In the News
Lexology: State disclosure laws suffer a setback
Jeremy Berry, Stefan Passantino, Craig Johnson, et. al
The constitutionality of this disclosure provision was challenged in 2015 by the Center for Competitive Politics (“CCP”), a 501(c)(3) charity, for violating CCP’s “right of free association guaranteed by the First Amendment.” In its rejection of CCP’s challenge, the Ninth Circuit held that the law did not violate the organization’s First Amendment rights because the disclosure burdens placed on CCP were minor as compared to the conceivable efficiency benefits the Attorney General’s office might reap when reviewing nonprofit financial information for suspicious activity. The Ninth Circuit did, however, leave open the possibility that a party could challenge the law’s application in an “as applied” setting.
In Americans for Prosperity Foundation v. Harris, AFPF did exactly that…
National Review: Should We Arrest Louis C. K.?
Campaign-finance law, at the federal and state level, recognizes in-kind contributions as a form of campaign donation. So, for instance, if I donate $100 worth of business services to Candidate X, I’ve given him a $100 donation. If I donate $2,000 worth of pizza to a phone-banking party for Candidate X, I’ve made a $2,000 contribution, generally treated the same as if I’d written him a check.
It is impossible to see how Louis C. K.’s donating his only major asset — his celebrity — to the cause of Bill de Blasio is anything other than an in-kind contribution. And, given that Louis C. K.’s ordinary rate (between $500,000 and $1 million minimum for U.S. appearances) far exceeds the legal limit on contributions to mayoral campaigns, it is difficult to see why this should be legal while other in-kind contributions valued at the same level are forbidden. Why should $1 million worth of photocopying be verboten while $1 million worth of high-value celebrity fund-raising is hunky-dory?
Amending the First Amendment
Cato Institute: Pot, Federalism, and Political Speech
Representative John Yarmuth (D-KY) discusses possible changes to how the feds treat cannabis and elucidates his proposed amendment to alter the First Amendment’s protections for political speech.
Yarmuth: That is the role for Congress. If you eliminate the First Amendment protections for political advertising of any kind, then you allow Congress the flexibility to come in and say, as we do in many instances, … you can continue to spend as much as you want to advocate a position on an issue, to educate as it were.
Effects of Campaign Spending
Washington Post: This man just spent a record $12 million of his own money on a House seat – and lost
Enter David Trone, a wine magnate with shops in 21 states. The first-time congressional candidate has spent $12.4 million of his own money to try to win Tuesday’s nine-person Democratic primary for an open congressional seat in Maryland.
That’s a huge, almost unheard-of sum for a primary. No other House candidate has spent more than $10 million of his or her own money, and very few have even come close. Trone’s spending, in fact, averages out to $49.55 per registered Democratic voter in the suburban Washington, D.C., district he’s trying to represent, according to 2014 voter data…
Trone lost to state Sen. Jamie Raskin on Tuesday, 34-27, becoming the latest massive self-funder to come up short. Kathleen Matthews finished third.
Mother Jones: This Guy Had the Worst Idea for How to Spend $13 Million
The irony is that Trone was running as a campaign finance crusader. Much like Donald Trump, who cites his $35 million investment in his campaign as proof he can’t be bought, Trone believed his enormous personal wealth would insulate him from charges of corruption. “I certainly could have raised enough money to fund a competitive campaign,” he said in a full-page Washington Post ad…
That message carried him to the brink of success—or maybe it was just the deluge ads—but in the end, money alone didn’t cut it. Trone won by large margins in the two counties that comprise a smaller portion of the district, but Raskin held a sizable edge in his home county, Montgomery. Trone’s final receipt: a little more than $400 per vote.
USA Today: High court appears likely to ease public corruption rules in McDonnell case
While none of the justices defended McDonnell’s acceptance of expensive gifts, most had doubts about whether his actions in return constituted “official acts.” They also worried that upholding his conviction could endanger public officials who do favors for constituents while accepting campaign contributions, expensive lunches with wine, or a day’s trout fishing excursion.
In the federal indictment, Justice Elena Kagan said, “the party becomes an ‘official act’ or calling somebody just to talk about the product becomes an ‘official act’ … I’m troubled by these particular charges and (jury) instructions, which seems to make every piece of evidence that you had an ‘official act.'”
Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy also seemed sympathetic of public officials who might cross the line between legal and illegal without knowing it. “The government has given us no workable standard,” Kennedy said.
Huffington Post: Koch Brothers Back New Effort To Make It Harder To Track Dark Money
Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) is expected to introduce a bill in the Ways & Means Committee that would eliminate the requirement for nonprofits to make a non-public disclosure of their donors to the IRS when they file their annual tax forms. The donor disclosures — known as the Schedule B report — are not released to the public, but the list of donation amounts with the donor names redacted are released…
“This bill is an important first step toward reaffirming Americans’ right to free speech while protecting them from threats and intimidation because of their personal beliefs,” Mark Holden, Freedom Partners chairman and lead lobbyist for Koch Industries, said in a statement.
Washington Post: Inside Republicans’ backup plan to punish the IRS chief
Lisa Rein and Mike DeBonis
Chaffetz says Koskinen should be impeached for violating the public trust and lying to Congress as it investigated the IRS’s singling out of conservative groups for scrutiny. The congressman has accused the commissioner of erasing back-up computer files containing thousands of e-mails written by Lois Lerner, the central IRS official in the scandal. Koskinen has told lawmakers his staff turned over all e-mails that were relevant to the investigation, and when some were found to be missing, said they were unrecoverable…
A censure resolution, rare in Congress’s modern history and far more common against lawmakers than government officials, would be a formal rebuke that states the House’s lack of confidence in Koskinen and calls on President Obama to fire him.
Reuters: In the battle for Hollywood endorsements – and cash – Clinton rules
Lisa Richwine and Grant Smith
But in famously liberal Hollywood, long used as an ATM by Democratic campaigns, Sanders’ message is not resonating as loudly as in other progressive bastions. The more moderate Hillary Clinton has far outpaced the Vermont senator in fundraising and has a deep line-up of A-list stars and top executives among her backers.
Celebrities don’t sway votes, but they can persuade people to listen to a candidate’s message, said historian Steven Ross, author of “Hollywood Left and Right: How Movie Stars Shaped American Politics.”
“It puts a candidate on their radar,” he said.
Clinton’s support in Hollywood can be traced back to strong ties her husband built during his first presidential campaign in 1992, said Donna Bojarsky, a Democratic public policy consultant who worked as national entertainment coordinator for Bill Clinton’s campaign.
WABI Bangor: LePage Vetoes Proposed Fix To Maine Clean Election Fund
The fund makes public money available to qualifying candidates. The legislature approved an act earlier this month that advances $500,000 to the fund in August.
Supporters of the act say it would provide the minimal level of funding needed to support candidates who are already running as “clean election” candidates for the upcoming election cycle.
LePage disagrees. The Republican governor says the clean election fund is perpetually underfunded because resources for election cycles are spent during the previous cycle. He says the bill would exacerbate the problem by a half million dollars.
KTAR Phoenix: New clean elections proposal draws opposition from Arizona officials
The Arizona Clean and Accountable Elections Act would limit the amount an individual or political action committee could contribute to $1,000 per local or legislative candidate or $2,500 per statewide candidates.
It would also require corporations spending more than $10,000 in an election to disclose high dollar donors.
“We should have an elections regime in Arizona that encourages participation (in elections) and doesn’t discourage it,” said Garrick Taylor, spokesman for the Arizona Chamber of Commerce.
New York Daily News: Mayor de Blasio’s political allies hit with subpoenas in fund-raising probe
Jennifer Fermino, Reuven Blau, and Denis Slattery
The subpoenas are seeking documents related to a questionable, and ultimately unsuccessful, fund-raising venture the mayor undertook in 2014 to sway upstate senate races in favor of Democrats.
A spokeswoman for the mayor would not address the subpoenas.
“We are not commenting on the details of the investigations,” de Blasio’s press secretary Karen Hinton told The News. “All involved followed the letter of the law and are cooperating fully with the investigations.”
Jackson Free Press: The Curious Case of What the #MSLeg Passed, What It Didn’t
Sen. Sally Doty, R-Brookhaven, worked on the bill throughout the session and helped with the conference report. She said that while she was disappointed that the bill did not pass, that another year would give those who worked on the bill more time to make members of both chambers more comfortable with the changes.
“We’re going to have to address campaign-finance reform in Mississippi, if not this year, then next year or the year after,” Doty told the Jackson Free Press.
Florence Times Daily: ‘Dark money’ tracking bill dies in Senate
It also says “the State of Alabama shall regulate the disclosure, raising, and spending of money to influence elections and governmental actions. The Legislature shall implement and enforce these interests by appropriate legislation.”
The bill was up for a vote Tuesday in the Senate — the last day to pass legislation from that chamber without unanimous consent. But a vote was delayed and the bill carried over when Sen. Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, expressed concerns about what he said was a potential threat to voting rights.