This Week in Dark Money
Super-PAC megadonor Sheldon Adelson faces a federal investigation, a dark-money group evades a court ruling, and more news from the murky world of campaign finance.
A quick look at the week that was in the world of political dark money…
The Money Shot
Quote of the Week
"I would tell them: 'He is brilliant. Sometimes, like the emperor, he is brutal.'"
—William Weidner, former president of the Las Vegas Sands casino, recalling his struggle to properly explain casino magnate and super-PAC megadonor Sheldon Adelson to Chinese officials. Adelson's business activities in Macau are the subject of a federal investigation for potentially violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
Attack Ad of the Week
This anti-Romney ad from Priorities USA Action, the pro-Obama super-PAC, came out last month. This week, In These Times labor reporter Mike Elk tracked down the star of the spot, Donnie Box, who had some surprising things to say about President Obama. Box appeared in the ad because he used to work as a steelworker at GS Technologies in Kansas City, which was shuttered by Bain Capital in 2001, and Box told Elk that Mitt Romney is "an asshole" who played a major role. But Box revealed to In These Times that he's no Obama fan either—"I think Obama is a jerk, a pantywaist, a lightweight, a blowhard. He hasn't done a goddamn thing that he said he would do"—and plans to sit the election out.
Stat of the Week
$6 million: The June fundraising haul of pro-Obama super-PAC Priorities USA Action, including $2 million from former Qualcomm director Irwin Jacobs and his wife, Joan, and $1 million from actor Morgan Freeman. While conservative outside-spending groups continue to enjoy a big money advantage over their liberal counterparts, a Politico Influence analysis found that liberal super-PACs actually spent more money than conservative ones on election ads in the first half of July.
Disclosure Evasion of the Week
Earlier this year, a federal district court ruled "that Congress did not delegate authority to the FEC to narrow the disclosure requirement" that has kept anonymous the funders of "social welfare" nonprofits' issues ads, which mention candidates without telling viewers how they should vote. In response, US Chamber of Commerce president Tom Donahue decried the ruling as "all about intimidation." The decision will likely be challenged, but the Chamber is now sidestepping the court anyway by spending more than $1.1 million on "express advocacy" ads, which do encourage viewers to vote for specific candidates, supporting Republicans in Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, and North Dakota. Here's a boxing-themed spot that attacks Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley, who is challenging incumbent Sen. Dean Heller in Nevada:
More MoJo Dark-Money Coverage
• Senate Republicans Stand Up for the Rights of Secret Donors: GOPers vote to keep dark money in the shadows by blocking the DISCLOSE Act.
• Republicans to Secret Donors: We've Got Your Back (Yet Again): GOP senators who once talked up dark-money disclosure kill off the DISCLOSE Act.
• Democratic Super-PACs Bank $25 Million—But Lag Karl Rove and Co.: A quartet of Democratic super-PACs hauled in more than $25 million in April, May, and June of 2012.
• Anti-Obama Group Caught Using Military Logos Without Authorization: "Special Operations for America" must stop politicizing military insignia, US officials tell MoJo, or face possible legal action.
• Matt Bai argues that reporters have exaggerated the impact the Citizens United ruling has had on the 2012 election. New York Times Magazine
• Election law expert Rick Hasen, who is criticized in Bai's article, disagrees. Election Law Blog
• A new iPhone app developed by students at MIT will tell you if ads playing on your TV are funded by super-PACs. Forbes
• Has anti-Citizens United sentiment dissuaded Democrats from giving to super-PACs? Politico
• The descendants of America's first Mormons are giving big to pro-Romney super-PAC Restore Our Future. New York Times