Josh Israel and Aaron Mehta

Harry Reid’s new chief of staff is his top career individual donor

Fresh off his unanimous re-election by Senate Democrats to be Majority Leader for the 112th Congress, Nevada’s Harry Reid has promoted aide and long-time financial supporter David B. Krone to be his new chief of staff. As we reported in June in our Who Bankrolls Congress investigation, Krone held the distinction of being the single most generous individual career donor to Reid’s campaign committees and leadership PAC, with at least $35,000 in personal contributions.

Krone joined Comcast Corp. as senior vice president of corporate affairs in 2007 after serving as executive vice president of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA), the principal trade association of the cable industry, for five years. Krone lobbied on a number of bills for the industry, including a 2001 broadband access measure, which Reid cosponsored. In 2001, while working for lobbying firm Ryan, Phillips, Utrecht & MacKinnon, Krone was listed as a lobbyist for Duke Energy Corp. on two bills that Reid sponsored. One was an energy appropriations measure, which included an earmark for a geothermal energy project at the University of Nevada-Reno, and the other bill sought to establish a national commission on energy and climate change. Neither bill came to a vote. Through a spokesman, Krone denied ever lobbying for Duke Energy, but confirmed that he had lobbied on telecom issues while at the firm.

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Another victory for the status quo — a look at Boehner’s and Pelosi’s top contributors

How much money was spent on independent expenditure ads for this election?

If the story of this election is the rise of outside spending, the lesson we at You Report Election 2010 learned is that following the money is next to impossible.

Though big, established political players like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees poured millions into television ads aiming to sway voters, dozens of new groups — mostly pro-Republican — came onto the scene with ad-buys ranging from small to enormous. And while many of these 501(c)(4) tax-exempt groups flooded the airwaves with attack ads paid for by an undisclosed list of donors, some small groups managed to make an oversized impact by using creativity, new media, and highly controversial messaging to gain the attention of voters and journalists alike.

Through our submission form and the Sunlight Foundation’s Sunlight Campaign Ad Monitor, readers helped us identify some of the best (and worst) independent expenditure ads, mailings, and robocalls around the country.

The vast majority of the independent expenditures we saw attacked Democratic incumbents, while a smaller number went after Republican challengers, took on Republican incumbents, or raised the issue of government spending in general. This comes as no surprise, as independent groups favoring Republicans have outspent those preferring Democrats by almost a two-to-one ratio.

How much money was spent on independent expenditure ads for this election? The amount is difficult to pinpoint but the Center for Responsive Politics estimates nearly $394 million. Of that, about $193.5 million was spent by conservative-aligned groups, $186 million by liberal-allied groups, and the remaining $14.4 million was spent by “others,” according to their analysis.

Below is a sampling of what we saw in the weeks leading up to today’s midterm elections.



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Who funds independent expenditure ads?

The story of this election is the role of outside money. Undisclosed donations have provided millions of dollars for independent expenditures — much of it in television advertising — being run by trade associations and political non-profit groups.

But while the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision largely frees corporations to bankroll third-party ads out of their corporate treasuries, a significant percentage apparently have not done so, if an informal Center survey is any indication.

Many news articles have speculated on which corporations are bankrolling the deluge of independent advertisements jamming TV airwaves this cycle. But it seems like almost no one has bothered to actually ask them.

So we did.

The Center contacted the 50 largest companies in the 2010 Fortune 500 list.



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As disasters strike, private sector preparedness program remains stalled

More than 50 days into the BP oil spill crisis, many are calling for Congressional action. Environmental groups are demanding more safety restrictions on oil drilling, Democrats are proposing to remove liability caps for oil spills, and the White House is pushing the Senate to move on climate change legislation.

But without implementation by the executive branch, legislative action can prove virtually meaningless.

A perfect example of this is the long delayed “PS-Prep” program. In 2007, Congress ordered the creation of a voluntary set of standards or roadmap for businesses to prepare for a national disaster and set a 210-day deadline for the Bush administration to carry it out. But the program — known formally as the Voluntary Private Sector Preparedness Accreditation and Certification Program — has yet to be launched by the Homeland Security Department.

The chairmen of the Senate and House homeland security committees say in a June 3 letter the PS-Prep program can’t wait any longer.

The letter, sent to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, calls the failure of the executive branch to implement PS-Prep “regrettable,” and says the BP oil spill is “a painful reminder of why preparedness is so important.”

“The impact of future disasters on vulnerable cities and towns across the country would be significantly mitigated if businesses were armed with preparedness and recovery programs. Proper preparation leads to resilience and recovery,” said the letter signed by Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, and Joseph Lieberman, a Connecticut Independent Democrat. (more)