Daily Media Links 10/5: Senators to Pitch Bill Regulating Political Ads on Social Media, The Left Misunderstands the Power of the NRA, and more…

In the News

Washington Examiner: The Left again tries to prohibit corporate giving to nonprofits and think tanks

By Bradley A. Smith

Although the CPA-Zicklin Index attracts a steady stream of media attention, it does not take seriously the potential value of corporate engagement in public policy discussions. Its authors claim merely to want corporations to disclose their giving to nonprofits and advocacy groups, but they are just as happy (and perhaps happier) if that giving dries up altogether.

Don’t take it from me: The 2017 edition of the Index released last week uses the words “prohibition,” “prohibit,” “prohibiting,” and “prohibited” more than 50 times. It celebrates that, among companies it has tracked since 2015, “the number that fully disclose or prohibit political contributions from corporate funds has increased.”

There are a lot of problems with the CPA-Zicklin report, starting with the basic fact that all corporations are already required by law to disclose their political contributions to candidates, parties, and PACs. What, then, is CPA-Zicklin even talking about? In fact, what it calls “political contributions” are actually contributions to charities, think tanks, nonprofit civic organizations, and trade associations that engage in civic discourse about public policy. Corporations that give to the “wrong” organizations (ones with a conservative tilt or message) are then targeted by the Left for harassment and boycotts.

CCP

CCP Job Opening: Attorney, First Amendment Litigation

The Center for Competitive Politics is expanding its litigation team. We are looking for an experienced attorney to take a leading, independent role in First Amendment cases brought in federal and state courts.

[Please click on the link above for a detailed description of job responsibilities, requirements, and instructions on how to apply.]

Free Speech

Electronic Frontier Foundation: DHS Should Stop the Social Media Surveillance of Immigrants

By Sophia Cope and Adam Schwartz

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) last month issued a notice that it is storing social media information on immigrants, including lawful permanent residents and naturalized U.S. citizens, apparently indefinitely, in a government database that contains “Alien Files” (A-Files). This is an invasive new feature of DHS’s previously known programs on collecting social media information. DHS’s collection and storage of this sensitive information will chill and deter the free speech and association of immigrants to the United States, as well as the U.S. persons who communicate with them…

Individuals’ First Amendment rights to free speech and association-particularly for naturalized citizens and lawful permanent residents-are chilled by the government collecting information about them. This includes chronicling their beliefs and opinions; mapping their social networks; tracking their movements-and permanently storing this information in a government database, and using it against them when making decisions about their immigration status, or for a myriad of other purposes.

Reason: Black Lives Matter Students Shut Down the ACLU’s Campus Free Speech Event Because ‘Liberalism Is White Supremacy’

By Robby Soave

Students affiliated with the Black Lives Matter movement crashed an event at the College of William & Mary, rushed the stage, and prevented the invited guest-the American Civil Liberties Union’s Claire Gastañaga, a W & M alum-from speaking.

Ironically, Gastañaga had intended to speak on the subject, “Students and the First Amendment.”

The disruption was livestreamed on BLM at W&M’s Facebook page. Students took to the stage just a few moments after Gastañaga began her remarks. At first, she attempted to spin the demonstration as a welcome example of the kind of thing she had come to campus to discuss, commenting “Good, I like this,” as they lined up and raised their signs. “I’m going to talk to you about knowing your rights, and protests and demonstrations, which this illustrates very well. Then I’m going to respond to questions from the moderators, and then questions from the audience.”

It was the last remark she was able to make before protesters drowned her out…

These students have clearly made up their minds about free speech: they don’t want to share it with anyone else-especially Nazis, but also civil liberties lawyers who happen to be experts on the thing they are willfully misunderstanding: the First Amendment.

Privacy

Washington Free Beacon: Donors of Anti-Trump ‘Resistance’ Group Revealed

By Joe Schoffstall

The hidden donors to a prominent anti-Trump “resistance” organization are revealed in unredacted tax forms obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

The Center for Community Change Action, a Washington, D.C.-based progressive community organizing group that does not reveal its donors, has been involved in direct action against President Donald Trump and Republicans before and after the November elections. The organization’s members sit on the boards of other prominent liberal activist groups.

The Free Beacon has obtained the group’s unredacted 2015 tax forms that shed light on its funders, who provide millions of dollars in assistance. The group appears to rely heavily on a few major liberal foundations, organizations, and unions…

The Center for Community Change Action, the “social welfare” (c)(4) arm of the group, additionally relies on a handful of donors for almost all of its funding, according to its documents that do not include the privacy redactions.

The Hill: Trump supporters dig up personal information on thousands of Trump opponents

By Ali Breland

Supporters of President Trump have compiled a list containing personal information on thousands of people they believe are either opposed to Trump or associated with left-wing “anti-fascist” or “antifa” groups.

The list, reported by BuzzFeed, has been circulated and added to on the internet since at least April. The list, which began on 4Chan’s controversial /Pol/ board as a loose collection of names, phone numbers, addresses and social media accounts of Trump critics, has since grown into an organized document spread across the internet…

The list, which The Hill found and reviewed, is made up largely of names and social media accounts. But the list also includes precise details about some individuals, including their residences, hobbies and occupations…

The document also targets and includes the contact information of people the list creators believe are associated with ShareBlue, a liberal media site owned by liberal political activist David Brock. ShareBlue says no writers or members of its editorial team are on the list.

Congress

Wall Street Journal: Senators to Pitch Bill Regulating Political Ads on Social Media

By Natalie Andrews

“We’re hoping to finish that draft in the coming days,” Mr. Warner, a Virginia Democrat, said, adding that he wanted to first share the draft with the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Richard Burr (R., N.C.), because the issue should be bipartisan. Mr. Warner said the legislation would take the “lightest touch possible.”

Mr. Warner made the comments as he and Mr. Burr updated the public on the committee’s investigation, which they said has interviewed more than 100 witnesses and has another 25 scheduled this month. The senators emphasized that the probe was moving methodically, though Mr. Burr said he still hoped to wrap it up by the end of the year and didn’t expect to release any findings until the committee had concluded its report…

An open hearing is scheduled for next month with representatives from Facebook Inc., Twitter Inc. and Google, a unit of Alphabet Inc…

Facebook on Monday presented congressional investigators with data on 3,000 ads bought by Russian actors before and after the U.S. presidential election…

Mr. Burr said Wednesday the committee wouldn’t be publicly releasing the ads. Mr. Warner encouraged Facebook to do so.

FEC

Slate: The FEC Is Basically Useless

By April Glaser

In September, the FEC unanimously voted to open a public comment period about online advertising purchased by foreign actors, which ostensibly could lead to a rule-making, but don’t hold your breath. That’s because, by design, the FEC is made up of three Republicans and three Democrats, meaning it’s perpetually deadlocked…

First of all, the FEC doesn’t regulate issue-based ads-only ads that are directly for or against a particular candidate and ads that refer to a candidate right before an election that run on TV and radio. So the ads that Kremlin-linked groups bought that were designed to stoke anger about the Black Lives Matter movement, for example, would not have fallen under the purview of the FEC.

Furthermore, Ravel says that the FEC won’t regulate posts for which the platform itself has not been paid…

Though FEC regulation of online campaign ads is the right thing to do, any steps the commission takes to regulate probably wouldn’t completely stop Russian government-linked groups from using Facebook to manipulate and microtarget U.S. voters. To do that, we need congressional action, too.

Independent Groups

National Review: The Left Misunderstands the Power of the NRA

By David French

Journalists often treat the NRA differently from every other consequential activist group in the United States. Yes, they recognize that liberal groups like the National Education Association and Planned Parenthood are important, but they do not treat progressive politicians as those organizations’ puppets. Instead, they do the accurate thing: They cast progressive politicians and progressive organizations as part and parcel of a larger progressive community that shares certain ideas and values and speaks for tens of millions of American citizens…

Imagine if one day the Left got its wish and the NRA board of directors suddenly “evolved” on gun rights. At a stroke they changed its focus to gun safety, hunting, and target shooting; trap and skeet became more important than assault-weapons bans or concealed carry. Would America change? Hardly. Within days, millions of frustrated and angry gun owners would coalesce behind one or more competing organizations, the lobbying apparatus would rebuild, and we’d be right back where we are today – just with a different organization leading the charge.

The NRA is powerful for precisely the reason most potent progressive organizations are powerful. Like those progressive counterparts, the NRA is an effective part of a larger community, and it is effective precisely because it persuasively expresses the will of its members and allies.

Disclosure

Buzzfeed News: Forget Russian Trolls. Facebook’s Own Staff Helped Win The Election.

By Daniel Kreiss and Shannon McGregor

[T]hese firms offer an extensive array of campaign services – including advising campaigns on everything from the content of ads and other communications to the specific groups they might benefit most from targeting, and how best to reach them. Consider the fact that all three of these firms have dedicated partisan teams that work with campaigns. Staffers work with campaigns to guide advertising buys, boost engagement around online ads, and shepherd the use of their platforms…

You could consider the help provided by tech companies as a form of subsidy to the campaigns. These subsidies of expertise are mutually beneficial: The platforms get ad revenues and build relationships with campaigns and their candidates, while campaigns optimize their advertising and extend the reach of their messaging…

Google and Twitter should join Facebook in its effort around transparency and disclosure, and make the paid content posted on their platforms public so citizens, journalists, and academics can evaluate these messages. Government regulation around transparency is ideal.

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