Republicans Benefit From Influx Of Campaign Funds

As midterm elections near, it is Republican candidates that are benefiting from an influx of campaign contributions. A Supreme Court decision earlier this year on campaign finance has led to new ways of collecting and spending money.

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Supreme Court rulings on campaign finance have led to new ways of collecting and spending money in this year's campaign. News analyst Juan Williams describes the new frontier in fundraising.

JUAN WILLIAMS: There's a group called Concerned Taxpayers of America. And they're running a lot of ads, largely against two candidates: Peter DeFazio, a Democrat, of Oregon; and Frank Kratovil, a Democrat, of Maryland.

INSKEEP: These are the guys who are being attacked in these ads...

WILLIAMS: Correct.

INSKEEP: ...getting up on half a million dollars, and we're not even done with the election season.

WILLIAMS: Right. And we don't know exactly, well, who are these Concerned Taxpayers of America? Are they reaching out to people who are in the Tea Party? Are they a grassroots organization, apparently of some Republican orientation?

But then it turns out that it's just two people.

INSKEEP: Two guys?

WILLIAMS: Correct.

INSKEEP: And I guess it's good that it's two guys, because if it was one guy it'd have to be Concerned Taxpayer of America.

WILLIAMS: Right.

INSKEEP: They've formed a political action committee. There have always been political actions committees, though. So let's try to just sort out what is actually happening this election cycle that is different.

First, the size of the contributions - these guys have given hundreds of thousands of dollars. Could you give hundreds of thousands of dollars to a...

WILLIAMS: No. Previously, you were limited in terms of what you could give, both as a corporation and as an individual. Now, it's unlimited.

INSKEEP: And what about disclosure? We did find out that these guys have given some money at some point this year. Is something different about the disclosure rules?

WILLIAMS: Well, the only reason we know is, under the disclosure rule previously, you would have had to disclose it immediately, when you wrote the check. Now, you wait until the end of the filing period. And that's what occurred, and that's how we know their names.

INSKEEP: So you have a situation where lots of money is sloshing around. It's hard to understand exactly what's happening because things are happening quickly, and disclosure is moving slowly. And yet, this Super Political Action Committee - is that what they're called?

WILLIAMS: Super PACs.

INSKEEP: Is actually not the only kind of group that's out there this year. Let's talk about what else is out there.

WILLIAMS: Well, okay. So have the Super PACs, but now there's a new part of the tax code. And under this one, you don't to say who's giving you the money. The money's not deductible. So if the Steve Inskeep Corporation wants to support the Juan Williams candidacy, Steve Inskeep can do so without ever leaving his fingerprints so that it's obvious what's going on to the person who's the voter.

INSKEEP: Oh, no, Juan. If I'm going to support you, I'm going to be very open and supportive about it.

WILLIAMS: I appreciate it, my brother. But no, it's not...

(Soundbite of laughter)

INSKEEP: Let's talk about specific groups here. There's a group called Crossroads Grassroots...

WILLIAMS: GPS.

INSKEEP: ...Policy Strategies.

WILLIAMS: Right.

INSKEEP: It's said to be associated with Karl Rove. That's about all I know about it. What's going on with Crossroads GPS?

WILLIAMS: Well, now, see, they are at the frontier here. Because here is where the Federal Election Commission has been very slow to lay out exactly what are the rules. But what we know - and what's different - is now, they can take money from people anonymously.

INSKEEP: Anonymously meaning it is never, ever disclosed.

WILLIAMS: Correct.

INSKEEP: So we have this organization. We know something about it. Karl Rove is associated with it - President Bush's former adviser. So we have an idea of their politics. We have an idea that they have millions of dollars.

Where have they distributed it, as best as anyone can tell? What effect are they having?

WILLIAMS: Well, they have focused so far on 11 Senate races. I mean, the big one, obviously, is the one in Nevada, where you have Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid running against Tea Party favorite Sharron Angle.

INSKEEP: Okay.

WILLIAMS: But they've also, then, increased - in fact, in recent days - the number of House races that they're targeting because their fundraising has gone through the roof. Their previous estimate was that they would raise about $50 million. It's now that they have raised that total to about 75, and they think they might even go beyond that.

INSKEEP: We've talked about a couple of Republican groups here. Democrats are doing this, as well?

WILLIAMS: Sure. Unions are doing it. They just don't have as much in terms of resources. So it happens on both sides. It's just that people are pushing the frontiers.

INSKEEP: You know, it's interesting, Juan. Usually, the party in power is better funded. No matter what's happening in the polls, whatever else, they're the guys with the levers of power. They're the guys who can ask for donations and lean on people.

WILLIAMS: This is a key point; I'm really glad that you raise this. Because if you look at the fundraising being done by the Democratic National Committee, Democratic Senatorial Committee, Congressional Committee, they actually have outstripped their Republican counterparts. There is almost now a shadow Republican fundraising apparatus outside of the RNC, Senatorial and Congressional Committees. And that is the backdrop for why so much money is flowing in on the independent side for Republican candidates.

INSKEEP: Well, could you have a situation, then, where the party out of power -the Republican Party - could end up actually spending more than the party in power in this fall's election?

WILLIAMS: Yes. And in fact, that's what's taking place right now.

INSKEEP: NPR's Juan Williams, thanks for coming by.

WILLIAMS: You're welcome, Steve.

(Soundbite of music)

INSKEEP: It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News.

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