Daily Media Links 3/13: Multnomah County to appeal campaign finance ruling, Senate Democrats propose campaign finance reform bills, and more…

First Amendment

Washington Post: President Trump’s cultural assault on the First Amendment

By Erik Wemple

There is no shortage of explainers detailing President Trump’s limited ability to mess with the First Amendment. No, he can’t just snap his fingers and “open up” our libel laws so that he can more easily sue news outlets that publish scoops about him. No, he can’t just shut down a large broadcast network whose reporting he doesn’t like. There’s a lot of bluster in the president’s widely disseminated attacks on the press. “But as we approach the first anniversary of Trump’s inauguration,” wrote Politico magazine’s Jack Shafer last November, “we discover that the president’s gibbering about the alleged menace posed by the press has been followed by no action.” …

Thank goodness that the Constitution won’t allow Trump to undo the First Amendment the way he does other policies – via whims, which blind-side everyone around him, that is. Yet Trump and his “fake news” crew don’t need to extract a constitutional amendment. They don’t need to manipulate the Federal Communications Commission. That’s because they’re taking aim at the very culture of the First Amendment.

U.S. News & World Report: Study: College Students’ Confidence in 1st Amendment Security Decreases

By Alexa Lardieri

A new survey conducted by the Gallup-Knight Foundation on college students’ attitudes about free speech on college campuses found fewer students believe First Amendment rights are more secure today than they were a year ago.

The survey released Monday, Free Expression: What College Students Think About First Amendment Issues, builds on a 2016 study by Gallup, the Knight Foundation and the Newseum. Although students want their campuses to be environments that foster a wide variety of ideas rather than places that prohibit certain forms of potentially harmful speech, they value this less than they did in 2016.

Students are also about as likely to favor campus speech codes that prohibit hateful speech as oppose them – 49 to 51 percent – and almost two-thirds do not believe the United States Constitution should protect hate speech…

The study also asked students what they believed was important for fostering democracy. A majority – 56 percent – believe protecting free speech rights is extremely important to democracy. Fifty-two percent also believe promoting a diverse and inclusive society is extremely important. Despite these majorities, however, more students – 53 percent – believe promoting an inclusive society is more important than protecting citizens’ rights to free speech.

Supreme Court

Reason: Today in History: SCOTUS Protects the Corporate Speech Rights of The New York Times

By Damon Root

Do corporations have First Amendment rights? Many modern progressives think not. Former New York Times editorial board member Adam Cohen, for example, has argued that corporate speech does not deserve First Amendment protection because “the Constitution never mentions corporations or their right to speak.”

Fortunately for Cohen and his old colleagues at the New York Times Company, the U.S. Supreme Court reached a different conclusion. And no, I’m not talking about Citizens United.

Fifty-four years ago today, the Supreme Court issued its landmark First Amendment ruling in New York Times Co. v. Sullivan. At issue was a libel complaint filed by Montgomery, Alabama, City Commissioner L.B. Sullivan against the New York Times Company because the Times had run a full-page advertisement that charged Montgomery police with violating the rights of civil rights activists…

According to the Court, the First Amendment “prohibits a public official from recovering damages for a defamatory falsehood relating to his official conduct unless he proves that the statement was made with ‘actual malice’-that is, with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.” To hold otherwise, the ruling said, would be to allow a “pall of fear and timidity [to be] imposed upon those who would give voice to public criticism” of public officials, an outcome that the Court described as “an atmosphere in which the First Amendment freedoms cannot survive.”


Wall Street Journal: Republicans on House Panel Find No Collusion Between Russia and Trump Campaign

By Rebecca Ballhaus and Byron Tau

Republican lawmakers on the House Intelligence Committee have drafted a report saying the panel’s yearlong probe into Russian election interference found no evidence that Moscow colluded with Donald Trump’s campaign or that the Kremlin favored Mr. Trump in the 2016 race…

The draft report includes some recommendations for avoiding foreign interference in future elections, including that the Federal Election Commission require more detailed reporting of expenditures, Mr. Conaway said.

The panel’s Republicans are expected to present the draft report to Democrats on Tuesday. Once they have weighed in, it will be submitted to intelligence agencies for a declassification review before being made public.

Mr. Conaway said he expected Democrats to make “extensive changes” to the report, and that the final report would likely include some bipartisan sections and some areas in which Democrats would issue their own conclusions.

Candidates and Campaigns

Newsmax: 50 Years Ago: Eugene McCarthy’s Role in Primary That Changed History

By John Gizzi

Few presidential primaries have had the impact on American politics as one in New Hampshire 50 years ago today…

[L]egions of anti-Vietnam War activists carried the obscure Sen. Eugene McCarthy, D-Minn., to a stunning showing (42 percent) against President Lyndon Johnson (49 percent).

McCarthy’s performance did nothing short of change the face of Democratic politics in 1968 and beyond…

There were also no regulations on federal campaign spending. So six millionaires, including philanthropist Stewart Mott and Stride Right shoes magnate Arnold Hiatt, put up what is estimated to be $1 million to underwrite the insurgent McCarthy campaign.

In later years, as a private citizen, McCarthy would become a plaintiff in cases against post-Watergate rules and regulations on campaign finance. He referred to his funding by a handful of wealthy people as “venture capital” and often remarked he could never have challenged a sitting president under the present limitations on individual contributions to federal candidates.


USA Today: Did the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels break the law?

By Fredreka Schouten

On Monday, Common Cause filed updated complaints with the Federal Election Commission and the Department of Justice, arguing that a lawsuit filed last week by adult film actress Stormy Daniels demonstrates that a $130,000 payment to her broke election laws.

Another group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), argues that Trump may have run afoul of rules requiring him to list his personal debts on a financial disclosure form. 

“The whole set of circumstances raise a number of red flags about potential campaign-finance violations that merit further investigation,” said Richard Hasen, an expert on election law at the University of California-Irvine. 

Here’s a look at the some of the potential areas of legal risk for Trump and his personal lawyer Michael Cohen…

Washington Examiner: Democratic PAC urges FEC to investigate Stormy Daniels payment in complaint

By Laura Barrón-López

Democratic outside group American Bridge filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission Monday, requesting it investigate a payment made to the porn star Stormy Daniels by President Trump’s lawyer just before the 2016 election,

The super PAC, meant to boost Democrats in congressional and gubernatorial elections, argues that the FEC must look into the payment made by Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen. There is enough evidence, the group says, that warrants an investigation to determine whether Cohen brokered the nondisclosure agreement with Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, to help Trump’s campaign.

It’s the second supplemental complaint by American Bridge, including details to the timeline surrounding the payment to Daniels, in October 2016.

American Bridge states “there is a strong possibility,” that Cohen, Trump, and the president’s campaign committee “violated federal law by conspiring to violate federal campaign finance law and directly violating the contribution limit restrictions and the reporting requirements.”

The States

Portland Tribune: Multnomah County to appeal campaign finance ruling

By Nick Budnick

Multnomah County will join supporters of campaign contribution limits in appealing a local judge’s ruling against 2016 campaign finance reforms…

[T]he activists behind passage of the measure plan to step up their efforts despite an 11-page ruling that was issued by Multnomah Circuit Judge Eric Bloch calling the limits a violation of the free-speech clause of Oregon’s Constitution.

The advocates say they intend to keep pressing for a similar set of reforms at Portland City Hall and are prepared to pursue a statewide measure if necessary…

Supporters of the Multnomah charter reform measure, 26-184, had expected their rules to be appealed to a higher court all along – despite being hopeful that they’d win on the local level.

The rules contained in the measure were specifically crafted by advocates to be appealed all the way up to the Oregon Supreme Court and even the U.S. Supreme Court, to overturn rulings at both locations that have frustrated reformers…

Bloch’s March 6 decision was even worse than the activists had feared, however. It not only shot down the measure’s $500 contribution limits but panned a clause requiring independent expenditure campaigns to disclose who was funding them.

New York Legislative Gazette: Senate Democrats propose campaign finance reform bills

By Tom McCarthy

Stewart-Cousins is sponsoring a bill called the “Fair Elections Act” (S.7593) with the intention of establishing an optional public financing system for state campaigns…

Senate Democratic Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris, D-Queens, is sponsoring a bill (S.3301) that would lower contribution limits for statewide candidates…

Sen. Brian Kavanagh, D-Manhattan, is sponsoring a bill (S.7129) that would require campaign committees to reveal the occupation, employer and employer’s address of a an individual donating more than $500 to the State Board of Elections.

Kavanagh spoke out against “The LLC Loophole” and is combating it by sponsoring a bill (S.7149)…

Sen. Gustavo Rivera, D-Bronx, sponsors a bill (S.1085-c) which would require the disclosure of “bundling.”…

Sen. James Sanders, D-Queens, sponsors a bill (S.4111/A.3993)  which would require corporations to have a majority of their shareholders authorize any political spending…

Sen. Liz Krueger, D-Manhattan, is sponsoring a bill (S.4164) that seeks to establish a yearly contribution limit of $25,000 in aggregate from each contributor for party committees for day-to-day operations such as maintaining headquarters and staff. 

Wilkes-Barre Times Leader: Gov. Wolf introduces ‘Citizens First’ ethics reform plan

By Bill O’Boyle

Wolf is proposing:

Campaign Finance Reform: Enacting new campaign finance laws that would place limits on contributions to candidates seeking elected office, implement aggregate limits for races, place sensible restrictions on Political Action Committees (PACs), and strengthen reporting and disclosure requirements across the board to restore confidence in government, and curtail the role of campaign spending in our political process.

Missoula Current: Right-to-work group again accused of meddling in Montana’s elections

By John Adams

A group at the center of one of the biggest elections scandals in modern Montana history is actively engaged in the 2018 election, while hiding its activities and spending, according to a complaint filed with state elections regulators.

Kalispell Republican Rep. Frank Garner said in a complaint filed March 6 with the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices that a field operative for Montana Citizens for Right to Work is actively recruiting candidates to run against him in House District 7. Garner said that activity is illegal because the group has not registered with state elections officials as required by law.

“It appears as if these groups are back and are trying to corrupt our election system once again,” Garner wrote in his complaint.

The complaint stems from a meeting that Montana Citizens for Right to Work assistant director Al Chan allegedly held on Feb. 28 in Kalispell with members of the Flathead County Libertarian Party. According to Kalispell resident Dan Nelson, who said he was at the meeting, the purpose of the confab was for Chan to recruit candidates to run against Garner in the June 5 Republican primary. Nelson later provided Garner with a detailed written account of the meeting, which Garner attached to the complaint.

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