Daily Media Links 7/5: The Corrupting Crusade against ‘Corruption’, Clinton super PAC returns $200,000 in contributions, and more…

Supreme Court

National Review: The Corrupting Crusade against ‘Corruption’

George Will

Due process is denied when the law does not give due notice of what behavior is proscribed. And during oral arguments in April, Justice Stephen Breyer issued a warning that was echoed by Roberts’ opinion last week. Breyer said a definition of corruption that includes a government official like McDonnell trying to “influence” government actions “puts at risk behavior that is common.” He said: “The word ‘influence’ is too broad, because every day of the week politicians write on behalf of constituents letters to different parts of government.”

Furthermore, Breyer says prosecutors’ unchecked power to define corruption poses “as fundamental a real separation of powers problem as I’ve seen” because “the Department of Justice in the executive branch becomes the ultimate arbiter of how public officials are behaving in the United States.” Breyer’s anxiety suggests that the Court’s liberals, too, are increasingly interested in the threat the administrative state’s rampant executive branch poses to the checks and balances that are designed to maintain the Constitution’s institutional equilibrium.

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Independent Groups

Washington Examiner: Clinton super PAC returns $200,000 in contributions

Gabby Morrongiello

Priorities USA, which raised more $12 million for the former secretary of state in May alone, returned $200,000 to Suffolk Construction upon learning that the construction management firm was under contract with the Department of Defense.

“Based on our internal accounting, the contract appeared to be completed as the project was over four years ago,” company spokesman Dan Antonellis told The Hill.

Federal election laws prohibit companies that are under contract with the federal government from contributing to political campaigns or committees.

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Los Angeles Times: Rival pro-Trump super PACs fight for GOP cash with little success

Lisa Mascaro

One of the most promising pro-Trump super PACs, Rebuilding America Now, announced with fanfare earlier this year that it had $32 million in commitments. But only about $2 million of that came through.

A rival, Great America PAC, has burned through nearly all of the $2.5 million it raised, leaving it with just $500,000 cash on hand. Fundraising efforts weren’t helped by the recent conviction of a top strategist for unrelated 2012 campaign finance violations.

Many were hoping casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who spent nearly $100 million in the 2012 presidential race , would save the day by starting his own pro-Trump super PAC to provide a trusted safe haven for donors.

But after Trump’s polling numbers tanked with his race-based criticism of a federal judge and response to the Orlando shooting, Adelson has put his plans on hold. The Las Vegas billionaire is “not actually starting a PAC despite what has been reported,” his spokesman said.

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Free Speech

Federalist: Kim Strassel On Political Scare Tactics, Loretta Lynch, And Silencing Of Free Speech

Federalist Staff

Strassel breaks down corruption surrounding campaign finance laws, political scare tactics, why American’s feel the government is inept, and the President’s constant politicizing of federal agencies.



Washington Post: Democratic FEC commissioners accuse Fox News of donating airtime to GOP candidates

Callum Borchers

The argument is that Fox effectively made in-kind contributions to those candidates by tweaking the rules in a way that gave them exposure they would not have received otherwise. Fox hasn’t issued an official statement on the vote…

The FEC, as far as we know, has not taken a vote against CNN. It’s not hard to see how conservatives sensitive to bias against their favorite news outlets would interpret the Fox News case as being politically motivated — even though it reportedly originated with a complaint by a Republican.

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Fox News: The FEC probe of Fox: A chilling message when the feds challenge coverage

Howard Kurtz

This press exemption, said Gerson, “should have blown the thing away.”

The stakes were high. Had one more vote gone the other way, the FEC could potentially have hit Fox with a massive fine that included the production costs and the value of the airtime to the seven contenders.

Despite the deadlock, that message is clear. There could be a chilling effect on news organizations planning future debates. Who, after all, wants to deal with the cost and hassle of defending an FEC investigation?

Fox dodged the bullet this time, but journalism may have lost.

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CPI: Why a former IRS commissioner thinks the FEC is a ‘bureaucratic waste’

Michael Beckel

Yet the Democratic commissioners stressed that the regulations criticized by their Republican colleagues have been on the books for decades.

“Media organizations are mentioned specifically in the debate regulations,” said Weintraub. “It’s our job to interpret those regulations”

“It’s not the role of the FEC to determine constitutionality of our rules,” added Ravel. “If our rules are unconstitutional, there needs to be a court decision that says so.”

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More Soft Money Hard Law: The FEC and the Fox News Debate

Bob Bauer

Apparently, the Republicans would not concede even the technical violation, and two of the Democrats did not want to agree that the rule should go unenforced.

The Complaint then failed for want of four votes to proceed or to dismiss. One of the Commissioners then rushed off, not helpfully, to advise friendly press that First Amendment freedoms were under unprecedented assault.

The Complaint’s failure was the right result. The FEC should not have enforced against Fox; it should have found a way to decline to do so, as Commissioner Weintraub suggested, and it could have provided a clear explanation that the candidate debate rule doesn’t sensibly apply to this case, perhaps together with a determination that the rule should be reviewed and perhaps revised in a new rulemaking. That would have been constructive and understandable, but not usually how things work at 999 E. Street N.W.

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Wall Street Journal: Progressives Target the Press

Editorial Board

Liberals were once champions of a free press, but those values go wobbly when the press is conservative. Senate Democrats, led by New York’s Chuck Schumer, are pushing for an election year fight to amend the First Amendment and change the FEC to prevent the 3-3 deadlocks that were designed to protect against one party wielding campaign regulation as a political weapon.

Maybe Democrats should think about how Donald Trump’s appointees might treat CNN or MSNBC if their scheme to pack the FEC became reality.

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Dangers of Disclosure

Mother Jones: Dark-Money Groups: Hey, We’re Just Like ’50s Civil Rights Activists in Alabama!

John Dunbar

Judge Real granted the injunction and noted in his ruling that AFP Foundation, its employees, and supporters “face public threats, harassment, intimidation and retaliation once their support for and affiliation with the organization becomes publicly known.” He also acknowledged that “although the Attorney General correctly points out that such abuses are not as violent or pervasive as those encountered in NAACP v. Alabama or other cases from that era, this court is not prepared to wait until an AFP opponent carries out one of the numerous death threats made against its members.”

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New York Post: Hillary had the deck stacked against Bernie from the start

Editorial Board

Another sign comes in the form of a DNC email made public by a hacker going by the name of “Guccifer 2.0.” The DNC missive from May 26, 2015 — that’s 13 months ago — declared that “our goals & strategy” are to “provide a contrast between the GOP field and HRC.”

No other possible Democratic candidate — not even Vice President Joe Biden, who was then still considering a run — counted. The DNC was all-in for Clinton long before a single Democrat voted.

The email also exposes the basic strategy for helping Hillary: “Use specific hits to muddy the waters around ethics, transparency and campaign finance attacks on HRC.”

In other words, do your best to change the subject whenever anyone points out that she’s shady, deceptive and corrupt.

Hard to blame Bernie Sanders for supporting that primary challenger to Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz — the DNC chief who has blatantly had her thumb on the scale for Clinton all along.

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Candidates and Campaigns

Washington Examiner: Democrats: Pass at least two constitutional changes

Rudy Takala

Referring to the Constitution as simply a “blueprint for progress,” the platform states, Democrats seek to overturn Buckley v. Valeo, the 1976 decision striking down campaign spending limits, and Citizens United, the 2010 decision that extended press freedom to corporations, labor unions and other associations…

The proposal includes a call for more federal campaign subsidies, and a restructuring of the federal agency responsible for campaign finance enforcement. “We need to amplify the voices of the American people through a small donor matching public financing system. We need to overhaul and strengthen the Federal Election Commission so that there is real enforcement of campaign finance laws.”

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New York Post: Trump campaign probes Lewandowski’s ‘friendly’ spending

Aaron Short

Donald Trump’s campaign is auditing axed campaign manager Corey Lewandowski’s decision to buy T-shirts and other political swag from a pal’s Colorado-based company, campaign sources told The Post.

Federal records show Trump’s campaign paid $2.1 million to WizBang Solutions, a company based in a Denver suburb. The firm billed the campaign for printing T-shirts, “Make America Great Again” caps, yard signs, note cards and flyers, as well as postage and design costs nearly every month since April 2015, the records show.

WizBang’s director, Mike Ciletti, is a longtime friend and former client of Lewandowski, having provided printing services for conservative group Americans for Prosperity when Lewandowski worked for it.

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The States

Idaho Statesman: Campaign finance reform initiative falls short on signatures

Kimberlee Kruesi, Associated Press

Holli Woodings, a Boise Democrat who chaired the Keep Idaho Elections Accountable campaign, said Friday that her group needed at least 48,000 valid signatures, but they fell short by about 6,000.

The group had submitted roughly 79,000 signatures to be verified by county clerks in May — who didn’t finish until Thursday evening. Many of the signatures were disqualified because they did not have current addresses…

The group’s initiative would have made significant changes to Idaho’s Sunshine Law, passed by overwhelming popular vote in 1974. The law set many of the rules used today to govern campaign contributions and lobbyist activity disclosure.

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Billings Gazette: Lawmakers reject call for special session on campaign finance

Gazette Staff

Republicans said the emergency measure was necessary to fix what they call “defects” in Montana law governing campaign contributions and close a “loophole” that allows for cash from political action committees to flow to candidates without limit.

Ballots were sent to legislators on June 6. The deadline to return ballots to McCulloch’s office was July 1.

After tabulating returned ballots, McCulloch determined the poll for a special session was unsuccessful. Of the 94 ballots that were returned, 20 voted for the special session while 74 voted against.

For a session to convene, at least 76 of the 150 members of the House and Senate had to approve.

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New York Daily News: New Yorkers pessimistic about ethics reform to curb political corruption

Associated Press

Seventy-one percent of the respondents gave the Democratic governor a negative rating for ethics reform he and legislators negotiated in the latest session, the poll shows.

Fifty-six percent said the changes won’t reduce state government corruption, despite assurances from Cuomo and lawmakers that they will shore up public confidence in a state plagued by political scandal.

Cuomo’s office declined to comment on the poll results.

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