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Money & Influence 11.11.2020

Associated Press: Money to support Trump court fight could flow to president

“This is a slush fund. That’s the bottom line,” said Paul S. Ryan, a longtime campaign finance attorney with the good government group Common Cause. “Trump may just continue to string out this meritless litigation in order to fleece his own supporters of their money and use it in the coming years to pad his own lifestyle while teasing a 2024 candidacy.”

Money & Influence 11.10.2020

CNN: Trump asks for 'election defense' donations, but the money also benefits his new leadership PAC

"He's saying that he needs donors' money for election-challenge litigation, but he's putting the money into an account to be used for his political future," said Paul Ryan, the vice president for policy and litigation at Common Cause. Fundraising limits are higher for leadership PACs than candidate committees. A donor could only contribute a maximum of $2,800 at this point for a 2024 presidential campaign but can contribute $20,000 to a leadership PAC in four, annual installments by that date, Ryan notes. The rules on spending by leadership PACs also are far more relaxed than those for campaign committees and do not restrict politicians from using donors' funds for personal expenses -- a use forbidden in a presidential campaign account. "Leadership PACs are notoriously abused by politicians as slush funds without violating any laws," Ryan said.

Voting & Elections 11.9.2020

Associated Press: Noem’s pitch to aid Trump seems to benefit own campaign fund

It’s unlikely that much, if any, of the money will end up going to Trump, said Paul S. Ryan, the vice president of policy and litigation at Common Cause, a campaign finance watchdog. Ryan, a campaign finance lawyer, pointed out that the governor can give a maximum of $2,800 to Trump’s campaign under federal law. If she wanted more to flow to Trump, she could have directed donors to the president’s own donation site. “In all likelihood, she is keeping this money that she is raising,” Ryan said. “If she were actually interested in raising money for Donald Trump’s own legal efforts, she would use a joint-fundraising committee.” Federal election law makes it difficult for state campaign committees like Noem’s to donate to federal campaigns because it would have to ensure the donations it receives meet federal contribution limits. Ryan compared Noem’s solicitation to Trump’s current fundraising push. Trump’s solicitation, though billed as raising money for his legal fight, notes that half of contributions will go to pay off general election campaign debt. “He’s setting the example at the top of the party, at the top of the ticket,” Ryan said. “It doesn’t surprise me to see Noem doing something similar.”

Money & Influence 10.18.2020

HuffPost: How Trump Got Played By The Military-Industrial Complex

Watchdog groups argue Trump’s handling of the hiring process is more evidence that lawmakers and future presidents must institute rules to limit the reach of military contractors and other special interests. “Given the hundreds of conflicts of interest flouting the rule of law in the Trump administration, certainly these issues have gotten that much more attention and are that much more salient now than they were four years ago,” said Aaron Scherb, the director of legislative affairs at Common Cause, a nonpartisan good-government group.

Money & Influence 10.16.2020

Boston Globe: Joe Kennedy III campaign says it improperly spent $1.5 million in Senate primary

The Globe asked a top campaign finance expert to weigh in on the Kennedy campaign's disclosure. "The rule is clear: You cannot spend general election funds prior to the primary," said Paul S. Ryan, vice president of policy and litigation at Common Cause, a campaign watchdog group. "Our contribution limits are intended to safeguard against corruption or even the appearance of corruption. They're intended to prevent wealthy individuals from having undue influence over candidates and officeholders," said Ryan. Ryan said in the 20 years he's spent watching money in politics, he can't recall an instance of a high-profile candidate such as Kennedy committing this sort of campaign finance violation. And he said improperly spending $1.5 million is "significant" considering it accounts for close to 10 percent of the $15.6 million the Kennedy campaign spent through September, according to the latest federal filings.

Money & Influence 10.13.2020

New York Times: Trump Campaign Suggests Omarosa Manigault Newman Pay for $1 Million in Ad Spending

Having her pay for an ad campaign “in my opinion would be an illegally large in-kind contribution to the Trump campaign,” said Paul S. Ryan, the vice president for policy and litigation at the good-government group Common Cause. Even if she were just to appear in an ad, without funding it, there would be a value to Ms. Manigault Newman’s time that would almost certainly exceed the $2,800 federal contribution limit, Mr. Ryan said.

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