Daily Media Links 6/30: New Documents Suggest IRS’s Lerner Likely Broke the Law, FEC Democrats voted to punish Fox News over debate changes, and more…

In the News

New York Daily News: New York vs. the First Amendment: New ‘campaign finance’ legislation is an assault on political speech rights

David Keating

Once again, the fix is in from Albany. On June 18 at 1:45 a.m., politicians introduced a bill to regulate your speech. It passed both houses of the Legislature by 5 a.m. There were no hearings and no input from the public. There was no recorded floor vote in the Senate or the Assembly.

When Albany politicians pass a bill in the dead of night, you know they’re up to no good. Especially when they explain their actions with phony rhetoric about ethics.

Albany’s latest “campaign finance” bill, which Gov. Cuomo touts as the “nation’s strongest protections to combat Citizens United,” is in fact a blatant attack on your rights. Its 62 pages are chock-full of complex provisions, obscure speech traps and legal complexities.

If this becomes law, which looks sure to happen, you’d be a fool to say anything about a politician — especially in a campaign season, when that speech is most pertinent — without first consulting a lawyer. That’s not the American way, but it’s happening in New York.

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National Review: New Documents Suggest IRS’s Lerner Likely Broke the Law

Eliana Johnson

It is likely the largest unauthorized disclosure of tax-return information in history: the transfer of some 1.25 million pages of confidential tax returns from the IRS to the Department of Justice in October of 2010. And it was almost certainly illegal.

The documents, which consisted chiefly of non-profit tax returns, were transferred to the DOJ’s criminal division from the IRS at the request of Lois Lerner, who wanted to get the information to the DOJ in advance of a meeting where she and several of the attorneys in the public integrity section of the department’s criminal division discussed their concerns about the increasing political activity of non-profit groups.

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Fox News: FEC Democrats voted to punish Fox News over debate changes

Judson Berger

Democratic members of the Federal Election Commission, in a decision to be made public on Thursday, voted last month to punish Fox News over criteria changes for the network’s first Republican presidential primary debate – but were blocked by Republican commissioners.

Commissioner Lee Goodman, one of those who voted to block the move, confirmed the details of the vote to FoxNews.com.

He called the attempt to punish Fox News over the debate changes “astonishing” and described it as a move toward censorship.

“All press organizations should be concerned when the government asserts regulatory authority to punish and censor news coverage,” Goodman said in a statement.

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Independent Groups

CPI: Bernie Sanders scourge out of jail, back in super PAC business

Michael Beckel

The alleged fraudster behind a purportedly pro-Bernie Sanders super PAC that seemingly scammed “James Bond” actor Daniel Craig is out of jail and back in the political fundraising game…

Federal authorities released Peterson into the custody of his mother, who lives in Arizona. Court records show Peterson is currently subject to electronic monitoring and a daily curfew. Furthermore, Peterson was required to forfeit his passport — he regularly traveled abroad — and to resolve other, unrelated warrants for his arrest.

But Peterson first had other business. Within days of his release, he registered two new political groups with the Federal Election Commission: a political action committee called the Alliance Against Disabled Inmate Abuse and a super PAC called Democrats Socially United, which is backing Democrat Hillary Clinton, according to its nascent website, Democrats-United.org.

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Supreme Court

New York Times: A Narrow Ruling on Public Corruption

Editorial Board

On Monday, however, the Supreme Court voted unanimously to overturn Mr. McDonnell’s conviction largely because the instructions to the jury in Mr. McDonnell’s trial had been far too vague.

Many people are concerned that the decision will be broadly interpreted to make future prosecutions of crooked politicians harder. But the court’s analysis was specific to the facts of this case. Indeed, the justices sent the suit back to the lower court, allowing for the possibility that Mr. McDonnell could be retried using clearer jury instructions.

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Free Speech

Fox News: Dana Perino talks with ‘Intimidation Game’ author Kimberley Strassel

Dana Perino

DANA PERINO: This book gives a shocking depiction of how the Left has been executing a coordinated campaign to bully certain Americans in the form of free speech. Is this something you’d been witnessing over your time as a journalist? What drove you to write this book?

KIMBERLEY STRASSEL: I write a weekly column for the Wall Street Journal, and from the moment I began covering the Obama administration I was struck by its bare-knuckle approach to politics.

When President Obama encountered pushback or resistance to his policy proposals, his response was to call out and demean his critics by name, or try to isolate them from the debate. This approach escalated as he was in office, and it helped inspire the IRS targeting scandal, attacks on conservative campaign donors, and assaults on companies that exercised their right to participate in politics.

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Dangers of Disclosure

Fusion: Facebook is using your phone’s location to suggest new friends—which could be a privacy disaster

Kashmir Hill

But there are plenty of scenarios in which Facebook casually connecting you with people because your phones were in the same place at the same time could end disastrously. Imagine going to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, and then getting “Friend” suggestions the next day for members of the group along with their full names and profile information. Or getting hit on at the bar by a guy that gives you the creeps, giving him the cold shoulder and no information about yourself, but later getting a ‘Friend Request’ from him. Or visiting an abortion clinic and discovering that one of the abortion protestors outside was offered up your identity by Facebook.

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Public Opinion

The Hill: Poll: Majority pick Clinton over Trump on campaign finance

Mark Hensch

Fifty-six percent of voters say they trust Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee, to curb the influence of money in politics in an Issue One/Ipsos survey released Wednesday. Forty-four percent said they had more faith in Trump, the GOP’s expected nominee, to tackle the issue…

Pollsters found voters rank money in politics fifth in the top five issues most important to them this election cycle.

Voters listed the economy as the No. 1 issue, followed by terrorism, healthcare, education and campaign finance.

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Effects of Campaign Spending

Washington Post: Republicans may have just forfeited half their Senate pickup chances

Amber Phillips

The irony is that for most of Colorado’s Republican Senate race, Glenn was not considered a threat to the four other better-funded outsiders and establishment picks in the race. Sure, he was the conservatives’ darling after a rousing speech in Colorado Republicans’ party convention in April — a speech that shocked and wowed many who heard it and propelled him to a coveted spot on the ballot, thanks to the state party’s endorsement.

But in the first three months of 2016, he raised a grand total of $3,811. His election night party was scheduled for a barbecue restaurant.

In the waning days of the primary, Glenn moved that party to a ballroom. He got a boost from stars in the conservative world. In May, the Senate Conservatives Fund launched TV ads for him. Sarah Palin endorsed him. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) traveled to Colorado and held an event with him. As polls opened Tuesday, the race was still wide open, but most observers gave a slight edge to Glenn.

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Candidates and Campaigns

RealClearPolitics: Trump, Brexit and the State of the Race

Sean Trende

In a more balanced reporting environment, I think more people would have picked up on this, and perhaps our predictions would have been better. But the sort of folk who felt this way – who viewed the EU primarily as a vehicle for (unwanted) change – are grossly underrepresented among analysts. And so groupthink carried the day.

This is the root of my concern about the commentary about Trump. To be clear, I don’t think there’s a straight-faced argument that Trump is leading Clinton right now, and even when he was up in the national RCP Average, there were good arguments that his lead wouldn’t hold. I thought those were the better arguments, which is why I only gave him a 30 percent chance (or so) of winning in November.

Most people agreed with this ultimate assessment, but then made arguments of the type you would make when, deep down, you think (or hope) that the subject only has a two or three percent chance of winning. This just strikes me as off, and by losing the normal back and forth, we might collectively miss things pointing toward a Trump win.

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Washington Post: How many hats has Donald Trump bought, anyway?

Philip Bump

This is a very rough estimate that ignores things like the fact that the camo hat retails for $30 versus $25. It’s also using only a 12 percent discount, not the sort of negotiated deal we’ve come to expect from Trump. So let’s say he gets 20 percent off the cost of each. In that case, he’s bought about 92,000 hats — and could make over $800,000 in profit.

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FiveThirtyEight: A User’s Guide To FiveThirtyEight’s 2016 General Election Forecast

Nate Silver

We’ve just launched FiveThirtyEight’s 2016 general election forecast, which projects how the 538 Electoral College votes could break down in the presidential election. The forecast will be continually updated through Election Day on Nov. 8. Here’s a bullet-point-style look at how it was built.

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The States

Houston Chronicle: Council approves changes to campaign finance law

Rebecca Elliott

City Council approved changes to Houston’s campaign finance law Wednesday with no discussion, effectively doubling contribution limits per general election cycle and boosting the amount many candidates can reimburse themselves for personal loans.

The revisions, which go into effect Friday, are meant to clarify rules left unclear after the court struck down the city’s fundraising blackout last year and voters extended terms to four years from two years.

Rather than collecting a maximum of $5,000 from individuals and $10,000 from political action committees per two-year election cycle, candidates will be allowed to raise that much during the first two years of their term, and then do so again during the second two years. The contribution cycle would reset if the candidate were forced into a runoff.

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Arizona Republic: Drive to expand public campaign financing fizzles

Mary Jo Pitzl

A citizens’ initiative campaign that aimed to strengthen Arizona’s public campaign-finance system on Wednesday dropped its bid to get on the Nov. 8 ballot, blaming big business in part.

Clean and Accountable Elections had gathered about 100,000 signatures out of the more than 150,000 needed to qualify for the Nov. 8 ballot. A cushion of 10 to 20 percent is usually needed to guard against invalid signatures. Petitions are due Thursday, July 7.

Samantha Pstross, who chaired the committee pushing the idea, blamed “dirty tricks” by the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, as well as the state’s largest utility, Arizona Public Service Co., for blocking their efforts to hire a local petition-gathering firm, forcing them to turn to an out-of-state firm.

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Bangor Daily News: Maine ethics panel aims to close loophole ‘you could drive a truck through’

Darren Fishell

The Maine Ethics Commission on Wednesday proposed new campaign finance rules to close what they’ve termed the “house party loophole,” in response to a complaint against the state Senate campaign of Portland Democrat Ben Chipman…

The cost of those mailers did not count because they took the form of invitations to house parties supporting his candidacy.

Under current election law, a volunteer at such a house party can spend up to $250 for invitations or food and beverages and the campaign does not have to report it as a contribution.

Chipman said that kind of cost-sharing among volunteers for house parties is not new to Maine politics, with some coming together to support costs of a larger event space or catered parties.

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