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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Poll: Super-PACs Will Hurt Voter Turnout in 2012

One in four Americans say they're less likely to vote because of super-PACs' growing clout, the Brennan Center says.

| Tue Apr. 24, 2012 11:08 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.

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Warren Buffett Will Host Obama Campaign Fundraiser in Omaha

The First Lady will join Buffett, his daughter Susie, and 200 donors at the Hilton hotel to raise money for Obama's re-election.

| Mon Apr. 23, 2012 3:38 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.

Progressives: Yank ALEC's Nonprofit Status!

A new lawsuit from Common Cause alleges that ALEC violated tax law with its lobbying.

| Mon Apr. 23, 2012 12:50 PM EDT

After pressuring dues-paying corporations to ditch the American Legislative Exchange Council, the good-government group Common Cause has launched a new attack on the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) by challenging its status as a tax-exempt nonprofit.

Late last week, lawyers representing Common Cause filed a lawsuit under the Tax Whistleblower Act with the Internal Revenue Service accusing ALEC of violating its status as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit by "massive[ly] underreporting" its lobbying activities. The suit alleges that ALEC exists primarily to give corporate members the ability to "lobby state legislators and to deduct the costs of such efforts as charitable contributions." Non-profits like ALEC can't make lobbying a majority of their activities. (For a primer on ALEC, check out this 2002 Mother Jones story, "Ghostwriting the Law.")

Obama Whomps Romney in 2012's Campaign Cash Grab (So Far)

With Romney all but guaranteed the GOP nomination, he badly trails the president in the money race.

| Mon Apr. 23, 2012 6:00 AM EDT

Mitt Romney has at last vanquished his zombie opponents and locked up the Republican presidential nomination. Polls show Romney eating away at President Obama's lead in a head-to-head matchup, now at 3.3 percentage points, according to RealClearPolitics' polling average. When it comes to the campaign cash fight, however, Obama is trouncing Romney, as new fundraising numbers from the first months of 2012 make clear.

Here's the most eye-popping stat: By the end of March, Obama's reelection effort had 10 times more money in the bank than Romney's campaign, $104.1 million to $10.1 million. Looking at the entire 2012 campaign, Obama's haul is now at $196.6 million, while Romney's is at $88.7 million. Below, we've visualized the January-to-March fundraising totals for the Obama and Romney campaigns, the Democratic and Republican National Committees, and a handful of key super-PACs. One takeaway: Democrats may be dominating the traditional campaign and party cash grab, but GOPers, led by Karl Rove, are dominating the outside-money battle.

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