Daily Media Links 5/8: Trump to Announce Slate of Conservative Federal Court Nominees, Trump campaign slams media for refusing ad, and more…

The Courts         

New York Times: Trump to Announce Slate of Conservative Federal Court Nominees

By Adam Liptak

Having filled a Supreme Court vacancy, President Trump is turning his attention to the more than 120 openings on the lower federal courts. On Monday, he will announce a slate of 10 nominees to those courts, a senior White House official said, the first in what could be near monthly waves of nominations.

The White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, said the nominations were a vindication of a commitment Mr. Trump made during the campaign “to appoint strong and principled jurists to the federal bench who will enforce the Constitution’s limits on federal power and protect the liberty of all Americans.”

The administration continues to draw on lists of 21 potential Supreme Court nominees, put together with the help of the conservative Federalist Society and Heritage Foundation, that Mr. Trump issued during the campaign. But it is looking at other sources, too, the White House official said. Mr. McGahn, who has supervised the selection of the nominees, is looking for scholarly credentials and “intellectual boldness,” among other qualities, the official added.

The Media        

The Hill: Trump campaign slams media for refusing ad

By Joe Concha

President Trump’s campaign says CNN, ABC, CBS, and NBC are chilling free speech with their decision to reject an advertisement touting the successes of his first 100 days in office…

The ad also superimposes the word “fake news” over images of CNN’s Wolf Blitzer along with anchors for MSNBC, CBS, ABC and PBS.

“Setting a chilling precedent against free speech rights, Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. has just learned that now, all of the mainstream media television networks have decided to block the paid placement of a campaign ad that celebrates the achievements of President Trump in his first 100 days in office,” the Trump campaign release states…

CNN said Tuesday that it was not going to air a campaign ad from Trump because of the reference to fake news.

“CNN requested that the advertiser remove the false graphic that says mainstream media is ‘fake news,'” CNN’s public relations department tweeted.

“The mainstream media is not fake news, and therefore the ad is false. Per our policy, it will be accepted only if that graphic is deleted. Those are the facts.”

Independent Groups      

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: Hacked records show Bradley Foundation taking its conservative Wisconsin model national

By Daniel Bice

Long a player on the national stage, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee has been quietly using its vast resources to construct state-by-state networks of activist groups to win support for its conservative agenda from coast to coast.

This previously undisclosed effort by the Bradley Foundation was revealed in hundreds of thousands of documents swiped by international hackers from the foundation’s server late last year…

The Bradley Foundation is paying less attention to Washington, D.C. Instead, it is methodically building a coalition of outside groups aimed at influencing officials in statehouses from Pennsylvania to Arizona

“Many say Washington is ‘broken.’ Whatever this might mean, it does not mean conservative policy advancement,” said one internal Bradley memo from August 2014. Instead, it continued, “there has been a recent increase in state-level receptivity to meaningful conservative policy reform.”

The result: Bradley Foundation, worth nearly $900 million, is underwriting local think tanks, opposition research centers, candidate recruitment groups, conservative media, bill-drafting organizations and litigation centers around the nation – what some critics call “shadow governments.”

CPI: Pro-Trump super PACs have already spent $1 million on Election 2020

By Dave Levinthal

So much spending, so fast, is unprecedented in U.S. election history.

Trump himself is the prime instigator of this outside money onslaught. He filed his re-election paperwork on Jan. 20 – the day of his inauguration – and has since conducted campaign rallies, raised more than $7 million in campaign cash and even aired a campaign TV ad touting his nascent presidency.

With Trump’s candidacy declared, it’s easy for super PACs and certain nonprofit groups empowered by the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money to promote the president’s political prospects…

It took until mid-spring 2015 – about 27 months after President Barack Obama’s second inauguration – for political groups such as super PACs to collectively spend $1 million promoting or opposing the gaggle of Democrats and Republicans running to replace Obama.

Following Trump’s inauguration in January, political groups crossed the same spending threshold in a mere three-and-a-half months.

CRP: Two (at most) secret donors funded 93% of pro-Rubio nonprofit

By Robert Maguire

A politically active nonprofit that supported Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-Fla.) failed 2016 presidential bid raised nearly $22 million in two years, 93 percent of which came from either one or two anonymous donors, tax documents obtained by the Center for Responsive Politics show.

Conservative Solutions Project, a 501(c)(4) “social welfare” organization with no employees or volunteers that isn’t supposed to be primarily political, spent millions of dollars on ads, research and polling to boost the Florida senator’s candidacy, but it appears to have done little or no social welfare – unless one counts portraying Rubio as a champion on taxes and foreign policy as being a public good. That raises questions of whether CSP crossed a legal line by acting mainly as a political group – and also whether it existed to benefit a single person, violating the IRS’ “private benefit” rule.

The bulk of CSP’s revenues were derived from two anonymous donations – a $13.5 million contribution shown in its first full-year tax filing, and another $7 million contribution in its most recent filing. But because CSP, as a social welfare organization, is not required to publicly disclose the identities of its donors, it isn’t clear if the two contributions came from a single source – an individual, a corporation or some other entity – or two.

Candidates and Campaigns      

Politico: Georgia special election smashes all-time spending record

Elena Schneider

It’s official: Georgia’s special election will be the most expensive House race in U.S. history.

Candidates and outside groups have aired or reserved more than $29.7 million worth of TV ads in the race to replace Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price in Congress, which will break a five-year-old record for House spending…

The $29.7 million total in Georgia, compiled by a source tracking media spending in the district, includes only money spent on TV ads.

But the campaigns and outside groups are also pumping millions of dollars into get-out-the-vote activities, mailers, radio and more. And the runoff Election Day is still six weeks away, on June 20.

“It’s entirely possible that by the time the books are closed on this race, there will be over $40 million spent in the special and in the runoff,” said Chip Lake, a Republican strategist who works in Georgia…

As one of the first special elections of Trump’s presidency, it became an outlet for “the grass roots excitement, which is propelling the outrageous spending on both sides,” said Taryn Rosenkranz, a Democratic digital fundraising consultant.

The States

Kansas City Star: ‘Dark money’ ban sputters as Gov. Greitens’ nonprofit appears ready for more attacks 

By Jason Hancock

The St. Joseph Republican and a bipartisan group of like-minded lawmakers have repeatedly threatened to derail Senate business unless GOP leaders push forward with ethics reform legislation that requires disclosure of dark money – campaign contributions routed through nonprofits and other entities to hide the source…

On Friday morning, Schaaf finally got his wish when the Senate took up legislation aimed at capping lobbyist gifts to elected officials at $40 a day. He offered his dark money ban as an amendment with assurances it would get a vote.

But he was immediately greeted by a filibuster by a group of Republican senators who decried the idea as an infringement on free speech and personal privacy that could subject donors to retaliation.

“Today, it’s a fine day to defend liberty,” said Sen. Bob Onder, a St. Charles Republican.

Schaaf quickly realized the filibuster was going to block any vote on his dark money ban, and he ultimately set it aside…

Both Schaaf’s dark money ban and the underlying bill capping lobbyist gifts were set aside Friday. It’s unclear whether either will be resurrected before lawmakers adjourn for the year at 6 p.m. May 12.

Albuquerque Journal: Toulouse Oliver proposes new campaign spending rules 

By Dan Boyd

Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver aims to bring more clarity to New Mexico’s hazy guidelines for political spending.

She is planning to move ahead with new campaign finance rules that could be implemented in October – in time for the state’s 2018 election cycle…

Toulouse Oliver, a first-term Democrat who was elected to office last year, said some of the proposed rules would be based on legislation vetoed last month by Gov. Susana Martinez that would have changed state law to require more disclosure of political spending.

While the changes won’t be rolled out for several more weeks, they’re also likely to include more specifics on what are allowable campaign expenditures – and what are not – and more precise definitions of campaign loans and other terms, Toulouse Oliver said…

The bill vetoed last month by Martinez would have required more disclosure – including donor names – for spending by political committees, nonprofits and independent expenditure groups on most types of political advertising in excess of $1,000.

St. Louis Public Radio: Federal judge: Parts of Missouri’s campaign finance law unconstitutional; $2,600 donor limit stays 

By Jo Mannies

Parts of Missouri’s new campaign finance law is unconstitutional, but the $2,600 individual donor limit will stick, according to a ruling issued Friday by Senior District Judge Ortrie Smith of the Western District of Missouri.

But in striking down a provision in the law that banned certain committee-to-committee transfers, it’s opened up the ability to raise an unlimited amount of money through a local political action committee and transfer that cash to a different PAC…

Politicians in both parties have lamented the loss of lower limits, including state Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, who filed a bill this session to force more disclosure of donors who give to outside political groups. In 2008, he voted to repeal the limits, but said seven years later that, “If somebody gives you a big check … you are going to have a certain benevolent feeling toward them.”

Connecticut Post: GOP seeks to gut public campaign funding in Conn.

By Neil Vigdor

More than $40 million is expected to be disbursed to statewide office and legislative candidates in 2018, based on Republican budget projections.

That would shatter the record of $33.4 million handed out 2014, including $15.8 million spent in the governor’s race.

For the first time in the history of the decade-old Citizens’ Election Program, GOP lawmakers say, it does not have enough money to sustain itself. Until now, it has relied on proceeds from the sale of abandoned property and unclaimed bottle deposits to cover the cost of the grants.

So Republicans are calling for the program to be gutted for next year, which could turn the entire campaign financing system upside-down during a pivotal election cycle for both parties.

“We do not have the funds available to be spending on bumper stickers and buttons,” said state Sen. L. Scott Frantz, R-Greenwich, a longtime critic of the program who is co-chairman of the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee.

The state Elections Enforcement Commission, the nonpartisan agency in charge of the program, disputed the GOP’s math. It did not have estimates for 2018 and declined further comment.

Orange County Register: Campaign-finance laws look worse up close

By Susan Shelley

It was so complicated that even the attorney who later filed the complaint double-counted the transferred funds and repeatedly arrived at the wrong totals.

The fundraising was all legal. What should be illegal is making a candidate have two committees and overwhelming double filing requirements in the crush of an election. The campaign paid $10-a-day fines from the Secretary of State’s office for late filings. Some of the liability was waived for “good cause” due to the circumstances.

The FPPC says that’s irrelevant because they’re a separate agency.

At some point, excessive burdens on political speech and activity have a chilling effect and are unconstitutional. The Supreme Court said in 2010, “The First Amendment does not permit laws that force speakers to retain a campaign finance attorney.”

Last year, FPPC Chair Jodi Remke acknowledged in an op-ed that the Political Reform Act is “overly complex, cumbersome and sometimes contradictory.” She said candidates face difficulty “navigating the intricate rules” when they can’t afford a professional treasurer.

That’s for sure. But the fines they collect for the state of California move us closer and closer to being able to build our choo-choo train to the moon.

National Law Review: California AG Becerra Hints at Crackdown on Nonprofit Political Activity

By Andrew D. Garrahan

Nonprofits that are active in California politics, already facing one of the most complex regulatory environments in the country, now have another thing to worry about: the state’s Attorney General. In remarks Wednesday, Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced his intent to pursue nonprofit organizations that he believes “abuse” their nonprofit status for political purposes. With the federal government long bogged down in how to handle these political nonprofits, California could become the leading antagonist of nonprofits that wade into politics.

Even before Becerra’s remarks, California has been a leader in states’ efforts to disclose (some would say discourage) nonprofit political activity. The state’s Fair Political Practices Commission (“FPPC”) already has a complete regulatory regime dedicated to uncovering the political activity of what it calls “multipurpose organizations,” including 501(c)(3) charities, 501(c)(4) social welfare groups, and 501(c)(6) trade associations. Under the regime, multipurpose organizations may have to publicly disclose their donors and their expenses to influence state elections… Even some nonprofits that are not politically active must disclose their donors privately to the Attorney General.

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