Daily Media Links 9/29: FEC Dems lay groundwork to ban Fox, WSJ political coverage, Gaping holes, confusion mar FCC’s data on political ad buys, and more…


The New York Times: Replace the FEC with A More Partisan Agency

By Joe Albanese

The proposed changes go far beyond merely tweaking the FEC’s current structure, going so far as to eliminate the agency entirely. This effort seems wholly unnecessary, except for the fact that the 41-year-old structure is currently an inconvenience to pro-regulation activists. Commissioner Ann Ravel, a prominent critic of political speech within the FEC itself, has herself come out in favor of eliminating the agency. Even within the pattern of her active undermining of the organization’s legitimacy, her statements broke new ground by publicly requesting the dissolution of her own job, as well as those of her five Commissioner counterparts…

Ultimately, it’s unsurprising that The New York Times continues to beat the drum for ever-more disclosure and regulation of political free speech. However, the Center for Competitive Politics will continue to point out the risks of politicizing the campaign finance system and violating donor privacy. Advocates for transparency should focus their efforts on lawmakers and government officials, while allowing citizens to maintain what privacy they have left.


Washington Examiner: FEC Dems lay groundwork to ban Fox, WSJ political coverage

By Paul Bedard

In their biggest threat yet to conservative media, Democrats on the Federal Election Commission are laying the groundwork to bar companies with even the tiniest foreign ownership from American politics, a move that could ban Fox, the Wall Street Journal and even the New York Times from covering political races or giving endorsements.

In a last-minute submission Wednesday, a top Democrat on the evenly split FEC proposed that the Thursday meeting of the commission begin the process to prohibit companies with foreign ownership as small as 5 percent “from funding expenditures, independent expenditures, or electioneering communications.”

The Courts

Bloomberg BNA: D.C. Circuit Decision Limiting Political Ad Disclosure Will Stand

By Kenneth P. Doyle

A federal appellate panel ruling that limits disclosure requirements for groups sponsoring political ads will stand, as the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said it will not review the panel’s ruling ( Van Hollen v. Federal Election Commission, D.C. Cir., No. 15-5017, petition for en banc rehearing denied 9/26/16 ).

A brief order issued Sept. 26 said a majority of eligible D.C. Circuit judges “did not vote in favor of the petition” for a full court en banc rehearing in a case brought by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.).

The long-running litigation challenged as too lax current FEC disclosure rules for “electioneering communications”-targeted television and radio ads that refer to a federal candidate in the final weeks before an election. The FEC rules in most circumstances don’t require disclosure of those funding such ads.


Wall Street Journal: Congress Passes Spending Bill to Keep Government Running Through Dec. 9 

By Kristina Peterson and Siobhan Hughes

Congress avoided a partial government shutdown at week’s end after both chambers passed a short-term spending bill that would keep the government running through early December…

The spending bill was opposed by 75 Republicans and 10 Democrats in the House. Some Democrats were unhappy that it didn’t provide immediate help to Flint residents and that they weren’t able to remove language from the spending bill that prevents the Securities and Exchange Commission from working on a rule that would require publicly traded companies to disclose political contributions. 

The Hill: Senate passes funding bill to avoid shutdown

By Jordain Carney

The Senate spending bill had drawn fierce backlash from conservative groups, who worry lawmakers will use a lame-duck session to break the budget caps…

Tiffany Muller, the executive director of the progressive outside group End Citizens United, also knocked the CR for not rolling back a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) provision.

“Mitch McConnell’s obsession with protecting the shady, dark moneyed interests that put him in power is damaging our democracy,” she added.

Democrats have expressed frustration that the bill wouldn’t reverse a policy rider included in last year’s omnibus appropriations package that blocks the SEC from requiring corporations to disclose political spending. 

Republicans are quick to note that because the SEC language is current law, they would have to attach a rider to this year’s otherwise “clean” funding measure to unwind it.


CRP: Gaping holes, confusion mar FCC’s data on political ad buys

By Soo Rin Kim

Four years after it began requiring TV stations to upload their records of political ad sales to a central government website, the Federal Communications Commission maintains a recordkeeping system that makes finding out who an ad’s sponsor is feel like a treasure hunt…

The current filing system is “pretty useless” for the public, said Meredith McGehee, policy director at the Campaign Legal Center, which put out a report on the system’s shortcomings this week.

The political ad purchase records, also known as political files, were basically an unorganized pile of mostly non-machine readable documents with no uniform filing system.

Internet Speech

Christian Science Monitor: Has the United States really ‘lost control’ of the internet?

By Ellen Powell

A White House effort to ensure that the internet belongs to everyone has raised concerns for some groups within the United States…

Their concerns? In one video opposing the move, Cruz declares, “Russia, and China, and Iran don’t have a First Amendment.

They don’t protect free speech, and they actively censor the Internet. ICANN could do the same thing, putting foreign countries in charge of what you can say online, prohibiting speech that they disagree with.”…

But ICANN says that it is not, and cannot become, a regulator of Internet speech. Its contract with the US government and corporate headquarters within the US do not affect countries’ ability to censor internet content, which will remain the same after the transition.


The Guardian: We need small donors to halt the march to plutocracy

By Kenneth Pennington

For those concerned about the undue influence of the ultra-wealthy in US. politics, Bernie’s success offers a glimmer of hope that we might be able to halt the country’s march toward plutocracy…

Our rigged system leads us to plutocracy: a system of government controlled directly by the wealthy few that serves the interests of the wealthy few. In 2014, Princeton researchers concluded that the US has already lost its democratic roots and transitioned slowly into a form of oligarchy that caters to the preferences of elites.

We need a political revolution in this country to fix what is broken, and I’m grateful to Bernie for showing us the way forward. He raised a quarter of a billion dollars in a primary campaign with 94% of it coming in online. Now we should follow his example.

Candidates and Campaigns

The Atlantic: The Second Presidential Debate Will Try Something New

By Russell Berman

The Commission on Presidential Debates had already announced that the second of three debates would feature questions submitted online in addition to those asked by the traditional studio audience. But on Tuesday morning, the debate moderators confirmed they are embracing a format that a broad bipartisan cross-section of activist and civic groups known as the Open Debate Coalition have been pushing for years. Americans will be able to submit and then vote on questions online at PresidentialOpenQuestions.com, and ABC and CNN have agreed to consider the 30 most popular queries when they jointly plan the debate.

CNBC: Clinton needs to drop her ‘veil of platitudes’ and get real with voters

By Jordan Chariton

Contrary to her advisers’ advise, Clinton needs to address-once and for all- her views on campaign finance reform, acknowledging the fact that she has thrived under the toxic current system and selling Americans on how she would actually clean out the cesspool in D.C. when she has been a card-carrying member (good luck with that)…

If Clinton doesn’t quickly come up with a genuine and believable answer for a career that’s often appeared as chasing the poll winds, she’ll continue to see the millennial votes she needs falling into the Johnson and Stein camp.

The States

Montgomery Advertiser: Ala. PAC-to-PAC transfer ban upheld by appeals court

By Brian Lyman

A federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld Alabama’s ban on transfers between political action committees, saying it didn’t affect a political group’s ability to make independent expenditures.

The three-judge panel ruled that the law didn’t prevent the Alabama Democratic Conference (ADC), which sued to overturn it, from raising the funds to support its activities.

“The ban does not limit the amount of money the ADC can raise; it only limits the ADC’s ability to raise money through a specific type of donation – PAC-to-PAC transfers,” said the opinion, written by U.S. Circuit Judge Beverly Martin. “Moreover, the ban does not directly affect the ADC’s campaign contributions or independent expenditures. The ADC can continue to make unlimited contributions and independent expenditures.” 

Sacramento Bee: Brown should sign campaign bills, strengthen democracy

By Kathay Feng and Trent Lange

There is a persistent feeling that our government should be more responsive and transparent.

The good news is that the Legislature recently took a step in the right direction by passing these bills. Senate Bill 1349 by Sen. Bob Hertzberg, a Los Angeles Democrat, would modernize California’s online campaign finance disclosure system. SB 1107 by Sen. Ben Allen, a Santa Monica Democrat, would give cities and the state the option to create citizen-funded election programs.

By approving these bills, Brown would continue California’s leadership in creating a 21st-century democracy that works for everyone.  

Washington Tri-City Herald: Our Voice: Vote no on I-1464, I-1501; yes on I-735

By The Editorial Board

Initiative 1464 aims to make sweeping reforms to the state’s campaign financing system. While we believe the goal is noble, we don’t like the strategy behind it.

We oppose I-1464. The surface talk sounds great, but digging deeper we found the financial ramifications of this proposal are too risky to support…

On another campaign finance issue, however, we offer our support.

Initiative 735 is part of a grassroots movement urging a federal constitutional amendment to limit the amount of money large corporations spend on political campaigns.

The proposal is being driven by the Washington Coalition to Amend the Constitution and has strong bipartisan support throughout the state.

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