In the News
Washington Post: Elections and campaigns are not the same thing
Reformers who resent the existence of super PACs, and the reformers’ critics who oppose the reformers’ regulations of politics that have made super PACs necessary, should ponder Bradley A. Smith’s “Separation of Campaign and State” in the George Washington Law Review of November 2013. He argues not just that the quality of America’s civic conversation would be improved by the deregulation of politics but also that the Constitution requires this because it contains no enumerated power authorizing Congress to regulate campaigning.
The Constitution speaks only of Congress’s power to regulate the “time, place and manner” of elections. Congress has justified the regulation of political speech by conflating what Smith rightly says are two quite different things — campaigns and elections. Campaigns consist of speech and other activities to persuade the public to register particular decisions in elections. Elections are the formal processes by which those decisions are recorded.
National Constitution Center: Donor disclosure and anonymous speech (Podcast)
Allen Dickerson and Anthony Johnstone debate the controversy over non-profits being forced to release the names of anonymous donors. Jeffrey Rosen of the National Constitution Center hosts this conversation.
New York Times: Supreme Court Litmus Testing in the 2016 Election
The problem with Citizens United, it has always seemed to me, is not whether corporations have a right to spend money to express their political views. They do, and they did under decades-old Supreme Court precedent before Citizens United, although many of the decision’s critics don’t seem to realize that fact. The mantra of “money isn’t speech” is too simplistic a critique; speech without money is speech that no one is going to hear.
The problem is the legal reasoning the court employed in opening the floodgates to unlimited corporate spending. The only rationale the First Amendment permits for limiting political spending, the court said, is the prevention of corruption or the appearance of corruption. Fair enough, but then the Citizens United majority made its key move in defining corruption. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s majority opinion said “corruption” meant only “quid pro quo” corruption — extracting or giving a promise in exchange for a political expenditure. In a word, bribery.
Justice Kennedy’s elaboration on this point is so divorced from reality that it reads more like a parody in The Onion than words to be found in a Supreme Court opinion.
Wall Street Journal: One More Chance for Justice at the IRS
Kimberley A. Strassel
Paul Ryan on Thursday sent his first official letter to Loretta Lynch, the new U.S. attorney general. With luck, Ms. Lynch will take a few moments out of her international soccer crackdown to give it a glance.
Signed by every Republican member of the House Ways and Means Committee, which Mr. Ryan heads, the letter is a forceful request that Ms. Lynch channel just a smidgen of her famed prosecutorial skill into the largest abuse of government power in decades: the IRS targeting scandal. It’s now been two full years since a little-known IRS bureaucrat named Lois Lerner admitted that her agency systematically collected the names of conservative groups, harassed them, and denied their right to participate in elections. It’s been two full years since the Justice Department opened an investigation. And it’s been two full years of crickets.
New York Post: IRS hack came from Russia
The revelation highlights the global reach of many cyber criminals. And it’s not the first time the IRS has been targeted by identity thieves based overseas.
In 2012, the IRS sent a total of 655 tax refunds to a single address in Lithuania, and 343 refunds went to a lone address in Shanghai, according to a report by the agency’s inspector general. The IRS has since added safeguards to prevent similar schemes, but the criminals are innovating as well.
Wall Street Journal: Tax Identity Theft Victims Cite Woes With IRS
“We are the ones who are inconvenienced, not the thieves,” said Mr. Yost. He said he asked an IRS staffer working on his case why no red flag was raised by the change from longtime direct-deposit information to a debit card. The staffer replied: “ ‘We’re working on that!’ ” Mr. Yost said.
Candidates, Politicians, Campaigns, and Parties
Washington Free Beacon: Millionaire Sanders Supporters Donate Ice Cream to Presidential Campaign
Like Sanders, the Ben & Jerry’s co-founders are advocates for extreme reforms to federal campaign finance laws. Sanders has called for restrictions on political spending explicitly designed to disadvantage his political opponents.
Cohen heads a group called People Power Initiatives, which encourages supporters to stamp U.S. currency with political messages pushing for a constitutional amendment to exclude corporate entities from constitutional protections such as the right to free speech.
The Atlantic: Could Hillary Clinton Be the Champion Campaign-Finance Reform Needs?
The same could be true of Hillary Clinton. There is no doubt that she is by far the most qualified candidate running for President. No one has the experience that she has. No one has the depth of knowledge. No one has the personal insight to the incredible burden the office of the President is.
But Hillary Clinton has a Johnson problem. It is completely fair, on the basis of her record so far, for Americans to wonder whether she even gets the problem of corruption in America, and whether she recognizes its equality-destroying character. She wants to be the public “champion.” But does she see what she must champion against?
New York Times: Polluted Political Games
Most politicians are good people. Then they discover that money is the only fuel that makes the system work and sometimes step into the bog themselves.
Money isn’t a new problem, of course. John F. Kennedy was accused of using his father’s wealth to buy elections. In response, he joked that he had received the following telegram from his dad: “Don’t buy another vote. I won’t pay for a landslide!”
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette: Campaign finance ballot act rejected
Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has declined to certify the popular name and ballot title for an initiated act that would amend Arkansas campaign finance laws.
On Tuesday, Rutledge said the request had been “rejected due to misleading aspects of the proposed ballot title.”
Arkansas Community Organizations, Arkansas Democracy Coalition, Common Cause, Free Speech for People, People For the American Way, Public Citizen and Regnat Populus said Wednesday they will revise their petition and resubmit it.
Wall Street Journal: New York’s Schneiderman Plans Ethics Bill
Additionally, the bill would give the attorney general’s office permanent jurisdiction to prosecute public corruption. And it would make amendments to campaign-finance laws, including lowering contribution limits and closing a loophole that allows limited-liability corporations to give large sums.
Just For Fun!
The Onion: Hillary Clinton Campaign Shuts Down After Blowing Through $2 Billion In First Month
“Admittedly, my staff and I haven’t kept a close enough eye on our financials over the past few weeks, and certain of our expenditures, such as the 800,000-square-foot Hillary For America headquarters we broke ground on in Des Moines and those seven backup campaign buses, appear to have been poor decisions,” said Clinton, who faulted several crucial missteps, including the licensing of every song in the Fleetwood Mac catalogue for her campaign appearances and sending two pounds of direct-mail solicitations each day to every man, woman, and child in the nation.
Washington Post: Money debate (Cartoon)