Eliza Newlin Carney

Eliza Newlin Carney is a weekly columnist at The American Prospect. Her email is ecarney@prospect.org.

 

Recent Articles

When Super PACs Go Dark: LLCs Fuel Secret Spending

AP Photo/Pat Sullivan
AP Photo/Pat Sullivan Republican presidential candidate, Senator Marco Rubio, speaks at a rally Wednesday, February 24, 2016, in Houston. rules-logo-109.jpeg A hallmark of super PACs, the political action committees that may raise unlimited contributions if they act independently from candidates, is that they must publicly disclose their donors. But in this election, super PACs and their backers are proving increasingly adept at skirting the federal disclosure rules, particularly through the use of limited liability companies, or LLCs—a type of business entity that leaves no paper trail and gives political players cover to hide their identities. “The supposed transparency of super PACs is completely undermined to the extent that they receive untraceable contributions from LLCs and other business entities,” says Paul S. Ryan, deputy executive director of the Campaign Legal Center (CLC). The CLC and another watchdog group, Democracy 21, filed two complaints Wednesday with the Federal...

How Scalia's Absence Impacts Democracy Rulings

AP File/Jim Mone
AP Photo/Jim Mone, File In this October 20, 2015 file photo, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia speaks at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, on Thursday blasted Scalia for uttering what he called "racist ideas" from the bench of the nation’s highest court. rules-logo-109_2.jpg T he death of Justice Antonin Scalia has both short- and long-term implications for a host of judicial disputes over democracy and election law, in areas from redistricting to voting rights, corruption statutes and campaign-finance rules. Over the long term, a reconstituted Supreme Court could make it easier for reform advocates to reverse Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission , the 2010 ruling that for many voters has become a symbol of campaign deregulation run amok. While Scalia staunchly defended political disclosure, he was part of a conservative majority under Chief Justice John Roberts that tossed out one election regulation after another,...

Going After the Big Bucks

(Image: Shutterstock)
(Image: Shutterstock) T he 2016 election has thrust populist candidates and big-spending outside groups to center stage. These trends further marginalize the traditional role of the national political parties. Thrown on defense by angry voters, self-financed candidates, and billionaire donors who thumb their noses at the political establishment, party leaders are struggling to reclaim power. A growing chorus of political analysts, election lawyers, and even some progressives argue that the solution is to give parties the same freedom to raise unrestricted, high-dollar contributions that super PACs and other outside groups now enjoy. That, presumably, would partly restore the influence of parties, and serve as a more democratic counterweight to freelance mega-money. On paper, the notion that parties should operate by the same rules as freewheeling non-party players has appeal. Parties fully disclose their activities, are accountable to and committed to turning out voters, and act as a...

The Democracy Prospect: The Forbes 400 Pony Up

AP Photo/Mark Lennihan
AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File Maurice Greenberg, former CEO of AIG, leaves the insurance company's headquarters, Wednesday, January 9, 2013 in New York. T he latest round of Federal Election Commission disclosures offered hard numbers to back up what everybody already knew: Billionaire and millionaire donors are underwriting a disproportionate share of the 2016 election. At the same time, the recently-released FEC reports served as a reminder of the other big trend defining this campaign: the spike in secret political spending that can’t be traced. Presidential candidates and the super PACs supporting them pulled in $837 million , according to the latest tally from the Center for Public Integrity. Almost half of that money flowed to super PACs, which may collect unlimited contributions as long as they operate at arm’s length from candidates. Such groups collected multi-million-dollar contributions from such financiers as Maurice “Hank” Greenberg, former chairman and CEO of American...

Does Big Money Still Matter? You Bet It Does

(Photo: AP/Chris Carlson)
(Photo: AP/Chris Carlson) GOP presidential candidates Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush laugh after the January 28 Republican presidential debate. rules-logo-109.jpeg G ood-government advocates are “oblivious to the failure of ‘big money’ to dictate the race,” wrote Bradley Smith, chairman of the Center for Competitive Politics, in a Wall Street Journal commentary headlined “That’s Odd, ‘Big Money’ Isn’t Buying This Election.” One of the contest’s “unexpected surprises,” wrote New America senior fellow Lee Drutman, is how well Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have done with such little backing from wealthy donors. It’s easy to see why billionaire donors don’t look so influential anymore. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and his super PAC spent $14.9 million on the Iowa caucuses, but won just 5,238 voters (a mere 2.8 percent of the total GOP vote) and a single delegate. That added up to $2,845 per vote—a dismal showing that U.S. News & World Report dubbed “by far the worst bang-for-the-buck...

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