Daily Media Links 7/25: Four House Committees to Vote on Trump Controversies, Lawmaker Facing Scrutiny Over Campaign-Finance Funds Quits, and more…

In the News

Talk Media News: $18 million election law fine is egregious

By Edward Zuckerman

The Center for Competitive Politics said in a friend-of-the-court brief that imposing an $18 million fine for failure to meet a registration requirement of Washington State’s election law is barred by the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition against “excessive fines.” CCP said the fine, levied against the Grocery Manufacturers of America for expenditures to promote defeat of a ballot measure, is “a death sentence for most groups, with tremendous potential to chill specially protected speech.”


Roll Call: Four House Committees to Vote on Trump Controversies

By Kate Ackley

Using an obscure tactic, House Democrats will force their GOP colleagues to take controversial committee votes this week over President Donald Trump’s business ties and the government’s widening Russia probe…

Votes on four different resolutions of inquiry are scheduled this week in the House Judiciary, Financial Services, Homeland Security, and Transportation and Infrastructure committees. Additional resolutions are forthcoming, likely after the August recess, in the Ways and Means and Foreign Affairs panels, according to congressional Democrats…

The resolutions of inquiry are part of a larger messaging effort from House Democrats to raise the prominence of ethics matters with their eye on the 2018 midterm elections. House Democrats last week, including Jayapal, unveiled what they dubbed a “By the People Project” that will ultimately include a package of bills aimed at updating the nation’s ethics, campaign finance and voting laws.

Washington Post: This piece of pro-Israel legislation is a serious threat to free speech

By David Cole and Faiz Shakir

The American Civil Liberties Union, where we both work, takes no position for or against campaigns to boycott Israel or any other foreign country. But since our organization’s founding in 1920, the ACLU has defended the right to collective action. This billthreatens that right…

In NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware Co., the Supreme Court in 1982 upheld the right of NAACP activists to hold a mass economic boycott of segregated businesses in Mississippi. The court stated that the boycotters’ exercise of their rights to “speech, assembly, and petition . . . to change a social order that had consistently treated them as second-class citizens” rested “on the highest rung of the hierarchy of First Amendment values.”

This is not to say that all boycotters are automatically free speech heroes; indeed, BDS advocates have themselves at times shut down Israeli academics or speakers to the detriment of academic freedom. Thus, it’s understandable that free speech advocates might not immediately identify BDS supporters as victims of censorship. But when government takes sides on a particular boycott and criminalizes those who engage in a boycott, it crosses a constitutional line.

Trump Administration

Washington Post: If donations to Democrats mean you’re anti-Trump, the White House is in very deep trouble

By Phillip  Bump

While Mueller’s investigators have decades of experience in the Justice Department and the FBI, critics of the special counsel have focused on the fact that several gave money to Democratic politicians, including Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, in past election cycles. This, they charge, hints at a bias that will color their investigation into Trump and his campaign’s alleged collusion with Russian efforts to influence the election. That’s what Conway’s doing, working to associate “Democratic donor” with Mueller’s team so that whatever that eventual finding might be, Trump supporters will be predisposed to dismiss it.

There’s just one problem with that strategy. A lot of key White House figures are also Democratic donors – and gave to Hillary Clinton…

Oh, and there’s one other figure about whom the administration might be nervous if Democratic contributions are a sign of bias: A guy named Donald Trump has given hundreds of thousands to Democrats and several thousand to Clinton herself.

Can Donald Trump and his band of Democratic donors be trusted to treat Donald Trump without bias?

Corporate Speech

Washington Post: What millennials want from their CEOs: Activism

By Jena McGregor

A new report from the global public relations firm Weber Shandwick and KRC Research surveyed Americans on how they feel about “CEO activism” – when corporate officials make public statements on social issues. In recent years, more and more chief executives have been speaking up, urging the White House to remain in the Paris climate accord, criticizing regulations that limit gay rights, defending journalism amid accusations of “fake news” or criticizing dysfunction in Washington…

Millennials are the one group that sees this trend in a significantly positive way. In the survey, 56 percent of millennials said CEOs and other business leaders need to engage on hotly debated current issues more today than in the past, compared with just 36 percent of Gen Xers and 35 percent of baby boomers.

Forty-seven percent of millennials said CEOs have a responsibility to speak up on social issues that are important to society, compared with just 28 percent of Americans in older generations. And millennials were the only generation in the survey in which the percentage of those who said they view CEOs more favorably for taking public positions actually expanded since last year, rather than declined.

The States

NY1 News: Queens city councilman found guilty in corruption trial

By Bobby Cuza

A jury Thursday has found Queens City Councilman Ruben Wills guilty on five of six counts against him in his corruption trial.

Wills was accused of stealing more than $30,000 in taxpayer money, funneling it through his nonprofit group, then using it, among other things, on clothes, fast food, gas and, in one case, a $690 Louis Vuitton handbag…

In one case, he siphoned off $21,000 in state grant money that had been awarded to his non-profit group, New York 4 Life.

Separately, he pocketed $11,500 in city campaign finance funds, using much of the money on himself at stores ranging from Nordstrom to Dunkin’ Donuts to Victoria’s Secret.

Santa Fe New Mexican: Shine light on partisan campaign funding

By Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham

More than seven years since the landmark Citizens United ruling, we have experienced hundreds of millions of dollars in partisan political campaign spending from tax-exempt social welfare organizations. Unfortunately for voters, we usually have no idea where that money comes from, which means we don’t know who is trying to influence our vote.

I am trying to change that with legislation I introduced in Congress to shine light on these social welfare organizations and the money they raise to spend on political campaigns.

The New Mexico Legislature earlier this year passed similar legislation with bipartisan support, but Gov. Susana Martinez vetoed the bill. Now, New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver is addressing the issue through a rule to ensure we shine a light on dark-money spending while maintaining free speech protections. I support the secretary of state’s proposed rule, and I hope the New Mexico Legislature acts again to pass a strong bill with more transparency…

My bill would restrict social welfare groups from engaging in political campaign activities – the same standard that charities have to adhere to – and ensure that political campaign money is disclosed and kept separate from money spent for the promotion of social welfare. 

WCSH Portland: ACLU: LePage violating free speech by deleting comments on Facebook

By Beth McEvoy

The ACLU of Maine says Governor LePage is violating free speech protections by deleting comments or blocking people from commenting all together on his official verified Facebook page.

The ACLU sent a letter to the Governor on Monday, saying he must stop selectively deleting comments posted by constituents and reinstate commenting privileges to all people who have been improperly blocked.

“The governor doesn’t get to decide who speaks and who doesn’t, based on whether they are praising him or disagreeing with him,” said Zachary Heiden, legal director at the ACLU of Maine.

“The First Amendment protects the right of all people to express their opinions to the government. Social media may be a relatively new forum for public speech, but the Constitution still applies.”

The ACLU says courts have affirmed that First Amendment’s significance of social media.   

U.S. News & World Report: Lawmaker Facing Scrutiny Over Campaign-Finance Funds Quits

By Associated Press

A state legislator under investigation for allegedly violating Arizona’s clean election financing laws has resigned.

Rep. Jesus Rubalcava, D-Gila Bend, announced Wednesday that his resignation is effective on July 28.

The freshman lawmaker was facing scrutiny from the Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission for his use of public campaign-finance funds in 2016.

The commission’s executive director, Tom Collins, says Rubalcava’s resignation doesn’t moot the investigation, which will continue and Rubalcava still faces possible penalties.

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