Daily Media Links 1/7

January 7, 2022   •  By Tiffany Donnelly   •  
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The Courts

Reuters: U.S. judiciary panel expresses support for amicus brief financial disclosures

By Nate Raymond

Members of a federal judiciary panel on Tuesday expressed support for requiring greater disclosures of financial ties between litigants and outside groups that file amicus briefs in their cases – if only to avoid Congress mandating just that.

Several judges on the Judicial Conference’s Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure expressed interest in adopting new disclosures requirements governing friend-of-court briefs rather than allowing Congress to force the judiciary to do so.

“I think there’s no doubt certain members of Congress will continue to pursue this,” U.S. District Judge John Bates, the committee’s Washington, D.C.-based chair, said during a hearing.

The judiciary is considering rule changes in response to pending legislation called the AMICUS Act first introduced in 2019 by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Representative Hank Johnson of Georgia, both Democrats.

The most recent version calls for amicus brief filers to disclose any funders who contributed more than $100,000 or 3% of their gross annual revenue to them. It would also bar amicus filers from providing judges gifts or travel.


New York Times: Corporations Donated Millions to Lawmakers Who Voted to Overturn Election Results

By Alan Rappeport, Madeleine Ngo and Kate Kelly

A report published this week by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a nonprofit watchdog group, showed how corporate money continued to support most of the 147 lawmakers who voted to overturn the election results…

To be sure, many companies have kept their word and maintained their pause on donations. Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, a professor of leadership at the Yale School of Management, said his own research showed that a majority of corporations that pledged to slow or cease their PAC donations to election certification objectors had followed through with those promises.

Free Speech

Washington Post: Most Americans support freedom of speech. But…

By Olivier Knox

Americans overwhelmingly support freedom of speech but are deeply conflicted on what is protected, what should be restricted, by whom, and on what grounds, according to a survey out today from the Knight Foundation of attitudes toward that bedrock constitutional right…

This takes us into some of the survey’s more unsettling findings, chiefly about American beliefs about when government can, and must, restrict speech.

Some seemed to be closer to the uncontroversial end of the spectrum: 83 percent of U.S. adults said government should prohibit threats against the health and safety of someone else, while 70 percent said the same of speech that may create “a dangerous situation.”

A 65 percent majority said government should prohibit racial insults or slurs, and 60 percent said the same about a racist or bigoted idea. 

In distinctly more controversial territory, 31 percent of Americans said government should prohibit “something rude or impolite to someone else” and 26 percent said the same about “political views that are offensive to some.”

Washington Post: Free to State with Paul Clement, Jonah Goldberg, Stephen Hayes & Nadine Strossen

Nadine Strossen: . . . It’s no coincidence that the strong protection of the strong interpretation of those terms in the First Amendment really gained traction during the Civil Rights Movement, because throughout our history, civil rights protesters, women suffragists, labor organizers, people who are challenging government policies, seeking reform in the name of social justice and human rights, were the ones who were censored. And so when the Supreme Court began, finally, to really strongly enforce First Amendment broad guarantees, the main beneficiaries have been those who have been challenging the status quo, and that continues to be true to this day.

Online Speech Platforms

Fast Company: For political ads on big online platforms, the end may be near

By Mark Sullivan

2022 could be the year that the big internet platforms pull the plug on paid political advertising, some in political campaign circles believe…

Banning political ads comes with its own set of problems. How does a tech platform distinguish a political ad from a nonpolitical one? A bank, for instance, might be allowed to post an ad describing its green initiatives, while an ad from an environmental group calling BS on the bank’s claims could be disallowed for being “political.” Making such determinations puts a lot of power in the hands of the management of a tech company. In practice, it might not even be a human who makes the decision, but rather a content moderation algorithm…

The absence of paid political ads might also change the economics of campaigning. These ads offer a relatively inexpensive way to connect with voters, but if they were no longer available, cash-rich campaigns could simply move their ad dollars to other communications channels, such as TV or neighborhood canvassing, to get their message out. Campaigns with less cash at their disposal probably wouldn’t be able to do that, putting them at a disadvantage.

The States

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Perdue campaign files lawsuit to stop fundraising law that benefits Kemp

By James Salzer

The campaign of Republican gubernatorial hopeful David Perdue has filed a lawsuit challenging a controversial law approved last year that has given Gov. Brian Kemp’s reelection campaign a huge financial boost not available to his GOP challengers.

The lawsuit filed Thursday contends the new law gives Kemp a special, massive advantage when it comes to raising campaign cash, and it asks the courts to “level the playing field.”

The law — approved during the 2020 General Assembly session along partisan lines — allows Kemp and a few other top lawmakers and party nominees to create special committees that can raise unlimited contributions from donors, including during legislative sessions.

Kemp signed Senate Bill 221 — the leadership committee bill — into law without any public notice in May. Facing what will almost certainly be the most expensive gubernatorial reelection fight in Georgia history, his campaign quickly created the Georgians First Leadership Committee in July and has been raising big money from Capitol donors ever since. Challengers, such as Perdue, are not allowed to form such leadership committees under the Georgia law.

The lawsuit – which targets only Kemp’s leadership committee – states the U.S. Supreme Court has “never upheld the constitutionality of a law that imposes different contribution limits for candidates who are competing against each other.”

Seattle Times: Inslee will support bill to make lying by elected officials, candidates about election results punishable by law

By Joseph O’Sullivan and Jim Brunner

In the wake of the events of the past year, [Gov. Jay] Inslee announced Thursday he will support legislation that would make lies about election results by elected officials or candidates for office a gross misdemeanor. In Washington, a gross misdemeanor can bring confinement in county jail for as long as 364 days and a fine of as much as $5,000…

The legislation is still being drafted and talks are underway with potential bill sponsors, he [said]. The 60-day legislative session begins Monday.

In an interview Thursday afternoon, the governor said that for the gross misdemeanor to kick in, there would have to be “knowledge that there’s potential to create violence.”

For that reason, Inslee said he believes it’s constitutional and won’t run afoul of prior court rulings…

State Rep. Drew Stokesbary, R-Auburn, criticized the proposal.

“You combat bad speech with better speech, not criminal sanctions. Threatening to jail people for political speech is as dangerous to our democracy as questioning election results,” he wrote on Twitter.

Tiffany Donnelly

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