Tag Archives: federal election commission

  Not ‘really rich,’ Trump’s veep pick used campaign dollars to pay golf fees

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has bragged he could get a billion-dollar campaign loan simply by walking into a bank. But the personal finances of his new running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, are not much better than those of Gov. Scott Walker. In fact, Pence retired from politics for a decade after revelations that he’d dipped into campaign funds to pay his mortgage, his golf greens fees and his wife’s car payments.

Though independent appraisals of Trump’s net worth have concluded he’s worth less than the $10 billion he claims, Trump will soon be the wealthiest person to receive a major party’s nomination and has made his fortune a campaign issue.

“I’m really rich,” Trump declared last June in announcing his presidential run. In the months since, he has mocked Bernie Sanders for his small personal finance statement.

But Trump’s new running mate is probably doing less well than the Vermont socialist turned Democrat.

During his time in Congress, Pence carried four mortgages on his homes in Indiana and northern Virginia. When Pence left Congress in early 2013, he and his wife’s net worth, excluding the value of their Indiana home, was less than $300,000, according to calculations based on his federal financial disclosures. The average net worth for Pence’s fellow members of Congress at that time was more than $5 million.

Personal financial maneuvers nearly ended Pence’s political career before it even began.

In 1990, during an ultimately unsuccessful bid for Congress, Pence used campaign contributions to pay for personal expenses, including his mortgage, his wife’s car payment, a personal credit card, parking tickets, groceries and golf greens fees.

Federal Election Commission documents show that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee filed a complaint against Pence and three other candidates after newspapers flagged the self-payments.

At the time, Pence defended the expenses, saying he took a 30 percent pay cut to run for office. The year before he ran, Pence, a lawyer, reported earning more than $75,000 and held about $50,000 in stock.

“I’m not embarrassed that I need to make a living,” Pence told the Daily Journal of Franklin, Indiana, at the time in response to questions about his campaign expenses.

Pence’s campaign didn’t dispute paying the personal expenses but argued they were allowed under federal law.

The National Republican Congressional Committee also defended Pence’s campaign spending, saying it was necessary to make up for income lost while campaigning full-time.

On Friday, Trump campaign spokesman Jason Miller wrote in an email that the FEC’s general counsel’s office found Pence was “100 percent compliant with the law at the time.”

Miller referred to written recommendations to the commission signed by Lois G. Lerner, the FEC’s associate general counsel, who handled Pence’s case.

Lerner, who later moved to the Internal Revenue Service, came under intense scrutiny from congressional Republicans in recent years for her role in the IRS’ treatment of conservative groups’ tax-exempt status. Lerner, who has since retired, was held in contempt of Congress for refusing to testify before a House committee.

In Pence’s case, the FEC deadlocked 3–3 over whether his expenses violated federal campaign law. The commission did vote unanimously to have its general counsel study the personal use of campaign funds and determine whether the situation showed a need for additional regulations. Subsequent actions in the 1990s further specified what constituted an illegal personal expense.

Former FEC chairman Scott E. Thomas, a Democrat who now practices in the Washington office of law firm Blank Rome, was one of the three commissioners who voted to find Pence in violation of federal campaign law.

Thomas said Friday that the Pence case was one example of the type of behavior the commission worked to weed out.

“Donors expect their campaign contributions to be used for election purposes. They don’t just want to provide funds to some candidate so they can pay personal expenses,” Thomas said.

Lee Ann Elliott, a former Republican commissioner and commission chair, voted against sanctioning Pence, citing past commission decisions that gave campaigns “wide discretion” to spend their money.

Elliott said Friday that she didn’t remember Pence’s case but noted the commission handled several like it in the early 1990s, when regulations weren’t as specific on what qualified as banned personal expenses. By the time she left the commission in 2000, expenses like those Pence paid with campaign funds were specifically barred.

“They weren’t allowed, flat out,” she said.

Because Indiana releases little information about officeholders’ personal finances, Pence’s current fortunes will remain unclear until he files a new personal disclosure with the Federal Election Commission.

Though Pence and Trump came to politics with different financial fortunes, they do share one thing in common: Like Trump, Pence has never released his taxes.

Unlike Trump, however, Pence’s taxes are unlikely to contain much of interest. In the four years since becoming Indiana’s governor, Pence has received a state salary of just under $112,000 a year. His wife — a self-employed watercolor artist — recently sought and received permission from the state ethics commission to start a business out of the governor’s mansion, selling towel charms for $6.25 apiece.

As U.S. vice president, Pence would earn more than $230,000 per year.


Walker’s failed presidential campaign still owes $807,000

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker still owes more than $807,000 in campaign debt from his failed presidential bid that ended nine months ago.

His latest campaign report filed Monday with the Federal Elections Commission shows Walker owes $807,675. That’s down about $91,000 from the previous month. His debt stood at $1.2 million at the end of 2015.

Walker ended his 71-day campaign for president in September, after average spending of $90,000 a day on his losing effort. He’s been slowly paying off his campaign debts since.

Walker’s latest filing shows he raised about $127,000 in May.

Walker has tried a number of tactics to eliminate his leftover debts.

In May, he rented out his donor list and email list to other candidates. The previous month, he offered to sell T-shirts from his failed campaign in exchange for $45 donations. Because Walker could not take requests for the size and color of the T-shirts he was selling, he suggested that buyers frame them or use them for craft projects.

It’s widely believed that Walker was forced to withdraw from the race because he ran out of money. Critics, including Republicans, chastised Walker for his fiscal imprudence, but apologists blamed it on his advisers, particularly his campaign manager, Rick Wiley.

But Donald Trump hired Walker’s former campaign manager Rick Wiley to serve as his political director, suggesting that Trump’s people did not think Wiley was to blame.

Walker has endorsed Trump for president.

Scott Walker burned through $90,000 a day, left campaign $1M in debt

Gov. Scott Walker burned through $90,000 a day during his short-lived race for the presidency and left his campaign about $1 million in debt.

Walker raised about $7.4 million in his campaign during the third quarter of this year and spent about $6.4 million of it before dropping out 71 days after his campaign’s official launch, according to finance reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.

Reports filed by presidential candidates in mid-October cover July through September. Walker officially entered the race in mid-July, although he traveled the country extensively the first six months of the year, partly using Wisconsin taxpayers’ money. He dropped out of the race on Sept. 21. 

Walker reportedly left the race because fundraising couldn’t keep up with his massive campaign operation, which grew to around 90 staffers. He decided to drop out rather than take on debt or significantly scale back his operation when his polling numbers went into a steep decline in key early voting states and donors began to balk, according to The Associated Press.

Frenzied spending

The Wall Street Journal reported that Walker’s debt stretches to more than $1 million beyond his cash on hand when unpaid bills are included.

That debt is not surprising.

Walker paid his campaign manager Rick Wiley nearly $52,000 for three months of work, which equals about $208,000 a year. Campaign communications director Kirsten Kukowski was paid about the same amount.

Also on the payroll were Walker’s two sons, who were paid about $1,500 a month to campaign for their dad. The recently released FEC report shows Alex Walker was paid $4,819 between June 30 and September and Matt Walker was paid $4,824.

Walker spokesman Tom Evenson told the AP that Matt and Alex had part-time jobs at campaign headquarters and returned to school when the fall semester began. Both sons were frequently by Walker’s side when he campaigned.

Walker has promised to pay back travel costs for the taxpayer-funded security detail that traveled with him as he campaigned. His administration said in mid-October that $67,000 in security costs remained unpaid.

In the wake of the Walker campaign’s crash, Wiley’s management has come under withering criticism from Republicans, particularly Walker loyalists. They contend that Wiley encouraged Walker to go too big too soon and failed to prepare him adequately for unscripted appearances.

Wiley’s alleged persona as an overgrown party boy — and not in the sense of political parties — didn’t sit well with the Christian extremists who were among Walker’s most ardent supporters.

Woulda, coulda, shoulda

Walker said recently he would not run for president again as a sitting governor, because it’s too difficult to do both. His second gubernatorial term runs through 2018.

With his presidential campaign behind him, Walker has not indicated whether he’ll seek a third term as governor. His current favorability ratings are under water: 57 percent of Wisconsin voters saying they disapprove of his job performance, while only 37 percent approve, according to a Marquette Law School poll released in September.

Many Walker loyalists contend that if not for his unbridled spending, Walker would have been able to remain in the race. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ran a story the morning Walker quit the race insisting that his high favorability ratings outside of Wisconsin augured well for his campaign. Meanwhile, Walker’s fundraising was on par with other Republican contestants. Carly Fiorina reported raising $6.8 million during the third quarter. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio brought in $6 million. 

On the other hand, Ben Carson raised $20 million, Jeb Bush hauled in $13.4 million and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, a longshot candidate, wrangled $12.2 million in donations.

On the Democratic side, where the presidential field is less crowded, Hillary Rodham Clinton raised $28 million and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders collected $26 million.

The FEC figures include only direct contributions to campaigns and not money raised by super PACs.  PACs support campaigns with TV commercials and other promotional media. According to federal law, they’re barred from coordinating their activities with campaigns, although the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled on July 16 that such coordination is legal under Wisconsin law.

Walker does more gesturing than talking in first debate — and with good reason

The Federal Election Commission’s recent release of Scott Walker’s finances should give his supporters pause: The governor’s personal financial liabilities far outweigh his assets.

Walker reported assets between $36,000 and $190,000 — made up mostly of life insurance and a government-deferred compensation plan. Walker owes between $120,000 and $280,000, largely because of student loan debt for his sons. He listed no property ownership.

Walker has two credit card debts of more than $10,000 each, one of them with Barclays, whom he’s owed between $10,000 and $15,000 since 2014. He’s paying an interest rate of 27.24 percent on the card — a rate that’s applied to risky loans.

Walker, who’s worked in politics his entire career, listed his governor’s salary of $222,899 on the disclosure form and reported a $45,000 advance payment for his recent book. Most people would assume that the head of a household of four could stay above water on that kind of money, especially when the person in question can buy sweaters for $1 at Kohl’s.

Maybe Walker’s personal financial situation helps account for his terrible budget choices and the series of damaging economic decisions he’s made since taking office in 2011.

His signature job agency, known as WEDC, gave out $124 million to prospective job creators, many of them Walker donors, who weren’t required to create jobs in the state. There was no system of oversight at the agency, which Walker chaired, and WEDC lost track of millions of taxpayer dollars. Audits of the agency repeatedly cited gross mismanagement.

Walker’s response to the situation was to try getting rid of the watchdog agency that conducted those audits.

Walker has hurt Wisconsin’s economy in so many other ways that it would fill several pages of this paper to list them.

So, no wonder Walker was all but invisible during the first presidential debate on Aug. 6. He doesn’t have many successes to talk about, but at least the gaffe-prone governor has enough wit to keep a low profile.

The candidates were given 60 seconds to answer questions, but Walker often took even less time. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Walker spoke less than 40 seconds during the first 30 minutes of the debate and only six minutes in total.

Asked by debate moderator Megyn Kelly about his failure to create the 250,000 jobs he promised in his 2010 campaign, Walker gave his canned response: He likes to aim high. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that’s a self-aggrandizing answer that avoids admitting he broke his promise — a promise that was likely to be broken, since it was based on nothing but bombast.

For the millions of viewers who were glimpsing Walker for the first time, his muted performance must have been baffling. Positioned by his handlers as a shoot-from-the-hip charmer who’s even popular among Wisconsin Democrats, Walker failed to make good on that image. 

Walker did, however, put on a mime show of mugging whenever he was in range of the camera — shaking his head, grimacing and widening his eyes with an uncomfortable level of hamminess to signal his agreement with other candidates’ statements. He came off like a human emoji. 

Given the inevitability of questions concerning his personal and official financial failures, Walker will not be able to rely on gestures alone in the months ahead. And he’ll need more to talk about than his Harley and his sweaters.

Fact checking the first Republican debate

The 10 Republican presidential hopefuls who took to the stage for their first debate in Cleveland faced a daunting task in distinguishing themselves among a sprawling field of candidates. Along the way, they puffed up their own records in office and public life and veered occasionally from the truth.

A look at some of the claims in the debate and how they compare with the facts:

DONALD TRUMP on illegal immigration: “The Mexican government is much smarter, much sharper, much more cunning. And they send the bad ones over because they don’t want to pay for them.”

THE FACTS: Illegal immigration from Mexico has steeply declined since 2000, when Border Patrol agents arrested roughly 1.6 million. Last year, agents at the border apprehended about 230,000 Mexican nationals.

For the first time last year, the apprehension of immigrants from other countries outpaced those from Mexico. An increasing number have come from Central American countries like El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, spurred by poor economic conditions and high levels of violence in those countries.

MARCO RUBIO, on allowing abortions for rape or incest: “I have never said that. And I have never advocated that.”

THE FACTS: He’s parsing his words. It may be true that Rubio has never said that publicly, but he’s supported legislation that included such exceptions.

In 2013, Rubio was one of 40 senators to co-sponsor a bill called the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would have banned abortions after 20 weeks and set up a likely confrontation with the Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade.

That bill contained a number of exceptions, including cases of rape or incest that have been reported to law enforcement or where the mother’s life is at risk. Rubio’s support for the overall bill, which never received a vote in the Democratic-run Senate of 2013, was widely perceived as support for rape and incest exceptions.

JEB BUSH, on his goal of 4 percent economic growth: “We can do this.”

THE FACTS: Most economists say the U.S. under any president is unlikely to grow consistently at even close to 4 percent, largely due to the difficulty of overcoming decades-long trends.

Current forecasts put growth averaging half the rate of Bush’s goal. To grow the economy faster, the country must either add more workers or increase their efficiency so their time on the job generates more income. The retirement of the baby boom generation will shrink the number of workers in the economy, making a huge increase of new employees unlikely.

Only four of the 16 presidential terms since World War II have experienced annual economic growth averaging more than 4 percent after inflation, according to research published last year by Princeton University economists Alan Blinder and Mark Watson.

CHRIS CHRISTIE: “We brought the budget into balance with no tax increases.”

THE FACTS: Not exactly.

As New Jersey’s governor, Christie in his first term cut the earned income tax credit, which largely benefits low-income workers, from 25 percent of the federal credit to 20 percent. He surprised Democrats this summer by proposing to bring it up to 30 percent. Democrats quickly approved the change.

Christie also repeatedly delayed implementing the Homestead credit program, which grants property tax relief, even as he capped property tax increases overall. He also extended the sales tax on online purchases to out-of-state retailers and pushed for higher taxes on e-cigarettes, but failed.

So while Christie indeed vetoed a number of proposed tax increases, his record isn’t free of hikes in taxes or their close cousin: fees.

TRUMP: “If it weren’t for me, you wouldn’t even be talking about illegal immigration.”

THE FACTS: Republicans have been talking about immigration for at least 30 years, including former President George W. Bush and the Republican field in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections. In 2013, an immigration overhaul seeking to address illegal immigration passed the Senate with strong Republican support, although the House never took it up. And Republican debate about immigration has only intensified in the wake of President Barack Obama’s sweeping executive action shielding from deportation millions of immigrants in the U.S. illegally.

BUSH: “You get rid of Obamacare and replace it with something that doesn’t suppress wages and kill jobs.”

THE FACTS: According to the Labor Department, the unemployment rate was 9.9 percent in March 2010, when Obama signed the Affordable Care Act. In June of this year, it had fallen to 5.3 percent. The economy has added more than 12 million jobs since March 2010.

While the health care law doesn’t seem to have had a major impact on jobs, some lesser consequences are likely. The Congressional Budget Office projected that having government subsidized health insurance will prompt some people to leave the labor market, since they can get coverage without a job.

And although Republicans may be able to repeal Obama’s law, it’s unclear if and how they would replace it. The party has yet to rally behind a plan of its own, partly because of internal ideological differences. Some Republicans say it would be the 2016 presidential nominee’s job to forge a consensus.

BUSH: “During my eight years in office, 1.3 million jobs were created, and we left the state better off.”

FACT CHECK: Yes, but by December 2009, 900,000 of those 1.3 million jobs had been eliminated.

During Bush’s tenure as governor, the state benefited from a huge housing bubble that then burst just as he left the governor’s mansion. Home prices jumped 160 percent in Florida from 1999 through 2006 _ more than double the national increase of 74 percent — according to real estate data provider Zillow.

That growth fueled a 50 percent jump in construction jobs, and the boost to home values made many Floridians feel wealthier, leading them to spend more. Home prices started to fall in 2006, Bush’s last year in office.

TRUMP: “I built a net worth of more than $10 billion.”

THE FACTS: Trump’s precise net worth has long been a moving target.

Documents filed with the Federal Election Commission put Trump’s wealth at $8.7 billion. But the form requires disclosures of value ranges, not precise sums. The FEC also doesn’t specify how to value real estate, leaving Trump free to assess many of his proprieties in the highest bracket _ over $50 million.

Trump argues many of his properties are worth even more, a claim that cannot be verified without access to his private documents. He’s valued his personal brand and marketing deals at $3.3 billion.

Yet other assessments put his wealth at far less. Forbes Magazine valued his brand at just $125 million, and last month, Bloomberg News estimated his total worth at $2.9 billion.

Associated Press writers Alicia A. Caldwell, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Deb Riechmann, Christopher S. Rugaber, Lisa Lerer and Jill Colvin contributed to this report.

Walker’s inability to manage his personal finances speaks volumes

If tea party Republicans are right about the nation needing more successful business people in public office, then Gov. Scott Walker’s record at handling his personal finances affirms the opposite: that career politicians shouldn’t be trusted with taxpayer money.

Walker, a career politician, has been plagued with economic failures since he took office. His signature job agency, known as WEDC, has lost track of millions of taxpayer dollars and given millions to companies that weren’t required to — and didn’t — try bringing jobs to the state in return. Audits of the agency, which Walker chaired, cited gross mismanagement.

Walker has also hurt the economy by turning down millions in federal subsidies — funds that Wisconsin taxpayers paid into — for no rational reason. At least two of those subsidies prevented diversification of the state’s economy in promising ways and resulted in expensive lawsuits against the state.

The list of Walker’s economic failures goes on and on, and maybe the way he’s handled his own money helps explain why: His personal financial liabilities far outweigh his assets. Maybe that helps us better understand how he took a budget surplus and turned it into a $2.2 billion budget shortfall? Or why Wisconsin has lagged in the bottom rungs of job creation? Or why the state has the nation’s fastest-shrinking middle class?

Walker’s personal financial data was released  recently by the Federal Election Commission, which releases such data for all the presidential candidates (i.e., there was no liberal conspiracy against him). The record shows Walker is one of the least wealthy candidates in the 2016 race and that his personal finances are as messy as the state’s.

Walker reported personal assets between $36,000 and $190,000 — made up mostly of his life insurance and a government deferred compensation plan. The reporting forms offer broad ranges, making it impossible to detail his exact worth.

Walker owes between $120,000 as $280,000, largely because of student loan debt for his children that could be as high as $250,000. He lists no property in the forms.

He lists a governor’s salary of $222,899 and reported a $45,000 advance payment for his recent book.

Walker has two credit-card debts of more than $10,000 each, one of them with Barclays. According to his financial disclosure form, Walker amassed a debt of between $10,000 and $15,000 with Barclays since 2014 and is paying an absurd interest rate of 27.24 percent on the card. Most Americans know you’re supposed to shed credit-card debt as quickly as possible, especially cards with such high interest rates.

Walker has carried credit-card debt for four years, according to the disclosure form, despite his gubernatorial salary of $222,899 since the start of 2014. During that time Walker also received a $45,000 advance for a book, Unintimidated, about his governorship.

Unlimited: The story of financing political campaigns in the post-Citizens United universe

Once upon a time in America, there were limits on how much people or groups could spend to influence an election. Now those limits are gone, as shown by the big-money apparatus forming to back Republican presidential aspirant Gov. Scott Walker.

In January, Walker launched a committee to spread his ideas and pay costs as he travels the country wooing potential voters and donors. The committee, Our American Revival,  can raise and spend unlimited sums. At least two donors, including hedge fund billionaire Kenneth Griffin, have given Walker $100,000 or more, according to press accounts.

Had they so desired, these donors could have given $100 million. Walker’s committee can accept unlimited donations so long as he is neither a declared candidate nor “testing the waters” of a 2016 presidential bid. If and when that happens, individuals would be subject to a $2,700 cap.

It may surprise some that Walker, officially, is not testing the waters. From most vantage points, it looks like his socks are off, pant legs rolled up, and both feet submerged. He’s been hitting primary battleground states and marquee national events, and has even used the term “candidate” to refer to himself.

Complaints have been filed with the Federal Election Commission against Walker and other undeclared candidates, alleging violations of law. But the FEC is unlikely to refute the argument that these potential candidates are just exercising their freedom of speech.

“We can call it a kind of legal fiction that Walker is not a candidate, even though he’s done lots of things that candidates do,” says campaign finance expert Ken Mayer, a professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Mayer thinks Our American Revival will likely wind down once Walker announces. (OAR spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski did not respond to a voice message or emailed questions.) Does that mean billionaires can no longer spend unlimited sums helping his cause? Ha! Good one!

Walker associates have already formed a new Super PAC or political action committee, which allows unlimited giving by individuals and corporations. It’s called Unintimidated PAC, after the title of Walker’s 2013 book, itself seen as a prelude to a presidential run.

Super PACs, unlike groups like OAR, can directly advocate for the election of a candidate. Some observers, like Rick Esenberg of the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, see super PACs as preferable to “the problems caused by attempting to place limits on people’s ability to come together and exercise their freedom of association and freedom of speech.

For one thing, super PACs must report where they get their money and how they spend it — though, as Mayer notes, “Often these organizations will give money to each other so it is more difficult to track.”

And super PACs must be “independent,” meaning they cannot coordinate messaging or strategy with the campaigns they support. But many super PACs springing up around 2016 presidential wannabes have deep ties to the candidates. Unintimidated PAC, for instance, was formed by two of Walker’s former campaign managers, Keith Gilkes and Stephan Thompson.

Walker could also get major help from other outside groups, like the political network created by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch that plans to spend $300 million on the 2016 elections. And he’ll need his own war chest.

A viable GOP candidate, it’s said needs $75 million just to get through the first three primary states. Supporters of Democrat Hillary Clinton, who has expressed support for a constitutional amendment to curb campaign spending, are reportedly looking at total outlays of $2.5 billion.

“There is an arms race dynamic here,” Mayer says. He believes it will only get worse until “there is enough voter reaction that it begins to affect the political interest of the candidates.”

Wouldn’t you know it? Campaigns will keep sucking in more and more money until doing so comes at too great a cost.

Bill Lueders is the Money and Politics Project director at the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism www.WisconsinWatch.org. The Center produces the project in partnership with MapLight. The Center collaborates with Wisconsin Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Television, other news media and the UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication. All works created, published, posted or disseminated by the Center do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of UW-Madison or any of its affiliates.

Baldwin posts strong fundraising numbers

In reports filed with the Federal Election Commission on July 13, U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin’s campaign committee reported receipts of $502,485.62 for the second quarter and cash on hand totaling $1,114,488.59. During the month of June alone, Baldwin raised more than $435,000.

Baldwin received contributions during the second quarter from 2,339 individual donors.

Baldwin is a likely candidate for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Herb Kohl. In addition to impressive fundraising, Baldwin had a strong showing at the Wisconsin Democratic Party’s State Convention in early June and encouraging public and internal poll numbers.  

Baldwin said that she was thrilled with the response thus far. “As I reach out to people throughout the state, I am gratified by the encouragement and support that I’m receiving.  Senate campaigns are expensive and fundraising is an important measure of support,” said Baldwin.

If she runs and wins, Baldwin would become the first woman to represent Wisconsin in the Senate – and the first out gay person ever elected to the Senate.

– L.W.