Daily Media Links 4/25: U.S. top court preserves Alabama campaign finance curbs, Bill Would Force Maine-Based PACs to Shed Light on Secretive Contributors, and more…

Free Speech

Washington Post: A scholar asks, ‘Can democracy survive the Internet?’

By Dan Balz

The rise and power of the Internet has accelerated the decline of institutions that once provided a mediating force in campaigns. Neither the legacy media nor the established political parties exercise the power they once had as referees, particularly in helping to sort out the integrity of information.

Beyond that, legacy media that once helped set the agenda for political conversation now often take their cues from new media…

Persily also notes that the fear of dark money and “shady outsiders” running television commercials “seems quaint when compared to networks of thousands of bots of uncertain geographic origin creating automated messages designed to malign candidates and misinform voters.”…

When asked how worrisome all this is, Persily said, “I’m extremely concerned.” He was quick to say he did not believe government should or even could regulate this new environment. But, he said, “We need to come to grips with how the new communication environment affects people’s political beliefs, the information they receive and then the choices that they make.”

The Hill: Sanders denounces threats against Ann Coulter

By Brandon Carter

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) denounced the threats made against conservative pundit Ann Coulter that forced the University of California, Berkley, to postpone her appearance this week.

“I don’t like this. I don’t like it,” Sanders told The Huffington Post for a story published Saturday. “Obviously Ann Coulter’s outrageous – to my mind, off the wall. But you know, people have a right to give their two cents-worth, give a speech, without fear of violence and intimidation.”…

Sanders pushed back against protests that Coulter shouldn’t be allowed to speak, calling them “a sign of intellectual weakness.”

“If you can’t ask Ann Coulter in a polite way questions which expose the weakness of her arguments, if all you can do is boo, or shut her down, or prevent her from coming, what does that tell the world?” he told The Huffington Post.

Daily Caller: Judgeless Administrative Subpoenas Are An Enemy Of Free Speech

By Mark J. Fitzbiggons

In the spring of 2016 after meeting with Al Gore and other leaders of the climate exaggeration movement, a group of left-wing state attorneys general calling themselves “AGs United for Clean Power” entered into a secrecy pact called a common interest agreement.

In lieu of pushing for any legislation or otherwise following democratic processes, members of this combination then issued administrative subpoenas to Exxon and the nonprofit Competitive Enterprise Institute, seeking decades’ worth of internal documents about their positions on climate change. The AGs’ goal was quite obvious: Silence or at least intimidate dissent to their agenda relating to the causes of climate change and policy responses to it…

As long as attorneys general or even federal bureaucrats have the power to issue their own warrants, they will abuse that power to target the rights of their ideological opponents. It is time to protect the First Amendment by restoring the Fourth Amendment, and eliminate administrative subpoenas.

Supreme Court

Reuters: U.S. top court preserves Alabama campaign finance curbs

By Andrew Chung

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear an appeal by an Alabama black-voter outreach group with close ties to the state’s Democratic Party of a lower court’s ruling that upheld a state ban on cash transfers between political action committees.

The Alabama Democratic Conference had asked the justices to review a September 2016 decision by the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that sided with the state and found that the law did not violate the organization’s rights to free expression and free association under the U.S. Constitution…

The group created a separate bank account designated for independent activities and sued the state in 2011 to stop enforcement of the law for donations to that account.

ADC argued that since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled out state regulation of independent political expenditures by PACs in its 2010 decision in the landmark case called Citizens United v. FEC, contributions for independent expenditures also cannot be regulated.

The 11th Circuit found that ADC’s segregated accounts were not enough to eliminate the possibility of corruption, adding that the group can still receive unlimited contributions from individuals.

The Courts

Daily Caller: Several AGs Call Out NY Dem’s ‘Unconstitutional’ Anti-Exxon Probes

By Chris White

Nearly a dozen attorneys general called a year-long investigation targeting Exxon Mobil’s climate research a politically biased infringement of the company’s free speech.

Republican AGs from 11 states, including Oklahoma, Utah and Texas, filed an amicus brief Wednesday castigating a Democrat-led probe against the oil company’s handling of decades worth of climate data.

The authors of the amicus believe the pursuit of Exxon violates the First Amendment of the U.S Constitution and constitutes an “unconstitutional abuse of investigative power.”…

The 11 AGs argue that Schneiderman and Healey’s probes undermine public confidence the two Democrats’ ability to stay nonpartisan.

“Defendants are not using their power in an impartial manner. Rather, they are embracing one side of a multi-faceted and robust policy debate, and simultaneously seeking to censor opposing viewpoints,” the brief states. “This is bad faith.”

Congress

International Business Times: Are Republicans Trying To Eliminate Activist Investors? Bill To Replace Dodd-Frank Could Silence Shareholders

By Lydia O’Neal

The CHOICE Act, sponsored by Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling, who chairs the House Financial Services Committee, would replace Dodd-Frank – and sharply raise the ownership threshold for shareholders who can file proposals…

Shareholder proposals have pushed companies to do far more than address human rights abuses within their supply chains. Their effective elimination would have far-reaching consequences for climate change, board diversity and pay equity, pension funds’ power over their investments and companies’ disclosures of lobbying and campaign finance activities…

Shareholder resolutions can also be a means of shedding light on corporations’ lobbying and campaign finance activities at a time when, a February study found, only 12 percent of publicly-traded firms in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index disclosed their lobbying expenditures. The number of shareholder proposals on lobbying, the report noted, grew to 64 in 2016 from just five in 2010. Proposals related to elections remained relatively flat, but still made up a large portion of resolutions involving political activity, with between 40 and 63 filed per year between 2010 and 2016.

The Media

Washington Examiner: Obama slams media that lets people reinforce ‘their own realities’

By Pete Kasperowicz

Former President Barack Obama on Monday partly blamed the nation’s splintered politics on a media structure that lets people only listen to or read media outlets they agree with, which prevents them from hearing the other side.

“Because of changes in the media, we now have a situation in which everybody is listening to people who already agree with them, and are further and further reinforcing their own realities to the neglect of the common reality that allows us to have a healthy debate, and then try to find common ground and actually move solutions forward,” Obama said in his first set of remarks since he left the White House in January.

Obama said other problems include the gerrymandering, money in politics and the control over the government by special interests.

The States

Fresno Bee: Will California lawmakers close huge campaign finance loophole? 

By Editorial Board

Not that they can do much about it, but Democrats regularly denounce Citizens United, the 2010 Supreme Court decision that led to wide-open federal campaign spending by corporations and wealthy people.

Democrats went so far as to place a measure on California’s ballot last November urging that Congress approve a constitutional amendment to repeal it, more as a way to drive up Democratic turnout than to effect change.

On Wednesday, the Democratic-controlled Assembly Elections Committee will get a chance to put their votes where their rhetoric is by approving Assembly Bill 1234 by Assemblyman Marc Levine. The bill would shine light on money that flows into one dim corner of California elections by restricting the size of donations from political parties to candidates. Don’t count on it passing.

Under Proposition 34 of 2000, donations directly to candidates are capped at $4,200 per election. But the measure imposed no limits on donations to political party committees. Those committees, in turn, can spend unlimited sums on behalf of candidates and give $35,200 directly to the candidates.

Howard County Times: Support for publicly funded campaign system surges at Howard hearing 

By Fatimah Waseem

Pushed by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010, which opponents say shifted the field in favor of big campaign donors, publicly funded campaigns have picked up steam across the country.

But Howard’s measure, which is scheduled for a council vote on May 1, faces an uncertain future…

Although Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman declined to definitively say he would veto the measure, he has said he is strongly opposed to the system, which relies on public funding.

Through a spokesman Kittleman, a Republican, said he objects to using taxpayer dollars that could fund campaigns taxpayers oppose and that it “diverts” county funding from critical infrastructure needs.

Instead, Kittleman said, citizen-funded campaigns, which he supports, should rely on voluntary contributions.

The council needs four votes to ensure the bill is veto-proof.

Maine Public: Bill Would Force Maine-Based PACs to Shed Light on Secretive Contributors 

By Steve Mistler

Lawmakers are reviewing a bill from the Maine Ethics Commission that would require organizations contributing more than $100,000 to Maine-based political action committees, party committees and ballot campaigns to report their top five funders.

The proposal would have affected 13 organizations that donated a combined $14 million to Maine-based PACs in the last election…

The Maine Ethics Commission oversees and enforces the state’s campaign finance laws. Its proposal, endorsed by the commission’s five-member board, would do something few state or federal campaign finance laws do: shed light on a growing number of pop-up nonprofits, limited liability companies and other organizations often described as dark money groups…

According to the Ethics Commission, only California is known to have a similar requirement. That means Maine could become a leader in dark money disclosure.

Only two groups, the Ethics Commission and Maine Citizens for Clean Elections, testified in support of the bill.

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