Watchdog filed IRS complaint against dark money group run by Chris Rants

An advocacy group run by former Iowa House Speaker Chris Rants “is operating with the primary purpose of influencing political campaigns” in violation of federal tax code, according to the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

Last month CREW filed Internal Revenue Service complaints against ten 501(c)(4) groups, which claim non-profit status as “social welfare” organizations but spent a large share of their funds on political activity during the 2014 election cycle. One of them was the Iowa-based Legacy Foundation Action Fund, for which Rants serves as president and secretary. (The fund did not seek to influence any Iowa elections in 2014.) CREW also filed criminal complaints against six of the ten groups for “falsely representing the amount of money they spent on political activity in 2014”; the Legacy Foundation Action Fund was not among them.

Although Rants’s 501(c)(4) does not disclose its donors, CREW was able to determine that most of its 2014 funding came from American Encore, a “secretive” 501(c)(4) group “formerly known as the Center to Protect Patient Rights.” American Encore has been described as “the linchpin” of the Koch brothers dark money network. The Legacy Foundation Action Fund reported $980,000 in “contributions and grants” on its 2014 tax return; $880,000 of that amount came from American Encore.

More details on CREW’s IRS complaint are below. Rants responded via e-mail, “I am confident that Legation Foundation Action Fund is in compliance with the IRS rules. Legal counsel is reviewing the tax returns and we will file any amendment necessary to ensure the tax returns accurately reflected the organizations actives.”

Continue Reading...

Desperate times call for desperate measures: Why the Cruz-Carly ticket makes sense

Needing a victory in Indiana’s May 3 primary to have any hope of stopping Donald Trump from winning a majority of delegates before the Republican National Convention, Ted Cruz announced yesterday, “If I am nominated, I will run on a ticket with @carlyfiorina as my Vice President.”

Many politics-watchers laughed at the idea of Cruz picking his running mate a day after distant third-place finishes in five primaries put him 400 delegates behind Trump. But Cruz has nothing to lose from the alliance, and neither does Fiorina.

Continue Reading...

Michigan and Mississippi primary discussion thread: Epic fail for Rubio--and pollsters

Lots of votes remain to be counted from tonight’s primaries, but two losers are already clear.

Republicans are overwhelmingly rejecting Marco Rubio. To my mind, that’s a bigger story than Donald Trump winning the two biggest contests. In Mississippi, Trump won nearly half the vote, Ted Cruz won more than a third of the vote, and Rubio is down around 5 percent–in fourth place behind John Kasich. Trump won Michigan with more than a third of the vote, Kasich and Cruz are fighting for second place with about 25 percent each, while Rubio is unlikely to hit the 10 percent cutoff for delegates. As Taniel noted, Rubio missed statewide delegate cutoff thresholds in Alabama, Texas, Louisiana, Maine, and Vermont, and barely cleared them in Tennessee and Alaska.

Rubio and his surrogates continue to express confidence about winning the Florida primary a week from today, but the way he’s been hemorrhaging support, that scenario seems highly unlikely. Furthermore, Taniel observed, “Michigan & Mississippi (from which Rubio is probably being shut out) have as many delegates combined as Florida. Can’t all be about 1 state.”

On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders trailed by double digits in every recent Michigan poll but is leading by 50 percent to 48 percent with about half the results in. Although Hillary Clinton may be able to win the state narrowly once all the votes from the Detroit area come in, pollsters need to ask themselves some tough questions. For instance, did they underestimate how many independents would vote in the open primary? CNN’s exit poll suggests Clinton won Michigan Democrats by double digits but Sanders is ahead by more than 40 percent among independents. Whatever the final results, Sanders will be encouraged going into next week’s contests.

Clinton won Mississippi in a rout, with nearly 83 percent to just 16 percent for Sanders, at this writing.

Any comments about the presidential race are welcome in this thread. Trump’s victory speech/press conference was one of his most absurd yet–more like an infomercial than a political event.

UPDATE: Referring to the Michigan Democratic primary, Harry Enten pointed out that the difference between winning or losing narrowly means little in terms of delegates awarded to Clinton and Sanders. Psychologically, a win is always better than a loss, though.

SECOND UPDATE: One key factor for Sanders in Michigan was cutting down Clinton’s margin with African-American voters. She is still winning the black vote, but “only” by about a 2 to 1 margin. Nate Silver pointed out that Michigan results have confounded pollsters before.

THIRD UPDATE: Shortly after 10:30 pm, the Associated Press called the Michigan primary for Sanders. With a little more than 90 percent of the votes counted, he leads by 50 percent to 48 percent. Clinton is still above 80 percent in Mississippi, which is remarkable, but the Michigan upset is clearly the bigger story on the Democratic side.

Cruz leads in the early returns from the Idaho primary (Democrats didn’t vote there today) and has edged in front of Kasich for second place in Michigan.

According to the Michigan Campaign Finance Network,

Here’s a run down of spending in support of each candidate in Michigan as of March 6:

Bernie Sanders, $3.5 million
Hillary Clinton, $2.6 million
Marco Rubio (Conservative Solutions Super PAC), $1.2 million
John Kasich (Kasich campaign, New Day For America Super PAC), $770,353
Donald Trump, $184,636
Ted Cruz, $1,112

Likely final delegate allocation from Michigan: 25 for Trump 25, 17 for Cruz and Kasich, zero for Rubio.

WEDNESDAY MORNING UPDATE: Many people on social media have shared anecdotes about Democrats in Michigan who crossed over to vote for Kasich, thinking (based on polls) Clinton would easily win the Democratic primary. Nate Silver called the Sanders win the biggest upset since Gary Hart winning the New Hampshire primary in 1984. However, Bleeding Heartland user fladem worked on that Hart campaign and showed why Silver is wrong.

Cruz won Idaho’s primary with 45.4 percent of the vote, to 28.1 percent for Trump, 15.9 percent for Rubio, and 7.4 percent for Kasich. Trump took the Hawaii caucuses with 42.4 percent, to 32.7 percent for Cruz, 13.1 percent for Rubio, and 10.6 percent for Kasich. Neither Rubio nor Kasich will win any delegates from Idaho or Hawaii.

Former presidential candidate Carly Fiorina endorsed Cruz at a rally in Miami on March 9.

I haven’t seen a definitive delegate count yet, but fladem and Taniel have both updated their tables.

On the Democratic side, Mark Murray calculates that Clinton now leads Sanders by 761 to 547 in pledged delegates and by 1193 to 569 when superdelegates are counted. The overwhelming majority of superdelegates (including in Iowa) have endorsed Clinton.

After the jump I’ve posted excerpts from three early attempts to explain why Sanders won Michigan.

Continue Reading...

New Hampshire primary discussion thread

Polls have closed in most of New Hampshire, though people waiting in long lines to vote will still be able to cast ballots. Turnout appears to be record-breaking in some parts of the state.

All recent polling has indicated Donald Trump will win the Republican primary and Bernie Sanders the Democratic primary. The only question is by how much. Although Hillary Clinton did well in last week’s televised town-hall meeting and debate, the last few days of media coverage have been brutal for her. Controversial remarks by Gloria Steinem and Madeleine Albright have been spun as attempts to “shame” women into voting for Clinton, and I suspect they will drive many late deciders to Sanders. I would not be surprised to see him win tonight by 20 points or more.

On the Republican side, the big question is whether Marco Rubio can hang on to second place after his disastrous debate performance over the weekend. (Speaking of which, David Frum’s comments on that malfunction were particularly insightful.) John Kasich or Jeb Bush could contend for second place–and while we’re on the subject, why did Bush’s super-PAC not go up on New Hampshire television in the summer, when the pro-Kasich super-PAC started running ads?

Although social conservative candidates have typically done poorly in New Hampshire, Ted Cruz may pick up enough support from Rand Paul’s former supporters to finish second or a close third. Chris Christie has faded in the polls but may not drop out if he ends up in the top five and not too far behind the second-place candidate.

Any comments about the primary or the presidential race generally are welcome in this thread. I don’t believe in the convention scenario for Republicans; unless Rubio comes out of New Hampshire strong, Trump still looks like the favorite to wrap up the nomination by May. Clinton should still be favored to win the Nevada caucuses and South Carolina primary, because the electorates in those states are far more racially diverse than in Iowa and New Hampshire. On the other hand, public opinion in many states swung against her quickly during the 2008 primaries.

UPDATE: As I suspected, Sanders is crushing Clinton by more than 20 points. (Her share of the vote so far is almost exactly what it was in 2008, but with a more fractured field that year, 39 percent was enough to win.) I think we have just experienced our last cycle with Iowa and New Hampshire going first in the process, regardless of who wins the nomination. Sanders should get a big bump out of this win, but it may not be enough to win states that are not overwhelmingly white and don’t allow independents to vote in primaries.

Kasich finishing second to Trump is a terrible outcome for the establishment, which was just about ready to unite behind Rubio until the debate disaster. Bush barely making it to double digits after at least $35 million was spent on his behalf in New Hampshire is unimpressive but will keep him in the race. It will be very interesting to see whether Cruz can knock Rubio out in South Carolina.

SECOND UPDATE: Christie is heading to New Jersey rather than to South Carolina, as planned. He spent tons of time campaigning in New Hampshire and had the endorsement of the state’s largest newspaper, but couldn’t manage better than sixth place. Like their Iowa counterparts, Granite state Republicans just weren’t buying what Christie was selling.

Continue Reading...
View More...