Daily Media Links 1/29: Republicans Echo Super PAC Ads in Debate Attacks, Serve Free Speech With That Bernie Sanders Ice Cream, and more…

Independent Groups

Time: Republicans Echo Super PAC Ads in Debate Attacks

Katie Reilly

At Thursday’s debate, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was asked about the attacks on rival Republicans from the super PAC that is supporting him. In response, he shrugged.

“As it relates to the super PACs, I have no control over that, and this is beanbag compared to what the Clinton hit machine is going to do to the Republican nominee,” he said.

It’s true that Bush, under the law, cannot coordinate with the Right to Rise super PAC, just as Florida Sen. Marco Rubio can’t with the Conservative Solutions super PAC and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz can’t with the Keep the Promise super PACs.

But nevertheless the arguments that the three candidates made were largely in sync with the messages being put out in millions of dollars of TV advertising on their behalf by the super PACs.

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Fortune: Jeb Bush Donors Say He Is ‘Burning Money’

Laura Lorenzetti

Bush’s campaign, through his own war chest and his super PAC, Right to Rise, has spent at least $82 million in operating costs through the third quarter of 2015 and on advertising through this month, reported Reuters. Nearly $1.2 million alone was spent on private planes. For comparison, Hillary Clinton spent $700,000 and Ted Cruz spent $158,000 on private planes over the same time period. Updated spending figures will be revealed Sunday when the latest campaign finance reports are released.

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Corporate Speech

The Federalist: Serve Free Speech With That Bernie Sanders Ice Cream

Kyle Sammin

Ben and Jerry’s as a corporation has spoken against the Citizens United ruling in strident terms. In an unsigned posting last week on the corporate website entitled “6 Years of Citizens United’s Bull$%&t” (sic), the company inveighed against the decision that it said “gave rise to super PACs and secret unlimited and unregulated political donations that undermine our democracy.”

This is richer than a pint of Chubby Hubby. Here, in the midst of an election season, we have a corporation speaking on a political issue. Their position: that corporations should not be able to speak on political issues in an election season.

They go on to mock the rules that political action committees follow to avoid running afoul of campaign finance laws (yes, Citizens United did not repeal all the campaign finance laws, despite what you may have heard).

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Sunlight Foundation: FCC votes to expand transparency for political ads

Libby Watson

The FCC voted unanimously today to require cable, satellite and radio stations to upload their political files online. Cable systems with fewer than 1,000 subscribers are exempt from the rule. This is another victory for transparency, following a 2014 rule that required broadcast television stations to upload their records of political ad buys online.

These political files contain valuable information about the ads, such as how much they cost and when they ran. Having the political ad files online is important: In some cases they provide the only public information available on groups that are thinly disguised as nonprofit “social welfare” organizations but are, in fact, major campaign players.

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American Prospect: Political Money: New Best-Selling Book Genre?

Eliza Newlin Carney

Books about who pays for American elections rarely hit the bestseller lists, but a rash of new titles tackling the once-obscure topic of campaign financing signals that publishers now regard political money as popular fare.

Whether your cup of tea is juicy details about the billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch, like those New Yorker writer Jane Mayer dishes up in her 450-page narrative Dark Money, or rigorous legal analysis along the lines of what Richard L. Hasen delivers in Plutocrats United, the newly hot genre of political money has something to offer.

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Rolling Stone: Red Hot Chili Peppers Headlining Bernie Sanders Fundraiser Concert

Ryan Reed

Red Hot Chili Peppers will “Feel the Bern” by headlining a Los Angeles concert fundraiser for Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders. The rock veterans will perform February 5th at Theatre at Ace Hotel, Loudwire reports.

Tickets, ranging from $40 to $2,700, will go on sale day of show at 10 a.m. PST via AXS. Sanders – who proudly relies on grassroots fundraising and refuses campaign donations from Super PACs or corporations – has earned widespread support from the music community.

In September, all four Chili Peppers signed a letter of endorsement posted on the senator’s website. “Bernie Sanders is the only remotely reasonable candidate for President of the United States,” bassist Flea tweeted the previous month.

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Koch Brothers

Wall Street Journal: Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy 2.0

George Melloan

Ms. Mayer is highly selective about which super-wealthy dabblers in politics she wants to expel. Warren Buffett, whose $62 billion fortune ranks second only to that of Bill Gates ($76 billion), is not one of her targets. Rather she quotes him in support of her thesis, to the effect that the rich are winning the class war. Tom Steyer, the West Coast hedge-fund billionaire environmentalist, gets a bye as well. So does former Google CEO Eric Schmidt ($11 billion), a big campaign contributor to Barack Obama, and Steven Spielberg, who has generously shared from his $3 billion nest egg to aid the goals of Bill and Hillary Clinton. A host of think tanks and political websites depend on liberal deep pockets, but their donors do not figure in “Dark Money.” Politically active, left-of-center oligarchs are apparently wonderful people, not dangerous ones.

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Executive Action

American Prospect: McConnell Uses Misinformation to Protect Secret Political Donors

Miles Rapoport

The executive order that Obama is considering would lift the curtain on these secret political donations. The list of companies that have contracts with the federal government and so face a potential disclosure requirement include such major corporations as Walmart, Exxon Mobil, Chevron, General Motors, Google, Pfizer, and Citigroup…

McConnell has suggested the executive order would let Obama create an “enemies list” of contractors. He also charges that it would violate a ban on such a disclosure requirement that Congress tucked into a must-pass spending bill last year.

McConnell’s argument is nonsense and he knows it. The provisions he refers to do not stop the president from issuing the executive order. They provide only that political spending disclosure cannot be a requirement during the bidding or contracting process for federal contractors.

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Candidates and Campaigns

New Yorker: Why I Dropped Out

Lawrence Lessig

But my promise to resign was an albatross that would ultimately sink the campaign. It was mine. I invented it. It was a mistake. From the beginning, it bled attention away from the fundamental purpose of the campaign—to fix our democracy—at least in the most important context which I had to pitch the campaign, cable news. Cable has become the lifeblood of modern American politics, especially in the early stages of a campaign. It was the channel through which we needed to secure the one per cent to get into the debates. So the vast majority of my time was spent jockeying between cable news shows, pitching the reason for the campaign, and the reform it promised.

But cable news is carved into three- to seven-minute segments. And attention to my promise to resign was swallowing a huge proportion of that precious time. I had expected skepticism when I launched the campaign. But I hadn’t expected that the innovation of resignation would threaten the whole viability of the campaign. It did just that, however. My promise to resign gave people an excuse to ignore everything that we had achieved.

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Washington Post: Five myths Donald Trump tells about Donald Trump

Glenn Kessler

  1. “I’m self-funding my campaign.”

Trump keeps saying that unlike his rivals, he’s paying for his own presidential campaign, but that’s largely false.

At the start of his campaign, he loaned his political operation $1.8 million. As of Oct. 1, he had given his campaign an additional $104,829.27 — but he had also received $3.9 million from donors, which accounted for the vast majority of the $5.8 million his campaign had taken in by then. His campaign website features a prominent “donate” button on its homepage. Trump has spent $5.4 million, and interestingly, about one-quarter of his spending has gone to Trump-owned entities (mainly his private jet company).

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The States

Providence Journal: Corruption festers without disclosure

John Marion

Some politicians and groups are getting away with violating our most basic campaign finance laws, and no one is being held accountable. Arthur Norwalk (“How can councilman keep his post?,” Commentary, Jan. 15) did an excellent job explaining the travails of Providence City Councilman Kevin Jackson’s campaign finances:

How Jackson hasn’t regularly filled out the required reports of his donations and expenditures in years. How, in early 2014, Jackson’s case was referred to Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin by the Board of Elections for possible prosecution for filing false reports. Even how Jackson ran a successful reelection campaign in the fall of 2014 despite filing no campaign finance reports since 2013.

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Montana Free Press: Documents detail Right to Work’s involvement in Montana elections

John S. Adams

Tens of thousands of pages of emails obtained by Montana Commissioner of Political Practices Jonathan Motl show a link between top NRTWC officials and political campaign activities in Montana.

A former NRTWC employee said in a sworn affidavit filed in Helena District Court that NRTWC staff was relocated to Montana to work on the 2010 primary campaign and their work was overseen by the political director of the national organization, Dimitri Kesari. Emails provided to Motl show that National Right to Work executive director Jedd Coburn was in regular communication with the groups doing political work in Montana and provided text for candidates’ campaign materials.

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