Daily Media Links 5/27: No limit on individual political donations, Should it be against law to criticize Harry Reid?, and more…

In the News

Newsday: State: No limit on individual political donations

By Michael Gormley

The Board of Elections in a closed-door session concluded the state cap is “unenforceable,” said board spokesman John Conklin. The board Thursday decided the state’s limit can’t be enforced after federal court decisions following the 2010 Citizens United decision, in which the U.S. Supreme Court allowed corporations and other interests a freer hand in political spending.

The conservative Center for Competitive Politics, based in Washington, called the state board’s decision “a victory for the First Amendment rights of New York’s residents.”

“I’m sure there will be more influence by some people, but basically it gives challengers a better chance of mounting a campaign because most of the campaign finance restrictions that limit donations benefit incumbents,” said David Keating, the group’s president.

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Amending the First Amendment

Boston Herald: Should it be against law to criticize Harry Reid?

By Trevor Burrus

Giving elected representatives the power to regulate the process by which they get elected is a terrifying proposition. A cursory look at history shows why.

Wars on political speech are a predictable and time-honored tradition in Washington, D.C. From the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, which made it illegal to say anything that would “bring members of the government into contempt or disrepute,” to the Sedition Act of 1918, which prohibited “disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language” about the U.S. government, to modern campaign finance laws, politicians have long tried to silence critics in the name of the “public interest.”

Standing between the base motives of politicians and total censorship of dissent, however, was the First Amendment. Now, Udall’s amendment hopes to give politicians the power to brush aside that inconvenient little freedom.

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Current-Argus News: No reason to amend the First Amendment

By Paul Gessing

The First Amendment remains a clear statement by the American Founders that “democracy” or popular rule must be restrained in our republican form of government. Popular speech needs no special protections.

From reading the media these days, one might believe political speech undertaken by the Koch Brothers, the tea party, and other politically active Americans are less popular than the KKK. None other than Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has called the Kochs “un-American” for engaging in the political process.

So, why would the head of New Mexico’s free market think tank write about the First Amendment right now? One reason is that our own political representatives, led by Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich are working right now to undermine free speech by amending the First Amendment.

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Roll Call: Fundraising Starts for Lois Lerner’s Legal Bills

By Kent Cooper

This week’s fundraising letter was addressed to former employees of the Federal Election Commission, where Lerner worked prior to the Internal Revenue Service. The letter, states, in part:  

“We are quite concerned about the heavy financial burden (not to mention the psychological burden) these partisan actions have imposed on Lois. She has lost her job, been subjected to death threats, and has been forced to incur significant costs in retaining legal counsel. Hence, we’ve decided that we must do what we can to help her. Clearly, we cannot get Lois her job back or stop the hate mail. However, we can reach out to others to seek help in defraying her legal defense expenses.”  

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Washington Examiner: IRS backs off — for now — on plan to stifle Tea Party groups


Most likely, the survey data reviewed by Obama’s political advisers showed the IRS targeting of conservative and Tea Party applicants for illegal harassment was turning them into political martyrs.  

Getting a record outpouring of public comments on the regulatory proposal also indicated an intensity propelling the opposition that made backing off the obvious decision for now.  

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NY Times: G.O.P. Sues for a Loophole to Raise Unlimited Money From Individuals

By Nicholas Confessore

The Republican National Committee filed a complaint on Friday to force federal election officials to allow the party to raise unlimited money from individuals, opening a new front in its legal battle on campaign regulation.

The lawsuit, filed in United States District Court for the District of Columbia by the national committee along with the Republican organization of Louisiana, would open a loophole in the 12-year-old law banning parties from raising unlimited checks from wealthy donors, unions and corporations, known as “soft money.”

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More Soft Money Hard Law: Politicians and Campaign Laws: Round Two

By Bob Bauer

The central point of the posting remains: that some believe that the Court’s view of the political process, and in particular of the risks of corruption presented by campaign spending, is naïve in the extreme.  For an alternative, these critics look to a “realistic” view held by politicians with direct experience in campaign finance. The record built by reform litigants rests heavily on this view.  But it is a perspective of some former (and current) elected officials: it cannot be said to be representative of the whole. Moreover, in a field in which much social science research on money-in-politics has been done, this version of realism does not have clear evidence on its side, and it must contend with a decent number of findings that tend to cast doubt on it.

Incumbent or partisan self-interest in the design of campaign finance laws is the related issue in the posting.  Here, too, Norm tweeted out a complaint that I agree with George Will that all elected officials “solely” look after their own interests in writing campaign laws.  Now I must also enter a respectful dissent: I said no such thing. In fact, I wrote that Will took his point too far and that a way had to be found to monitor and check as necessary self-interest while allowing room for reasonable regulation.  (Another dissent to another of the Ornstein tweets: I have never supported the view that “corruption doesn’t exist or doesn’t matter,” and I am unaware of any “campaign lawyers” who have.)

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Candidates, Politicians, Campaigns, and Parties

The Detroit News: Federal judge orders Conyers back on Aug. 5 ballot

By Darren A. Nichols and Christine Ferretti

But Leitman, in a 22-page ruling, said Conyers and two petition circulators whose signatures were disqualified have a “substantial likelihood of success” in showing Michigan’s requirement for circulators to be registered voters law is unconstitutional and ordered Conyers on the ballot “because time is of the essence.”  

The order helps “provide any party who may wish to appeal as much time as possible in which to do so” and gives the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals the most time possible to review an appeal, Leitman wrote.   

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Lobbying and Ethics

Washington Post: Patton Boggs to merge with Squire Sanders

By Catherine Ho and Holly Yeager

Patton Boggs, the Washington legal powerhouse that helped pioneer modern-day lobbying, is merging with Squire Sanders, a large international law firm with roots in Cleveland, in a deal that marks the end of an era in the changing influence industry.  

The merger, approved by partners at both firms this week and announced Friday, concludes Patton Boggs’s 52-year run as an independent law and lobby firm. It comes after a year-and-a-half of uncertainty and financial troubles at the firm, which were heightened by its involvement in an unusual and expensive legal battle with Chevron.  

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State and Local

New York –– NY Daily News: LOVETT: Cuomo to press Senate Republicans on campaign finance, plus City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, former Gov. David Paterson

“If Dean and the Republican conference renege and fail to pass campaign finance this session, the governor is going to actively campaign for Senate Democrats and work very hard after the election in November to unite” the breakaway and mainstream Democrats, a source said.  

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