public Integrity interviewed about Clinton in Feb and March, including executive with past ties to both major parties, many offered some measure of understanding for Clinton'south situation. Several employed the "she can't unilaterally disarm" talking point the Clinton campaign uses.

In other words: Better that Clinton play and win by the lousy election rules in space today and reform the system later than martyr herself on some altar of idealism.

"Her solutions are robust, and I believe it when she says she'll chase through," said Marge Baker, executive vice president for People for the American Way, which advocates for a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United.

"We don't expect her to lay down arms. We'd love to look her upraise this issue into a centerpiece of her campaign," said Adam Lioz, counsel and senior adviser at Demos.

Other reformers, however, perceive stung by what they consider President Barack Obama'south underperformance on political transparency and campaign reform matters, have this advice for Clinton: Indicate us, don't tell us.

They wish to look Clinton sign an executive order requiring government contractors to disclose funding they give "dark money" political nonprofits.

They wish to look her appoint new commissioners to the ever-gridlocked Federal Election Commission — five of six commissioners continue to serve despite their terms having long ago expired.

And they most certainly wish to look her be engaged in Congress legislative proposals, even if they're relatively modest measures such as incentivizing people to create small-dollar political contributions.

"These are somethings we necessity to look before we can figure out the level of her commitment," said David Donnelly, president and chief executive of Every Voice.

Other observers are much more skeptical.

"There'south nothing in her background that suggests this will be a top priority for her," said Trevor Potter, president of the nonpartisan Campaign Valid Middle and a former Federal Election Commission chairman who served as common counsel for U. S. Sen. John McCain's two thousand eight presidential campaign.

"If her candidacy is any reflection of her personal priorities, she's a hypocrite," said Cyrus Patton, chief executive of Mayday. US, which works to the chosen to office hardcore campaign reformers. "My faith in her commitment to modify is slim."

Schwerin, Clinton'south spokesman, defended her reform record, noting that as a U. S. senator, she co-sponsored numerous bills aimed at enhancing donation disclosure and increasing public campaign financing.

She also co-sponsored maybe the highest-profile piece of campaign reform legislation this century: the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of two thousand one — better known as McCain-Feingold.

"Hillary Clinton has spent her career fighting for campaign finance reform," Schwerin said.

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