Daily Media Links 6/27: Efforts to End Super PACs Moving Forward, Face Uphill Climb, The internet’s first free speech law turns 20 but the battle rages on, and more…

Free Speech

New York Times: Facebook, Free Expression and the Power of a Leak

By Margot E. Kaminski and Kate Klonick

The First Amendment protects our right to use social networks like Facebook and Twitter, the Supreme Court declared last week. That decision, which overturned a North Carolina law barring sex offenders from social networks, called social media “the modern public square” and “one of the most important places” for the exchange of views. The holding is a reminder of the enormous role such networks play in our speech, our access to information and, consequently, our democracy. But while the government cannot block people from social media, these private platforms can…

Today, as social media sites are accused of spreading false news, influencing elections and allowing horrific speech, they may respond by increasing their policing of content. Clarity about their internal speech regulation is more important now than ever. The ways in which this newfound transparency is harnessed by the public could be as meaningful for online speech as any case decided in a United States court.

Think Progress: The internet’s first free speech law turns 20 but the battle rages on

By Lauren C. Williams

On June 26, 1997, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously decided that controversial portions of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which criminalized obscene or indecent web content that could be viewed by minors-were unconstitutional. The bill was Congress’ attempt to regulate the world wide web like it did television and radio. But as the internet expanded and evolved, as chat rooms morphed into social media and private forums into mega-platforms, the debate-sparked by the Court’s decision of what behavior is acceptable online and who should govern it-evolved right along with it.

Supreme Court

National Review: Victory for Trump: SCOTUS Restores Vast Majority of Travel Ban

By David French

Today, in a per curiam ruling, the Supreme Court restored the vast majority of the Trump administration’s temporary travel ban – including the temporary ban on refugee entry. The lower courts’ injunctions remain only in the narrowest of categories – where the person seeking entry has a “bona fide relationships with a person or entity in the United States.”…

Notably absent from the court’s decision is any analysis of Trump’s campaign statements.

Independent Groups

National Law Review: Efforts to End Super PACs Moving Forward, Face Uphill Climb

By Andrew D. Garrahan

Last summer there was much ado about the two parallel efforts of a “Dream Team” of attorneys to “end Super PACs.” Their goal was to get the Supreme Court to overturn the decision of the D.C. Circuit in SpeechNow v. FEC, and similar decisions in other circuits, which led to the creation of Super PACs…

Last week the complainants announced their plans to sue the FEC over the decision, on the grounds that it was arbitrary, capricious, and contrary to law. The complainants hope to take this case to Supreme Court. Among various challenges that have always faced the effort, however, there is one glaring new one: the confirmation of Justice Neil Gorsuch…

In the parallel effort, an aligned nonprofit has been working hard to pass an ordinance in St. Petersburg, Florida that would abolish Super PAC activity in that city. . . The city is expecting an immediate lawsuit challenging the ordinance. That lawsuit would theoretically head to the Supreme Court by way of the 11th Circuit… 

However, in the time since the ordinance was first introduced, the 11th Circuit reached a decision in Alabama Democratic Conference v. Broussard that appears to acknowledge that SpeechNow was rightly decided, though it does not directly address the issue.

Washington Times: A new pro-Trump ad attacks Mueller’s credibility

By Sally Persons

The Great America Alliance PAC ad paints Mr. Mueller as a Clinton supporter and calls the former FBI director “Leaker James Comey.” The ad is narrated by conservative former host Tomi Lahren, who is a senior adviser for the group.

The ad seeks to poke holes in Mr. Mueller’s credibility as a prosecutor. President Trump has criticized Mr. Mueller and his team for being biased against him. FEC filings revealed that three members of Mr. Mueller’s team have donated to Democratic campaigns, but some have also donated to Republican campaigns.

“Only in Washington could a rigged game like this be called independent,” Ms. Lahren says in the ad, using air quotes around the word “independent.”


Daily Caller: McCain Institute Refuses to Disclose Big Donations

By Richard Pollock

McCain was the architect of the landmark Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 – more popularly known as “McCain-Feingold” – that required public disclosure of all contributions of at least $250 in federal elections. Former Wisconsin Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold co-sponsored the measure with McCain.

But the McCain Institute – created in 2012 with an $8.7 million donation of funds remaining from McCain’s unsuccessful 2008 presidential campaign – refused Monday to disclose the amounts it received from its biggest donors who gave $100,000 or more…

Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, a nonprofit government watchdog, told TheDCNF the lack of donor detail constitutes “hypocrisy” for McCain, due to his prominent role in gaining passage of campaign finance reforms.

“The unique issue for Sen. McCain, was that he favored radical transparency on campaign finance. Under federal law, someone who writes a check for $250, their name becomes part of the public record,” Fitton said. “But Senator McCain, a sitting senator with his institute, guarantees no similar level of disclosure there. The hypocrisy is fully apparent with the McCain Institute.”


Politico: Crowdfunded lobbying outfit tries a new model

By David Beavers and Aubree Weaver

The nonprofit Lobbyists 4 Good registered in August as a lobbyist “funded by the people, for the people.” The group aimed to raise money through crowdfunding to lobby for two issues: boosting the budget of the U.S. Institute for Peace and promoting campaign finance reform. It didn’t go so well. Some potential donors weren’t moved by the two causes that Lobbyists 4 Good was supporting, but others were turned off by the thought of hiring lobbyists at all… 

So Lobbyists 4 Good is trying a new model. The group terminated its lobbying registration last week, and it’s now running Kickstarter-style campaigns that allow members of the public to choose what issues they want to hire lobbyists for. “Anyone can submit a campaign, and it gets vetted through our founding principles,” DeLancey said, ensuring that people don’t create campaigns to benefit their own companies or themselves. Once donors have pledged $31,000 to a particular campaign, Lobbyists 4 Good will hire a lobbyists to work on the issue for six months.

The States

Tampa Bay Times: During the most expensive mayoral election ever, St. Petersburg City Council wants to limit PAC money

By Charlie Frago  

The measure, backed by a national campaign finance movement and the local chapter of the League of Women Voters, was opposed by the city attorney’s office. They argued it was unconstitutional and would expose the city to millions in liabilities if defeated in the courts.

“They have shopped this ordinance around for at least a year to cities around this country,” Assistant City Attorney Joseph Patner said. “There is a reason they cannot get another city to pass this,

“Passing this is all risk in our opinion with no benefit.”…

The possibility of an expensive lawsuit was acknowledged by John Bonifaz, a constitutional attorney who co-founded Free Speech for People, a national advocacy group that seeks to reform the current political fundraising system.

Bonifaz promised council members that his group, which has the support of nationally prominent constitutional scholars like Harvard University professor Laurence Tribe, would provide free legal representation to defend the city in court.

The ordinance also would ban donations from companies that have more than 5-percent foreign ownership.

Philly.com: Philadelphians could be on the hook for political campaign expenses

By Claudia Vargas

City Council wants taxpayers to help fund local political campaigns, in an effort to get more Philadelphians to run for office and perhaps increase voter turnout.

A package of bills to create a publicly funded election system was introduced Thursday at Council’s last meeting for the spring session. Councilman Derek Green, one of the sponsors of the bill, said hearings would be held over the summer and continue into the fall. Voters would have to approve a Home Rule Charter change to allow the city to fund elections…

The proposal calls for candidates for district attorney, controller, Council, sheriff, and city commissioner to raise at least $15,000 through a minimum of 100 contributions from city residents, excluding family members. Then the city would match funds by 5-1. Mayoral candidates would be required to raise at least $50,000 through a minimum of 334 Philadelphia residents for the city to match $5 for every $1 raised. 

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