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Money & Democracy Update: Top 10 things voters should know, big bucks for Oklahoma, Alaska races

Stunning Statistics of the Week:

$750 million: The amount President Barack Obama raised and spent in the 2008 campaign

$1 billion: The estimated amount his campaign will cost in 2012

Source: http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/03/26/how-much-does-it-cost-to-run-for-president/

Big bucks in the race for Oklahoma City Council

Oklahoma City Council members make just $12,000 a year, but apparently they are powerful enough to attract big bucks to their campaigns. Candidates and groups running independent campaigns to support candidates have raised $1.2 million and spent $1 million of that – an unprecedented amount, the Oklahoman reports. Two groups alone account for $545,000 of that. Although they are required to identify their donors, they merely list a nonprofit group as a donor, leaving the public in the dark as to who is really funneling money into the races.

Citizens United affects even local races, like this one in Alaska

An independent group is diving into the race for Anchorage’s Assembly, which is its city council. The new group, which is getting its money from developers and commercial real estate owners, is running ads designed to oust three progressive incumbents. Such independent spending would not have been possible for the U.S. Supreme Court’s January 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, an Alaska official told the Anchorage Daily News. That ruling gave corporations the green light to spend unlimited amounts of money to sway elections.

Tens of millions being raised for redistricting fights

Top Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives are raising millions of unregulated money from hidden sources for redistricting fights, Politico reports. The lawmakers could raise upwards of $30 million. The Federal Election Commission has given its blessing; it voted last year to allow lawmakers to raise money for an organization called the National Democratic Redistricting Trust. It is anticipated that much of the money will go toward legal costs.

Two former White House aides mull creation of independent political group

Remember how in 2008 candidate Barack Obama decried special interests raising money for independent campaign efforts? How times have changed. It appears as though two former White House aides are going to launch an independent political group to help Obama and combat the flood of independent group spending on the GOP side.

Top 10 things every voter should know about money in politics

Our friends at the Center for Responsive Politics have put together the top 10 things every voter should know about money in politics. Number 8: Enforcement of campaign laws is weak. No. 7: The fundraising never stops. No. 2: Incumbents nearly always win. No. 1? Click here to find out.

U.S. Supreme Court hears challenge to Arizona clean elections law

U.S. Supreme Court justices this week heard arguments in a case challenging part of Arizona’s clean elections law. For proponents of the law, things didn’t go so well.

With higher dues, realtors may get say in political spending

The National Association of Realtors in May will ask its members if they support a dues increase to pay for political efforts to press for things like preserving the mortgage interest deduction. So far, the group has funded its political work by voluntary contributions. But since the Citizens United decision, the goalposts have changed, the groups said. The International Business Times summarized the group’s position: “[I]n the new political financing environment, it is both unrealistic and unnecessary to expect voluntary contributions to increase to the extent needed for realtors to maintain their influence.” If approved, dues would be raised from $80 to $120.

Romney giving lots of money to the Republican Party

Potential presidential contender Mitt Romney is currying favor with the Republican Party by sending money. Romney has sent $25,000 to New Jersey’s Republican Party, $5,000 each to the Wisconsin and Massachusetts state parties and $6,000 to New Hampshire’s state party. Oh, and he also has given more than $300,000 to Republicans in Congress.

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