Daily Media Links 7/12: In New York, a rogue attorney general promotes himself rather than justice,Donald Trump, Jr. and the Censorship of Meetings, and more…

Free Speech

Washington Examiner: In New York, a rogue attorney general promotes himself rather than justice

By Peter Roff

In filing the brief, the other attorneys general expressed concern that the investigation by the defendants, Schneiderman and Healey, is heavily politicized, representing a misuse of prosecutorial power being used as a tool to silence anyone who disagrees with their views on global climate change. It is highly unusual for one sitting attorney general to criticize another’s investigation; for so many to do so underscores the notion Schneiderman, Healey, and the others they were able to enlist in their scheme have been acting in bad faith… 

The amici assert what they refer to as the “unrestrained pre-textual” investigations of Exxon Mobil constitute an “unconstitutional abuse of investigative power” that attempts to use the courts to in essence prove which side is correct in ongoing debate over man-made climate change. They further argue the investigations violate Exxon Mobil’s First Amendment rights by seeking to chill not just its free exercise of political speech and association but the rights of those who may hold the view dire predictions about the fate of the Earth resulting from the impact of carbon emissions on global temperatures are, if not merely in error, the result of a politically-driven fantasy.

Huffington Post: The Lawsuit Against Black Lives Matter And The Central Meaning Of The First Amendment

By Geoffrey R. Stone

The reason the judge should dismiss the complaint is not because it was inconceivable that of the millions of individuals exposed to the Black Lives Matter movement’s expression someone might have done what Long did, but because that is not the test for restricting speech in our democracy…

First, experience teaches that individuals are easily deterred from exercising their freedom of speech. . . If they fear that they might go to jail or be held liable for damages for their speech, they will often forego their right to speak. This is known as the “chilling effect.”…

Second, experiences also teaches that if government can penalize speakers for their speech under a low standard for liability, it is likely to use that power selectively. It will pursue civil or criminal liability against those who convey views those in authority dislike, while at the same time shielding those whose views they want to encourage. In this way, government would be well placed to manipulate public discourse in a dangerous manner.


Washington Examiner: New fears Drudge, InfoWars, Breitbart could face Dem FEC ‘inquisition’

By Paul Bedard

The plan, set for discussion at Thursday’s FEC meeting, could open the door to political subpoenas targeting the websites, their editorial news decisions, and their owners…

In her effort targeting foreign influence in federal and state elections, Commissioner Ellen Weintraub would probe spending by overseas sources and even partially-foreign-owned U.S. firms on campaigns, including their media buys. Foreign influence is illegal in elections.

She said that tackling foreign influence in elections could be the FEC’s finest hour…

Weintraub has been fighting the Citizens United decision expanding corporate political spending and foreign ownership in politically active U.S. firms. And she has recently put a new focus on reports of Russian interference in the 2016 election. It is not clear that the FEC has any jurisdiction to join the probe of Russian influence.

But in her plan, which was shelved at last month’s meeting due to last minute changes, she proposed increased spending for expanded enforcement.


The Hill: Defense bill amendments target Trump’s business interests

By Ellen Mitchell

An amendment to the fiscal 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) from Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) would require that no Defense Department funds “be used to conduct business, including the purchase of hotel rooms or conference space, with any entity owned by or significantly controlled by the President or a member of the President’s immediate family.”

The language also includes any entities held in a trust…
Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), meanwhile, offered an amendment that requires the Office of Government Ethics to review security clearance applications submitted by Trump’s family members.

The review would determine “whether they have substantial commercial relationships with foreign enterprises or financial institutions and, if so, whether a relative should be ineligible for a security clearance as a consequence of such a relationship.”…

Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) had offered an amendment that would have prohibited Pentagon funds from being used at properties owned by Trump or his immediate family members.

The committee voted it down, 30-32.

Candidates and Campaigns

Pillar of Law: Donald Trump, Jr. and the Censorship of Meetings

By Stephen Klein

[T]he First Amendment requires any court (and bureaucrats and prosecutors, for that matter) to scrutinize the reach of laws over Americans’ political activity. This includes the strictest tests of vagueness and overbreadth. As with Trump’s public statements supporting the publication of John Podesta’s hacked e-mails, absent actual collusion (such as, say, arranging to receive actual foreign funds through a straw donor), there is nothing wrong with pursuing (moreover, publishing) information from a third party. On the current record, if Trump, Jr.’s meeting is cause for charges, or even an investigation, then the threat to American political campaigns is one that can only be foreclosed by never meeting with a foreign national…

The breadth of the foreign campaign ban, as Bauer and others define it, is a threat to the free flow of information. Its imposition of civil or criminal penalties on American citizens for taking a meeting-an activity that most still instinctively recognize as a fundamental part of our “conception of a political community”, and not a threat to it-cannot be justified as a prophylactic measure against foreign involvement in elections.

Election Law Blog: Donald Trump Jr. Emails Paint Serious Case of Campaign Finance Violations

By Rick Hasen

Looking at the emails, it seems pretty serious. Trump Jr. got an email from his friend stating: “Emin just called and asked me to contact you with something very interesting. The Crown prosecutor of Russia met with his father Aras this morning and in their meeting offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father. This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

Trump Jr. replied almost immediately: “If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.”

Hard to see how there is not a serious case here of solicitation. Trump Jr. appears to have knowledge of the foreign source and is asking to see it. As I explained earlier, such information can be considered a “thing of value” for purposes of the campaign finance law…

It is also possible other laws were broken, such as the laws against coordinating with a foreign entity on an expenditure.

The States

Hartford Courant: Connecticut Democrats Push To Maintain State Funding For Campaign Finance Program

By Matt Ormseth

Democratic state lawmakers vowed Tuesday to oppose Republican efforts to strike the Citizens’ Election Program from the state budget, warning that dismantling a program that offers public money to campaigns would move the state backward in ethics in politics… 

While other states have experimented with similar “clean elections” models, what sets Connecticut’s apart is the size of the subsidies, he said, which are far more significant than in most other states. “You see almost universal participation in Connecticut – and why wouldn’t you?” he said. “The participation rate is through the roof.”

But as for the program’s original aim of diversifying the legislature’s racial, gender and socioeconomic makeup, the results are inconclusive, he said. “It’s hard to see a whole lot of effect there because we’re seeing those trends anyway,” he said. “It’s hard to isolate those trends.” 

WAMU D.C. Public Radio: Does Money Talk In D.C.? Council Debates Campaign Finance Reform

By Matt Austermuhle

As members considered four bills that would impose new regulations and restrictions on who can give money to political campaigns on Monday, a lively debate erupted.

Most of the argument centered on a bill D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine proposed earlier this year. It would restrict political contributions from businesses that are seeking city contracts…

Not surprisingly, the claim that businesses and contractors seek to grease the wheels of government in their favor by giving to local campaigns was rejected by business groups. Businesses want their voices heard just as any resident would, the D.C. Chamber of Commerce contended. But that argument also got support from veteran Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2). D.C. voters may believe there’s a pay-to-play culture, he said, but they’re wrong.

“I don’t disagree with the perception, but the reality is not there,” said Evans, who has taken money from Fort Myer and other businesses seeking city contracts. He dismissed the argument that such contributions sway how legislators act. “This isn’t Prince George’s County,” he said.

Pierre Capital Journal: Ethics amendment backers to start push to get on 2018 ballot

By Associated Press

Events will be held in seven cities to train volunteers who will circulate petitions, starting Saturday in Madison, Rapid City and Sioux Falls, Represent South Dakota said in a statement. The amendment would tighten campaign finance and lobbying restrictions, create an independent ethics commission and require that laws changing the ballot question process pass a public vote, among other provisions…

The wide-ranging new amendment would lower campaign donation limits. For example, it would decrease the contribution limit for a state representative from $1,000 a year from individuals to $500 per election cycle. It would also ban donations from corporations and labor unions to candidates or political parties, although they could still donate to other political committees. It also would bar gifts from lobbyists to many public officials.

KRWG New Mexico: New Mexico Secretary of State to Hold Three Public Hearings on Proposed Campaign Finance Rules 

As previously announced, New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver will hold three public hearings on her proposed campaign finance rule, which is intended to provide much needed guidance regarding New Mexico’s Campaign Reporting Act (CRA)…

Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver announced that she will extend the public comment period on her proposed campaign finance rule. The new deadline to submit written comments by mail, email or fax is 5:00pm on Wednesday, July 19, 2017.

Secretary of State Toulouse Oliver announced following the 2017 legislative session that she would utilize the rulemaking authority granted to her in New Mexico law to provide the necessary reforms before the next statewide election…

The draft rule provides guidance on how to more fully and accurately disclose campaign finance information in order to increase transparency to the public. The rule also defines the terms “coordinated expenditures” and “independent expenditures” and provides reporting guidance on these types of campaign expenditures.

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