Daily Media Links 9/28: Regulators spar over whether unregulated Internet harms minorities, State ‘disclosure’ ballot measures could chill First Amendment rights, and more…

Free Speech

Arizona Republic: Phoenix allows city workers more political speech

By Dustin Gardiner

Phoenix’s workforce of municipal employees – and their local unions – will have a more powerful voice in future elections for mayor and City Council after city leaders voted Tuesday to loosen restrictions on workers’ political activity.

The 9-0 vote was a rare moment of unity among the council’s liberal and conservative wings, with members of all stripes arguing the free-speech rights of city workers need better protection.

For many years, city policy banned employees from publicly sharing their opinions about candidates for city office, aside from voting or privately expressing a view. Council members said that goes against the U.S. Constitution.


Washington Examiner: Regulators spar over whether unregulated Internet harms minorities

By Rudy Takala

Regulators on the Federal Election Commission are at odds over whether unregulated speech on social media could harm minorities by causing them to feel excluded.

“Where will government micromanagement of political speech on the Internet stop? Can’t we have one forum for free speech the government doesn’t need to censor?” Republican Commissioner Lee Goodman told the Washington Examiner.

His comments were a response to Monday remarks by one of Goodman’s colleagues, Democratic Commissioner Ann Ravel, at the National Press Club, in which she said “microtargeting” online was allowing political advertisers to ignore minorities.

Independent Groups

Politico: Secret money to boost Trump

By Kenneth P. Vogel and Alex Isenstadt

One of the top funders of the #NeverTrump movement is now using his name and connections to raise big money to help elect Donald Trump, but he’s telling fellow mega-donors that they can write huge checks without having their names disclosed.

Todd Ricketts, whose family owns the Chicago Cubs, has raised $30 million for a pair of pro-Trump groups and has discussed a $70 million goal before Election Day, according to three Republican fundraisers familiar with the effort.

They and others in GOP finance circles say Ricketts is making a particular effort to win over donors who want to help Trump but are leery of having their names publicly associated with the polarizing Republican nominee. Ricketts’ pitch to these donors focuses on the fact that one of the pro-Trump groups he’s fronting can accept unlimited checks while keeping its donors’ names secret.

American Prospect: Secret Money Floods Judicial Elections

By Dorothy Samuels and Alicia Bannon

Even before Citizens United and its progeny, wealthy interests with business before the courts were pushing judicial campaigns over the top. Since the 2010 ruling, however, outside groups have become central players, while the role of candidates in defining the tone and content of their own campaigns has shrunk. New loopholes allow big spenders to get around caps on direct contributions to judicial candidates and disclosure requirements. Broad secrecy has made the money trail a lot harder, if not impossible, to follow, and in many cases, the purported separation between “independent” groups and the candidates they back seems like little more than a convenient fiction.

A whopping 70 percent of outside television spending in completed state supreme court races so far this year came from so-called dark-money outfits, which do not disclose their donors.

Political Parties

Observer: Breaking-Dem Convention Finally Reveals Its List of Corporate Influence Buyers

By Michael Sainato

In 2014, public funding was pulled from both political parties’ conventions, opening the 2016 Democratic National Convention up to dubious donors shielded from transparency. Meanwhile, a 2014 budget law increased contribution limits to political convention committees.

The DNC’s host committee refused to release the list of their donors funding the convention, even after a court order. On Monday, September 26, two months after the convention, the list of donors was finally filed with the FEC during the first presidential debate, in order to fly under the news coverage radar as much as possible.

Candidates and Campaigns

Washington Times: Donald Trump’s campaign brings in more than $18 million after the debate

By David Sherfinski

Donald Trump’s campaign said it brought in more than $18 million in less than 24 hours after Monday’s presidential debate and that the haul signals “momentum of historic proportions.”

The “massive fundraising day” resulted from Mr. Trump’s “huge debate win,” said Steven Mnuchin, the campaign’s finance chairman…

The campaign said the money was raised in conjunction with the Republican National Committee.

“The National Call Day was a tremendous success. Many donors came on board as Donald J. Trump rolls on to victory,” said Lew Eisenberg, the finance chairman for an associated joint fundraising committee.

Bloomberg: Hillary Clinton Is Outraising Trump 20-to-1 Among Billionaires

By Brendan Coffey

Hillary gets the vote from America’s richest citizens. Or at least she’s getting their cash.

Former Secretary of State and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has collected $21.1 million for her campaign and its supporting political action committees from 17 U.S. donors on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Republican Donald Trump has received $1.02 million from 12 members of the group.

While the role the wealthiest play in American politics has come under increased scrutiny with growing attention to income inequality fueling the rise of populist candidates, contributions from U.S. billionaires on the Bloomberg index amount to 3 percent of the $708 million raised by the two candidates, as of the latest Federal Election Commission filings.

Washington Times: Hillary Clinton reels in cash from international fundraisers

By Ben Wolfgang

Since announcing her presidential bid last spring, the former first lady’s campaign has held at least 34 fundraisers in foreign countries, with another four on the schedule in the coming weeks, according to a tally from the non-partisanSunlight Foundation. The events are part of the Clinton political machine’s broader fundraising effort, which is smashing virtually all records; she’s already held more fundraisers than President Obama and RepublicanMitt Romneyheld in 2012 combined.  

Her Republican opponent, Donald Trump, has held no foreign fundraisers.

While there’s nothing illegal about holding such events – only U.S. citizens or green card holders living abroad can actually donate to White House campaigns – it’s clear Mrs. Clinton’s foreign connections, stemming from her time as U.S. senator and secretary of state, along with the family’s contacts through the Clinton Foundation, have greatly aided fundraising efforts.

Bloomberg: Michael Murphy on the Year of the Grievance Candidate

By Barry Ritholtz

A self-described conservative, Murphy discusses the media, the state of campaign finance and how superpacs have upended the traditional election laws. His Right to Rise pac raised $100 million dollars for Bush, but has been since wound down.

We talk about the election and how Bush won the “donor campaign,” but knew it was a year where grievance candidates had the inside track. Murphy suggested the Republican primary was a “drunken bender,” and in Donald Trump the party has picked a candidate who is a long shot to win the general election.

The States

Watchdog: State ‘disclosure’ ballot measures could chill First Amendment rights

By M.D. Kittle

Arriving in the disguise of campaign finance reform and glimmering with accoutrements of the left’s “dark money” conspiracy, ballot measures in several states this November are merely wolves in sheep’s clothing – poised to devour long-protected First Amendment rights.

Voters in Missouri, South Dakota, Washington and Oregon will decide ballot measures cleverly masked as legislation going after “big money” and “outside influence” in local elections, wrote Tracie Sharp and Darcy Olsen in an op-ed last week in the Wall Street Journal.

“If passed, what these measures would really do is limit the ability of nonprofits like ours to weigh in on policy matters we care about. This is an infringement on our First Amendment rights,” the authors declared in the opinion piece.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Donation lifts fundraising caps in Illinois comptroller race

By Sophia Tareen

A $260,000 donation to Illinois Comptroller Leslie Munger’s campaign has lifted the caps on political contributions and guarantees a big-money race between the Republican incumbent and Democratic challenger Susana Mendoza.

The loan is from Munger’s husband, attorney John Munger, according to an Illinois State Board of Elections filing late last week. State campaign finance law limits donations, but it also says if a candidate or family member contributes more than $250,000 to his or her own race, the limits come off for all candidates…
State campaign finance law says individuals can give $5,300 and political action committees can donate $52,600. The changes in campaign finance law came after now-imprisoned former Gov. Rod Blagojevich was accused of trying to sell President Barack Obama’s vacant Illinois Senate seat.

Watertown Daily Times: Dangling the dollar: Cuomo won’t allow pay increases without new ethics package

For Mr. Cuomo to dangle a proposed pay raise in exchange for another ethics reform package shows what a sham this game has become. Genuine ethics reform can only be made where there is a true desire to change how state business is conducted, not merely to obtain an enhanced salary. Otherwise, as some have suggested, it just looks like the same kind of deal-making as usual that has become the hallmark of politics in Albany.

Whether legislators deserve an increase in their pay is a legitimate topic of discussion as is the need for additional ethics reform measures. They are separate issues, however, and linking is inappropriate. How can we expect them to raise the level of ethical behavior if they pass new regulations only to get a reward?

Mitchell Daily Republic: Opposing sides make case for, against campaign finance reform measure

By Evan Hendershot

Under the measure, candidates could volunteer to participate in the Democracy Credit Program, but would be limited to accepting funds under only the program and small contributions from in-state residents.

The problem, as Lee sees it, is the credit program would limit contributions to a quarter of the state’s voters.

If every registered voter in the state used both credits, it would cost in excess of $53 million. But the measure would cap the credit program fund at $12 million.

“So there’s no way this allows more people to participate, it would actually allow fewer people to participate in the program,” Lee said. “It seems odd to me that if they think this is such a good idea why they would only build it around less than one out of four people participating.”

Sightline Institute: Knowledge is Power, and I-1464 Unlocks More of Both for Washington Voters

By Margaret Morales and Kristin Eberhard

This article details additional ways that I-1464 would make Washington elections more ethical and transparent to voters. These provisions include more disclosure of the funders of political ads, a requirement that lobbyists file their monthly activity statements electronically to speed public accessibility, and the provision of dedicated funding to the perpetually under-resourced Public Disclosure Commission (PDC), the agency charged with monitoring campaign finance and election ethics for state elections.

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