Daily Media Links 1/25

January 25, 2021   •  By Tiffany Donnelly   •  
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Americans for Tax Reform: Five Reasons to Oppose H.R. 1, Democrats’ Attempt to Consolidate Power

By Isabelle Morales

Rather than pushing policies that will help the economy recover, the top priority for Congressional Democrats is legislation that will dramatically alter the American political system and consolidate power in the hands of the Left.

This legislation, designated H.R.1 in the House and S. 1 in the Senate, has been given the misleading name “For the People Act.” This proposal would fundamentally transform how elections are conducted in the United States, would politicize the Federal Election Commission, and would directly violate constitutional mandates like free speech and states’ freedom to determine their own election laws. 

This 800 page bill is packed with alarming proposals that should be rejected by Congress. Here are five reasons to oppose H.R. 1…

5) H.R. 1 Would Suppress Free Speech. This law would implement a “public file” requirement for any person or organization spending over $500 in a calendar year, forcing them to identify the name, address, and contact information of ad sponsors that are not candidates or with the campaign. It also invents a new regulation called “PASO,” an overbroad standard that asks whether political speech “promotes,” “attacks,” “supports,” or “opposes” a candidate or official. 

In addition, H.R. 1 undoes the FEC’s “internet exemption” which excludes the internet from regulation of political speech, exposing online communication to the same scrutiny as traditional advertisements.

Catholic News Agency: Pro-life group says campaign finance bill could unfairly limit their speech

By Kate Scanlon

Supporters of H.R. 1 say it would shed light on “dark money” in politics, or spending by political-advocacy groups such as 501(c)4 organizations which are not required to disclose their donors. 

However, the pro-life group March for Life Action–the political advocacy arm of the non-profit March for Life–says the proposed legislation is so broad, it would treat small-dollar donors like lobbyists. Thus, it would limit their communication with supporters and require the disclosure of small donors–possibly affecting future donations.

Tom McClusky, president of March for Life Action, [expressed concern to] CNA in an interview on Thursday…that these small donors would become the subject of unwarranted scrutiny “especially in this atmosphere we have today.” 

“Say a donor gave to us because they wanted to help fund the Virginia state [pro-life] March–even though they have nothing to do with our work on judicial nominations, we would have to release their names to this federal database,” he said. “It exposes donors for certain entities, especially if you even remotely work on judicial issues.” …

McClusky added that his group has not been the only one to oppose such legislation; the American Civil Liberties Union opposed the 2019 version of the bill. At the time, the organization said that the legislation would “require disclosure of an overbroad number of donors.” 

Reason (Volokh Conspiracy): Might Federal Preemption of Speech-Protective State Laws Violate the First Amendment?

By Eugene Volokh

Say that a state creates a law that protects speech more than the First Amendment does; for instance, say that the state law protects speakers against retaliation or exclusion by

  • private employers,
  • private educational institutions,
  • private shopping mall owners, or
  • private social media platforms.

And say that Congress preempts that state law, for instance allowing the private entities to restrict speech on their property (or by their employees or students).

Could that federal law potentially violate the First Amendment, even though it doesn’t actually forbid speech, but simply empowers private entities to do so?

Vivek Ramaswamy’s and Jed Rubenfeld’s Jan. 11 Wall Street Journal op-ed suggests the answer is yes; and on reflection, I think there is a good argument for a version of that position, though I’m not sure whether I’m persuaded by it myself. I’d therefore like to lay out in this post what I think is the best argument inspired by their claims, though not one that necessarily agrees with them in all details.

Business Insider: Trump tested the Constitution and shredded traditions. Biden and the Democrats have big plans of their own about what to do next.

By Robin Bravender and Kimberly Leonard

Democrats control the White House and both chambers of Congress for the first time in a decade…

Congressional Democrats, constitutional lawyers, and other Trump critics can quickly tick off laundry lists of all the laws they want to shore up after the Trump administration found ways to circumvent or ignore them. Some are hoping for sweeping reforms like the big changes to government ethics and campaign finance laws that were passed in the 1970s after the Watergate scandal prematurely ended Richard Nixon’s presidency.
But they’ve got some big hurdles.

Free Speech

Reason: Cancel Culture Comes for Will Wilkinson

By Robby Soave

Will Wilkinson is a vice president at the left-leaning Niskanen Center, a contributing writer at The New York Times, and someone who has frequently quarreled with me about so-called cancel culture. (I think it’s generally bad when people are fired, expelled, or dragged on social media for saying stupid or poorly phrased things they quickly come to regret; Wilkinson has suggested to me that I’ve made too much of this problem.)

On Wednesday, Wilkinson tweeted, “If Biden really wanted unity, he’d lynch Mike Pence.”

Lynching humor is virtually never a good idea, and this joke was especially badly executed.

(Wilkinson said he was making a joke not at the former vice president’s expense, but in reference to the Capitol rioters who had expressed a similar sentiment. The joke being that this time it was the far right calling for violence against a Republican official rather than the left.)

Nevertheless, widespread outrage-some of it stoked by conservative news sites like The Federalist and The Daily Caller-ensued on social media. Wilkinson apologized, describing his tweet as a lapse in judgment.

“It was sharp sarcasm, but looked like a call for violence,” said Wilkinson. “That’s always wrong, even as a joke.”

Nevertheless, the Niskanen Center fired Wilkinson and made it clear that they did so explicitly because of the tweet…

The New York Times, too, may take action. 

The Federalist: Taking Cara Babies Founder Is Bullied And Doxed For Privately Supporting Trump

By Kelsey Bolar

Despite President Joe Biden’s promise to unite the country, his supporters have continued to wage a dangerous, illiberal war against people with whom they disagree. While prominent outlets such as Forbes have focused their attention on blacklisting former Trump administration officials, everyday Biden supporters are extending the search-and-destroy campaign to include individuals who supported Trump in their private capacity.

The latest victim of the left’s Great Purge is Cara Dumaplin, a beloved baby sleep consultant who has saved thousands of new parents countless hours of sleep. Cara is a mom of four, a neonatal nurse, and married to a pediatrician. The program she founded, Taking Cara Babies, offers classes, e-books, and personal phone consultations to new parents struggling to get their newborns to sleep through the night. In addition to these paid resources, Cara offers free sleep training advice on her social media platforms, including Facebook and Instagram, where she has 1.3 million followers.

Despite her business and social media platforms being non-political, cancel culture aficionados took it upon themselves to dox her by searching her family’s names in the Federal Elections Commission database. After discovering that Cara and her husband donated nearly $2,000 to former President Trump and his reelection efforts, internet trolls publicly shared the information and used it to harass and boycott her business.

Jonathan Turley: Why Burn Books When You Can Ban Them? Writers and Publishers Embrace Blacklisting In An Expanding American Anti-Free Speech Movement

Hundreds of publishing officials, professors, and academics have signed a petition to blacklist Trump administration alumni from receiving book deals. It is the latest step in a rapidly expanding anti-free speech movement in the United States. In the wake of the Capitol riot, Democratic members and others are calling for a crackdown on free speech and punitive actions for those viewed as complicit with Trump. What is striking is how censorship, blacklists, and speech controls are being repackaged as righteous and virtuous. Indeed, the failure to sign such anti-free speech screeds is a precarious choice for many. It is as easy as calling for tolerance through intolerance. After all, why burn books if you can just effectively ban them?

Online Speech Platforms

Coindesk: Social Networks Are the Next Big Decentralization Opportunity

By Ben Goertzel

The American people’s collective jaws are still somewhat agape at the speed and oomph with which Apple, Google, Twitter, Facebook, Amazon and others have recently acted to combat online discussion perceived as encouraging right-wing anti-government violence. High-profile actions like Twitter suspending U.S. President Trump’s account, and Apple and Google and Amazon concurrently deplatforming Parler got everyone’s attention. Just as disturbing was Google threatening to remove Facebook alternative minds.com from the Android Play Store if it didn’t remove content Google found offensive…

One can sympathize to some degree with the folks who run these Big Tech companies. They’re in a classic “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation, which none of them foresaw before they got so huge…

The good news is: The elements of a truly workable solution to Western society’s social media problem are reasonably well known and not incredibly mysterious.

Candidates and Campaigns

Bloomberg: ‘Dark Money’ Helped Pave Joe Biden’s Path to the White House

By Bill Allison

President Joe Biden benefited from a record-breaking amount of donations from anonymous donors to outside groups backing him, meaning the public will never have a full accounting of who helped him win the White House.

Biden’s winning campaign was backed by $145 million in so-called dark money donations, a type of fundraising Democrats have decried for years. Those fundraising streams augmented Biden’s $1.5 billion haul, in itself a record for a challenger to an incumbent president.

That amount of dark money dwarfs the $28.4 million spent on behalf of his rival, former President Donald Trump. And it tops the previous record of $113 million in anonymous donations backing Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in 2012.

Democrats have said they want to ban dark money as uniquely corrupting, since it allows supporters to quietly back a candidate without scrutiny. Yet in their effort to defeat Trump in 2020, they embraced it…

[Biden’s] campaign called for banning some types of nonprofits from spending money to influence elections and requiring that any organization spending more than $10,000 to influence elections to register with the FEC and disclose its donors.

Center for Responsive Politics: Shell companies and ‘dark money’ may hide details of Trump ties to DC protests

By Anna Massoglia

Former President Donald Trump’s presidential campaign aides played key roles orchestrating a rally protesting certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election before hundreds of rioters breached the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. 

But the full extent of the Trump campaign’s ties to the protests may not be not fully known due to its use of shell companies that hide details of its financial dealings and the central role “dark money” played in the protests…

“The Trump campaign’s FEC reports really only provide a snapshot of who was paid by the campaign,” Brendan Fischer, the director of federal reform at the Campaign Legal Center, told OpenSecrets. “Using FEC reports to identify Trump campaign aides involved in the January 6 riot has its limits, because we don’t fully know who the campaign was paying.”

Business Insider: Microsoft president Brad Smith candidly confesses politics are pay-to-play in response to criticism over the company’s donations to lawmakers who objected to US election results

By Tyler Sonnemaker

Microsoft president and chief legal officer Brad Smith offered his employees a candid take this week on why the company gives money to politicians, shedding light on the heated debate over how corporate America should respond to GOP-led efforts to overturn the results of the US presidential election.

“It plays an important role. Not because the checks are big, but because the way the political process works,” Smith said, according to CNBC. “Politicians in the United States have events, they have weekend retreats, you have to write a check and then you’re invited and participate.” …
After 147 Republican members of Congress challenged states’ Electoral College votes earlier this month, on the same day protesters violently broke into the US Capitol in a deadly riot, America’s biggest companies – and political spenders – faced criticism for their financial support of the lawmakers who had for months undermined confidence in the election.

One of those companies was Microsoft, which has given more than $178,000 to 61 those lawmakers through its political action committee, MSPAC, during the latest election cycles – the third-most among S&P 500 companies.

Microsoft temporarily paused all of its MSPAC contributions following pushback from employees. But as critics noted, the company hasn’t specifically committed to stop funding the lawmakers who attempted to overturn the election results – despite Smith signing a letter denouncing those efforts – effectively penalizing lawmakers who upheld the principles espoused in the letter.

Smith argued to employees on Thursday that the contributions are still important because they get Microsoft’s lobbyists access to politicians, which helps them build relationships so the lawmakers are more receptive when Microsoft wants to lobby them on an issue.

The States

JD Supra: Newly Created New Mexico Ethics Commission Goes After Groups for Independent Expenditure and Donor Reporting

By Carol Laham and Eric Wang, Wiley

Despite the pandemic and being in its first year of existence, the New Mexico State Ethics Commission wasted no time in 2020. The agency recently took significant enforcement actions against two groups for alleged reporting violations for their independent expenditures. The matters illustrate the varying approaches states take to enforcement and spotlight issues that bedevil groups involved in issue and election advocacy…

Under New Mexico’s broad campaign finance law, reportable “independent expenditures” include not only: (1) public communications that expressly advocate the election or defeat of a state candidate or the passage or defeat of a ballot measure, or (2) the “functional equivalent” thereof, but also (3) public communications that merely refer to a candidate or ballot measure within certain pre-election time windows. (In other states and under federal law, the third category is often referred to as “electioneering communications.”)

Tiffany Donnelly

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