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 Guardian, Men's Journal, the American Prospect, and TomDispatch.com, where he's an associate editor. Email him at akroll (at) motherjones (dot) com. He tweets at @AndyKroll.

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Dem to Liberal Donors: Wake the F#!$ Up!

| Wed May 23, 2012 10:52 AM EDT

The politico in charge of helping Democrats keep control of the US Senate has a message for left-leaning donors: Wake up and open those checkbooks!

In an interview with the Huffington Post, Guy Cecil, executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, put Democrats' odds at even to retain the control of the Senate in this year's elections. But Cecil worries about the gap in spending between Democratic and Republican outside spending groups, such as the US Chamber of Commerce and American Crossroads, the independent political juggernaut started by GOP gurus Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie.

"Money" is what keeps Cecil up at night, he said. "Our allies need to wake up," he added. "Our allies need to understand that the majority in the Senate is in danger and that everything from jobs and the economy and women's health and Supreme Court justices, Wall Street reform—all the things that they have worked so hard for—will be for naught if we lose the Senate."

Here's more from HuffPost:

While Democratic Senate candidates have about $50 million more in the bank overall than their Republican counterparts, they have been outspent by a factor of nearly three to one—$29.1 million to $9.3 million—in the advertising wars, largely thanks to the outside groups and super PACs willing to spend unlimited amounts of money.

According to data provided by a Democratic source familiar with ad buys, the biggest spender on Senate races has been the US Chamber of Commerce, which has already pumped in more than $11 million for "issue" ads that benefit the GOP. After that come the Karl Rove-hatched groups American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, with at least $7 million. The group 60 Plus, billed as a conservative alternative to the AARP, has spent more than $4 million.

The biggest spender on the Democratic side, meanwhile, has been the League of Conservation Voters, shelling out some $2.7 million, according to the source. The still-growing Majority PAC, a super-PAC formed by Democratic operatives to sway Senate races, has been good for $1.7 million.

"They need to—and we all need to—step up and make sure that our candidates have the resources they need, that we can push back on these super-PACs, that we can make sure our side of the story is heard," Cecil said. "I am confident that if we can close the gap financially, we will hold the Senate. But it's also a big if."

In related news, Tom Donohue, the US Chamber of Commerce's president and CEO, told members of his organization that the group plans to get involved in as many as a dozen Senate races this year. Donohue wouldn't say exactly how much the Chamber would spend in the 2012 cycle—news reports have put it as high as $50 million—but, as Reuters reported, Donohue promised "it'll be a lot of money."

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Million-Dollar Donor to Romney Super-PAC Once Drove a Car Into a Pond

| Mon May 21, 2012 9:44 AM EDT

John Kleinheinz, who runs the hedge fund Kleinheinz Capital Partners, claimed the top spot among April donors to the pro-Romney super-PAC Restore Our Future, giving $1 million to the group. In a bizarre and colorful twist, Kleinheinz, as Politico reports, was once charged with "criminal mischief" for...driving another man's car into a pond.

One day in 2006, a photographer named David Irvin was snapping pictures of Kleinheinz and his family at their home. An unhappy Kleinheinz believed Irvin was trespassing on his property while taking the photos—Irvin said he was actually on a nearby country club's property. After vowing to the call the cops on Irvin, Kleinheinz got into the photographer's rented Kia SUV, put it in gear, and then ducked out before the car plunged into a nearby pond. The stunt earned Kleinheinz a third-degree felony charge.

Here's more from Politico:

At the time, Kleinheinz told the [Fort Worth] Star-Telegram that he regretted the incident. "This was not an isolated incident, but it was regrettable," Kleinheinz said.

Kleinheinz's $1 million check made him the largest contributor to the super-PAC in April. He was a supporter of both Romney and John McCain's presidential bids in the 2008 election and has been a long-time supporter of Republican politicians.

Kleinheinz did not respond to a request for comment. And Brittany Gross, a spokesman for Restore our Future also declined to comment. "We don't comment on specific donors," Gross said.

Other big donors to Restore Our Future in April included oil production executive and Romney energy adviser Harold Hamm, who gave $985,000, and Bain Capital managing director Stephen Zide, who gave $250,000. In all, Restore Our Future raised nearly $4 million last month.

Lobbyists Make It Rain for Romney

| Mon May 21, 2012 9:21 AM EDT
Mitt Romney.

Mitt Romney, the GOP's presumptive presidential nominee, won't give out the names of his bundlers, the super-fundraisers who individually rake in anywhere from tens of thousands to millions of dollars for the campaign from an array of donors. But from election records, you can learn that among Romney's biggest rainmakers is a cadre of lobbyists representing some of the biggest industries in America.

A new analysis by the Public Campaign Action Fund finds that at least 25 lobbyists have bundled $3,088,151 for Romney's campaign. Those lobbyists including Patrick Durkin of Barclay's Financial who's bundled $927,160, Ignacio Sanchez of the powerful law firm DLA Piper ($86,700), and Bruce Gates of tobacco company Altria Client Services ($27,500). (Campaigns are required by law to disclose their lobbyist-bundlers.)

As Public Campaign's Adam Smith notes, two of Romney's bundlers—Wayne Berman of Ogilvy Government Relations and Tom Fiorentino of the Fiorentino Group—have reached the campaign's "Stars" level ($250,000 minimum) and one, Barclay's Durkin, has reached the "Stripes" level (minimum $500,000). That's Romney campaign lingo (PDF) for the two most elite levels for fundraisers, each of which give the fundraiser inside access to the campaign with weekly briefings, invitations to exclusive Romney finance committee retreats, and VIP access at this summer's GOP convention.

Of course, we don't know all of Romney's bundlers because, unlike the Obama campaign, Romney's team won't disclose them. None of Obama's bundlers is registered as a lobbyist, though, as the New York Times reported last year, at least 15 of them engage in lobbying without officially registering.

Here's the full list of the Romney campaign's lobbyist-bundlers we know of and the amount they've raised so far:

Scott Walker Pulls Ahead in New Recall Poll

| Wed May 16, 2012 3:09 PM EDT

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has stretched his recall election lead over Democrat Tom Barrett to six percentage points, according to a new poll by Marquette University's Law School. Walker leads 50 percent to 44 percent among likely voters, an increase of five points from Marquette's last poll nearly a month ago.

The poll, Marquette's first since the May 8 Democratic primary, finds voter enthusiasm for the recall highest among Republicans, even though it was progressives and Democrats who triggered the recall election. An overwhelming majority—91 percent—of GOPers surveyed said they're "absolutely certain" to vote in the June 5 election; 8 in 10 Democrats and independents said the same. In addition, 6 in 10 GOP respondents said they'd tried to convince another person to vote in the recall, while just over 5 in 10 Democrats said the same. Democrats, however, are more likely to have been contacted by a campaign than Republicans.

Charles Franklin, Marquette Law School's poll director, said in a statement that a key takeaway is that Republicans hold the crucial edge in voter enthusiasm with the June 5 election weeks away. "In a close election with so few undecided voters," he said, "enthusiasm, turnout, and campaign contact with voters may make the difference."

The poll also found that Barack Obama and Mitt Romney were deadlocked in Wisconsin, 46-46. Last month, Obama held a four point lead over Romney, 49-45.

The Marquette poll surveyed 704 registered voters in Wisconsin. The margin of error for the survey was about 4 percent.

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