Daily Media Links 3/28: Here’s how senators plan to vote on Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, California Bill To Ban “Fake News” Would Be Disastrous for Political Speech, and more…

In the News                                       

The Hill: Money doesn’t buy elections and elections aren’t rigged. Period.

By Alex Baiocco

The truth is, academic research demonstrates that existing campaign finance regulations do nothing to reduce perceptions of corruption or increase trust in government. More speech restrictions will equal more of the same.

Nor is there evidence that money “buys” electoral outcomes…

In other words, advocates of further regulating political speech are making demonstrably false claims that call into question the legitimacy of electoral outcomes.

When Donald Trump first claimed that the election was “rigged” as a candidate, critics were quick to suggest that making such a claim was a threat to democracy. Why? Because it called into question the legitimacy of our election results.

As president, Trump has continued to make similar claims…

Trump’s critics are right to call him out for making such serious allegations without providing any legitimate evidence. But the evidence that money buys elections is just as lacking as the evidence of voter fraud in New Hampshire. Those same critics who call out Trump should also criticize the “reform” lobby with equal fervor.

Supreme Court                                      

The Hill: Gorsuch is restoring lost faith in government

By Shaun McCutcheon

Judge Neil Gorsuch did a lot of explaining last week on what makes a good judge. One message that we heard repeatedly was how staying above politics is necessary to be fair and impartial. Not too long after the questions began, Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island challenged Gorsuch’s premise by bringing up my case (McCutcheon v. FEC) and other recent 5-4 decisions of the Supreme Court. Specifically, Whitehouse said, “The question that faces me is what happens when the Republicans get five appointees on the Supreme Court? I can’t help but notice the array of 5-4 decisions … helping Republicans at the polls.”

Whitehouse fails to realize that as a direct result of the 5-4 McCutcheon decision Democrats have raised and spent more money than the Republicans…

To assert that my case is helping Republicans, or giving any party for that matter, an advantage at the polls, is flat wrong. Like the philosophy that Gorsuch advanced during the hearings last week, the First Amendment and Free Speech are above politics – and my case proves it.

CNN: Here’s how senators plan to vote on Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch

By Ashley Killough and Ted Barrett

Republicans are considering their next step now that the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch are over and Democrats are planning to filibuster the nomination.

The Senate Judiciary Committee met Monday to consider Gorsuch’s nomination, but as expected, Democrats requested that the nomination be held for one week, so the committee is expected to vote Monday, April 3.

Republicans, who number 52 in the Senate, need eight Democrats to join them in order to end the expected filibuster, or in more technical terms, invoke cloture.

If they don’t reach 60 votes, they can still get around it by changing the rules and requiring only a simple majority, or 51 votes, to end the debate.

So far, only two Democrats — Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota — have signaled they are not planning to filibuster, which means they would vote with Republicans to advance his nomination. But it’s unclear how both senators would vote on final confirmation of Gorsuch.

National Review: Jeffrey Toobin Smears Gorsuch

By Ed Whelan

The New Yorker’s Jeffrey Toobin has penned a hit piece on Supreme Court nominee that plumbs new depths of incompetence…

Toobin claims that “Gorsuch would embrace the deregulation of campaign finance” and, as his sole support for that proposition, states that Gorsuch “argued in an opinion that judges should evaluate limits on political contributions using the same tough standards that they apply to racial discrimination.” But, as he testified (and as I’ve shown), Gorsuch made no such argument but instead highlighted the “conflicting cues” that Supreme Court precedents provided.

The Courts                                           

Chicago Daily Law Bulletin: Cannabis companies can campaign

By Andrew Maloney

In a 22-page decision issued late last week, Lee wrote that Section 9-45 of the Illinois Election Code, which prohibited cultivation centers and dispensaries from giving any amount to political candidates, was not “closely drawn” to advance the government’s interest in preventing quid pro quo corruption or its appearance.

He called the law “plainly disproportional” to that interest, questioning why an outright ban was needed instead of a dollar limit on contributions…

And he wrote that the outright ban on top of the $10,000 baseline limit for corporate donations to candidates was a “heavy-handed ‘prophylaxis-upon-prophylaxis’ approach.”

“Defendants have offered no justification for imposing an outright ban on contributions from medical cannabis cultivation centers and dispensaries when more moderate measures, such as dollar limits on contributions, are available,” Lee wrote.

“Nor have they explained why the risk of the appearance of corruption might be uniquely problematic in the medical cannabis industry, such that it could be justifiable for the government to target contribution restrictions at the medical cannabis industry alone.”

The Media                                            

TechCrunch: Facebook officially launches “Town Hall” for contacting government reps, adds local election reminders

By Sarah Perez

Earlier this month, TechCrunch reported Facebook was rolling out a new feature called “Town Hall,” which would allow the social network’s users to easily locate, follow and contact their local, state and federal government representatives. The company today confirmed the feature is available to all U.S. users on desktop and mobile, and will now include News Feed integration. Along with this news, Facebook also announced it’s launching local election reminders for the first time, to encourage users to vote in state, county, and municipal elections.

The changes follow Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s recent penning of a nearly 6,000-word manifesto where he discussed a number of ambitions for the social network in the days ahead. One of these was focused on using the network to increase civic engagement – a tacit acknowledgement of the role Facebook plays in today’s political landscape…

Zuckerberg initially downplayed the concerns over the spread of “fake news” on Facebook by saying that the network was a technology platform, not a media company. He later changed his position on this, and the company has since begun rolling out a variety of fact-checking measures to combat fake news.

Ketchikan SitNews: A constitutional right to social media?

By Mark Grabowski

Most Americans know that they can speak their mind in the public square, thanks to the First Amendment. Speech on social media, however, can be censored because private companies own those cyber spaces…
During a Feb. 27 hearing involving the constitutionality of a state social media law, Justice Anthony Kennedy said that Twitter and Facebook had become, and even surpassed, the public square as a place for discussion and debate…

In 1980, in Pruneyard Shopping Center v. Robins, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed a California Supreme Court decision recognizing that California’s Constitution protected the right of high school students to gather signatures at a privately-owned shopping center for a petition objecting to a United Nations resolution that said Zionism was a form of racism.

Driving the California court’s reasoning was a concern that traditional public squares – the old “Main Street” – were giving way to privately-owned businesses. Consequently, the speech rights that Californians enjoyed in these public Main Street spaces would greatly diminish if a town’s center of gravity shifted to a mall and its owners were able to restrict speech because it’s on private property.

The States

Connecticut Mirror: Democrats back ban on ‘dark money’ in state campaigns

By Mark Pazniokas

The Democratic bill appeared to be largely designed in response to Grow Connecticut, which also spent money on targeted legislative races last year, when Republicans captured half the seats in the Senate and fell just four short of winning a majority in the House.

“It’s so funny they are scared of me, little old me,” said Liz Kurantowicz, the former Republican state official who runs Grow Connecticut. “I’m not surprised the Democrats would want to limit free speech in Connecticut.”

The Democratic bill would:

Ban dark money by prohibiting Connecticut independent expenditure groups from accepting contributions from other entities whose major funding sources are not public.

Cap contributions from a single source to independent expenditure groups to an aggregate of $70,000 in a calendar year.

Require corporate political expenditures to be approved by boards of directors and disclosed to shareholders.

Bar corporations with foreign ownership of more than 5 percent from contributing to an independent-expenditure group or making its own independent expenditures.

Electronic Frontier Foundation: California Bill To Ban “Fake News” Would Be Disastrous for Political Speech

By Dave Maass

Memo to California Assemblymember Ed Chau: you can’t fight fake news with a bad law.

On Tuesday, the California Assembly’s Committee on Privacy and Consumer Affairs, which Chau chairs, will consider A.B. 1104-a censorship bill so obviously unconstitutional, we had to double check that it was real.

It’s real. The proposed law reads:

“18320.5. It is unlawful for a person to knowingly and willingly make, publish or circulate on an Internet Web site, or cause to be made, published, or circulated in any writing posted on an Internet Web site, a false or deceptive statement designed to influence the vote on either of the following:

(a) Any issue submitted to voters at an election.

(b) Any candidate for election to public office.”

In other words, it would be illegal to be wrong on the internet if it could impact an election…

At a time when political leaders are promoting “alternative facts” and branding unflattering reporting as “fake news,” we don’t think it’s a good idea to give the government more power to punish speech.

Charleston Gazette-Mail: WV Senate passes campaign finance overhaul

By Jake Zuckerman

The West Virginia Senate passed a bill Monday designed to overhaul campaign finance laws in the state.

Key provisions of the legislation, Senate Bill 539, increase the maximum amounts that citizens can donate to individual campaigns, political action committees (PACs), caucus committees, state parties and ballot issue committees.

It also raises the amount of money citizens can donate anonymously for certain campaign communications, often referred to as “dark money.”

The bill passed with a 21-12 vote before it was sent to the House of Delegates.

Should the bill pass, citizens could donate up to $2,700 dollars per election cycle to a candidate running for statewide office, up from $1,000. Citizens also could donate up to $5,000 per year to PACs, and $10,000 per year to state parties or caucus campaign committees.

Additionally, it ties all the political contribution limits to the Consumer Price Index, to be adjusted every two years….

The bill allows citizens to donate up to $1,000 to certain PACs (those who do not donate to individual candidates or their committees) without disclosing their identity, up from today’s $250 threshold. 

Santa Fe New Mexican: Governor should sign ‘dark-money’ bill

By Trevor Potter

The New Mexico Legislature took a significant step toward ensuring transparency and diminishing unchecked “dark money” in state elections this legislative session by approving Senate Bill 96. Now it is the governor’s turn to give New Mexico voters a break…

The key provision of SB 96 would require a group spending over $1,000 on “independent expenditures” (i.e., communications expressly advocating the election or defeat of a candidate that are made independently from the candidate) to file a publicly accessible report with the secretary of state. A report also is necessary if an expenditure is made for a communication referring to a candidate in the immediate timeframe before an election. In general, the report must include the name and address of the group sponsoring the independent expenditure; identify the date, amount, and purpose of the expenditure; and disclose information about certain donors to the sponsoring group.

Additionally, SB 96 would necessitate that political advertisements include an on-ad disclaimer identifying who authorized and paid for the advertisement.

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