Daily Media Links 9/30: Super PACs are getting a terrible deal on campaign ads, FEC to hackers: We’re ready this time if government shuts down, and more…

In the News

Washington Examiner: Supreme Court, California A.G. should butt out

Editorial Board

Philanthropists have any number of reasons to remain anonymous. Perhaps they do not want their generosity rewarded with a barrage of endless solicitations from other groups. Perhaps they do not want their neighbors to know they have a lot of money. Or perhaps their motives are more spiritual; as Jesus put it in the Gospel, they would rather give in secret, and be rewarded by their Father in Heaven who sees in secret.

Whatever their motivations, donors to charities that educate the public and help the poor are society’s benefactors. California has a legitimate interest in keeping charities honest, but not in subjecting their donors to the intrusion.

We hope the Supreme Court takes this case and grants the injunction that the plaintiffs are seeking. Even better, we hope that Harris will see the folly of this scheme and withdraw her demands.

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St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Lobbyists, legislators aim to quash political activist’s free speech

Ron Calzone

Who would think that in America you can get a $1,000 fine for exercising your freedom of speech? Well, I just did.

I am a political activist. Just like thousands of other activists all over the state across the political spectrum, I go out of my way to talk to those in power about what I think our state’s laws should look like. When average citizens share their political opinions, exercise freedom of speech and petition the government regarding the laws we live under, they are doing exactly what America’s Founders had in mind when they established a self-governing constitutional republic…

With help from two public interest law firms, the Center for Competitive Politics and the Freedom Center of Missouri, I am appealing the ethics commission’s ruling against me. I will fight this case as long and as far as I must, not only on my own behalf, but on behalf of all citizens who have opinions about how our state should be governed and wish to exercise their constitutional right to share those opinions with our elected officials.

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Acton Institute: Trigger Warning: This Article Contains References to ‘Citizens United’ and ‘Dark Money’

Bruce Edward Walker

All of this is so much piffle when confronted with real-world facts, as noted by The Center for Competitive Politics (CCP), “America’s largest nonprofit dedicated solely to defending First Amendment rights to political speech and assembly.” In a broadcast email, CCP President David Keating turns to actual events rather than crystal-ball prognostications to allay fears of a corporate takeover of the American political system:

‘Scott Walker and Rick Perry have demonstrated once again that while money is an important part of a successful campaign, a candidate’s message, ability to connect with voters, media coverage, and experience matter as well.

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Independent Groups

Fortune: Super PACs are getting a terrible deal on campaign ads

Anne VanderMey

When candidates buy TV ads for themselves, federal regulations (not to mention scruples) often limit how much the station can charge. For outside groups, though, it’s open season. “Who’s going to go weeping for the Super PAC that gets gouged?” says Elizabeth Wilner of research firm Kantar Media. Right now Super PACs might pay triple what candidates do for the same airtime. As the election heats up, it may be 10 times standard rates, Wilner says.

That’s good news for self-funded candidates like Donald Trump (if he ever runs an ad). It’s even better news for TV stations.

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Politico: Rand Paul super PAC goes dark

Alex Isenstadt

One of the three super PACs supporting Rand Paul’s presidential campaign has stopped raising money, dealing a damaging blow to an already cash-starved campaign.

In a Tuesday telephone interview, Ed Crane, who oversees the group, PurplePAC, accused Paul of abandoning his libertarian views — and suggested it was a primary reason the Kentucky senator had plummeted in the polls.

“I have stopped raising money for him until I see the campaign correct its problems,” said Crane, who co-founded the Cato Institute think tank and serves as its president emeritus. “I wasn’t going to raise money to spend on a futile crusade.”

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CBS News: Zombie super PACs: What happens to all that cash?

Christina Ruffini

So why aren’t multiple FEC-themed yachts aren’t sailing around the Caribbean? It has very little do to do with regulation and a lot to do with reputation.

“You have serious political professionals who are closely associated with serious candidate’s campaigns, and they have a real profession incentive to not abuse the good will of their donors,” Ryan said.

Perry and Walker relied heavily on a handful of those big-money donors to bolster their super PAC reserves. When Walker dropped out last week, his “Unintimidated” PAC was quick to issue a statement promising to refund supporters on a “pro-rated” basis. The group raised more than 20 million dollars in the last reporting cycle, and told CBS News it is working on “winding down efforts” and giving the money back.

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Huffington Post: Super PAC Contributions Can Be Considered Bribes: Judge

Paul Blumenthal

So, does a judge ruling that corporate contributions to a supposedly independent group can be a corrupting bribe undermine the Supreme Court’s assertion in Citizens United that independent expenditures cannot corrupt?

Rick Hasen, election law professor at University of California, Irvine and proprietor of the Election Law Blog, said the “super PAC issue in this context is a red herring.”

Hasen raises the question of “whether it was possible to reconcile the idea from Citizens United that independent spending cannot corrupt with the concept that an agreement with a candidate to make a contribution to a super PAC can be a bribe.”

“They are reconcilable,” he said. “One can believe both things without contradiction.”

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CPI: FEC to hackers: We’re ready this time if government shuts down

Dave Levinthal

If, on Thursday, the government again shuts down, the FEC will have nearly three dozen staffers available to, in large part, defend against cyber threats. Congress, in the meantime, is attempting to advance a last-minute, temporary spending measure ahead of Wednesday’s 11:59 p.m. deadline.

“There will absolutely be a skeleton crew this time to avoid a repeat of the situation in 2013,” FEC Chairwoman Ann Ravel told the Center for Public Integrity. “We understand it’s extremely important for crucial IT staff to be available to ensure the information we maintain is kept safe and not hacked.”

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Candidates and Campaigns

Commentary: Jeb Bush’s Faltering Money Men

Noah Rothman

The Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United was a panic point for many on the left. In 2010, Democratic officeholders near universally contended that the decision would render egalitarian democracy a quaint and archaic notion. This myopic, evidence-averse philosophy even compelled Harvard University Professor Lawrence Lessig to virtually abandon his chosen profession – a vocation that he disparages as beneath his intellectual faculties – to mount a quixotic bid for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination with the singular goal of reforming the campaign finance regime.

The left’s phobia toward money in politics is based in faith. It is impervious to contrary evidence, like that which materialized over the summer as Governors Rick Perry and Scott Walker were compelled to unceremoniously quit the race. Both of these once celebrated figures within the GOP suspended their campaigns despite the fact that their bids were buttressed by prosperous and loyal political action committees.

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Washington Post: The good thing about donors is they have money. The bad thing is they also have some advice for you.

Philip Bump

Super PACs should be something of a blessing: A ton of money spent by rich people on your campaign’s behalf, but they legally can’t talk to you. Like the nerdy kid in high school who buys the head cheerleader flowers and presents, but she never has to see him because they’re not in any of the same classes. But there are still old-fashioned donors that still think their money and their friends’ money — the stock they’ve bought — entitles them to a seat at the decision-making table. Bigger donors, like casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, have their own tables and make candidates fight over who gets one of the chairs.

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New York Times: Big Donors Seek Larger Roles in Presidential Campaigns

Ashley Parker

They expect their views to be heard quickly and their concerns taken seriously, sometimes creating headaches and potential awkwardness for the campaigns and super PACs, which must tend to the contributors and their seemingly endless suggestions and questions.

On one hand, the campaigns and their affiliated groups rely on the financial support and appreciate the occasional insights that come from people who have been successful in other fields.

On the other hand, they find themselves devoting more and more time to stroking donors’ egos, weighing their ideas, and soothing supporters whose panicked phone calls can be prompted by anything from an alarming Twitter post to a small stumble on a morning show.

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The States

Valley News: Vermont AG Sorrell Won’t Run in 2016

Wilson Ring

“Millions and millions of dollars have been returned to Vermont consumers (through consumer protection cases) and my office has brought hundreds of millions of dollars into state coffers from successful enforcement actions.”

…Sorrell said that in 2010 he told supporters he planned to run two more times.

And he said his decision had nothing to do with Republican complaints that he’d violated state campaign finance laws. A special investigative panel is now reviewing those complaints.

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