Daily Media Links 5/26: Senate confirms Judge Thapar to 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Connecticut House tests limits of regulating ‘dark money,’ and more…


Gorsuch’s Critics, Aided by an Enabling Media, Are Still Mischaracterizing Him 

By Joe Albanese

This week, the Supreme Court declined to hear a case challenging restrictions on political party fundraising and spending in the McCain-Feingold Act…
Although this outcome represented a victory for campaign finance restrictionists, they still found a target of derision in newly-appointed Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, who, along with Justice Clarence Thomas, issued an unwritten dissent from the Court’s denial of certiorari. In so doing, both justices indicated that they would have chosen to hear the case rather than let the lower-court’s decision stand. This was outrageous to pro-regulation activists, who promptly fell back into their past attacks on Gorsuch from his Senate confirmation hearing. They had spent months pillorying him as a menace who wanted to allow the rich to buy elections – instead of a jurist with a carefully-considered judicial record defending First Amendment speech, press, assembly, and petition rights. With an “I-told-you-so” tone, they accused Gorsuch of signaling sinister intentions for future campaign finance cases before the Court.

Even worse, the anti-speech lobby’s rhetoric was prominent in numerous news stories covering the Court’s decision. These stories quoted multiple attacks against Gorsuch while barely attempting to balance them with opposing views of Gorsuch and the case.

How to Problematize Issue Advocacy 

By Luke Wachob

A recent Pacific Standard article offers a master class in how to spin run-of-the-mill issue advocacy into a spectacular conspiracy. “Awash in Dark Money, a Western Think Tank is Leading the Charge Against the Antiquities Act” is a must read, though not for the reasons the author intends…

People who are convinced of the righteousness of their cause will sometimes decide it is okay to use unfair tactics to win the day. The twisting of information produced by disclosure laws can be a powerful weapon to that end. In a world where “dark money” has become a slur for groups that protect the privacy of their donors, even groups like Sutherland aren’t safe.

For people who follow political speech issues closely, and for people who have worked in advocacy organizations, conspiratorial screeds like this elicit nothing more than an eye roll. We are used to “money in politics” being invoked to challenge the legitimacy of any and every organized advocacy group, left, right or center.

For people who come to articles like these with little background, however, the “money in politics” frame can be highly effective. It can turn nonprofit advocacy groups like Sutherland, and even the First Amendment, into “objects of toxic controversy” themselves.

The Courts   

Washington Examiner: Senate votes to confirm Amul Thapar for federal appeals court 

By Ryan Lovelace

The Senate voted to confirm Judge Amul Thapar to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday.

The vote was 52-44.

Thapar, previously included on President Trump’s Supreme Court shortlists for the vacancy filled by Justice Neil Gorsuch, faced steady opposition from liberals and Senate Democrats. The liberal legal group Alliance for Justice mobilized against Thapar’s nomination and Democrats raised concerns about his affiliation with the Federalist Society, a right-leaning legal organization…

Thapar is the first Trump-picked federal appeals court nominee to be confirmed and could become a leading contender for a future Supreme Court vacancy, if one materializes.

Washington Times: Senate confirms Judge Thapar to 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals 

By Alex Swoyer

During the judge’s confirmation hearing, Democrats complained about his record, saying he equates campaign donations with speech and is tied to The Federalist Society, an association of conservative and libertarian legal minds.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut Democrat, told The Washington Times that any of Mr. Trump’s picks that can be tied to The Federalist Society could face resistance.
He said The Federalist Society is attempting “unprecedented influence” in the judicial selection process. 

Sen. Angus S. King Jr., a Maine independent who caucuses with Democrats, questioned Judge Thapar’s campaign finance jurisprudence, which followed Supreme Court precedent finding that political campaign donations are protected speech under the First Amendment.
“I don’t think money is speech,” Mr. King said… 

Judge Thapar received the highest rating possible from the American Bar Association.


Bloomberg BNA: FEC Finds Cruz’s Reporting Was Inadequate on $1 Million in Loans 

By Kenneth P. Doyle

The Federal Election Commission has approved recommendations from staff auditors who found Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) hasn’t provided required public details about more than $1 million in bank loans that helped finance his original 2012 Senate campaign.

FEC commissioners voted unanimously before a public meeting of the commission May 25 to approve a memo with the auditors’ findings. The “tally vote” was announced in an agenda document distributed at the beginning of the FEC meeting.

The action came before a meeting in which commissioners approved long-pending audit findings regarding the Colorado Republican Party and a draft advisory opinion (AO 2017-02) approving a web-based bank deposit program for federal political committees called War Chest LLC.

FEC Chairman Steven Walther said the commission has an obligation to tell the public more about what the FEC “can and can’t do” regarding allegations that foreign money was allowed to influence U.S. elections last year.

The States

Connecticut News Junkie: Divided House Forwards Campaign Bill To Senate  

By Christine Stuart

The House passed a bill Thursday on a 79-70, party line vote that would change campaign laws and could set the state up for a constitutional challenge.

The bill would limit to $70,000 the amount of money individuals, corporations, or organizations could give to independent expenditure groups participating in Connecticut’s elections. It would also prohibit foreign nationals from making contributions and require a greater degree of disclosure on the part of individuals and corporations, including shareholders, making those donations…

The bill also requires the governing board, if any, of an organization planning to spend more than $10,000 on a campaign to vote on that “campaign-related disbursement” and to make that information available on its website within 48 hours. The bill also asks for more information about the individuals making contributions and more information about the shareholders…

The fate of the legislation in the Senate is unknown at the moment. The Senate has not caucused the legislation.

Connecticut Mirror: Connecticut House tests limits of regulating ‘dark money’  

By Mark Pazniokas

Republicans opposed the reforms as insufficient, saying they fail to close loopholes that allow unlimited money to flow into publicly financed campaigns for state office, despite a promise by candidates participating in the voluntary program to abide by spending and contribution limits.

Democrats rejected a series of GOP amendments that would have closed avenues that now allow donors to funnel money into legislative and other state races, such as the ability of state parties to make unlimited expenditures on behalf of candidates.

“Why are we here dealing with campaign finance reform and we’re not addressing that issue? That is a glaring loophole in our supposedly clean election law and should be in this bill,” said Rep. Doug Dubitsky, R-Chaplin…

“You can never stop money in politics. We’re not trying,” said House Majority Leader Matt Ritter, D-Hartford. “We just want to know who you are.”

Joplin Globe: Come out of the dark  

By Editorial Board

During the legislative session, some lawmakers pushed for “dark money” groups to disclose donors, arguing that these big donors shouldn’t hide behind anonymity while trying to sway an election. Nothing came of that push, and one need look no further than the governor as to the reason why.

Greitens’ own advisers have set up a nonprofit that does not have to follow contribution limits and isn’t required to disclose where it gets its money. Greitens, in a Kansas City Star story, defends the use of dark money saying some “career politicians” and “liberal media” are trying to mandate disclosure…

In our view, dark money will disappear when candidates refuse to take it and voters refuse them an office if they do.

That kind of power belongs to you, not some anonymous donor with a lot of money.

Las Vegas Review-Journal: Nevada Legislature passes proposal to overturn Citizens United

By Ben Botkin

The Nevada Assembly on Thursday voted 26-14 on a resolution that asks Congress to propose an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would rein in independent political campaign spending.

The party-line vote makes Nevada the 19th state to ask Congress to propose a constitutional amendment that would overturn the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Citizens United case…
For a constitutional amendment to become a reality, at least 38 states would need to ratify the amendment after Congress proposes it. The resolution also passed the Senate on a 12-9 vote.

Arizona Public Media: Former Attorney General Wins Round in Court

By Christopher Conover

Former Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne’s right to due process was violated in the campaign finance case against him according to a ruling from the state Supreme Court.

The court sent the case back to the Attorney General’s office.

The justices wrote that Horne’s rights were violated because the Special Attorney General in the case, not only investigated but also prosecuted and adjudicated the complaints.

Horne was accused of illegally coordinating with an outside group during his 2010 election campaign.

Jackson Hole News & Guide: Group visits valley to fight dark money  

By John Spina

Wyoming Promise has held meetings in Laramie, Cheyenne and Cody. On Thursday the group hosted an event at the Old Wilson Schoolhouse Community Center to promote its cause, raise awareness and recruit volunteers…

During the last session of the Wyoming Legislature, Wyoming Promise was able to convince Rep. Mike Gierau, a Democrat from Jackson, to introduce House Joint Resolution 10, calling on Congress to propose a 28th amendment to the U.S. Constitution specifying that the right of political speech is a right enjoyed only by natural persons, and that Congress and state legislatures may regulate political contributions and spending…

Now, with nearly two years to prepare before the next general legislative session, Wyoming Promise wants to add a provision to the bill that if Congress does not follow through, the states should invoke Article V of the Constitution and call a convention of the states to amend the Constitution…
Should another bill fail in the Legislature, Wyoming Promise was recently certified by the Wyoming secretary of state to disseminate a petition calling for the initiative to be placed on the November 2018 ballot. 

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