Daily Media Links 10/18: Fears rise that GOP office firebombing in NC will stifle free speech as election nears, IRS ordered to resolve Tea Party groups’ applications, and more…

October 18, 2016   •  By Alex Baiocco   •  
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In the News

Bloomberg BNA: Super PAC Spending Replaces Dark Money as Election Nears

By Llewellyn Hinkes-Jones

Major campaign spending organizations closely tied to Democratic and Republican leaders and funded by undisclosed donations-known by critics as “dark money”-have spent $26 million in key Senate races in 2016 but have significantly reduced their TV ad spending in the final weeks of the campaign, according to a Bloomberg BNA analysis of Kantar Media/CMAG data…

David Keating, president of the nonprofit Center for Competitive Politics, which opposes restrictions on political spending, dismissed the idea of dark money in general.

“It’s a pejorative term that also includes groups like the Sierra Club,” Keating told Bloomberg BNA. “And the amounts given by 501(c)(4)s are small in comparison to other groups. It’s only about 3 percent of political donations.”

Free Speech

Charlotte Observer: Fears rise that GOP office firebombing in NC will stifle free speech as election nears

By Mark Price

The firebombing of a GOP office Sunday in Hillsborough has earned international coverage, with many sites suggesting it underscores the divisiveness of the 2016 presidential race between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

However, the attack is also raising fears that Americans should worry about their safety when expressing their political beliefs. This includes reports that attendees of a weekend Trump rally in Bangor, Maine, returned to the parking lot to find more than 20 cars vandalized with spray paint.


The Hill: IRS ordered to resolve Tea Party groups’ applications

By Naomi Jagoda

A federal judge in Washington, D.C., has ordered the IRS to resolve pending applications for tax-exempt status from conservative groups that had been subjected to improper scrutiny.

District Judge Reggie Walton last week ruled that the IRS has to issue determinations by Nov. 11 for groups with pending applications and groups whose applications were previously withdrawn because of the targeting but were reactivated during a hearing…

 The order follows an August ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit that found that the IRS hadn’t demonstrated that it had stopped targeting conservative groups. That ruling revived a lawsuit from Tea Party groups over the targeting and sent the case back to the district court.

Dangers of Disclosure

Ars Technica: Hacked Republican website skimmed donor credit cards for 6 months

By Dan Goodin

A website used to fund the campaigns of Republican senators was infected with malware that for more than six months collected donors’ personal information, including full names, addresses, and credit card data, a researcher said.

The storefront for the National Republican Senatorial Committee was one of about 5,900 e-commerce platforms recently found to be compromised by malicious skimming software, according to researcher and developer Willem de Groot. He said the NSRC site was infected from March 16 to October 5 by malware that sent donors’ credit card data to attacker-controlled domains. One of the addresses-jquery-code[dot]su-is hosted by dataflow[dot]su, a service that provides so-called bulletproof hosting to money launderers, sellers of synthetic drugs and stolen credit card data, and other providers of illicit wares or services.

Independent Groups

Wall Street Journal: Big Labor Unions Step Up Presidential-Election Spending

By Brody Mullins, Rebecca Ballhaus, and Michelle Hackman

U.S. labor unions are plowing money into the 2016 elections at an unprecedented rate in a frenzied effort to help elect Hillary Clinton and give Democrats a majority in the Senate…

Almost every large union is spending more than ever before seen in modern elections. The AFL-CIO has spent $11.4 million funding outside political groups thus far, up from $5 million at this point in the 2012 election, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. The National Education Association has spent $14 million, up from $7.7 million.

The unions’ efforts to support Mrs. Clinton are particularly crucial as polling shows white working-class voters-who often belong to labor unions-are drawn to Republican Donald Trump’s campaign message.

The Media

CPI: Journalists shower Hillary Clinton with campaign cash

By Dave Levinthal and Michael Beckel

Conventional journalistic wisdom holds that reporters and editors are referees on politics’ playing field – bastions of neutrality who mustn’t root for Team Red or Team Blue, either in word or deed.

But during this decidedly unconventional election season, during which “the media” has itself become a prominent storyline, several hundred news professionals have aligned themselves with Clinton or Trump by personally donating money to one or the other.

In all, people identified in federal campaign finance filings as journalists, reporters, news editors or television news anchors – as well as other donors known to be working in journalism – have combined to give more than $396,000 to the presidential campaigns of Clinton and Trump, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis.

Nearly all of that money – more than 96 percent – has benefited Clinton…      

Quartz: Visualizing the major gap between media election coverage and what people are actually talking about

By Alice Truong and Siyi Chen

An analysis of election-related headlines and tweets from the US reveals there’s a major disconnect between the topics covered by the media and those discussed by people on Twitter, according to Deb Roy, Twitter’s chief media scientist and director of MIT’s Laboratory for Social Machines… 

As the charts below demonstrate, the media paid far more attention to campaign finance than Twitter users… 

“There’s a kind of cocoon, decoupled ecosystem, where certain things might be interesting to one group, but not the other,” Roy says. 


The Atlantic: Small Donors Still Aren’t as Important as Wealthy Ones

By Ian Vandewalker and Lawrence Norden

Pundits have argued that the possibility of using the internet to rely on millions of small donors means that campaign donation limits are irrelevant-that candidates’ ability to depend on readily available small-donor money means we don’t need to cap the biggest donations to restore balance to our political system. But a historical review of data describing all the money individuals have put into the campaign-finance system-whether to candidates, parties, or other political committees like super PACs-suggests this analysis is wrong. Despite growth in the number of small donors over time, the money they give has made up a smaller and smaller share of total individual contributions over the last two decades. The power of the internet is no match for the unlimited giving allowed by today’s lax campaign-finance rules. 

Candidates and Campaigns

Wall Street Journal: Trump Sees Financial Costs of Alienating Lobbyists

By Rebecca Ballhaus

Not a single registered lobbyist has raised a substantial amount of money for Republican nominee Donald Trump’s campaign, according to campaign-finance disclosures filed over the weekend.

Democrat Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, has drawn more than $20 million over the course of her race for her campaign and joint Democratic Party accounts through funds raised by registered lobbyists, according to her disclosures…

On top of the financial cost of alienating lobbyists-which comes as Mr. Trump entered October with half as much cash in the bank as Mrs. Clinton-Mr. Trump also loses the broader network lobbyists’ support brings. Lobbyists are connected to a wide range of corporate clients who both have deep pockets and carry plenty of influence.  

Fox News: ‘Take the money!’ Clinton aides agreed on own to take foreign lobbyist cash

Top Hillary Clinton aides in April 2015 decided to accept money raised by lobbyists representing foreign interests despite the potential political fallout and without telling Clinton, according to newly leaked emails.

One top adviser simply emailed, “Take the money!!”…

The discussion about taking funds raised by people disclosed as lobbyists under the Foreign Agents Registration Act began on April 13, the day after Clinton announced she was seeking the Democratic presidential nomination.

Clinton Finance Director Dennis Cheng initially raised the subject, unclear about whether the campaign was indiscriminately allowing “those lobbying on behalf of foreign governments to raise” money for the campaign or if the issue would be decided on a case-by-case basis. General Counsel Marc Elias called the decision “a straight up political call” and aide Jesse Ferguson simply asked, “How much money we’re throwing away” if they turned down foreign lobbyists.

The Hill: Sanders makes pitch to Trump supporters over campaign finance reform

By Lisa Hagen

Bernie Sanders called on Donald Trump’s supporters to consider voting for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton solely over her position on campaign finance reform…

While campaigning for Clinton in Fort Collins, Colo., on Monday, Sanders made a pitch to the GOP nominee’s supporters as the Vermont senator bemoaned the 2010 Supreme Court ruling of Citizens United and reiterated his call to get “big money out of politics.”

Sanders touted Clinton’s promise to propose a constitutional amendment in her first 100 days if elected president to overturn that ruling. He also noted that Clinton will nominate a Supreme Court justice to fill the vacancy who will support overturning Citizens United and that Trump will nominate a “conservative” who will likely help it “remain intact.”

Wall Street Journal: Donald Trump Proposes New Lobbying Restrictions

By Carol E. Lee and Michael C. Bender

Donald Trump on Monday outlined a package of “ethics reforms” that he said he would push for if elected, including legislation that would ban executive branch officials and members of Congress from lobbying the government for five years after they leave office…

Mr. Trump also proposed campaign-finance reform that prevents “registered foreign lobbyists” from raising money for U.S. elections and said he would expand the definition of lobbyist so former government officials couldn’t get around the rules by calling themselves “consultants.” 

USA Today: Companies used Clinton fundraisers to lobby State Department

By Kevin McCoy

While it is widely known that some companies and foreign governments gave money to the foundations, perhaps in an effort to gain favor, one of the key parts of the puzzle hasn’t been reported: At least a dozen of those same companies lobbied the State Department, using lobbyists who doubled as major Clinton campaign fundraisers.

Those companies gave as much as $16 million to the Clinton charities. At least four of the lobbyists they hired are “Hillblazers,” the Clinton campaign’s name for supporters who have raised $100,000 or more for her current White House race. Two of the four also raised funds for Clinton’s unsuccessful 2008 presidential bid.

The States

Blue Oregon: Get big money out of politics: why Multnomah County voters should vote “yes” on 26-184.

By Juan Carlos Ordóñez

Part of the problem is that Oregon – and by extension Multnomah County – have no limit on campaign contributions. We are one of only six states with no limits.

But the problem of money in politics is not just about excessive money flows into campaigns. We all recognize that candidates need money to run. The real problem is big money – the large campaign checks…

Measure 26-184 is a unique opportunity to get big money out of politics in Multnomah County. The measure was put on the ballot by the Multnomah County Charter Review Committee. I had the honor of serving in the Charter Review Committee, which was made up of ordinary citizens from all corners of the county. None of us depended on campaign contributions to get on the commission. And that helps explains why we were able put forward a very strong campaign finance reform measure.

Alex Baiocco

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