Daily Media Links 6/29: Money doesn’t buy elections. Just ask Jon Ossoff., Seattle’s democracy voucher program target of lawsuit, and more…


Disclosure Fuels “Witch Hunt”

By Luke Wachob

Great America Alliance is a nonprofit 501(c)(4) organization that supports President Trump’s policy agenda. The ad, “Witch Hunt,” features political commentator Tomi Lahren attacking the legal team hired by special counsel Robert Mueller for their contribution history. The ad very strongly implies that because several attorneys on Mueller’s team donated to the campaigns of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, they are incapable of being independent when investigating allegations against the Trump administration.

The logic of this argument is odious, to say the least. To suggest that supporters of the Democratic nominees for President in 2008, 2012, and 2016 cannot be independent is to imply that no Democrat can fairly investigate allegations against a Republican. We are in rough shape if support for one of the country’s two major political parties is considered discrediting. Great America Alliance either believes that or thinks that others do.

Sadly, they may be correct on the latter point. In theory, campaign finance disclosure guards against corruption and provides context to help evaluate candidates’ messages. In practice, it produces cheap ammunition for cynical political attacks.

Statement of Tyler Martinez on D.C. Council’s B22-0192, the “Fair Elections Act of 2017”

By Tyler Martinez

While proponents of so-called “matching funds” or “public financing” proposals tout these programs as a panacea for eliminating corruption and “fixing” perceived ills in government, the experiences of existing programs in New York City, Los Angeles, Arizona, Connecticut, and Maine – all of which have similar systems to that proposed in B22-0192 – are very telling… 

I highlight a number of policy arguments in my analysis: (I) past corruption scandals in the District of Columbia would have been unaffected by the existence of a tax-financing program; (II) New York City’s matching funds program, one of the oldest in the country, is fraught with corruption; (III) similar programs in Los Angeles, Arizona, and Maine have also experienced much corruption since their inception; (IV) academic studies have found no evidence that these programs decrease the incidence of public corruption or improve trust in government; (V) an analysis of Connecticut’s tax-financing program has demonstrated its failure to change legislative voting patterns; (VI) existing statewide programs have done little to diminish alleged “interest group” influence; (VII) many other claims by advocates of “clean elections” have also been shown to be false; and (VIII) the cost of a citywide program in Washington, D.C. would be immensely expensive and likely to rise over time.   


Free Speech

New York Times: 1964 | A Libel Suit Yields a Vigorous Defense of Free Speech

By David W. Dunlap

The center of the storm was an advertisement – “Heed Their Rising Voices” – that was published on Page 25 of The Times on March 29, 1960. It was placed by the Committee to Defend Martin Luther King and the Struggle for Freedom in the South…

L. B. Sullivan, an elected commissioner in Montgomery who supervised the police department, sued The Times for defamation, even though he was not named in the advertisement…

Mr. Sullivan won his case in the Alabama courts but the matter wound up at the Supreme Court, where The Times – and the free press generally – won a stunning victory in 1964.

“We consider this case against the background of a profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open, and that it may well include vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials,” the liberal Justice William J. Brennan Jr. wrote for the majority, which included Chief Justice Earl Warren.

Candidates and Campaigns

Richmond Times-Dispatch: Money doesn’t buy elections. Just ask Jon Ossoff.

By Editorial Board

Before the special election in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District fades too far into the rearview mirror, somebody needs to ask: Can America finally put to permanent rest the myth that money buys elections?

Jon Ossoff, the Democrat, outspent Republican Karen Handel by more than 5-1, and still lost. That’s one more data point added to the mountain of similar evidence, from last year’s presidential election – in which Donald Trump was heavily outspent by both Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton – to 2012, when the $104 million spent by Karl Rove’s American Crossroads on various congressional races didn’t produce a single victory.

Also noteworthy about the Georgia race: Among the sums spent in support of Ossoff by “outside groups” was more than $700,000 from the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, a so-called “dark money” group (i.e., one that does not disclose its donors). The usual campaign-finance scolds seemed untroubled by this, which underscores another point: Most of those who fret about money in politics do not sincerely believe it corrupts candidates. They simply think that candidates they don’t like are corrupt, and they are angered by monetary expenditures that might help the bad guy win.  

New Republic: But Their Emails

By Sarah Jones

Ossoff did raise a lot of money. His fundraising helped him remain competitive with Handel, who benefited from her own massive out-of-state network. Until a future Congress resurrects serious campaign finance reform, Democrats must stay afloat in a system rigged to defeat them…

The DCCC’s approach to email outreach is raising money, but is it building a vote-getting movement? Ossoff’s campaign shows the former does not necessarily lead to the latter…

“I apologize all over the country for the volume of email people get, but it works,” then-DCCC chair Steve Israel told reporters in 2014. “Five million dollars in August. Five million dollars!” But fundraising didn’t prevent the party from being swept out of power. Money, while helpful, can’t buy you a movement.

Bloomberg: Trump Holds Fundraiser for Himself at His Own Hotel

By Ben Brody

“He’s a businessperson, so he’s certainly not oblivious to the increased value to his own properties that will stem from his own use,” said Paul S. Ryan, a vice president for the group Common Cause, which advocates for tougher campaign-finance laws…

Federal law generally allows campaigns to deal with candidates’ businesses if they are “able to show that they have and they will offer the same deal to anybody else who comes,” said Larry Noble, a former general counsel to the Federal Election Commission.

Should Trump’s campaign pay his hotel more than other, similar events would, it may run afoul of legal prohibitions on candidates getting personal benefits from campaign funds, Noble said. If it pays less, the Trump Organization — the umbrella company for the president’s various business interests — may have made an illegal corporate campaign contribution, he said…

This month, Trump’s latest financial disclosure revealed the Washington hotel hasn’t seen a major jump in revenue since the election.

The States

KING 5 News Seattle: Seattle’s democracy voucher program target of lawsuit

By Travis Pittman  

A lawsuit was filed against the city of Seattle Wednesday, claiming the city’s voter-approved democracy voucher program violates the First Amendment. The suit claims property owners are paying for it through higher taxes then forcing those people to subsidize political campaigns…

The lawsuit, filed by Pacific Legal Foundation, represents two property owners.

“The so-called ‘democracy vouchers’ could not be more undemocratic or unconstitutional,” PLF attorney Ethan Blevins said in a statement  “First Amendment rights include both the right to speak and the right not to speak.  You can’t be forced to engage in political expression or advocacy that is contrary to your convictions.”

Blevins specifically targets Grant, a purported activist in support of rental tenants. Blevins claims rental property owners are forced to help fund a politician who would go against property owners’ interests. He also says incumbents and those with better name recognition will benefit.

Providence Journal: R.I. should audit campaign accounts

By Editorial Board 

Introduced at the request of Gov. Gina Raimondo, House Bill 6115 requires audits of at least a quarter of the reports for candidates who raised more than $10,000. It also increases the fines and penalties for filing late reports, requires more information on candidate declaration forms, and lets the state seize campaign funds if a candidate is convicted of crimes “related to public office service.”…

There are also two more dubious bills that would prevent people from running for elected office if they have campaign finance violations. While such violations are a serious matter – as of last month, the unpaid fines levied by the Board of Elections totaled more than $3.5 million – this would raise constitutional questions, because the law would stop people from exercising their rights based only on a administrative ruling, as opposed to a ruling in a court of law. We could end up with the Board of Elections deciding who could or could not run for office, depending on the timing of complaints, which raises the potential for political shenanigans.

Santa Fe New Mexican: GOP lawmaker accuses Toulouse Oliver of partisanship

By Andrew Oxford 

In a letter to Toulouse Oliver, House GOP Whip Rod Montoya suggested her office’s recent review of campaign fundraising and spending targeted a disproportionate number of Republicans…

Montoya, of Farmington, also raised objections to the secretary of state’s push to tighten campaign finance regulations ahead of the 2018 election, arguing the proposed rules would give her too much power without the Legislature’s approval.

Deputy Secretary of State John Blair responded that the Secretary of State’s Office has clear legal authority to impose the new rules. He said Montoya’s accusation of partisanship in the review of campaign finance reports was a political attack and “defies logic.”…

Toulouse Oliver, who has pledged to bring greater transparency to political fundraising and spending, is proposing regulations that would, among other things, require more detail in reporting campaign expenses, as well as require a measure of transparency from “independent expenditure groups” that can now collect large sums of money without disclosing donors…

[C]ritics have countered that such rules could stifle advocacy and deter donors from contributing to nonprofit groups that are involved in politics but now don’t have to disclose their finances.

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