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The State of Reform
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Campaign Finance
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More than two dozen legislators have already signed on to the donor disclosure measure.

In wake of scandal, bipartisan push in Ohio for money-in-politics transparency

Days after the speaker of the Ohio House was charged with racketeering, colleagues from both parties are lining up to bolster the state's donor disclosure laws.

By Thursday, 22 majority Republicans and five Democrats in the General Assembly had signed on to a measure requiring political advocacy groups to begin naming the original sources of their funds and file disclosure reports with the state.

The bill's prospects are not certain. Still, it's an unusual level of bipartisan collaboration — at either the state or federal level, and especially in an election year — to bolster regulation of campaign finances in hope of controlling the secretive influence of special interests over campaigns and then governing. Good governance groups see mandating this sort of sunshine as essential to the running of a clean democracy.

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Campaign finance loophole allows for foreign election interference, report finds

Businesses that finance super PACs could be exploited by foreigners who want to secretly and illegally spend millions to influence American elections, a campaign finance advocacy group warned Wednesday.

So long as they disclose their donors, super PACs are allowed to raise and spend unlimited amounts in support or opposition of candidates for president and Congress. But these donations too often come from opaque shell companies, Issue One said in a new study, obscuring the true source of the money and opening campaigns to even more interference by overseas adversaries.

A bipartisan nonprofit that advocates for a broad democracy reform agenda, Issue One says the remedy is more regulation of these shell companies. (The group operates but has no journalistic say over The Fulcrum.)

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A watchdog group alleges an effort to hide payments to presidential daughter-in-law Lara Trump and former campaign manager Brad Parscale, among others.

Sweeping complaint about Trump campaign spending heads to FEC black hole

The Trump campaign is vowing to fight a complaint from a watchdog group alleging an unusually bold and broad violation of campaign finance law. But it might not have to fight too hard, because the matter is now before an essentially shuttered Federal Election Commission.

The allegation formally lodged Tuesday by the Campaign Legal Center, which advocates for tighter money-in-politics rules, is that President Trump's reelection operation paid almost $170 million to companies affiliated with one-time campaign manager Brad Parscale and other campaign operatives — but did not disclose the intended recipients of the money, as the law requires.

While efforts to obfuscate campaign spending details are not uncommon, as candidates from both parties clamor for every tactical advantage, what the CLC described in its complaint as "laundering the funds" by Trump's team seems unprecedented in size and scope.

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New longshot bid tries to persuade Supreme Court to rein in super PACs

Sixteen states, a half-dozen progressive senators and a collection of campaign finance reform experts have launched an uphill campaign to persuade the Supreme Court to close down the nation's super PACs.

They filed briefs Wednesday asking the court to consider a fresh challenge to a central aspect of campaign finance law: A federal appeals court ruling from a decade ago that ended contribution and spending limits, but not disclosure requirements, for independent political groups that want to elect or defeat candidates — thus creating super PACs.

There is no guarantee the justices will decide to take the case after it reconvenes this fall, however. And even if they do, the court's reliably conservative majority and string of precedents promoting the deregulation of campaign finance suggest that victory for reformers is a longshot.

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