NYT Tries To ‘Both Sides’ Campaign Finance Reform
Credit: Steve Greenberg
October 3, 2022

Did you know that Republicans are almost as determined to get big money out of politics as Democrats? It's in The New York Times, so it must be true! From Thursday's edition of the Times On Politics newsletter, written by Blake Hounshell:

Hints of Republican Concern About Unlimited Campaign Cash

... as Democrats have embraced the world of dark money, some Republicans have begun to take a second look at Citizens United.

Some Republicans? Define some, Blake.

Don’t get me wrong: “Campaign-finance reform” is still very much a Democratic project.

A bill in the House calling for a constitutional amendment to abrogate the Citizens United ruling and allow states to regulate money in elections as they see fit has just one G.O.P. co-sponsor: Representative John Katko of New York, who is retiring at the end of his term this year. Katko supported the impeachment of President Donald Trump after the storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, so he’s not exactly a bellwether of Republican sentiment in Congress.

The bill in question has 179 Democratic co-sponsors in the House. On the Republican side, there's just Katko.

But wait, there's more Republican concern!

... this week, as I tagged along with members of American Promise, a nonpartisan group promoting a 28th Amendment to the Constitution that would track closely with Katko’s bill, I found some faint signs that the winds were shifting on the right.

American Promise recently hired a new executive director, Bill Cortese, who came up through the ranks of the Republican operative class. A onetime campaign aide to former Representative Chris Shays, a Connecticut Republican who sponsored what became known as the McCain-Feingold Act in 2002, Cortese has worked for Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey....

A few local chambers of commerce, normally bastions of Republican Party support, have signed on, too. David Black, a former aide to Gov. Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania and a past president of the Harrisburg Regional Chamber who is active in American Promise, is a champion of the concept. Rick Bennett, a Republican state senator and former majority leader from Oxford, Maine, spoke at American Promise’s conference this week in Washington.

So ... one Northeastern GOP state legislator and a handful of operatives who've worked with long-departed Northeastern Republicans. What else you got, Blake?

One surprising proponent of the group’s proposed amendment is Doug Mastriano, the hard-right Pennsylvania Republican state senator who is now running for governor. On Sept. 21, Mastriano, who is being vastly outspent by his Democratic opponent, introduced a resolution with five other Republicans expressing support for the idea.

Okay, that's ... something. The resolution is backed by 6 out of 113 Republican members of the Pennsylvania House, but that's better than nothing, right?

But how close are we to genuinely bipartisan support for campaign finance reform? Let's find out:

On Wednesday, the actress Debra Winger, a board member of American Promise, prepared activists from the group before they headed toward Capitol Hill on Thursday, serenaded by a bagpiper, for brief meetings with aides to Senators Collins, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Marco Rubio and Rick Scott of Florida, along with Representative Scott Perry of Pennsylvania and a few other Republican House members.

And what happened?

They emerged encouraged that they had found an audience, but they received no firm commitments of support.

But I'm sure Susan Collins was very concerned.


Last week, Republican senators blocked a vote on a Democratic-sponsored bill to require any organization spending money during a federal election to disclose donors of $10,000 or more. News outlets, fully expecting the bill to fail, barely covered it....

In 2012, a Republican-held legislature in Montana passed a law to regulate dark money, but it was thrown out by a federal court.

Since then, Montana seems to have gone in the opposite direction. In February, State Senator Steve Fitzpatrick, a Republican, introduced a bill that would relax certain disclosure rules, which he said was intended to toss out “nit-picky things that we’ve all grown to hate in our campaign-finance system.”

Gov. Greg Gianforte, who has been accused of violating campaign-finance laws, signed a version of the bill in May.

"Dark money is good" is still the default setting for Republicans, no matter how much Blake Hounshell wants to bothsides it.

Posted with permission from No More Mr. Nice Blog

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