Democrats, including Minnesota Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, started their campaign-season push Monday for a constitutional amendment aimed at curbing special interests' financial clout in elections, an effort the party hopes will appeal to voters come Election Day.
The amendment would allow Congress and states to limit the money raised and spent in election campaigns, curbs that have been weakened by Supreme Court decisions in recent years.
Though it passed a procedural hurdle in the Senate on Monday, the measure has little of chance of passing the upper chamber, and leaders in the Republican-controlled U.S. House have no plans to vote on it.
Democrats around the country have spent months criticizing the billionaire Koch brothers, who have contributed large sums to conservative groups that are spending millions to try defeating Democratic senators.
Many lawmakers have also used the threat of the duo’s donations as a tool to raise campaign cash: at least two Franken fundraising emails in the past week have mentioned the Koch brothers.
Franken and Klobuchar joined a press conference Monday on Capitol Hill where Democrats touted the amendment.
Republicans say limiting campaign spending by outside groups would violate free speech and have accused Democrats of pushing the measure to score political points.
Outside groups have spent $189 million on congressional campaigns since January 2013, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, which monitors political spending. That's more than triple the $57 million spent to this point in the 2010 campaign — which, like this year, featured only congressional races and not a presidential contest.
The proposed amendment authored by Democratic Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico, and co-sponsored by Franken and Klobuchar, would let lawmakers roll back a 1967 Supreme Court decision which found that limiting campaign spending by outside groups would violate their free speech.
The legislation would also let Congress address the 2010 Citizens United case, which allowed unfettered independent spending by corporations and unions, and last April's ruling that lets individuals contribute to as many candidates as they'd like.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
In a new 30-second ad, Sen. Al Franken criticizes opponent Mike McFadden's business ties to global investment firm Lazard Ltd. for its incorporation in Bermuda, accusing "McFadden's business" of avoiding paying taxes in the U.S.
The ad, which blurs distinctions between the parent firm and subsidiary McFadden co-ran, opens with scenic views of Bermuda, the subtropical island 640 miles east of North Carolina. A narrator says "McFadden's company" uses "a special tax loophole to list its headquarters offshore" for the purposes of tax evasion.
Lazard is the parent company of Lazard Middle Market, a firm it acquired in 2007 when the GOP challenger was co-chief-executive. McFadden is on leave while he runs for office. At the time of the deal, McFadden's private investment bank was named Goldsmith Agio Helms.
Lazard Middle Market is based in Delaware. It pays U.S. taxes on revenue generated in the country. Parent company Lazard is incorporated in Bermuda for tax purposes.
McFadden's campaign on Friday bit back against the campaign ad.
"It's either sloppy or malicious,” said McFadden deputy campaign manager Tom Erickson.
McFadden, through a spokesman, said that a “favorable and stable business environment” was the reason Lazard Middle Market is based in Delaware.
Deputy campaign manager Erickson said that McFadden, in his role as co-CEO of Lazard Middle Market, had no say in Lazard’s headquarters decision.
The Franken campaign, however, does not accept that distinction.
“There is no difference between the two. They are the same company,” said Alexandra Fetisoff, communications director for Franken’s Senate campaign.
Fetisoff notes that when McFadden sold his firm to Lazard in 2007, he did so knowing that Lazard was based out of the country.
Earlier this year, McFadden himself has blurred the lines between the parent company and subsidiary.
When news outlets reported that Franken holds a mutual fund invested in parent company Lazard, McFadden said in a radio interview that, “Al Franken owns stock in my firm.”
The ad is hitting airwaves across Minnesota and comes on the heels of an announcement by Burger King Worldwide Inc. to move its headquarters to Canada once it finalizes a merger with Tim Hortons Inc., a Canadian doughnut chain.
-- Blog post by Ricardo Lopez and Rachel Stassen-Berger
Minnesota's U.S. Senate race is hitting metro hot spots this week.
On Wednesday, it was New York for Republican Mike McFadden. On Friday, Democratic Sen. Al Franken will travel to Chicago.
The reason for both trips? Cash.
McFadden was in New York City for a high dollar fundraiser with former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Franken will travel to Chicago for a low-dollar fundraiser with Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin.
Both also have spent time campaigning in Minnesota this week.
U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar visited Senegal, Ethiopia and Tanzania to discuss food security and Somali refugees during an 11-day fact-finding trip.
Klobuchar’s office said she took the trip to review “the significant agriculture and aid investments we have in Africa and make sure they are effective and making progress so that countries are able to start building their own economies.”
While in Africa, Klobuchar also met with officials from the United Nations High Commission on Refugees and Ethopia’s Administration for Refugees to discuss Somali refugees in Ethiopia and how to strengthen the security situation inside Somalia.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii were also part of the delegation, according to the Tanzania Daily News.
The group – which returned to the United States this week -- also visited the Serengeti National Park and Rome, headquarters of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.
Sen. Al Franken on Tuesday urged Attorney General Eric Holder to focus U.S. Department of Justice resources on recruitment at home by terror organizations--particularly in Minnesota, and expressed concern over the Obama administration's lack of action, according to a letter released Tuesday to the Star Tribune.
“I was troubled by the President’s recent suggestion that the Administration has not yet developed a comprehensive strategy to address the growing threat of ISIL’s activities in Syria,” Franken wrote in a letter dated Tuesday. “As you know, one aspect of that threat is ISIL’s efforts to recruit American and other Western citizens to join its forces."
The letter was drafted in the wake of news that a second American journalist, Steven Sotloff, was purportedly beheaded by members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and one week after former Robbinsdale Armstrong and Cooper student Douglas McArthur McCain was confirmed killed in Syria while fighting with ISIS, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). A second man, also from Minnesota, is believed to have been killed in Syria.
"One American who went to high school in Minnesota has been confirmed to have been killed in Syria while fighting with ISIL, and others have traveled there to fight with ISIL as well." Franken's letter continued. "We must act diligently and responsibly to prevent Americans from taking up arms with ISIL, or from reentering our country if they do.”
Franken also urged Holder to focus DOJ efforts where terrorism recruitment may be happening, such as Minnesota, and to prevent travel abroad by those suspected of joining ISIL.
“I understand the challenges posed by Americans who do not declare Syria as their destination and transit through other countries; nevertheless, the Justice Department, in coordination with other relevant agencies, should use its existing legal authorities to prevent Americans who intend to do serious damage to U.S. national security interests from reaching Syria or returning to the U.S. once they have done so.”
Read the letter here:
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