MN-08: Rick Nolan touts support from Koch-linked group then slams Stewart Mills for donation from KochPAC

U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan in July slammed challenger Stewart Mills for accepting a $2,500 contribution from Koch Industries Inc. Political Action Fund (KochPAC) but just two months earlier the 8th district congressman happily touted support from a social welfare group with close ties to the Koch brothers.

Nolan described Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) as “nonpartisan” and “bipartisan” after it lined up behind his amendment to the National Defense Appropriations Act (NDAA) last May.

But TPA is part of what Pro Publica calls “a tangle of nonprofits, sometimes referred to as the Kochtopus, all aimed at advancing conservative causes.” Pro Publica’s excellent chart documents the organization’s place in the Koch network.

TPA receives nearly all of its funding from Americans for Job Security (AJS). According to the most recent IRS filings, AJS donated $1,108,000 to the group, which reported total receipts of $1,600,056.

And the relationship between the two organizations extends beyond money. Steven Demaura, the president/secretary/director of AJS, also serves as treasurer/secretary/director of TPA.

TPA describes itself as a “non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to educating the public through the research, analysis and dissemination of information on the government’s effects on the economy.”

However, the group’s conservative underpinnings are quite obvious. It has argued, for example, that LEED green building standards are excess government regulation, that Obamacare will result in substandard medical care, that the Davis-Bacon Act artificially inflates construction costs and that a lower corporate tax rate will result in economic growth and job creation.

TPA’s 2014 lobbying agenda includes opposing net neutrality and a federal ban on internet gaming. The group also signed a letter to members of Congress in support of HR 3835, the Stop Targeting of Political Beliefs by the IRS Act of 2014.

In May, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) spearheaded a bipartisan effort urging adoption of several amendments to NDAA, including Nolan’s. TPA was one of 22 organizations to sign the letter to Congress which stated in part “The undersigned organizations may not agree on many things, but we all agree on this: The United States must curb wasteful and ineffective spending at the Pentagon. Doing so will save billions of valuable tax dollars as well as help to make America safer with the hard decisions our national security requires.”

Two groups that actively support Nolan -Council for a Livable World and Progressive Democrats of America – also signed the letter, yet Nolan repeatedly singled out the Koch-backed Taxpayers Protection Alliance

– In the defense issue section of his congressional website

My amendment prohibits the construction of any project over $500,000 without submitting a report to Congress assuring proper auditing and oversight. It was supported by the non-partisan Taxpayers Protection Alliance and 22 other organizations under the banner of the Project on Government Oversight.

– In a May 22 press release

The Nolan amendment was supported by the nonpartisan Taxpayers Protection Alliance and 22 other organizations under the banner of the Project on Government Oversight.

– In the May 27 Monday Report

That’s exactly why the measure received such enthusiastic, bipartisan support from the bipartisan Taxpayers Protection Alliance and 22 other organizations under the Project on Government Oversight.

The Democratic strategy in 2014 is to run against the Koch brothers and the Nolan campaign is continuing to pound on Mills for accepting Koch money, even linking him to the October 2012 closing of the Koch-owned Georgia Pacific plant in Duluth. Nolan also made the plant closure an issue in his campaign against incumbent Rep. Chip Cravaack, accusing the Republican of not doing more to keep the plant open because of the $5000 KochPAC donated to his campaign.

KochPAC’s contribution to Friends of Stewart Mills is significantly less than that given to other Minnesota campaigns this cycle. According to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission, KochPAC has contributed $10,000 – the maximum allowed under federal law – to GOP incumbents John Kline (MN-02) and Erik Paulsen (MN-03). 7th district DFL incumbent Collin Peterson received $6,000. To date, Mills has received just $2,500.

Update: Rep. Nolan has removed the reference to Taxpayer’s Protection Alliance from the defense issues section of his congressional website. This story now links to an archived version of the page as it first appeared, courtesy of the Wayback Machine

Nolan campaign manager slams Mills for KochPAC donation August 2014

MN-08: Rep. Rick Nolan launched leadership PAC in March

U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan might be more attuned to the realities of modern fundraising than the Nolan camp and party leaders recently indicated. Nolan quietly launched a leadership political action committee earlier this year, suggesting that the 8th district congressman knows that he has to step up his fundraising efforts.

Most members of Congress, including those in the Minnesota delegation, maintain a so-called leadership PAC, a legally non-connected committee that allows members to raise large sums of special interest money with few restrictions on how those funds are spent.

The one thing incumbents can’t spend the funds on is their own campaign and they typically use the money to provide financial support to political parties, candidates and colleagues, subject to contribution limits.

Nolan recently told MPR that he doesn’t care to spend time as “an entry level telemarketer dialing for dollars,” reflecting a long-held attitude towards fundraising which no doubt frustrates colleagues who are sending along money to keep the Nolan campaign afloat.

Talking points aside, Nolan appears to have been nudged down the path of self-sufficiency by party leaders taking a tough love approach with their wayward child.

On Mar 5, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announced the first round of Frontline members and did not include Nolan on the list of endangered incumbents, an omission that seemed odd given his weak fundraising and the competitive nature of the race.

That same day, Nolan for Congress treasurer Jim DeChaine signed paperwork establishing Nolan’s leadership PAC, Restore Democracy.

Restore Democracy was officially registered with FEC on Mar 11 and the Agency noted that the committee failed to file its April quarterly report, for the period Mar 11 through Mar 31.

According to the July quarterly report (Apr 1 through Jun 30), the committee raised $17,500 from just four donors. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers donated $5000 on May 8, United Transportation Union $5000 on May 28, Lockridge Grindal Nauen $2500 on Jun 18 and American Crystal Sugar $5000 on Jun 18.

On July 15, Nolan for Congress posted its best fundraising quarter to date for the cycle, bolstered by $33,000 sent by colleeagues in the closing days of the reporting period. In addition, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s leadership PAC, Democrats Win Seats, acted as a conduit for contributions totalling more than $15,000.

Yet Nolan still fell behind Republican challenger Stewart Mills and was added to the Frontline program on July 18.

Restore Democracy is not connected to Nolan’s principle campaign committee, so it can accept donations from political committees and individuals who have already sent the maximum allowable contributions to Nolan for Congress. Those funds cannot legally be spent to directly benefit Nolan’s campaign, but can be used to meet his obligations to colleagues and the party and keep the special interest money flowing through the shell game that passes for campaign finance in this country.

Data from the Center for Responsive Politics shows that the overwhelming majority of the contributions to leadership PACs come from other PACs. Contributions for this cycle (as of Jun 30) total $33,006,846, with $32,695,096 coming from other PACs

Leadership PACS are subject to federal contribution limits and reporting requirements but campaign finance laws don’t apply to how the funds are spent, resulting wide-spread abuse according to watchdogs Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and the Campaign Legal Center (CLC)

CLC Senior Counsel Paul Ryan notes that leadership PACs were created in the 1970s, ostensibly for politicians to support those of similar ideologies but have “evolved into slush funds to raise and spend money on anything they want except their own campaign.”

However, the public may be unaware that their representative or senator even has such a committee.

The FEC requires that affiliated committees, such as joint fundraising committees, be disclosed in the filings of a candidate’s principle campaign committee. But there is no such requirement for non-connected committees and finding out who has a leadership PAC can be difficult, allowing politicians to operate these committees largely outside of public scrutiny.

The lack of disclosure makes it easy for members of Congress to quietly create a leadership PAC and solicit funds from special interests without their constituents ever knowing about it, which is exactly what Rep Nolan did last March.