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House to vote on campaign finance disclosure bill
(May 23, 2007)
A bill which would allow more campaign finance oversight is scheduled for a vote tomorrow, The Washington Post reports. "The main bill would significantly tighten reporting requirements for lobbyist campaign contributions, event sponsorship and other activities; require searchable, online public access to the reports; and impose harsh penalties on rule-breakers," Elizabeth Williamson writes.

The New York Times posted an interactive graphic that displays presidential fundraising totals from around the country.Readers can enter speciifc ZIP codes to check donations from a praticular area; candidates' contribution data is from the Federal Elections Commission. The project was created by the Times team of Shan Carter, Matthew Ericson, Vu Nguyen, Aron Pilhofer, and Pau Santemasses.

Cris Barrish from The (New Castle, Del.) News Journal raised questions about the legal loophole in Delaware, which says public officials must be named only when lobbyists spend more than $50 on each one at social events. The (New Castle, Del.) News Journal examined the state's lobbyist database, which details lobbyist spending and gifts received by top state officials since 2002, and found out "A total of $471,200 - nearly two-thirds - was spent on public officials who did not have to be identified." In addition, "Lobbyists paid another quarter-million dollars during the 4 1/2-year period ending June 30 for individual gifts greater than $50."

In a series by Salon.com and the Center for Investigative Reporting, Will Evans exposes a money trail that leads from the pockets of judges to coffers of prominent Republicans - including the President. "At least two dozen federal judges appointed by President Bush since 2001 made political contributions to key Republicans or to the president himself while under consideration for their judgeships, government records show." While not illegal, these contributions are ethically questionable due to their potential influence on lifetime appointments to federal courts. "[T]here must be a balance, some ethics scholars and judges say, between that right and the responsibility of those seeking a judicial post to appear impartial."

Campaing consultants

Sandy Bergo of the Center for Public Integrity decided to focus on the professionals hired by campaigns to run the show and examined spending for the 2003-2004 federal races . The story found that about half of all expenditures went to political consultants, principally to those who create and place television advertising. In the 2004 federal races, more than $1.78 billion flowed through a professional corps of consultants whose influence plays an important, though largely unexamined, role in the unrelenting escalation of campaign spending. The Center conducted a six-month review of thousands of Federal Election Commission and Internal Revenue Service reports on spending during 2003 and 2004 in 471 races. The study involved more than 900 general election presidential, House and Senate candidates; the four other presidential primary candidates who spent $20 million or more; the six major party committees; and 90 nonprofit 527 groups.

Price tag politics

John Cheves of the Lexington Herald-Leader examined Kentucky Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell's career, based on thousands of documents and scores of interviews, to show the nexus between his actions and his donors' agendas. "He pushes the government to help cigarette makers, Las Vegas casinos, the pharmaceutical industry, credit card lenders, coal mine owners and others." Corporate documents made public during litigation suggest a close working relationship between the senator and cigarette-maker lobbyists. They instructed him on smoking-related legislation. He offered to amend bills on the Senate floor at their direction. During the 1990s, when he attacked the Food and Drug Administration for its anti-smoking efforts, he followed talking points they fed him. Their attorneys helped draft a bill he filed to protect their companies from lawsuits, as well as his correspondence to the White House to oppose federal smoking-prevention programs.

Desert Connections

Chuck Neubauer and Richard T. Cooper of the Los Angeles Times report on an epic development project in Nevada - a "67-square-mile tract of empty desert will blossom into one of the biggest cities in the fastest-growing state in the country and the projected home to more than 200,000 people." The project is on track largely due to close ties between Senator Harry Reid and developer Harvey Whittemore - a mutually beneficial relationship wherein Reid has used his influence to clear obstacles in the process and Whittemore has made significant campaign contributions to Reid and other Democrats.

Democrats use relationships to help with fund raising

Hank Shaw of The Record analysed state campaign finance records to show that Cathleen Galgiani, the chief of staff for termed-out Assemblywoman Barbara Matthews, has received $119,500 of the $260,500 she has raised from people, businesses or political action committees that also had given to Matthews.Galgiani also has received $171,000 from political action committees such as the California Farm Bureau Federation, which endorsed Galgiani and sent her a $1,250 check late last month.Galgiani also has received $171,000 from political action committees such as the California Farm Bureau Federation, which endorsed Galgiani and sent her a $1,250 check late last month. The Farm Bureau Federation rarely endorses Democrats, although it repeatedly supported Matthews, who leads the Assembly Agriculture Committee.