Those PACs that funded anti-Blankenship ads? We now know who funded them.

With West Virginia's Don Blankenship back in the news — we also got some answers over the weekend when it comes to campaign finance in the primary that Blankenship lost earlier this month. 

Anti-Blankenship super PAC Mountain Families — which had long been linked to pro-Mitch McConnell allies — officially filed paperwork with the FEC on Sunday showing that it was exclusively financed by a $1.4 million contribution from Senate Leadership Fund, a McConnell-controlled group. 

Because of the intricacies of campaign finance law, Mountain Families PAC was able to avoid officially disclosing its donors until after the primary election. 

Another outside group that intervened in the GOP primary, Duty and Country, disclosed Sunday that it benefitted from hefty donations from wealthy donors in New York, Chicago and the Boston area. That group ran ads attacking Blankenship's GOP rivals — Patrick Morrisey (who won) and Evan Jenkins — in the effort to boost the former inmate's campaign. 

Kushner confirms Kanye West meeting: A 'great discussion'

WASHINGTON — Jared Kushner, President Trump's son-in-law and a top adviser, confirmed Wednesday that he met with rapper Kanye West amid the superstar's presidential bid that's been aided by Republicans.  

Asked about the meeting during a Thursday White House briefing, Kushner said he's known West for about 10 years and that they met when they both "happened to be in Colorado."

"We had a great discussion about a lot of things. He has some great ideas for what he'd like to see happen in the country, and that's why he has the candidacy that he's been doing," Kushner said.

"There's a lot of issues that the president's championed that he admires, so it was great to have a friendly discussion."  

The meeting, first reported on by the New York Times, comes as West's quixotic presidential bid has not filed to appear on enough ballots to compete for the presidency, but has filed to be on the ballot in a handful of states that are typically key presidential battlegrounds.

West so far will be on ballots in Colorado and Oklahoma, while his campaign awaits verification in states like Ohio and Wisconsin, where he's submitted the required paperwork and state election officials will rule on whether he met those states' standards 

West's candidacy has been aided by Republican operatives or those connected to Republican politics in a variety of states, including Wisconsin, where Vice first reported that West's signatures were delivered by an election lawyer who had previously advised the state Republican Party and represented Trump's re-election campaign in a lawsuit against a local NBC affiliate. 

Those ties between West's candidacy and Republicans have raised concerns among Democrats that people are using West's campaign in an attempt to siphon votes away from former Vice President and apparent Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

Poll: Nearly half of registered voters concerned voting will be difficult this fall

WASHINGTON — As voters grapple with the pandemic and with President Trump’s assertion — without evidence — that voting by mail is riddled with fraud, a new survey finds that about half of all registered voters believe it will be difficult to vote in November. 

According to a new survey from the Pew Research Center, 50 percent of registered voters say they think it will be easy to vote and 49 percent say it will be difficult.

A Pew Research Center Survey ahead of the 2018 midterm elections asked the same question and just 15 percent anticipated that it would be difficult to cast their ballot.  

Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s supporters are more pessimistic than President Trump’s when it comes to the ease of voting. Sixty percent of voters who say they are supporting Biden believe it will be difficult to vote, while just 35 percent  of Trump voters say the same. 

Voters wait in a line, which continued a few blocks south of the polling location, at Riverside High School in Milwaukee on April 7, 2020.Mike De Sisti / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via Reuters file

Black voters are particularly unlikely to believe it will be “easy” to vote.

The survey comes as concern grows over mail delays resulting from the newly-installed Postmaster General’s implementation of what he calls cost-cutting measures, which voting advocates worry will gum up the processing of absentee ballots. President Trump said Thursday morning that the Post Office would need millions in emergency funds — which he is blocking — in order to manage “universal mail-in voting.”

The poll also finds  a partisan split in how Trump and Biden voters prefer to cast their ballots.

Most voters who support Trump — 80 percent — want to vote in person, either on Election Day (60 percent) or early in-person voting (20 percent.)

But a majority of Biden voters — 58 percent — say their preference is to vote by mail.

That same feeling was found in the latest NBC|SurveyMonkey Weekly Tracking Poll. In that poll, 55 percent of adults said they are very or somewhat likely to vote by mail in November.

And in the NBC|SurveyMonkey poll, 55 percent of American adults want to allow all Americans to vote by mail in the fall, and 55 percent of adults say they’re very or somewhat likely to mail-in their vote in November. But just 33 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaners said they were somewhat or very likely to vote by mail, and 79 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaners said were likely to cast their ballot by mail. 

The Pew poll also measured a head-to-head matchup between Trump and Biden, finding the Democratic candidate leading the incumbent by eight points, 53 percent to 45 percent.

Biden, Harris raise $34.2 million in day and a half after announcing ticket

WASHINGTON – Former Vice President Joe Biden's selection of California Sen. Kamala Harris to join his Democratic presidential ticket has led to a massive fundraising boost for the campaign. 

From the time Harris was announced as the vice-presidential pick on Tuesday afternoon through Wednesday, the campaign brought in over $34.2 million, including from more than 150,000 first time contributors, the campaign announced

The campaign saw its best digital fundraising hour from the moment she was announced Tuesday afternoon, a record that was broken just one day later, after Harris and Biden appeared publicly together for the first time in Wilmington, Del.

“The response has been overwhelming," Biden said during the ticket’s first grassroots fundraiser Wednesday, where he added that the campaign saw 150,000 first-time contributors over the short span. 

"It's really palpable the excitement because there is so much at stake."  

Joe Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris arrive to speak at a news conference in Wilmington, Del., on Aug. 12, 2020.Carolyn Kaster / AP

Long before Joe Biden would choose Harris as his running mate, he stressed his wish to tap someone who would be a partner in governing and campaigning. On Tuesday, Biden described the financial support his campaign saw in the wake of the announcement as proof he made the right choice. 

“You know, it seems Americans all across this nation, at least at the outset here, agree with me,” Biden said after describing Harris as the “right person” to serve as his vice president if elected. 

After the Biden campaign and the Democratic National Committee outraised the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee for two consecutive months, the Trump effort re-gained the upper hand with its July fundraising. 

But the Biden campaign and the DNC have seen a massive influx of cash since Biden became the apparent Democratic nominee in April. They strategically spent less during those months, redirecting spending to digital during the coronavirus pandemic, which helped them virtually erase the Trump effort's cash-on-hand advantage. 

Harris spent her first 24 hours as the newly-minted running mate trying to enthuse her party's base stressing repeatedly at Wednesday’s events that supporters must show up to vote or regret not participating in historic “inflection moment.”  

“What I know, based on who you are and why you're here right now is that when you look back at them, you're not going to just talk about how you feel. You're going to talk about what you did. You're going to talk about the fact that you participated. You were activated, you were involved in electing Joe Biden President of the United States,” she said during a grassroots fundraiser.

Trump plans counter-programming in battleground states during Democratic convention

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is expected to hit the road next week as counter-programming to the Democratic National Convention, traveling to several battleground states in an effort to generate competing coverage, according to two officials involved in the planning. 

While the plans are fluid, as of now Trump will head to Minnesota and Wisconsin on Monday, Arizona on Tuesday and Pennsylvania on Thursday. In Pennsylvania, he's slated to visit Scranton, the hometown of presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, in an effort to taunt the former vice president on his own turf. Trump plans to make the case that Biden shouldn’t be treated as a native son of the city since he hasn’t lived there in decades. 

President Donald Trump arrives on stage to speak at a campaign rally at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla., on June 20, 2020.Evan Vucci / AP file

Vice President Mike Pence will travel to Wisconsin on Thursday and will expected to accuse Democrats of “abandoning” the state for pulling most of their convention from Milwaukee, just hours before Biden accepts the Democratic nomination in Delaware. Biden announced earlier this month he would accept the nomination virtually, rather than in Milwaukee, due to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic. 

Trump made counter-programming a hallmark of his strategy during the Democratic primaries, scheduling rallies in all the early voting states to, in his words, “troll”  the opposing party. 

While the pandemic has eliminated any large, traditional campaign events from happening during this battleground state tour, the president will still likely be met with several hundreds of supporters at each stop. It’s unclear how much social distancing and mask wearing will be enforced.

It’s also unknown exactly how many of these events will be categorized as White House events rather than campaign events.  

Trump campaign returns to airwaves in WI, still dark in MI and PA

WASHINGTON — President Trump's campaign returned to the Wisconsin airwaves on Tuesday, marking the first time the campaign aired significant TV or radio advertising in the state in almost two weeks. 

Trump’s campaign spent $110,000 there Tuesday, and it’s slated to spend the same on Wednesday, according to data from Advertising Analytics. It had been dark there since July 29. 

But while the campaign has returned to Wisconsin airwaves, it has been off the air in both Pennsylvania and Michigan for at least two weeks (since July 29 in PA and July 22 in Michigan, and even before then, its spending in Michigan had been dwindling).

But while the campaign isn't spending on TV or radio ads there, it has had some outside help. Since the campaign dropped off the air, the GOP group Restoration PAC has spent $2.4 million on ads in Michigan, and America First Action super PAC has spent $2.9 million in Pennsylvania.

The Trump campaign announced last month it would briefly pull ads to review its ad strategy, and it returned to the air days later touting a new focus on North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and Arizona ahead of early voting.

But that new strategy so far hasn’t included the Great Lakes states key to Trump’s victory in 2016, states he won by the narrowest of margins. 

Poll: Few parents say their children will be attending full, in-person school in the fall

WASHINGTON —  Less than a fifth of American parents say their children will be attending school “fully in-person” this fall amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to the latest NBC|SurveyMonkey Weekly Tracking Poll. 

Just 17 percent of American adults with kids say that their children’s schooling will take place fully in-person while 41 percent (a plurality) say that their kids’ will be learning only online. Twenty-seven percent say there will be a mix of in-person and online instruction and 15 percent of adults say they didn’t know what their children’s school situation would be yet. 

President Trump has been pushing for schools to fully reopen this fall, but with the continued high transmission rate and positive case results of coronavirus, schools across the country are rethinking their instruction plans. 

After a school in Georgia made headlines for packed hallways when schools fully reopened, several students and teachers tested positive for coronavirus. The school was forced to go fully remote temporarily while the school underwent deep-cleaning. 

States that have taken a more conservative approach to reopening, like New York, have announced that schools can reopen for in-person instruction as long as their plans are approved by the state’s health and education departments – but even then reopenings won’t be uniform across the state. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is calling for a mix of in-person and remote instruction, and some teachers are threatening a “sickout” instead of returning to in-person work. 

Minority parents are far more likely to report that their kids will be taking classes exclusively online, while white parents are more likely to say their children will be returning to full, in-person schooling. 

Fifty-eight percent of Black parents, 49 percent of Hispanic parents and 47 percent of Asian parents say all of their child’s learning will be conducted online, compared to 33 percent of whites who say the same. 

Parents are divided when it comes to how they rank the quality of education their children are receiving. Just 22 percent of adults say they’d rate the education quality as an “A”, 31 percent grade the quality a “B”, 28 percent say “C”, 10 percent D and 7 percent say “F”. 

But a significant majority of adults, 66 percent, say that teachers are paid too little in their community. Only 26 percent say teachers are paid the right amount, and 6 percent say teachers are paid too much.

The data come from a set of SurveyMonkey online polls conducted August 3-9, 2020 among a national sample of 44,601 adults in the U.S. Respondents were selected from the more than 2 million people who take surveys on the SurveyMonkey platform each day. The modeled error estimate for this survey is plus or minus 1.0 percentage points. Data have been weighted for age, race, sex, education, and geography using the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey to reflect the demographic composition of the United States age 18 and over.

Democratic outside groups booking more than $10 million in new August Senate TV ads

WASHINGTON — Outside groups linked to Senate Democratic leadership are upping the ante in the race for the Senate majority, injecting another $10.3 million into key states.

The moves from Senate Majority PAC and an affiliated non-profit, Duty and Honor, first reported by NBC News, represent an increased investment in ad spending across five states: North Carolina, Maine, Iowa, Montana and Georgia. And they come after the top GOP-aligned Senate super PAC, Senate Leadership Fund, announced last week it would start running ads in August too.  

The nonprofit Duty and Honor is adding $3 million in TV spending to Maine, $1.5 million in North Carolina, $1.7 million in Montana and $1.4 million in Georgia. 

Senate Majority PAC is adding $2 million in North Carolina, as well as $500,000 in Iowa and $200,000 in Maine. 

All of the spending augments existing ad buys through August. 

"Less than 90 days until Election Day and momentum and grassroots energy are on the side of Democratic candidates who have built strong campaigns across our offensive battlefield,” J.B. Poersch, Senate Majority PAC's president, said in a statement.

“Our latest investment will keep Senate Republicans on their heels as they are forced to defend their weak incumbents who are trailing in fundraising and in public polling."

The bulk of the outside group's ad spending has already been earmarked for the fall — in March, SMP announced plans to spend almost $70 million in TV ads in North Carolina, Arizona, Iowa, Maine and Colorado, with other spending planned by its allies. 

But Democratic effort, which also includes the allied Majority Forward, has also been spending in primaries and over the summer as it looks to soften up Republican incumbents ahead of the fall. 

Democrats are bullish on their chances in the fall because the majority of competitive races are in states where Republicans are currently in office. 

But Republicans have been shoring up their resources this summer too, as Senate Leadership Fund, the GOP group, launched a new, $21.3 million August TV and radio campaign — $6.6 million in Georiga, $6.1 million in Montana, $4.1 million in Iowa, $2.6 million in North Carolina, and $1.9 million in Arizona. 

SLF had already announced plans to spend $90 million in ads starting after Labor Day.

Top GOP super PAC backing House Republicans books $45 million for fall ads

WASHINGTON — The top GOP super PAC boosting House Republicans’ efforts to take back the lower chamber in November announced Monday that it’s reserving another $45 million for an ad campaign launching this fall, with sizable investments dedicated to 40 different media markets. 

Congressional Leadership Fund’s multi-million dollar commitment includes spending for broadcast and cable TV spots as well as efforts on digital platforms and direct mail. According to a CLF spokesperson, the majority of the buy is dedicated to television and ads from the new reservations will air starting after Labor Day. 

CLF’s latest buy narrows in on several critical 2020 battleground states and media markets where House Republicans are hoping to either win back Democratic-held seats or defend their districts. 

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy at a GOP news conference on Wednesday. Behind him, from left, Rep. Tom Cole, Minority Whip Steve Scalise and Rep. Kay Granger.Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

The largest portion of the $45 million purchase targets Iowa, where Democrats currently hold three of the state’s four House districts, with $3.5 million being invested there. 

CLF is dedicating $3.4 million to the upstate New York and New York city areas each. About $2 million of New York city’s allotment will go towards defending the GOP-held seat of retiring Rep. Peter King in Long Island while $1 million is focused on the state’s 11th House District, which Democratic Rep. Max Rose flipped in 2018

The recent buy also includes about $3 million for ads in Dallas, Houston, and Miami each, plus $2.9 million divided between New Mexico’s Albuquerque and Texas’ El Paso media markets. 

Minnesota ($2.5 million) and Montana ($500,000) are among the list of states CLF is investing in for the fall, and other top cities the PAC has booked ads in include Los Angeles ($2.3 million) — home to California 25th District, which Republican Mike Garcia won in a May special election — Salt Lake City ($2.3 million), Philadelphia ($2.1 million), Atlanta ($1.7 million), and Las Vegas ($1 million). 

The newly-announced reservations mark CLF’s second wave of ad spending for the November elections, more than doubling its first commitment of $43 million in April to about $90 million.

“The investments we’re making today are a second down payment in key races where we can make a real difference in the battle for the House,” CLF President Dan Conston said in a press release out Monday. “The hard work CLF put in from the outset has allowed us to keep Democrats where we want them: on defense. This reserve positions us well for the fall battle and it won’t be our last.”

The new ad campaign was first reported by POLITICO.

The blueprint progressives hope will move Democrats ‘beyond' the Trump Era

WASHINGTON — While the top issue to many Democratic voters is ousting President Donald Trump at the ballot box in November, key groups in the party’s left flank are out with a new report Monday, presenting a long term vision for the progressive movement while also pressing the need to prioritize key issues.

“We all agree the top priority is getting Trump out,” Leah Hunt-Hendrix, a co-founder of the progressive group Way to Win, told NBC News. “Trump was not just an aberration he was a symptom, so it’s imperative we use the next four years to address the roots of those problems.”

The report from Way To Win, in tandem with Data For Progress and input from pollsters, activists, and staffers across politics, makes the case for the popularity of progressive policies like Medicare For All, while also calling for better donor structures and apparatuses to better fund progressive candidates. It’s a reminder that while the Democratic party appears to have coalesced behind Biden to win in November, he’ll have intraparty policy battles to contend with if elected.

“The purpose of this report is to say ‘the work doesn’t stop,’” Hunt-Hendrix added. “We’re all fighting for November and the work doesn’t stop there...What Dems do when they're in power is just as important as electing Democrats to power.”

The report’s release comes after weeks of summer elections that saw progressives win in upset races. Jamaal Bowman, in New York’s 16th congressional district, unseated longtime Rep. Elliott Engel in an upset race in July. In Missouri last week, Cori Bush — a leader of the protests in Ferguson, Missouri that were sparked by the police shooting of Michael Brown — bested Rep. William Lacy Clay, ending his family’s nearly half-century-long political dynasty there. Both won primaries for safely blue Congressional seats, all but assuring them a ticket to Washington.

To Max Berger, a staffer on Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign, the report is a blueprint for a progressive wing of the party now seeing tangible electoral gains and stepping into its own. “A big part of [this] is getting serious about what it takes to build power and win...and to drill down on what’s keeping us from getting there,” he told NBC.

DNC spotlight's Trump's pandemic leadership in new digital video

WASHINGTON — As the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States passes the five million mark, the Democratic National Committee’s rapid response arm is out with a new digital video highlighting President Donald Trump’s oft-repeated contention that the coronavirus pandemic will “disappear” and “go away.” 

The video features the president's comments juxtaposed against the cautionary words of the White House Coronavirus Task Force’s Dr. Deborah Birx.  

The ad, which will appear unpaid on DNC social media platforms, is part of the larger push the committee is making to contrast Trump’s record with the plans presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden says he will offer when it comes to the coronavirus. “As we reach this horrible milestone of 5 million cases, we’re holding him accountable for still not having a plan to control the virus, even as more than 160,000 Americans have died and millions have lost their jobs,” Lily Adams, DNC War Room senior spokesperson told NBC News. 

In July, the DNC began its first TV ad campaign of the 2020 cycle, marking the five year anniversary of the announcement Trump’s 2016 candidacy and his now-famous ride down that Trump Tower escalator. That ad, titled “Descent,” focuses on the decline of American jobs, health care, race relations, and immigrant rights.

Anticipation over Biden's running mate pick builds ahead of decision

WASHINGTON — Despite presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s pledge to announce his running mate by the first week of August, the political world still awaits his decision as the clock ticks down to the formal party nomination. 

NBC News reported Monday that Biden planned to whittle his vice presidential list down to three or four candidates this week and have in-person meetings with his top contenders. 

But Biden’s wife, Dr. Jill Biden, assured that an announcement was coming soon. 

“We're close,” she said in an interview on Fox News on Tuesday. “He's close, he's got to make the final decision.”

With the highly-awaited choice just around the corner, here’s what some of the contenders have been up to this week. 

Sen. Kamala Harris: The California senator has been highly visible over recent days, continuing to put herself in the public eye as a top pick. And Biden himself confirmed that Harris remains in the veepstakes amid reports that some of his aides were pushing against her as the choice. 

“She's very much in contention,” he said during an interview Thursday.

Harris remained vague, however, telling reporters on Capitol Hill, “You probably know more than I do!” 

But she wasn’t quiet on other matters — namely comments attributed to Biden allies that she’s too ambitious to be the presumptive Democratic nominee’s veep. 

“I want you to be ambitious,” Harris said during the Black Girls Lead conference, reiterating later in the week during a joint appearance with Biden that “breaking barriers involves breaking things.”

“Sometimes you get cut, sometimes it hurts, but it is worth it,” she added. 

In a photo provided by the Michigan Office of the Governor, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addresses the state during a speech in Lansing, Mich., on Aug. 5, 2020.Michigan Office of the Governor via AP

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: After falling out of the headlines in recent weeks, NBC News reported Thursday that the Michigan governor is still a serious contender. 

Whitmer serves as a co-chair for the Biden campaign and has earned the presumptive Democratic nominee’s praise for leading Michigan, a critical 2020 battleground state, through the coronavirus crisis. 

And though many have called for Biden to choose a woman of color, Whitmer has voiced her demands for racial justice reform and declared racism a public health crisis this week in an executive order

Rep. Karen Bass: With more national name recognition comes more scrutiny. 

In the past week, there’s been extensive reporting on the California representative’s controversial comments about Cuban dictator, Fidel Castro, and her decision to eulogize Oneil Marion Cannon, a high-ranking member of the Communist Party USA, in remarks entered into the congressional record in 2017.

Bass disputed claims that she’s a socialist or communist this week. 

And on a more personal level, Bass opened up about an experience she shares with Biden and has discussed with him — losing a child.

“The most difficult part of it was and it was the same with him, is when those accidents happened, both of us were in public life,” she said during an interview on Sunday. “You don't have an opportunity to grieve privately, the world is watching you as you're grieving.”

Susan Rice: Rice’s leadership during the Benghazi attacks continued to make headlines this week with some suggesting that Rice as Biden’s running mate would make her a “lightning rod” for President Donald Trump’s base. 

But in interviews, Rice has largely avoided those criticisms and instead has highlighted how her time in the Obama administration makes her qualified for the V.P. job.

“I think what I would bring is almost 20 years of deep experience at the senior-most ranks of the executive branch,” she said during an interview with CBS News Tuesday.

National Security Adviser Susan Rice listens to reporters questions during a briefing in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House on March 21, 2014.Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP

Sen. Elizabeth Warren: Warren has already made herself a key policy-making partner to Biden, and her increasingly close relationship with him could signal that the two are “simpatico” — a must for the presumptive Democratic nominee. 

Multiple outlets have reported that Biden and Warren speak regularly, which could be an encouraging sign for progressives who view Biden as too moderate. 

And during a recent fundraiser that raised almost $2 million from over 50,000 grassroots donors, Biden spoke highly of the Massachusetts senator. 

“Her fearless work for a just America has transformed lives and inspired millions, including me," Biden said of Warren. "She is something else. You all know her.”

Warren returned the compliment. 

“I wake up every single day with a heart full of hope and here is why: Vice President Biden is meeting the moment,” Warren said. 

Check out the NBC News political unit’s coverage of the veepstakes here.