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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GOP Super-Donor on Politicians: "Most of These People...They're Unemployable"

| Mon May 5, 2014 3:41 PM EDT
GOP donor John Jordan, shaking a bottle of wine at a scantily clad woman in his parody video "Blurred Vines."

Meet John Jordan. As National Journal's Shane Goldmacher writes, Jordan runs his own vineyard, flies his own planes, cuts his own pop-song music video parodies (here he is with some barely clothed women in "Blurred Vines")—oh, and he's a huge donor to Republican candidates and committees. He raised and donated seven figures for Karl Rove's Crossroads organization in the 2012 cycle. Last year, he went solo, pumping $1.4 million into his own super-PAC, the deceptively named Americans for Progressive Action, in an effort to elect Republican Gabriel Gomez in a Massachusetts special US Senate election. (Gomez lost by 10 points.)

Goldmacher visited Jordan at this 1,450-acre vineyard in northern California and came back with no shortage of juicy quotes and flamboyant details. For all his political giving, it turns out, Jordan doesn't really like politicians:

"I'm not trying to spoon with them," he says. "I don't care. In fact, I try to avoid—I go out of my way to avoid meeting candidates and politicians." Why? "All too often, these people are so disappointing that it's depressing. Most of these people you meet, they're unemployable... It's just easier not to know."

Ouch.

Jordan dishes on Rove and his Crossroads operation, which spent $325 million during the 2012 election season with little success:

"With Crossroads all you got was, Karl Rove would come and do his little rain dance," Jordan says. He didn't complain aloud so much as stew. "You write them the check and they have their investors' conference calls, which are"—Jordan pauses here for a full five seconds, before deciding what to say next—"something else. You learn nothing. They explain nothing. They don't disclose anything even to their big donors." (Crossroads communications director Paul Lindsay responded via email, "We appreciated Mr. Jordan's support in 2012 and his frequent input since then." Rove declined to comment.)

Jordan's thoughts on his super-PAC's $1.4 million flop in 2013 offer a telling glimpse into the world of mega-donors, the type of people who can drop six or seven figures almost on a whim:

Jordan had blown through more than $1.4 million in two weeks on a losing effort—and he loved every second of it. "I never had any illusions about the probability of success. At the same time, somebody has to try, and you never know. You lose 100 percent of the shots you don't take, so why not do it?" he says. "And I've always thought it would be fun to do, and I had a great time doing it, frankly." Now, Jordan says that the Gomez race was just the beginning—a $1.4 million "potential iceberg tip" of future political efforts.

Who might Jordan support in 2016? He tells Goldmacher he hasn't decided. But he was impressed during a recent visit by the subject of Mother Jones' newest cover story, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez.

Fundraiser for New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez to Feature GOP House, Senate, and Party Bigwigs

| Mon May 5, 2014 10:41 AM EDT
New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez.

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, a rising star in the Republican Party, says she's not interested in running for national office, even as she's name-dropped by pundits and party luminaries as a potential 2016 candidate for vice president or even president. Here's another strong indication of her party-wide appeal: Every major Republican leader on Capitol Hill, from House Speaker John Boehner to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus, is featured on the guest list for a May 21 fundraiser for Martinez in a tony neighborhood just outside Washington, DC.

According to an invitation obtained by Mother Jones, other "honored guests" slated to attend Martinez's event in Chevy Chase, Maryland, include: House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, House budget committee chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn, National Republican Senatorial Committee chair Sen. Jerry Moran, and National Republican Congressional Committee chair Rep. Greg Walden. A handful of US senators (John McCain, Jeff Flake), ex-governors, lobbyists, and DC-area consultants are also set to attend.

The fundraiser will be held at the $2.2 million home of Susan Neely, the president and CEO of the American Beverage Association, the soft-drink industry lobby. The host committee includes the American Beverage Association, DC mega-fundraiser Fred Malek, former Gov. Tom Ridge, and a slew of DC-area consultants and donors.

Days after Martinez's fundraiser, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is scheduled to join her in New Mexico to raise cash for her reelection campaign. When it comes to the money chase, Martinez is trouncing the five Democrats vying for the chance to defeat her in November: As of mid-April, her campaign had $4.2 million in the bank, while the best-funded of her potential challengers, Alan Webber, had only $440,000 on hand.

Read the invitation to Martinez's May 21 fundraiser:

 

Ted Cruz: Conservative Darling. Grandstanding Senator. Campaign-Finance Reform Ally?

| Thu May 1, 2014 10:51 AM EDT

For the first time since the McCutcheon v. FEC decision, the Supreme Court's latest ruling further rolling back restrictions on the flow of money in American politics, members of the Senate on Wednesday tackled the onslaught of "dark money" washing through 2014 races and the future consequences of McCutcheon. (Short answer: More wealthy Americans pumping more money into political races in 2014 and beyond.)

Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens headlined Wednesday's hearing, organized by Sen. Angus King (I-Maine). Stevens took a decidedly progressive tack in his remarks, declaring that "money is not speech" and calling on Congress to write campaign-finance rules that "create a level playing field" for all political candidates. But perhaps the more revealing set of comments came from an unlikely source: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), the self-styled populist always trying, as he reminds us, to "make DC listen" to the little guy. 

In short, Cruz, who's as conservative as they come, may have more in common with the campaign-finance reform crowd than he realizes.

He raised eyebrows, for instance, as he described his vision for America's campaign finance system. "A far better system," he said, "would be to allow individual unlimited contributions to candidates and require immediate disclosure." The unlimited contributions part of that statement is standard conservative fare: If billionaires like Tom Steyer or Sheldon Adelson or Michael Bloomberg want to underwrite their preferred candidates with bottomless dollars, go ahead and let them. But the latter half—"require immediate disclosure"—is significant. It's a break from GOP leaders including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus who've soured on the idea of disclosure. Angus King later said he was so struck by Cruz's comments that he'd scribbled them down. Might Senate Democrats have an unlikely ally in Cruz if and when the DISCLOSE Act gets another vote?

At the hearing, Cruz went on to assail his fellow members of Congress for caring more about hanging onto their seats than pursuing real legislative solutions. "Our democratic process is broken and corrupt right now because politicians in both parties hold onto incumbency," he said. "We need to empower the individual citizens." Funny thing is, that's what Democrats who support the Government By The People Act and other fair elections programs want as well. Fair elections backers say candidates spend too much time raising money from wealthy individuals, which not only shrinks the field of people who can run for office but arguably makes those candidates who do run more receptive to well-heeled funders. Give candidates a reason to court lots of small donors—say, offering to match donations of $150 or less with six times that in public money—and you expose them to a diverse array of people. Meanwhile, your Average Joe, without his Rolodex full of well-to-do friends, can now mount a competitive bid for office. If Cruz wants to "empower the individual citizens," fair elections is one way to do it.

Not that Cruz hung around long enough on Wednesday to hear these kinds of ideas. He high-tailed it out of the hearing after delivering his remarks. Maybe he had a fundraiser to get to.

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