Daily Media Links 9/27: Fears that outside groups are hijacking election campaign agendas are unfounded., White House says Obama objects to campaign-donation measure in spending bill, and more…

In the News

Medium: Unprecedented Attack

By Mark Holden

On Wednesday, September 21, I spent the afternoon on Capitol Hill speaking with free speech thought leaders of all different backgrounds. I want to thank Representative Peter J. Roskam for hosting and inviting me to speak on this panel about the immediate need to defend free speech against current threats it faces on multiple levels. I was joined by Representative Bill Flores, Wall Street Journal Columnist Kim Strassel, Center for Competitive Politics Chairman and Founder Bradley A. Smith, and the panel was moderated by WMAL Radio’s Chris Plante.

Earlier this summer the House passed HR 5053, Preventing IRS Abuse and Protecting Free Speech Act, to protect tax-exempt groups from disclosing their donors. Giving the public access to donor lists will exploit donors and discourage contributions.

FEC

Washington Examiner: Election commissioner: Fire us all

By Rudy Takala

Ravel, who last year held the FEC’s rotating chairmanship and who previously led California’s state-level version of the agency, argued that federal commissioners stalemate on too many votes…

Ravel said the solution should be for the commission to be eliminated and replaced by a model allowing for one-party rule. “It seems to me California, the Fair Political Practices Commission, did have five members, and the chair is the only full-time person. That was a really great way to get things done. I’m not certain Congress would consider that as a resolution to this, because reasonably, they’re concerned about the enforcement mechanism to be used against one political party or another, and so the imbalance would create a problem for them.”

Independent Groups

LSE US Centre: Fears that outside groups are hijacking election campaign agendas are unfounded.

By Michael Franz, Erika Franklin Fowler, and Travis Ridout

By all accounts, American elections have undergone some dramatic structural changes in the last few years. Most prominently, in the aftermath of the historic Citizens United v. FEC Supreme Court ruling in 2010, Super PACs and other interest groups (like some non-profits) have become increasingly active in American campaigns. Their increased investment is a source of deep anxiety for many Americans. Among numerous concerns, many fear that outside groups will hijack American elections by controlling the issue agendas of campaigns, taking that power away from candidates. Such agenda-setting powers may harm citizens’ ability to hold candidates accountable along with candidates’ ability to understand what voters want. In short, communication between candidates and voters could be muted amidst the din of outside group campaign ads. These are serious concerns, and yet they remain largely hypothetical; empirically we know very little about what outside groups are saying in their political ads, beyond attacking candidates they don’t like.

Supreme Court

The Hill: What 2016 means for the Supreme Court’s path on money in politics

By Marge Baker

Perhaps no issue better illustrates what’s at stake than the issue of money in politics. In recent years the Roberts-Alito Court has been eagerly bulldozing common-sense rules about campaign finance, from ruling that corporations have the “right” to spend unlimited money influencing our elections to allowing wealthy individual donors to give eye-popping sums of money to candidates, parties, and PACs.

With these decisions, the Court has dramatically narrowed the definition of “corruption” from a broader understanding that included concerns like undue influence to a definition that only includes “quid pro quo” corruption – in other words, outright bribery.

Wisconsin John Doe

Milwaukee NPR: U.S. Supreme Court To Decide Whether to Weigh in on Wisconsin John Doe Investigation

By Latoya Dennis

The U.S. Supreme Court today will meet in closed session to decide whether to consider Wisconsin’s John Doe investigation. That secret probe was looking into whether Gov. Walker’s 2012 recall campaign broke campaign finance laws by illegally coordinating with outside advocacy groups…

The Wisconsin Club for Growth insists the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United allows corporations to spend unlimited cash on issue ads – ads that don’t say vote for or against someone. 

Congress

Washington Times: White House says Obama objects to campaign-donation measure in spending bill

By Dave Boyer

The measure on corporation campaign spending is already law; it was included in the spending bill for the current fiscal year that was approved by the president. Mr. Obama and Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada are pushing to strip it from the new spending bill.

Mr. Earnest said he spoke to Mr. Obama early Friday afternoon, and “it’s not at all clear to me that he is prepared to sign this bill.” He didn’t mention the word “veto” in describing the president’s objections.

Congress must pass a resolution by next Friday to keep the government open and avert a shutdown just weeks ahead of Election Day. The overall spending bill includes a so-called “rider” preventing the Securities and Exchange Commission from more tightly regulating corporate political spending.

Political Parties

Texas Tribune: Dancing with democracy

By Martin Frost

Of course, the harsh reality is that most lawmakers do not raise money for the pleasure of collecting checks. The disastrous McCain-Feingold campaign finance law in 2002 prohibited the centering forces in American politics – political parties – from raising so-called “soft money” (which they had to report to the Federal Election Commission).

Donors

CPI: Campaign mega-donors spill on why they open their wallets

By Rachael Seeley Flores

But even the most generous donations cannot guarantee that a candidate will be elected to office. 

Doug Deason, president of Deason Capital Services, said the impact of these funds is limited. He noted that the presidential race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is close despite Clinton’s substantially larger fundraising totals.

“Essentially, [Trump] is tied in the national polls and leading some of the swing states and he hasn’t spent that money. That’s pretty impressive. I think that shows how little impact money really has on political races,” Deason said.

Disclosure

Orange County Register: Why it’s so hard to know who is funding the marijuana legalization battle

By Brooke Edwards Staggs

“One of the biggest challenges for citizens is just finding the information, let alone having some basic context for what they’re looking at,” said Laura Curlin, data director for Berkeley-based MapLight, which tracks campaign finances.

Due to California’s robust reporting laws, getting accurate campaign fundraising data typically requires retrieving and analyzing multiple documents filed with the Secretary of State in different formats and on different cycles…

“Most of the public doesn’t pay all that much attention to the issue,” said Rick Hasen, a law professor at UC Irvine who specializes in elections. “But those who do pay attention will have a harder time following the money.”

Privacy

Christian Science Monitor: Privacy isn’t dead. Here’s why

By Robyn Greene

Privacy is not about secrecy. It’s about autonomy. It’s about having the freedom to choose what information you share, and when, how and with whom you share it.

Two of the biggest misconceptions about privacy are that people don’t care about it, and that they only want it if they have something to hide…

A Pew Research Center study shows I’m not alone. It found that 74 percent of Americans consider it “very important” that they be able to control what information others can access about them, and 86 percent of internet users have taken steps to anonymize their online activity.

Influence

Washington Post: Casino lobby braces for life without Harry Reid

By Catherine Ho

Faced with the impending retirement of Harry M. Reid, lobbyists for the casino industry are working aggressively to expand their influence beyond their most influential player on Capitol Hill.

The gambling industry’s leading trade group, the American Gaming Association, is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on outreach to federal and local lawmakers across the country who they hope will champion gambling interests after Reid – the industry’s longtime advocate in Congress and Senate minority leader – retires in January. And executives at major casinos are flying to Washington more frequently to build relationships with congressional leaders.

Candidates and Campaigns

Washington Post: Donald Trump keeps asking foreign leaders for money. The latest: Vicente Fox. 

By Matea Gold

Vicente Fox, the former president of Mexico, received a plaintive fundraising request this weekend. “You are our country’s only hope,” read the email, which urged him to make “a generous contribution.”

The sender? Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

It was the second missive that Fox received to his personal email address this month seeking donations for the Trump campaign, according to a spokesman for the former president. On Sept. 9, Fox got a message from Trump that concluded, “I know you won’t let me down friend.”

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