Daily Media Links 4/27: The Bipartisan Urge to Suppress Dissent, Campaign finance reform measures die in Colorado legislature, and more…

In the News

Forbes: Stop Using ‘Special Interests’ As An Insult

By Joe Albanese

The way the term “special interests” is used in practice suggests that it’s simply shorthand for “bad thing my opponent supports.” After all, depending on one’s views, “special interests” may encompass big business or big labor, fossil fuel or green energy companies, and single-issue and ideological groups like the Club for Growth or EMILY’s List.

In fact, one can fairly say that all of those groups are “special interests.” And that’s okay.

“Special interests” – or the more fitting term, advocacy groups – simplify democracy rather than subvert it. Most Americans don’t have the time or ability to analyze legislation, organize grassroots activity, or follow the ins and outs of the political process. Advocacy groups bridge the gap between citizens and government. They communicate their members’ views to public officials and inform the public of important political developments. For every advocacy group with one viewpoint, there is almost certainly another one making the opposite case. Some groups you’ll support, and others you’ll oppose, but they all contribute to the exchange of ideas that makes democracy work.

Free Speech

Reason: The Bipartisan Urge to Suppress Dissent

By Jacob Sullum

After the Milo melee in February, Trump suggested on Twitter that Berkeley risks losing federal funds if it “does not allow free speech.” If the president were sincerely committed to protecting First Amendment rights, he would issue similar warnings to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which recently demanded that Twitter reveal the identity of a DHS gadfly, and the Justice Department, which is considering criminal charges against people who share classified information leaked by others…

Last week, in response to inquiries by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), DHS Inspector General John Roth revealed that his office is investigating whether the CBP summons was “improper.”

The day before Roth expressed concern about government inquiries that might have “a chilling effect on individuals’ free speech rights,” CNN and The Washington Post reported that the Justice Department is once again looking for a way to prosecute WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange… The Obama administration abandoned that project after concluding that charging Assange with violating the Espionage Act would create a precedent that could be used against any news organization that publishes stories based on “defense information” from sources who obtained or divulged it illegally-a very common journalistic practice.

Supreme Court

New York Times: Justices Won’t Hear Challenge to Alabama Campaign Law

By Associated Press

The US Supreme Court on Monday said it won’t hear a challenge to Alabama’s ban on the transfer of campaign contributions between political action committees.

The justices left in place a lower court ruling that said the 2010 law does not unconstitutionally restrict political speech.

The Alabama Democratic Conference, one of the state’s oldest predominantly African-American political organizations sued state officials over a portion of the law that prohibited ADC’s PAC from getting money from other PACs to use for voter communication programs and to get voters to the polls…

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the 2010 law is not an unconstitutional prohibition on free political speech. The court said Alabama had a sufficient interest in trying to prevent corruption to justify the restriction on political activity.

The Courts

Reason: After Challenging Red Light Cameras, Oregon Man Fined $500 for Practicing Engineering Without a License

By Eric Boehm

Järlström is now suing the state board over that fine, arguing that it’s unconstitutional to prevent someone from doing math without the government’s permission…

According to the lawsuit, the state board investigated Portland City Commissioner Dan Saltzman in 2014 for publishing a campaign pamphlet that mentioned Saltzman’s background as an “environmental engineer.” Saltzman has a bachelor’s degree in environmental and civil engineering from Cornell University, a master’s degree from MIT’s School of Civil Engineering, and is a membership of the American Society of Civil Engineers…

In another case, the state board investigated a Republican gubernatorial candidate for using the phrase “I’m an engineer and a problem-solver” in a campaign ad. The candidate in question, Allen Alley, had a degree in engineering from Purdue University and worked as an engineer for Boeing…

Järlström’s lawsuit isn’t seeking any monetary damages. He only wants a judicial order telling the state state board to stop violating the free speech rights of Oregonians.

Washington Post: Lawsuit filed against UC Berkeley for canceling Ann Coulter speech

By Susan Svrluga and William Wan

Student groups have filed a lawsuit against the University of California at Berkeley, saying school officials violated their right to free speech when they canceled a talk by a controversial speaker last week over security concerns.

The lawsuit, filed by a prominent Republican lawyer, Harmeet Dhillon, on behalf of Berkeley College Republicans and Young America’s Foundation, a national group fighting First Amendment issues on many campuses, charges that the university’s actions smother the speech of conservative students whose opinions are a minority at Berkeley…

The lawsuit contends, “Though UC Berkeley promises its students an environment that promotes free debate and the free exchange of ideas, it had breached this promise through the repressive actions of University administrators and campus police, who have systematically and intentionally suppressed constitutionally-protected expression” by the students who invited Coulter and the many students whose political views align with the plaintiffs, “simply because that expression may anger or offend students, UC Berkeley administrators” and community members who disagree.


The Atlantic: A Chilling Threat of Political Violence in Portland

By Conor Friedersdorf

Across the nation, peaceful protest against President Trump continues. But a violent fringe has been using Trump’s rise as a justification for political violence, as if his authoritarian impulses justify authoritarianism from his opponents…

And now, activists in Oregon caused the cancellation of the 82nd Avenue of Roses Parade, a community event in the southeast quadrant of Portland, by threatening to forcibly drag “fascists” off the parade route if they weren’t excluded.

Who exactly did they want removed from the parade? The local Republican Party of Multonomah County…

Organizers caved. “Following threats of violence during the Parade by multiple groups planning to demonstrate at the event, we can no longer guarantee the safety of our community and have made the difficult decision to cancel the Parade,” they stated…

So long as threats of violence succeed in causing events to get shut down by their risk-averse organizers, more threats will be made. One wonders who this faction on the left will next label a Nazi or a fascist in order to justify their own use of fascistic tactics.


WTSP 10 News Tampa Bay: Is Twitter account posting every Trump donor’s name?

By Mark Rivera

President Donald Trump supporters, listen up – someone is posting your name, how much you’ve donated, where you live and what you do all in one place online…

I can’t speak for all 15,000-plus tweets from the @everytrumpdonor account, but every tweet that I was able to check was accurate.

So I verify this as a yes – it’s the real deal and it’s posting public donation information from the Federal Election Commission’s website.

The other reason I can verify it’s accurate – I went to see three of the people whose names were posted on @everytrumpdonor Twitter.

They live in Tampa Bay. None of them had any idea that information was online for all to see.

“I think it’s a huge invasion of privacy and I don’t know how anyone can get that information, but you know I guess if it’s free. If they didn’t break a law, I guess it’s something they can do,” said Trump campaign donor William Minnix.

Candidates and Campaigns 

New York Magazine: Georgia’s Special Congressional Election on Track to Become Most Expensive House Race Ever

By Ed Kilgore

Ossoff and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee reserved three-quarters of a million dollars in ads almost instantly after the April 18 returns. With the Democratic candidate coming so close to a knockout, there is no reason to think his amazing fundraising will slack off significantly. And whether or not he remains highly competitive in the ad wars, his investment in field operations (costing $2 million before the first round) is impressive…

On the GOP side, it’s not Handel (who will supposedly benefit from a fundraiser headlined by Donald Trump himself) who’s burning money, but the outside GOP groups that may have actually outspent Ossoff in the first round. Paul Ryan’s leadership PAC spent a reported $3 million in the first round, and has already committed $2.5 million for ads and another cool million for field operations. You can expect the National Republican Congressional Committee (the DCCC’s counterpart), which spent $2 million the first time around, to stay engaged, along with the Ricketts family’s Ending Spending PAC, which was unique in backing Handel from the get-go. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is also expected to spend some dough backing Handel.

The States

Colorado Springs Gazette: Campaign finance reform measures die in Colorado legislature 

By Peter Marcus

A Republican-controlled Senate committee on Wednesday killed two campaign finance reform measures that Democrats pushed this year as part of a package…

House Bill 1261 would have required a description of the entities that are spending money to influence elections with “paid for by” disclosures on all electioneering material; and House Bill 1262 would have required all electioneering between the primary and general elections be subject to disclosures…

In addition to the two bills heard on Wednesday, two other measures are part of the package, which was announced at a news conference at the Capitol last month.

House Bill 1259 would subject candidates to constitutional contribution limits after the Colorado Court of Appeals made it possible for a candidate to create an independent committee to potentially receive unlimited donations; and House Bill 1260 would limit individual contributions for county candidates to $2,500 per election cycle. Corporate contributions would continue to be prohibited.

House Bill 1259 is still in the House and House Bill 1260 is awaiting a hearing in the Senate. They face uphill battles with two weeks left in the divided legislature.

Columbus Ledger-Enquirer: Right call on years-wrong loophole 

By Dusty Nix

Alabama’s notorious PAC-to-PAC transfer loophole was one of the truly accountability-free disgraces of political slush funding. Under that system, in place for decades while Democrats were in control of the legislature and, usually, the Governor’s Office, money donated to one political action committee could be transferred to another, which could transfer money to another (or many others), and so on, until campaign funds were quite literally untraceable…

It was political money laundering, pure and simple, and it was completely legal.

It was legal, that is, until right after the November 2010 elections, when Alabama voters opted for a reform-ticket Republican majority – the first since Reconstruction. The next month, both houses voted unanimously to ban the practice…

The “money is speech” argument, in a post-Citizens United American legal and political universe, is still a reasonably debatable issue. The legal and ethical imperative for transparency and accountability surely is not.

The Supreme Court’s decision not to hear the ADC’s challenge is welcome news. It lets stand a good law against bad politics.

Washington Free Beacon: A Majority of Tom Perriello’s Campaign Funds Are Coming From Outside Virginia 

By Joe Schoffstall

Perriello has raised $2.2 million to date, with 56 percent of his donations coming from individuals who live in other states, according to data from the Virginia Public Access Project, a nonpartisan group that tracks money in politics…

“Virginia voters are quickly learning that Tom Perriello is a hypocrite on multiple issues, including campaign finance,” Jon Thompson, spokesman for the Republican Governors Association, told the Washington Free Beacon. “He bemoans big money in politics, but a large majority of his contributions come from far-left billionaires. He touts that his campaign is ‘people-powered’ by Virginia voters, but most of his contributions come from donors outside of the Commonwealth.”

“Virginians need a governor who they can trust to keep their word, but Perriello’s campaign mantra continues to be “Do as I say, not as I do.” Voters can’t trust what comes out of his mouth.”…

Perriello is also garnering support from a number of politicians from outside Virginia including Sens. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.), who both endorsed Perriello. 

New Philadelphia Times Reporter: Former commissioner Belle Everett files FCC complaint over radio ads

By Nancy Molnar

Former Tuscarawas County Commissioner Belle Everett has filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission alleging improper handling by WJER Radio of free commercials provided to her opponent Joe Sciarretti, days before the general election last November.

WJER General Manager Amy Smith said that station believed it had resolved the issue by giving Everett 20 free ads, which exceeded the 12 extras given to Sciarretti’s campaign. Management also asked for, and received, the resignation of the employee who aired the free spots.

The FCC complaint, filed by Everett’s attorney Stanley B. Dritz of Columbus, asks the FCC to fully investigate the actions of a former WJER radio employee and whether the radio station’s management properly handled the situation, including self-reporting potential violations to the FCC…

Election laws stipulate that all commercial and advertising messages for campaigns must be paid in advance and Sciarretti’s campaign did not pay for any of the “free” commercials, according to the FCC complaint.

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