The Billionaire Behind Breitbart Takes Aim at Elizabeth Warren
As Donald Trump proved in the 2016 election, pummeling your Democratic opponent is most effective when done early and often. Of course, it doesn’t hurt when that candidate is the frontrunner from the very beginning, or when she has a decades-long record in public office to draw on, as Hillary Clinton did. So it comes as little surprise that Republicans are pre-emptively targeting progressive Senator Elizabeth Warren, among other potential 2020 candidates, in order to dirty her reputation long before the actual presidential election season begins in earnest.
Warren, who made a name for herself as an anti-Wall Street firebrand in the Bernie Sanders mold, is expected to easily win re-election in Massachusetts in 2018. But G.O.P. operatives aren’t waiting for Warren to run in 2020 before using the upcoming election as an opportunity to launch a familiar set of attacks. Politico reports that a mysterious super PAC called Massachusetts First has begun a campaign to “bring to light her hypocrisy and out-of-touch policy positions,” running radio ads and raising $200,000 to continue its attack against the “hypocrite professor” from Harvard. A whopping $150,000 of Massachusetts First’s war chest was donated by Robert Mercer, the billionaire Trump supporter who is also a major stakeholder in Breitbart News and a longtime patron of Steve Bannon. Notably, it was the largest donation Mercer made this year, according to F.E.C. records.
Outside of Massachusetts First—a reference to Trump’s “America First” slogan—other groups are coalescing around an anti-Warren campaign. America First Action and America Rising, two pro-Trump super PACs, have begun collaborating in their anti-Warren opposition research and strategy, Politico reports. Trump’s re-election committee itself began operations within days of his inauguration, released an ad this month calling her a “career politician.”
Warren isn’t the only Democrat on the G.O.P.’s radar, of course. Trump’s allies have also begun compiling opposition strategies to take down Senators Bernie Sanders, Sherrod Brown, Kirsten Gillibrand, Amy Klobuchar, Chris Murphy, and Cory Booker, as well as Governor Andrew Cuomo, among others. All but Booker face re-election in 2018—an opportunity for each to build their war chest and raise their national profile, and for Republicans to try to tear them down. Trump’s allies are particularly eager to kneecap Brown, Politico reports, a finalist to be Clinton’s vice president whom they believe they can unseat before he has a chance to build momentum for a 2020 campaign. Of course, Republicans may have some help in that endeavor. Even if they had all the “dark money” they needed, Republican PACs could come in under-budget as the Democratic Party grapples with its own internecine identity crisis.
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Pro-Trump Dark Money Group Eyed a Whopping $12 Million in 2017 Spending
A leading pro-Trump dark money group revealed it expected to spend $12 million in 2017—a huge sum for a political nonprofit in a non-election year.
The previously unreported figure was listed by America First Policies in documents the group filed with North Carolina’s secretary of state last month as part of an application for charitable registration. In addition to spending $12 million, America First said it expected to raise $15 million this year, and retain $3 million in cash as it heads into a midterm election year that will be crucial for Republicans in general and the president in particular as he looks to pick up the pace of his legislative agenda.
The documents, which America First filed in order to raise money in North Carolina, offer a glimpse into the group’s financial standing that might not otherwise be available until the release of its first annual tax filing, which could come as late as 2019.
Brian Walsh, America First’s president, told The Daily Beast in an email that the group had revised its fundraising and spending numbers since those documents were filed in North Carolina on August 8. But Walsh did not respond to follow up questions as to what those figures would be, or what had changed in the weeks since.
If the group’s eventual financials look anything like the projections it made less than two months ago, America First will have brought in and paid out amounts of money rarely in non election years.
This is a long piece about Robert Mercer and his $$$$ and the recently released Paradise Papers:
The Guardian: Offshore cash helped fund Steve Bannon's attacks on Hillary Clinton ...
Leaked documents and newly obtained public filings show how the billionaire Mercer family built a $60m war chest for conservative causes inside their family foundation by using an offshore investment vehicle to avoid US tax.
The offshore vehicle was part of a network of companies in the Atlantic tax haven of Bermuda led by Robert Mercer, the wealthy hedge-fund executive and Bannon patron whose spending helped put Trump in the White House and aided a resurgence of the Republican right.
Mercer, 71, appears as a director of eight Bermuda companies in the Paradise Papers, a trove of millions of leaked documents on offshore finance reviewed by the Guardian, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and other partners. The files include a copy of Mercer’s US passport and other private data.
Some of the Bermuda companies appear to have been used to legally avoid a little-known US tax of up to 39% on tens of millions of dollars in investment profits amassed by the Mercer family’s foundation, which funded Bannon’s book and a who’s who of conservative groups, along with a $475m retirement fund for the staff of Mercer’s hedge fund, Renaissance Technologies.
Campaign Finance System Of Big Money Now Overshadows Watergate-Era Reforms
After the Watergate scandals in the 1970s, Congress passed a series of laws to reduce the influence of big donors in politics and to increase transparency. Forty years later, those laws have been weakened by additional legislation and a series of court decisions.
Where the Watergate reforms established a single regulated system used by all candidates to finance their political campaigns, there are now three separate systems.
Candidates and the political parties work mainly within vestigial, regulated system of the 1970s. Big donors benefit from a largely unregulated system that caters to them. And small-dollar, grass-roots supporters use the Internet to give spontaneously or on an automated schedule.
In 2016, individuals spent $5.2 billion on federal elections. Half of that money, $2.6 billion, came from just 19,145 people, about as many as live in Johnstown, Pa. All of this comes from new research from the Bipartisan Policy Center, which examines American's campaign finance system and how it's coming apart.
The exemplar for the new campaign finance system is the superPAC, a conduit for unlimited political funds that is barely 8 years old.