Daily Media Links 10/28: Impeaching the IRS Director, Justice Anthony Kennedy Loathes the Term ‘Swing Vote’, and more…


Comments to FEC on Notice 2015-09 Rulemaking Petition: Independent Spending by Corporations, Labor Organizations, Foreign Nationals, and Certain Political Committees (Citizens United)

Allen Dickerson

For the reasons set forth below, the Center believes that these topics are not appropriate subjects for rulemaking at this time. Petitioners overstate both the FEC’s statutory authority to regulate in these areas and the need for additional requirements. Citizens United does not compel a rulemaking to expand regulation of speech. In fact, the regulatory regime contemplated by the Petition would risk endangering existing protections for nonprofit donor privacy, protections won during the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s. Moreover, most of the issues raised by the Petition—such as electioneering by foreign nationals, corporate and labor solicitation of employees, and the definition of “coordination”—are already adequately addressed by existing statutes and regulations.

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Comments to FEC on Notice 2015-10: Rulemaking Petition: Contributions From Corporations and Other Organizations to Political Committees

Allen Dickerson

Make Your Laws attempts to co-opt the established moral disapproval of a certain type of criminal behavior—money laundering—when it speaks of “contribution laundering” It justifies the use of this terminology outside its “strict legal sense” by assuming that there is a wrongful intent—“hid[ing] the true source of funds from disclosure”—behind contributions to organizations that represent various individuals’ and groups’ interests and beliefs. The appeal to emotion reflected in such language is misguided and forecloses full public debate concerning the issue at hand and the costs and benefits of addressing it.

In fact, existing disclosure rules require that money given for the purpose of an independent expenditure or electioneering communication be disclosed. And, where a party attempts to circumvent these rules by giving money to another to accomplish that purpose in another name—an action that is, in a legal sense, fraudulent—it is guilty of a felony and is subject to all concomitant penalties. The federal courts easily punish violations of the existing law. There is no need for further regulation.

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Wall Street Journal: Impeaching the IRS Director

Editorial Board

Mr. Koskinen was not at the IRS during the targeting, but the former Freddie Mac executive has become the single greatest hurdle to public accountability. He was touted as a reformer in his 2013 confirmation hearings. Instead he has helped the Administration stonewall Congress’s investigation. Mr. Chaffetz’s four articles of impeachment assert that Mr. Koskinen “engaged in a pattern of conduct that is incompatible with his duties as an Officer of the United States.”

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Supreme Court

National Law Journal: Justice Anthony Kennedy Loathes the Term ‘Swing Vote’

Marcia Coyle

“In my own view, what happens with money in politics is not good,” he said. “Remember: the government of the United States stood in front our court and said it was lawful and necessary under the [McCain-Feingold] Act to ban a book written about Hillary Clinton in the prohibited period of six, three months before the election. That can’t be right.

“I wasn’t surprised The New York Times was incensed their little monopoly to affect our thinking was taken away. I was surprised how virulent their attitude was. Last time I looked, The New York Times was a corporation. This meant the Sierra Club, the chamber of commerce in a small town couldn’t take out an ad.”

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USA Today: FEC overhauls website to make it easier to track campaign money

Fredreka Schouten

On Thursday morning, the general public will get its first look at a working version of https://beta.fec.gov, which tries to make it simpler to figure out who is funding elections and how politicians are spending donors’ money. Among the many changes: The new version can be viewed on any size screen, allowing users to view campaign-finance data on their mobile phones and tablets.

“This is a way to provide important information people can use when they vote, and it also allows the public and others, such as the Department of Justice, to deter corruption,” Ravel told USA TODAY.

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Donor Disclosure

The Hill: How presidential campaigns could be putting your data at risk

Katie Bo Williams

But unlike in the commercial sector, campaign data remains a kind of Wild West, with the candidates under no obligation to safeguard the information.

A recent report by the Online Trust Alliance (OTA) found that only six of 23 presidential campaign sites for 2016 met sufficient standards on privacy, security and consumer protections.

“It’s not just your credit card information [campaigns are collecting],” Craig Spiezle, executive director of OTA, told The Hill.

“Many of the sites will ask you profile questions when you donate. What is your view on gun control? On women’s rights? There’s a good reason a candidate would want to know that, but what happens when that’s let out?”

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Daily Caller: A Common App For Campaign Finance?

Brad Crate

Instead of keeping this patchwork system of bureaucratic red tape, allow me to propose a different way that might save millions of tax dollars and millions more on regulatory compliance. Let’s keep the current system but allow states to opt-in to using a uniform set of campaign finance disclosure forms. This system would operate very much like the college common application. The state’s unique contribution limits and source prohibitions would remain, but the form in which campaign finance is reported will be uniform throughout the country along with the filing frequency. The reports will be filed and reviewed by the same regulator (whether it be the FEC or a comparable body equipped to deal with the extra 50 state workload).

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Tax-Financed Campaigns

New York Times: Is There a Silver Lining to Citizens United?

Thomas B. Edsall

The second effect cited by reformers is the increased likelihood of adoption of legislation generally opposed by business interests, including increases in minimum wage and liberalized family leave policies.

Supporters of public financing point to the enactment in Connecticut of a tax hike on the wealthy, a raised minimum wage, gun control legislation, ending the death penalty and unionization of day care workers as an illustration of the kinds of policies likely to follow publicly financed elections.

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Independent Groups

New York Times: Koch Brothers to Appear on MSNBC’s ‘Morning Joe’

Emily Steel

The taped interview, which will air next Tuesday on “Morning Joe” (6-9 a.m.), will take place at the brothers’ childhood home in Wichita, Kan. The conversation will focus on the role of money in politics, the network said in a news release.

The appearance continues an effort by the Koch brothers to alter the public perception of them, advanced by many Democrats, as a secretive force behind many of the Republican Party’s most conservative positions.

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Politico: How Money Poisons Our Politics

Jon Huntsman and Tim Roemer

One point on which many of the candidates on Wednesday’s stage agree: Everyone has a right to know who’s spending to influence elections. It’s an important consensus, given the explosion of independent expenditures from nonprofits that don’t disclose their donors. That’s why Republicans and Democrats in Montana united to ban dark money by requiring all groups spending in state politics to make their donors public, regardless of tax status.

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Center for Public Integrity: Republican super PACs dominate early ad spending

Carrie Levine and Cady Zuvich

In the heaviest advertising month yet during the 2016 presidential campaign, non-candidate groups such as super PACs and politically active nonprofits have dominated the airwaves.

Such organizations, made possible by the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision, ran more than 8,400 presidential race-focused ads from Oct. 1 through Oct. 26, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of data provided by advertising tracking firm Kantar Media/CMAG.

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Candidates and Campaigns

Politico: Money churns in Carson, Inc.

Katie Glueck and Kyle Cheney

“Ben Carson is building these guys a giant database company of Republican donors, and they’re getting paid millions to do it,” said one Republican consultant who works on presidential campaigns.

The consultant, who requested anonymity, suggested that it’s increasingly common for fundraising-related companies to attach themselves to candidates like Carson who can help build massive small-donor lists for future campaigns.

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The States

Deseret News: Judge poised to strike down part of new Utah election law

Dennis Romboy

U.S. District Judge David Nuffer signaled Tuesday that he intends to find forcing parties to hold open primary elections is unconstitutional. He noted that every other court has found that requirement violates the First Amendment.

“Honestly, that’s how I think I’m ruling,” he said after hearing arguments from the Utah Republican Party, the Utah Constitution Party and the state.

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WSAU: Tweaks expected to GAB, campaign reform bills

The Wisconsin Senate has canceled a floor session for today (Tuesday), so majority Republicans can get a handle on bills to replace the Government Accountability Board and upgrade campaign finance laws. The Assembly passed both measures last week, but Senate Republicans may not have enough support to approve the GAB bill in its current form.

The non-partisan agency would be replaced with separate elections-and-ethics boards with equal numbers of members from both major political parties.

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