Eliza Newlin Carney

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

 

Recent Articles

Will Trump Finally Join the Money Chase?

AP Photo/Gerald Herbert
rules-logo-109.jpeg One of the most extraordinary moments in Donald Trump’s characteristically hyperbolic primary victory speech in Florida this week was his riff on the “vicious” and “horrible” barrage of “mostly false” TV ads attacking him, which he said carried a price tag of “over $40 million.” The actual total spent by the half-dozen conservative groups assailing Trump was closer to $35.5 million , but Trump was right about one thing: Amidst the ad blitz, his poll numbers went up. Even as he described the “disaster” of presiding over a golf awards ceremony as anti-Trump ads blared in the background, Trump marveled at the ads’ reverse effect: “I don’t understand it.” Neither do many of the GOP leaders, operatives and donors now casting about for a Plan B in their thus-far futile and costly campaign to stop Trump. Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who came close to beating Trump in Missouri but fell...

The Campaign-Finance Reform Wish List

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/AP Images
Public cynicism about money in politics has become so reflexive and deeply ingrained that the stock refrain from voters, candidates, political experts, election lawyers, and even many reform advocates is “Nothing will ever change.” Public financing? It will never happen. Disclosure for secretive political nonprofits? Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will never allow it. A reversal of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling? Pie in the sky. And don’t even dream of expecting the Internal Revenue Service or the Federal Election Commission to actually enforce the rules. Both agencies have decisively demonstrated their utter impotence to police campaign violations. But what if the 2016 election created a surprise opening for democracy advocates? Sky-high voter outrage over campaign financing has already made attacks on Wall Street special interests a standard applause line for candidates on both sides of the aisle. For Donald...

Big Money Turned Upside Down

Albin Lohr-Jones/Sipa via AP Images
rules-logo-109.jpeg When it comes to political money, the 2016 presidential general election campaign appears likely to become a contest between convention and chaos—between a consummate establishment fundraiser and a party renegade who thumbs his nose at big donors and at the consultant class. The rule-breaker, of course, is billionaire businessman Donald Trump, who as a largely-self financed candidate has trumpeted his independence from special interest donors and Wall Street-backed super PACs. Trump’s $25 million campaign account is far smaller than those of his GOP rivals, yet wall-to-wall media coverage has helped him win one primary after another, including seven on Super Tuesday that make him look increasingly unstoppable as his party’s nominee. Hillary Clinton, by contrast, has followed a predictable fundraising playbook perfected over decades as a Democratic rainmaker—cultivating top drawer donors at hundreds of fundraisers around the country; decrying...

When Super PACs Go Dark: LLCs Fuel Secret Spending

AP Photo/Pat Sullivan
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 Election Commission alleging that six- and seven-figure donors funneled money through secretive shell corporations to...

How Scalia's Absence Impacts Democracy Rulings

AP File/Jim Mone
rules-logo-109_2.jpg The 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, and that drastically narrowed the legal definition of corruption. “There are a lot of areas of jurisprudence that are now going to be subject to a potential course correction, depending on who ultimately takes Scalia’s position,” says Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. “Money and...

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