Daily Media Links 10/11: Does the First Amendment cover books and movies?, Campaign Finance Reform Emerges Briefly As Topic In Ugly Trump-Clinton Debate, and more…

October 11, 2016   •  By Alex Baiocco   •  
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Free Speech

Washington Post: My grandfather and the First Amendment

By Alexandra Petri

It was Tuesday, July 20, 1965. Neal was editor of the Noblesville Daily Ledger, a small Indiana newspaper. The day before, he had been arrested and charged with contempt of court for a column he had written criticizing a judge’s new policy to crack down on traffic violations…

In theory, there is no form of writing so transient as newspaper writing. Books are transient enough, and they are supposed to be placed carefully on shelves and treasured, whereas newspapers are printed with the understanding that they will be thrown away and used to wrap dead fish. How big or permanent can such writing possibly be?

But perhaps this is the wrong question.

“Freedom of the press is not a freedom for newspapers or other news media such as radio and television but for the people themselves,” the Ledger’s 1965 editorial on the court case concluded. “The press is only a means of communication by which the people inform themselves and express their views.” 

Dallas Morning News: Will the Internet ever be as free as air?

By James K. Glassman

Freedom on the Internet presents thorny policy issues, even for democratic countries. Nearly every nation, for example, has its own definition of free speech. Before the Internet, countries could bar or censor publications that violated its rules, but the Internet makes communications across borders far easier…

As the economic and cultural benefits of the Internet reach practically all citizens, it will be difficult – impossible, even – to take that connection away or even limit it. The Internet will become as essential as air. For that reason, physical access should be one of the two goals of global Internet policy for the United States.

The second goal is one the U.S. government has championed for the past 20 years: the right to connect as equivalent to the right to assemble and speak freely.


Richmond Times-Dispatch: Does the First Amendment cover books and movies?

By A. Barton Hinkle

That campaign-finance regulations have a “press exemption” in the first place is what poker players would call a tell, and what you and I would call a dead giveaway. The exemption is necessary because without it newspapers, TV networks, and similar media would routinely be in violation of the law whenever they carried anything that might be construed as support for, or opposition to, a political candidate. They are, after all, corporations – and campaign finance laws strictly limit corporate involvement in elections.

The media exemption helps explain why most coverage of campaign-finance regulation paints it as woefully inadequate: Media organizations can agitate for restrictions on political speech by other types of corporations, secure in the knowledge that they enjoy special protection from the rules that apply to everyone else. 

Washington Examiner: Claim: FEC Dems back on attack of conservative internet, YouTube

By Paul Bedard

A key Republican on the Federal Election Commission has raised new claims that Democrats are angling to regulate conservative free speech and the internet just like McCarthyism tried to silence the left in the 1950s…

“My greatest concern is that we lose our collective memory about what McCarthyism looked like, and that we not allow the laws of our land to be used to turn subpoenas into overriding policies that regularly invade people’s associations and invade their free speech rights,” he warned.
Goodman has led a long fight on the FEC to block what he sees are Democratic efforts to silence conservative media and fundraising. 

NetRight Daily: FEC: No freedom of press for Internet publications, satellite TV and radio, streaming movies and printed books

By Natalia Castro

The freedom of the press so often interlocks with freedom of speech, but the press, which can be used by anyone, obviously protects an individual right that cannot be abridged.

That is, whether the writer is working in a blog, through a video published online for streaming, or writing an e-novel, they deserve the protections of the First Amendment.

However, if this was upheld and regulations were not applicable to these groups of people the FEC might not have a reason to exist. The group would be unable to moderate the “contributions” and “expenditures” of any members of media in order to submit to the freedom of the press, forcing the FEC’s power to shrink significantly.

The current restrictions to freedom of the press contemplated by the FEC keep freedoms locked in an archaic, pre-constitutional time where today’s technology simply did not exist, and uses that as a justification for censorship.

Candidates and Campaigns

More Soft Money Hard Law: The 2016 Election and the Coming Reform Debate

By Bob Bauer

Any year can present in unusual fashion and it is hazardous to put too much weight on the experience with presidential elections or to overgeneralize from it. But in the months ahead, it is an experience that will be cited and argued over, and it will have its effect. One conclusion drawn may well be that we still don’t know how the crazy-quilt campaign finance system influences the politics of the campaigns-favoring or disfavoring parties, opening (through the Internet) or narrowing (through the Super PACs) participation, exacerbating or balanced out incumbent advantage.

Beyond these considerations are the venerable reform objectives of controlling corruption and promoting equality. Jeffrey Toobin in The New Yorker speculates about the implications of a Clinton victory for the confirmation of a new Justice and a new Supreme Court majority willing to revisit Citizens United. He asked Pam Karlan and Heather Gerken for their views and each splashes cold water on any excessive optimism that the court, even if it changed course, would make much of a difference to the accomplishment of traditional reform objectives.

MapLight: Campaign Finance Reform Emerges Briefly As Topic In Ugly Trump-Clinton Debate

By Andrew Perez

Asked about potential litmus tests for Supreme Court appointments, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton told the town hall-style audience that she would select justices in favor of reversing the high court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling…

Clinton said she wants to “get dark, unaccountable money out of our politics,” referring to non-profit organizations that can spend unlimited amounts of money supporting or opposing candidates without publicly revealing their donors. The number of “dark money” groups approved by the Internal Revenue Service has surged after the Citizens United ruling. In the past, Clinton has warned of dark money “distorting our elections, corrupting our political process and drowning out the voices of our people.”…

After the debate Sunday night, Republican nominee Donald Trump called Clinton a “hypocrite” on Twitter and said she is “the single biggest beneficiary of Citizens United in history, by far.” 

Washington Post: It’s unconstitutional to require a license to solicit money

By Matt Forman

The Post reported that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s charitable foundation failed to register to solicit funds in New York [“Trump’s foundation may lack N.Y. status,” front page, Sept. 30]. Regardless of what one thinks of Mr. Trump, I am not clear how it is constitutional for a state to require someone to obtain a license as a prerequisite to the exercise of free speech, i.e., soliciting funds through oral or written means. The Supreme Court has struck down similar charitable-solicitation licensing requirements over the past several decades. Constitutional concerns aside, what rational purpose is being served from the registration requirement? What evidence is there of public harm being caused from charitable solicitations, and how is it being solved by requiring someone to fill out a registration form and pay a fee? 

Salon: In paid speeches, Hillary Clinton said she “represented” and “had great relations” with Wall Street

By Ben Norton

In the Oct. 24 Goldman Sachs speech, Clinton noted, “Running for office in our country takes a lot of money, and candidates have to go out and raise it.”…

In a January 2014 speech for General Electric, Clinton conceded that the U.S. political system is a kind of “wild west” flooded with corporate money…

She criticized the Supreme Court decision Citizens United, which ruled that political donations are a form of Constitutionally protected free speech.

“It’s so ridiculous that we have this kind of free for all with all of this financial interest at stake, but, you know, the Supreme Court said that’s basically what we’re in for,” Clinton said.

She continued, “So we’re kind of in the wild west, and, you know, it would be very difficult to run for president without raising a huge amount of money and without having other people supporting you because your opponent will have their supporters.”

The States

LifeZette: Ballot Measures Could Lead to Political Targeting

By Mary Lou Byrd

Voters in four states will head to the polls on Election Day and vote on ballot measures that will make political targeting easier and also chill free speech, according to opponents of the measures.

If approved by voters, nonprofit and charitable organizations would be required to report the names and addresses of their donors to the state government.

According to Goldwater Institute President Darcy Olsen, these measures are not only unconstitutional, they are anti-speech and will surely lead to individuals being targeted for their political beliefs…
“In no uncertain terms the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that private association is protected by the Constitution. The court has specifically held that the Constitution ‘protects against the compelled disclosure of political associations and beliefs,'” Olsen said in an email to LifeZette. 

St. Joseph News-Press: Limits on gifts, but who gave?

By Editorial Board

One ballot question before Missouri voters on Nov. 8 is expected to pass easily because many presume it will improve the quality of elections by making it easier to keep “big money” out of politics.

This proposal to limit contributions, Constitutional Amendment 2, is flawed to the extent it aims at the wrong target. Transparency of political giving – a version of free speech – should be given the highest priority in any step to improve the campaign-finance process…

With the limits that are part of Amendment 2, expect more gifts to be channeled through political committees and parties so that donors can exceed the limits on giving to individual candidates…
This proposal, in short, offers the hope of increasing the perceived fairness of our elections by choosing the path of attempting to limit giving – while possibly stepping on the free speech rights of participants in the process. 

Raleigh News & Observer: Anti-Citizens United group supports Senate underdog in North Carolina

By Anna Douglas

A political organization that bills itself as a national campaign finance watchdog group is backing Democrat Deborah Ross in the U.S. Senate race in North Carolina.

Every Voice, which also supports Hillary Clinton for president, announced its endorsement Friday morning. A key factor in supporting Ross, the group says, is the former lobbyist and legislator’s position on a suggested constitutional amendment which proponents say would make campaign finance laws more stringent.

The group and its affiliated super PAC, Every Voice Action, want to change the campaign finance regulations at the heart of the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court case. Every Action also backs candidates who support the Fair Elections Now Act, a Senate bill pitched by Democrats that would give candidates matching public funds for donations from small contributors – a move proponents say would reduce campaign reliance on money from special interests and mega-donors.

Alex Baiocco

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