Review compiled by:
Shalin M, RepMD Volunteer
1) Grassroots candidates tout small average contributions
ABOUT: Good news - refusing PAC money and focusing on taking small donations is catching on!
"The 2018 cycle is seeing candidates taking up populist challenges to the big donor-backed frontrunners in both the Republican and Democratic Senate primaries.
Paula Jean Swearengin is a challenger to Senator Joe Manchin in West Virginia’s Democratic primary. With Manchin, a familiar incumbent and former governor, outraising Swearengin 34-to-1, the race appears to be another “Charlie v. Goliath” match-up.
However, her grassroots campaign strategy may be effective at garnering the support of working class West Virginians. According to Swearengin’s latest FEC filing, she raised $140,226 in 2017. If the average donor gave just $13 dollars as she claimed earlier this month, that would put her total number of contributions at about 10,800 — 1,193 greater than $200 and 9,006 less than or equal to $200.
Austin Petersen, a Missouri Republican running for U.S. Senate, has not taken any money from business PACs. In October, he compared his fundraising with that of his main opponent Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley.
Grassroots candidates that choose to run on small contributions have a tough election season in front of them as 2018 is expected to see record-setting campaign spending. Raising huge sums of money not only gives your campaign resources but is crucial to gaining recognition as a viable candidate by the main parties.
For instance, in an investigation of how the Democratic Party selects candidates to support for Congress, The Intercept reported, “If the candidates’ contacts aren’t good for at least $250,000, or in some cases much more, they fail the test, and party support goes elsewhere.”"
READ MORE: https://www.opensecrets.org/news/2018/02/grassroots-candidates-tout-small-average-contributions/
OUR THOUGHTS: This is good news and definitely something worth following through the election cycle. It's important to identify average total contribution per *unique* donor as some may contribute multiple times. Note that some candidates may be self-funding their campaigns with monies obtained in less than "above board" means. Nonetheless, let's hope that this trend continues - more "small money" candidates is a good thing for the values espoused by our Constitution.
2) FEC leaders quarrel on digital advertising as midterms begin
ABOUT: The FEC members are battling on how to reign-in internet based political advertising that would misinform voters, specifically "express advocacy".
"Last month, Weintraub publicly released details of her proposal that called for increased disclosure requirements for digital ads with “express advocacy” messaging — or ads that expressly tell audiences to vote for or against a specific candidate.
“I’m very concerned about what happened in 2016, I’m very concerned about what could happen in 2018,” Weintraub said in an interview with OpenSecrets on Thursday. “This rulemaking is not going to solve that problem, but it will be a step in the right direction.”
The FEC proposal would only tackle “express advocacy” ads. Hunter said that the commission does not “have the authority to make it broader.”
“This rulemaking is narrow,” Hunter said. “It’s only for ads placed on the internet for a fee and with express advocacy. It’s a very narrow subset of advertisements that we’re talking about. They have to directly advocate for the election or defeat of a federal candidate, which is express advocacy, and they have to be placed on another person’s site for a fee.”
The role of the FEC in regulating online disclaimers for political advertising is a debate that’s stretched back years. The issue rose to the table most notably in 2011 when Facebook asked commissioners for an advisory opinion about whether to include disclaimers on their political ads; commissioners deadlocked in their decision."
READ MORE: https://www.opensecrets.org/news/2018/03/fec-leaders-quarrel-on-digital-advertising-as-midterms-begin/
OUR THOUGHTS: The more transparency for the voter, the better. Although the likely direction is a "narrow rulemaking", this will be worth watching to find what is discovered and how the rules can further be tailored to improve the odds that voters will be better informed when they go to the polls.
3) A cyclist’s widow asked a lawmaker why she opposed a distracted-driving bill. The answer: Spite.
ABOUT: This is a story of an elected lawmaker insufficiently professional enough to represent their constituents...and it seems pretty sad, frustrating, and disgusting...
"The widow of a man killed by a distracted driver, Mary Carol Harsch, introduced herself to Georgia lawmaker Betty Price before entering an elevator with her on Thursday. She wanted to know why Price had voted against legislation that would double the fine for motorists who talk on the phone while they drive.
Price’s answer shocked Harsch.
“It’s a protest because they ignored my bill last year,” said Price, a Republican state representative. “I’m just causing trouble. I’m not philosophically opposed — I’m just mad.”
John Harsch was a founding physician at Southeastern Primary Care Specialists, and practiced medicine for more than 25 years, according to his obituary. He was an avid cyclist and soccer player.
His widow told Channel 2 she was disappointed that Price, who has been a state representative since 2015, did not demonstrate the “leadership and the potential and the dedication that’s expected of you by your constituents.”
Price, whose district includes parts of Atlanta’s northern suburbs, is a former anesthesiologist and is married to former U.S. health and human services secretary Tom Price."
READ MORE: http://wapo.st/2BP9vgc
OUR THOUGHTS: This sort of behavior is *not* at all what the public expects from their elected representatives and leaders. It is clearly a rather petty move for feeling scorned before and a sign that the Georgia lawmaker, and wife of former HHS Secretary Tom Price, simply cannot be counted on rising to the occasion. This is certainly not a good sign of money well spent in terms of her compensation and how the lawmaker may misuse campaign donations.
4) FCC inspector general investigating chairman over Sinclair
ABOUT: The current FCC chairman, and former Verizon lawyer, is under investigation for potentially conspiring with the conservative leaning broadcaster, Sinclair Media, to benefit the company.
"Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.), the top Democrat on House Commerce Committee and an outspoken critic of Pai, confirmed the report in a statement and praised the move.
"For months I have been trying to get to the bottom of the allegations about Chairman Pai's relationship with Sinclair Broadcasting," Pallone said.
"I am particularly concerned about reports that Chairman Pai may have coordinated with Sinclair to time a series of commission actions to benefit the company," he continued. "I am grateful to the FCC's Inspector General that he has decided to take up this important investigation."
They pointed to a list of actions the agency has taken under Pai's chairmanship that raised their suspicions. In April of last year, the FCC voted to reinstate a recently-repealed rule that would give broadcast owners a discount to help them stay under the 39-percent ownership limit. And in November, the Republican majority rolled back more ownership restrictions, including one limiting the number of stations a single company can own certain markets."
READ MORE: http://thehill.com/policy/technology/374001-fcc-inspector-general-investigating-chairman-over-sinclair-report
OUR THOUGHTS: Again, we see that in the halls of power in DC, signs of corruption are nary far away. Considering this is the same FCC chairman appears to be siding with "team profiteers," news of some shady dealings is not especially surprising. Net Neutrality, and otherwise if it is worthwhile to police cyberspace, is a complicated issue because of the unique "utility" that has grown quite sophisticated and ingrained in our daily lives. What is not so nuanced is a federal official conspiring with a private company to write the rules in their favor - picking individual winners and losers for an entire industry sector is not a function of the Federal government.
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