Daily Media Links 10/27: John Doe Goes to Washington, Judge: School’s Facebook post a campaign contribution, and more…

Wisconsin ‘John Doe’

Wall Street Journal: John Doe Goes to Washington

Editorial Board

The John Doe team searched the digital cache for information related to their now-discredited theory of campaign-finance coordination, but they didn’t stop there. The Milwaukee District Attorney’s office, run by Democrat John Chisholm, sent GAB staff a spreadsheet of search terms that included prominent national conservatives.

The spreadsheet includes the names and personal email addresses of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, political strategist and Journal contributor Karl Rove, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Republican Party chief Reince Priebus and Fox News host Sean Hannity.

The list also includes search terms for such non-scandalous words as “coordination plan” and “message.” The government snoops created ideological search concepts like “big union bosses” and “big government,” as if such phrases suggest some law-breaking intent.

Read more…

New York Times: The Revenge of Scott Walker

Editorial Board

Under the new law, which passed on party-line votes in the Republican-controlled Legislature, neither of these investigations would be permitted. Bribery, official misconduct, campaign-finance violations and many other election law offenses — all are now exempt from a law that has served Wisconsin well, and without controversy, since the mid-19th century.

For years, the John Doe law has been crucial in combating political corruption in both major parties, but because Mr. Walker was a rising conservative star, there were predictable howls from right-wing forces about politically motivated fishing expeditions, search warrants executed in the middle of the night and gag orders against witnesses.

Don’t be fooled. Grand juries conduct investigations like this every day, at much greater expense and inefficiency, and rarely to any protest.

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Free Speech

The Coloradoan: Judge: School’s Facebook post a campaign contribution

Nick Coltrain

“The school’s action was the giving of a thing of value to the candidate, namely favorable publicity,” Norwood wrote in his Oct. 14 ruling, which became public Wednesday. “It was given indirectly to her for the purpose of promoting her election.”

University of Colorado law professor Scott Moss called that point “troubling” for its implications on political speech.

 “I don’t buy that under the First Amendment speech about a candidate can be deemed a contribution,” Moss said after reading the ruling. “Is speech valuable? Yes. But that’s not a basis for restricting core political speech.”

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Contribution Limits

Forbes: Campaign Donation Limits Are Irrelevant, Just Look At Bernie Sanders And Ben Carson’s Small Donor Cash-In

Jeffrey Dorfman

Many on the left plus John McCain continue to claim that campaign finance reform is needed to combat big money in political campaigns and reverse the results of the Supreme Court’s weakening of their previous legislation. Between court rulings and super-PACs, contributors who are so inclined can give huge sums of money—$2700 directly to a candidate for both the primary and the general election, up to that limit to an unlimited number of candidates, more money to the political party of their choice, and then whatever amount they wish to a super-PAC. However, the fears that a few rich supporters can buy elections are being publicly disproved by the 2016 election fundraising results to date.

According to the most recent fundraising reports, from July through September Bernie Sanders raised almost as much money as Hillary Clinton and more than any Republican candidate. We also learned that Ben Carson raised the most on the Republican side. What both Sanders and Carson had in common is an almost complete reliance on hundreds of thousands of small donors.

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Wall Street Journal: Opinion Journal: Lois Lerner Whitewash?

Lydia Wheeler

Foley & Lardner LLP Partner Cleta Mitchell on the Justice Department’s decision not to criminally charge the former IRS official for targeting conservative groups.


Independent Groups

BuzzFeed: In Private Meeting, Paul Ryan And House Conservatives Discussed Plan To Stop Outside Attacks On GOP

Tarini Parti

“If [Michigan Rep.] Justin Amash gets attacked by the (U.S. Chamber of Commerce), then leadership would step in to make sure that didn’t happen anymore,” said South Carolina Rep. Mick Mulvaney, a member of the Freedom Caucus, in an interview with BuzzFeed News, explaining the proposal.

“It would be the party, the leadership, the establishment — whatever you want to call it,” he said. “And if a centrist member gets attacked from some right-wing group, then they would step in to help that person in order to try and lower the temperature a little bit. It would go both ways.”

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New York Times: A New Low in Campaign Finance

Robert Maguire

Still, groups like these are obliged to follow some basic rules: 501(c)(4) organizations are not supposed to spend a majority of their resources on political activity, a requirement that leads to impressive accounting and definitional acrobatics. More important, these groups are not supposed to function for the private benefit of an individual or a select group.

Carolina Rising appears to have broken both rules. Within five months of being formed, and just three months before the general election, Carolina Rising kicked off an onslaught of television ads applauding Mr. Tillis for his work on education and health care in North Carolina. The ads never asked viewers to vote for Mr. Tillis.

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Political Parties

Washington Post: Want to reform campaign finance and reduce corruption? Here’s how.

Ray LaRaja and Brian Schaffner

So how can groups like the Brennan Center suggest reforms that support political parties and win public support? Two points are important here. First, the public already supports reducing regulations on parties (even without telling them that parties help moderates). Note that almost half of voters said they would support no limits or high limits for parties. Far fewer voters supported high limits or no limits on unions, businesses, and advocacy groups. Clearly, voters see these groups as quite different.

Second, groups like the Brennan Center should emphasize that stronger parties will be better able to stand up to dark money groups financed by unaccountable wealthy patrons. That will appeal directly to the public desire to reduce corruption and limit excess influence.

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The Hill: Dems push SEC to issue political spending rule

Lydia Wheeler

“As you know, the 2010 Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC, opened the floodgates on unlimited and unchecked corporate spending on political communication and campaign advertisements,” the lawmakers’ letter said. “This paradigm poses a fundamental threat to our democracy, which is hobbled by unaccountable corporate special interests drowning out the voices of everyday citizens.”

Senate Democrats on the Banking Committee also sent a letter to the SEC this week in support of a disclosure rule.

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Candidates and Campaigns

Washington Post: Inside the world of Donald Trump’s super fans

Jenna Johnson

It was Del Casale’s fourth Trump event in three states, and for the first time she was going to work as a volunteer for a political campaign. She cheered through the Republican presidential candidate’s hour-long speech and, afterward, posed for photos with new friends and plugged a private Facebook group she helps moderate, “Trump Defeats the Establishment.”

“I feel, for the first time in my life, that I am not invisible,” said Del Casale, who decorated her campaign T-shirt with 14 large pro-Trump buttons. “For the first time, I feel like there’s actually somebody running for president who is speaking on behalf of myself and others like me.”

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The Atlantic: Where Is Ben Carson’s Money Going?

David A. Graham

In Carson’s case, a majority of what he’s raising is being plowed right back into fundraising costs—$11.2 million of the nearly $20.8 million. That means 54 cents out of every dollar Carson raises is going to raise more money. Carson’s campaign only spent roughly $3 million on everything else—merchandise, office supplies, field staff, space, travel, and so on. Compare that to Clinton, whose biggest expenses included media buys, payroll, and online advertising, spending that’s designed to build a real campaign infrastructure and future strategy. She’s also spending significantly more on rent. (A headquarters in downtown Brooklyn doesn’t come cheap.)

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Wall Street Journal: Jeb!?

James Taranto

The tone of Bush’s remarks is even worse than the substance. It reminded us of “Saturday Night Live’s” Jon Lovitz as Michael Dukakis in 1988: “I can’t believe I’m losing to this guy.” That guy, of course, was Jeb Bush’s father, played by Dana Carvey—and Lovitz’s setup consisted of Carvey trying to run out the clock by repeating a series of platitudes: “Let’s stay the course. Thousand points of light. . . . Let’s just stay the course and keep on track. Stay the course. . . . On track, stay the course, a thousand points of light, stay the course.”

Listen to Trump being interviewed, and you can hear echoes of Carvey’s George Bush. This is from yesterday’s “Face the Nation”:

“And, as you know, I have disavowed all PACs. I had many people setting up PACs for me. And we sent letters last week saying we don’t want—I mean, we respect them, we love them, assuming it’s all on the up and up, because I don’t know—these people who run PACs, I don’t know what they do with everything…”

Jeb can’t believe he’s losing to this guy.

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New York Times: Lawrence Lessig’s Presidential Bid Endures in Relative Obscurity

Alan Rappeport

With two weeks to go until the next Democratic debate, Mr. Lessig is trying to resuscitate his campaign in hopes of polling high enough to win a spot on the stage. Last week, he renounced his resignation plans and promised to serve out a full term in the White House.

He has also relented on his insistence that campaign finance is his only cause, unveiling policy positions on 15 other issues, including tax reform and health care. And Mr. Lessig is perhaps the only candidate around who attacked low-polling rivals such as Mr. Chafee and Martin O’Malley, a former governor of Maryland.

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