Daily Media Links 9/30: The Next Battle in the Fight for Free Speech, Liberal Group to Fight Dark Money…by Raising $40 Million of It, and more…

In the News

Wall Street Journal: The Next Battle in the Fight for Free Speech
By Bradley A. Smith
It is often forgotten that until 1974 there were no federal limits on contributions to candidates or political parties, let alone aggregate limits on total contributions. Starting with the Federal Election Campaign Act Amendments of 1974, however, American political discourse has been blanketed with ever-increasing government regulation. By the summer of 2007, political speech was more heavily regulated than at any time in U.S. history. All this was done in the name of preventing “corruption” and fostering “confidence in government.” Yet confidence in government today is lower than it was in 1974, not coincidentally the year President Nixon resigned.
In 2007, in Wisconsin Right to Life v. FEC, the Supreme Court declared “enough is enough.” Chief Justice John Roberts and a majority have since been slowly hacking away at this maze of speech regulations.
Campaign-finance “reformers” overlook that the First Amendment—protecting the right to unfettered political speech—is the constitutional solution to the problem of government corruption. It is the means by which confidence in government is maintained. People speak. Citizens listen. Corruption and ineptitude are exposed. Voters vote.

Mother Jones: Liberal Group to Fight Dark Money…by Raising $40 Million of It 
By Andy Kroll
Of course, FFR’s strategy—raising big money, anonymously, and using it to undercut big-money politics—leaves the group vulnerable to charges of hypocrisy. David Keating, the president of the anti-regulation Center for Competitive Politics, says that if FFR and the Democracy Alliance believe in greater transparency and limits on political spending, they should publicize their meetings, the names of their donors, and how much those donors give. “If they really think these ideas of more disclosure and more restrictions on political organizing are good,” Keating says, “they should be using them right now.”  


Are further corporate political spending disclosures material to investors?
Featuring former SEC Chairman Paul Adkins.


Politico: Tea Party Group Details Harassment, Seeks Disclosure Exemption 
By Kent Cooper
The Tea Party Leadership Fund, a non-connected hybrid political action committee based in Alexandria, Virginia, has requested an advisory opinion from the Federal Election Commission (FEC) stating it is entitled to exemptions from reporting and disclosure requirements of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971. The advisory opinion request was made public by the FEC on 9/27.  
Although it is not a minor party, the group states the Supreme Court “has rejected an ‘unduly narrow view’ of the Buckley test and has refused to limit the ability to obtain exemption from disclosure to minor parties.” The group claims the “Court made exemption available to any organization established for advocacy purposes that could establish a reasonable probability that disclosure would result in threats, harassment, or reprisals from government officials or private parties.”  

Lobbying and Ethics

The Hill: Vitter renews demand for Ethics Committee probe of Sens. Reid, Boxer
By Mario Trujillo   
Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) expanded his ethics complaint Thursday in an attempt to pinpoint and punish the Senate Democrats who leaked draft legislation earlier this month in an attempt to embarrass him.    
Vitter’s call for a second Ethics Committee investigation comes two days after the panel rejected a prior request to investigate Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), due to what it said was a lack of evidence.  


More Soft Money Hard Law: The FEC and the Path of Reform Proposals
By Bob Bauer
The recent emails from the Federal Election Commission, unearthed through a Freedom of Information Act request, don’t reveal much that is new about the agency or the election law bar.  That Republican or Democratic lawyers might speak an encouraging word to the Commissioners on their side of the aisle does not qualify as breaking news. Here and there is a congratulatory note, or a substantive but not case-specific comment: but that’s about it. Should anyone be surprised, it would be the long-time skeptic who has imagined that the parties are weighing in on pending decisions in the dead of night. There is none of that in these disclosures. 
The Commission is certainly divided on the major issues, and there is little doubt that it will remain so, even if one adjusts for the impact of specific personalities, poor personal chemistry, and whatever change will be ushered in by the arrival of two new, freshly confirmed Commissioners. When one side of the Commission is celebrated for upholding the rule of law—“finally the rule of law seems to have arisen at the FEC!” cheers one email correspondent—the other side believes that that nothing could be further from the truth: that in fact, the rule of law is being smashed to pieces. The differences, which are primarily differences over what the scope of the FEC’s regulatory authority should be, could hardly be more profound. 

State and Local

New York –– NY Daily News: Political action committee supporting GOP mayoral candidate Joe Lhota sues for right to exceed state’s $150,000 individual donation limit    
By Daniel Beekman
A new political action committee seeking to bankroll TV ads supporting GOP mayoral nominee Joe Lhota sued city and state Board of Election officials Wednesday for the right to accept contributions exceeding the state’s $150,000 annual donation limit for individuals.
The Manhattan federal court lawsuit was brought by the New York Progress and Protection PAC, which was established to help Lhota is his race this fall against de Blasio, the Democratic nominee.
Facing lop-sided polls that favor de Blasio and a six-to-one registration advantage for Democrats, Lhota has struggled to raise money for his campaign but several PACs have either started helping his effort or expressed interest in doing so.
New York –– Crains New York: Animal rights group’s exotic campaign finances 
By Chris Bragg
Prominent New York political consulting firm The Advance Group and one of its clients, the anti-horse carriage group New Yorkers for Clean Livable And Safe Streets, known as NYCLASS, pushed close to that line, if not across it, in several City Council races this year. While NYCLASS was paying the firm to wage “independent” campaigns to help certain council candidates, the firm was separately representing some of those same candidates. Any potential coordination is taken seriously by the city’s Campaign Finance Board, an agency that has levied stiff penalties in the past in an attempt to level the playing field for candidates enrolled in the city’s taxpayer-funded campaign system. 

Ohio –– Cleveland Plain Dealer: Federal grand jury indictment charges North Canton businessman with funneling illegal campaign cash to candidates
By James F. McCarty
CLEVELAND, Ohio – A federal grand jury this morning returned a nine-count indictment charging Benjamin Suarez, the wealthy owner of a North Canton direct-marketing firm, with conspiring to funnel illegal campaign contributions to U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci and Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel.  
South Dakota –– Rapid City Journal: Avon lawyer pleads guilty to campaign finance violation 
By Bob Mercer
Scott Swier, 41, was accused of failing to file or amend a statement of organization for a political action committee, a Class 2 misdemeanor. The plea was entered in Hughes County before Magistrate Judge Leo Disburg, who suspended the $54 fine and $66 of court costs provided that Swier returns the money.  

The Center for Competitive Politics is now the Institute for Free Speech.