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.

Get my RSS |

Transparency Victory: Feds Will Require Broadcasters To Post Political Ad Info Online

| Fri Apr. 27, 2012 12:03 PM EDT
An anti-Obama ad paid for by dark-money group Crossroads GPS.

Want to peruse Mitt Romney's donor list? See who's on a super-PAC's payroll? Find out which campaign spends the most on Chinese take-out? All that information and more is a click (or four) away on the internet.

However, political advertising information—who's buying ads, where they're buying them, and how much they're spending—remains in the pre-computer age. That information is only available on paper forms stuffed inside filing cabinets at the offices of the broadcasters themselves. These files are public information, yet they are nowhere to be found online. Reporters or citizens looking for ad buy information have to call up individual broadcasters or visit TV stations in person.

No more. The Federal Communications Commission on Friday ruled that TV stations must post online their publicly available political ad information, including who's buying, what they're paying, and how much airtime they purchased. TV ads remain the most potent (and pricey) weapon in a campaign's arsenal, and making ad data readily available online is a game-changer for reporters covering the campaign.

There's a catch. The FCC's requirement impacts only the nation's 50 biggest TV markets, exempting the remaining 160. As the Sunlight Foundation recently noted, TV markets in battleground states such as Iowa, Virginia, and Missouri won't be touched by the FCC's decision. Meanwhile, broadcasters in Los Angeles and New York, both cities where President Obama is expected to win easily, will be subject to the new online requirement.

Still, supporters of the online move hailed the decision as a step out of the shadows for political advertising and win for transparency. "This is a huge victory for the public interest and a critical breakthrough for transparency in an election year," wrote Candace Clement of Free Press, a media reform group that lobbied for moving ad info online. "At a time when wealthy special interests are trying to buy elections, we now have a means to figure out how much they’re spending on these ads, and where."

The National Association of Broadcasters, the industry's main trade group which lobbied against the proposal, said in a statement that it "respectfully disagrees" with the FCC's ruling. "By forcing broadcasters to be the only medium to disclose on the Internet our political advertising rates, the FCC jeopardizes the competitive standing of stations that provide local news, entertainment, sports and life-saving weather information free of charge to tens of millions of Americans daily."

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Poll: Super-PACs Will Hurt Voter Turnout in 2012

| Tue Apr. 24, 2012 10:08 AM EDT

The post has been updated.

The ultra-rich may be psyched that super-PACs give them more power to influence elections, but average voters aren't wild about the new election spending groups, according to a new poll commissioned by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law.

One in four respondents in the poll said they're less likely to vote in elections this year because of the growing influence of super-PACs. That percentage climbs among those earning less than $35,000 a year (34 percent) and those with only a high school education (34 percent). "The perception that super-PACs are corrupting government is making Americans disillusioned, and an alarming number say they are less likely to vote this year," Adam Skaggs, senior counsel for the Brennan Center's democracy program, said in a statement. (The poll's margin of error is ±3.1 percentage points.)

The Brennan poll also found that 73 percent of respondents agreed with that statement that "there would be less corruption if there were limits on how much could be given to super-PACs." Nearly 70 percent concurred that "new rules that let corporations, unions, and people give unlimited money to super PACs will lead to corruption." And the majority of those polled disagreed that regular voters enjoy equal access to candidates as big super-PAC donors. (One in five said they had access was the same.)

Brad Smith, chairman of the Center for Competitive Politics, which supports deregulating the campaign system, wrote in an email that the Brennan poll's result were "utterly predictable" but said there was no hard evidence proving that a spike in political spending depresses voter turnout. He also noted that Gallup's tracking of public trust in government had ticked upward since the advent of super-PACs. "Given the hysteria over super-PACs and the well-documented errors in media coverage of them, it is not surprising that people feel negatively about them," he added. "But the facts don't square with conventional wisdom."

Read the full results of the poll here.

Warren Buffett Will Host Obama Campaign Fundraiser in Omaha

| Mon Apr. 23, 2012 2:38 PM EDT

Warren Buffett and President Obama.: Flickr/White HouseWarren Buffett and President Obama.: Flickr/White House

Warren Buffett, the billionaire investor and philanthropist who lent his name to President Barack Obama's proposal to raise the tax rate on the wealthy, will host a fundraiser for the president on Tuesday at the Omaha Hilton. First Lady Michelle Obama is scheduled to attend, as is Susie Buffett, Warren's daughter and a prominent philanthropist.

A Obama campaign official told Mother Jones that approximately 200 people are slated to attend the event. Despite Buffett's standing as one of the world's richest persons, the event is not for only the top 1-percenters. Tickets start at $250 a person. The money raised will go to the Obama Victory Fund, the president's main re-election war chest.

This isn't the first time Warren Buffett is participating in Obama's 2012 fundraising cause. Last September, the "Oracle of Omaha" headlined an Obama fundraiser at the Four Seasons restaurant in midtown Manhattan. To be a "host" for that event—billed as an "economic forum" with Buffett and Austan Goolsbee, the former chair of Obama's Council of Economic Advisers—a donor had to part with $38,500. To get in as a non-host, contributors had to pony up at least $10,000 a head. The most generous donors enjoyed a "VIP reception" with Buffett himself.

Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and other Democratic allies have recently made good use of the Buffett name on the re-election fundraising circuit, touting the Buffett Rule as Obama's latest effort to take on the congressional Republicans. At a February 23 fundraiser, where 100 people attended at a cost of $15,000 per person, the president said, "When it comes to paying for our government and making sure the investments are there so that future generations can succeed, everybody's got to do their part. That's why I put forward the Buffett Rule."

Obama has pushed the Buffett Rule—which was blocked by Senate Republicans this month—as a way to raise revenues for government to help tame the deficit and to promote tax fairness. Now the Obama campaign is using Buffett to raise some revenue of its own.

Tue Nov. 18, 2014 6:00 AM EST
Wed Oct. 15, 2014 2:01 PM EDT
Tue Jun. 24, 2014 2:22 PM EDT
Thu Apr. 24, 2014 5:06 AM EDT
Mon Jan. 13, 2014 12:19 PM EST