Daily Media Links 6/29

June 29, 2020   •  By Tiffany Donnelly   •  
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In the News

Wall Street Journal: Trump Nominates New Federal Election Committee Commissioner

By Alex Leary

President Trump nominated a new member to the Federal Election Commission as a current member resigned on Friday, denying the panel a quorum.

Mr. Trump nominated Allen Dickerson, currently legal director of the Institute for Free Speech, a [Washington, D.C.]-based advocacy group that has fought against some campaign-finance restrictions and backed the landmark Citizens United case.

On Friday, Commissioner Caroline Hunter, a Republican appointee, announced she was resigning, saying “the FEC would benefit greatly from new faces and fresh perspectives.”

The six-member panel, which by law is supposed to have three members from each of the two major parties, already had two vacancies before Ms. Hunter’s resignation. As four members are required for a quorum, her departure leaves it unable to police campaign-finance law. Mr. Dickerson can’t take a seat on the commission until his nomination is approved by the Senate.

Politico: FEC losing quorum again after Caroline Hunter resigns

By Daniel Lippman and Zach Montellaro

Hunter will leave the [Federal Elections Commission] on July 3 and said in her [resignation] letter that she fought against “unnecessary government regulations and unfair enforcement actions” and promoted the FEC being more transparent…

“I fought to protect Americans’ First Amendment rights to free speech and association, and to administer the laws as written by Congress and interpreted by the courts, rather than as some wished them to be,” she wrote…

Shortly after Hunter announced her resignation, the White House said that it would nominate Allen Dickerson as a new FEC commissioner. Dickerson is currently legal director at the Institute for Free Speech, which broadly takes an anti-regulatory approach to campaign finance…

“Caroline earned the highest regard among her peers for her solid and professional leadership skills,” FEC vice chair Steven T. Walther, an independent who often votes with the Democratic commissioner, said in a statement. “She has been an ardent and effective advocate of her views on campaign finance and the duties of the FEC and a conversation with her invariably led to a better result. Her dedication and sense of humor made her one of the most effective and respected Commissioners.” …

Good governance groups across the ideological spectrum have previously called for a full slate of commissioners serving on unexpired terms to be nominated to captain the nation’s chief campaign finance watchdog.

Public Policy Legal Institute: Allen Dickerson Nominated for Federal Election Commission

Today President Trump nominated Allen Dickerson to be a Commissioner on the Federal Election Commission. Dickerson is currently Legal Director of the Institute for Free Speech in Washington, D.C., and is one of the most active and thoughtful First Amendment litigators. He is a long-time member of the First Tuesday Lunch Group, and was co-counsel on a recent Supreme Court brief for the Public Policy Legal Institute and IFS…

Both the White House and IFS released statements:

Today, President Donald J. Trump announced his intent to nominate the following individuals to key positions in his Administration:

Allen Dickerson, of the District of Columbia, to be a Member of the Federal Election Commission.

Allen Dickerson is currently the Legal Director at the Institute for Free Speech, where he leads a nationwide First Amendment litigation practice. Previously, he was an Associate with Kirkland & Ellis, LLP. He also serves as Captain in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps, United States Army Reserve.

Mr. Dickerson received his undergraduate degree from Yale College and his J.D. from New York University School of Law.

New from the Institute for Free Speech

IFS Legal Director Allen Dickerson to be Nominated to the FEC

Washington, DC – President Donald Trump today announced his intent to nominate Institute for Free Speech Legal Director Allen Dickerson to the Federal Election Commission. Dickerson has led the Institute’s litigation team since 2011 and is one of the nation’s top experts in campaign finance law…

“The White House could not have found a more qualified nominee than Allen Dickerson. He will bring years of experience, expertise, and a strong commitment to the rule of law to the Commission,” said Institute for Free Speech Chairman and former Federal Election Commission Chair Bradley A. Smith. “He is a lawyer’s lawyer and his temperament is ideally suited for this position.”

During his time at the Institute for Free Speech, Dickerson spearheaded the group’s litigation efforts and engagement with regulatory agencies. He testified numerous times before Congress, state legislatures, and the FEC. Dickerson is also a highly sought-out public speaker on campaign finance law and has authored several law review articles on the topic.

“It is a tremendous honor to be considered for the FEC. I am grateful for the president’s confidence, and hope to have the opportunity to serve the American people in this important role,” said Dickerson.

Long-time Commissioner Caroline Hunter also announced her intention to resign from the FEC today, according to an article in Politico…

“Caroline Hunter deserves immense praise for her twelve-year tenure at the FEC. As a former Commissioner, I know how difficult the job can be. She worked diligently to defend the rule of law and enforce regulations fairly. We will sorely miss her insight and her candor,” said Smith.

Congress

Wall Street Journal: Ramping Up the Speech Intimidation

By The Editorial Board

It’s election season, so it’s time for Democrats in Congress to try to shut down donations to conservative nonprofits.

The House Oversight Committee in late May accused Marathon Petroleum of “driving” the Trump Administration’s rollback of Barack Obama’s fuel-efficiency mandates. In addition to seeking communications between Marathon lobbyists and federal officials, the letter demanded years of communications and financial documents between Marathon and 23 free-market nonprofits, one oil-and-gas trade association, and Koch Industries.

The letter is signed by Oversight Chair Carolyn Maloney of New York, Senate climate enforcer Sheldon Whitehouse, and others…

Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee sent a similar letter a year ago to Marathon, a trade association and two nonprofits…

The main purpose of the letters looks to be an intimidation campaign against conservative nonprofits…

Democrats debuted these harassing tactics in 2010 after the Supreme Court in Citizens United restored the ability of corporations and unions to donate to political causes. Their agitation prompted the IRS to investigate conservative nonprofits. They are again using the threat of bad publicity and harassment to send a message that engaging in political advocacy will be punished. The timing is no coincidence as the U.S. enters election season.

The First Amendment protects the freedom of association and speech. Despite House Oversight’s claim that it can investigate “any matter” at “any time,” we hope the targets stand up to this nasty intimidation.

City Journal: Pushing Back on Cancel Culture

By Robert J. Delahunty and John Yoo

If antidiscrimination norms can be extended to so many categories of persons and types of activities, why doesn’t Congress provide robust protection for political speech, activities, and affiliations? Congress has already made persecution for political opinion a basis for non-Americans to qualify for refugee status. Americans themselves should enjoy similar protection for their own political views…

Of course, an employee’s political opinions and activities are often relevant to his job performance. Federal law should not prohibit the Democratic National Committee from refusing to hire a conservative Republican job applicant, for example. But existing civil rights statutes already contain protections for this case. If political speech or activity is a good-faith occupational qualification, then the employer should be permitted to discriminate on that basis. Not being a Trump supporter may be a valid basis on which the DNC and maybe even CNN can make employment decisions-but not Apple or Wells Fargo.

Drafting the right statutory language to incorporate this new protection into the Civil Rights Act would be challenging, no doubt…

Perhaps the right answer would be for Congress to legislate that private employers are subject to the same constraints that the First Amendment would impose on comparable public employers. True, some private employers, especially those engaged in expressive activities, may themselves have First Amendment speech and associational rights that Congress could not truncate by statute. But as current state and local laws already show, it should be possible to design protections for the speech and activity of employees, particularly on their own time, without interfering with most employers’ constitutional rights.

San Francisco Chronicle: Congress should pass Rep. Eshoo’s bill restricting microtargeting of political ads

By Janine Zacharia

Social media companies will continue to tangle with the executive branch, and technology leaders may never come up with a consistent logic regarding false content. But that doesn’t mean Congress can’t do anything before November to at least blunt some of the damage of political ad microtargeting. Congress can quickly act to reduce voter exposure to uncontested lies online by passing the Banning Microtargeted Political Ads Act, a smart bill introduced last month by Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto.

Bombarding me with online advertisements for products based on searches I conducted is annoying, creepy and poses risks to my personal privacy. But bombarding Americans with specially crafted political ads based on their likes and shares and other identifying characteristics is damaging our democracy.

Research agrees. “Online political campaigns targeting Facebook users by gender, location and political allegiance significantly increased support for Republican candidate Donald Trump,” a 2018 University of Warwick study showed. “The micro-targeted campaigns exploiting Facebook’s profiling tools were highly effective both in persuading undecided voters to support Mr. Trump, and in persuading Republican supporters to turn out on polling day.”

These ads can be laced with falsehoods or designed to enrage. And since journalists, and sometimes even political opponents, can’t see all the microtargeted ads in real time – Trump’s campaign reportedly put forth 5.9 million different ads on Facebook during the 2016 election cycle – they aren’t always able to hold the politicians or political groups distributing them accountable.

Media

Medium: Hey NYT, please just don’t

By Lessig

There’s an incredible corner of the Net, hosted by someone who calls himself “Scott Alexander.” “Alexander” is a young Bay Area psychiatrist with a wide range of interests and enormous intellectual energy. He’s written a blog – Slate Star Codex (wbm)-that echoes some of the very best in the old web…

Recently, a New York Times reporter decided to do a story on the blog. He interviewed a bunch of readers and then interviewed “Alexander.” During that interview, he told “Alexander” that he had identified his true identity, and was going to reveal it in the story. “Alexander” strongly objected to being doxxed. He has announced that he will close the blog if the Times outs him.

I don’t often find myself in the same place as the Washington Free Beacon, but this time I am. This should not be a political issue. There is no justification for denying this conductor and creator his anonymity. You don’t have to go full-on Against Transparency to believe that a free society should allow free people to associate freely, without the fear of being doxxed by even the well-meaning. Indeed, one might observe that’s precisely how our political society was born. See, e.g., The Federalist Papers, published under the name Publius, as well as scores of other pamphlets with similar pseudonyms. See as well The Economist, which publishes brilliance without identifying the authors.

Online Speech Platforms

Washington Post: Trump and Biden both want to repeal this tech rule. They’re both wrong.

By Editorial Board

President Trump and Joe Biden both think Internet platforms have it too easy – but for very different reasons. Neither really gets it right…

[W]holesale repeal [of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act] would certainly threaten the Web as we know it.

What’s needed isn’t a revocation but a revision. There should be a lot to like, then, in a recommendation from the Justice Department to strip protections from platforms designated “bad Samaritans” for encouraging lawless content – holding the worst actors accountable for turning their sites into instruments for abuse, while still sheltering those that act responsibly. Unfortunately, the department adds on a counterproductive provision that would also strip protections from platforms that go beyond “good faith” in removing content.

The Justice Department markets this idea as all about transparency. Yet the administration’s recent order – plus a “good faith” bill from Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) explicitly designed to prevent the so-called silencing of conservatives – makes it look more like a cudgel to wave at companies that moderate too vigorously for the government’s taste.

Wall Street Journal: Facebook Tightens Controls on Speech as Ad Boycott Grows

By Suzanne Vranica and Deepa Seetharaman

Under mounting pressure from advertisers, Facebook Inc. said it would start labeling political speech that violates its rules and take other measures to prevent voter suppression and protect minorities from abuse.

The new policies were announced Friday shortly after The Wall Street Journal reported that consumer-goods giant Unilever is halting U.S. advertising on Facebook and Twitter Inc. for at least the remainder of the year, citing hate speech and divisive content on the platforms…

In a live stream announcing the changes, Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg didn’t mention Unilever or the ad boycott, but said he was “optimistic that we can make progress on public health and racial justice while maintaining our democratic traditions around free expression and voting.” …

Some of the measures described on Friday were clarifications of clarified existing policies, and civil-rights leaders who have been in discussions with the company on these issues said the moves were insufficient…

Among the new measures Mr. Zuckerberg announced Friday, the company will label posts that violate its policies but are deemed newsworthy-giving Facebook the option of labeling President Trump’s posts, as Twitter has done recently. Facebook will also put in additional safeguards to prevent voter suppression and shield immigrants from ads that depict them as inferior…

In a statement to the Journal, Facebook said it invests billions of dollars every year to keep its platform safe and has banned 250 white-supremacist organizations from Facebook and Instagram. It said artificial intelligence helps it find nearly 90% of hate speech before anyone flags it. 

Washington Post: Zuckerberg once wanted to sanction Trump. Then Facebook wrote rules that accommodated him.

By Elizabeth Dwoskin, Craig Timberg and Tony Romm

Facebook has constrained its efforts against false and misleading news, adopted a policy explicitly allowing politicians to lie, and even altered its news feed algorithm to neutralize claims that it was biased against conservative publishers, according to more than a dozen former and current employees and previously unreported documents obtained by The Washington Post. One of the documents shows it began as far back as 2015, when as a candidate Trump posted a video calling for a ban of Muslims entering the United States. Facebook’s executives declined to remove it, setting in motion an exception for political discourse.

The concessions to Trump have led to a transformation of the world’s information battlefield. They paved the way for a growing list of digitally savvy politicians to repeatedly push out misinformation and incendiary political language to billions of people. It has complicated the public understanding of major events such as the pandemic and the protest movement, as well as contributed to polarization.

And as Trump grew in power, the fear of his wrath pushed Facebook into more deferential behavior toward its growing number of right-leaning users, tilting the balance of news people see on the network, according to the current and former employees…

Nick Clegg, Facebook’s vice president for global affairs and communications, said in a statement…[:]

“From the Arab Spring to local candidates challenging political incumbents, social media has also helped to open up politics, not favor one side over the other,” Clegg added. “Studies have shown the drivers of populism are complex and cannot be reduced to the use of social media, in fact political polarization has fallen in many countries with high internet use.”

Candidates and Campaigns

McClatchy DC: DNC hires Bloomberg-tied tech firm Hawkfish for 2020 election

By Alex Roarty

The Democratic National Committee has hired the digital and technology firm Hawkfish, according to a source with knowledge of the situation, bringing the Michael Bloomberg-founded company on board for the final four months of the 2020 campaign.

The DNC’s decision will be controversial among some progressives, who bristled at the idea of Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor and multi-billionaire, gaining influence within the party. Earlier this month, Joe Biden’s campaign opted against hiring the firm, though the DNC and Biden campaign are working hand-in-hand during the general election.

The nature of the Hawkfish’s contract with the DNC, and what work they’ll specifically do for the committee, was not entirely clear. A second source with knowledge of the agreement said it was for a “small data contract.” …

Hawkfish, which was founded in 2019, has pitched itself as an all-in-one data and digital package, identifying key voters and determining the best messages to reach them. And with Bloomberg’s money behind it, company officials have said it’s the most cost-effective option on the market.

But the agency’s inexperience has also raised concerns among some Democratic strategists that it’s not ready for the high-pressure environment of a presidential race. Hawkfish was part of Bloomberg’s failed bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.

The States

New York Daily News: Defeating racism via the ballot box

By Stanley Fritz

This year in New York, there are hundreds of candidates for office at the state level. Running a campaign for a state Senate or Assembly seat is not cheap, trust me; a lot of them are listening to donors. Those donors usually keep things simple – they give max contributions, with expectations for said candidate to toe the line once they’re in office. The $15-$25 that I and other New Yorkers may be able to give can’t compete with the massive giving by law enforcement interests…

Frustrating, right? Well, don’t get too down. Last year, after years of organizing and advocacy, a law passed in New York that would offer small-donor public financing for all statewide and state legislative campaigns. Under the new program, the $20 that I would contribute to a candidate would be matched by public funds and be worth as much as $260 to a candidate for state Legislature, or $140 to a candidate for governor. Under this program, if we pooled our dollars around someone, we could change the political landscape in New York State. That’s the kind of electoral power that those in richer whiter communities have always had.

Unfortunately, it will only be effective if Gov. Cuomo and legislative leaders take seriously the need to build the program and do it right. So far, they’ve acted only to sabotage the program…

By July 1 Gov. Cuomo and legislative leaders should appoint widely respected, qualified leaders to the new Public Campaign Finance Board. 

KOAA News 5: Text message controversy in Pueblo commissioner race

By Andy Koen

A local marijuana business has jumped in the middle of the Democratic primary race to be nominated for Pueblo’s County Commissioner District 2. NuVue Pharma sent a text message to its customers last week urging them to vote in favor of challenger Abel Tapia over incumbent Garrison Ortiz…

The complete message reads:

“Pueblo Cannabis voters, fire Garrison Ortiz. He supports prohibition. Protect your rights, elect Abel Tapia & return your ballot by Tue 6/30. Show this text for Happy Hour any Hour @ NuVue thru 6/18. Reply ‘STOP’ to opt out”

Commissioner Ortiz believes the text broke campaign finance laws and could be a crime…

The Pueblo Chieftain reported last Thursday that 10th Judicial District Attorney Jeff Chostner was, “working with the Colorado Attorney General’s office to see if the text constitutes a crime.” …

Dr. Malik Hasan owns NuVue and explained that the text message was supposed to have been split into two separate messages, one political and the other offering the happy hour discount. He said the happy hour language has been used in hundreds of previous promotions and that its inclusion was a mistake.

“Everybody got the same discount,” he said. “So, it wasn’t that somebody asked and said okay are you going to vote against Commissioner Ortiz so that we’ll give you a discount. No, nobody asked that question.” 

 

 

Tiffany Donnelly

Tiffany Donnelly