Daily Media Links 10/27: In a loss for ExxonMobil, NY Supreme Court orders oil giant to produce climate documents, Spending on U.S. Elections Slides for First Time in Recent Political History, and more…


Citizen Sues Missouri Ethics Commission for First Amendment Violations

The Center for Competitive Politics (CCP) today announced a federal lawsuit and motion for a temporary restraining order has been filed on behalf of Ron Calzone against the Missouri Ethics Commission (MEC). Calzone has been targeted by Missouri State Capitol insiders and the MEC for his volunteer advocacy for individual liberty, free markets, and limited government.                    

The lawsuit, brought in conjunction with the Freedom Center of Missouri, explains: “This case presents a simple question: Does the First Amendment allow the state of Missouri to punish a citizen simply for sharing political ideas with members of the state legislature, even though no one is paying him to do so?” The answer, say Calzone’s lawyers, is no. Citizens can’t be forced to “register as lobbyists” just because they “speak to legislators about matters of public policy” on their own behalf and without compensation.

“Citizens have a fundamental right to speak with their legislators about forming laws in their states and communities,” stated CCP Staff Attorney Zac Morgan. “Forcing citizens to first register with the government before talking to lawmakers about their beliefs and opinions on public policy is both unconstitutional and extremely dangerous to our First Amendment rights.” 

In the News

Daily Caller: Dems Upset Over Leadership Decision To Withdraw Funds From Senate Race In Florida

By Kerry Picket

Politico reported Tuesday evening that outgoing Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and Florida donors became upset when New York Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer and DSCC Chairman Montana Sen. Jon Tester decided that less-expensive advertising markets in North Carolina, Missouri and Indiana provided the party with an opportunity to take the majority from Republicans without exclusively putting all the money on a win in Florida…

The neck and neck race towards the finish line in the Sunshine State, according to political observers, means a push for media spending is a high priority.

“Florida is probably one of the biggest competitive states. There are a lot of media markets all over the state. It costs a lot money to run in Florida,” David Keating, president of the Center for Competitive Politics, told The Sentinel.

Free Speech

Washington Post: In a loss for ExxonMobil, NY Supreme Court orders oil giant to produce climate documents

By Steven Mufson

The legal maneuvering is the latest round in a dispute over whether ExxonMobil knew decades ago that climate change was a real threat and whether it improperly concealed that information from investors and the public. That could be a violation of the Martin Act, which gives the New York attorney general broad power to pursue fraud cases. Schneiderman and other attorneys general, in an unusual step, held a press conference in March vowing to work together to combat climate change, including through the investigation of ExxonMobil.

Exxon has asserted that it did not conceal material information and accused the attorneys general of having a political agenda. The company said the subpoenas alone would chill companies’ internal research and free speech. 


New York Times: Fearing Trump, Bar Association Stifles Report Calling Him a ‘Libel Bully’

By Adam Liptak

Alarmed by Donald J. Trump’s record of filing lawsuits to punish and silence his critics, a committee of media lawyers at the American Bar Association commissioned a report on Mr. Trump’s litigation history. The report concluded that Mr. Trump was a “libel bully” who had filed many meritless suits attacking his opponents and had never won in court.

But the bar association refused to publish the report, citing “the risk of the A.B.A. being sued by Mr. Trump.”

David J. Bodney, a former chairman of the media-law committee, said he was baffled by the bar association’s interference in the committee’s journal.

“It is more than a little ironic,” he said, “that a publication dedicated to the exploration of First Amendment issues is subjected to censorship when it seeks to publish an article about threats to free speech.”

Independent Groups

Washington Post: Republicans place heavy bet on super PAC cash to hold Senate majority

By Paul Kane

Democrats made an early decision to hold onto their most precious campaign cash for the final weeks, hoping their liberal super PAC allies would help out wherever and whenever they could. Republicans calculated that, given the headwinds their incumbents faced with Donald Trump’s emergence as their presidential nominee, they needed to drain their party treasury earlier than usual.

That crucial decision leaves Senate GOP campaigns remarkably reliant on late cash from Republican-leaning super PACs that by law cannot coordinate with GOP candidates and party leaders.

CNN: Senate Democrats super PAC reaps unexpected cash windfall

By Theodore Schleifer

The main super PAC boosting Senate Democrats, Senate Majority PAC, will report its most impressive fundraising haul yet Thursday after raising $19.3 million in the first three weeks of October. That sum — arriving at the door as Senate Democrats grew increasingly likely to recapture the upper body — is $7 million more than it has raised in any complete month ever, never mind an abridged three-week reporting period…

And despite it being a down-ballot group, their haul surprisingly exceeds the record amount that this cycle’s top presidential super PAC, the pro-Hillary Clinton group Priorities USA, raised in October. Backed by Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, the Senate Majority PAC said it had $13 million on hand as of October 20.

Two years ago at this same point, the group had just one-quarter of that amount in its war chest.

Citizens United

Washington Post: What your boss can and can’t do when it comes to politics at work

By Jena McGregor

Six years after the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision gave employers greater ability to express their political views and engage in unlimited “independent” political spending, experts say some legal questions remain unresolved, leaving gray areas and gaps in regulation that could leave workers at risk.

In a private company, employees are often surprised to hear they don’t have the First Amendment rights they do outside the workplace, says Lindsay Burke, vice chair of the employment law practice at Covington & Burling. Companies can’t prohibit workers from talking about labor issues and working conditions during workplace breaks… But employers can ban staffers from soliciting donations from their co-workers for political candidates. And technically, companies could ban other political speech in the workplace, even if few of them try to police it. 

Candidates and Campaigns

Wall Street Journal: Spending on U.S. Elections Slides for First Time in Recent Political History

By Rebecca Ballhaus and Brody Mullins

For the first time in recent political history, spending on U.S. elections is falling. Technology has as much to do with it as Republican Donald Trump’s unconventional campaign.

An analysis of campaign-finance reports shows that less money has been spent on the 2016 races for the White House, House and Senate than during the same period in the 2012 campaign season. That reverses a longstanding trend in which every presidential election cycle has set a new record for spending.
Through September, campaigns, parties and outside groups spent a total of $3.2 billion on the races for president, House and Senate. That is a drop of $210 million from the same period in 2012, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of data provided by the nonpartisan Campaign Finance Institute.  

Fortune: Hedge Funds Are Spending More Money Than Ever to Influence Elections

By Jen Wieczner

The financial sector, in general, has spent nearly $800 million on political campaigns this election season, up about 35% since the 2008 election cycle, and hedge funds have written the largest checks, according to a new report by the non-profit Americans for Financial Reform.

Still, while Fortune wrote in August that Trump appeared to be attracting more money from hedge fund managers including Carl Icahn, gaining ground on the industry’s support for its favorite presidential pick Hillary Clinton, broader support for Trump apparently failed to materialize. Big-money investors are either throwing their weight behind Democratic nominee Clinton or focusing their efforts on Congressional races rather than the presidential election, the study shows. 

Connecticut Mirror: CT GOP helps Trump mega-donors bypass campaign limits, legally

By Mark Pazniokas

In a single day, the Connecticut Republican Party doubled its receipts by taking in $877,803, all of it from out-of-state donors…
The money left in a lump sum, electronically bounced to the Republican National Committee, where it is expected to be redirected to battleground states to support Trump and down-ballot candidates…

What advocates of campaign finance reform decry as a loophole was endorsed in a U.S. Supreme Court opinion by Chief Justice John Roberts in April 2014 and abetted by language inserted into a budget bill eight months later, reportedly by a prominent Democrat lawyer named Marc Elias. His present duties include serving as general counsel to Hillary Clinton’s campaign for president, which has raised more money than Trump’s with its joint fundraising committee. 

The States

Howard County Times: Against Question A: Using tax funds for politics is bad policy

By Allan Kittleman

Proponents who imply that money determines outcomes should look at my race for county executive two years ago. I was outspent by my opponent by more than 50 percent. Clearly, money wasn’t the determining factor in my election. It was through grassroots support from the community that I was elected, not by spending more money than my opponent.

Strangely, Question A is anything but a grassroots movement. Only 0.3 percent of the nearly $188,000 in contributions to Question A’s campaign fund has come from Howard County donors. Their top donor, who gave $10,000, is the son of billionaire and longtime heavyweight campaign donor George Soros. For a group that espouses getting big money out of politics, it seems disingenuous to push for a system to take taxpayer funds while using “big money” to try and make its point.

Houston Herald: Voters weigh donation limits amid costly governor’s race

By Associated Press

Most of the millions of dollars in donations Republican Eric Greitens and Democrat Chris Koster have raked in for their gubernatorial race would be banned under a proposal on the Missouri ballot, an Associated Press analysis shows.

The measure, known as Amendment 2, would change the state constitution to reinstate campaign contributions…

But big money is needed in the current political climate to spread campaigns’ messages through the media, said Ryan Johnson, president of individual-liberties advocacy group Missouri Alliance for Freedom.

“By limiting campaign donations, the government will, effectually, be limiting the amount of speech citizens can engage in,” Johnson said in a statement. “It is wrong.”

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