Posts Tagged ‘Politics’

How to Survive the Political Game of Musical Chairs

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When Illinois Attorney General, Lisa Madigan, announced she was going to run for reelection instead of Governor, it sent a full ripple effect down the ballot, as candidates had spent months jockeying for different offices fully expecting her to run for Governor.

Two Democrats in particular, were most affected by Madigan’s decision: Kwame Raoul and Shelia Simon; both were eyeing a run for Attorney General. Instead they were both left to make hard decisions about their political futures. Here’s an example of when push comes to shove, money can help delegate your next seat in the political game of musical chairs.

Sheila Simon was not going to give up her statewide ambitions and with her already abandoning her position as the 46th Lieutenant Governor, she was left to decide between running for Comptroller and Treasurer.

Sheila Simon & Duffy Blackburn (and their spouses) after Blackburn announced he was suspending his campaign. source: Duffy Blackburn Facebook Page

Sheila Simon & Duffy Blackburn (and their spouses) after Blackburn announced he was suspending his campaign. source: Duffy Blackburn Facebook Page

While both offices had other Democrats eyeing those positions, when looking at the money, the choice was clear for Simon. The path to the Democratic nomination for Comptroller looked strategically easier than to Treasurer. While there were other reasons Simon made this decision, one key reason was money. Duffy Blackburn the Democrat running for Comptroller had only about $25,000 on-hand, Mike Frerichs running for Treasurer had nearly $650,000.  It can be said that Simon’s chances for Comptroller were a lot higher since her opposition (Blackburn) had low fundraising support.

Money played a role for both the futures of Frerichs and Blackburn. Frerichs had a built a large war chest which would serve as a firewall to protect him from new challengers. And for Blackburn, it was a demonstrated weakness that Simon was able to take advantage of. Once Simon sat back and looked at the D2’s of her potential primary opponents, it was an easy choice.

Kwame Raoul – Simon’s decision to run for Comptroller was an easy one compared to Raoul. Raoul went on a fundraising tear at the end of June and reportedly raised $462,000 over the previous three-month period. Raoul had the same options as Simon, but apparently has also much more ambition.

State Senator Kwame Raoul. Source: Kwame Raouls' Facebook page

State Senator Kwame Raoul. Source: Kwame Raouls’ Facebook page

Raoul is now weighing running for Governor, which is something he will likely announce in the next week. His impressive fundraising haul is playing some role in the buzz surrounding a potential campaign. Even though he raised only half of what Quinn and Daley raised, he was able to raise enough to be taken seriously by the Democratic players in this state.

This game of musical chairs played by the candidates help reinforce something I tell clients all the time, “If you have money then you have options and power.” Simon chose to take on a much financially weaker opponent in Blackburn, and because of Raoul’s fundraising successes he has some real options to consider.

By Nick Daggers, Vice President, Fundraising

Is Reform Coming to Illinois?

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I read the news today and oh, boy…another Illinois politician is under investigation.

The Chicago Sun Times reports an FBI investigation underway on Chicago Alderman Joe Moore (49th Ward) for firing two employees, who had allegedly complained about doing political work while on city time.

It’s no secret that Illinois has had its fair share of ethical discrepancies toward the conduct of business in the political arena.

However, some believe that the culmination of political scandal over the recent years may have finally reached its tipping point, which begs the question: Will Moore’s case be the final straw that breaks the camel’s back?

Many wonder if the feds will come down hard on Moore. But will more instances like this finally make Illinois voters realize the need for a near complete overhaul of our states ethics and good government laws?

I don’t know but I do know is that in 2014, voters may finally have the chance to vote on one of the largest and most sweeping reforms in over 30 years. Yes for Independent Maps is currently gathering signatures to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot to reform our state legislature’s redistricting process by creating a non-partisan redistricting commission similar to California, Arizona, Missouri, Florida, and a handful of other states.

An amazing first step towards saving Illinois from a handful of corrupt elected officials would be to create an independent mapping process.  Why?

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First, simply changing the way that state legislative districts are drawn will create an unprecedented level of transparency. It will also create more competitive districts. If it is successful, we will see like-minded communities protected rather than split apart for political purposes.

Secondly, if this amendment passes it will send a deafening boom to elected officials all over the state of Illinois and hopefully open the door to more good government policies.

The deafening boom of this amendment becoming law will remind elected officials how important integrity and ethics are to the people of Illinois.

CFO Consulting is proud and excited to be working with Yes for Independent Maps and to be helping them raise the money they will need to pass this amendment. We believe that reforms like this bring great transparency to the political process and help to create a better government that is capable of serving its citizens.

To learn more about the work we are doing with Yes for Independent Maps visit them at www.independentmaps.org.

By Nick Daggers, Vice President, Fundraising

Choosing the Right Lt Gov can be a Game Changer

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Over the next 17 months, there will be 37 governors who will either be elected or reelected. In many of these states the candidates running for governor will have to choose a Lieutenant Governor candidate. One of the key factors to consider is the fundraising support they can add to the ticket.

Here is my analysis of what kind of candidates might exist out there for a gubernatorial candidate to help maximize his or hers’ fundraising potential heading into a general election.

  • The Millionaire – any candidate who has the ability to self-fund can instantly change the fundraising ability of a gubernatorial candidate and his ticket. This would likely be the best match for a candidate who needs cash fast in order to level the playing field. Any Lt Gov who can quickly infuse a few hundred thousand into a close race could be a game changer.
  • The War Chest – some politicians have been around for years stockpiling huge sums of cash. Anyone that has done this would be a great person to add to the ticket as instantly bring cold, hard cash ready to be used. Only a few potential candidates have significant war chests that could make them a good candidate.
  • The Instigator – in recent years we have seen many politicians become very successful fundraisers by always being at the center of controversy. “Wingnuts” as many of them are referred to as; usually make great fundraisers but terrible candidates. Think Michelle Bachman, Alan Grayson, or even Sarah Palin.

While there are many, many ways for a good Lieutenant Governor candidate to add to their tickets fundraising successes these are just a few categories that they might want to consider before deciding on who to slate with them for next election.

By Nick Daggers, Vice President, Fundraising

 

Campaign Finance Regulation Needs a Home

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The Federal Election Commission can no longer be considered the sole federal agency tasked with regulating federal campaign activity.  As a recent New York Times article suggests, the Securities and Exchange Commission may soon require publicly traded corporations to disclose the names of individuals who contribute to various so-called Super PACs.  Not surprisingly, the measure is strongly opposed by business organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce, which argue that such measures would infringe on the group’s right to free speech. The Internal Revenue Service has also been highlighted recently for its alleged overreach in targeting tax-exempt 501(c)(4) organizations associated with the conservative Tea Party.

These latest events highlight just how thorny of an issue campaign finance regulation has become.  Agencies that are not normally tasked with any kind of campaign regulation have found themselves forced to overcompensate for a seemingly ineffectual FEC.

In international relations, the term “proxy war” is used to describe a situation in which two opposing parties utilize a substitute, or a third party, as an alternative to fighting each other directly.  What Citizens United seems to have engendered, is a proxy war between liberals and conservatives in which government agencies are being used as reluctant battlegrounds.   As we have witnessed this past week, the results are at best messy, and at worst, damaging to the overall legitimacy of the federal government.

The longer both sides continue to battle one another over procedural matters in multiple agency arenas, the more distant they become from their purported fundamental purpose for being, which is to engage in political advocacy.  Not to mention, of course, the more contributor money they waste in the process. But is there any alternative?

These organizations might benefit from looking back to 2004 and the similar issues brought forth by so-called “527” organizations and their apparent exemption from the recently passed Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (also known as McCain-Feingold).  The crucial similarity between the battles being waged today, and those of the past, boil down to one thing: the definition of a “political committee” as defined in the FEC Act.

The difference between the strategies implemented today versus 2004, is that in the latter, watchdog groups and political parties funneled all their complaints and fought all their battles in one arena – the FEC.  Both sides filed complaints and the FEC came down hard on 527’s, primarily for failing to register as political committees.  As a result, America Coming Together was fined $775,000, the Media Fund was fined $580,000 and the Swift Boat Vets and POWs for Truth were fined $299,500.

A strategy that devotes resources to one specific arena (namely, the FEC) could be particularly beneficial for liberals and other proponents of increased disclosure.  The Supreme Court unambiguously upheld disclosure laws as constitutional.  If disclosure is the bottom line, then liberals and supporters need to bring the fight back to the FEC where they maintain a home turf advantage. Otherwise, they risk undermining their cause by fighting procedural battles in agencies that have little interest in regulating campaign activity and little incentive to become enmeshed in a political battle as contentious as campaign finance.

 By Erinn Larkin, Compliance Director, PACs and Parties

 

Free Advice: Start Raising Money Yesterday

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Whenever an aspiring candidate asks the question, “when do you think I should start raising money?”  my answer is always the same – yesterday!

I cannot begin to count the times I have joined a campaign right before a critical fundraising deadline. And yet there are countless reasons why raising money early on can be pivotal.  For example, in order to build a successful fundraising operation you must first create a good infrastructure of data and lists. Moreover, early money can create other opportunities that will give you the greatest chance at success.

A good fundraising operation can very easily built if the campaign has a good base of data. Almost any good fundraising operation will start by organizing and sorting (hopefully) hundreds of personal contacts of the candidate. This step can take a considerable amount of time, in many cases candidates will hand their fundraiser a stack full of business cards, their holiday list, (and my favorite) cocktail napkins with notes scribbled on them. Deciphering this data can take a great deal of time and detective work. Usually, this work can be done months before a candidate is ready to announce his or her candidacy. Once some sort of manageable list is in order, the candidate is ready to hit the phones!

By getting a head start on fundraising, the candidate do things other than just spend hours in a dark room on the phone. Many candidates quickly grow tired of call time and want to get to meet voters and campaign for office. However, if they cannot do this until they hit some of the early fundraising benchmarks. By buckling down early and spending hours of the phone can definitely free up the candidates schedule to spend a few more hours a week shaking hands and kissing babies.

Finally, the greatest reason a candidate should start raising money sooner than later is that it will give them the greatest chance at victory. This should be reason enough to convince candidates to start raising money in April instead of June, but that is not always the case. The facts do not lie in many cases the candidate who jumps in early and raises money the fastest can have a greater chance at victory. Early money is a demonstration of strength to both potential opponents and pundits. An early start will also give you a chance to jump out to an early cash advantage, that in some cases your opponent might never be able to catch.

Every candidate could use some free advice, so to those of you thinking about running for office in 2014, 2015 or even 2016, remember it is never to early to start fundraising. An early fundraising start will give the opportunity to build a solid infrastructure, allow the candidate more time to campaign, and most importantly give you the greatest chance at victory.

By Nick Daggers, Vice President, Fundraising

Why is the Senate Electronic Filing Bill Deemed Unlikely to be Enacted Despite Near Consensus?

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Few issues or policy realms have the power to bring together alliances like those witnessed in the now infamous Citizens United case, which pinned the ACLU, NRA, AFL-CIO, and Chamber of Commerce against an alliance that included the American Independent Business Alliance, the DNC, and Senator John McCain (among others).  Even fewer have the ability to kindle bipartisanship and consensus in a political landscape characterized by polarization and gridlock. Yet the Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act introduced by Senator Jon Tester earlier this year has indeed managed to receive bipartisan support.   The bill would compel Senate candidates to electronically file campaign finance reports along with the other federally registered committees that have been doing so since 2001 (PACs, Parties, and House Members). The bill would save time, tax dollars, and improve disclosure and transparency.

So why do organizations like GovTrack.us, which track the statistical probability of legislation being enacted, give the bill a 10% chance of success?

In 1971 when the FEC Act was originally enacted, the law dictated that Senate candidates file their reports with the Secretary of the Senate who would then forward them to the FEC. All other committees were to report directly to the FEC. In 2001 when the FEC required that almost all committees file their reports electronically, the Senate was exempted from the law and has continued to file on paper ever since.

Why shouldn’t the Senate be allowed to continue filing on paper?  There are several reasons why compelling the Senate to file electronically is a common sense law. First, the current procedure is inefficient. The candidate sends their report to the Secretary of the Senate, who then forwards the report to the FEC. The FEC then sends it to a third party firm that re-types the reports, enters them into a database, and sends the information back the FEC. Only then is the information available to the public.  By contrast, reports thatare uploaded electronically are instantly available to the public.

Second, the current procedure is costly.  The FEC estimates that having the Senate file electronically would save tax-payers just under $500,000 per year. It would undoubtedly save candidates the expense of printing and sending hundreds of pages worth of reports at-least four times a year.  It also unnecessarily wastes the time of government employees.  Because the Senate reports need to be re-typed, every time a campaign finance analyst finds a potential violation, they must then locate the paper image to ensure it corroborates with the re-typed data.  Such a time-consuming, redundant process is obviated by electronically filed reports.

Lastly, it would provide greater transparency.  While the FEC pays for the service of re-typing the data, it is entirely for their own review purposes. The formatted data is never made available to the public. Therefore, individuals interested in reviewing Senate reports must scroll through hundreds of pages of text-unsearchable PDF images.  For all these reasons, the measure to compel the Senate to file electronically has received widespread support and near consensus among all parties involved.

Why might the bill fail regardless of such widespread support? Those interested in the passage of the Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act of 2013 should pay attention to the behavior of Senator Mitch McConnell and his role in the failed Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act of 2007.  Senator McConnell first placed an anonymous hold on the bill (when pushed, he later revealed his identity).  He then attempted to attach an amendment that would loosen coordinated expenditure laws between parties and candidates.  In short, he sought to negotiate for policy reform when the matter at hand concerned procedural reform, which to many, was simply too unreasonable and unequal of an exchange.  Observing McConnell’s disposition toward the current bill may provide insight into its chances of ever getting past committee and on to the floor for a vote.

 By Erinn Larkin, Compliance Director, PACs and Parties