Daily Media Links 7/25: Lawsuits tackle Lois Lerner syndrome among state attorneys general, U.S. Senate candidate Land discloses joint account, but questions remain, and more…

In the News

Washington Examiner: Lawsuits tackle Lois Lerner syndrome among state attorneys general

Mark J. Fitzgibbons

Lawsuits have been filed against New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and California AG Kamala Harris over their alleged violations of donor nondisclosure laws.

Schneiderman has been an outspoken critic of Citizens United. Ideologically, Harris is an Obama clone who is sometimes rumored to be a contender for an eventual Supreme Court slot despite her lack of credentials for such a high appointment.

The lawsuits were filed by Citizens United and the Center for Competitive Politics over how Schneiderman and Harris, respectively, have used their positions as state charity officials to demand that nonprofit organizations disclose their donors to the states as a condition to solicit charitable contributions within the state.

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Detroit Free Press: U.S. Senate candidate Land discloses joint account, but questions remain

By Todd Spangler

In other, similar matters, the FEC has contradicted itself: In 2003, for instance, it ruled funds given to a candidate from a family trust — which he would have received anyway under certain other conditions — violated the limit.

“The law is murky here,” said Bradley Smith, a former FEC member and a professor at Capital University Law School in Columbus, adding that if such a contribution is said to violate the “spirit” of the contribution limit, that’s another way of saying it doesn’t violate the letter of the law.

“I think they’d be on pretty solid ground defending it,” he said.

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CCP

Senator Lauds “Deterrent Effect” of Bill Designed to Deter Nonprofit Speech

By Joe Trotter

At a hearing yesterday on the DISCLOSE Act, Senator Chuck Schumer doubled down on a previous statement he made in 2010 when introducing the original iteration of the legislation about how the “deterrent effect” of disclosure on political speech “should not be underestimated,” saying: ”Let me tell you, I think it’s good when somebody is trying to influence government for their purposes, directly with ads and everything else, it’s good to have a deterrent effect.”

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Independent Groups

WSJ: Philanthropists Target Democracy for ‘Saving.’ Watch Out

By James Piereson

What is the proper role of philanthropy in our democracy? “Savior” seems to be one answer—to judge by a spate of articles and reports from academia and the nonprofit sector.

“How Philanthropy Can Help Fix Democracy” and “Philanthropy Must Help Heal the Breakdown in Democracy” were the titles of two recent opinion articles in the Chronicle of Philanthropy. “Healthy Democracy Needs Philanthropy,” was another one in the Huffington Post. “Philanthropy’s Vital Role in Democracy” appeared in The NonProfit Times. The group Philanthropy Northwest recently put out a report called “Philanthropy and the Renewal of Democracy: Is It Time to Step Up Our Game?”

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Politico: Unions put teachers on streets — for votes

By Stephanie Simon

Teachers unions are struggling to protect their political clout, but as the midterm elections approach, they’re fighting back with their most popular asset: the teachers themselves.

Backed by tens of millions in cash and new data mining tools that let them personalize pitches to voters, the unions are sending armies of educators to run a huge get-out-the-vote effort aimed at reversing the red tide that swept Republicans into power across the country in 2010.

The unions have plenty of money: They spent $69 million on state races in 2010 and are likely to top that this year. But as they gear up for the most intense and focused mobilization efforts they have ever attempted, they believe it’s their members who will give them an edge. Americans may be frustrated with public schools and wary of unions, but polls still show respect and admiration for teachers.

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Jackson Free Press: Shining a Light on Super PACs

By Anna Wolfe

Last Wednesday, July 16, the Jackson Free Press notified Bishop Ronnie Crudup of New Horizon Church International that his super PAC All Citizens for Mississippi had not filed the required “24-hour reports” for expenditures for communication advocating or opposing election candidates during the lead-up to the June 24 Republican runoff in the U.S. Senate race.

Discrepancies with All Citizens’ FEC filings have raised questions about the transparency of the group’s actions, but Crudup claims the mistake was a misunderstanding.

“We had a different interpretation but made a call to some folks and got some counsel, so we’re going to get it filed,” Crudup said Wednesday after Jackson Free Press inquired about the PAC’s missing 24-hour reports.

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Politico: A new conservative super PAC for states

By Tarini Parti

The former head of the Republican State Leadership Committee is creating a new super PAC that will serve as a “Club for Growth-type” group on the state level.

The Virginia-based federal super PAC called State Conservative Reform Action PAC, or “SCRAP,” will support economic and fiscally conservative candidates on the state level.

It will focus mostly on legislative races, but also will get involved in attorney general and gubernatorial match-ups, said Chris Jankowski, who stepped down from the RSLC in January, after serving as its president throughout the 2012 election cycle and in 2013.

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Candidates, Politicians, Campaigns, and Parties

More Soft Money Hard Law: Campaign Finance Reform and the GOP: An “About-Face”?

By Bob Bauer

Tom Edsall’s is the latest of a series of pieces purporting to explain the paralyzing conflicts over campaign finance regulation, and his culprit is the Republican Party.  Republicans, he argues, have shifted positions as they have become more dependent on large donations to meet the rising costs of campaigns. And there are more of those massive sums to be had now that the Court has opened the doors to rapidly escalating independent and nonprofit group activity.  Edsall suggests that while the Republican Party was once a leader in the attraction of small donors and partial to mandated disclosure, the GOP has now been driven by self-interest to a position of unyielding opposition to the regulation across-the-board.

Edsall illustrates his case with citations from Republican Party platforms, which he uses to trace the GOP’s journey to the zealous advocacy of de-regulation.  He concludes that “Republican Party elite has adopted a new set of principles in order to justify and support the changing financial needs of the Republican Party.”

The GOP will have to defend itself against the charge that it is wedded to well-heeled interests and is no friend to the “little guy.”  This is not a blog where one would find that defense.  But beyond the politics is the broader case that Edsall would make about the parlous state of campaign finance regulation.  And here Edsall, normally an astute analyst of politics, does not get quite right this piece of the history.

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Detroit Free Press: U.S. Senate candidate Land’s account disclosed, questions remain

By Todd Spangler

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Terri Lynn Land’s campaign insisted today that her nearly $3 million in contributions to herself are legal and proper even as Michigan Democrats called on state and federal authorities to investigate.

Land’s campaign this week filed a correction to her federal financial disclosure, revealing a previously undisclosed joint checking account she controls with her husband from which she has drawn $2.9 million for her race.

The Free Press first revealed the existence of the account a week ago, but the campaign’s filing still leaves doubts as to whether the funds drawn from it were put there expressly for campaign use and, if so, whether they may violate contribution limits.

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WP: Don’t expect campaign finance reform to reduce polarization

By Thomas Mann and Anthony Corrado

A number of analysts have suggested that a promising route to ameliorating the dysfunctional governing associated with extreme partisan polarization is through rather than around the political parties. A post earlier this week on this blog — Ray La Raja and Brian Schaffner’s “Want to reduce polarization? Give parties more money” –  responded to our paper on “Party Polarization and Campaign Finance,”  released recently by the Brookings Institution.

We hoped our paper might freshen a long-running debate on campaign finance regulation. Our review of parties in campaigns and their adaptability in recent decades — such as to the ban on soft money and the rise of “outside” spending groups — casts doubt on any golden age of political parties in decades past and refutes widespread claims of their contemporary decline. We questioned the supposed link between party leaders’ control of campaign resources and their mastery of party discipline in Congress and state legislatures. (La Raja and Schnaffner mistakenly took our description of others’ assertion of that link as our own.)

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State and Local

New York –– NY Times: Gov. Cuomo’s Broken Promises

Editorial

It’s not just Mr. Bharara’s job to clean up Albany. It is up to the voters to decide whether to go on endorsing business as usual. As the indictments and embarrassments continue (26 at latest count since 1999), New Yorkers will have to decide if their representatives are politicians they can trust, including Mr. Cuomo.  

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New York –– NY Times: The Many Faces of State Political Scandals

By SUSANNE CRAIG, WILLIAM K. RASHBAUM and THOMAS KAPLAN

In the past decade, more than 30 current or former state officeholders in New York have been convicted of crimes, sanctioned or otherwise accused of wrongdoing. Here are some of them.

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New York –– NY Times: Cuomo Held the Strings in a Graft Hunt

By Jim Dwyer

“You suggest that the commissioners and staff wanted to be independent. Well they couldn’t be, because they really weren’t.”

The reason, the governor’s office said, is that the commission “was a pure creature of the executive,” meaning it existed only because Mr. Cuomo birthed, fed and watered it.

That statement, which ran to 13 pages, was issued as a reply to inquiries foran article in The New York Times on Wednesday that laid out how the special commission became a marionette theater, with the governor’s close aides pulling the strings at will.

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New York –– WSJ: New York Gov. Cuomo Is Urged to Detail Dealings With Corruption Panel

By Erica Orden

Government-watchdog groups seized on allegations Wednesday that the administration of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo had obstructed, interfered with and improperly guided the work of a corruption commission Mr. Cuomo created, then abruptly disbanded earlier this year.

The New York Public Interest Research Group urged Mr. Cuomo to release all documents relating to his interactions with the Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption. The executive director of Common Cause New York, Susan Lerner, said the allegations, described Wednesday in the New York Times, NYT +1.51%  were “disturbing.”

“The governor is answerable to the voters and the governor went out of his way to assure the voters that he was working on their behalf to foster a vigorous investigation into corruption, so it’s disturbing to see his staff interfering in this manner,” Ms. Lerner said.

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