Andy Kroll

Andy Kroll

Senior Reporter

Andy Kroll is Mother Jones' Dark Money reporter. He is based in the DC bureau. His work has also appeared at the Wall Street Journal, the Detroit News, the Guardian, the American Prospect, and TomDispatch.com, where he's an associate editor. Email him at akroll (at) motherjones (dot) com. He tweets at @AndrewKroll.

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New Ad Hammers Gov. Andrew Cuomo For Abandoning His Pledge to Fight Corruption

| Fri Apr. 11, 2014 1:06 PM PDT

When Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) signed his new $140 billion budget into law last week, he hailed it as a "grand slam." For New York State's ethics reformers and good government groups, however, the budget was an epic flop. And now one national pro-reform group is planning to hammer Cuomo on the airwaves for failing to make good on his pledge to overhaul the state's cash-fueled, noxious brand of politics.

The new ad—paid for by the Public Campaign Action Fund, a non-profit funded by individuals, labor unions, and foundations—blasts Cuomo for signing a budget that doesn't include a so-called fair elections system for all statewide races. (The budget instead features a pilot program that half-heartedly applies the fair elections model to only this year's state comptroller race.) The ad also hits Cuomo for eliminating a commission—created by the governor just last year—devoted to rooting out corruption in state government. Public Campaign Action Fund has bought nearly $300,000 worth of airtime to run the ad, starting Saturday, for nine days in the Syracuse and Buffalo media markets.

The ad's narrator says:

When Governor Cuomo introduced his ethics and reform plan, it was going to clean up Albany. But he let the rule limiting campaign contributions get cut. Then the commission that was supposed to investigate corruption in state government got cut. And the promise to reduce the influence of big money in all state races? All cut, except for one office. And now the governor says he’s proud of what’s been achieved? Gov. Cuomo, get back to work and deliver the reform you promised.

Reform groups had pressed especially hard this year for Cuomo and the New York State legislature to overhaul how state elections are funded by implementing so-called fair elections, a campaign funding system that rewards candidates who accept lots of small donations by matching those donations with public money. This type of system is already used in New York City, where it helped progressive Bill de Blasio become mayor.

GOP Chairman: Let's Get Rid of ALL Donation Limits

| Wed Apr. 9, 2014 7:54 AM PDT

Last week, Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, hailed the Supreme Court's recent decision in McCutcheon vs. FEC, which eliminated the cap on the number of contributions a donor can make to candidates, parties, and political action committees. Of course he would: The cash-starved parties now stand to rake in bag-loads more cash than they did before the decision.

But Priebus wants to go further. On Hugh Hewitt's radio show Tuesday, Priebus called for eliminating all limits on campaign contributions. All of 'em. The $2,600 limit on candidate donations, the $5,000 limit on PAC donations, the $32,400 limit on party committee donations, and so on. "I don't think we should have caps at all," he said.

Priebus says he wants the RNC to get behind any effort to demolish those limits, just as it joined Alabama businessman Shaun McCutcheon in his recent legal fight. "Absolutely, I would" look to get the RNC involved in future deregulation lawsuits, Priebus said. "And I would look to cases that allow us to raise soft money, and I would look to cases that allow us to raise money for the conventions, and—but disclose it all. That's kind of where I'm at personally."

If Priebus gets his way—and don't forget, he already has one major ally; Justice Clarence Thomas, in his separate opinion in McCutcheon, called for gutting all donation limits—we're looking at a pure free-for-all when it comes to money in politics. Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who gave nearly $93 million to outside groups during the 2012 campaign, or movie mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg, who gave and raised more than $30 million to reelect President Obama, wouldn't need outside groups like super-PACs. Hell, they wouldn't need political parties. They could donate $1 million, or $10 million, or $100 million directly to their candidate of choice.

Priebus might even go further. In the wake of Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich's ouster over his $1,000 donation to an anti-marriage equality ballot proposal, the RNC chairman suggested he was losing interest in disclosure laws, too. "Even [campaign finance laws] that I want to agree with are getting to be very difficult," he told Hewitt.

No limits, (maybe) no disclosure: If Priebus gets his way, this is the shadowy, cash-drenched future of American politics.

The Supreme Court's McCutcheon Decision Nuked Campaign Laws In These 11 States (Plus DC)

| Thu Apr. 3, 2014 9:53 AM PDT

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court's five conservative justices struck down the so-called aggregate limit on campaign contributions—that is, the total number of donations within federal limits an individual can make to candidates, parties, and committees during a two-year election cycle. Before the court's decision in McCutcheon v. FEC, there was a $123,200 ceiling on those legal donations; now, a donor can cut as many $2,600 checks to candidates and $5,000 checks to parties as he or she wants. (The $2,600 and $5,000 figures are the maximum direct contributions a donor can give.)

The court's decision specifically dealt with the federal aggregate limit, but legal experts say McCutcheon will also void similar campaign finance laws in 11 states and the District of Columbia. "The McCutcheon opinion is right from the Supreme Court and what the Supreme Court said is state aggregate limits on top of the federal limit are unconstitutional today, unconstitutional yesterday, unconstitutional 20 years ago," says David Mitrani, an election lawyer who specializes in state campaign finance law.

Mitrani says the impact of McCutcheon on state-level laws will vary depending on how low a state's aggregate limit was. Rhode Island and Wisconsin, for instance, limited donors from giving more than $10,000 per calendar year to state political committees. "There are going to be pretty big changes in how money flows into those states," Mitrani says. In New York State, however, Mitrani says he doesn't expect as big of an impact when the existing aggregate limit was set at $150,000 a year.

Here are the 11 states (plus DC) where aggregate limits are now likely gutted thanks to the Supreme Court's McCutcheon decision:

 
Fri Aug. 16, 2013 3:00 AM PDT
Mon Jul. 22, 2013 9:03 AM PDT
Tue Jun. 25, 2013 8:30 AM PDT
Tue May. 14, 2013 10:50 AM PDT
Mon Apr. 15, 2013 9:38 AM PDT
Fri Sep. 28, 2012 3:00 AM PDT