Daily Media Links 7/10: FEC Could Allow Campaign Funds for Security, Group Alleges Tom Price Improperly Spent Campaign Funds During Confirmation Fight, and more…

In the News

Cato: What Is Dark Money? (Podcast)

Featuring Luke Wachob and Caleb O. Brown

Luke Wachob of the Center for Competitive Politics argues that the misnomer of “dark money” is hardly the scourge it’s made out to be.

Daily Signal: The Growing Fight Over Forcing Nonprofits to Disclose Donors

By Rachel del Guidice

“I’ve been contacted by dozens of constituents with concerns over their rights to privacy, and possible harassment by organizations or individuals, or even their employers, if their donation histories are made public,” Oklahoma state Rep. Mark Lepak, a Republican, told The Daily Signal in an email…

Two states known for their donor disclosure laws are California and New York.

Both states “require nonprofits to violate the privacy of their supporters,” Matt Nese, director of external relations at the Center for Competitive Politics, an organization dedicated to defending First Amendment rights, told The Daily Signal in an email.

However, Nese said it is difficult to know how widespread the push for donor disclosure is.

“It’s hard to quantify the exact number of states that have laws on the books requiring nonprofits to report the private information-names, home addresses, and, in some cases, occupations, and employers-of their supporters to the government for publication in a permanent, searchable, online database,” Nese said.

City Journal: Selective Outrage

By Mark Pulliam

In her lengthy career as an elected official in California, Harris never hesitated to exercise her power-or silence her political opponents-when it was to her advantage.

For example, as California attorney general, Harris demanded that conservative-leaning nonprofits such as Americans for Prosperity and the Center for Competitive Politics file with her office unredacted donor lists-confidential information typically submitted only to the Internal Revenue Service-exposing supporters of such groups to the risk of disclosure and retaliation. Following Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich’s forced resignation in 2014 over a $1,000 contribution to the pro-traditional marriage Proposition 8 campaign, Harris’s position was calculated to chill the associational rights of conservative donors. “Outing” donors and exposing them to harassment and retaliation is, unfortunately, a common liberal tactic: in 2012, LGBT activists leaked the identity of donors to the National Organization for Marriage.


Roll Call: FEC Could Allow Campaign Funds for Security

By Katherine Tully-McManus

Lawmakers could soon use campaign contributions to for security, according to a draft advisory opinion released by the Federal Elections Commission. 

The proposal would grant a blanket allowance for members of congress to use campaign funds to install or upgrade residential security systems, as long as the primary purpose is not to increase the value of the members’ homes.

“The Commission concluded that the use of campaign funds to pay for the security upgrades recommended by the Capitol Police and not primarily intended to increase the value of the members’ homes would not constitute a prohibited use of campaign contributions,” says the FEC opinion.

Currently, there are strict guidelines on using campaign funds to pay for security at residences and permission from the FEC was needed on a case by case, threat specific basis.  The FEC has previously granted requests to use campaign money for security upgrades in specific circumstances.

Independent Groups

Wall Street Journal: Group Alleges Tom Price Improperly Spent Campaign Funds During Confirmation Fight

By Michelle Hackman

In its complaint with the Federal Election Commission, the Campaign Legal Center cited a $40,000 payment the former Georgia congressman’s campaign committee made on Jan. 26 to America Rising, a GOP consulting firm. Around the same date, the complaint said, the firm released research and videos promoting the confirmation of Mr. Price and other cabinet nominees in the Senate. Mr. Price was the only cabinet nominee to use campaign funds to pay the firm, according to the complaint.

Some of the materials the firm released specifically urged senators to vote for Mr. Price’s confirmation, the Campaign Legal Center said in its complaint…

Ken Gross, a lawyer who specializes in federal ethics and campaign laws, said Mr. Price would be permitted to use campaign money to defend himself against allegations of wrongdoing as a congressman, even in the context of trying to win confirmation for a job outside of Congress.

But if Mr. Price’s payment to America Rising was made in exchange for materials urging the Senate to vote for his confirmation, then he likely would have run afoul of the law, Mr. Gross said.

The States

The Guardian: ‘Democracy vouchers’ aim to amplify low-income voices, to conservative ire

By Josh Cohen

The democracy voucher program was created by a voter-approved ballot measure in November 2015 and is funded by a 10-year, $30m property tax levy…

Seattle candidates are not required to participate in the voucher program. But Jon Grant, a leftist city council candidate who previously led the Tenants Union of Washington, has made the vouchers a centerpiece of his campaign. He has pushed to collect vouchers from over 1,000 people, including those living in several homeless encampments.

Of the $145,933 donations Grant’s reported on the most recent campaign disclosure form, $128,800 is from vouchers…

Libertarian law firm Pacific Legal Foundation is representing two Seattle homeowners in their lawsuit against the city. They allege that democracy vouchers violate their first amendment rights because their taxes are funding candidates they oppose.

PLF lawyer Ethan Blevins wrote in an email that Grant’s campaign highlights “the injustice done to property owners who oppose his candidacy. … Mr Grant’s views on rental housing clash with the interests of landlords – yet these are the very people who have unwillingly fronted most of the money for his campaign”.

Seacoast Online: Marchers promote clean elections

By Alex LaCasse

Close to 200 residents of Maine and New Hampshire marched from John Paul Jones Park in Kittery, Maine, to Market Square in downtown Portsmouth on Sunday afternoon to raise awareness for the need for clean elections in New Hampshire.

The event was organized by Open Democracy, New Hampshire Rebellion, Maine Citizens for Clean Elections, Civil Rights Sunday and Take Back our Republic to raise awareness on the need for New Hampshire to follow Maine’s lead and pass legislation to allow for public financing for candidates seeking election to state office.

“We are marching to bring Clean Elections from Maine to New Hampshire. Maine has had a system of clean elections since 1996, and it’s time for campaign finance reform in the Granite State,” said Olivia Zink, executive director for Open Democracy. “Last year, political donors spent more than $62 million on New Hampshire elections, and that’s not even counting the presidential race.”

Eugene Weekly: Money Creates Barriers

By James Manning

The Small Donor Elections bill introduced by my colleague Rep. Dan Rayfield would be a big step towards removing the financial barriers to running for office and participating in state politics. House Bill 2578 offers more Oregonians an avenue to engage in politics and allows candidates to spend less time raising money from big donors and more time talking with neighbors and voters about their biggest concerns. 

Passing this bill would give candidates for legislative and judicial offices a choice: raise money the usual way, or cap your contributions at no more than $250. If you choose the cap under the Small Donor Elections program, and show you have a wide base of grassroots support, then those small donations are matched six to one with limited public funds. It treats everyone like a big donor, so even small donations have a big impact. This way, candidates focused on small donations can run a competitive campaign.

NPR: Judge Overturns Utah’s ‘Ag-Gag’ Ban On Undercover Filming At Farms

By Bill Chappell

A federal judge has ruled Utah’s ban on secretly filming farm and slaughterhouse operations is unconstitutional, striking down what critics call an “ag-gag” law that Utah enacted in 2012.

The ban violates the First Amendment’s free-speech protections, U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby said.

Shelby rejected the state’s defense of the law, saying Utah had failed to show the ban was intended to ensure the safety of animals and farm workers from disease or injury.

In his ruling, Shelby noted that one of the bill’s sponsors in the state legislature, Rep. John Mathis, said the ban was a response to “a trend nationally of some propaganda groups … with a stated objective of undoing animal agriculture in the United States.”…

It’s the second time a federal court has overturned a ban on filming at farms: In 2015, a district court judge ruled that Idaho’s “ag-gag” law was unconstitutional, violating the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause.

The Idaho case – Animal Legal Defense Fund v. Wasden – is currently pending in the Ninth Circuit, after Idaho filed an appeal.

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