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Buying A Voice: Restore our Future

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Many of the ads you see supporting republican candidate for president Mitt Romney or hammering president Barack Obama come from committees that raise big bucks, but aren’t officially part of the campaign.

One of them is the group “Restore our Future”. They have already spent close to $54 million dollars in 2012.

One of their ads running in Virginia picks up on a claim President Obama made during a White House briefing. The president said the private sector was “doing fine”. It accuses the president of being out of touch, for claiming the private sector did not need help.

You can see the ad below:

So who is “Restore Our Future?”

They are a “Super Pac” with the ability to raise and spend unlimited amounts of cash in support of candidates legally. Something they have done incredibly well to this point.

“Restore Our Future” has spent a little more than $53 million, all to help the presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney.

The bulk of their spending, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, has been to hit republicans. They have spent more than $39 million used to attack Romney’s primary opponents.

Now they are focused on the president, investing close to $7.5 million on ads like the “doing fine” ad, attacking his record.

“Restore Our Future” has picked up big donations. From a relatively small group of donors, among them is Las Vegas tycoon billionaire Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miram.  According to the NY Times the two have collectively they have invested $10 million dollars in “Restore Our Future”.

But that is actual a small part of the Adelson’s contribution to the 2012 campaign. Up until Romney secured the primary the two invested heavily in his opponent Newt Gingrich. Their total spending has been a whopping $35 million dollars, so far.

Adelson is not the only big money donor. Restore Our Future has also picked up checks of $3 million dollars from Texas housing billionaire Bob Perry, and $1 million from New York hedge fund manager John Paulson.

All told, Restore Our Future’s piggy bank has raked in close to $60 million dollars, and there is still three months to go before Election Day.


Here is where we got our information:

*The Center for Responsive Politics has the list of Restore our Future’s known donors.

*The Center for Responsive Politics has a breakdown of how Restore Our Future has spent it’s cash.

*The NY Times reports on the donation given by the Adelson family.

*Restore Our Future’s web site can be found here.

Written by Ryan Nobles

July 25, 2012 at 6:08 pm

Buying A Voice: Crossroads GPS continues attack on Kaine

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Crossroads GPS Is a 501(C) 4 and can raise and spend as much as it wants, without disclosing where their cash is coming from. Their spending in the Virginia senate race is on pace to be more than what Senate candidate George Allen will spend on television advertising himself.

But every dime spent by Crossroads, will help Allen in a big way, including a new ad rapping his opponent Tim Kaine on his support of the federal stimulus plan.

Here is a look at the ad:

Nate Hodson the group’s state and regional media relations director, ranks Virginia as one the election’s most important states.

“We are going to keep the pressure on Tim Kaine to support the policies that Virginians want and should expect in their next United States Senator,” Hodson said.

Crossroads will spend $5.7 million in Virginia. The spending is part of $23.5 million on senate races across the country, and up to $70 million total in this election. Despite all that cash, Crossroads will not reveal who their donors are. Instead, Hodson said the conversation should be about Tim Kaine’s record.

“All we can do is communicate that to voters,” Hodson said of the groups attacks against Kaine. “That is what we are focused on doing.”

So we are left to fill in the blanks. Their management team is filled with former Bush administration officials and their co- founder is Karl Rove.  According to a report in Roll Call, Rove remains the main fundraiser for the group, but his official capacity in the organization is in “informal”.

“He has no direct role in the day to day activity as far as what ads we are running where or when we are running those ads,” Hodson said of Rove. He also said that Rove doesn’t receive a salary.

Crossroads represents perhaps the best example of a big dollar group investing heavily in Virginia, with voters having no idea where all the money is coming from.

It is a legal practice, but one candidate Kaine asked candidate Allen to join together and ask the groups to say out of Virginia or reveal who is providing them their cash.

Allen turned down the offer, and now the money continues to flow on behalf of both campaigns.

Our partners at PolitiFact took a look at this ad as well and ruled that the claims the ad makes about stimulus funding going to studying ants in Africa was true, but even Crossroads admits that Kaine himself never specifically lobbied for that project.

Written by Ryan Nobles

July 18, 2012 at 6:12 pm

Buying A Voice: Majority PAC attacks Allen

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Virginia senate candidate Tim Kaine (D) has taken quite a bit of heat from third party political groups looking to damage his campaign, but now the former governor has some help.

At one point Kaine made an effort to team up with this rival George Allen (R) to ask SuperPACs to stay out of the race for senate in Virginia.  Allen declined the offer, so Kaine, did not stand in the way of a SuperPAC going to work on his behalf in Virginia, and their first ad, hits Allen hard.

So who is the “Majority PAC”?

There are working to hold on to the slim democratic majority in the senate. They aren’t shy about those intentions, boasting of their work in important battlegrounds across the country on their web site.

Virginia has been increasingly important, and they’ve invested quite a bit already to help Tim Kaine. They’ve spent more than $200 thousand already.

Many of the Majority PAC’s donors are available online on the FEC website. Of those listed none are from Virginia in this current election in cycle.

In 2010, two Virginia donors gave hefty sums to help the democratic cause. The Richmond law firm of Allen & Allen gave $10 thousand dollars and the law firm Rutter Mills in Norfolk gave $1 thousand.

But that is only what is listed. Majority PAC is affiliated with Patriot Majority PAC, a 501 c-4 that is not required to reveal its donor list.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, In 2012 Patriot Majority PAC spent more than $3 million. So far in 2012 they have invested only around $49 thousand.

And despite their connections Patriot Majority PAC is not directly responsible for this particular ad.

At this point the big money is being spent by Majority PAC. Center for Responsive Politics records show that in 2012 their spending already tops more than $3 and half million dollars, and they still have close to $3 million left.

See the full report below:


Here is where we got our information:

*The Majority PAC’s website and release about the ad in Virginia.

*The Federal Elections Commission report on the candidates the Majority PAC supports

*The Federal Elections Commission report on contributions to the Majority PAC

*The website for Patroit Majority PAC USA

*The Center for Responsive Politics report on Patriot Majority PAC USA

*The Center for Responsive Politics report on Majority PAC

Here is a look at the ad:

Written by Ryan Nobles

July 11, 2012 at 6:15 pm

Posted in Buying A Voice

Buying A Voice: Obama airs 2 minute attack ad

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It aired about a week ago during the NBC12 6pm newscast, a unique ad for a candidate for president. The Barack Obama re-election campaign purchased a two-minute block of time to air a mini-documentary attack Mitt Romney‘s business record.

As campaign ad’s go, this came at a pretty small cost. Obama for America spent only $83 thousand nationwide.

But the way it was presented, and the charges it levels, has led to headaches for both sides.

Here is the ad, in its entirety:

The two-minute ad only aired once on NBC12 and other stations in selectively picked cities. It attacks Romney’s old investment firm Bain Capital.

“Bain capital walked away with a lot of money that they made off of this plant,” says a former worker recruited by the Obama campaign to talk about their experience with the Bain takeover.

The video has been watched close to a half a million times on the internet, and according to Obama Deputy Campaign Manager Stephanie Cutter, airing it only once on t-v was enough to get the point across.

“It was a way for us to get some of the facts out there that he’s not going to tell you,” said Cutter.

But the day the ad debuted, a former Obama economic adviser argued on MSNBC that Bain and Romney played didn’t do anything wrong.

‘This is part of capitalism, this is part of life,” said Stephen Rattner. “I don’t think there’s anything Bain Capital did that they need to be embarrassed about.'”

Then Sunday on Meet the Press, Newark Mayor Cory Booker, a Obama supporter, cautioned the campaign to tread lightly on attacking private equity.

“They’ve done a lot to support businesses, to grow businesses. And this to me, I’m very uncomfortable with,” Booker said.  Booker later softened his comments, and Cutter argues that Mitt Romney is not running to be the country’s investment banker, and if he were it would be all about him.

“It wasn’t about job creation, it wasn’t about long-term economic growth,” Cuter said. “It was about wealth creation and he was pretty good at it.”

The question, is that record good for the average voter?


*Leave a comment below

*Send me an @ reply on twitter.

*Check out our discussion on this topic on my facebook page.


Written by Ryan Nobles

May 23, 2012 at 6:24 pm

Buying A Voice: American Energy Alliance

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Gas price politics are pretty common to presidential elections, and 2012 will be no different. Several of you have asked us to find out more about an ad that blames President Obama for the hike in gas prices and predicts gas could get up to nine dollars a gallon.

Here is the ad, which aired on NBC12.

The group behind the ad has shelled out more than $3 million dollars to put the commercial on TV across the country and they have their own agenda.

It was paid for by The “American Energy Alliance” (AEA).  They are the political activist arm of the “Institute for Energy Research” (IER).

The group boasts on their web site that their role is “encourage policymakers to support free market policies.”

Spokesman Benjamin Coles said that AEA is a wholly owned subsidiary of IER. Despite their connection their fund-raising and spending are completely separate.

Both groups are not required to publicly reveal their donors. Coles said they track their funding very closely and have received numerous audits of their financial controls. The group however does not provide who specifically contributes to their operation. A legal practice.

The people running the group have ties to leaders in the oil industry, and fiscally conservative organizations, including their president Tom Pyle.

Pyle is a former employee of the Koch brothers, Charles and David. The Kochs are major donors to libertarian and free market causes. Politico reported in March that the Kochs plan on steering $200 million into conservative causes during the 2012 elections.

Cole said flatly that the Koch’s have no connection whatsoever to the “Nine Dollar a Gallon” gas ad campaign.

Pyle started his political career as an aide to former republican House Majority Leader Tom Delay, who was eventually convicted of laundering money. While Delay is appealing his conviction, Pyle has never been accused of any type of wrong doing and has a spotless pubic service record.

But while numerous media outlets tie the Kochs and their allies to both the American Energy Alliance and the Institute for Energy Research, physical evidence of cash donations is hard to come by. Coles refutes many aspects of the Politico story, that relies largely on a 2008 IRS 1099 form, which is one of the few public records that ties the Kochs to AEA or IER.

Coles would not offer specific information about who donates to AEA. He said that the organization chooses to protect the identity of its donors, which is within their legal rights.

AEA does claim that more than 60% of their funding comes from individuals, not from corporations. However, the identity of those individuals remains secret.

All the detailed information about where we got our facts is below:


*The American Energy Alliance web site can be found here.

*The American Energy Alliance’s staff page, which includes a biography for Tom Pyle, can be found here.  

*The Institute for Energy Research’s web site can be found here.

*Politico’s report on the Koch brother’s connection to the American Energy Alliance can be found here.

Written by Ryan Nobles

May 16, 2012 at 6:06 pm

Buying A Voice: League of Conservation Voters

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Many groups that buy television advertising during campaign season are organizations dedicated to one specific cause.

The League of Conservation Voters generally supports democratic candidates, but their priority is protecting the environment. They have already bought a $1 million ad buy across 3 states including Virginia.

In 2012 they have made defending Barack Obama and attacking Senate candidate George Allen their priority.

Here is the ad that was shown in Richmond:

That first TV ad of the 2012 season attacks an “unnamed” politician, that unnamed politician represents those who vote against measures they claim won’t protect clean air.

They get a bit more specific in a web ad that “congratulates” George Allen on being named to their “dirty dozen”.

So who are the league of conservation voters, and where do they get millions of dollars to invest in TV advertising?

Most of their donors contribute somewhere between $200 and $5 thousand dollars, and the vast majority of their money has come from sources outside of Virginia.

Their PAC most disclose their donors, and who show where that money goes. So far in 2012 they have filed 13 different independent expenditures for Virginia senate candidate “Timothy Michael Kaine”, a total of just under $20 thousand to this point.

They also have established a SuperPAC for 2012 which allows them to bring in big donations without much accountability. But their real power could come from a partnership with the Obama endorsed SuperPAC “Priorties USA” which will help fund pro-Obama ads across the country.

While the organization is not afraid to cross party lines for a candidate that shares their views, its rare. In 2010 less than 2% of their money went to republicans. In 2012, so far every single dollar spent has been in support of democrats.

Here is where we got our information:

*The League of Conservation voters has a list of all their endorsed candidates and television ads on their web site

*The list of donors to the LCV can be found on the Federal Election Commissions web site.

*The LCV’s expenditures, specifically those to Tim Kaine, can be found here.

*The Center For Responsive Politics breaks down who the LCV supports on opensecrets.org.

Written by Ryan Nobles

May 9, 2012 at 6:07 pm

Buying A Voice: Priebus hammers campaign fianance laws

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There are many different groups already investing heavily in the 2012 election. The level of which they must be transparent with their receipts and transactions varies greatly. Among those under the most scrutiny are the national party committees. The RNC and the DNC must track virtually every penny that comes in and out of their organization.

The RNC recently purchased ad time in Virginia to release this ad that is critical of the Obama healthcare reform law:

I recently talked one on one with RNC Chairman Reince Priebus to get his take on campaign finance laws. His perspective my surprise you. Here is my full “Buying A Voice” report from NBC12:

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT)- The Republican National Committee (RNC) will be one of the biggest spenders in the fall elections, and they have already started spending on television ads in Virginia. One of those ads attacked President Obama’s healthcare reform law.

The ad aired in March in several key battleground states, like Virginia. The RNC’s Chairman Reince Priebus said ads like this cost big bucks, but they are necessary to winning elections.

“Keeping money out of politics is almost impossible,” Priebus said.

He would know, raising money is one of the core functions of the RNC, and the relatively new chairman has done well. The RNC raised $110 million in the last 15 months. Priebus has also helped to cut the RNCcs debt load to just over $11 million.

Every single dime that comes in and out is closely tracked by the federal election commission.

“Every stamp that we buy, every dollar that we send out, we disclose with specificity to the American people every month,” ie explained.

But the same can’t be said for the monster SuperPacs, who have been raising millions of dollars, with very little accountability. While many benefit right leaning causes, Priebus admits it’s a problem.

“I would agree that the campaign finance laws in this country are a complete disaster,” he said.  

But while many democrats argue that finance laws need to be tightened, the RNC chairman believes exactly the opposite.

“By putting up all these fences and all these walls that the legislature has tried to do over the years, it hasn’t made anything easier,” he said.  “It’s just made it more complicated.”

And while everyone agrees the cash is a problem, no one appears to have a solution.

We’ve posted the FEC report for the RNC so you can see for yourself where they are getting their money. You can see that information below.

See our report from NBC12:



Extended clips from Chairman Priebus can be seen here:



Here is where we got our information:

See the RNC’s Federal Elections Commissions report by clicking here.

The DNC’s Federal Elections Commissions report by clicking here.

Written by Ryan Nobles

May 2, 2012 at 6:00 pm

Buying a Voice: U.S. Chamber attacks Kaine

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The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been very active in the 2012 election cycle. Their 3rd party political action committee has paid particular focus to the U.S. Senatate. Recently they launched this ad attacking former Governor Tim Kaine (D).

The Chamber of Commerce is a group most people are familiar with, but the name is one that many organizations at many different levels take on. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is a pro-business national organization that tends to support mainly conservative and republican candidates.

The Washington D.C. based group is now front and center in the U.S. Senate race in Virginia.  The man they have decided to attack is former governor Tim Kaine. The ad specifically attacks Kaine’s support for President Obama’s health care reform plan. Showing clips of the one-time DNC chair, praising the president’s leadership.

The “Chamber of Commerce” seems like a local group, something that stands up for local businesses and local communities, but the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is pretty far removed from Main Street Virginia. They are a national umbrella organization, with members big and small from all over the U.S..

So far their third party spending arm has spent $3 million on T.V. ads across the country. Every single cent has been spent attacking democrats.

The ad is being shown in so many places that the Virginia Chamber of Commerce went out of their way to make sure voters knew they were still neutral in the race.  In a statement their CEO Barry DuVal said they do not plan to endorse in the race for senate and that the Virginia Chamber is “a non-partisan, business advocacy organization.”

In addition to the ad attacking Kaine, The U.S. Chamber has also produced a similar ad praising his likely general election opponent former senator George Allen.

That ad is funded by the same group pushing the anti-Kaine ad.

Politifact Virginia rated the claims in the ad attacking Governor Kaine as “false“.  Our report on the U.S. Chamber can be found below:


Here is where we got our info:

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s web site can be found here.

The Center for Responsive Politics looks into the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s political spending can be found here.

The PolitiFact Virginia report on this ad can be found here.

Written by Ryan Nobles

February 27, 2012 at 7:11 pm

Buying A Voice: Americans for Prosperity responds

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For the second time the conservative group Americans for Prosperity has launched another ad in Virginia attacking President Barack Obama. If you haven’t seen it, check it out below:

We have already told you about the group “Americans for Prosperity” (AFP).  Their first ad had such an impact that Barack Obama’s campaign was forced to return fire.

AFP is back on the airwaves in Virginia, driving home the same point about the president’s role in the Solyndra scandal.

It is the kind of ad that looks as if it were produced by a high- priced deep pocketed, political organization. But despite what you’ve heard about American’s for Prosperity. State director Audrey Jackson argues they are made up of normal people, committed to a common cause.

“Here in Virginia we have 70 thousand activists.  We stand for principles of limited government,” said Jackson. “You know free market values.”

Jackson, who once worked for Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and for republicans in the general assembly, is responsible for connecting volunteers with their leaders and helping to get their voices heard. A big job based on the group’s claim of how many people are members.

“We have about 90 thousand contributors nationwide,” she said. “Many in Virginia.”

But AFP’s detractors argue that their state based infrastructure is nothing more than a front, and that the big money and influence is coming from a very small group of multi-billionaire donors.

Jackson claims those people have never met the AFP volunteers.

“Sure we have some large contributors and we have some small ones,” she said.  “It’s folks that share in our values.”

The group has spent millions on ads, but we will never know where that cash specifically comes from.

“Our donors have entrusted us with that and we feel like we need to respect their privacy,” Jackson said.

That is something that won’t change, unless the law changes.  


Learn more about the Americans for Prosperity in Virginia on their web site.

See our last report for more on their donor base.

Written by Ryan Nobles

February 15, 2012 at 6:25 pm

Buying a Voice: Obama hits the airwaves

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It will be the first of many, but the Obama campaign is on the air with their first campaign ad of 2012. If you haven’t seen it yet, take a look:

In 30 seconds, the commercial attempts to dismantle the claims by “Americans for Prosperity” and then build the case that the president is actually having success in creating green energy jobs.  The ad will be the first of many paid for by “Obama for America”.

Obama for America or OFA, is the name of President Barack Obama‘s re-election organization. It is the most traditional form of political fund raising.

The average voter wishing to contribute the Obama campaign would donate to OFA.  A quick check of the Federal Election Commission web site reveals literally thousands of donors to OFA with Virginia ties.

But while that donor list is very traditional and something the president is proud of, just this week he gave approval for his supporters to actively begin raising money through a practice he has criticized in the past.

Supporters of the president have launched “Priorities USA Action”. Priorities is a Super-PAC, Meaning its donors can give without limit, but they must disclose those donations.  It’s not directly connected to Obama for America, although the president has given the group his approval.

Currently the PAC has spent most of its time hammering Mitt Romney.

It’s raised more than $3 million.  The two biggest donations, $2 million from Dreamworks CEO Jeffery Katzenburg and $500 thousand from NewsWeb Corporation honcho Fred Eychaner.

But keep in mind, this SuperPAC, has not bought any ads in Virginia quite yet.

The Obama campaign did not come to the decision to support their SuperPAC lightly. In a blog post informing their supporters of the move, Jim Messina the Obama campaign manager said the campaign will not “play by two sets of rules”

You can see the ad below:


Here is where we got our information:

*The Obama for America Federal Election Commission filing can be found here.

*The Priorities USA Action web site can be found here.

*Open Secrets details the funding streams for Priorties USA Action.