Daily Media Links 3/26

March 26, 2021   •  By Tiffany Donnelly   •  
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In the News

Daily Signal: 9 Highlights From Senate Hearing on Federal Takeover of Elections

By Fred Lucas

Here are nine highlights from the Senate Rules and Administration Committee’s hearing [on S. 1]…

Democrats’ legislation and their spin is cynical, argued Bradley Smith, chairman of the Institute for Free Speech, which opposes restrictions on campaign spending. 

“The cynicism in the For the Politicians Act is highlighted by two provisions. The first is the point noted by Mr. Wertheimer that the bill claims to not use taxpayer money to fund elections,” said Smith, a former FEC chairman, adding: 

“But then [it] immediately sets up a system using taxpayer money to fund elections. The bill provides the system will be paid for using fines, penalties, and the sale of government assets. But all of this is taxpayer money. All of us know that. How cynical is it to claim that the funds of the U.S. government are not taxpayer money, that they are just magical funds that are somehow there?

Next is the change in the FEC from a bipartisan organization to an agency that is under partisan control. How cynical is this? All morning long, through the first panel, I listened to one member after another of this committee insist we have to pass S 1 to do away with partisan redistricting. But apparently, we have to pass S 1 to get partisan enforcement of campaign finance laws.”

Committee for Justice: H.R. 1, Election Fraud, and the Future of Voting (Video)

At a time when half of Americans believe that there were substantial voting irregularities in November’s election, Democrats in the House have passed H.R. 1, a bill they say would protect voting rights but critics say would make it harder for states to determine voter eligibility and otherwise ensure election integrity. The bill contains a veritable wish list of progressives’ election-related “reforms,” also including felon voting, redistricting commissions, public financing of Congressional campaigns, and expanded regulation of political speech. Our panel of election law experts discuss H.R. 1, its potential impact, possible alternatives, and what changes we’re likely to see in future elections.

Featuring: 

-Bradley Smith

Chairman and Founder of the Institute for Free Speech 

-Hans von Spakovsky

Manager of the Election Law Reform Initiative at the Heritage Foundation 

-Jason Snead 

Executive Director of the Honest Elections Project 

-Curt Levey (moderator) 

President of the Committee for Justice

Congress

New York Times: ‘Shame!’ Schumer and McConnell Clash in Voting Rights Hearing

By Nicholas Fandos

Two former Republican chairmen of the Federal Election Commission also testified in opposition [to S. 1] on Wednesday. Republicans were particularly outspoken against changes that would transform the body, which regulates federal elections, from a bipartisan and largely toothless entity into a more partisan and punitive one.

The bill proposes restructuring the F.E.C. from an evenly split bipartisan panel into one with an odd number of members, where a chairman selected by the president would effectively take control.

“Talk about ‘shame,’” said Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the minority leader.

Office of Sen. Joe Manchin: Manchin Pledges Bipartisan Efforts On Voting Rights Legislation

Today, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), released the following statement on his commitment to garnering bipartisan support for voting rights legislation that encompasses voting access expansion, election security and campaign finance reforms…

“Of course, we cannot discuss election integrity and public trust without mentioning the disturbing role money plays in our democracy. Since the Citizens United Supreme Court case, unlimited amounts of dark money have allowed anonymous parties to flood the airwaves with negative advertisements…That is why I have and will continually support changing our campaign finance rules. The DISCLOSE Act, filed by Senator Whitehouse would require leaders of corporations, unions or other organizations to disclose that they are behind political ads. Similarly, the bipartisan Honest Ads Act, for example, would simply require digital ads to meet the same disclosure requirements as print or broadcast ads…

“As the Senate prepares to take up the For the People Act, we must work toward a bipartisan solution that protects everyone’s right to vote, secures our elections from foreign interference, and increases transparency in our campaign finance laws. Pushing through legislation of this magnitude on a partisan basis may garner short-term benefits, but will inevitably only exacerbate the distrust that millions of Americans harbor against the U.S. government. We can and we must reform our federal elections together – not as Democrats and Republicans, but as Americans to restore the faith and trust in our democracy.”

Washington Examiner: Even the Left admits HR 1 is a problem

By Kaylee McGhee White

Democrats would like you to believe that H.R. 1, a sweeping elections bill passed by the House earlier this month, is the next great civil rights legislation. They don’t even believe it…

Back in 2019, when Democrats first introduced the legislation that is now H.R. 1, the American Civil Liberties Union, a notoriously left-leaning legal organization, said it opposed the bill because of campaign finance provisions that could limit free speech. Not much has changed. The ACLU has not come out against the 2021 version of the bill, but the group sent a letter to Democratic lawmakers this year warning them that the bill, as it stands, contains “significant constitutional concerns,” specifically in regards to campaign finance provisions, that will almost certainly be challenged in court.

Politico: D.C.’s Silicon Valley crackdown enters the haggling phase

By Cristiano Lima

A congressional reckoning is coming for Silicon Valley, lawmakers told the CEOs of Facebook, Google and Twitter on Thursday at a hearing focused on a rising tide of misinformation and extremism.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing, which began at noon, is drilling into criticisms about ills including Covid-19 vaccine hesitancy, racial hatred and the use of multiple online platforms by the extremists who attacked the Capitol in January. Some lawmakers are also expressing frustration at not getting direct answers about who should bear the responsibility for online toxicity…

Here are the top highlights from Thursday afternoon’s hearing:

Glenn Greenwald: The U.S. Intelligence Community, Flouting Laws, is Increasingly Involving Itself in Domestic Politics

As I have been repeatedly noting over the last two months, the Biden administration, along with leading Democrats such as Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), have been stating explicitly that one of their top priorities is the adoption of new laws designed to import the Bush/Cheney/Obama War on Terror onto U.S. soil for domestic purposes. As recently as February 14, The Washington Post — under the headline: “The agency founded because of 9/11 is shifting to face the threat of domestic terrorism” — noted that Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, is now demanding that homeland security resources be re-directed toward domestic extremists, and “lawmakers of both parties spoke favorably of new legislation to specifically address domestic terrorism.”

Nobody from the Biden administration or Congressional members demanding enactment of Schiff’s proposed new “domestic terrorism” law can identify any activities that are not now criminal that they believe ought to be. Unless it is to permit intelligence agencies to start policing constitutionally protected speech and associational activities among U.S. citizens, why are any new laws needed? Unless it is to empower them to escalate their already-aggressive use of War on Terror tactics against U.S. citizens, what do they want security state agencies to be able to do on U.S. soil that they cannot now do?

Biden Administration

The Hill: President Biden, on special interest money are you more an ‘Obama’ or a ‘Hillary?’

By Rep. Matt Gaetz

[President Obama] had a vision for American politics that wasn’t devoted to lobbyists and special interests — at least not at first.

Speaking in Virginia, he promised an enraptured crowd: “We will not take a dime from Washington lobbyists or special interest PACs. We’re going to change how Washington works. They will not fund my party. They will not run our White House. And they will not drown out the voice of the American people when I’m president of the United States.”

I hope that line got the applause it deserved. It was good policy then, and it’s still good now.

In a move that remains sadly rare in Washington, Obama followed through on his promise — under his guidance, the DNC stopped accepting donations from political action committees (PACs) in 2008.

Sadly, when Hillary Clinton became the presumptive nominee in 2016, the policy was reversed. Hillary came to fill the swamp, not drain it; since 2016, lobbyists have been welcomed back to donor junkets, where booze and campaign cash both flow liberally.

Now, to face the future, President Biden must answer a question about the past: are you more an “Obama” or a “Hillary?” Do you want to change the way Washington works, or revert to the mean of corruption and backroom dealing? Will special interests fund your coffers, your party, and your future? Will lobbyists run your White House? 

FEC

Roll Call: FEC: Lawmakers may use campaign money for ‘bona fide’ bodyguards

By Kate Ackley

After a three-hour debate, members of the Federal Election Commission approved, by a 5-1 vote, an advisory opinion Thursday allowing lawmakers to use campaign funds to pay for security expenses to protect themselves and their immediate families. But it likely won’t be the last word from the agency, as it also set in motion a rule-making process on the matter.

The decision Thursday was in response to a request from the National Republican Congressional Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which had asked the FEC, amid increasing threats and after a violent assault on the Capitol, to determine whether hiring personal bodyguards constituted an appropriate use of political money. 

But the issue took a controversial and partisan turn, as commissioners debated language to define what types of security personnel would be appropriate after Democratic House and Senate campaign arms raised concerns Wednesday. Democratic election lawyer Mark Elias wrote that the FEC needed to specify that only “bona fide” guards could be reimbursed, or it could open “the door to the improper use of campaign funds to compensate fringe militia groups under the guise of a legitimate security expense.”

“All of the commissioners have been grappling with this,” said commissioner Ellen Weintraub. “Everyone is concerned with the safety of members of Congress. … I originally thought that this was going to be an easier answer than it turned out to be, the more I thought about it.”

Weintraub also questioned why the GOP party committees, instead of a specific member of Congress, sought guidance. 

Jessica Furst Johnson, representing the Republican committees, said it was because all incumbents face security threats and also because individual members could face political retribution for attaching their name. 

Independent Groups

Politico: Trumpworld’s next target: Building a dark-money machine

By Alex Isenstadt

Liberals spent years building a massive dark-money machine. Now conservatives are trying to match them.

[Next month’s] summit is being sponsored by the Conservative Partnership Institute…

With the dust settling from the party’s 2020 defeat, senior Republicans say they’ve come to acknowledge a massive deficit: the lack of a dark-money infrastructure that can be pivotal to influencing elections and policy fights. Organizers say the gathering is aimed at creating a long-term blueprint for funding policy-focused nonprofits in order to compete with liberals who, through mega-donors like George Soros and Tom Steyer, have developed a well-oiled system for routing cash to a web of big-spending advocacy groups…

[The agenda] warns that “liberal donors and organizations have increasingly turned to nonprofit, tax-deductible avenues as a lever for change,” and says it’s “time conservative-aligned donors and political leaders take a hard look at the way philanthropy can best achieve conservative public policy victories.” …

Republicans have long been active in creating super PACs, which can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money on elections. But in recent years they’ve been outmatched in the creation of nonprofits, which are more restricted in their ability to spend money on elections but can still raise vast sums to influence voters. According to a recent estimate from OpenSecrets, liberal groups directed more than $500 million in dark money to benefit Democratic candidates in the 2020 election, compared to only $200 million from conservative groups.

The States

Cleveland.com: Ohio campaign-finance reform bill gets first look since emergence of dark money scandal

By Andrew J. Tobias

The Ohio House is taking up a bill that would impose tougher disclosure requirements on corporate political donors, a move to increase campaign-finance transparency in the aftermath of the House Bill 6 scandal.

House Bill 13 would require political nonprofits and other corporate groups to disclose their donors and spending with the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office, similar to political action committees or political candidates. Among the groups it would affect are 501C4s, political nonprofits often used as vehicles for “dark money” spending, or money that’s legally structured to keep its donors anonymous.

The bill also would remove a prohibition in state law that bars corporate political contributions, a statute that was rendered outdated by the 2010 Citizens United U.S. Supreme Court decision and which largely has been ignored or circumvented by dark money groups.

HB13 got its first Statehouse hearing on Thursday, with its sponsors, Rep. Mark Fraizer, of Newark and state Rep. Diane Grendell, of Chesterland, testifying before the House Government Oversight Committee. The two Republicans introduced an identical bill last September, but it never received a hearing.

People United for Privacy: South Dakota enacts citizen privacy protection law

This week, Governor Kristi Noem signed a bill to protect the privacy of South Dakota citizens.

Senate Bill 103 “provides for the confidentiality of personal information of persons affiliated with nonprofit corporations.” Sponsored by Senator Casey Crabtree and Representative Kirk Chaffee, the Act affirms the privacy rights of South Dakotans who support nonprofit organizations as guaranteed by the United States Constitution. Under this law, state agencies are prevented from requiring individuals and nonprofits to report personal affiliation information, and any such information that may be in the possession of an agency cannot be publicly disclosed.

Senator Crabtree explained why this bill was one of his priorities during the 2021 legislative session: “This bill allows donors to remain private if they choose to do so but even more so, it is about freedom of speech and the freedom of association. These are rights worth preserving and this provides protections for all South Dakotans regardless of their political beliefs, religious or other ideologies…Put simply, transparency is for the government, privacy is for the people.” …

South Dakota is the seventh state to enact a law that proactively protects the privacy of supporters of nonprofit organizations.

Tiffany Donnelly

Tiffany Donnelly

https://www.ifs.org/author/tdonnelly/

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