Daily Media Links 8/27: Parties Play Politics With FEC Complaints, Where’s the outrage when the left tries to change the Constitution?, and more…


Roll Call: Parties Play Politics With FEC Complaints

Nathan L. Gonzalez

“Everyone knows both sides file complaints to get press hits,” one campaign strategist said anonymously in order to speak candidly.

For example, in July a former Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee communications director now with an outside group, American Democracy Legal Fund, filed an FEC complaint concerning compensation GOP Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin received after his 2010 race.

Subsequently, Roll Call wrote a story, “Group Files FEC Complaint Against Johnson.” And a couple of days later, the DSCC sent out an email with the subject line, “Busted: FEC Complaint Filed Against Ron Johnson For Shady Corporate Fundraising Scheme,” that linked to the story.

Whether the accusation is true is beside the point. The accusers know simply filing a complaint will generate media attention and cast doubt onto the accused.

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Independent Groups

Washington Post: We have entered a new era of primary meddling: Bragging about it

Amber Phillips

Getting involved in the other side’s primary is as old as politics itself, our own Philip Bump wrote last year.

What’s new, though, is how open and transparent the meddling side has become — a trend we’ve noticed in recent weeks.

From Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) bragging about how she got Rep. Todd Akin (R) nominated as her opponent, to the Republican-leaning Chamber of Commerce circulating a memo of its plans to get involved in Florida’s Democratic race, it seems primary meddling is no longer an open secret.

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Washington Free Beacon: The Democratic Socialists of America Has a Super PAC, and It’s Backing Bernie Sanders

Lachlan Markay

Maria Svart, DSA’s national director, told the Federal Election Commission on Wednesday that its super PAC spent $10,200 supporting Sanders’ candidacy since July. In the two months prior, FEC records show, it spent another $10,939 on the Vermont Senator’s behalf.

Those are paltry sums compared to the more heavily financed super PACs involved in the 2016 presidential contest. However, Sanders himself has disavowed super PACs, pledging to refuse their support during his presidential run.

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Lawrence Lessig

Vox: Larry Lessig: Bernie Sanders has been “seduced” by consultants, is too focused on winning

Andrew Prokop

As for what would be included in that law, Lessig hasn’t completely nailed that down yet. Campaign finance reform will be part of it — Lessig wants to give small donors vouchers for campaign donations, among other changes — as will reforms intended to make voting easier and an overhaul of how House of Representatives members are elected. But he says further details will be “crowdsourced” if he ends up running — which he says he’ll do if he raises $1 million by Labor Day (he’s currently above $600,000).

“Sanders is great, but he is running a campaign to win, not to govern,” Lessig wrote on Reddit. “Like Obama 8 years ago, he is talking about the problem, but not giving us a plan for how it will be fixed.”

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Bloomberg: Larry Lessig Says He’d Give Joe Biden A Third Term as VP

Emily Greenhouse

Lessig said that the much-discussed possibility of Biden’s late entry into the presidential race “signals the weakness of the otherwise putative frontrunner,” former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Lessig praised the vice president: “Joe has been a strong supporter of reform and I welcome his voice into the mix,” adding: “I do think that he has enormous depth and understanding about how to make the government work.”

But Lessing worries that voters might see Biden as one more “ordinary politician” who would present a “wish-list” but not a viable strategy, who would be paralyzed by the impotence of Congress, and might not be able to enact reform. This is why, he sees himself as the better “referendum candidate” for reform.

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Politico: Meet the Liberals Who Love Donald Trump

Ben Wofford

One of them is Harvard Law School professor Lawrence Lessig, arguably the country’s leading proponent of reform, who said the greatest entertainer in politics has done so much to jazz up an otherwise eye-glazing issue that Lessig himself would consider running on the same ticket with Trump as a third-party candidate.

“Donald Trump is the biggest gift to the movement for reform since the Supreme Court gave us Citizens United,” said Lessig in a recent interview, referring to the court decision that riled up liberals by granting essentially unlimited campaign contributions from corporate entities. “What he’s saying is absolutely correct, the absolute truth. He has pulled back the curtain.”

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Citizens United

New York Post: Where’s the outrage when the left tries to change the Constitution?

Jonah Goldberg

Some Republicans disagree with the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Wong Kim Ark (1898), which applied the 14th Amendment to immigrants born here.

Some Democrats disagree with the court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC, which says the First Amendment applies to groups of citizens acting in concert. Both, or neither, may be right, but only Republicans are forbidden from acting on their conviction.

Democrats routinely vow that they’ll only appoint living constitutionalists who see a right to abortion on demand lurking between the lines of the Bill of Rights. Clinton recently added a new litmus test. She’s told donors — accountable ones, no doubt — that she would only appoint justices who would overturn the Citizens United decision.

Don’t strain yourself trying to hear the outrage. Outrage is saved for Republicans.

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Tampa Bay Times: Gyrocopter pilot due back in D.C. federal court

Dan Sullivan

Hughes has said that he wants to pursue a “necessity defense” in his trial on six charges related to his violation of the restricted airspace around Washington D.C. If a judge permits it, the defense would allow Hughes to make his trial less about aircraft regulations and more about the influence of big money in politics.

The defense has been used widely in courts nationwide. It is generally considered a justification for a crime committed in an emergency. In such a situation, the harm would have been more severe if the crime had not occurred. In recent years, protestors have increasingly invoked the defense in cases of civil disobedience.

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Candidates and Campaigns

National Review: How Jeb’s Rivals Hope to Blunt His Massive Cash Advantage

Eliana Johnson

Welcome to the world of strategic media buying, where campaigns and super PACs compete to buy airtime on local television stations in the early primary states at the lowest rates. The prices can change from one day to the next, and over the course of several months, one candidate-affiliated super PAC can wind up paying several times as much as another for precisely the same time slot. How? The rate a station charges depends on a number of factors, including how far in advance the time is booked and the level of certainty the station affords an organization that a spot will actually air.

The failure to master this art is one thing that arguably helped to undo Mitt Romney’s campaign, which wound up paying more money to get fewer ads on the air than its Democratic counterpart — in one case, on the North Carolina television station WRAL, the Obama campaign paid $60,000 for 131 ad spots while the Romney campaign paid $184,000 for 124. The difference? In part, the Obama campaign bought the time two months earlier.

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The States

Phoenix New Times: Is Raising The Cost of Speeding Tickets To Finance Publicly Funded Elections A Good Idea?

Elizabeth Stuart

A number of people, like William Nelson, also took issue with the city’s proposal to pay for the program, arguing that it unfairly targets low-income and minority residents, who are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system.

Nelson also expressed concern that city officials would feel pressure to hand out a certain number of tickets because they need to meet revenue goals:

“I don’t want a candidate thinking, God, if we cut the tickets in half, how am I going to win my election?”

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Albany Times Union: State elections watchdog files lawsuit against ‘LLC loophole’

Chris Bragg

The civil lawsuit, filed in Albany County Supreme Court on July 2, pits Risa Sugarman, the chief enforcement counsel for the state Board of Elections, against the campaign of Shirley Patterson, a little-known candidate who ran unsuccessfully for a Brooklyn state Assembly seat in a May special election.

Sugarman’s lawsuit challenges the idea that donations to Patterson’s campaign made through various limited liability companies allegedly controlled by the same person count separately under donations limits. The suit contends that several donors exceeded the $4,100 donation limit in the race.

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