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The State of Reform
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Watchdog allowed to sue dark money group while FEC's in limbo

The campaign finance watchdog CREW has been given unique permission to pursue one of its longstanding targets in federal court rather than through the habitually deadlocked and currently neutered Federal Election Commission.

The group, formally Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, has complained for years to the FEC about the right-leaning American Action Network. The watchdogs allege the conservative group has routinely been spending millions to back Republican candidates and has violated federal election law by failing to register as a political committee and comply with donor disclosure rules.

The FEC has dismissed the case twice. The first time, CREW followed the normal procedures and sued the agency in federal court in hopes of a reversal, which did not happen. After the second dismissal by the regulators, CREW sued AAN directly.

On Monday, Judge Christopher Cooper of U.S. District Court in Washington said the litigation could go forward, declaring it was the first time a "citizen suit" of this kind has gone forward since the agency was created 45 years ago.

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U.S. Department of Agriculture

Despite New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu's claims to the contrary, unlimited campaign spending in fact distorts the principles established by the First Amendment, according to Leah Field.

Five reasons unlimited spending undermines American democracy

Field is the managing director of American Promise, which seeks to limit the power of corporate, union, political party and super PAC money in politics.

Despite what the Supreme Court has asserted, unlimited spending doesn't support democracy or free speech — and Americans know it. That's why more than 80 percent support a constitutional amendment to authorize limits on the influence of big money in our political system. People see how unlimited political spending is undermining representative democracy, distorting our economy and undermining public trust — and they want it to change.

Here's a recent example: Despite receiving cross-partisan support from across New Hampshire (citizen volunteers passed 83 local resolutions across New Hampshire in the lead-up to the statewide legislation) and in the Legislature, a resolution calling on Congress to approve the so-called 28th Amendment was vetoed by Gov. Chris Sununu on July 11.

What could convince him to oppose the will of his constituents and the Legislature? Opponents of the amendment primarily argue that unlimited political spending strengthens democracy, increasing access to elected office and fostering productive debate, while limiting spending enables the government to limit speech about candidates and officials.

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How do these claims hold up? Not very well. While the governor claims the amendment is "part of a national campaign designed to overturn constitutional protections of free speech," the truth is that unlimited spending distorts the principles established by the First Amendment. Let's break down this and other arguments against the amendment.

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Steyer is the latest Democrat to enter the presidential race.

Dominant force in campaign giving, Steyer vows presidential run to take on big money

When liberal billionaire Tom Steyer announced his entry into the presidential race on Tuesday, his central vow was to take on the big-money influences that have infiltrated American politics. But his own extraordinary level of political spending has made him a big-money influence in his own right — and signals he's positioned to become the biggest self-funder in Democratic presidential history.

In the six years he's been active in national politics, Steyer has spent $240 million to promote candidates — almost all of them committed to an activist role in combatting climate change or the impeachment of President Trump.

And he's done so through the very system that's a prime target of criticism among advocates for revamping the campaign finance system. He has funneled almost all the money through two super PACs he created, NextGen Climate Action and Need to Impeach, which in turn have spent lavishly on television advertising in support of the Democratic candidates he likes and opposing the Republicans he doesn't. Steyer was the face of many of the TV spots.

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Political fundraising app wants to make donations a social experience

Creators of a new nonpartisan political fundraising app want to change the way candidates raise money and voters engage in elections.

Royal Kastens, John Polis and Chris Tavlarides – three friends of varying political ideologies – launched Prytany on Wednesday, just before the first Democratic presidential primary debates. Not only will the app allow people to donate to campaigns, but it will also serve as a social media platform, connecting users to issues they care about.

The trio was inspired by their own experiences donating to campaigns, and the frustrations they faced doing so. In the past, they found the donation process to be tedious because there wasn't a central place to give money to candidates across party lines.

Named after the ancient Greek system of democracy, Prytany aims to change that. Its founders want the platform to be the Amazon of political donating and voter engagement.

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