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|APME following the money to Election Day 2010|
Money will be a big story leading into Election Day – so much so that the Associated Press Managing Editors association decided to make tracking election spending this year's APME national reporting project.
APME kicked off the project in July and August with five free webinars on campaign finance by The Associated Press and the Sunlight Foundation that attracted dozens of reporters and editors from across the country. Now we are entering the next phase of the project, and we need your help. We are gathering examples uncovered by APME member newspapers following the money that special interests are spending to try to sway voters, particularly outside spending on TV ads due in part to the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling.
It's easy to contribute: When you run a story about interest groups funding TV ads and other election activities in your area, e-mail a copy to AP reporter Sharon Theimer at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your stories will be posted here. We will be accepting contributions through Election Day.
Here are some of the stories that have been submitted:
The major-party candidates duking it out in the 5th congressional district reported six-figure fundraising for the most recent campaign finance reporting period. Republican state Sen. Robert Hurt outraised his Democrat rival Rep. Tom Perriello in the third quarter, which ran July 1 to Sept. 30, by taking in his largest amount yet. Perriello’s campaign said it will report having raised $810,000 in that time frame, giving him $1.3 million on hand in the final stretch of the contest, which is one of the closest watched races in the country.
National special-interest groups and political committees have poured millions of dollars into three of Virginia’s most competitive congressional races, underscoring the high stakes in the Nov. 2 election. In the 5th District, 19 outside groups have spent $3.2 million on the contest, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Rep. Tom Perriello, D-5th, who won his seat in 2008 by just 727 votes, is trying to fight off a challenge by Republican state Sen. Robert Hurt. In the 2nd District, six groups have spent $1.2 million.
While millions of dollars are being spent this election season on out-of-state companies’ campaign videos for Connecticut candidates, several production companies here at home say they could have done the job too.But most aren’t getting asked.
With Nov. 2 fast approaching, the Connecticut television market is being flooded with campaign ads essentially making the same marketing pitch: candidates from both major parties shaking hands with workers, smiling for the camera, criticizing their opponents, and talking about jobs. It’s a dominant issue during a time when the state is facing a $3.5 billion deficit and the country as a whole is still struggling through a recession. The issue of jobs is a core message for all local candidates, who have spent a majority of their money – both personally funded and raised – outsourcing to top-notch production companies that perform work exclusively for either Democrats or Republicans.
WASHINGTON - Before a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in January, the most Cincinnati billionaire Carl Lindner could directly contribute to Senate candidate Rob Portman was $4,800. But because of a decision opening campaigns to corporate contributions, Lindner's American Financial Group was able to give 83 times that amount, $400,000, to a group backing the Republican's campaign - although the group says Lindner's cash wasn't specifically earmarked for pro-Portman efforts. This is perhaps the best example to date of a big-dollar impact in Ohio stemming from the high court's "Citizens United" campaign-finance decision, which cleared the way for corporations and labor unions to spend money advocating for the election or defeat of specific candidates.
Take your home phone off the hook or stock up on movies to watch between now and the Nov. 2 general election, experts suggest.
Political campaigning moves into its peak season. Computerized calls from celebrities, pro or con about candidates.
Massive television advertising. Fliers filling the mailbox. "Expect robo-calls, all kinds of mailers, tons of stuff," predicted Tim Sahd, who keeps track of U.S. House races for National Journal’s The Hotline out of the nation’s capital. Pam Johnson of Brandon, who has been involved with Mississippi campaigns through the years, agreed. "Unfortunately, we can expect outrageous spending by special interest groups this year," she said. "That means there will be a huge chorus of messages – some true, some not so much – paid for by who knows whom."
Incumbent Congressman Bill Owens far outraised his two Republican opponents during the last fundraising cycle. According to the pre-primary reports filed with the Federal Election Commission, Owens, D-Plattsburgh, raised $126,683.28 between July 1 and Aug. 25, ending the period with $599,805.87 in cash on hand.
Both Scott Murphy and Chris Gibson's campaigns say they have reason to cheer about their latest campaign finance filings. Murphy outraised Gibson by nearly $65,000 from July 1 to Aug. 25 and now has a lead of about $900,000 in cash on hand. However, Gibson's campaign says he raised more from individuals, more from within the state and district, and more than any other challenger for a New York congressional seat.
The state's powerful teachers union has given $500,000 to political action committees that contributed to an effort to attack Republican gubernatorial candidate Bradley Byrne. The ads refer to Byrne as a liberal trial lawyer and are paid for by True Republican PAC of Linden.
True Republican PAC, according to a review of campaign finance documents filed with the Alabama secretary of state's office, has received most of its funding from PACs heavily funded by the Alabama Education Association.
Before Friday, campaign finance reports showed that Republican gubernatorial candidate Bradley Byrne received money from four political action committees on the same day that those PACs received money from gambling interests. But the Alabama Nursing Home Association amended those four reports to show that Byrne, who has said he adamantly opposes gambling, received his money before gambling interests gave to the four PACs. Marty Sullivan, director of communications and policy for Byrne, said the situation shows the need for campaign finance reform in Alabama. Other Republicans and Democrats, including House Speaker Seth Hammett, D-Andalusia, have called for a ban on the transfer of money between political action committees.
It may have wound up being much ado about nothing, but the combination of the state laws that make it easy to conceal where political action committee funds originally came from and a mysterious $1 million fund had candidates worried earlier this week. Before the mysterious New Sons of Liberty group announced it had decided not to go ahead with a proposed $1 million ad buy concerning Alabama's gubernatorial campaign, candidates on both sides of the aisle had expressed concern about the out of state group and its intentions.
Politicos wanted to know whom the group was targeting and widespread rumors had been circulating for two weeks.
Here are questions we hope your contributions and the national story will answer:
APME member newspapers will be covering every contested state, House and Senate race in the country, and ourgoal is to use what they are seeing toprovide readers with a collective picture of election spending more comprehensive than they can find anywhere else. We hope you will take part.If you have any questions, please contact APME Secretary Bob Heisse at email@example.com (814) 231-4640 or AP reporter Sharon Theimer at firstname.lastname@example.org or (202) 641-9466.APME member newspapers are also invited to join a special listserv focusing on campaign finance coverage and the reporting project. Please contact Sharon if you would like to join. Thank you for your help.