Daily Media Links 9/29: IRS Cuts $50,000 Check to Marriage Group for Illegally Disclosing Donor List, Evidence suggests that switching to publicly funded elections is rarely a game-changer, and more…


CPA’s Fluid Methodology 
By Scott Blackburn
But CPA would tell us that the purpose of their Index is not to shame companies into silence on policy issues.  They would argue that this is just about “transparency” and “public disclosure.” Unfortunately, their fluid methodology belies this claim. After all, if your end goal is “transparency,” then you need only to establish what that looks like and grade companies accordingly. But for the CPA Index, transparency is a moving target. In 2013, five of the 24 indicators were changed to require more information from companies. This year, six of the criteria were altered. The net effect of this change is that a company that received a first tier score in 2013 could drop to a third tier rating in 2014 having theoretically disclosed the exact same amount of information.
Why would that be? If your goal is “transparent” companies, what changed from 2013 to 2014 that warrants downgrading previously stellar disclosure into average to below average disclosure? We cannot know for sure. CPA says only that, the previous methodology, “[did] not offer enough specificity to be deemed transparent” and that, they desire to “reward transparency in a fair and balanced manner.”
A Response to Michael G. Miller 
By Luke Wachob
Proponents of tax-financed campaigns told us that democracy had become a plutocracy, that politicians represented special interests and ignored their constituents, that campaign fundraising was polluting and corrupting government at every step of the process. We were told that tax-financed campaigns would fix all of that.
14 years later, and we’re supposed to be happy that “while incumbents are still winning, they are doing so by significantly lower margins when met by publicly funded challengers”? That’s a bar so low you could trip over it, and I’m willing to bet that it’s not what Arizonans had in mind when they passed the Citizens Clean Elections Act. That’s why the Center’s research focuses on evaluating claims made by proponents of these programs. And what we’ve found – from the unchanged voting behavior of tax-financed candidates, to the persistent involvement of special interests in policymaking, to the scores of corrupt politicians exploiting public financing for their own gain – is that their predictions have largely failed to materialize.
There’s always another study or data point you could add to the discussion. Miller’s criticism lies not with the facts I presented but with the context he wishes I would provide. But there is more “context” here than simply another academic study. It matters what people were sold when they voted for tax-financed campaigns. It isn’t what Miller is selling today.
Tax-Financed Campaigns
Washington Post: Evidence suggests that switching to publicly funded elections is rarely a game-changer 
By Bill Turque
If there is a rough consensus, it is that certain kinds of public financing systems can change how candidates spend their time, freeing them from fundraising and creating more opportunities for retail politicking with voters. But public funding does not seriously disrupt the traditional advantages enjoyed by incumbents. While races tend to be more competitive, officeholders still win reelection as much as ever.
“The people who propose these systems often oversell them,” said University of Wisconsin political scientist Kenneth Mayer, who has spent a decade studying public campaign finance. “From what we’ve observed in places that have various types of public funding, the impacts are actually a lot more marginal.”

Wall Street Journal (LTE): Auditing the IRS’s Evasions of the Truth 
By Randy Kelly
He seems genuinely astonished that anyone could possibly question his actions, inactions or motives: “I have a long career, that’s the first time anybody has said they don’t believe me.”
On the contrary, how could anybody believe him? You don’t have to manage a data center to know that his responses related to email retention and recovery of Lois Lerner’s hard drive(s) make zero sense. He is either the densest man on the planet or more likely engaging in the deepest coverup since Watergate.
ActRight Legal Foundation: IRS Cuts $50,000 Check to Marriage Group for Illegally Disclosing Donor List 
By Noel Johnson
The IRS’ job is to take your money. But there are times when the IRS must pay. Monday, September 22 was one of those times. That was when the IRS paid $50,000 to the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) to settle damages sustained by NOM after the tax agency publicly released NOM’s confidential donor list to gay-rights activist Matthew Meisel, in violation of federal tax law. The payment satisfies a settlement approved by a Virginia federal court in June of this year. The IRS agreed to settle the lawsuit brought by NOM after the court rejected the IRS’s claim that it was not responsible for NOM’s damages. 
Despite the IRS’s admission of wrongdoing, the Department of Justice refuses to investigate the IRS employee responsible for the leak, Mr. Meisel, or any of the organizations that published NOM’s confidential donor list on on the Internet, a felony under federal law.
Independent Groups
Washington Post: Harvard creates conflict-of-interest shield for fellows, will launch ‘Center for Public Narrative’ 
By Erik Wemple
Though the title is a bit highfalutin for the plain language-adoring Erik Wemple Blog, the implications for people like Williams relate to ethical insulation: Under Suskind’s “narrative” tutelage, Williams no longer reports up to the super PAC-piloting Lessig; the Project on Public Narrative, says Suskind, is structurally “alongside” the Safra Center, meaning that Lessig doesn’t make hire/fire decisions or spending decisions.
The idea is to avoid the perceptions that flow from Lessig’s work with Safra and with Mayday. “For the first day or two when and after the story runs,” says Suskind, referring to the projects of his fellows, “it’s important for Brooke and others that they have a solid and airtight structure when and if the institutions [criticized in their stories] start to play the games they play.”

Wall Street Journal: Mugged in Milwaukee: Misguided federalism perpetuates civil-rights violations in Wisconsin. 
“The subpoena issued to O’Keefe is extraordinarily broad,” concedes Judge Frank Easterbrook in his 3-0 opinion, “covering essentially all of the group’s records for several years—including records of contributors that O’Keefe believes are covered by a constitutional right of anonymity.” But that intrusion is not our business, he continued. “We need not take sides, because principles of equity, comity, and federalism counsel against a federal role here.”
The court bases its ruling on the Anti-Injunction Act, which says a federal court may not interfere in a state court ruling except in special circumstances. Civil rights can be an exception, but Judge Easterbrook says this case doesn’t measure up because Wisconsin courts are already handling it.
Well, yes but no. In January Wisconsin Judge Gregory Peterson quashed the subpoenas and put a stop to the investigation. But prosecutors have appealed to the state Supreme Court that is notoriously slow. Meantime, the targets of Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm’s secret fishing expedition must endure continuing damage to their ability to participate in political debates.
Wall Street Journal: Court to Weigh Political-Contribution Ban for Government Contractors 
By Brent Kendall
A U.S. appeals court on Tuesday will consider a fresh challenge to campaign-finance rules, this time a 74-year-old law prohibiting government contractors from making political contributions tied to federal elections.
The case, unfolding as the midterm elections loom, follows a string of Supreme Court rulings that have considerably eased federal restrictions on political donations.
The ban applies to both individual and corporate contractors and is aimed at preventing corruption. The challenge comes as the government is outsourcing more work to the private sector: Spending on government contracts has grown to roughly $500 billion annually.

Robbin Stewart: Nudging One Direction; A Response to Gerken. 
By Robbin Stewart
Like many in the “reform” faction, Gerken seeks to use an onerous disclosure regime to deter speech she would prefer to ban entirely. But here, her proposed remedy wouldn’t work as planned.
This is because she has misread Citizens United. Her proposal would be unconstitutional, unless scaled back to a point where it would be ineffective. 
She thinks, or claims, that Citizens United approved disclaimers in general. The language of the opinion is  vague, and a person could make that mistake, but CU is an opinion limited to speech by corporations, speech that had previously been entirely banned, and is now permitted subject to disclaimer and disclosure regulations.
CU did not overrule McIntyre, Talley, ACLF, Watchtower, Tornillo, Wooley, Federation of the Blind.
See also AID v Open Society, a post-CU case which holds the government may not tell private parties what to say.

Wall Street Journal: Book Review: ‘Censors at Work’ by Robert Darnton 
I fell in love at a debate about pornography. It was 1975, on the day the Order of the Garter commemorated Haile Selassie, the recently deceased emperor of Ethiopia, at Windsor Castle. The link between the two events was the Earl of Longford, the eminent socialist statesman and my fellow guest-speaker at the debate, who arrived just in time, having represented Britain’s prime minister at the imperial obsequies. He turned up in court dress and top hat, dripping with medals, to take his seat on the platform alongside my future wife (the secretary of her college debating society). At the time, the earl was busy with what he called his “crusade against pornography.” Against a passionate peer and a beautiful girl, I could not hope successfully to extol pornography. Instead, I concentrated on the evils of censorship. I won the woman and lost the debate.
I still think that my argument was right. Pornography, libel, sedition, hate speech and lies are a fair price for freedom of speech. They would be powerless in a justly ordered, well-educated society. If pornography incites your lust, commend the pornographer for success and condemn yourself for succumbing. If you believe the propagandist, he or she has done his job: It is your critical faculties that are at fault. If the advertiser exaggerates, caveat emptor.

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