Daily Media Links 2/12: We don’t need more campaign finance laws, Facebook’s Brewing Legal Battle With States and Cities, and more…

In the News

Federalist Society: Donor privacy and Campaign Related Speech [2018 Annual Western Chapters Conference] (Video)

With federal proposals like the DISCLOSE Act sidelined by Republicans in Congress, some state governments officials, including state secretaries of state, have sought to place limitations on campaign speech through other methods. State legislators have proposed new state laws against “dark money” and advocated new disclosure regimes as well as increased restrictions on speech and political engagement by key public officials who coordinate on a national level. City lawmakers have proposed public financing regimes as well as matching funds, which are often far more restrictive than with state law. State Secretaries of State have proposed rules to implement failed campaign finance reform proposals and impose heightened donor disclosure regulations as well as requiring more detailed financial disclosures from non-profit organizations. Do these campaign speech proposals and increased pushes toward greater disclosure lead to more transparency and freer and fairer elections, or do these efforts infringe upon First Amendment rights?

U.S. News & World Report: The Right’s First Amendment Push

By Joseph P. Williams

In the next few weeks, the Supreme Court will hear arguments and reach conclusions on a series of important First Amendment cases which, at first glance, don’t seem to have much to do with Constitutionally-guaranteed freedom of speech.

They include a baker who doesn’t want to make a wedding cake, a state worker who wants to opt out of union dues and a faith-based crisis-pregnancy center forced to publicly acknowledge they don’t have doctors on staff – and that state-subsidized abortion is accessible and cheap…

“We have come to accept that the First Amendment protects the right to speak,” says Brad Smith, chairman and founder of the Institute for Free Speech, a right-leaning public policy center. “I’m not sure most people would instinctively think it includes the right not to speak.”


Roll Call: Rettig Tapped for Top IRS Job

By Ryan McCrimmon

President Donald Trump on Thursday announced he will nominate longtime tax lawyer Charles Rettig to be the next commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service.

Rettig, if confirmed by the Senate, would take over at a critical time for the agency tasked with implementing the most sweeping tax code overhaul in decades. He’s currently with the Beverly Hills, California-based firm Hochman, Salkin, Rettig, Toscher & Perez, PC, and is a vice-chairman for the taxation body of the American Bar Association…

“The IRS has been bogged down by scandal and disruption in recent years, losing the trust of the American people. It’s past time we restore Americans’ faith in this agency,” said Senate Finance Chairman Orrin G. Hatch, whose committee will oversee the nomination process. “I look forward to learning more about Mr. Rettig and his qualifications to both achieve this goal and ensure an efficient implementation of the biggest tax rewrite in over 30 years.”

Nonprofit Quarterly: IRS Settles Last Nonprofit Targeting Scandal Case

By Michael Wyland

More than seven years after suing because the IRS failed to take action on its application for tax exemption, the Pennsylvania-based Z Street nonprofit organization has entered into a “consent order” with the federal government. If the federal judge hearing the case signs off on the joint agreement, the IRS has only one regulatory appeal of another case, Freedom Path v. IRS, to defend.

The order ending the litigation includes no payment to Z Street…

Although it sounds like Z Street walks away without damages and without an admission of guilt from the IRS, that isn’t quite the case. The 20-page consent order includes 49 “stipulations of agreed facts,” which include many of the key elements of the targeting scandal…

Ending the last of the targeting cases is one necessary step to set the stage for a new day at the IRS. There are other steps both the IRS and Congressional Republicans need to take in order to put the scandal to rest and focus on the serious budgetary and managerial needs the agency is facing, both in terms of nonprofit sector oversight and globally. The selection and confirmation of a new IRS Commissioner may be the next opportunity for resolution.


NBC News: It’s time for the Federal Election Commission to examine Trump’s payment to Stormy Daniels

By David Brock

Like Edwards, Trump should face questions about whether he broke laws or ethical standards in the process of trying to cover up his personal indiscretion.

The American people deserve to know the truth about why their president was paying $130,000 to a former paramour in apparent exchange for her silence in the middle of the campaign, and whether he broke federal election law or violated the public trust in the process.

That is why I am filing a complaint today with the Federal Election Commission, requesting an investigation into whether Trump violated campaign finance law to conceal the payment to Clifford.

Election law in America requires that presidential candidates disclose the money they are spending on the election for a reason: Our laws reflect the common understanding that the American people are entitled to know if candidates are doing things like paying hush money while running for president. If Donald Trump used campaign funds to pay off Daniels without disclosing it properly, we deserve to know that, too.

The States

Annapolis Capital Gazette: We don’t need more campaign finance laws

By Talbot Manvel

How is limiting campaign contributions an abridgment of free speech? Steve Simpson, the campaign finance expert of the Ayn Rand Institute, writes: “It limits what you can spend on speech. The purpose of a campaign is to convince people to vote for one candidate and against others. Campaigns do that by producing a lot of speech – in the form of staging speeches, making radio and TV ads, and signs – that requires a lot of money.”

Recent suggestions would also limit free speech by eliminating money from groups: businesses, unions and political action committees. But as long as governments regulate business, then corporations, unions and political action committees, as well as individuals, have the right to try to influence whether those laws and regulations are adopted or how they are written

Campaign finance laws inevitably keep expanding to impose more restrictions on money and participants, therefore abridging more speech. When the law eliminates one way to influence politics, people find other ways. When you limit direct contributions to candidates, people turn to social media. The advocates of the restrictions frame every new way to speak about politics as a “loophole” that must be sealed up. Once started on this path it is hard to stop.

Governing: Facebook’s Brewing Legal Battle With States and Cities

By Natalie Delgadillo

Both Seattle and Washington state’s campaign finance laws require any entity accepting and disseminating political ads to disclose the names and addresses of the people providing the ads, the amount of money paid for them and “the exact nature and extent of the advertising services rendered.” Unlike federal law, Seattle and Washington’s apply not just to broadcasters but to any “means of mass communication.” Advertisers must keep “books of account for the public to inspect,” says Kim Bradford, a spokesperson for the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission (PDC).

She says that the PDC’s staff has come to believe state law, like Seattle’s local ordinance, is applicable to online media companies. The state has yet to make any requests of Facebook, but “we are watching what’s going on in Seattle,” says Bradford.

Arizona Republic:  How Arizona lawmakers may limit Tempe voters’ choice on ‘dark money’

By Jerod MacDonald-Evoy

Tempe voters will get ballots in the mail next week, but a bill in the Arizona Legislature could pre-empt one city measure up for a vote – a proposal to curb “dark money.”

The Tempe City Council unanimously agreed to send a ballot measure to voters that would add transparency to local elections. It would require that groups making independent expenditures over $1,000 in city elections disclose details on the organization and its donors…

House Bill 2153, which could go up for a vote in the House on Monday, would bar cities, counties and the state from requiring non-profits to disclose their donors.

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