Daily Media Links 6/13: Federal Court Rules on Colorado Campaign Finance Laws, 8th Circuit Holds Unconstitutional Missouri Law Requiring Political Committees Influencing Elections to Be Formed at Least 30 Days Before an Election, and more…

In the News

Connecticut Post: Duo of state lawmakers fight election fines

By Ken Dixon

State Sen. Joe Markley of Southington and Rep. Rob Sampson of Wolcott were ordered this spring to pay $2,000 and $5,000 fines respectively, for what the State Elections Enforcement Commission ruled was an effort to help Republican Tom Foley’s challenge to Malloy.

Now, the Alexandria, Va-based Institute for Free Speech has agreed to pursue the case in state Superior Court along with Mike Cronin, a legal adviser for Senate Republicans.

“Talking about our opinions of the governor is almost essential campaign speech,” Markley said in a Tuesday interview. “The case, on a certain level, makes people scratch their heads.”

Markley, who won the state GOP endorsement for lieutenant governor last month, said the fines are an “unreasonable barrier to political speech.”

“This policy effectively bans candidates from speaking to voters about one of the most important responsibilities of the office they seek to hold – checking the power of the executive,” said Allen Dickerson, legal director of the non-profit institute…

[The SEEC] said that Sampson and Markley made illegal expenditures for Foley, who would have had to share the cost of the mailers…

Sampson, who is seeking Markley’s Senate seat, and the senator split the cost of mailers that, while highlighting their achievements in office, also mentioned Malloy’s tax hike and overall policies. Two more ads from Sampson mentioned the governor’s policies…

Markley recalled that about two dozen other Republican candidates had similar complaints against them and settled with the SEEC, but that in August, 2016, he and Sampson refused, and instead looked for support from First Amendment advocates.

Washington Examiner: Facebook dishonestly pushes the Honest Ads Act

By Luke Wachob

For Facebook, government regulation of political and issue ads on its platform is the lesser of two evils. Russian interference in the 2016 election, which involved the purchasing of politically-charged Facebook ads, has sparked calls for government to regulate the social media giant. It has also raised awareness of the way Facebook’s business model relies on collecting data on its users and allowing advertisers to target users with messages designed to appeal to their interests.

Public unease with this aspect of Facebook’s business could be a major problem for the company. It’s therefore in Facebook’s interest to do whatever it can to shift the conversation away from its user privacy protections – or lack thereof. The company’s first reaction to the Russia controversy, which was simply to deny that any problem existed with the platform, failed to persuade. So now Facebook is on to plan B: support some dumb legislation and self-censor until the politicians get off its back.

Enter the Honest Ads Act. Notably, prior to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s endorsement of the bill in April, the Honest Ads Act had been languishing in Congress. That neglect was for good reason. Drafted in a rush to capitalize on media coverage of Russian interference, the Honest Ads Act fails to provide real solutions to foreign meddling. Compared to the more targeted approach pursued in other proposals, the Honest Ads Act would indiscriminately increase regulation for all online political advertising…

Online speech has long been regulated with a light touch out of a bipartisan recognition that the Internet is an empowering and diversifying medium capable of uplifting marginalized voices. Regulating Internet ads like expensive television and radio ads breaks with that tradition and recasts the Internet’s ability to accelerate social change as a bug rather than a feature.

CT News Junkie: Two Republicans Sue Election Regulators

By Christine Stuart

Two Republican lawmakers are appealing the ruling of the State Elections Enforcement Commission in Superior Court saying that election regulators violated their free speech rights in 2014.

The State Elections Enforcement Commission fined Sen. Joe Markley $2,000 and Rep. Rob Sampson $5,000 for failing to get Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s opponent or their party to help pay for mailers attacking Malloy…

The Institute for Free Speech has agreed to take the case to court on behalf of Markley and Sampson…

“Just as candidates for Congress must be able to discuss the president, candidates for state legislature must be able to discuss the governor,” Institute for Free Speech Legal Director Allen Dickerson said. “Yet Connecticut law prevents candidates for the General Assembly from criticizing the governor’s policies in ads unless they first secure the approval and funding of one of the governor’s opponents. This policy effectively bans candidates from speaking to voters about one of the most important responsibilities of the office they seek to hold – checking the power of the executive.”

Markley and Sampson through their attorneys are asking the court to dismiss the fines and declare the law unconstitutional.

“Requiring legislative candidates to get permission and funding from a gubernatorial candidate in order to discuss the governor in campaign ads violates the First Amendment,” the two said in a press release.

The Courts

Pagosa Daily Post: Federal Court Rules on Colorado Campaign Finance Laws

By Lynn Bartels

Judge Raymond Moore ruled that portions of Colorado’s campaign finance procedures allowing private citizens to file complaints are unconstitutional. The enforcement procedures struck down today were placed in Colorado’s constitution via the initiative process.

The case involves Strasburg parent Tammy Holland, who placed ads in her local newspaper concerning a school board race. The school superintendent filed a complaint against Holland with the Colorado Secretary of State’s office.

“The court’s ruling leaves in place the substantive requirements of Colorado’s campaign finance law but strikes down the enforcement mechanism,” Secretary of State Wayne Williams said today. “We are considering our options for further review but in the meantime we will work collaboratively with interested parties to adopt temporary rules providing an enforcement mechanism.

“We also will work to address the matter legislatively during the 2019 legislative session.”

The Institute for Justice took up Holland’s case in 2016. “Colorado has essentially outsourced the enforcement of its campaign-finance laws to every politico with an ax to grind,” IJ senior attorney Paul Sherman said at the time.

Although IJ sued Williams in his official capacity, Williams has expressed concerns to the legislature about Colorado’s system of enforcement. Private citizens file complaints with his office, which are then automatically forwarded without review for merit to an administrative law judge for review.

Election Law Blog: 8th Circuit Holds Unconstitutional Missouri Law Requiring Political Committees Influencing Elections to Be Formed at Least 30 Days Before an Election

By Rick Hasen

This ruling makes sense to me:

Assuming, without deciding, that this [anti-corruption] interest is compelling, the formation deadline is unconstitutional because it is not narrowly tailored. The formation deadline indiscriminately prohibits (or significantly burdens) speech by individuals or groups who did not form a campaign committee by the 30-day deadline. This would be less burdensome if all individuals and groups knew well in advance that they would eventually want to speak. But as the Supreme Court has recognized, this is not the case…


Washington Post: Free to State: The Future of the First Amendment

Free speech can take many forms, including social media engagement, comedy, investigative journalism, civil disobedience and more. The First Amendment protections that safeguard freedom of expression are essential for an open and productive society, but political polarization, changing cultural norms and technological innovations have affected how we exercise this fundamental right.

On Tuesday, June 19, The Washington Post will bring together journalists, technology experts, scholars and other thought leaders to explore the challenges and opportunities created by robust free speech guarantees in a diverse and modern democracy. Topics will include net neutrality, political satire and the state of intellectual freedom in America.

This is the second annual “Free to State” program, part of a series of events The Post is producing in partnership with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Speakers: Robert Atkinson, President, Information Technology and Innovation Foundation; Susan N. Herman, President, American Civil Liberties Union; Patrisse Khan-Cullors, Co-Founder, Black Lives Matter; Hari Kondabolu, Comedian; Documentarian, “The Problem with Apu”; Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Member, U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation; Dylan Marron, Host, “Conversations With People Who Hate Me”; Suzanne Nossel, Chief Executive Officer, PEN America; Patton Oswalt, Comedian and Actor; Jesse Panuccio, Acting Associate Attorney General of the United States, U.S. Department of Justice; Jonathan Spalter, President & CEO, United States Telecom Association; Christopher Wylie, Whistleblower; former Director of Research, Cambridge Analytica

Date: June 19, 2018

Time: 3:00 PM to 5:30 PM

Location: The Washington Post

Register here

First Amendment 

Daily Beast: The Lawyer Fighting for the Fringes, From Porn to Neo-Nazis

By Kelly Weill

Attorney Marc Randazza sounded surprised when I described him as being known for representing a neo-Nazi. “I guess it’s a change from the years when every headline called me a porn lawyer,” he said…

“I may represent [Daily Stormer founder] Andrew Anglin,” Randazza said. “I also very proudly represent [performance artist and faux-political candidate] Vermin Supreme. I also very proudly represent [civil rights attorney] Lisa Bloom. I also very proudly represent the Muslim American Women’s Political Action Committee.”

But the trend of far-right clients has bought Randazza a new fan base, which he says he rejects…

Randazza said his politics skew left…

Until recently, he said, his biggest fans were on the left.

“Not very long ago, most of the people who shouted my name with praise were on the left because I took up the fight for porn companies against right-wing forces who wanted to shut them down,” he said…

Does he ever have a fit of conscience over his current crop of clients?

“No, not all,” Randazza said. “If you’re a First Amendment attorney, and you say ‘this person’s speech is good enough for me, but this person’s isn’t,’ you’re doing it wrong.”

Political Parties

HuffPost: DNC Quietly Adopts Ban On Fossil Fuel Company Donations

By Alexander C. Kaufman

The Democratic National Committee voted over the weekend to ban donations from fossil fuel companies, HuffPost has learned.

The resolution – proposed by Christine Pelosi, a party activist and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s daughter – bars the organization from accepting contributions from corporate political action committees tied to the oil, gas and coal industries. The executive committee voted unanimously to approve the motion…

The DNC may consider a second resolution at a full board meeting in Chicago in August to ban contributions over $200 from individuals who work for the fossil fuel industry. Miller said the proposal – which has not yet been submitted to the DNC – will hopefully lead candidates to adopt similar policies.

“So if Eddie Exxon is your college buddy and a frat-boy friend of yours and he’s employed at an Exxon gas station and wishes to donate $25 to have a barbecue and a beer with you, fine,” Miller said. “But if Edward J. Exxon in Exxon’s middle management thinks you’re worth contributing $2,700 to out of his own salary, that is much more concerning to us.” …

The energy and natural resource sectors, including fossil fuel producers and mining firms, gave $2.6 million to the DNC in 2016, according to data collected by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. That’s a pittance compared to the $56.1 million that came from the finance and real estate sectors, the DNC’s largest corporate donors that year. This year, the energy and natural resource sectors’ donations totaled $186,100 by the middle of May.

Trump Administration 

Wall Street Journal: College Students Suing Over Free Speech Get a Powerful Ally: The Trump Administration

By Sadie Gurman and Michelle Hackman

In recent months, the Justice Department has sided with conservative student groups suing the University of California, Berkeley over the school’s policies regarding guest speakers, and with a student who sued Pierce College in Los Angeles over its restrictions on where he could distribute Spanish-language copies of the U.S. Constitution. This week, the Justice Department aligned itself with a group in a lawsuit against the University of Michigan…

The Justice Department in recent months began filing so-called statements of interest in lawsuits over campus disciplinary codes and “free speech zones” that limit where students can protest…

A newly formed watchdog group, Speech First, sued the [University of Michigan] in May on behalf of three anonymous students who say they’re afraid to espouse “unpopular” conservative views…

The lawsuit targets a University of Michigan policy that encourages students to report “bothersome speech” and advises: “The most important indication of bias is your own feelings.” That “imposes a system of arbitrary censorship of, and punishment for, constitutionally protected speech,” the Justice Department said.

The University of Michigan said the Justice Department “seriously misstated” its policy and “painted a false portrait of speech on our campus.” In response to the lawsuit, the school said, it narrowed the scope of what behavior is prohibited…

[P]rogressive activists warn that by identifying so openly with conservative speech, the administration is creating a more closed environment on campus rather than a freer one.

“Colleges and universities have this dual obligation to create a more diverse community without compromising free expression,” said Suzanne Nossel, chief executive of Pen America, a left-leaning group advocating for open expression.

The States

San Antonio Express-News: Wolff calls on legislators to reform campaign finance laws

By Gilbert Garcia

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff has called on the state Legislature to reform Texas campaign finance laws during the 2019 legislative session.

In a Tuesday letter to House Speaker Joe Straus and the rest of the San Antonio legislative delegation, Wolff pointed to the fact that both the state and the counties of Texas (which operate under the jurisdiction of the state) have no limits on individual campaign contributions. Citing a suggestion from state Rep. Lyle Larson, R-San Antonio, Wolff said $2,500 would be a suitable cap for campaign donations.

He also urged lawmakers to “prohibit loans to campaigns” and “limit spending by political action committees and individuals acting on their own, including statewide office holders.” …

Wolff said he spoke briefly Tuesday with four members of the delegation – state Sen. José Menéndez and state representatives Diego Bernal, Ina Minjarez and Phil Cortez – and found them receptive to the concept of campaign finance reform.

Santa Fe New Mexican: New Mexico will pay more than $130K for Pearce campaign legal fees

By Andrew Oxford

Taxpayers will shell out up to $133,000 to cover legal expenses for U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce’s campaign after the state settled a lawsuit his attorneys had filed last year over fundraising limits.

The lawsuit hinged on dueling interpretations of New Mexico’s campaign finance laws, with the Secretary of State’s Office initially contending the Republican’s campaign could not transfer hundreds of thousands of dollars he had accumulated running for Congress to finance his bid for governor.

The state instead maintained that transferring money from one campaign to another would be limited, like any other donation of that kind, to $11,000.

The Pearce campaign took the state to federal court last year, arguing that interpretation did not make any sense when candidates for state office can roll over donations from one year to another.

A judge granted an injunction, allowing Pearce’s congressional campaign to transfer the money – about $783,000 at this point – to his campaign for governor.

Rather than continue to fight the case, the two sides settled, with the state agreeing to pay some of the Pearce campaign’s legal fees.

David Carl, a spokesman for the state Attorney General’s Office, said Monday that the sides agreed lawyers can receive up to $133,032.15, or 85 percent of the legal fees the Pearce campaign incurred during the case.

The Secretary of State’s Office, the Attorney General’s Office and the Fifth Judicial District Attorney’s Office – which was also named in the Pearce campaign’s lawsuit – will split those costs, Carl said.

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