-by Kenneth P. Vogel
August 9, 2011- If anyone had doubts about the role that anonymous and untraceable money will play in the 2012 campaign ad wars, a flurry of recent reports and voluntary disclosures should put them to rest.
The full extent of the anonymous giving is by definition impossible to know. But the recent disclosures as well as interviews with fundraising sources suggest that Republican-allied independent groups are outpacing Democratic ones in collecting undisclosed contributions to fund their political advertising, just as they did in 2010.
But, perhaps more significantly, they show that Democrats, who vociferously attacked that kind of fundraising last year, have set aside their qualms and are now active competitors in the anonymous donor arms race.
The three main anonymously funded Democratic outside groups – Priorities USA, American Bridge 21st Century Foundation and Patriot Majority – collected at least $3.7 million in untraceable contributions, and probably much more, in the first half of the year, according to voluntary disclosures and anecdotal information on ad buys.
-By Josh Gerstein
August 5, 2011- A prominent Los Angeles trial lawyer has agreed to plead guilty to two misdemeanors for giving employees and a relative a total of $20,000 to donate to former Sen. John Edwards's presidential campaign in 2003, court documents show.
The L.A. attorney, Pierce O'Donnell, has agreed to serve six months in jail and to pay a fine of $20,000, according to a plea agreement filed Thursday afternoon in federal court.
O'Donnell's case drew national attention in 2009 when Judge James Otero issued a surprising ruling that reimbursing a campaign contribution to a federal candidate did not violate federal law. Last year, a federal appeals court overruled Otero and reinstated the charges. Earlier this year, the Supreme Court declined to take up the case, although a Virginia judge recently came to a similar conclusion as Otero.
When the case was filed back in 2008, O'Donnell was indicted on three felony charges. The judge struck two of those charges in his ruling and later dismissed one at the request of prosecutors. With only misdemeanors on his record, O'Donnell could regain his law license, which was suspended after the charges were filed. His trial was set to open August 30.
A political committee tied to Mitt Romney received two separate $1 million donations from companies located in Provo, but the companies don't appear to do any substantial business. It's part of the brave new world of presidential politics after the Supreme Court decided donations to political groups could not be capped.
Records offer no clues who was behind mystery company that donated to 'super PAC'
-By Michael Isikoff
August 4, 2011- A mystery company that pumped $1 million into a political committee backing Mitt Romney has been dissolved just months after it was formed, leaving few clues as to who was behind one of the biggest contributions yet of the 2012 presidential campaign.
The existence of the million-dollar donation — as gleaned from campaign and corporate records obtained by NBC News — provides a vivid example of how secret campaign cash is being funneled in ever more circuitous ways into the political system.
The company, W Spann LLC, was formed in March by a Boston lawyer who specializes in estate tax planning for “high net worth individuals,” according to corporate records and the lawyer’s bio on her firm’s website.
The corporate records provide no information about the owner of the firm, its address or its type of business.
-By Charlie Savage and Eric Schmitt
July 19, 2011- WASHINGTON — Pakistan’s military, including its powerful spy agency, has spent $4 million over two decades in a covert attempt to tilt American policy against India’s control of much of Kashmir — including funneling campaign donations to members of Congress and presidential candidates, the F.B.I. claimed in court papers unsealed Tuesday.
The allegations of a long-running plan to influence American elections and foreign policy come at a time of deep tensions between the United States and Pakistan — and in particular its spy agency — amid the fallout over the American raid that killed Osama bin Laden at a compound deep inside Pakistan on May 2.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation made the allegations in a 43-page affidavit filed in connection with the indictment of two United States citizens on charges that they failed to register with the Justice Department as agents of Pakistan, as required by law. One of the men, Zaheer Ahmad, is in Pakistan, but the other, Syed Fai, lives in Virginia and was arrested on Tuesday.
Press Release: Menendez Introduces Shareholder Protection Act in Wake of Supreme Court’s Gutting of Campaign Finance Law
July 13, 2011
WASHINGTON – U.S Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) held a press conference today to introduce The Shareholder Protection Act, which requires a shareholder vote before corporate treasury funds are spent on political campaigns. The Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC declared corporations to be citizens, giving them the right to spend unlimited funds on elections and calling that spending an expression of their free speech rights. This legislation would give shareholders a say in that political spending. Original co-sponsors of the bill include Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH). Representative Michael Capuano (D-MA) is also introducing an identical bill in the House of Representatives today.
“The Supreme Court made its decision, but Congress can and should take immediate steps to make sure that the new free speech rights created by this decision are extended to everyone,” said Menendez. “A corporation’s money really belongs to the shareholders, not the executives, and those shareholders deserve a voice if their money is going to be spent on politics.”
Viacom can fund his new group without reporting anything to federal regulators -- as long as campaign ads air within his time slot
-By Chris Good
June 30, 2011- Comedian Stephen Colbert now has a "SuperPAC" -- a political group that can legally accept unlimited contributions from people, corporations, and unions to campaign for candidates and causes.
"Mr. Colbert, you may form your PAC and proceed as the commission has advised in this opinion," the Federal Election Commission's Democratic chair, Cynthia Bauerly, announced at the end of a hearing Thursday morning where Colbert sought approval for his new group, which now exists at the vanguard of soft-money election spending.
Smiling, Colbert shook the hand of his lawyer, Trevor Potter, a former FEC chairman himself who now serves as president of the Campaign Legal Center in Washington, D.C. Potter had counseled Colbert about the meeting during Wednesday's showing of The Colbert Report on Comedy Central .
With the FEC's approval, Colbert will now: