Daily Media Links 1/4

January 4, 2022   •  By Tiffany Donnelly   •  
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Connecticut State Agency Defends Fines for Mentioning the Governor. IFS Defends the First Amendment.

By Alex Baiocco

[W]hen former Connecticut State Senator Joe Markley and current State Senator (and then-Representative) Rob Sampson sent campaign mailers highlighting their efforts to oppose the governor’s agenda back in 2014, they thought they were sharing information highly relevant to potential voters. As they found out after Sampson’s opponent filed a complaint with the State Elections Enforcement Commission (SEEC), simply mentioning the governor’s policies violated Connecticut law.

The candidates were fined thousands of dollars as a consequence of their speech. Although the mailers clearly communicated Markley and Sampson’s policy views and their actions in support of those views, the SEEC ruled they were illegal expenditures on behalf of a gubernatorial candidate challenging then-Governor Dannel Malloy. No opponent of the governor was mentioned in any of the communications.

Other candidates accused of the same violation chose the much simpler path of settling with the Commission. As Markley explained in 2016, “Who wants to go through a legal dispute with the state?” While most individuals wouldn’t, he and Sampson decided to take a stand for the First Amendment. Represented by the Institute for Free Speech, they filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the fines and Connecticut’s ban on any mention of a candidate that is not a direct opponent.

The complaint against Markley and Sampson was filed in 2014, but only last month was the Superior Court of the Judicial District of New Britain finally able to hear the merits of their First Amendment challenge. The excessively drawn-out administrative and legal battles with the SEEC just to get to this point illustrate Markley’s prescient 2016 reference to the inherent disincentives against challenging state authorities.


The Hill: Schumer vows Senate rules change vote by Jan. 17 if GOP blocks voting rights

By Jordain Carney

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on Monday that he will force a vote by Jan. 17 on changing the Senate’s rules if Republicans again block voting rights legislation.

“The fight for the ballot is as old as the Republic. Over the coming weeks, the Senate will once again consider how to perfect this union and confront the historic challenges facing our democracy,” Schumer wrote in a letter sent to the Senate Democratic Caucus. 

“We hope our Republican colleagues change course and work with us. But if they do not, the Senate will debate and consider changes to Senate rules on or before January 17, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, to protect the foundation of our democracy: free and fair elections,” he added.

The Courts

Lincoln Journal Star: Nebraska town agrees to $16,000 settlement with resident behind ‘burdensome’ letters to city officials

By Lori Pilger

An Ord man has agreed to a $16,000 settlement with the central Nebraska town that filed a lawsuit against him last year in an attempt to get him to stop writing letters and emails to city officials and the police department that they called “burdensome.”


Wall Street Journal: How the Capitol Riot Turned a Partisan Congress ‘Toxic’

By Natalie Andrews and Eliza Collins

In interviews, many lawmakers blame current tensions on social-media-driven fundraising, often fueled by hyperpartisan or inflammatory statements. Some new members come into office with large followings and the ability to raise huge sums of money independently. Those members have been willing to publicly break with their party’s leadership or harshly criticize other members.

“You’re often awarded for the most extreme things you say and the biggest attacks you launch,” said Rep. Kevin Brady (R., Texas), who has served more than two decades and isn’t seeking reelection.

The States

OPB: Competing measures could muddy Oregon’s campaign finance debate

By Dirk VanderHart

Weeks after they came to an impasse over how Oregon should crack down on money in politics, left-leaning organizations are signaling they might just fight it out at the ballot box.

On Friday, two groups that are often aligned filed dueling ballot measure proposals for how to place limits on the state’s permissive campaign finance laws. Those proposals — one affiliated with public-sector labor and advocacy groups, the other from a private-sector union — join a series of three proposals filed earlier this month by good government groups…

Left-leaning groups that pushed the Constitutional change met frequently in private this year, attempting to come up with a consensus framework for new regulations. Those talks broke down in early December. Now different factions are coming out with their own ideas, which they say need to be filed right away in order to have a chance to collect enough signatures in time for a July deadline.

Bismarck Tribune: AG opinion gives clarification to North Dakota ethics panel

By Jack Dura

North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem has concluded that a crucial section of the state constitution’s ethics amendment appears constitutional…

The language deals with state officials avoiding the appearance of bias and disqualifying themselves from “quasi-judicial” proceedings — such as members of the state Industrial Commission and the Public Service Commission — when campaign contributions create a perceived bias. It takes effect in 2022…

Earlier this year, the ethics panel asked the attorney general to weigh in on the section of the ethics amendment, citing concerns that “if we basically eliminated the ability of contributions to quasi-judicial candidates, we would run afoul of federal law, the (U.S.) Constitution, the First Amendment,” Ethics Commission Executive Director Dave Thiele said…

Thiele said the board “just wanted clarification as to what the left and right boundaries would be” in light of a major U.S. Supreme Court ruling about campaign finance restrictions and free speech.

Wall Street Journal: No Facebook Funding for Elections

By Tarren Bragdon and Joe Horvath

[North Carolina] Gov. Roy Cooper recently vetoed a bill that would ban private funding for public election administration. Such funding was rampant in 2020—in North Carolina and nationwide—and it likely benefited Democrats. Some states have already enacted a ban, and more should follow before the 2022 midterms.

Gov. Cooper vetoed a bill passed by the Republican legislature. Lawmakers were responding to 2020’s unprecedented phenomenon of individuals and organizations, usually from out of state, providing grants directly to state and local election officials…

The Foundation for Government Accountability has filed freedom of information requests with more than 1,300 jurisdictions known to have received private election funding, including those in North Carolina. Details of the grants are limited, so we relied on reports from the Center for Tech and Civic Life, which are often conflicting and incomplete. We have identified how much money many election officials received and, more important, how they spent it. This private funding is rife with problems, including probable impact on the election itself…

We also found wide disparities in per capita funding between red and blue areas…

Our findings raise serious concerns about whether private funding influenced the 2020 election.

Tiffany Donnelly

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