Daily Media Links 3/15: The Path to Convention Chaos, How to Reverse Citizens United, and more…

In the News

Associated Press: Even As Political Spending Explodes, Disclosure Remains Hazy

Mary Spicuzza and Jeremy B. White

When Wisconsin lawmakers passed a measure that formalized the provisions of the state Supreme Court ruling that allowed coordination, they also ended the requirement that donors to candidates provide information about their employers.

Smith applauded Wisconsin’s new law, and said he hopes to see further limits to disclosure, such as raising the threshold for when donors need to be made public at all.

“People don’t really care about the associate who gives $500. They care about the millionaire,” he said. “At least we could raise the (disclosure) limit to $2,000.”

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WGRZ Albany: JCOPE looks forward to “day in court”

Joseph Spector

In response to the growing influence of the firms, JCOPE in January required the consultants to register as lobbyists and follow state disclosure rules if they reach out to a media outlet “in an attempt to get it to advance the client’s message in an editorial.”

David Keating, president of the Center for Competitive Politics, called JCOPE’s regulation “absurd, flagrantly unconstitutional, and a new low for one of the worst places in the country to express one’s opinion about government.”

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PR Week: What’s next in the legal fight between the PR industry and New York State

Jacqueline Renfrow

Lasky and the organizations involved believe what they see as a clear violation of their First Amendment rights favors the PR bodies’ cause and that the vagueness of the opinion makes it difficult for PR pros to adhere to the law.

“Supreme Court precedent requires that restrictions on speech of matters of public interest be required by a legitimate government interest and be narrowly tailored,” he says. “The plaintiffs in this lawsuit argue that [the opinion] doesn’t do either.”

The next 10 days will be critical. A compromise may be an option if New York State can clarify or amend the advisory opinion to narrow the scope of who is regulated. Yet Lasky says it’s too early to tell if that will be the case.

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Political Parties

More Soft Money Hard Law: The Brookings Report on the State Parties

Bob Bauer

On this point of regulatory malfunction, the report offers an interesting perspective on how the law’s effects might be measured, and it is a point of more general application.  Many prominent and informed observers take the view—and it is perhaps the dominant view– that the law does not work, the FEC does not enforce it, and the problem of money in politics has grown worse. Yet it can be true at the same time, as the Brookings report suggests, that the law still has bite.  The state parties report that the rules impose significant compliance burdens and costs and prevent them from conducting legitimate, desirable activities. In sum: the burden of compliance with little of substance to show for it: the worst of all worlds.

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Brookings: The state of state parties, a neglected path to healthier politics

Fred Dews

With approval ratings of Congress near an all-time low, dizzying chaos in presidential politics, and dysfunction in Washington, it’s tempting to conclude that stabilizing forces are nowhere to be found. However, Brookings Senior Fellow Jonathan Rauch and Raymond La Raja, a political scientist with the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, argue that strengthening state political parties will improve the functioning of the political system. On March 8, the Governance Studies program at Brookings held an event to highlight a recent paper on this topic from the Brookings Center for Effective Public Management by Rauch and La Raja titled, “The state of state parties—and how strengthening them can improve our politics.”

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Candidates and Campaigns

Politico: The Path to Convention Chaos

Benjamin Ginsberg

But if Trump doesn’t win both states, the GOP is likely to find itself in Cleveland with no candidate above the 1,237-delegate majority needed to claim the nomination. If that happens, the Republican Party’s own rules lock in a quagmire in Cleveland—and likely a multi-ballot, no-holds-barred convention.

The craziness will unfold in stages, with more delegates increasingly freeing up to vote for whomever they like as the process advances. All that puts a huge premium on an obscure and intricate competition happening right now in each state—the selection of the actual delegates. Any campaign not waging a major, if under-the-national-radar, effort to get its supporters elected as delegates will come up short in Cleveland.

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Bloomberg: Trump Gets Zero as Fed Employees Bestow More Money on Democrats

Christopher Condon

Richard Anderson, who donated $15,000 to Republican candidates while serving as chief operating officer at the Federal Reserve Board from April 2011 to November 2012, said he wasn’t surprised by the data favoring Democrats.

“I don’t think it’s just the Fed. Public-service employees are more likely to be Democratic than not, in my experience,” he said.

He said that political bias didn’t influence how people at the Fed did their jobs.

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Daily Caller: Kasich Super PAC Boasts Knocking Trump Ad Off Air In Ohio

Kerry Picket

Ohio TV stations across the state will not run Donald Trump campaign political ads that criticize Gov. John Kasich as a result of a technical election law violation in the ad, Kasich’s super PAC New Day for America claims…

The Federal Election Commission says that political ads must have a “clearly readable” written statement that appears at the end “for a period of at least four seconds” with a “reasonable degree of color contrast” between the background and the disclaimer statement.

The Kasich super PAC claims that Trump placed the disclaimer in different areas of his ads, “sometimes putting it at the beginning and other times at the end. The campaign has not had a problem with any of its ads until now.”

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CPI: Lobbyists’ preferred candidate in GOP presidential race — Marco Rubio

Michael Beckel

Why has Rubio been so successful winning K Street fans? Lobbyists often line up behind the party’s likely nominee, political observers say.

Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, said Bush and Rubio were seen “as good, even safe, bets — obvious targets for those who wanted to curry favor with those considered most likely to be the presidential nominee.”

With Bush now out of the race, many view Rubio as the establishment’s choice — although he’s still facing opposition on that front from Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

Meanwhile, Trump and Cruz, the two GOP contenders to have seen the least amount of support from the Republican establishment, continue to dominate at the polls.

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The States

The Atlantic: How to Reverse Citizens United

David Cole

As the gun-rights and marriage-equality campaigns demonstrate, movements begun in the states can, if they develop sufficient momentum, jump the track and influence federal constitutional law. The normative arguments for a right to same-sex marriage, for example, are largely the same whether one is arguing in a Massachusetts state court, on behalf of a ballot initiative in Maine, or before the U.S. Supreme Court. In this way, state-law developments can ease the way for a Supreme Court decision. The Court did not recognize the right of indigent criminal defendants to free legal representation until 35 states had provided such representation. And the Court did not strike down anti-miscegenation laws until interracial marriage had been legalized in 34 states.

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Sacramento Bee: ‘Dark money’ measure pulled by California campaign reform backers

Taryn Luna

Proponents suspended a campaign on Monday for a ballot measure to trace so-called “dark money” and tighten the rules on lobbying and campaign finance spending.

The Voters’ Right to Know Act sought to ban lobbyists and their clients from giving gifts to legislators and called for an overhaul of the state’s dated campaign finance and lobbying database, among other new rules.

Los Gatos software entrepreneur Jim Heerwagen, who led the campaign, said he ended the initiative because several bills moving through the Legislature, including one introduced Monday to overhaul Cal-Access, tackle some of the same issues.

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Albany Times Union: Still silent at the Capitol

Editorial Board

With two top leaders just convicted, lawmakers can’t ignore an inherently corrupt system. It’s been less than four months since former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and ex-Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos were convicted of all the corruption counts against them, but we’ve yet to see significant progress in the Legislature toward any kind of ethics reforms.

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Seattle Post-Intelligencer: Grocery group hid names of donors from public, court rules

Rita Robison

A judge ruled Friday that the Grocery Manufacturer’s Association violated Washington campaign finance disclosure laws by hiding the identities of corporate donors that were funding efforts to defeat a food labeling initiative in Washington.

“This landmark case has been a long fight for accountability,” Attorney General Bob Ferguson said. “This ruling sends an unequivocal message: Big money donors cannot evade Washington law and hide from public scrutiny.”

The case is about the association’s financing of a 2013 campaign against Initiative 522, which would have required the labeling of genetically engineered products. The association was the largest donor to the “No on 522” political committee.

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