City Councilman Brad Lander is looking to rein in exploding expenditures from super PAC-like groups with proposed new legislation that would slap cigarette-style warnings on their mailings, among other regulations.
The package of proposed reforms comes as outside groups are pouring millions of dollars into city races through so-called “independent expenditures,” following the Citizens United court decision, which allows near-unlimited spending, as long as the groups don’t directly co-ordinate with campaigns. Of particular concern to Mr. Lander in the real estate industry-backed “Jobs 4 NY” committee, which has already spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on local City Council races–sometimes in the face of candidates’ opposition.
Eliot Spitzer took his comptroller campaign to Chinatown today, brushing off both his past indiscretions and new political action committees created solely to defeat him in his contest against Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer.
Despite the pending assault, the former governor said he wasn’t alarmed.
Late in this year’s election cycle, Mayor Michael Bloomberg suddenly announced the creation of a “super PAC,” Independence USA, through which the billionaire mayor could funnel unlimited sums of cash to candidates who support his political agenda of gun control, gay marriage and education reform. Looking at the federal races Mr. Bloomberg aimed to influence through the new political action committee, however, a majority of his candidates narrowly lost last night.
For example, in western Connecticut, moderate Republican Andrew Roraback suffered a 48%-to-52% loss to Democrat Elizabeth Esty, despite Mr. Bloomberg spending more than a million dollars on Mr. Roraback’s behalf. Similarly, in another suburban seat, Mr. Bloomberg dropped roughly a million dollars boosting GOP Rep. Bob Dold in Illinois, only to see him lose by less than 1%. And, down in Florida, he spent more than $2 million in an attempt to vanquish Republican Congressman Dan Webster, but the incumbent still beat back a strong challenge from Val Demings, 52% to 48%.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently launched a “super PAC,” loaded with at least $10 million of his own money, to influence this year’s elections, but in an interview this morning, the mayor said he was just dipping his toes in the water and plans to do even more electoral engineering after he’s term-limited out in 2013.
“We’ll win some races, we’ll lose some of these, but it’s sort of to get our feet wet,” Mr. Bloomberg said during his weekly appearance on John Gambling’s radio show. “Two years from now, when I don’t have to worry about just what’s good for New York City–I’m going to live here for the rest of my life, my kids are going to live here, I’m going to live in New York State, I’m going to live in America, so I care about all of these levels of government–I’ll be freer to do more.”
Earlier this year, former Gov. George Pataki launched a Super PAC aimed at tilting the many competitive U.S. House races in New York toward the Republican Party. He claimed millions of dollars in pledges with expectations to raise “in the high seven figures,” or, “if things go well, in the low eight” in total funds. But he’s not close to that number so far, according to last month’s federal filing, he’s raised only $30,000, spending about $750 total. After a press conference endorsing Wendy Long’s senatorial campaign this morning, however, Mr. Pataki told The Politicker he still expects to make an impact.
“I’m still very hopeful,” he said of his donors coming through for his Super PAC endeavor. “The people aren’t focusing on the House races at this point, understandably, and I haven’t been because I have a lot that I’m working on. We have plans down the road. We’re going to do our best to hit the seven-figure mark and see what we can do.”
“Hit the seven-figure mark” seemed a bit less than the “high seven” to “low eight” he assured the Wall Street Journal he would raise, however, and we inquired about the lower sum.
Congressman Charlie Rangel has steadily been making the Campaign for Primary Accountability super PAC’s support for one of his opponents, State Senator Adriano Espaillat, an issue throughout his reelection campaign. “Right-wingers from Texas are trying to stop him,” one of his campaign mailers declared, for example. However, that super PAC — despite promising to spend “six figures” — never even bothered to spend as much as $10,000.
But in the modern era of super PACs, there’s always another. In a campaign email to supporters entitled “Houston, We Have a Problem,” the incumbent congressman lamented the existence of a different Super PAC supporting another one of his Democratic opponents, Clyde Williams.