Daily Media Links 10/1: U.S. judge dismisses Republican challenge to SEC pay-to-play rule, Democrats Are Spending More on the Ground in Key Senate Races, and more…

October 1, 2014   •  By Scott Blackburn   •  
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In the News

Miller Center: RESOLVED: Our Campaign Finance System is Corrupting American Democracy. 
Features Brad Smith, Vik Amar, Ann Ravel, and Sean McCucheon.
Watch clips…
Acton Institute: ‘Greater Transparency’ Really Means Shutting Down Corporate Free Speech
By Bruce Walker
“Treating the CPA-Zicklin Index as a measure of ‘best corporate practices’ is like asking foxes to offer best practices for henhouses,” according to CCP President David Keating.
Corporations have an obligation to do what is in the best interest of their shareholders, not comply with the demands of a non-profit that opposes speech by the business community,” added CCP Chairman Brad Smith, former Federal Election Commission Chairman. Smith continued: “With all of the misinformation peddled by groups like the Center for Political Accountability, it’s important to recognize the implications of activist investing and dragging the SEC into politics,” he said. “CPA has no obligation to worry about the actual interests of shareholders, and nothing suggests that they have the best interest of the business community at heart.”
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Newsweek: As Dark Money Floods U.S. Elections, Regulators Turn a Blind Eye  
By Leah McGrath Goodman
“By law, it has to be three commissioners for each party, and you need four votes to get anything done. The laws are frequently confusing, and the debates are real,” says Bradley Smith, chairman of the Center for Competitive Politics, a nonprofit organization working for First Amendment rights, who was an FEC commissioner for five years and its chairman in 2004.  
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Campaign Legal Center’s Guide Proves Campaign Finance Law is Too Complicated 
By Joe Trotter
If CLC’s experts are having trouble conveying political speech requirements, how can anyone planning on running political advertisements without a law school education stay out of legal trouble?
Requiring that political speakers must first have a legal education or obtain the services of an attorney before engaging in political speech is ridiculous. And even then, as CLC’s guide illustrates, the experts sometimes get it wrong.
It’s high time that Justice Kennedy’s sentiment that speakers should not need lawyers before engaging in political speech became a reality.  Let’s see if we can make campaign finance law simpler than tax law.
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Poll Shows Support for Clear Rules, Not for More Restrictions 
By Scott Blackburn
Despite what Public Citizen press releases might have you believe, however, calls from the public for more “clarity” in regulation are not akin to calls for more restrictive regulatory regimes. Wanting clarity is not equivalent to wanting the IRS to police the speech of every nonprofit designation and punish the organizations that advocate for their cause “too much.” On the contrary, we do not need to choose between “clear and fair rules” governing political activity and the free and open debate that allows our democracy to flourish.
There is a disconnect, therefore, when an additional question from this Public Citizen survey asks Americans to do just that – choose between protecting free speech and having clear rules to prevent a corrupt political system. Unsurprisingly, after multiple questions about the importance of clear rules, voters still voiced their support for “clear rules.” The question, however, fails to give Americans another option:  have clear rules, like those proposed to the IRS by CCP, which would take decisions about what is “political speech” out of the hands of the IRS entirely, and simultaneously allow for unfettered political debate.
So where would public opinion really draw the regulatory line on political speech? Does the public want more IRS involvement or less? This poll fails to answer those questions. By focusing on clarity in future rules, the survey fails to capture public opinion about the scope and substance of the existing or proposed rules – and that is where the real disagreements exist.
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Amending the First Amendment
News Busters: Senate Democrats Push Amendment that Could Neuter Saturday Night Live, Nets Don’t Care  
By Geoffrey Dickens
So how much Big Three (ABC, CBS, NBC) coverage was devoted to the Democrats’ bid to bypass the First Amendment? Just one discussion, sparked by Cruz’s SNL comment, on the September 14 edition of ABC’s This Week. 
The proposed amendment by Senate Democrats was a reaction to recent Supreme Court decisions that have struck down various campaign finance laws. However the bill failed to gain the 60 votes it needed because as the September 11 Politicocomically put it: “Senate Republicans unanimously rejected a constitutional amendment sought by Democrats that would allow Congress to regulate campaign finance reform.” Politico could’ve easily re-phrased that to read “Senate Republicans unanimously rejected a constitutional amendment sought by Democrats that would allow Congress to override the First Amendment.” 
The only network mention of the vote on the Senate Democrats’ attempt to amend the First Amendment came during the following discussion on the September 14 edition of ABC’s This Week… 
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Reuters: UPDATE 1-U.S. judge dismisses Republican challenge to SEC pay-to-play rule 
By Sarah N. Lynch and Jonathan Stempel  
(Reuters) – A federal judge in Washington late on Tuesday dismissed a challenge by two state Republican parties of a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission rule that imposes restrictions on asset managers who donate to political campaigns, handing the regulator a victory.
U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell said the court lacked jurisdiction to review the New York and Tennessee Republican parties’ challenge to the SEC’s “pay-to-play” rule, and that only the U.S. appeals court had authority to hear the case.
An attorney for the two political parties, Jason Torchinsky, said: “The decision is long, and just came out. We are reviewing the decision and will be discussing the next steps with our clients.”
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Politico: D.C. Circuit skeptical on contractor donation ban  
By Josh Gerstein
A ban on government contractors donating to federal campaigns, parties and PACs looked to be in jeopardy of being struck down as unconstitutional after a federal appeals court heard arguments Tuesday on a challenge to the 74-year-old measure.
The full bench of the D.C. Circuit—11 judges—spent more than an hour hearing arguments about whether the restrictions violate the First Amendment or deny individuals with government personal service contracts equal protection guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment. Many of the judges seemed troubled by Congress’s failure to go after similar dangers posed by employee contributions and by donations from officers or owners of companies with government contracts.
“This statute doesn’t come close to meeting the court’s test that there be a substantial match between the goals and the means chosen to effectuate them,” said George Washington University law professor Alan Morrison, who represents one current USAID contractor and two former contractors at other agencies. 
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AP: Court reviews contractor political donations 
A lawyer and two government retirees sued in an effort to topple the restriction, which carries a five-year prison term for violations. The three are a university law professor who holds a $12,000 federal contract and two retirees working for the U.S. Agency for International Development as contractors — one supervising federal employees, the other offering policy advice.
Congress banned political contributions by contractors largely in response to a long-ago scandal involving Democratic Party operatives and New Deal contractors. In that case, one of the contractors was reminded of the business he had received from the government and the prospect of future favors was dangled. The contractor then was asked to buy worthless political books at bloated prices. The law is designed to guard against such pay-to-play schemes.
Alan Morrison, an attorney for the contractors challenging the ban, told the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that the law doesn’t accomplish its intentions.
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Candidates, Politicians, Campaigns, and Parties

Wall Street Journal: Harry Reid’s Desperate Measures 
By Fred Barnes
Mr. Reid is the leading architect of the Democratic campaign and its unprecedented tactics. He has sought to protect incumbent Democrats from votes that might imperil their re-election. And he is determined to keep Republicans from demonstrating that they’re not opposed to every Democratic initiative. To manage this, he has slowed Senate business to a near halt.  
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NY Times: Democrats Are Spending More on the Ground in Key Senate Races 
By Derek Willis
Not all spending is captured in Federal Election Commission data, but the spending trends are clear. The Democrats’ spending advantage is greatest in states where they’ve had time to organize and plan for competitive races, and they are using that edge to register new voters; publicize absentee and early voting options; and, of course, make sure supporters actually go to the polls on Election Day. The efforts extend to states where the Republicans more recently made Senate contests more competitive, like Michigan.  
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Washington Post: From shaming to semi-stalking, Democrats flood inboxes for last-minute campaign cash
By Ed O’Keefe
The lyrics to a moody ballad? A depressing Facebook page? No, these are subject lines from a series of frantic e-mail messages sent to Democratic donors in recent days.
To be blunt about it — as some of these fundraising pitches­ might say — the number of e-mails sent in recent days is SCARY.
Ahead of a quarterly fundraising deadline Tuesday night, Democratic campaign committees and House, Senate and gubernatorial candidates flooded donors’ inboxes with last-minute appeals for campaign cash. The deluge has inspired a tribute site, a parody song and fake fundraising pitches­ circulating on Twitter.
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State and Local

New York –– loud: Panel finds three cases of unfair campaign practices in Wagner-Murphy race  
By Cara Matthews
The Westchester County Fair Campaign Practices Committee issued findings of unfair campaign practices yesterday on complaints alleged by both candidates in the state Senate race to fill the seat Sen. Greg Ball, R-Patterson, is vacating at the end of the year.Croton attorney Justin Wagner, a Democrat, is challenging Yorktown Councilman Terrence Murphy, a Republican, who is a chiropractor.
The independent committee said the two complaints Wagner, who is running a second time for the seat, made against Murphy’s campaign amounted to unfair campaign practices. Both were Twitter posts by T.J. McCormack, spokesman for Murphy. In one, McCormack wrote “Radical leftist Wagner is a LAWYER who supports ILLEGALS sitting on juries.” In the other, McCormack wrote “I would vote against #NYIsHome before the ink was dry. How would @Justin Wagner vote? He won’t say.”
“Committee guidance states that a candidate is responsible for the actions of his staff, which includes anyone in an official role, paid or unpaid, and certainly would include his campaign spokesman,” the committee wrote.
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Scott Blackburn

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