Daily Media Links 8/31: Big money doesn’t win elections, Demonstrators Can’t Use Supreme Court’s Outdoor Plaza, Appeals Court Says, and more…

In the News

Wilmington News Journal: Free speech wins, campaign ‘reform’ loses

Scott Blackburn and Luke Wachob

Such disclosure rules have captured the worst of both worlds. They restrict the speech of small groups that want to promote their message, and they have no chance whatsoever of regulating the “big fish” in politics – both because well-heeled organizations can afford to hire expert attorneys to navigate the complex rules, and because relevant information about significant donors is swamped by the needless reporting of every $10 a month contributor.

The Center for Competitive Politics is fighting this Delaware law, and laws like it around the country, for exactly this reason. Legislators and self-styled “reformers” have spent decades putting in place rules and regulations that just don’t work. And in their zeal, they have enacted laws that harmed the very democratic institutions they were hoping to protect.

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Wall Street Journal: Carly Fiorina: ‘I’ve Earned a Place on the Main Stage’

Reid J. Epstein

“Federal Election Commission guidelines make it clear that these criteria cannot be changed after they have been published,” a CNN spokeswoman said Friday. “We believe that our approach is a fair and effective way to deal with the highest number of candidates we have ever encountered.”

But CNN isn’t necessarily married to its qualification standards. Former FEC chairman Brad Smith said in an interview Friday that the FEC’s rules for debate criteria says only that they must be “pre-established,” not that they cannot be altered.

“If I were CNN’s counsel and the news division asked me if they could change the rules, I’d feel pretty comfortable in saying you can do that,” said Mr. Smith, who is now a law professor at Capital University in Ohio. “It’s not something where the regulation prohibits it.”

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CNBC: How Trump confounds the money-in-politics debate

Daniel Libit

David Keating, president of the right-leaning Center for Competitive Politics, a nonprofit group that opposes campaign finance regulations, thinks Trump is actually helping those who argue for more outside money in elections.

“He is just acting like a politician trying to get votes,” said Keating. “A rich person almost always is going to say, ‘Vote for me, because I am funding my own campaign’, rather than emphasizing that they are rich. Most people, if they thought about it, don’t want just rich people running for office. And the best way to do that is to allow people to take much larger contributions than they are now.”

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Washington Examiner: Former FEC chair: CNN allowed to change debate rules

Eddie Scarry

“If I were CNN’s counsel, I would not feel uncomfortable at all in making that change,” Smith said in an interview Friday with the Washington Examiner media desk.

Smith, who now teaches election law at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio, said a rule change that sought to reflect a dramatic change in the campaign or take account for new developments would be unlikely to draw objections from the FEC. He said the FEC is generally reluctant to meddle with news organizations in situations like this because it gives off the appearance of limiting or censoring the press.”

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Citizens United

Richmond Times Dispatch: Big money doesn’t win elections

Editorial Board

Say this much for Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders: They’re proving that the gloom and doom about post-Citizens United campaign finance is still hogwash.

As Jack Shafer noted recently in a piece for Politico, if campaign finance reformers were right about the power of big money in politics, then Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush should not be having any difficulties whatsoever. They have both vacuumed up vast sums in campaign cash, far more than their closest rivals have. Yet it’s Sanders who is drawing all the enthusiasm on the Democratic side and Trump who is dominating the GOP. Clearly, money isn’t everything.

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Des Moines Register: Super PACs have hijacked our elections

Editorial Board

In the Citizens United case, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down limits on spending by political action committees. A few months later, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals struck down restrictions on money contributed to such organizations.

While the government had argued these limits were necessary to prevent the corruption of the electoral process, the two courts reasoned that because PACs operate independently of individual candidates’ campaigns, corruption wasn’t an issue.

“Contributions to groups that make only independent expenditures cannot corrupt or create the appearance of corruption,” the Court of Appeals ruled, evidently not foreseeing just how creative politicians and big business could be with regard to corruption..

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Lawrence Lessig

Vox: How Larry Lessig’s presidential campaign changed the campaign reform agenda

Mark Schmitt

Second, and more important, Lessig and Teachout have shifted the focus of campaign reform away from a constitutional amendment to reverse Citizens United, which was the most visible public message for the past three years, embraced by Hillary Clinton and by every Senate Democrat. Lessig has always had a complicated position on the constitutional amendment — he’s proposed one of his own, as well as supporting a constitutional convention. He also has a subtle view on Citizens United, which he basically thinks was correctly decided (he’s right), but he would reverse the later decision in SpeechNow that create Super PACs.

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Huffington Post: On ‘Dumbing Down’ the Democratic Debate

Lawrence Lessig

As a Democrat, it is easy to agree with Mann’s account. Too easy. It gives a simple foe. It validates a partisan frame. And it leads to scholarship as partisan cheerleading (I last met Mann at a Democratic Leadership retreat. My message: The system is corrupt — and you’re part of the system. His message: Republicans are nuts! Guess who got invited back?).

But the flaw in this approach is its incompleteness. In its rush to name an enemy, it misses Nobel Prize winning economist Ronald Coase’s core truth: that the cause of a problem is the part you can fix. And given that Republicans are here to stay, and that a Democratic supermajority in Congress is as likely as world peace, our focus should be on the parts of this system that have induced this Republican (and often Democratic) craziness, and on building a political movement to change at least those parts.

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Washington Times: IRS must say if White House sought taxpayers’ information: Judge

Stephen Dinan

A federal judge Friday ordered the IRS to turn over the records of any requests from the White House seeking taxpayers’ private information from the tax agency, delivering a victory to a group that for two years has been trying to pry the data loose.

It’s not clear that there were any such requests — but Judge Amy Berman Jackson said the IRS cannot just refuse to say so by citing taxpayer confidentiality laws, known as section 6103 of the tax code.

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Free Speech

Wall Street Journal: Demonstrators Can’t Use Supreme Court’s Outdoor Plaza, Appeals Court Says

Jess Bravin

A federal law prohibiting such demonstrations is justified by the government’s interest in “preserving decorum” at the Supreme Court and promoting the image of a judiciary “uninfluenced by public opinion and pressure,” the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said.

The unanimous opinion preserves a buffer zone around the court where protests aren’t allowed and reverses a 2013 lower court decision that said the statute, which Congress passed in 1949, violated First Amendment free-speech guarantees.

The Supreme Court has faced a spate of disruptions, most recently April 1, when a group of protesters rose during oral argument to complain about Citizens United, a 2010 campaign finance ruling.

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“People’s Pledge”

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Russ Feingold’s campaign finance double talk

Christian Schneider

Under Feingold’s “Badger Pledge” (ironically named, as he stole the idea from a similar plan offered in a Massachusetts senate race), for every dollar a third-party spends in political advertising, the beneficiary of that spending must donate 50 cents to a charity of the other candidate’s choice.

Charity is wonderful, but this is, of course, blatant, ham-handed gimmickry. For one, candidates have no control over what third-party groups are spending. If Feingold is worried that independent groups have too much influence, this ridiculous plan gives them even more influence, as they now have more control over the actual candidates’ bank accounts.

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Candidates and Campaigns

National Public Radio: How The 2016 Candidates Are Getting Their Money, In One Infographic

Danielle Kurtzleben

What we found is that in the era of looser rules, candidates seem to have adopted a variety of fundraising models (for more analysis, read how we broke these models down). Some, like Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, are more dependent on their superPACs — as indicated by their share of support from super-big donations — while others, like Martin O’Malley, Ben Carson and Bernie Sanders, are dependent on their campaigns, which limit contributions to $2,700.

And then, of course, there are the self-funded candidates. This data doesn’t reflect candidates’ donations or loans to themselves. Donald Trump is the main example of this among presidential candidates, with $1.8 million in self-funding, though Lincoln Chafee has likewise donated to his campaign the majority of its funds.

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Philadelphia Inquirer: Shrinking silly season

Editorial Board

Here at the wrong end of America’s marathon run for the White House, our temporal and psychic separation from the decision seems to encourage a fair amount of collective daydreaming. The polls at this stage are the product of a strange alchemy of name recognition, low stakes, and democratic dyspepsia…

What might be called the absurdist phase of the American presidential campaign – the portion that takes place in the wrong year – used to at least be grounded by the need for broad-based financial support, leading some to call it the money primary. But the loosening of campaign-finance restrictions has helped more candidates wage endless campaigns with fewer sources of support, ushering in today’s funny primary.

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New York Times: Owned by Union, Amalgamated Bank Gives Lift to the Left

Nicholas Confessore

Four years after nearly collapsing amid the financial crisis, Amalgamated has aggressively carved out a position as the left’s private banker, leveraging deep connections with the Democratic establishment to expand rapidly in a niche long dominated by larger but less nimble financial institutions.

The bank’s rise has been driven not only by the pace and complexity of modern campaigns, which demand increasingly specialized financial services, but by their vastly expanded scale: Billion-dollar presidential campaigns are expected for both parties in 2016, bolstered by super PACs raising hundreds of millions of dollars more.

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The States

Arizona Republic: 3 past Tempe mayors oppose campaign finance proposal

Neil Giuliano, Hugh Hallman and Harry Mitchell

Tempe is considering an ill-conceived program that attempts to fund future elections with public money from multiple new sources of revenue.

This radical concept takes valuable time and resources away from the basic functions of municipal government and is not supported by the citizens of our community. In short, it’s a self-serving solution in search of a problem that has not existed in our community.

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