In the News
Daily Signal: Nonprofits Protest California’s Demands for Donor Names and Addresses
In their letter protesting Harris’ donor disclosure requirement, the 63 organizations and nonprofit leaders stressed that the rule failed to detail which employees in the attorney general’s office would have access to donor information.
The demands for information regarding nonprofits’ donors were challenged in a court case mounted by the Center for Competitive Politics, which argued that the reporting requirements were a violation of the First Amendment rights to freedom of association.
A federal appeals court ruled against the Center for Competitive Politics in its legal challenge in May and ruled against the conservative group Americans for Prosperity in a similar case in December.
Vox: The agency that enforces our campaign finance laws doesn’t do its job. And many people like it that way.
The FEC has had a troubled history. In its early years, commissioners were often ineffectual veterans appointed over and over. Increasingly, its Republican commissioners have been hostile to the FEC’s very mission. In 2000, congressional Republicans pressured Bill Clinton to accept law professor Bradley Smith, whose views were summarized by the title of his book: Unfree Speech: The Folly of Campaign Finance Reform. (Smith, however, was willing to apply the law as a commissioner). But the commission functioned at a reasonable level.
The Hill: 7 things to watch at fundraising deadline
On the eve of Monday’s Iowa caucuses, campaigns and super-PACs are due to make an important set of financial disclosures.
The reports will at last show how much money the presidential candidates officially raised and spent in the final quarter of 2015, giving a sense of their abilities to sustain themselves through a tough primary season.
And the super-PACs, which can raise and spend unlimited amounts so long as they don’t formally coordinate with the candidates, will provide the first glimpse of their balance sheets in six months.
Here are seven things to watch for in the upcoming fundraising reports.
Buzzfeed News: “Shame On Jeb Bush,” Michael Schiavo Says Of Super PAC Ad Featuring Terri Schiavo.
Andrew Kaczynski and Christopher Massie
The ad from Right to Rise, which is running on TV stations in South Carolina, shows a brief image of Schiavo — the severely brain-damaged Florida woman who was at the center of a decades long legal and political battle to remove her life support in the ’90s and 2000s — while a narrator describes Bush as “a man of deep faith, who fought time and again for the right to life.”
“It is simply disgusting that Jeb Bush and his super PAC would exploit my wife’s tragedy for his crude political gain,” Michael Schiavo told BuzzFeed News. “Shame on Jeb Bush.”
Columbus Dispatch: John Kasich’s super-PAC going to FEC in attempt to stop dark money ads against governor
More than half-a-million dollars worth of dark money is going for negative ads against John Kasich in days leading up to New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary, and the super-PAC supporting the Ohio governor is filing a lawsuit about them.
New Day For America is not only taking the issue to the Federal Election Commission, it is issuing a formal complaint with WMUR-TV, New Hampshire’s only local TV station, against the American Future Fund.
That fund has been linked to GOP megadonors Koch Brothers as well as Ohio political consultant Ncholas P. Everhart — former partner of Rex Elsass, who runs one of the nation’s largest political operations from his Delaware County office and helped with Kasich’s campaigns for governor.
More Soft Money Hard Law: The “Access” Issue
Dealing with the risk of disappointing others is the politician’s challenge, and he will One line of argument in the McDonnell case briefing accepts that supporters might expect some preferential treatment—“procedural access,” like a meeting—but not official influence to carry the supporter’s case on the merits. This is one way that routine politics would be distinguished from corrupt politics.
Professor Jeffrey Bellin, thoughtfully but also passionately, says that this won’t do, and that routine politics, including rewarding supporters with access, ought to be criminalized. Getting any preferential consideration for money is quid pro quo corruption. If the Court will establish and hold this line, Professor Bellin argues, it will reduce the significance of money in politics and “the big money will dry up.”
One question is how the Court would fashion a workable rule along these lines. Without a “per se rule” barring an elected official from ever scheduling meetings with a contributor, or making similar accommodations, the approach Bellin favors would require scrutinizing the motives, often mixed, of politicians.
Center for Public Integrity: Trade groups to top corporations: Resist political disclosure
Three of the nation’s leading trade associations have a message for their member corporations: Resist activists who demand you disclose more details about your politicking than the law requires.
“The strategy of pressuring companies to voluntarily disclose the details of their spending on public policy engagement for the purpose of reducing that engagement is, in fact, their ultimate goal,” wrote U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tom Donohue, Business Roundtable President John Engler and National Association of Manufacturers President and CEO Jay Timmons in a letter dated Oct. 13 and obtained by the Center for Public Integrity.
They added: “As these activists continue efforts to silence the business community’s voice, we will continue to engage on your behalf.”
Amending the Constitution
Slate: The Constitutional Convention 2016?
The campaign for conventions, however one comes about, is not solely led by a conservative bastion. Former Democratic presidential candidate Lawrence Lessig stands out as a major leader in the movement.
Lessig and ALEC are pushing for different final goals, though. Lessig hopes to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court campaign finance case Citizens United with a constitutional amendment. Still, they have united on using states to overcome congressional stagnation. “In my view, if you look at American government today, the fundamental stale institution of Congress is crippled by the way congressmen are selected,” Lessig told the Center for Public Integrity. “It produces a widely more polarized Congress than the population. An Article V convention is the only solution the framers gave us.”
Candidates and Campaigns
Fox News: Trump campaign says candidate won’t participate in Fox News/Google debate
The Republican presidential candidate already had said he probably would not be going, accusing Fox News of “playing games” with him. Trump has cited concerns with one of the debate moderators, Megyn Kelly – but apparently made his decision not to attend following press statements from Fox News.
Trump, though, took heat for his decision not to attend from his closest rival in the polls, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who accused Trump of being “afraid of Megyn Kelly.”
“If Donald is afraid to defend his record, it speaks volumes,” Cruz said in a radio interview with Mark Levin, challenging Trump to a one-on-one debate.
Bloomberg: What Sanders Doesn’t Say About Campaign-Finance Reform
For all of Bernie Sanders’ populist crusading against the political influence of “millionaires and billionaires,” when faced with a rare chance to pass major campaign-finance reform, he voted against it, putting the party’s biggest donors first. The vote is worth remembering not only for what it says about Sanders, but also as a reminder of the Democratic Party’s history of saying one thing about reform and doing another.
In 2006, House Republicans backed a bill to rein in spending by 527 groups (named for a section of the tax code), the forerunners to Super PACs. In the 2004 election, those groups raised more money for Democrats than their Republican counterparts in unlimited contributions from wealthy donors, especially George Soros, while Republican Party committees attracted more in regulated donations.
The Hill: Ben & Jerry’s co-founder: The ‘ultra-wealthy’ fuel Clinton’s campaign
Cohen said corporations are taking advantage of campaign finance laws to tilt the political process in their favor. That dynamic has enriched the top 1 percent, he said.
“There’s only one reason that these corporations are making these political donations — it is not out of the goodness of their hearts,” Cohen said. “They want something for it.
“The top 1 percent of our country owns as much wealth as the bottom 99 percent. That’s un-American.”
The Ben & Jerry’s co-founder said Donald Trump is tapping into the same frustrations that are fueling the rise of Sanders, though he said the candidates differ in their approach.
“Personally, I think Bernie is choosing the high road,” Cohen said. “Trump is choosing the low road of hate and blame.”
ABC News: Critics: Colorado ‘Outsourced’ Campaign Finance Enforcement
Dan Elliott, Associated Press
Tammy Holland says she just wanted to get her rural Colorado neighbors to read up on a school board election when she took out newspaper ads last September that listed the candidates and criticized some of the board’s votes.
But that swept Holland into Colorado’s unusual system for investigating campaign spending violations. Unlike most states, where campaign finance regulators decide whether to prosecute alleged violations, Colorado’s constitution requires every complaint to be referred to an administrative law judge, who can then convene a trial-like process.
So when a school board member complained that Holland’s ads violated prohibitions against undisclosed campaign spending, the rules triggered a formal case against her, which has cost her $3,500 in legal expenses.
North Kitsap Herald: Campaign finance initiative qualifies for action by Legislature
WNPA Olympia News Bureau
Secretary of State Kim Wyman on Jan. 26 certified Initiative to the Legislature 735. The measure seeks to put Washington on record as favoring an amendment to the U.S. Constitution overturning the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling.
The initiative’s preamble states: “This act declares that the people of Washington State support amending The Constitution of the United States to eliminate the undue influence of concentrated money and political power on elections and governmental policy.”
The Daily Caller: California AG Threatens Non-Profit Donors’ First Amendment Rights
“It’s a violation of both the organizations’ First Amendment rights to solicit donations, and the donor’s right to be solicited,” Mitchell told TheDCNF.
“Well look, there is no legal reason for California to be demanding these donor names,” von Spakovsky said. “In fact, there’s no legal reason for the federal government to be demanding them either.”
When donors’ information isn’t secure, donations dry up, von Spakovsky explained.
“It has a big chilling effect,” von Spakovsky said. “You can pull up all kinds of articles about the Tea Party organizations who were subjected to the scrutiny by Lois Lerner and the IRS, and many of them talk about how their donors started drying up.”
Wisconsin Law Journal: Corporate political spending can stay secret in Wisconsin
Under the new laws, any electoral ads that stop short of expressly telling viewers how to vote — using so-called issues ads — are left entirely unregulated. As a result, there is nothing stopping candidates and parties from establishing shadow “issue ad” committees that accept unlimited corporate donations, with the full knowledge of the candidate, but absolutely zero disclosures to the public.
A corporation’s $12,000 donation to a political party’s “segregated fund” is a mere drop in the bucket compared with the unlimited secret corporate money that can now flow to the shadow committees that are now legal under the law.