Daily Media Links 3/17: An Assault on Free Press, Obama Chooses Merrick Garland for Supreme Court, and more…

In the News

National Constitution Center: The constitutional and political impact of Citizens United (podcast)

What is the state of elections and campaign finance, six years after the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission? In that case, the Court held that corporate funding of independent political communications in campaigns for public office cannot be limited under the First Amendment…

Joining We the People to explore the constitutional landscape after Citizens United and to assess the decision’s impact on the 2016 election are two leading experts on the front lines of the debate.

David Keating is President of the Center for Competitive Politics.

Paul Ryan is Deputy Executive Director of the Campaign Legal Center.

Listen…

JCOPE

Albany Times Union: An Assault on Free Press

Editorial Board

The commission reasons that trying to get the press to opine on legislation is a form of lobbying. By that logic, it might well argue that editorials themselves qualify as lobbying, and require newspapers to register with and report to the commission, too. But that would be a clear violation of the First Amendment’s protection of a free press…

The First Amendment’s protection of the free press serves a vital purpose: to insure there’s a watchdog over government. If JCOPE can’t understand this, the Legislature should make it clear the commission has no business watching its own watchdog. Taxpayers shouldn’t have to foot the bill for JCOPE to get a basic constitutional lesson.

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Supreme Court

New York Times: Obama Chooses Merrick Garland for Supreme Court

Michael Shear, Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Gardiner Harris

Obama’s choice of Judge Garland has the potential to reshape the balance of power on the court for two decades, providing another reliable vote for the court’s four-member liberal block. After the death last month of Mr. Scalia, the court is evenly divided and a new justice appointed by Mr. Obama could become the deciding vote on cases involving immigration, civil liberties, abortion, race, voting rights and the death penalty.

For Mr. Obama, the chance to pick a third justice for the nine-member court could also help protect his Oval Office legacy by ensuring the failure of a continued legal assault on the president’s health care law, immigration actions and climate rules after he leaves office.

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Reason: Merrick Garland on Citizens United, the First Amendment, and Campaign Finance Regulation

Damon Root

Notably, the D.C. Circuit rejected the FEC’s attempt to distinguish Citizens United, which struck down an expenditure limit, from the SpeechNow case, which dealt with a contribution limit. In other words, the D.C. Circuit had an opportunity to accept the federal government’s narrowing analysis of Citizens United and it rejected that narrowing analysis. Among the judges who joined the D.C. Circuit’s opinion in SpeechNow.org v. FEC was Merrick Garland, who is now President Obama’s nominee to replace Justice Antonin Scalia on the U.S. Supreme Court.

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SEC

Reuters: Democrats push SEC nominees on corporate political spending

Lisa Lambert

Democrats in the Senate made a concerted push on Tuesday during a confirmation hearing for nominees to the Securities and Exchange Commission to require corporations to disclose political contributions.

Senator Charles Schumer of New York threatened to vote against confirming the nominees, Lisa Fairfax and Hester Peirce, if they did not clearly state support for requiring corporations to make their political donations public.

“The SEC is certainly not responsible for patching that hole in our campaign finance system, but you can help prevent that hole from being ripped any wider,” Schumer said. “Shareholders remain in the dark as executives of public corporations funnel money into our political system with no transparency or accountability.”

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Citizens United

Reason: George Will: Brace Yourself for Donald Trump & the Authoritarian Moment

Todd Krainin, Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch

Will: What are the two decisions that we most enjoy in the 21st century so far from the Supreme Court? One that we hated the most was Kelo, wherein the court behaved the way conservatives have urged the court to behave, which is deferential to an elected body. In this case, it was the city government of New London, Connecticut when it stole the property of the people in that neighborhood. The good decision we like most is Citizens United, wherein the court overturned prior decisions and overturned certain clear principles enunciated by elected officials around the country by saying that when Americans band together in corporate form, they do not, for the purpose of advocacy, forfeit their First Amendment rights.

We need a more engaged judiciary. This is a rising intellectual force in this country with a libertarian purpose and with libertarian consequences.

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Independent Groups

Yahoo: Rich donors have blown $200 million on failed candidates so far

Rick Newman

Yet the return on investment for big donors is generally weak, and far below what many of them would tolerate in the businesses or other ventures they typically run.

A 2015 Yahoo Finance investigation, for instance, found that rich donors often back losing candidates because they line up behind ideologues they find common cause with, rather than more moderate politicians who appeal to a broader range of voters. There may also be diminishing returns on political ads, one of the main things super PACs finance. Ads tend to clog the airwaves in swing states that determine elections, and there’s probably a saturation point at which voters simply tune out ads and other information about candidates.

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Bloomberg: Soros, Alarmed by Trump, Pours Money into 2016 Race

Zachary Mider

Soros’s biggest contribution this year is a total of $7 million to Priorities USA, the main super-PAC supporting Clinton. Another $1 million went to American Bridge, an opposition-research group. And last week, he announced he was putting $5 million into a new super-PAC known as Immigrant Voters Win. The group is part of a coordinated $15 million voter-turnout effort, first reported in the New York Times, that is targeting Latinos and immigrants in Colorado, Nevada and Florida…

In an era of super-PACs, Soros’s giving doesn’t stand out like it used to. Thomas Steyer, the former San Francisco hedge-fund manager, spent more than $70 million in 2014, and the casino mogul Sheldon Adelson gave more than $90 million in 2012.

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Center for Public Integrity: Super PACs built a wall around Florida, and Trump destroyed it

John Dunbar and Cady Zuvich

A coalition of outside groups paid for more than 4,300 anti-Donald Trump ads during the week before Tuesday’s primary election in Florida — all to no avail as the real estate mogul sailed to an easy victory.

In winning, Trump, whose own campaign aired 1,801 ads in the Sunshine State, dealt a death blow to Sen. Marco Rubio’s presidential hopes, and in Rubio’s home state, no less. Rubio announced his exit from the race as Trump basked in victory.

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International Business Times: Marco Rubio Spent Big In Florida But Came Up Short; Sanders Outspent Clinton

Andrew Perez

Sen. Marco Rubio announced Tuesday night he would suspend his campaign, after he failed to win his home state of Florida. According to ad-spending data compiled by Morning Consult, a super PAC supporting Rubio’s presidential bid spent $8.4 million in the Sunshine State — a major sum even in a state that’s expensive to campaign in.

That spending was actually eclipsed by the $8.7 million spent by a constellation of outside groups opposing Donald Trump, who was Tuesday night’s big winner. Rubio and his allies spent an additional $3.1 million in Illinois and Missouri.

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