Sunrise (5/20/11)

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DARK MONEY EXPLOSION

Bloomberg: “Commission on Hope and four other Republican-leaning groups spent at least $4.05 million attacking candidates in the run-up to the November voting, according to Campaign Media estimates and TV station records obtained by Bloomberg News. None of that spending can be found searching the public database of the Federal Election Commission, and FEC spokeswoman Mary Brandenberger said the commission has no record of it. … Federal law requires FEC disclosure of money spent on ads mentioning or depicting a candidate in the 60 days before a general election. The five groups whose spending wasn’t reported either declined to comment, were unreachable, or said they deemed the spending not reportable under the law. … The five are among the outside, or non-party, organizations that have played a growing role in federal elections. They include trade groups, unions and nonprofits started by political operatives that raise and spend money for advertising. The $305 million they reported spending in the 2010 elections was more than four times the amount such entities paid out in the midterm elections in 2006, according to the Washington-based Center for Responsive Politics, a research group that tracks FEC filings. … Growing more sharply is a subset that keeps secret the identities of donors who bankroll the ads. These outside organizations told the FEC they spent $137 million in the 2010 cycle — 25 times the 2006 level. Commission on Hope represents an even more secretive type that has taken itself off the radar of federal regulators entirely — by reporting neither spending nor donors to the FEC.”

ETHICS HASN’T MET ON POST-ENSIGN GUIDELINES

The Hill: “The Senate Ethics Committee has not met to discuss the remaining recommendations listed in its report on former Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.). … The report, issued a week ago, featured recommendations from a special counsel that the committee offer “clear and direct guidance” to senators and their staff on how to avoid aiding or partaking in illegal lobbying practices on Capitol Hill. … It also recommends that the panel issue guidelines on when the shredding or deleting of documents or emails could lead to breaking civil and criminal laws and result in charges of obstruction of justice.”

INTERVIEW WITH BOPP

NJ: “NJ Is there any legal mechanism for curbing the influence of money?

BOPP The way you said it, the answer is clearly no. The spending of money is necessary to communicate. So, when you “curtail the influence of money,” you are saying you want to curb the influence of speech on elections. Well, of course, we can’t do that. Now, the Court still recognizes that really large contributions can contain a quid pro quo, and you can limit large contributions. But I think contribution limits are too low.

NJ Why?

BOPP You can’t buy even a Democrat in Congress for $2,500. Anecdotally, it takes at least $99,000 in cold, hard cash, i.e., [former Louisiana Rep. William] Jefferson. And then, of course, you have Republican examples, like [former California Rep.] Duke Cunningham. He had a list—and, of course, he was talking six figures.”

GREEN GROUPS SUE STATE DEPARTMENT

NYT: “The Canadian company TransCanada is hoping to win State Department approval of construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry “oil sands” oil to the Gulf Coast for refining. To this end, it has spent $310,000 this year lobbying in Washington for the cause. … Its principal lobbyist is a man named Paul Elliott. Remember him? He was a deputy director of Hilary Clinton’s presidential campaign three years ago. … Environmental and ethics groups are crying foul. Last year they filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act for any correspondence between the new lobbyist and his former boss, Secretary of State Clinton, who will ultimately have to sign off on the pipeline. … The State Department first refused, then said it would comply with the request. But it has not yet produced the requested documents, and on Wednesday, the groups sued to obtain them.”

SENATOR CANCELS APPEARANCE AT NEW REVOLVING DOOR LOBBYING FIRM

OregonLive: “Willamette Week reported Wednesday that Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., would be attending a May 31 reception at a Portland law firm to celebrate the launch of a “federal policy practice group” headed by his former chief of staff, Josh Kardon. … Within hours of that report, Wyden canceled his appearance at Tonkon Torp after learning that “prospective clients” would be invited to the reception. … “Because Senator Wyden has a longstanding policy of not attending or lending his name to events that promote lobbying firms or individual lobbyists, we regret that the senator will not be able to attend Josh’s launch party,” Wyden spokeswoman Jennifer Hoelzer told Willamette Week.”

LOBBYISTS SWARM ON TAX BREAKS

BusinessWeek: “U.S. lawmakers in both parties are seriously weighing proposals that could shave from $4 trillion to $6 trillion from the U.S. budget over the next decade. For America’s lobbying class, that’s the equivalent of a Category 5 storm warning. So the pinstripe brigade representing interest groups as diverse as ethanol producers, defense contractors, and hospital chains has descended on the nation’s capital in recent weeks to ensure their tax breaks and subsidies are spared. Some 2,000 real estate agents parachuted into Washington the week of May 8 to defend the tax deduction homeowners receive on mortgage interest. Thousands of farmers who want to forestall cuts in agriculture subsidies have also been buttonholing their representatives. “I can’t remember anything close to this,” says Howard Marlowe, president of the American League of Lobbyists in Alexandria, Va., who during three decades as a Washington lobbyist has seen his share of budget battles.”

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