Daily Media Links 9/28: Walker Campaign Money, Why We Need More Money in Politics, and more…


Heritage Foundation: Advocacy and the First Amendment: Should Nonprofits Disclose Their Donors? – 9/29/2015; 12:00 PM

Critics of the current campaign process for state and federal offices are urging states and Congress to require nonprofit advocacy organizations to disclose the identity of their donors to the government, and thus the public, when they engage in political speech and discussion of issues that may affect candidates for political office. Does this violate associational and free speech rights under the First Amendment? Is this a necessary requirement for transparency in the election process? Does mandatory disclosure violate the right to privacy and can it negatively affect the ability of nonprofits to operate on behalf of their members? Does disclosure benefit the public and inform their ability to make choices in the election process?

Chairman Bradley A. Smith will be speaking.

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In the News

Jefferson City News Tribune: ‘Citizen lobbyist’ asks Hearing Commission to block Ethics Commission fine

Bob Watson

In a Sept. 10 news release, the national Center for Competitive Politics and the Freedom Center of Missouri said the commission’s ruling “puts Missouri citizens at risk of fines and criminal prosecution when they speak with lawmakers about public policy. Under that preliminary order, individuals need not be paid by an organization before they can be forced to register as a lobbyist with the state — it is enough to simply mention an organizational affiliation.”

…“The Commission’s Complaint contained no evidence of a decision by Missouri First, through its Board of Directors or otherwise, designating any person as a legislative lobbyist,” Mexico lawyer Dave Roland, for the Freedom Center, and Allen Dickerson of Alexandria, Virginia, for the national group, wrote in the suit filed with the Administrative Hearing Commission.

In that suit, Calzone argued he does not meet the state law definition of a legislative lobbyist because he falls under its exception that a “legislative lobbyist shall not include any … person solely due to such person’s participation in any of the following activities … Testifying as a witness before the general assembly or any committee thereof.”

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Independent Groups

New York Times: Walker Campaign Money (LTE)

Paul Sherman

Ever since the creation of so-called super PACs, proponents of strict campaign finance limits have insisted that these groups will allow the wealthy to “buy” elections. But the rapid demise of Gov. Scott Walker’s presidential campaign — which occurred despite support from a well-financed super PAC — is more evidence of how wrong this claim is

The fact is that the money super PACs raise buys only one thing: the opportunity to present a message to voters. Whether voters are persuaded by that message is entirely up to them.

Should we be surprised that Governor Walker learned this lesson the hard way? Of course not. American history is filled with well-financed candidates who were electoral flops. Scott Walker wasn’t the first and — even in the age of super PACs — he surely will not be the last.

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CPI: Shop on Amazon.com, help elect Bernie Sanders?

Michael Beckel

“It would be illegal under the tax code for the AmazonSmile Foundation to go anywhere near this,” campaign finance attorney Cleta Mitchell told the Center for Public Integrity.

“It strikes me that this PAC is putting Amazon in a position of being the donor to the PAC,” she continued. “This is a crazy, illegal scheme — and Amazon would be nuts to participate in this because it could get them in trouble.”

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More Soft Money Hard Law: Judging the Impact of Super PACs

Bob Bauer

When Governor Scott Walker ended his Presidential candidacy, which happened after Rick Perry suspended his, commentators marveled that they could be done for and have well funded Super PAC still idling nearby.  It has been assumed that a conclusion was ready to be drawn—the more conclusive, the better.  The proposition that Super PACs rule the world has met with the objection that, no, they really don’t, not as we once thought.

Case in point: a piece in Salon, whose author, Sean Illing, wishes to show that, as the title states, Plutocrats still Reign, and that Walker’s withdrawal is no “defeat” for their Super PACs.  Very few commentators actually argued that Walker’s downfall signaled the end of plutocratic control.  If not that, then, what does the Walker’s withdrawal have to teach about the power and limits of Super PACs?

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Bloomberg: Carly Fiorina Enjoys Fruits of Super-PAC Labors

John McCormick

One disadvantage is that candidates too dependent on super-PACs tend to make appearances only at places where they’ve received an invitation to speak, rather than at least sometimes building their own events to target key areas or demographic groups. Left unchanged before the balloting, it would also leave in the hands of an outside entity the notoriously difficult job of recruiting and mobilizing supporters to turn out on an often-cold night in Iowa for that state’s first-in-the-nation caucuses.

In Fiorina’s case, all of her appearances Friday in Iowa were events where others made the arrangements and helped turnout the crowd. Besides the Rotary Club, her two other stops were organized by the Quad Cities New Ideas Forum and the Dubuque County Republican Women.

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Daily Beast: Why We Need More Money in Politics

Nick Gillespie

A fierce defender of free speech and a pragmatist, Rauch knows there is no way of getting money out of politics. Instead, he argues, let parties and candidates raise unlimited money, just like the PACs can. Parties, he says, are large organizations and less susceptible to wholesale capture by groups whose funders aren’t even known. Parties are “more accountable than anyone else,” says Rauch. “They can move that money around and begin to use it as an incentive. They can tell a member look, if you vote for this Medicare cut, we’re gonna help you in your race, and we have the money to do it.”

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Candidates and Campaigns

Breitbart: No, Carly Fiorina is Not A Hillary Clinton Donor

Alex Swoyer

Fiorina did give money to Political Action Committees (PACs) that in turn donated to Clinton’s various campaigns—but those PACs also donated to scores of Republicans including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) and former Club For Growth president Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA)—and therefore, making the claim that those donations makes her a “former donor” to the former Secretary of State’s various campaigns is scurrilous, Fiorina’s campaign says.

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Sacramento Bee: Clinton’s ironic call for campaign finance reform

Jessica A. Levinson

Hillary Clinton, who has raised almost $47 million for her presidential campaign, has set her sights on reducing the influence of money in politics, with a special focus on limiting the impact of the Supreme Court’s now-infamous Citizens United decision.

Clinton does not like Citizens United, but she also likely loathes the group behind the decision. Citizens United is, after all, actually all about Clinton.

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The States

Fox & Hounds: The Voters’ Right to Know Initiative is a Poison Pill for the Political Process

Charles Bell

Look for the proponents of this measure to tout it as the first step toward reversing the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2011 Citizens United decision that held that government can’t ban books under the guise of campaign finance regulation under the First Amendment.  That claim is flatly untrue.  Unfortunately, such false advertising is cynically designed to play on media and popular “Citizens United derangement syndrome” – the unhinged fear that the 2011 Supreme Court decision was not just wrong, but undermined our system of democratic government.  Of course, the State’s “Voters Right to Know Act” doesn’t, and couldn’t, affect that U.S. Supreme Court decision.

The media fawn over get-tough campaign finance rules without considering that these rules also sweep up the little guys and volunteer-run committees, who might now face personally bankrupting government fines and penalties. This misguided measure is likely to drive such participants out of the political process, leaving only the big guys who have resources and advisers to cope with the new restrictions and even to pay punitive fines for even technical errors.

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Maine Public Broadcasting Network: Ethics Commission Seeks Stronger Campaign Finance Disclosure Laws

A.J. Higgins

The Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society Legislative Fund contributed more than $2 million in campaigns in favor of the bear hunting question, but under Maine law, there is no requirement to disclose who gave those organizations money.

The same is true for the Republican Governors Association, which spent more than $5 million, and its Democratic counterpart, which delivered just under $3 million.

This would change under proposed law revisions suggested by Wayne’s staff, which call for more disclosure.

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