In speeches and the first debates, the Democratic presidential candidates haven't put much emphasis on their plans for making democracy work better. On Facebook, it's a slightly different story: Collectively, they've been spending more to attack dark money than to promote any other policy position.
In the 14 weeks ending July 6, the aspirants spent a combined $879,000 on ads across the social media platform promising to change campaign finance rules so that nonprofit groups engaged in political advocacy are required to disclose the identities of the donors. That easily eclipsed the second biggest chunk of online issue spending: $721,000 on their economic policy platforms.
To be sure, spending to lambaste dark money was No. 1 because of just one candidate's investment: Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota spent more than $432,000 — almost more than all the others, combined — emphasizing her stump speech line promising to "get dark money out of politics" by pushing a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court's Citizens Unitedruling, which declared that minimally regulated spending by corporations, nonprofits and unions is within their free speech rights.
The only Democratic candidate to allocate more on a single issue was Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington, who spent $472,200 to talk about his aggressive plans to tackle climate change — the issue on which he's banked his longshot candidacy.
Bully Pulpit Interactive, a communications firm, pulled together the data from the Facebook Ad Library Report, which the tech giant introduced to create more transparency around advertisements related to social issues, elections and politics.
As the top Democrat on the Rules and Administration Committee, Klobuchar has also been the party's prime sponsor of the bill, dubbed the Honest Ads Act, that would mandate disclosure of those paying for online political ads.
She also accounted for more than half of the $16,000 spent by the candidates on voting rights — with most of her ads posted about the same time she helped introduce the Senate companion bill to the House-passed political process overhaul HR 1.
Molineaux and Nevins are co-founders of the Bridge Alliance, a coalition of 100 democracy strengthening organizations. (Disclosure: The Bridge Alliance Education Fund is a funder of The Fulcrum.)
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As co-founders of the Bridge Alliance, we are inspired and challenged by the problems facing our country. Our 100 member organizations work daily to protect the ideals of our American Dream so we can create healthy self-governance that has never fully existed before. Our members work to harness the tension of our differences as we enact our inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, balancing individual and community needs.
The Federal Voting Assistance Program assists military members who need to vote via absentee ballot. A spokeswoman for the Defense Department said there would be "minimal disruptions" if the United States pulls out of the international postage agency.
Election officials are growing increasingly concerned that the Trump administration's trade war with China could make it more difficult and expensive for overseas voters — including those in the military — to cast ballots in the 2019 and 2020 local, state and federal elections.
The issue is the pending withdrawal in October by the U.S. from the Universal Postal Union, a group of 192 nations that has governed international postal service and rates for 145 years.
Last October, the U.S. gave the required one-year notice stating it would leave the UPU unless changes were made to the discounted fees that China pays for shipping small packages to the United States. The subsidized fees — established years ago to help poor, developing countries — place American businesses at a disadvantage and don't cover costs incurred by the U.S. Postal Service.
With the U.S.-imposed deadline for withdrawal or new rates fast approaching, states officials are running out of time to prepare for overseas mail-in voting.