Daily Media Links 11/22: Kamala Harris So Concerned About Trump Threat She Wants to Make It Harder to Criticize Him, Supreme Court won’t investigate John Doe leaks, and more…

Supreme Court

Observer New Jersey: Scalia Influenced U.S. Supreme Court

By Jeff Brindle

In terms of the important and controversial case “Citizens United,” many have been calling for its reconsideration by the High Tribunal. A newly constituted Trump court will surely reject this effort…

Therefore, corporations and unions will continue to be a source of funding for independent groups like Super PACs, although to this point corporate participation is not as great as feared because these groups are more likely to be supported by wealthy individuals.

In “Citizens United” the Court did, however, rule decidedly for disclosure, as did subsequent lower court decisions in Speech Now 2010 and Carey 2011…

It is a good bet that under its new configuration, the court will continue to support disclosure.

Changes may be in the wind in other area’s though, in particular with regard to political parties.

Two cases, {perhaps more} that deal with political parties have a chance of being taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court.


CNN: FEC hits Trump on 1,100 errors, totaling roughly $1.3M

By Tom LoBianco

The FEC determined that the Trump campaign accepted close to 1,100 donations, which amounted to roughly $1.3 million, that violated one of a handful of campaign finance laws.

In some cases, the Trump campaign accepted donations from groups that had not registered properly with the FEC. But in the majority, donors blew right past legal donation limits, the commission wrote in a letter to the Trump campaign sent Monday.

Larry Noble of the Campaign Legal Center said the FEC letter is fairly routine…

The FEC dinged the Sanders campaign in May for the same problem — alerting them that thousands of donors had exceeded federal campaign finance limit. President Barack Obama has received several such letters as well. 


USA Today: Judge to IRS: ‘Strong showing’ on Tea Party bias claim

By James Pilcher

A federal judge ruled this month in a lawsuit in the ongoing IRS Tea Party saga that there was “a strong showing” that the agency had discriminated against conservative groups because of their political stances.

And U.S. District Court Judge Michael R. Barrett wrote in a decision that a group suing the IRS “has made a strong showing of a likelihood of success” on its claim that its free speech rights were violated by the delay in processing the application.

He ordered the IRS to continue processing the application from the group, called the Texas Patriots Tea Party, even as the IRS fights the group’s lawsuit.
“The Government appears not to see the forest through the trees when it uses the existence of this lawsuit as grounds to continue the delay that is the subject of this lawsuit,” Barrett wrote in his Nov. 4 decision. “The evidence strongly suggests that the IRS initiated the delay” because the Texas group was affiliated with the Tea Party. 

Citizens United

Reason: Kamala Harris So Concerned About Trump Threat She Wants to Make It Harder to Criticize Him

By Ed Krayewski

California’s senator-elect, Kamala Harris, staked out the repeal of Citizens United as one of her priorities when she enters office, tweeting that it had to be repealed “because we know Citizens United really means Citizens Divided.”

The rhetoric is worthy of President-elect Donald Trump, who has a habit of insisting criticism of him is unfair. Repealing Citizens United would make it more difficult for corporations and other organized groups to exercise their free speech in the political realm…

Forget that there’s little evidence that campaign spending actually significantly influence electoral results, or that Clinton’s failure to win despite a cash advantage provides a compelling anecdote against the idea that money drives electoral results-the presence of Donald Trump in the White House should give progressives who want to limit political speech cause to pause. Campaign spending restrictions are often used by the politicians in power to reinforce the incumbency advantage and squash dissent.   

Wisconsin John Doe

Wisconsin Watchdog: Supreme Court won’t investigate John Doe leaks

By M.D. Kittle

The Wisconsin Supreme Court will not order a criminal investigation into leaks of John Doe II documents, according to an order issued Monday afternoon.

The court, in its 3-1 decision, also rejected another motion by John Doe targets requesting the appointment of a “special master” to oversee the closing matters of the unconstitutional probe.

“As the current motions demonstrate, there remains a need for a John Doe II judge to handle the wind-up of the John Doe II investigation pursuant to the directions of this court,” the majority opinion declared.  

The Media

New York Post: Keep crying wolf about Trump, and no one will listen when there’s a real crisis

By Kyle Smith

For your own sake, and that of the republic for which you allegedly work, wipe off your chins and regain your composure. I didn’t vote for him either, but Trump won. Pull yourselves together and deal with it, if you ever want to be taken seriously again…

Hysteria is causing leading media organizations to mix up their news reporting with their editorializing like never before, but instead of mingling like chocolate and peanut butter, the two are creating a taste that’s like brushing your teeth after drinking orange juice…

In 2016, the media didn’t even pretend it wasn’t working in Hillary Clinton’s interests. The blue whale of information, the New York Times, virtually signaled to the journalistic universe that it was time to abandon all pretense of objectivity in a now-notorious front-page column on Aug. 8 that advised journalists “you have to throw out the textbook American journalism has been using for the better part of the past half-century” and “move closer than you’ve ever been to being oppositional.”  

New York Times Magazine: Billionaires vs. the Press in the Era of Trump

By Emily Bazelon

As a candidate, Trump blustered vaguely that he wanted to “open up our libel laws.” I asked his spokeswoman, Hope Hicks, by email what he meant by that, but she didn’t answer the question (or others I posed). It’s not within the president’s direct powers to change the rules for libel suits. But our legal safeguards for writers and publishers aren’t foolproof. In the last few years, Trump has been joined by at least two billionaires who are determined to exploit cracks in the wall of defense around the press…

This kind of manipulation of the law is unfolding at a keen moment of weakness for the press, which has already been buffeted by falling revenue and mounting public disaffection. Only 40 percent of the public – the lowest rate since at least the 1990s – trusts the media “to report the news fully, accurately and fairly,” according to a Gallup survey conducted in September 2015. 

Philadelphia Inquirer: Don’t block #fakenews. Fight it with facts

By Chris Brennan

We, the loyal and patriotic citizens of the fact-based United States of America, are the only group that can win a fight against what we now know as #fakenews.

The government has no role in moderating or regulating constitutionally protected free speech.

At the mucky bottom of that slippery slope is a state-run media deciding who can be a journalist and what they can say.

Let’s not go there.

Social media sites are slow to recognize and slower still to act on all this.

Consider the public opinion weathervane, Facebook head Mark Zuckerberg, who swiveled from claiming fake news made up less than 1 percent of his site’s content to rejecting the notion that it impacted the presidential campaign to banning some fake news sites from profiting from his company’s advertising network.


More Soft Money Hard Law: Reform and Mobilization

By Bob Bauer

To insist that reform’s design must take into account the needs of political association and activism is not to consign to a lower rung, or to read out of the plan altogether, the values of “fairness, accountability and inclusion.” But at a time when progressives are sobered by the looming contest over large questions of national values and policy, a reform compatible with the needs of an energetic politics seems fairly urgent.

A reform program developed for campaign finance might respond to this need in various ways. At its simplest, less controversial, it would favor reducing the cost of political action by promoting clarity and lowering the cost of compliance. Granted, critics will say that no legal regime is simpler than the one produced for all intents and purposes by the current paralysis of the FEC, in part brought on by the turn against regulation in Supreme Court jurisprudence. On major issues, the FEC cannot act. It remains a messy and costly situation, however. Judging levels of legal risk requires some fair certainty about what the rules are and the circumstances in which they will be enforced. A legal regime in disrepair cannot be the goal: A better one would function efficiently to produce and enforce sensible rules.

Trump Administration

Bloomberg BNA: Trump Transition Team Curbs Lobbyists but Potential Conflicts Seen Ahead

By Kenneth P. Doyle

Ethics experts and watchdog groups have praised moves by President-elect Donald Trump to limit the influence of lobbyists and personal financial interests in the presidential transition process, but many are also raising questions about what they view as “unprecedented” conflicts of interest that could be posed by a Trump presidency.

The nonprofit group Issue One, which supports stronger ethics and campaign finance rules, said in a Nov. 17 statement that Trump took a “small but important step” in restricting lobbyists’ involvement in the transition. Trump is requiring those working on the transition to sign a pledge that they will not get involved in “any particular transition matter” on which they have lobbied over the past year, as defined by the Lobbying Disclosure Act…

The Issue One statement questioned, however, the focus on LDA-registered lobbyists, which could allow involvement of those doing advocacy work but not covered by the lobbying law’s loose definition of lobbying activities. 

Candidates and Campaigns

Vox: Trump exposed the limits of political consulting. But the industry will continue to thrive.

By Adam Sheingate

Trump proved it is possible to win the White House without a big advertising budget or an extensive ground game. Of course, few candidates have the name recognition of Trump; even fewer elicit the kind of feverish mass following we witnessed in the campaign. In less extraordinary circumstances, advertising can have measurable effects on opinion and data analytics can help get out the vote.

But the multibillion-dollar business of politics continues to thrive for reasons other than the services it provides. So long as politicians must secure vast sums to insure their electoral survival, political consultants will play a critical role in raising and spending money in campaigns. The biggest threat to the elections industry is not the rise of a candidate who can win without consultants. It is a political reform movement dedicated to reducing the influence of money in politics.

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