Daily Media Links 7/26: The Landscape of Campaign Contributions, Secretary of state unveils changes to proposed disclosure rules, and more…

In the News

Reason: Trump Attacks on Washington Post Illustrate Importance of Citizens United

By Ed Krayewski

Absent this protection, the federal government could decide that the Washington Post, as Trump claims, was a sort of lobbying arm of Amazon, and thus muzzle their election-related speech.

It’s not theoretical. Before Citizens United, as A. Baron Hinkle has pointed out, campaign finance laws “regulated not just donations to candidates and political parties, but also ‘electioneering communications’ made within 30 days of a primary or 60 days of an election.”

Such laws are regularly used by those in power to silence their critics. In Ohio, Hinckle notes, a local Republican leader targeted a blogger who criticized him. That politician argued that because the activist spent $40 a month to maintain the blog where he posted his political criticisms, he had to register with the state and be regulated as a political action committee. Hinkle also mentions a Missouri man who was fined for calling himself a “citizens lobbyist” and heading a group, Missouri First, that sought to influence public policy. Missouri First was not a lobbying firm, and it had no clients. Nevertheless, the professional association of lobbyists brought a complaint against him. In Nevada, another group was targeted for handing out two flyers critical of a Democratic politician.


Taxpayers Association of Oregon and Taxpayers Association of Oregon PAC Response Brief

The Measure’s proponents made little earnest attempt to comply with unquestionably binding rulings of the U.S. and Oregon Supreme Courts. While this brief will explain the reasoning in those cases, and refute the opposing parties’ readings, the plain fact is that these very regulations have been tried before, these same arguments routinely made, and both have been repeatedly rejected by the highest courts. This Court has no discretion to revisit those decisions.


PBS NewsHour: For Trump supporters in Portland, the left is the face of intolerance

By Elizabeth Flock

In the days before the rally, fear had spread through pro-Trump Facebook groups. Trump supporters worried they’d be a target for violent leftists. The park where the rally was being held was surrounded by tall buildings, and Brown had visions of being shot at from above.

But Brown, a recent convert to the GOP and a transgender woman, who switched parties after getting fed up with political correctness in the liberal LGBTQ community, told herself she needed to physically show up. “I thought that I had to have bravery in the face of fear,” she said later…

In Portland, it seemed to them, free speech only belonged to those with a certain point of view.

As the Trump supporters gathered in the park plaza, counter-protesters surrounded them on several sides. Between the two groups stood two rows of police in riot gear. Since Trump had taken office, at least six rallies in the Portland metro area had ended in physical confrontations between the extreme left and right; this time, police were prepared.

Free Speech

Competitive Enterprise Institute: Campaigning for Free Speech at FreedomFest

By Richard Morrison

Legal attacks on free speech and association rights have been increasing in recent years at an alarming rate. We’ve seen the high-profile harassment of conservative and Tea Party groups at the IRS under officials like Lois Lerner, and politically motivated prosecutorial actions like the so-called John Doe investigations in Wisconsin, which targeted Gov. Scott Walker and the advocacy groups which campaigned against his recall. We’ve seen state attorneys general across the country and acting in concert targeting nonprofit organizations with demands for documents and donor lists in a way that is inconsistent with the principles of equal treatment under the law and due process, and in many cases, transparently motivated by partisan and ideological bias…

While there may be a few dispassionate academic theorists out there who are really and truly only motivated by a desire to keep politics clean, overwhelmingly restrictions on political speech are pushed by highly motivated partisans who have calculated that the rules they support will have a disparate, negative impact on the ability of their opponents to achieve those opponents’ policy goals.


Washington Post: There’s no First Amendment right to engage in anti-Israel boycotts – but there is a right to call for such boycotts

By Eugene Volokh

This proposal indeed seems aimed at going after fully protected speech, and not just commercial self-promotion…

And while the existing prohibition on providing information with the intent to comply with, further or support a boycott might usually be done just by businesses trying to get more contracts in the face of existing boycotts, providing information with the intent to request to impose a boycott would – I think – be more commonly done for political reasons. This addition thus seems expressly targeted at political advocacy of boycotts, when that’s coupled with information about companies that do business with Israel.

So that’s why I do think the proposed amendment poses a real First Amendment danger, one that is greater than that posed by existing law. Though existing law doesn’t seem to have been applied to political advocacy, and to my knowledge hasn’t even deterred political advocacy, the new proposal – with its focus on requests for boycotts – seems more likely to be applied to such advocacy. And while there’s no general First Amendment right to actually refuse to deal with people or companies on various grounds, there is a First Amendment right to argue that international organizations (and even foreign governments) should impose such boycotts.

Citizens United

Committee for Economic Development: The Landscape of Campaign Contributions

Two spheres of financial activity therefore define campaign funding: one based on limited contributions from individuals (candidates, parties, and PACs), the other on unlimited contributions (Super PACs and other organizations).

Most of the money raised in federal elections comes from donations made by individuals to candidates, parties, and PACs that are subject to contribution limits and full public disclosure. In the 2014 and 2016 elections, more than 75 percent of the money raised or spent on election activity came from limited individual contributions…

Prior to Citizens United, corporations, trade associations, and labor unions could spend money independently in support of candidates, but they had to use PAC money raised from limited, voluntary individual contributions. Citizens United changed the law by allowing these organizations to use unlimited contributions or money drawn from their general treasuries to finance independent expenditures in support of candidates. This change was expected to produce a surge in business spending. We found little to support this expectation. In fact, few business corporations or associations have made independent expenditures in recent elections.

Candidates and Campaigns

Brennan Center: Who Were the Russians Working For?

By Ciara Torres-Spelliscy

Federal law (52 U.S.C. §30121 formerly 2 U.S.C. § 441e) bans candidates (and everyone else) from soliciting political contributions from foreigners. What’s lesser known is that the law actually does distinguish between foreign nationals and foreign governments; not in the statute, but rather in the federal sentencing guidelines…

In the first post-McCain Feingold sentencing guidelines, in 2003, penalties listed at §2C1.8(b)(2) were enhanced if the campaign finance offense involved a foreign national (two levels) or a foreign government (four levels). Thus there is more prison time for a person working for a foreign government than one who is simply a run-of-the-mill foreign national like Bluman…

So it actually makes a difference whether the Russian lawyer, or the Russian-American former KGB agent, or the Soviet-born financier once suspected of money laundering, or the former British tabloid reporter who now promotes a Russian pop star or even the U.S.-born translator, or anyone else who managed to fit in Donald Jr.’s office that day along with Manafort and Kushner were working for the Russian government. If any of the lot was working for the Kremlin and they’re convicted of violating the foreign contributions ban, they’ll face a stiffer sentence.

The States

Albuquerque Journal: Secretary of state unveils changes to proposed disclosure rules

By Dan Boyd

Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver on Tuesday unveiled changes to proposed New Mexico political spending rules…

The changes include making it clear that court statements would not count as political advertising and adding a higher spending threshold before independent groups weighing in on statewide campaigns would have to disclose their donors…

The rules, which would be the first of their kind in New Mexico, have been touted as bringing more transparency to state campaign spending laws, large parts of which have been struck down by courts.

However, critics have raised legal issues and questioned whether Toulouse Oliver, a first-term Democrat, has the authority to implement the rules, which are largely based on bipartisan legislation that was vetoed earlier this year by Gov. Susana Martinez.

While Toulouse Oliver has insisted she’s on solid legal footing, two former Secretary of State’s Office administrators – Bobbi Shearer and Rod Adair – wrote in a recent letter that the proposed rules would not withstand a court challenge on constitutional grounds.

KRWG New Mexico: Public Comments Support Increased Campaign Finance Transparency In New Mexico

By Office of the New Mexico Secretary of State

The Secretary of State’s office received 327 written comments during the public comment period.  Of the received comments, 287 were in support of the rule, 34 of the comments were against the rule and six were considered neutral.  Eighty-eight (88) percent of the submitted comments support the proposed rule.

“New Mexicans have made it clear that they want additional disclosure in political campaigns,” said Secretary of State Toulouse Oliver.  “You have a right to know who is paying for the TV commercials and ads that are trying to influence your vote, and I’m going to keep fighting for additional disclosure and transparency in our elections.”…

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.