Daily Media Links 3/28: Marco Rubio’s secret (money) legacy, After Citizens United Got Halfway There, This Lawsuit Aims To Finish The Job, and more…

Independent Groups

Politico: Marco Rubio’s secret (money) legacy

Shane Goldmacher

Marco Rubio’s campaign is dead. His secret-money legacy lives on.

Nobody knows who funded the nonprofit group that spent more than $10 million on TV ads boosting Rubio, and untold more on mailers and research. And, unless those donors out themselves, nobody ever will.

No presidential candidate fighting for their party’s nomination has ever benefited from as much undisclosed cash, and watchdogs worry the pro-Rubio group’s unchecked activity serves as a dangerous precedent that will soon become common practice.

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Morning Consult: Inside the GOP’s Effort to Consolidate the Super PAC Universe

Reid Wilson

There is little tension today among Senate Republicans, many of whom have come to accept the current structure — one “mothership,” as several strategists referred to Law’s group, surrounded by smaller orbiting groups. Senators want the Senate Leadership Fund and One Nation to succeed, those strategists said, but at the same time, they want a backup plan.

“Entreprenurialism and individualism are values on our side,” said another aide to a Republican seeking re-election this year. “There are some donors who will only give to super PACs that are dedicated to one candidate. Not all donors are that way. Other donors want to be in a herd.”

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New Republic: Can Democratic Attack Ads Tear Down Donald Trump?

Laura Reston

Republican groups in the #NeverTrump camp have thrown everything but the kitchen sink at the real estate mogul in the last two months—mafia connections, failed business ventures, flagrant misogyny, racism, you name it. But Trump has continued to rack up delegates and now looks likely to secure the GOP nomination before the convention in July. This has generated some alarm in Democratic quarters: What if Donald Trump is this resilient in the general election?

You’ll find no such pessimism around the Washington, D.C., headquarters of Priorities USA Action. The wealthiest Democratic super PAC bent on taking down Trump in the general election is the same one that successfully portrayed Mitt Romney as a heartless corporate titan in 2012.

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The Courts

International Business Times: After Citizens United Got Halfway There, This Lawsuit Aims To Finish The Job

Ned Resnikoff

A case now working its way through federal court has the potential to fully dismantle the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law of 2002, finishing the job the Supreme Court started when its 2010 Citizens United decision loosed a tidal wave of outside money on the American electoral system.

That case, Republican Party of Louisiana v. FEC, is currently before the District Court for the District of Columbia, but it could be on its way up to the Supreme Court. On Friday, three campaign reform groups filed a joint amicus brief warning of “extraordinarily far-reaching negative consequences” if the district court rules in favor of the plaintiffs…

In Republican Party of Louisiana v. FEC, the plaintiffs argue for “a First Amendment right of political parties to spend unlimited sums on behalf of their candidates,” Richard Hasen, an expert in election law at the University of California Irvine school of law, told International Business Times.

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Free Speech

Wall Street Journal: Punishing Climate-Change Skeptics

David B. Rivkin, Jr. and Andrew M. Grossman

The Climate Inquisition began with Michael Mann’s 2012 lawsuit against critics of his “hockey stick” research—a holy text to climate alarmists. The suggestion that Prof. Mann’s famous diagram showing rapid recent warming was an artifact of his statistical methods, rather than an accurate representation of historical reality, was too much for the Penn State climatologist and his acolytes to bear.

Among their targets (and our client in his lawsuit) was the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a think tank prominent for its skeptical viewpoint in climate-policy debates. Mr. Mann’s lawsuit seeks to put it, along with National Review magazine, out of business. Four years on, the courts are still pondering the First Amendment values at stake. In the meantime, the lawsuit has had its intended effect, fostering legal uncertainty that chills speech challenging the “consensus” view.

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Presidential Race

Los Angeles Times: 3 ways the unpredictable GOP presidential race could shake out

Mark Z. Barabak

The first, and most likely, is that Donald Trump wins the delegates he needs to mathematically clinch the GOP nomination ahead of the party’s national convention this summer.

The second, testing Trump’s much-vaunted deal-making skills, has the businessman and reality TV star coming up just shy but bargaining his way to the 1,237 delegates he needs to take the nomination.

The third scenario, and the hope of rivals Ted Cruz and John Kasich and other forces arrayed against Trump, is forcing an open convention that picks the nominee on the floor of the convention in downtown Cleveland…

Trump has won 48% of the delegates awarded so far and needs to win just over half, 54%, of those remaining to reach 1,237, according to tracking by the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.

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The Media

Independent Voter Network: Why Are We Letting the Media Pick our Leaders?

Steven Moore

The media has covered Trump six times as much as his nearest Republican rival. MediaQuant, a company that quantifies media coverage, estimates in a New York Times article that if Trump’s coverage were TV commercials, it would be the equivalent of about $2 billion in ads. For perspective, John McCain spent about $400 million in ads in the entire 2008 campaign.

Ted Cruz comes in a distant second with $313 million.

On the Democrat side, Hillary Clinton has received the equivalent of about $750 million in media coverage, more than twice that of Bernie Sanders, who had $321 million in media coverage. Sanders still had more than any Republican save Trump…

So when TV news stations collectively cover one candidate six times more than his nearest rival, they have a massive influence on the electorate. TV coverage dwarfs even the much-feared super PAC spending. For all the outrage about the Citizens United ruling, the impact of super PACs is barely noticeable in 2016. All super PAC spending for and against all candidates combined in the 2016 Presidential election to date only amounts to around $262 million, about 14% of Donald Trump’s coverage.

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Candidates and Campaigns

Vox: What Donald Trump gets wrong about money in politics

Jeff Stein

But according to several campaign finance experts I interviewed for this story, Trump’s analysis doesn’t account for money’s true impact on our politics. The real problem with our campaign finance system, they say, is not that it creates a quid pro quo in which donors are transactionally rewarded for their gifts, but that it elevates the priorities of the wealthy across the board.

“The influence is not nearly as crude as he puts it,” says Richard Skinner, a policy analyst at the Sunlight Foundation, which tracks money in politics. “It is certainly accurate to say that these large donors are going to get better access to have their voices heard, but I think people give predominantly because they share the views of the candidates or are strong supporters of the party.”

Trump seems to imagine a direct line of influence from lobbyist to politician. But the real problem is a lot more complicated — and requires a different solution than the one he advances.

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Jezebel: Bernie Sanders Calls George Clooney’s Clinton Fundraiser ‘Obscene’

Rachel Vorona Cote

Sanders professes to be a fan of Clooney’s acting, but he’s vehemently opposed to lavish fundraising events like these. And he assigns the brunt of the blame to Clinton.

“It is obscene that Secretary Clinton keeps going to big-money people to fund her campaign,” Sanders argues in his interview. “I have a lot of respect for George Clooney. He’s a great actor. I like him…But this is the problem with American politics…Big money is dominating our political system. And [my supporters and I] are trying to move as far away from that as we can.”

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Washington Free Beacon: Trump Campaign Doles Out $300K in Insurance to Major Backer’s Firm

Joe Schoffstall

Newman, a Manhattan insurance executive and prominent New York City fundraiser, was the first person to donate to Trump’s campaign, which formally launched on June 16, 2015. Her $2,700 donation, the maximum amount, is dated June 1, 2015—more than two weeks before the campaign had formally launched.

In addition to providing a maximum donation to Trump’s campaign, Newman gave tens of thousands to a pro-Trump Super PAC one month after his campaign kicked off.

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The States

Associated Press: Corruption trial against Montana legislator gets underway

Matt Volz

The civil trial of state Rep. Art Wittich will have implications beyond whether the Bozeman Republican is removed from office if the jury finds he coordinated with the groups in violation of state campaign finance laws. It could set a precedent for other open cases connected to a Montana campaign regulator’s theory that the National Right to Work Committee and its affiliates illegally traded a slate of campaign services for the loyalty of 14 hand-picked Republican legislative candidates in 2010 and 2012.

The case’s outcome also will influence a constitutional challenge of Montana’s campaign contribution limits, one of the first lawsuits in the nation seeking to strike down state caps since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling in 2010 that allowed unlimited independent corporate spending in elections.

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Wall Street Journal: New York State Budget Set to Omit Tighter Rules on Ethics

Erica Orden and Mike Vilensky

The primary purpose of the budget, of course, is to be a state spending plan. But it frequently includes other policy measures, and as Mr. Cuomo himself has stressed, it is the point of maximum leverage for the governor and legislative leaders.

Around Albany, it comes as a surprise to few that the budget won’t include changes to outside-income rules, campaign-finance provisions allowing limited-liability companies to contribute enormous political sums, or the fact that public officials convicted of crimes can continue to collect their pensions.

Mr. Cuomo has done little to advance these proposals or any other ethics measures. Since his January State of the State address, he has said nothing publicly about ethics unless prompted by a reporter’s question on the subject.

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Arkansas Business: Arkansas Races Prompt Look at Reforms

Andrew DeMillo

The Senate Judiciary Committee’s meeting this week will be the first test on whether there’s a path forward for either of the proposed changes this year. It’s expected to feature two sitting justices, including one whose bid to lead the court was derailed by the influx of outside spending.

“We’re doing it now primarily because I think there’s momentum to do it,” said Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson, a Republican who chairs the panel. “Regardless of who people were pulling for in the last election I don’t think anybody liked the millions of dollars in dark money coming in.”

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New York Post: Former mayoral candidate suing to get his own money back

Kathianne Boniello

A mayoral candidate smacked with a $10,000 fine for using his own money to keep his campaign afloat is suing to recoup the cash, calling the penalty “shocking.”

Sal Albanese spent 16 years as a city councilman and originally sponsored the campaign-finance law he was accused of violating in 2013, when he bowed out of the mayoral race after a lackluster campaign.

He kicked off his mayoral bid by loaning his campaign $100,000 of his own dough, intending to pay the money back once he qualified for public matching funds.

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Vermont Press Bureau: Senate approves changes to the state’s public campaign financing law

Josh O’Gorman

The Senate has given its approval to a bill intended to make publicly financed political campaigns more viable.

By a vote of 19 to 6, Senate lawmakers Friday approved S.220, a bill that moves up the date a candidate seeking public financing can start a campaign, which supporters say will allow these candidates to better compete with those who are privately financed.

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