Solar Hyperbole?

Three weeks after the Trump administration imposed a 30 percent tariff on imported solar energy cells and panels, the president claimed that “a lot of places are opening up” to “make solar panels again.” Two weeks later, he said that “we’re opening up at least five plants,” and by mid-April, the number had grown to “seven or eight.”

But solar energy experts told us they knew of just one new announced facility since the tariffs were implemented.

We asked the White House press office for a list of the “seven or eight” plants, but we have not received a response. We will update this article if we do.

“As of now we only have a definitive announcement for one new solar manufacturing facilities since the tariffs were introduced. And even that one is now planned to be smaller than originally intended,” Shayle Kann, a nonresident fellow at Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy, told us.

JinkoSolar, a Chinese company, announced on Jan. 29 that it would finalize plans for a manufacturing facility in the U.S. It will be in Jacksonville, Florida, and create 200 jobs, the company said in late March. That’s the only new post-tariff facility that the Solar Energy Industries Association was aware of as well.

It’s unclear what Trump may be including in his count of solar plants. Both Kann and SEIA told us some U.S. manufacturers had announced or discussed plans to expand capacity. “But to my knowledge, none of those plans are definitive at this point,” said Kann, who is also the senior vice president of research and strategy at Energy Impact Partners, a sustainable energy investment firm.

Also, SunPower, a solar systems and technology company that imports its solar panels, announced on April 18 that it would buy SolarWorld Americas, one of the companies that had petitioned the International Trade Commission for the tariffs.

Trump made his most recent comments on April 18 at a joint press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. As we said, they come after Trump put the number of new solar plants at “at least five” on Feb. 26 and the more general “a lot” on Feb. 13.

Trump, April 18: If you look at what we did with solar panels, where we put 30 percent tariffs on, we had 32 companies opened with pretty new plants, because it’s a relatively new industry. Of the 32 plants, 30 were closed and 2 were not doing well. Since putting the tariffs on, the two are doing very well, seven or eight are going to be opening, and a lot more will open.

SEIA, a national trade association, opposed the tariffs, arguing that they would stunt demand and hurt U.S. installers and manufacturers in the industry that made products other than the solar panels themselves.

Abigail Ross Hopper, SEIA’s president and CEO, said in a statement in response to Trump’s remarks: “The President was apparently misinformed about the number of plants that had been operating, the number that are going to be newly built and the status of the plants of the two petitioners.” (SEIA also disputes the president’s claim that 30 solar panel plants had closed before the tariffs, arguing that some made other products or didn’t close because of imports.)

Greentech Media, which is part of the market analysis firm Wood Mackenzie, wrote in January that there were 14 “crystalline-silicon cell and/or module manufacturers in the U.S.” All of those companies would “theoretically” benefit from the tariffs, Greentech Media wrote, though “it’s not clear that all of these companies have active factories in the U.S. with the ability to reach any kind of scale.”

Suniva and SolarWorld Americas are the two companies that pushed for the tariffs. They argued that cheap imports were hurting their businesses in a 2017 petition to the International Trade Commission. The ITC agreed last fall, and the Trump administration announced a new four-year tariff on Jan. 22 on imported solar cells and modules.

A 30 percent tariff would be imposed in the first year, but that would decrease by 5 percentage points each year and end after year four. The first 2.5 gigawatts in cell imports are exempt.

As for whether those two companies are “doing very well,” Suniva had filed for bankruptcy before making its ITC petition, and it’s still in bankruptcy proceedings. On April 17, a day before Trump’s comment, a bankruptcy judge said Suniva’s largest creditor could sell some of the company’s manufacturing equipment in a public auction, according to Reuters.

SolarWorld Americas, however, is doing much better than that. SunPower announced this week that it would buy SolarWorld Americas, with its CEO describing the move as a reaction to the tariffs in an interview with Greentech Media. SunPower said it would “inject fresh capital” into its acquisition’s facility and implement its high-efficiency solar panel technology.

The merger is expected to be finalized in several months, SunPower’s press release said.

It’s certainly possible that another company will buy Suniva or at least its equipment and open or expand a production facility. And a handful of companies have said they are exploring expanding their capacity in the U.S. For instance, Longi Solar Technologies told Greentech Media in late January that it was “actively doing our homework” in considering a U.S. factory, which its general manager called “a big commitment.”

That article cited other expansions in already operating facilities: an announcement in early January, before the tariffs were implemented, by Solaria Corp. that it would expand manufacturing thanks to new funding it had secured, and a Jan. 23 announcement by Mission Solar Energy that it was “ramping up production to meet product demands for 2018.”

Perhaps the president is counting those types of announcements, but they’re not “seven or eight” plants that “are going to be opening.”

Kann co-authored a Feb. 6 report for Columbia’s Center on Global Energy Policy that said: “Many manufacturers will certainly explore building manufacturing capacity in the United States, but a combination of timing, market factors, and the tariffs themselves will put an end to most of these schemes.”

The report cited two reasons companies would “think twice before investing tens, or hundreds, of millions of dollars into new US solar panel manufacturing industry.” It noted that the tariff is reduced each year and eliminated after four years, and even with the tariff, the manufacturing costs could still make Southeast Asia solar panels more competitive.

Similarly, Edurne Zoco, a research director of solar and energy storage for the analytics firm IHS Markit, said that the tariffs could prompt some additional module manufacturing capacity in the United States. But “we do not anticipate that it will bring a significant number of cell-manufacturing expansions,” Zoco told us in mid-February, when we did some initial research on this issue.

The “competitive advantage of setting manufacturing in the U.S. grows smaller every year,” under the tariff, she said, “since global solar cell prices will continue to fall and the import tariff will be also reduced.”

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Players Guide 2018

Outside groups spent more than $1.6 billion in the 2016 election on TV ads and other forms of communication that urged the election or defeat of federal candidates, according to the Federal Election Commission.

Many of those same groups — and new ones that have formed since — will spend hundreds of millions more trying to influence the outcome of the 2018 elections.

Who’s behind these groups and what’s their agenda? You can find out in Players Guide 2018, our biennial feature that we reintroduce today with profiles of 14 outside groups. We will add more profiles and update the published ones throughout the campaign cycle.

Our first batch of Players Guide items includes profiles of Priorities USA Action, a Democratic super PAC formed by two former aides to Barack Obama, and Senate Leadership Fund, a Republican super PAC created by allies of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Combined, the two groups in the 2016 campaign cycle accounted for nearly $220 million in independent expenditures — the term the FEC uses to define funds spent on TV ads and other forms of communication to expressly advocate for or against specific federal candidates.

As of April 20, outside groups have spent more than $100 million on independent expenditures during this campaign cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. That’s just the beginning. Follow us throughout the 2018 election as we write about the political groups, policy issues and campaign claims in the most competitive races.

Our 2018 election coverage this year is made possible in part through a generous donation by the Stanton Foundation. The foundation was founded by the late Frank Stanton, who became president of CBS in 1946 and served for 25 years. We wish to thank the Stanton Foundation for its continued support. 


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House Majority PAC

Political leanings: Democratic

Spending target: Unknown

The House Majority PAC was founded in April 2011 by Alixandria Lapp, a former Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee official. Her husband, Democratic consultant John Lapp, has led advertising campaigns for the PAC.

It was one of several super PACs formed by Democrats in response to the heavy spending by conservative organizations in the 2010 midterm elections, when Republicans took control of the House. The PAC says it is focused on “holding Republicans accountable and helping Democrats win seats in the House.”

As a super PAC, it can take donations of any size from individuals, labor unions and corporations, but must disclose its donations and expenditures periodically in reports to the Federal Election Commission.

The House Majority PAC raised $56 million in the 2016 election cycle, the sixth largest total of any super PAC. Nearly three-quarters of the $47 million that the super PAC spent went to oppose Republicans. It spent more than $2 million each against six GOP candidates, including Donald Trump. Three of those candidates ended up winning their races.

The largest contributors to the PAC in 2016 were retired media executive Fred Eychaner, who gave $11 million, and Paloma Partners hedge fund executive Donald Sussman, who gave $10 million. Behind them were billionaire hedge fund managers James Simons and George Soros, who donated more than $2 million apiece.

A number of labor unions also chipped in large sums. The Laborers Union gave more than $1.9 million; the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees gave nearly $1.5 million; and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers gave $1.4 million.

As of April 2018, the House Majority PAC had spent $855,000 in independent expenditures for the 2018 election cycle. About half of that sum, $421,000, went toward opposing Republican Karen Handel in the special election to fill a House seat in Georgia left vacant by former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price. The super PAC spent an additional $230,000 supporting Handel’s Democratic opponent, Jon Ossoff, who lost the race.

During this election cycle, the super PAC’s largest contributor, as of April 2018, was George Marcus, founder and chairman of the real estate company Marcus & Millichap, who had donated $2.5 million. Eychaner had given the group another $2 million, and Sussman had given another $1.75 million.

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Senate Majority PAC

Political leanings: Democratic

Spending Target: Unknown

The Senate Majority PAC is a super PAC “solely dedicated to building a Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate,” its website says.

In the 2016 election cycle, the Senate Majority PAC raised over $92.8 million, the fourth most among super PACs, and the second most among liberal super PACs. The group’s largest individual contributors included Democratic mega-donors Fred Eychaner, a retired media executive who gave $12 million, and hedge fund billionaire James Simons, who gave $8 million.

J. B. Poersch, a former Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee director, was named the super PAC’s president in early 2017. Its other senior advisers include co-founders Susan McCue and Rebecca Lambe, who were both political aides to former Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.

As a super PAC, the Senate Majority is allowed to raise and spend unlimited amounts provided that all donations and expenditures are reported to the Federal Election Commission. The PAC cannot make contributions to candidates, and instead devotes most of its money to attacking Republican candidates. It reported spending more than $63.5 million in independent expenditures opposing GOP candidates who ran in 2016, and $11.8 million supporting Democrats. (The FEC defines independent expenditures as spending on advertising that expressly advocates for the election or defeat of a federal candidate.)

Senate Majority is affiliated with Forward Majority, a 501(c)(4) organization that does not have to disclose its donors. Forward Majority contributed more than $600,000 to the Senate Majority PAC in 2016 and carried out voter registration efforts to help increase turnout among Democrats.

For the 2018 elections, the Senate Majority PAC will work with Priorities USA, a liberal super PAC, on digital ad campaigns. Priorities USA announced that it plans to spend $50 million on races in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, and Wisconsin. In addition, Guy Cecil, chairman of Priorities USA, told the Washington Post that his PAC would partner with the Senate Majority PAC on digital campaigns in Missouri and North Dakota. Arizona is the only one of those states currently held by a Republican; the rest are held by Democrats.

As of April 19, the Senate Majority PAC had spent about $9.9 million on independent expenditures supporting Democrats and opposing Republicans in the 2018 election cycle. Almost all of that money has been used to aid incumbent Senate Democrats in Wisconsin, Indiana, Missouri, West Virginia, North Dakota and Nevada.

There are 35 Senate seats up for grabs in 2018, including 24 held by Democrats and two independents who caucus with the Democratic party. Democrats need a net gain of two seats in order regain control of the Senate from the Republicans, who currently hold 51 seats.

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Committee to Defend the President

Political leanings: Pro-President Trump

Spending target: Unknown

The Committee to Defend the President was founded as the Stop Hillary PAC in May 2013. The group’s mission changed after the 2016 election, and then it officially changed its name in late January 2017, after Donald Trump took office as president.

The pro-Trump group is what’s known as a hybrid PAC or “Carey committee.” That means it “has the ability to operate both as a traditional PAC, contributing funds to a candidate’s committee, and as a super PAC, which makes independent expenditures,” according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Carey committees must have separate bank accounts for those purposes.

The committee can collect unlimited contributions from individuals, corporations, and labor unions for its independent expenditures, but those funds may not be used for contributions made by its traditional PAC. All receipts and disbursements for both accounts must be reported to the Federal Election Commission.

Guy Short, a political consultant, is the hybrid PAC’s founder, and Dan Backer, a campaign finance lawyer, is its treasurer, according to paperwork filed with the FEC last year. The group’s chairman is Ted Harvey, a former Republican state senator from Colorado.

Short actually campaigned for Sen. Ted Cruz to be the GOP presidential nominee. He told Reuters in April 2016 that he “spent thousands of dollars of my own money campaigning to become a delegate because it’s that important to make sure Donald Trump is NOT our nominee.”

The Stop Hillary PAC spent almost $6.1 million of the $6.9 million it raised during the 2016 cycle. The majority of its spending, about $3.4 million, was devoted to independent expenditures targeting Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee.

The PAC’s top donors in 2016 were Tatnall Hillman, who gave multiple donations totaling over $60,000; George Etheridge, who gave $25,000; and Robert Allison, who contributed $20,000. Hillman is the son of the late John Hartwell Hillman Jr., who made billions in the steel and energy industry. Etheridge and his wife own orthopedic supplies company Precision Orthopedics, and Allison is the former president and CEO of Anadarko Petroleum Corporation.

As of April 19, the Committee to Defend the President has spent more than $3.5 million on independent expenditures in the 2018 campaign cycle, mostly in support of Trump’s agenda, according to the Center for Responsive Politics and based on the group’s FEC reports. One of its earliest TV ads went viral. The 30-second spot urged viewers to call a toll free number and “pledge your support to defend Donald Trump” from attacks by “liberals in the Democratic party and the crooked media.”

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Great America PAC

Political leanings: Republican/Pro-President Trump 

Spending target: Unknown 

Great America PAC was formed in February 2016 to support Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. As a so-called “Carey committee” — a traditional political action committee and super PAC hybrid — Great America PAC can contribute to a candidate’s campaign committee and make independent expenditures, provided the funds for each purpose are kept separate.

During the 2016 election cycle, the group raised nearly $28.7 million and spent more than $23 million of that on ads supporting Trump.

In 2016, the PAC’s largest donation was $5 million from Isaac Perlmutter, the CEO of Marvel Entertainment. Its next biggest donors were Robert McNair, the founder, chairman and CEO of the NFL’s Houston Texans, and Andrew Beal, the founder and chairman of Beal Bank, who each gave $2 million.

Republican strategist Ed Rollins continues to lead the Great America PAC, which now aims to “advance President Trump’s agenda day in and day out,” according to its website. Rollins is a Fox News contributor who managed President Ronald Reagan’s reelection campaign in 1984, and was inducted into the Political Consultants Hall of Fame in 2011.

The PAC also has ties to former Trump campaign CEO Steve Bannon, who was forced out of his role as White House chief strategist in August 2017.

As of April 20, all of Great America PAC’s independent expenditures for the 2018 election cycle, a total of more than $3.1 million, have gone to support Republicans. All but about $31,000 of that sum has gone to promote President Trump.

The group spent $13,000 to support Senate candidate Roy Moore, $10,000 to support Senate candidate Kelli Ward, $5,000 to support Senate candidate Marsha Blackburn, and just under $3,000 to support House candidate Karen Handel. While Handel defeated Democrat Jon Ossoff in Georgia’s special election in June, Moore lost the Alabama special election to Democrat Doug Jones in December. The Senate elections for Tennessee and Arizona, the states where Blackburn and Ward are running, respectively, have not yet occurred. 

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Club for Growth Action

Political leanings: Conservative

Spending target: Unknown

Club for Growth Action, the super PAC of the conservative Club for Growthwas launched in August 2010. On its website, the organization declares its mission is to “take on any Member of Congress … who fails to uphold basic economic conservative principles … regardless of party.”

The group targets some Republican incumbents in primary elections in order to replace them with “pro-growth, limited government Americans.” In 2014, it spent more than $3 million in a failed attempt to defeat GOP Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi and replace him with Chris McDaniel.

In the 2016 cycle, Club for Growth Action spent about $20 million. On the presidential election alone, the group spent nearly $8 million — including a little more than $7 million against Donald Trump during the Republican primary. The group, for example, accused Trump in TV ads of supporting higher taxes. Once in office, Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which reduced individual and corporate income tax rates, among other things. (See our story, “A Guide to the Tax Changes.”)

Club for Growth Action’s money in the last campaign cycle came largely from three conservative donors. Richard Uihlein, the chief executive officer of Uline, a shipping, packaging and industrial supplies company, gave the PAC $4.25 million. The other two major donors were Jackson Stephens Jr. and his brother, Warren — the sons of the late Jackson Stephens, who was CEO of a privately held financial services company called Stephens Inc.

Jackson Stephens Jr. is the chairman and CEO of ExOxEmis, a biotechnology firm. He is also the chairman of the Club for Growth board of directors. Warren Stephens is the president and CEO of Stephens Inc. The Stephens brothers combined to give Club for Growth Action $6.9 million in the 2016 cycle.

As of April 20, Club for Growth Action had spent more than $2.5 million this cycle — including about $700,000 on special House elections in Georgia and Pennsylvania. Last year, the group found itself at odds in the Georgia House race with a pro-Trump group called 45Committee. Club for Growth Action endorsed Republican Bob Gray — one of 18 candidates, including 11 Republicans, running in what was known as a “jungle primary.” 45Committee ran TV ads opposing Gray, claiming voters could not “trust him” because he “stands with the Club for Growth.”

Gray did not survive the primary. Karen Handel, a Republican, won the special election in a runoff against Democrat Jon Ossoff.

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Priorities USA Action

Political leanings: Democratic/liberal

Spending target: At least $50 million 

Priorities USA Action, a super PAC, was formed in 2011 by ex-White House staffers Bill Burton and Sean Sweeney to help reelect President Barack Obama in 2012. In 2016, it supported Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, spending more money than any other super PAC.

Priorities USA Action states that its mission is to help build “a powerful progressive movement that informs, energizes, and empowers average Americans to fight and win for their priorities in 2017, 2018, and 2020.”

Guy Cecil, who was political director of Clinton’s 2008 campaign, serves as chairman of the super PAC. Patrick McHugh, who was research director for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, serves as the PAC’s executive director.

As a super PAC, Priorities USA Action can raise unlimited amounts of money, but is required to disclose its donors. Priorities USA, also formed in 2011, is the super PAC’s affiliated 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization, which could raise unlimited amounts of money without disclosing its donors. The group also has a 501(c)(3) nonprofit called Priorities USA Foundation.

Priorities USA Action has merged with another nonprofit group called Every Citizen Counts, a voting rights organization, according to Cecil. The Washington Post said Priorities USA Action has a “broad portfolio, assuming tasks that traditionally are in the purview of the national party.”

Priorities USA Action largely sat out the 2014 midterm elections. It donated $1.35 million to left-leaning PACs, but spent nothing on independent expenditures during the cycle. However, the group has added staff in preparation for involvement in 2018 and already has participated in special House elections in Montana and Georgia. In November 2017, it said that it would spend at least $50 million in the 2018 cycle on digital ads alone.

During the 2016 cycle, the group spent a total of $133,407,972 in independent expenditures, part of the super PAC’s $190 million in total spending. The vast majority of that — roughly $132 million — was spent on the presidential race, though smaller amounts were spent on congressional races, such as the $411,406 spent to help unseat Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire.

Some major donors to Priorities USA Action during the 2016 cycle included Saban Entertainment founder Haim Saban and his wife, Cheryl, who combined to donate $12.23 million. Others included Paloma Partners founder Donald Sussman ($20 million), billionaire philanthropist George Soros ($9.5 million), film director Steven Spielberg ($1 million), and film producer Jeffrey Katzenberg ($1 million).

The super PAC also received large sums from other political action committees, including $5 million from Working for Working Americans and $3.725 million from the Laborers’ International Union of North America. Both PACs represent labor unions.

For the 2018 campaign cycle, the super PAC had raised $6.6 million and spent almost $3.9 million, as of April, according to the Federal Election Commission. Its major donors again this cycle include Sussman and Soros, who each donated $2 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

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U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Political leanings: Pro-business/conservative

Spending target: Unknown

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business organization, representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses, and it advocates a pro-business agenda in Washington, D.C. Although the chamber occasionally supports some Democrats, most of the organization’s efforts go toward electing Republicans. Of the direct political donations given by the chamber’s political action committee in 2016, 96 percent went to Republican candidates.

The chamber is a 501(c)(6) — an IRS designation for nonprofit trade groups. It can accept unlimited contributions and does not have to disclose its donors.

The chamber reported spending $29.1 million (mostly attacking Democrats or supporting Republicans) in the 2016 campaign cycle, including more than $4.1 million on television ads opposing Katie McGinty, the Democrat from Pennsylvania who lost to incumbent Republican Sen. Pat Toomey. The chamber spent an additional $1.9 million on ads supporting Toomey.

The chamber’s 2016 spending total was seventh among conservative-leaning outside spending groups.

As of April 2018, the chamber had spent $3.4 million for the 2018 cycle in independent expenditures. Specifically, the chamber spent nearly $1 million in support of Republican Luther Strange in the special primary runoff in Alabama to fill Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ vacant Senate seat. It also spent more than $1 million supporting Republican Karen Handel and opposing Democrat Jon Ossoff in the special election in Georgia to fill the House seat left vacant by Tom Price, who was President Trump’s first health and human services secretary. Strange lost to Roy Moore, and Handel won her race.

The chamber consistently advocates a pro-business and pro-trade agenda. In October 2017, Thomas Donohue, the chamber’s president and chief executive, criticized the Trump administration’s plans to renegotiate NAFTA, a trade deal the chamber supports. “There are several poison pill proposals still on the table that could doom the entire deal,” he said. The chamber also has been at odds with some of the president’s positions on immigration. But it has been supportive of Trump’s tax overhaul.

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Senate Leadership Fund

Political leanings: Conservative/Republican

Spending target: Unknown

The Senate Leadership Fund is a Republican super PAC that was established in 2015 by allies of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The group says its purpose is to “protect and expand the Republican Senate Majority.” Its president and CEO is Steven Law, who served as McConnell’s chief of staff from 1991 to 1997. Law also serves as the president and CEO of American Crossroads, another Republican super PAC. From 1998 to 2000, Law served as executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

The super PAC finds itself at odds this election cycle with former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, who has declared “war against a GOP establishment.” Bannon has promised to run primary challengers against numerous Republican senators — which Law says will hurt the party’s chances of maintaining control of the Senate. The Republicans currently control 51 seats.

“Viable candidates who embrace Steve Bannon are going to have a problem when they have to face … the voters next fall,” Law told NPR last October, citing Bannon’s “toxic views and his alt-right philosophy.” Since leaving the White House, Bannon has returned to the conservative website Breitbart as executive chairman.

The Senate Leadership Fund spent a little more than $114 million in the 2016 campaign cycle, including about $86 million on so-called independent expenditures — a term the Federal Election Commission uses for advertising that expressly advocates for the election or defeat of a federal candidate.

Two of its largest donors have been the Karl Rove-affiliated One Nation group and Las Vegas-based billionaire Sheldon Adelson. One Nation gave $21.7 million to the GOP group in the 2016 cycle, while Adelson and his wife, Miriam, combined to give $35 million. Other significant donors included hedge fund manager Paul Singer and private equity manager Stephen Schwarzman.

As a super PAC, the group can accept unlimited contributions, but it must disclose its donors and cannot coordinate with campaign committees or campaigns on its independent expenditures.

In 2016, the group spent the majority of its money attacking Democratic Senate candidates in the general election. It spent more than $82 million on just six races, opposing Democrats Katie McGinty of Pennsylvania, Evan Bayh of Indiana, Jason Kander of Missouri, Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, Patrick Murphy of Florida and Deborah Ross of North Carolina.

In the 2018 campaign cycle, the group notably spent $8 million in the December 2017 special Senate election in Alabama. Luther Strange had been appointed by then-Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley to fill the Senate seat left vacant by Jeff Sessions when Sessions became U.S. attorney general on Feb. 9, 2017. The Senate Leadership Fund supported Sen. Luther Strange, but he was defeated in the Republican primary by Bannon-endorsed candidate Roy Moore. After the primary, the group endorsed Moore, but did not spend any money supporting him in the Dec. 12 general election, an election Moore would lose to Democrat Doug Jones.

The group also has spent money opposing vulnerable Democratic incumbents — including Sens. Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Claire McCaskill of Missouri — and opposing Bannon-backed Arizona GOP primary candidate Kelli Ward. Additionally, the group has released several statements directly attacking Bannon himself.

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NextGen Climate Action Committee

Political leanings: Liberal

Spending target: $30 million

NextGen Climate Action Committee, a super PAC, and NextGen Climate Action, a 501(c)(4), were founded in 2013 by San Francisco billionaire Tom Steyer. They currently operate under the umbrella organization known as NextGen America, an environmental advocacy organization.

In 2012, Steyer, who is reported to be worth $1.6 billion, sold the San Francisco-based hedge fund he founded in 1986 and turned to philanthropy and political action. Steyer made headlines last year for announcing he would spend $20 million on television ads calling for President Donald Trump’s impeachment. He has said that he intends to spend $30 million on mobilizing the youth vote for the 2018 elections.

“I’m putting $30 million behind NextGen America’s youth organizing program to unleash the full political power of young voters,” Steyer said on Jan. 8, when he announced that he would not run for public office.

NextGen America will focus on 30 House races in 10 states — Arizona, California, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin, Steyer said.

In the 2016 election, the NextGen super PAC spent more than $96 million — much of that, $89.5 million, was contributed directly by Steyer. Of that, the super PAC spent nearly $10 million on independent expenditures — almost $3.5 million in support of seven Democratic candidates, and more than $6.3 million against six Republicans and a libertarian candidate.

NextGen Climate Action Committee spent millions on ads during the 2016 presidential campaign boosting Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, criticizing Republican nominee Donald Trump, denouncing Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson, and emphasizing climate change’s impact on national security.

As of April 2018, the NextGen super PAC reported raising $16.5 million and spending $15.7 million in the 2018 campaign cycle. It had yet to spend any of its money advocating for or against any federal candidates, but the group had donated $1.5 million to For Our Future, a liberal PAC formed in 2016, and nearly $1.6 million to other liberal PACs.

NextGen Climate Action also has gotten increasingly involved in state elections. It spent nearly $1 million helping Democrat Ralph Northam win the Virginia gubernatorial race last year. It also reported having registered nearly 20,000 voters in the state before the Oct. 16 deadline.

Steyer has not shied away from using NextGen America, the umbrella group, to lobby on other issues besides climate change. NextGen America issued press releases highlighting immigration support services and criticizing the GOP tax plan as it moved through Congress.

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ESAFund/Ending Spending Inc.

Political leaningsFiscally conservative

Spending targetUnknown

Ending Spending Action Fund was launched as a super PAC in 2010 along with its affiliated nonprofit, Ending Spending Inc. Originally, the super PAC was called Taxpayers Against Earmarks, and it advocated against congressional earmarks. In 2011, the super PAC changed its name and expanded its focus to include the nation’s overall fiscal outlook. In 2015, it changed its name again — this time to ESAFund.

ESAFund describes itself as a nonpartisan super PAC that “supports political candidates who understand the importance of a balanced budget.”

The group was formed by its current chairman, Joe Ricketts, who founded TD Ameritrade and whose family owns the Chicago Cubs baseball team.

As a super PAC registered with the Federal Election Commission, ESAFund is allowed to raise money of unlimited amounts but must disclose its donors. During the 2016 election cycle, five of the six largest donors were individuals. The exception was Congressional Leadership Fund, a Republican super PAC, which contributed $1.6 million. Marlene Ricketts, one of the Chicago Cubs owners, was the super PAC’s largest donor in 2016. She contributed $6.75 million. Paul Singer, founder and president of the Elliott Management hedge fund, donated $1.95 million.

During the 2016 election cycle, ESAFund spent about $14.9 million in independent expenditures. About $6 million was spent on advertising that expressly supported Republican candidates, and $3.6 million was spent to oppose Republicans. The group did not use any funds to support Democrats, and it spent $5 million on ads against Democratic candidates. Other than the $800,000 spent opposing Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, all of the PAC’s independent expenditures were spent on congressional races.

Although ESAFund was not very active in the 2016 presidential campaign, the Ricketts family donated millions to the anti-Trump Our Principles PAC. At the time, Trump criticized the Ricketts in a tweet: “I hear the Rickets family, who own the Chicago Cubs, are secretly spending $’s against me. They better be careful, they have a lot to hide!”

For the 2018 election cycle, ESAFund had spent just $53,000 in independent expenditures as of April 2018. All of it went to support Karen Handel in the Georgia special House election, which she won in June 2017. The largest donation, so far, came from William Oberndorf, who donated $100,000. As of April 2018, the Ricketts had not made any contributions to the super PAC for this campaign cycle.

The super PAC’s affiliated nonprofit, Ending Spending Inc., is not required to disclose its donors. During the 2016 election cycle, Ending Spending Inc. spent $2.6 million on independent expenditures. Like ESAFund, the nonprofit made no expenditures in support of Democrats. Ending Spending Inc. spent $1.2 million to support Republicans, $1.1 million to oppose Republicans, and $300,000 to oppose Democratic candidates. The group did not target any presidential candidates; all expenditures went toward congressional candidates.

For the 2018 election cycle, Ending Spending Inc. had spent $1.8 million in independent expenditures, as of April 2018, on two special House elections. About $1.3 million of that went to help elect Handel in Georgia. The group also contributed about $500,000 to Pennsylvania House candidate Rick Saccone, who narrowly lost to Conor Lamb in March.

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Congressional Leadership Fund

Political leanings: Republican

Spending target: $100 million

The Congressional Leadership Fund‘s sole purpose is to help maintain and expand the Republican majority in the House of Representatives. The super PAC was formed in October 2011 as the conservative counter to the liberal House Majority PAC. As an independent-expenditure-only committee, CLF advocates for the election or defeat of federal candidates without coordinating with candidates, campaigns or political parties.

The group released its first ads of the 2018 cycle in March 2017, targeting Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff in his race against Karen Handel in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District. The seat was vacant after Tom Price was appointed President Trump’s first health and human services secretary. The first ad questioned Ossoff’s national security credentials and showed scenes of the candidate playing drinking games in college.

CLF’s chairman is Fred Malek, the founder of Thayer Lodging, a hotel real estate investment company, who is also involved in Republican political organizations. Malek founded and serves as chairman of the American Action Forum, a conservative 501(c)(3), and founded its sister 501(c)(4), American Action Network. He also advised four Republican presidents.

CLF’s board also includes Mason Fink, a leader of the Right to Rise super PAC that supported Jeb Bush in the 2016 presidential election and the national finance director for Mitt Romney’s 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns, and Jeff Larson, a former Republican National Committee staffer and the CEO of the 2016 Republican National Convention.

The group raised almost $51.1 million in 2016 and spent more than $39 million opposing 30 Democratic House candidates. Twenty-six of the targeted candidates went on to lose their races. CLF spent $3.8 million trying to defeat Rick Nolan of Minnesota but failed. The group successfully spent $3.7 million to help defeat Zephyr Teachout in New York.

CLF’s largest individual donors in 2016 were casino owner Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam. The couple — longtime Republican backers — contributed $20 million to the group. Steven Schwarzman, the CEO and chairman of The Blackstone Group, gave $1.7 million.

The group had collected $42 million in the 2017-2018 election cycle as of early April, according to its filings with the Federal Election Commission. Steven A. Cohen, of Point72 Asset Management, Hushang Ansary, of Stewart & Stevenson, and Paul L. Foster, of Western Refining Company, each gave $1 million. The Chevron Corporation donated $1.9 million. American Action Network also has contributed more than $18 million.

CLF set a goal of raising and spending $100 million in the 2018 campaign cycle, and announced in April that it had already reserved $48 million in TV and online advertising in 30 House districts.

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American Crossroads/Crossroads GPS

Political leanings: Republican

Spending target: Unknown

The Crossroads “twins” are affiliated conservative advocacy groups formed in 2010 with the help of two GOP power players: Ed Gillespie, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, and Karl Rove, who served as senior adviser to President George W. Bush. They “encouraged the formation” of American Crossroads and served as “informal advisers” and fundraisers, the group’s then-spokesman, Jonathan Collegio, told us at the time. Crossroads Grassroots Political Strategies (Crossroads GPS) was formed as an affiliated organization shortly after the formation of American Crossroads.

Steven Law is president of American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS. He served as deputy secretary of labor in the administration of George W. Bush and then as chief legal officer and general counsel to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The chairman of American Crossroads is Mike Duncan, former president and CEO of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity. He served as chairman of the Republican National Committee from 2007 to 2009. More recently, Duncan was appointed by President Donald Trump in 2017 to chair the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships. The chairman of Crossroads GPS is Bobby Burchfield, who was general counsel to President George H.W. Bush’s 1992 reelection campaign.

As a super PAC, American Crossroads is allowed to raise and spend unlimited amounts provided all donations and expenditures are reported publicly. Crossroads GPS, a 501(c)(4), does not have to disclose any information about who gives to it. The group was formed because “some donors didn’t want to be disclosed” and were “more comfortable” giving to an entity that keeps donors’ names secret, according to Carl Forti, the political director at the time for American Crossroads. However, it still must disclose any spending advocating for or against a candidate.

The groups ranked among the biggest outside players in the 2010, 2012 and 2014 elections. They combined to spend nearly $180 million in the 2012 campaign cycle — tops among all outside groups.

But the groups have been largely inactive since 2014.

During the 2016 election cycle, American Crossroads/Crossroads GPS spent just $135,000 on independent expenditures, down from nearly $48 million in 2014.

According to the Federal Election Commission, American Crossroads has received about $1.8 million in contributions for the 2018 election cycle, most of which came from the Hillwood Development Company in Dallas, Texas, which is headed by Ross Perot Jr. The super PAC has not yet made any independent expenditures this election cycle.

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Muslim Nurses Not Exempt From Hand Washing

Q: Are Muslim nurses excused from washing their hands before medical procedures in Britain?

A: No. That is an old misrepresentation that has been circulating online since 2010.


A false story that started in Britain eight years ago has immigrated to America.

In 2010, the website for the far-right British National Party claimed that the country’s National Health Service had changed its hygiene rules to allow Muslim nurses to skip washing their hands before seeing patients. It wasn’t true, but the claim had an appeal that allowed it to re-emerge several times over the years — including in 20132014 and 2016. In March, it showed up on a website called hardcoreUSAnews.com.

That recent version concludes: “So it’s true. Sharia law is actually hazardous to your health. Wonder if it would be possible to get a Surgeon General’s warning slapped on every Koran sold in the U.S.?”

That story was posted on Facebook page called World Against Terrorism, which has more than 35,000 followers. Some Facebook users flagged the story as potentially false. It is.

The original claim from the British National Party was posted shortly after the United Kingdom’s Department of Health updated its recommendations on uniforms for health care workers in March 2010.

The original story said, in part: “female Muslim staff will now be exempt from the rule that all personnel be scrubbed and bare below the elbow.” That is a complete misrepresentation of what the amended recommendations from the department actually advised.

After convening a group of Islamic scholars, chaplains, health policy makers, and infection prevention experts, the department recommended that uniforms can include long sleeves when the worker is not directly caring for patients and workers can use disposable forearm covers when they are also using gloves. The covers, with elastic at the elbow and wrist, are to be treated the same as gloves. In all instances, the guidance states, “Strict procedures for washing hands and wrists must still be observed.”

That clear requirement for hand washing is made at least twice in the document.

Still, hardcoreUSAnews.com wrote in its recent story: “Muslim nurses in the UK have now been granted the option of participating in medical operations without washing their hands.”

That’s just not accurate.

Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk false stories flagged by readers on the social media network.


Islamic Colonisation of Britain Continues: NHS Relaxes Hygiene Measure to Accommodate Muslim Staff but Bans Crucifix.” BNP.org.uk. 11 Apr 2010.

U.K Hospitals: Muslim Surgical Nurses, Actually All Muslim Nurses, No Longer Required To Wash Their Hands….” theconservativetreehouse.com. 29 Apr 2013.

Muslim Nurses Refuse To Wash Hands Before Operations, Say It ‘Compromises Religious Beliefs.” jewsnews.co.il. 20 Oct 2014.

Muslim Nurses refuse to wash hands in UK Hospitals according to Sharia Law.” terrornewsnetwork.com. 9 May 2016.


Department of Health. “Uniforms and workwear: Guidance on uniform and workwear policies for NHS employers.” NationalArchives.gov.uk. Mar 2010.

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Muddying a Trump Loyalty Test

In Republican primaries where loyalty to President Donald Trump’s agenda is a litmus test for many voters, the approval of a $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill has become a political weapon — no matter how lawmakers voted.

Indiana Republican Rep. Todd Rokita voted against the bill, while North Carolina Republican Rep. Robert Pittenger voted for it. Now, both face misleading attacks from challengers who claim their opponents voted against Trump’s border wall.

In fact, Rokita, now running for the Senate, and Pittenger, who seeks to retain his seat in the House, both support Trump’s wall.

The vote on the $1.3 trillion spending bill put Republican supporters of Trump’s proposed border wall in a bind. It included $1.6 billion for border security, including money to replace fencing and build new barriers. But the funding was far short of the $25 billion Trump sought, and it cannot be used for any of the wall prototypes ordered by the president.

Some Republicans took a take-what-you-can-get approach and voted for the bill. Others took a hard line and voted against the bill, saying it fell well short of meaningful funding for the promised wall.

In the Indiana and North Carolina primaries, the Republican candidates have tried to portray themselves as more supportive of Trump’s agenda than their opponents. But how one voted on the omnibus spending bill is an unreliable measure. After all, the president himself waffled on the bill before he signed it.

The $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill (also known as the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018) passed in bipartisan fashion, ending a months-long funding stalemate and averting a partial government shutdown.

Trump himself was conflicted about the bill. In a tweet, the president said he was considering vetoing it, in part, because “the BORDER WALL, which is desperately needed for our National Defense, is not fully funded.” Ultimately, on March 23, Trump did sign the bill, though he said there were “a lot of things that I’m unhappy about” in it.

As we have written before, the omnibus bill funds some new fencing, but the new barriers are not the kind of solid, concrete wall Trump once described during the campaign. The bill also precludes funding for barriers that are anything like the wall prototypes Trump visited on a trip to California in mid-March.

And, while Trump administration officials said the omnibus would fund about 100 miles of “new” wall, most of that will replace existing border fencing deemed inadequate or dilapidated. In all, we found the bill will fund less than 40 miles of new barrier where there wasn’t any before. 

The president would ultimately like to have 1,000 miles of barrier, according to Customs and Border Protection Acting Deputy Commissioner Ronald D. Vitiello, and there is currently 654 miles of fencing. So the funding bill leaves the president more than 300 miles short of his goal. 

Despite Trump’s misgivings about the border wall funding in the bill, once he signed it, he repeatedly said the funding was enough to finally get his long-promised wall started.

“We started building our wall,” he said in Ohio on March 30. “I’m so proud of it. We started. We started. We have $1.6 billion, and we’ve already started. … We have $1.6 billion toward the wall, and we’ve done the planning.”

Trump also tweeted that “much can be done with the $1.6 Billion given to building and fixing the border wall,” adding that the money was “just a down payment” and promising that “the rest of the money will come” in the future.

Much can be done with the $1.6 Billion given to building and fixing the border wall. It is just a down payment. Work will start immediately. The rest of the money will come – and remember DACA, the Democrats abandoned you (but we will not)!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 25, 2018

Indiana Republican Primary

Given all that, was a vote against the bill a vote against Trump’s wall?

An ad from Indiana Republican Rep. Luke Messer says it was.


Messer’s ad asserts that while Rokita (who has taken to sporting MAGA hats in campaign ads) “pretends he always supports President Trump,” his voting record says otherwise. For example, the ad says, Rokita voted “against Trump’s border wall.” The small print in the ad cites “Roll Call Vote #127″ on March 22. That’s the vote on the omnibus spending bill, which passed the House 256-167.

Republicans voted in favor of the bill 145-90. Messer and Rokita, both currently members of the House, are facing each other in a bid for the Senate. Rokita voted against the omnibus bill.

Messer, who voted for the bill, told Fox59 in Indianapolis that he “voted to stand with President Trump” and that the bill “provides a down payment on President Trump’s border wall.”

“This is the only thing that has actually funded the wall so far,” Chasen Bullock, Messer’s campaign manager, told us. There was no other legislative option on the table for greater wall funding, Bullock added, so when Rokita voted against the bill, he “didn’t support border wall funding when he had the chance.”

In a press release explaining his vote, Rokita said that while “there are good provisions in this bill,” it is “littered with concessions to liberal Democrats” and “fails to fund an effective wall.”

“Donald Trump and I still want to build the wall, and all we got was a few miles of fence and no concrete,” Rokita said in an interview with CBS4 in Indianapolis after the vote.

Both Messer and Rokita support Trump’s call for a border wall. Voters can question Rokita’s hard-line stance, or argue that it’s better to take a little something rather than nothing, but it’s misleading for Messer’s ad to claim that Rokita “voted against Trump’s border wall,” when his opposition was rooted, in part, in the belief that it didn’t fund the border wall enough.

In the 2016 election, Trump won the state of Indiana by nearly 20 percentage points against Hillary Clinton. According to a FiveThirtyEight analysis, Rokita has voted with Trump 90.1 percent of the time, compared with Messer’s 92.9 percent. In the May 8 primary, Rokita and Messer also face former state Rep. Mike Braun — who said he would have voted against the omnibus bill. The winner will take on Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly.

North Carolina Republican Primary

In North Carolina, the script was flipped, with Republican congressional candidate Mark Harris asserting in a Facebook post that when his opponent, Rep. Robert Pittenger, voted for the omnibus bill he “stood against funding for the border wall.”

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Robert Pittenger stood against funding for the border wall.Congressman Pittenger and other Republicans committed to us…

Posted by Mark Harris on Thursday, March 29, 2018

The Washington Examiner article attached to the post includes quotes from some conservative Republicans who viewed the bill as a missed opportunity to get significantly more funding for a border wall. Rep. Jim Jordan, a founder of the House Freedom Caucus, said the bill “didn’t fund what we said we would,” and that it’s now “going to be tough” to get the full $25 billion for the wall that the president initially requested. He voted against it.

In an interview with Fox News, Jordan said of the omnibus bill: “The one thing we don’t fund is the one issue we all campaigned on — a border security wall — and that is not in the legislation.”

Jason Williams, campaign manager for Harris, echoed that sentiment in a phone interview, saying the bill includes “some funding for some fencing and some border security, but not the actual construction of the wall itself.”

We explored this question in detail in our story “Has the Border Wall Begun?” As we wrote, “The short answer is that the omnibus bill funds some new fencing, though far less than Trump had hoped it would. The new barriers are also not the kind of solid, concrete wall Trump once described during the campaign. Nor is it anything like any of the prototypes Trump visited in mid-March.”

Pittenger’s campaign pointed us to statements from Republican leaders who said the omnibus funds the wall.

  • House Speaker Paul Ryan told Fox News the bill “does fund the wall. You know how long this funding bill lasts? Six months. This is not a 10-year bill. Six months. So what we did in this bill is we funded the next six months, exactly the budget requests the administration asked us for, for the border. … But here’s the point, the administration asked for 74 miles of border wall funding. We did about 100 in this bill. We actually exceeded what the administration asked us for, for the border.”
  • House Majority Whip Steve Scalise in a statement on the bill said, “Importantly, we also protect our homeland by funding construction of 100 miles of the border wall and bolstering our security at the border to stop criminals and drugs from entering our country.”

In a statement provided to us, Pittenger said: “As Chairman of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare, I have always been in favor of building a wall and securing our porous southern border. The FY2018 omnibus and earlier legislation I supported clearly provides funding to begin construction, and President Trump himself tweeted that ‘much can be done with the $1.6 billion given to building and fixing the border wall.'”

One can argue, as Harris does, that the omnibus bill should have provided more funding for Trump’s wall, or even that the funding in the bill does not deliver on Trump’s promise. But it is misleading to say Pittenger “stood against funding for the border wall” for several reasons: a) the bill Pittenger voted for included funding to replace existing barriers and build new ones; b) the president called it an “initial down payment” on his wall; and c) Trump signed — and did not veto — the bill.

According to FiveThirtyEight, Pittenger votes in line with Trump’s position 97.1 percent of the time. In North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District, Trump won by a margin of 11.6 percent.

This is the second time Harris has squared off against Pittenger in a Republican primary for the 9th Congressional District. In 2016, Pittenger edged Harris by a mere 134 votes in a three-way race.

Joining this year’s rematch is Republican Clarence Goins. Christian Cano and Dan McCready vie for the Democratic nomination. The primaries will be held on May 8.

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