Daily Media Links 5/23: Scam PACs drawing FEC attention, Nasty Politics, New FEC Rule Resolves Debate Over One Word, and more…

In the News

Atlantic: If Citizens United Falls, Will Progressives Notice?

Bradley A. Smith

All of this begs a final question: If Citizens United, Speechnow.org, and even Buckley were swept away, how happy would progressives be? In the last campaign-finance case before Buckley, United States v. United Auto Workers (1957), it was the Court’s liberals—Justices William O. Douglas, Earl Warren, and Hugo Black—who argued that regulation was unconstitutional, writing, “It is … important—vitally important—that all channels of communication be open to [the people] during every election, that no point of view be restrained or barred.”

Many Republicans would love to see more restrictions on political activity by unions and progressive advocacy groups. Congress is unlikely to pass any new campaign-finance laws so long as Republicans retain control either house of Congress. But Republicans control a substantial majority of state legislatures, and that is likely to continue even if Democrats score a big presidential win in 2016…

These conservative legislatures are not likely to pass laws limiting political players and activities favoring conservatives; they are more likely to pass laws limiting progressive political influence. Progressives might not like the campaign-finance legislation those legislatures, given new latitude to regulate in a post-Citizens United, post-Buckley world, would produce.

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Bozeman Daily Chronicle: Conservative anti-regulation activist says Montana AG “can relax”

Troy Carter

David Keating, president of the anti-campaign finance regulation Center for Competitive Politics in Alexandria, Virginia, wrote the Chronicle to say:

“I wanted to be sure you knew that no limits on parties is close to the norm in the states.  By our count (not including Montana) 23 states have no limits on how much parties can support their candidates.  Two more states have limits in the millions for statewide races.”

The comment comes in response to a Chronicle report on Montana’s Attorney General Tim Fox’s request to a federal judge last week for a partial stay on the judge’s own ruling that Montana’s 1994 campaign contribution caps are unconstitutional.

“So AG Fox can relax,” Keating said. “In America, parties are usually allowed to support their candidates. Montana campaigns will freer if the ruling is allowed to stand.”

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Albany Times Union: JCOPE will spend up to $300K to defend its new reporting requirement

Rick Karlin

The state Joint Commission on Public Ethics is poised to spend up to $300,000 a year for its legal defense of a regulatory change that requires public relations professionals to document their outreach to editorial boards and report it to the state.

After JCOPE’s advisory opinion on the topic was issued in January, a number of public relations firms banded together to file suit in federal court. They contend the reporting requirement violates their First Amendment rights of free speech.

The state ethics watchdog panel has countered that trying to shape public opinion and being paid for it constitutes lobbying and should be subject to the same sort of disclosure requirements as more conventional forms of lobbying.

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Freedom and Equality vs. Cliches in the Fresno Bee

Brad Smith

And what of this idea: “The cornerstone of republican government is one-person, one-vote, where everyone has equal power in the political process”? Where did that come from? Notice how easily he slides from equal “voting” to “speaking” and to the idea of equal influence. Of course we have equal votes. But we don’t have equal opportunities to speak, or equal influence. We never have. Do you feel you have the power of the editors of The Fresno Bee? When was the last time you were offered op-ed space in the paper, like Prof. Holyoke? If everyone should have equal “political voice,” how does Prof. Holyoke justify those vaunted “civic speakers” and their “socially useful” comments? Don’t they have more “voice” than others? Might not their words influence how people think about life, about public affairs, about issues, and about who should hold office?

As citizens, we have equal votes. We all, as equals, have a right to privacy, and an equal right to hear the opinions of others. We have equally a right to use our talents and abilities to try to influence for the better the world we live in. That’s what Prof. Holyoke is trying to do. He’s just trying to do it by denying those same liberties to others.

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Independent Groups

CRP: Scam PACs drawing FEC attention

Will Tucker

The Federal Election Commission is raising questions about reports filed by the biggest super PAC associated with Scott B. Mackenzie, who’s listed as the treasurer of more than two dozen PACs. As OpenSecrets Blog has reported previously, much of the money raised by Mackenzie’s PACs goes to vendors with ties to him…

The FEC noted that Freedom’s Defense Fund failed to properly disclose nearly $300,000 in independent expenditures against Hillary Clinton in the first quarter of 2016.

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Political Speech

Reason: Nasty Politics

John Stossel

One hundred sixty-eight years later, when Barry Goldwater ran against Lyndon Johnson, Johnson supporters claimed Goldwater was a John Birch Society member and a schizophrenic. A magazine called Fact got a thousand psychiatrists to sign a statement that said Goldwater was insane. None of it was true, and Goldwater later won a defamation suit against Fact. But by then, the election was over.

Despite such deceit, we’re probably better off with negative ads…

The beauty of negative ads is that the accusations at least purport to be facts. Vanderbilt University political scientist John Geer found that three-quarters of negative political ads from 1960 to 2004 attacked real statements of policy from the opposing candidate. Such policy statements can be checked.

Even if those statements turn out to be based on lies, those lies force the other side to reply with facts. Voters actually learn something. And usually, eventually, the truth comes out.

So two cheers for negative ads—something good comes from nasty.

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Bloomberg BNA: New FEC Rule Resolves Debate Over One Word

Kenneth P. Doyle

The 6-0 vote by the FEC commissioners followed a compromise resolving the thorny dispute about whether to change a reporting requirement to cover “a calendar year,” rather than “the calendar year.”

The disagreement centered on whether to clarify current requirements for reporting “independent expenditures” in campaigns, including spending on ads that support or oppose candidates. Special reporting requirements take effect when expenditures by a single spender aggregate to $10,000 or more in a year.

The compromise provision adopted during an open FEC meeting May 19 makes it clear that the reporting requirement applies in “any calendar year.”

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Washington Examiner: Ben and Jerry’s calls on consumers to combat male oppression with ice cream

Rudy Takala

Using the voice of Federal Election Commissioner Ellen Weintraub, the video tells viewers that old men are simply donating too much money to political candidates.

“Who are these big donors? They are overwhelmingly white, rich, older and male. They do not reflect the diversity of this beautiful country,” Weintraub can be heard shouting at a rally around the 50-second mark.

Weintraub delivered the speech at a rally called “Democracy Awakening” in Washington, D.C., in April. Organizers of the event, which called for more federal campaign finance restrictions, called on participants to protest on a prohibited area of the Capitol grounds, and to “possibly [bring] money for a post and forfeit fine” to cover the cost of arrest.

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“Dark Money”

Election Law Blog: Not Sure NYT OpEd Correction on Corporate Spending is Correct

Rick Hasen

The oped now posts this correction:

Correction: May 18, 2016

An Op-Ed article on May 10 about the regulation of “dark money” in political campaigns misstated the nature of two-thirds of anonymous, third-party spending during this election cycle. It is political advertising spending, not overall spending.

There’s no citation supporting this statistic and I don’t think this is correct either. Note the article refers to anonymous corporate donations. I’d love to see the evidence behind this claim.

Update: Robert Mcguire says that this is still almost certainly wrong.

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The Media

Washington Post: Univision draws 100,000 to voter registration drives in move to increase its political clout

Catherine Ho

The network has since rolled out an aggressive public service and advertising campaign, in English and Spanish, on its 126 television and radio stations across the United States and social media platforms. And it is partnering with several Latino civil rights, political and advocacy groups to host town halls, staff community call centers, and launch a new texting tool that about 130,000 people from all 50 states have subscribed to.

So far, the push has drawn nearly 106,000 people to 145 citizenship workshops, forums, voter registration drives and other community events across the United States.

The initiative appears to be an unusual move for a media company. But Univision hasn’t been shy about pushing back against presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, dropping the businessman’s Miss Universe and Miss USA pageants from the air after Trump insulted Mexican immigrants by saying those crossing the border into the United States are rapists and drug dealers.

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Candidates and Campaigns

Washington Post: Clinton campaign’s money machine dominates Trump and Sanders in latest FEC reports

Tom Hamburger and Anu Narayanswamy

Filings for the month of April show that Clinton and her remaining competitor for the Democratic Party nomination, Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.), raised about the same amount of money, each reporting receipts topping $26 million. But Sanders was spending money at a far greater rate and had just $5.8 million on hand at the end of the month, compared with Clinton’s reported cash on hand of $30 million.

Meanwhile, the reports laid bare the challenge facing Donald Trump, who is now focused on the general election. Clinton has far outpaced Trump in spending to build a campaign infrastructure and in building financial reserves for the long race to Election Day in November.

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ABC News: Trump’s Campaign Investment Tops $43 Million

Chad Day and Julie Bykowicz, Associated Press

While much of Trump’s money has come from his own pocket, he reported about $1.7 million in donations last month. Those contributions have come largely from people buying Trump’s campaign merchandise, including the red “Make America Great Again” ball caps, and giving online through his campaign website. Trump didn’t begin developing a team of fundraisers until recently, after he became the presumptive GOP nominee.

Almost all of Trump’s personal investment has come in the form of loans. That leaves open the possibility that he can repay himself now that he’s aggressively seeking donations.

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Wall Street Journal: Lobbyists Regain Their Influence on the Campaign Trail

Byron Tau

Lobbyists and ex-lobbyists are donating money, serving as fundraisers and playing key roles in the political operations of campaigns in both parties.

Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton has about a dozen heavyweight lobbyists helping her raise money, while her rival Bernie Sanders has taken donations from registered lobbyists working for industry groups. Presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump has brought onboard a handful of veterans of the advocacy class as he builds out a campaign operation for the general election.

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The States

Arkansas Business: Arkansas court rejects lawsuit over campaign finance measure

Andrew DeMillo, Associated Press

Justices on Thursday dismissed the lawsuit Little Rock lawyer David Couch filed against Attorney General Leslie Rutledge over his proposed constitutional amendment. Couch had asked the court to order Rutledge to approve the wording of his measure or to substitute new language to address her concerns.

Couch’s lawsuit claimed the attorney general isn’t following the law while Rutledge argued that Couch is misreading the state law on initiatives.

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Miami Herald: County commissioners endorse campaign reform. After grumbling.

Douglas Hanks

“I’m going to support this only because I don’t want it out there that I’m voting against it,” Commissioner Audrey Edmonson said Tuesday before casting her support for a long-delayed — and watered-down — ordinance requiring disclosure of ties to political committees. “This is a gotcha situation.”

The new legislation, sponsored by rookie commissioner Daniella Levine Cava, goes into effect next year and requires all candidates for local offices in Miami-Dade to register when they raise money for political action committees. The new county rules track regulations already in place for state officials.

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KRTV Great Falls: Motl takes action against Montana Growth Network

Mike Dennison

Montana’s top political cop has gone to court to pursue complaints against several alleged campaign-law violators, including the Montana Growth Network, which is accused of failing to report $600,000 it spent in 2012 to help elect Supreme Court Justice Laurie McKinnon.

Motl told MTN News he filed the eight cases in state District Court the past week or so to meet a deadline, and hopes to settle most of the cases.

However, Motl said perhaps the most significant case will be filed next week against the National Right to Work Committee – which he expects will fight the allegations rather than negotiate a settlement.

Right to Work, an anti-union group, is accused by Motl of not properly reporting its efforts to support or oppose Montana candidates in the 2012 elections.

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