Politico Does the Reporting Job on the Hillary Victory Fund That Rachel Maddow Wouldn’t Do

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News Media, Sanders and Clinton

Politico, of all creatures, actually did an analysis of the Hillary Victory Fund and reached the same conclusion I did.

In the days before Hillary Clinton launched an unprecedented big-money fundraising vehicle with state parties last summer, she vowed “to rebuild our party from the ground up,” proclaiming “when our state parties are strong, we win. That’s what will happen.”

But less than 1 percent of the $61 million raised by that effort has stayed in the state parties’ coffers, according to a POLITICO analysis of the latest Federal Election Commission filings.

I believe this is based on the end-of-March filing and not the one due recently. At the end of March, the HVF had taken in $60,568,530 , according to Open Secrets. I hope they follow up when they can analyze the April data.

I’ve been flogging this story for awhile, even though it barely qualifies as a “story” since it’s gotten no traction in news media. It has been obvious that something really underhanded has been going on with the Hillary Victory Fund, but nobody wants to notice.

I haven’t watched Maddow’s show for awhile, in large part since I haven’t had regular access to a television for awhile. But I was never so disappointed with her as when she brushed allegations about the Hillary Victory Fund aside without even looking at what was going on. I wrote about this here.

Here’s something I did not know. Politico reports,

The victory fund has transferred $3.8 million to the state parties, but almost all of that cash ($3.3 million, or 88 percent) was quickly transferred to the DNC, usually within a day or two, by the Clinton staffer who controls the committee, POLITICO’s analysis of the FEC records found.

Maddow was too complacent to even just look at public reports. This was not exactly like meeting Deep Throat in the parking garage. Just look at the public record.

By contrast, the victory fund has transferred $15.4 million to Clinton’s campaign and $5.7 million to the DNC, which will work closely with Clinton’s campaign if and when she becomes the party’s nominee. And most of the $23.3 million spent directly by the victory fund has gone towards expenses that appear to have directly benefited Clinton’s campaign, including $2.8 million for “salary and overhead” and $8.6 million for web advertising that mostly looks indistinguishable from Clinton campaign ads and that has helped Clinton build a network of small donors who will be critical in a general election expected to cost each side well in excess of $1 billion.

The Sanders campaign complained about the latter, and news media told him to shut up.

But it is perhaps more notable that the arrangement has prompted concerns among some participating state party officials and their allies. They grumble privately that Clinton is merely using them to subsidize her own operation, while her allies overstate her support for their parties and knock Sanders for not doing enough to help the party.

“It’s a one-sided benefit,” said an official with one participating state party. The official, like those with several other state parties, declined to talk about the arrangement on the record for fear of drawing the ire of the DNC and the Clinton campaign.

Hillary and Debbie must be keeping everybody’s grandmothers hostage in their basements. Everyone on the Democratic side is terrified of them.

Some fundraisers who work for state parties predict that the arrangement could actually hurt participating state parties. They worry that participating states that aren’t presidential battlegrounds and lack competitive Senate races could see very little return investment from the DNC or Clinton’s campaign, and are essentially acting as money laundering conduits for them. And for party committees in contested states, there’s another risk: they might find themselves unable to accept cash from rich donors whose checks to the victory fund counted towards their $10,000 donation limit to the state party in question — even if that party never got to spend the cash because it was transferred to the DNC.

Money laundering. Thank you.

Josh Schwerin, a spokesman for Clinton’s campaign, suggested that a handful of key state parties last month received another $700,000 in transfers from the victory fund, and enjoyed other benefits from it that will be detailed in subsequent FEC reports. (The latest reports only cover through the end of March.)…

… But Schwerin did not respond to follow-up questions about how much of the $700,000 in victory fund transfers to the state parties was subsequently transferred to the DNC.

It’s also a shell game. They keep moving money around and everybody gets dizzy and loses track of where it is.

Sanders’ campaign late last year signed a joint fundraising agreement with the DNC, but the committee has been largely inactive. Instead, after Sanders was chided by Clinton allies for not helping down-ballot Democrats, he sent out appeals to his vaunted email list that helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for a trio of progressive House candidates, who got to keep all the cash.

The Hillary Victory Fund, by contrast, allows the Clinton campaign to maintain tight control over the cash it raises and spends.

The article goes on to describe how the Supreme Court decision in McCutcheon vs. FEC (2014) made this operation possible. It goes way beyond the fundraising apparatus of any previous presidential campaign. But I’ll skip over that part for now.

According to the agreements signed by the participating committees, which were obtained by POLITICO, the money is required to be distributed, at least initially, based on a formula set forth in joint fundraising agreements signed by the participants. The first $2,700 goes to Clinton campaign, the next $33,400 goes to the DNC, and any remaining funds are to be distributed among the state parties.

But what happens to the cash after that initial distribution is left almost entirely to the discretion of the Clinton campaign. Its chief operating officer Beth Jones is the treasurer of the victory fund. And FEC filings show that within a day of most transfers from the victory fund to the state parties, identical sums were transferred from the state party accounts to the DNC, which Sanders’ supporters have accused of functioning as an adjunct of the Clinton campaign.

This scheme was in the works for a long time before the primaries started. Isn’t it odd that, in a year in which the Oval Office contained an open seat and the Republicans were expected to be in disarray, no “insider” Democrats stepped up to challenge Hillary Clinton? What are the odds, given that probably every politician in Washington has at least entertained fantasies of being POTUS? It’s as if they all got threats, in plain envelopes slipped under the office door — Nice grandma you have there …

For example, the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party received $43,500 from the victory fund on Nov. 2, only to transfer the same amount to the DNC that same day. The pattern repeated itself after the Minnesota party received transfers from the victory fund of $20,600 on Dec. 1 (the party sent the same amount to the DNC the next day) and $150,000 on Jan. 4 (it transferred the same amount to the DNC that day).

That means that Minnesota’s net gain from its participation in the victory fund was precisely $0 through the end of March. Meanwhile, the DNC pocketed an extra $214,100 in cash routed through Minnesota — much of which the DNC wouldn’t have been able to accept directly, since it came from donors who had mostly had already maxed out to the national party committee.

A similar pattern transpired with most of the participating state parties. As of March 31, only eight state parties (most of which were in battleground states such as Colorado, Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire and Virginia) had received more from the victory fund than was transferred from their accounts to the DNC.

This is the kind of analysis I couldn’t do myself, and it tells us that the Hillary Victory Fund is an even bigger scam than I thought it was.

Another area in which critics contend the Hillary Victory Fund appears to be pushing the bounds of joint fundraising is in its online advertising campaign, which has included many ads urging readers to “Stop Trump” or to support Clinton.

While joint fundraising committees are allowed to pay for ads as part of their fundraising efforts, they are forbidden from funding campaign advertising urging voters to vote for or against specific candidates. Those types of ads qualify as electioneering expenses that are supposed to be paid for directly by the campaign or by party committees.

Nice bit of line-blurring, there. The Clinton people say these ads are for fundraising purposes, not Clinton campaign purposes. Here’s a page full of those online ads. You be the judge.

Those victory fund ads, as well as a direct mail campaign funded by the same committee, “appear to benefit only [the Clinton campaign] by generating low-dollar contributions that flow only to HFA, rather than to the DNC or any of the participating state party committees,” charged Sanders’ campaign lawyer in an open letter sent to the DNC in April. It alleged that the victory fund was essentially a pass-through to allow Clinton to benefit from contributions that far exceed the amount that her campaign could legally accept.

In a news release accompanying the letter, Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver argued “it is unprecedented for the DNC to allow a joint committee to be exploited to the benefit of one candidate in the midst of a contested nominating contest.”

Typically, the Clinton campaign responded by calling any criticism of The Empress Hillary out of bounds.

Clinton’s campaign manager Robby Mook called the letter a “shameful” and “irresponsible” fundraising ploy, and urged Sanders to “think about what he can do to help the party he is seeking to lead.”

Nice bit of misdirection there, and every bobblehead on television fell for it.

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34 Comments

32 Comments

  1. CH  •  May 2, 2016 @6:11 pm

    Good on you for having smelled this giant rat well before now, and good on Politico (something I find hard to even type!) for finally floating it in the Big Media. And shame on Maddow et al. for ignoring it. I expect the Maddows and Kevin Drums of the world to consign the story, along with anything else verging on criticism of The Secretary and her coterie, to the “Vast Right-Wing And/Or BernieBro Conspiracy” file.

  2. c u n d gulag  •  May 2, 2016 @6:13 pm

    Bar-keep,
    Morc tripilez–gin martoon’s!!

    I’m ’bout to vote…
    Or, BARF

    Oy……………
    .

  3. uncledad  •  May 2, 2016 @7:00 pm

    Money laundering. Thank you.

    No shit, its written into law the whole way most campaigns are financed is money laundering. So what it’s legal. You could write the same story about any nominee except Sanders. What next emails, Benghazi, whitewater, Vince Foster?

  4. Swami  •  May 2, 2016 @7:58 pm

    she vowed “to rebuild our party from the ground up,

    Little do people know that her reference to “our” party is referring to her and Bill. Oh, I assume that Chelsea is entitled to a piece that action also. Three peas in a pod,huh?

    Here’s a little something that might increase your paranoia.. It’s primarily about Trump, but it manages to leave you with a queasy feeling about snuggling up to a Clinton candidacy
    http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2016/04/america-tyranny-donald-trump.html

  5. uncledad  •  May 2, 2016 @8:21 pm
  6. Swami  •  May 2, 2016 @8:21 pm

    uncledad … It might be legal, but it is deceptive..Personally, I tend to shy away from people who practice deception. It’s not a quality I look for in a leader. And I think it is a mistake to overlook even the slightest degree of deception…The invasion of Iraq wasn’t illegal either…It was deceptive though.

  7. uncledad  •  May 2, 2016 @8:25 pm
  8. uncledad  •  May 2, 2016 @8:30 pm

    “Personally, I tend to shy away from people who practice deception”

    Me too, but what really bothers me is full on fascism. Deception stings, Fascism kills.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FeQX-9Uxh_w

  9. maha  •  May 2, 2016 @9:12 pm

    Bush lied. People died. But I wouldn’t have called him a fascist.

  10. MilitantlyAardvark  •  May 3, 2016 @12:11 am

    @uncledad

    “So what it’s legal.”

    The best marks for a con-artist are the ones who secretly admire the “courage” of the fraudster. Clinton sold this latest swindle as “raising money for Democrats down-balllot” – in other words, she lied blatantly and despicably to the voters in her own party. Defending Clinton’s contempt for you and me and everyone on “our” side of the fence because “it’s legal” is an exercise in self-deception worthy of the dumbest, most gullible rubes.

    Under no circumstances will I vote for a candidate who is as ethically challenged as Clinton.

  11. paradoctor  •  May 3, 2016 @1:41 am

    I’ve long said I’ll vote for Bernie if I can, and Hillary if I must; but that last part is getting harder and harder. Then I think of Trump, who isn’t quite a fascist, yet, but is clearly proto and has potential.

  12. CarolB in Mpls.  •  May 3, 2016 @3:02 am

    You deserve a Pulitzer.

    I found your coverage when I smelled a rat too, and checked out OpenSecrets.org after I spied a repeated talking point about Hillary giving money to downticket races. This was on Truthdig by I suspect a Clinton troll — and then soon after repeated by Rachel Maddow on MSNBC as if it were gospel. Soon, Stephanie Miller began spouting off about it on her show. I live blogged on Rachel’s page and also sent emails to Miller. They didn’t “fall for it”. They were IN on it. There is a lesbian mafia behind Clinton — gender-based power seekers. I suspect Rachel is gunning for press secretary or even Chief of Staff.

  13. Joel Dan Walls  •  May 3, 2016 @1:58 pm

    I think this is the 3rd lengthy piece I’ve read here about the Hillary Victory Fund. As I compare them to what I’ve read elsewhere, they seem factually accurate. But the level of hostility toward Ms. Clinton just keeps on climbing, peppered with absurdities like “[t]here is a lesbian mafia behind Clinton.” I don’t see a whole lot of Right Speech here.

    Clinton’s campaign manager Robby Mook called the letter a “shameful” and “irresponsible” fundraising ploy, and urged Sanders to “think about what he can do to help the party he is seeking to lead.”

    Mr. Mook is making a pretty serious error here. Senator Sanders is not “seeking to lead” the Democratic Party. He started his campaign as a protest and didn’t take things seriously for many months in terms of organization. And if he wanted to lead the Democratic Party, he’d be out there working on behalf of candidates beside himself. Yes, the Hillary Victory Fund sure seems to be a kickback scheme, and Hillary Clinton has been working on behalf of other Democrats. Reality is complicated and not necessarily conducive to being reduced to morality plays.

  14. maha  •  May 3, 2016 @5:15 pm

    Joel Dan Walls — First, not everyone here is Buddhist; the Precepts are not binding on people who haven’t made a commitment to them. Second, the Precepts don’t require us to be nice. Nice is social convention; compassion is addressing suffering, which sometimes requires kicking ass.

    No, Sanders is not interested in leading the Democratic Party as it currently is. It requires a thorough shaking out first. This is not the time to be a team player.

    If you were able to acknowledge what is happening here, you would not be able to say that Clinton is working on behalf of other candidates. She is using the ruse of working on behalf of other candidates to raise money for herself. Yes, reality is complicated and not necessarily conducive to being reduced to morality plays, but sometimes corruption is corruption and lies are lies, however much we’d like to pretend they aren’t.

  15. Swami  •  May 3, 2016 @3:44 pm

    Clinton’s campaign manager Robby Mook called the letter a “shameful” and “irresponsible” fundraising ploy, and urged Sanders to “think about what he can do to help the party he is seeking to lead.”
    Maybe Sanders has given some thought helping the party he is seeking to lead. As it stands now the Democrat Party has devolved into a rudderless organization held captive by the Clintons. And it’s not so much the party that Sanders is focusing on leading..it’s the country as a whole. It’s not to difficult to see where things are headed if Clinton manages to foist her baby steps agenda on the American public. It’s going to take a lot of pragmatic baby steps to stop the advance of a corporate oligarchy.
    Now is the time to put the maximum amount of heat on Hillary even if she’s got the nomination in the bag. If she’s got a deaf ear to those of us who are down in the galley now, don’t think she’s going to be attuned our cries or concerns once she secures the oval office.

  16. Mack Salamasond  •  May 3, 2016 @5:57 pm

    This piece helps somewhat because it is unclear, yet, where the trails lead:

    http://www.npr.org/2016/04/19/474851697/explainer-bernie-sanders-on-hillary-clintons-joint-fundraising-committee

  17. maha  •  May 3, 2016 @7:56 pm

    Mack — Please don’t insult my intelligence. This NPR piece explains how the fund is SUPPOSED to work, but is not addressing the issues raised in the Politico piece at all. I already know how it is SUPPOSED to work; that’s not the issue. It’s how it IS working that’s the issue. Did you even read the Politico piece?

  18. MilitantlyAardvark  •  May 3, 2016 @6:55 pm

    @Joel Dan Walls

    “Yes, the Hillary Victory Fund sure seems to be a kickback scheme, and Hillary Clinton has been working on behalf of other Democrats.”

    We agree on the first part, but I fail to see how Clinton’s dishonesty and corruption of the party apparatus is “working on behalf of other Democrats”.

  19. Swami  •  May 3, 2016 @9:26 pm

    Looks like Teddy folded his tent..I guess when it was revealed that Raphael Sr. was the mysterious second shooter on the grassy knoll Teddy knew it was time to pack it in.

  20. Swami  •  May 3, 2016 @10:26 pm

    Sanders defeats Clinton in Indiana….Whoa!

    Well, concerning Hill’s victory fund…Money can’t buy you love.

  21. Procopius  •  May 4, 2016 @10:08 am

    The victory fund has transferred $3.8 million to the state parties, but almost all of that cash ($3.3 million, or 88 percent) was quickly transferred to the DNC, usually within a day or two, by the Clinton staffer who controls the committee, POLITICO’s analysis of the FEC records found.

    OK, I don’t understand this sentence. “The Clinton staffer” who controls WHAT committee? The state committee? Every state committee is controlled by a Clinton staffer? Most of them? A majority? I would think this would be a story worth telling, too, even if you (or Politico) thought it was to complicated to mention here.

  22. maha  •  May 4, 2016 @2:42 pm

    Procopius — the committee that controls the Hillary Victory Fund. It’s saying the money was allocated and then taken back, often without the state knowing about it.

  23. Doug  •  May 4, 2016 @1:45 pm

    The Politico piece and the dead silence elsewhere points out how campaign finance is the 3rd rail for mainstream media. The reason is obvious – there is so much money for the media with the system as it is, nobody wants to rock the boat.

    Last month there was a huge demonstration in DC on money in politics – over 1300 people arrested on the steps of the Capitol Building over 8 days. You heard almost nothing about it. The Washington Post buried the story with no pictures in a 7 paragraph article in the B section.

  24. maha  •  May 4, 2016 @2:46 pm

    Doug — News media often doesn’t cover demonstrations. I can remember massive anti-war demonstrations and marches in 2003 that shut down large parts of Manhattan. Easily tens of thousands of people in the streets. Not a peep of coverage. One march began in Times Square just a couple of blocks from the NY Times headquarters, and it still wasn’t covered.

  25. c u n d gulag  •  May 4, 2016 @3:20 pm

    Ok, so it’s rRUMP v. Clinton…

    Yet again, my vote will go to ” the lesser of the two evils…”

    I hope that future generstions will appreciate my attemps at ‘holding back the storm!’

    Yeeeeeeeeeesh….

  26. Swami  •  May 4, 2016 @4:37 pm

    again, my vote will go to ” the lesser of the two evils…”

    Huh, which one would that be? I mean really.. I see so much similarity in evil it’s hard to make a distinction.
    I wouldn’t be too quick to call it a contest between Trump and Clinton. There’s always the possibility that Paulie Ryan could step out of the shadows to save conservatism and the Repuglican party. And there’s still a very very remote chance that Bernie can pull a rabbit out of his hat.

  27. Swami  •  May 4, 2016 @4:37 pm

    again, my vote will go to ” the lesser of the two evils…”

    Huh, which one would that be? I mean really.. I see so much similarity in evil it’s hard to make a distinction.
    I wouldn’t be too quick to call it a contest between Trump and Clinton. There’s always the possibility that Paulie Ryan could step out of the shadows to save conservatism and the Repuglican party. And there’s still a very very remote chance that Bernie can pull a rabbit out of his hat.

  28. Procopius  •  May 4, 2016 @8:07 pm

    … the money was allocated and then taken back, often without the state knowing about it.

    And this is legal? I’m afraid I’m still confused. How is this being reported? Is this story (about donating to the state committees) being taken from official reports to the FEC or from press handouts? It looks from this like I could send a handout to the press that I had donated $250,000 to ActBlue because I had written a check to them but then torn the check up before I mailed it. Obviously “real” politicians would feel no shame at doing that, but most of the rest of us would. Well, never mind, I’m a Sandernista, I don’t expect anything better from the Clinton people which is why most people think she’s more electable than Bernie. Heck, now that I re-read that, maybe I’m a BernieBro.

  29. maha  •  May 4, 2016 @8:37 pm

    Procopius — This is all from information filed with the FEC; it’s public record. It probably is legal, but it’s pushing the limit.

  30. uncledad  •  May 4, 2016 @8:08 pm

    “The reason is obvious – there is so much money for the media with the system as it is, nobody wants to rock the boat.”

    Of course, but citizens united is the law, we can’t change that without wrestling control of the court away from the tea-tards, maybe Trump will appoint a liberal because Hillary is an evil money launderer and must be stopped?

  31. uncledad  •  May 4, 2016 @8:13 pm

    Hey more bad Hillary stuff!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Izi2pjG4VG0

  32. uncledad  •  May 4, 2016 @10:31 pm

    It probably is legal, but it’s pushing the limit.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5oO4YqOGClY

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