Daily Media Links 1/14

January 14, 2022   •  By Tiffany Donnelly   •  
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Ed. note: The Daily Media Update will return Tuesday, January 18.

In the News

Philadelphia Inquirer: Pat Toomey: Voting rights bills will undermine the rights Democrats claim to protect

By Pat Toomey

Democrats want to change the now balanced Federal Election Commission by cutting members from six to five, thus very likely giving one party more political power; suppress speech in ways even the American Civil Liberties Union opposes; provide public financing to political campaigns; force states to allow unpaid political operatives to collect voters’ ballots and bring them to drop-off sites (also known as ballot harvesting); gut state voter ID laws by requiring states to accept signed statements in place of ID; and empower federal bureaucrats with sweeping authority to oversee election law changes in every state.

[Ed. note: Sen. Toomey links to a Feb. 2021 letter co-signed by IFS Chairman and former FEC Chair Bradley A. Smith about H.R. 1/S.1’s threat to the bipartisan structure of the FEC.]

CNHI News: Ted Cruz campaign finance case to go before U.S. Supreme Court

By Ali Linan

[A] brief filed by the Institute for Free Speech said that if candidates thought they would not be able to recoup any of their money, it would discourage them from investing in their campaigns and likely running altogether.

Don Daugherty, a senior attorney who wrote the IFS brief, said since campaigns require a lot of money, it is difficult to repay all of one’s loans before Election Day and therefore it is common for there to be post-election debt, especially at the federal level.

Daugherty added that a core reason for the rule is that it prevents corruption, but the FEC has been unable to produce a known case of corruption. In the dozens of states where no similar rule exists, there have been no reports of corruption, nor was the FEC able to provide credible rationale for why the limit was set to $250,000, he said.

“Bottom line is that anything that restricts the ability of candidates or supporters, etc., to get their message out to voters, anything that restricts that better have a doggone good reason for doing so,” Daugherty said…

Daugherty said he hopes this case will also provide more Constitutional clarity and guidance to lower courts, Congress and citizens, as campaign finance laws are convoluted…

“Sometimes these cases turn into [being] about the individuals involved … it’s not about [Cruz],” Daugherty said. “It’s really about the First Amendment, and the rule at issue here really burdens challengers for political office more so than it does incumbent.”

New from the Institute for Free Speech

12 Years Later, the FEC Finally Agrees to Acknowledge Super PACs

By Luke Wachob

Super PACs came into existence in 2010 – that’s twelve years ago. They have spent roughly $5 billion dollars since that time, leaving their mark on six different election cycles.

On Thursday morning, the Federal Election Commission finally decided to include them on its registration forms.

That may sound odd to those who are not familiar with the FEC. How could all that time and money pass without the government so much as creating a form for super PACs? The answer reveals much about the Federal Election Commission, what ails it, and hopes for a brighter future.

The FEC was created in the wake of the Watergate scandal to enforce the nation’s campaign finance laws. Since regulating campaign activity could so easily be abused by partisan actors, no more than three of the Commission’s six members may belong to any one political party. This bipartisan structure also forces the commissioners to work across party lines and gives credibility to the FEC’s actions.


New York Times: Sinema Rejects Changing Filibuster, Dealing Biden a Setback

By Carl Hulse

President Biden’s campaign to push new voting rights protections through Congress appeared all but dead on Thursday, after it became clear that he had failed to unite his own party behind his drive to overhaul Senate rules to enact the legislation over Republican opposition.

In an embarrassing setback for Mr. Biden, Senator Kyrsten Sinema, Democrat of Arizona, stunned her colleagues just hours before the president was slated to make his case to them in person at the Capitol by taking the Senate floor to declare that she would not support undermining the filibuster to pass legislation under any circumstances…

It was a disappointing turn of events for a president who has emphasized his long experience as a senator and his knowledge of how to get things done on Capitol Hill.

In a last-ditch effort to bring the two on board, Mr. Biden met with Ms. Sinema and Mr. Manchin at the White House on Thursday night to discuss the voting rights measures, though neither of them had appeared to leave room in their statements for compromising on Senate rules.

Late Thursday night, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, announced that because of health and weather threats, the Senate would put off its consideration of the voting bill until at least Tuesday.

His announcement meant that the Senate would miss his self-imposed deadline of acting by Martin Luther King’s Birthday on Monday. But he said he intended to proceed despite the setbacks.

Politico: Jan. 6 investigators subpoena Twitter, YouTube, Facebook’s parent and other tech giants

By Betsy Woodruff Swan and Leah Nylen

The Jan. 6 select committee on Thursday subpoenaed the nation’s biggest social media companies, including Alphabet’s YouTube, TwitterReddit and Facebook’s parent company, seeking more information related to the spread of misinformation, coordinated efforts to overturn the 2020 election and domestic violent extremism.

“Two key questions for the Select Committee are how the spread of misinformation and violent extremism contributed to the violent attack on our democracy, and what steps—if any—social media companies took to prevent their platforms from being breeding grounds for radicalizing people to violence,” the panel’s chair, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), said in a statement…

Fact-checking groups have also targeted YouTube for failing to crack down on election falsehoods and other misinformation.

Bloomberg Law: Policing Misinformation From Elected Officials

By Gina Stassi

Members of Congress should be held to a duty of loyalty to their constituents similar to corporate officers’ fiduciary duty to put the company’s interests above their own personal and financial, says Gina Stassi, counsel at Morris Kandinov. When elected officials make announcements in bad faith and without being reasonably informed, it should be a violation of duties owed to the American people, she contends.

Political Parties

New York Times: R.N.C. Signals a Pullout From Presidential Debates

By Maggie Haberman

The Republican National Committee is preparing to change its rules to require presidential candidates seeking the party’s nomination to sign a pledge to not participate in any debates sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates.

Republican committee officials alerted the debate commission to their plans in a letter sent on Thursday, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times. If the change goes forward, it would be one of the most substantial shifts in how presidential and vice-presidential debates have been conducted since the commission began organizing debates more than 30 years ago.

Independent Groups

Axios: Consulting firms double-dipping in political candidates rake in more than $1B

By Lachlan Markay

A new report from the group Public Citizen finds extensive overlap in the vendors employed by “regulated” political entities — such as campaigns and party committees — and “unregulated” groups, which include super PACs and 501(c)(4) nonprofits, often called “dark-money” groups…

Public Citizen says the arrangement raises potential legal red flags.

“Political consultants are well positioned to harmonize messaging and spending strategies between super PACs and regulated political committees, thus facilitating coordination even if the leaders of the super PACs do not communicate with the campaign or party leaders,” the report said…

That sort of end-run around federal campaign finance laws is a concern, but firms that work on both sides of the campaign-super PAC divide are generally careful to erect internal firewalls…

Sweeping election reform legislation currently in the Senate would dramatically restrict the shared-vendor arrangement.

Under the Freedom to Vote Act, super PACs would be barred from paying a vendor for expenditures in support of a candidate if the vendor worked with that candidate during the prior two years.

The States

Florida Politics: Spencer Roach seeks end to committee week fundraising, zombie campaigns

By Jacob Ogles

[Rep. Spencer Roach] filed legislation (HB 1359) ahead of Session to significantly alter Florida’s campaign finance laws. The bill includes a prohibition against fundraising during committee weeks…

The bill would also slay so-called zombie campaigns — political committees that stop fundraising but which house dollars that can be drawn down for years. Language as written would dissolve any Florida political committee that doesn’t raise more than $5,000 over a two-year period…

He also wants to raise maximum contributions to legislative campaigns from $1,000 to $3,000. That would mean those running for state House or Senate can cash the same size checks as candidates for Governor or Cabinet. He billed the change as bringing parity to the legislative and executive branches of Florida Government.

But another way to seek fairness there, he said, would be to put the same fundraising prohibition on the statewide officers during Session as exist for state lawmakers.

Tiffany Donnelly

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