Daily Media Links 10/20: The Claim that the Media is Rigging the Election–and Citizens United, Dems use loophole to pump millions into fight for the House, and more…

October 20, 2016   •  By Alex Baiocco   •  
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The Hill: The Republican mission to quell the IRS

By Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse

An under-funded and harried IRS has been unwilling to police the activities of powerful social welfare groups after an effort to separate out new applicants blew up in its face. In 2013, the IRS signaled it would begin the process of drafting a rule to better enforce our laws limiting dark money in elections. It later put the rulemaking process on hold after an especially loud outcry from conservative groups. The agency also came under heavy fire in the press from conservatives and Republicans in Congress who feared having the hose to their political oxygen crimped. And since Republicans took control of the House of Representatives in 2011, they’ve worked to slash the IRS budget. Funding in 2016 was $11.2 billion, or 17 percent below 2010 levels, adjusted for inflation. 

So the dark-money floodgates remain wide open, deluging our politics in special-interest slime. 

The GOP’s crusade against Commissioner Koskinen may seem overblown, but it makes a lot of sense when you consider motive: Republicans need dark money, and dark money needs a cowering IRS.


Washington Free Beacon: Complaint Filed Against Clinton’s Campaign Following O’Keefe Videos

By Joe Schoffstall

An election integrity group has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission following the release of undercover videos from James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas.

The Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF), an Indiana-based group that litigates to protect election integrity, submitted the complaint Tuesday to the Office of the General Counsel at the FEC claiming that Hillary Clinton’s campaign committee and other left-wing groups may have violated campaign finance laws.

Supreme Court

Reason: Neither Trump Nor Clinton Understands What the Supreme Court Is Supposed to Do

By Jacob Sullum

Clinton said her Supreme Court picks “will stand up and say no to Citizens United, a decision that has undermined the election system in our country because of the way it permits dark, unaccountable money to come into our electoral system.”

Clinton neglected to mention, as she always does when discussing Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, that the case involved a movie that made her look bad. The Court concluded that a conservative group organized as a nonprofit corporation had a First Amendment right to present Hillary: The Movie on pay-per-view TV while Clinton was seeking the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008… Clinton worries that these dastardly dollars are “drowning out the voices of ordinary Americans and distorting our democracy.” But that is not a constitutional argument. Even if Clinton were right about the baleful impact of Citizens United, it would not follow that the First Amendment permits the sort of self-serving censorship she favors.  


Huffington Post: Which Companies Keep Political Contributions Secret?

By Nell Minow

In an interview, CPA director Bruce Freed talked about the increase in corporate political spending, the problem of “dark money,” and what makes companies improve their disclosure…

“Companies face increasing pressure to adopt disclosure and board oversight of their political spending. You see the pressure in the growing calls for transparency from the public, shareholders and companies themselves. One of the things CPA has found from its exchanges with companies through the CPA-Zicklin Index is that companies keep a close eye on what their peers are doing and want to be in sync with them.”…
“The public and investors can get a glimpse into “dark money” through inadvertent disclosures and through voluntary disclosures by companies of trade association payments and contributions to c4s. These disclosures are a result of the Center for Political Accountability’s campaign for corporate political disclosure and are available on CPA’s database.” 

The Media

PrawfsBlawg: The Claim that the Media is Rigging the Election–and Citizens United

By Edward Foley

If you disagree with the message that the media is sending to voters, then send the voters a different message of your own: the remedy for “bad” speech is counter-speech, and it is up to the voters to decide what to believe…

Now for the relevance of Citizens United: insofar as the attack on that decision rests on the premise that corporate-funded speech will distort the electoral process by persuading voters of its message, it seems the same sort of argument that Trump and Pence are making with respect to the media’s capacity to influence what voters think. To be sure, there might be different types of arguments for attacking Citizens United–that corporate money, for some reason, should be off-limits in the process of persuading voters what to think. But if one rejects the idea that CNN and the New York Times are capable of rigging the election because the messages they send to voters about the competing candidates, then presumably to be consistent one should equally reject the idea that Citizens United and other corporations are capable of improperly distorting the electoral process because of the messages these other corporations send to voters.  

Washington Post: Why the Knight Foundation president thinks we’re living through the biggest disruption since Gutenberg and the printing press

By Jonathan Capehart

The former publisher of the Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald pointed out that while two Supreme Court decisions have shaped our present-day understanding of the First Amendment as it pertains to newspapers and broadcast television, “The law of First Amendment as to Internet … simply isn’t settled.”

In an effort to “help shape First Amendment law” in the digital age, the Knight Foundation and Columbia University announced in May the creation of the Knight First Amendment Institute at the Ivy League school in New York. Ibargüen told me that when such cases come before the court, “I want somebody at the table, somebody at the courthouse that is saying, ‘Let’s err on the side of transparency. Let’s err on the side of free speech.’ “

Newsmax: Newspaper Should Call Out Hillary on Free Speech

By Frank Gaffney

The Arizona Republic’s endorsement of candidate Hillary Clinton subjected the paper’s staff to death threats, as well as what might be described as shaming and peer pressure against them.

The Republic’s president and many others have properly rejected such efforts to suppress free speech. The irony is that the most prominent proponent of using “old fashioned techniques of shaming and peer pressure” to suppress “offensive” expression is none other than the woman they endorsed.

Washington Post: The ‘freedom of the press’ doesn’t give the media any special privileges – but it’s also not a redundancy

By Eugene Volokh

Without the freedom of the press, the freedom of speech might have been seen as not covering printing, which could be said as posing dangers that ordinary “speech” did not. Indeed, in the centuries before the Framing, the ability to use the press-as-technology was especially targeted by governments, who found it to be especially dangerous. The free press guarantees made clear that this potentially dangerous technology was protected alongside direct in-person communications.

Of course, over the past several decades, the phrase “freedom of speech” has often been used to mean something like “freedom of expression,” and to encompass all means of communication. This might have stemmed partly from technological change. New media of communication such as radio, films, television and the Internet may fit more naturally in lay English within the term “speech” rather than “press.”

Candidates and Campaigns

Politico: Dems use loophole to pump millions into fight for the House

By Scott Bland

Typically, Federal Election Commission regulations limit parties to just $48,100 of spending in direct coordination with most House candidates. But under a decade-old FEC precedent, candidates who word their TV ads a certain way – including references to generic “Democrats” and “Republicans” as well as specific candidates – can split the cost of those ads with their party, even if that means blowing past the normal coordinated spending caps. 

To date, more than a dozen Democratic challengers are benefiting from such “hybrid” advertising, getting extra hundreds of thousands of dollars apiece from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. The technique has been a small but consistent part of Democratic strategy in recent years, but new legal guidance has also allowed Democrats to share costs on ads linking their opponents to Trump on policy.

Wall Street Journal: The Clinton Cash Two-Step

By Editorial Board

To sum up, the Clinton brain trust plotted to raise as much money as possible under current campaign laws, which they certainly have. As everyone has reported, no candidate in history has raised more big money from more rich donors than Mrs. Clinton has. But having cashed in themselves, the Clinton campaign then plotted to use the government’s campaign-finance enforcement machinery to harass their opponents for raising money.

And sure enough, the political left has ginned up a media campaign to change the FEC, and the Justice Department announced intensified scrutiny of campaign fundraising. We criticized both moves, and we hope that has helped deter some nasty partisan abuse.

One of the many reasons we oppose limits on campaign donations is that politicians inevitably use them to punish their opponents. The Clinton campaign emails show this calculation in especially cynical form.

Center for Media and Democracy: Trump and Clinton Camps Engaging in Super PAC Coordination Says Watchdog Group

By David Armiak

Super PACs supporting Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump and the campaigns of both candidates have been charged with illegally coordinating their activities in violation of federal rules.

“The two major candidates for the most powerful office in the world apparently feel that the rule of law does not apply to them, perhaps because they assume that the FEC is too dysfunctional to enforce the campaign finance laws that exist. The question for both Clinton and Trump is what, specifically, are they going to do to fix the broken system they are exploiting,” said Brendan Fischer, of the Campaign Legal Center, the nonpartisan campaign watchdog group which filed formal complaints with the Federal Elections Commission on October 6, 2016.

The States

Howard County Times: Voters will decide if Howard County will have publicly funded campaigns

By Fatimah Waseem

Part of a nationwide push to purge big money from politics, the charter change would allow the county council to create a system that allows candidates who raise enough small donations and shun large contributions to get matching funds from a county fund.

Proponents say the system will be a game-changer for local elections by boosting the power of small, individual donations and limiting the influence of special interests…

A small but vocal opposition group, chaired by Dave Loeffler, a lawyer from Laurel, formed in late September to oppose the move for public campaign funding…

“It sounds great to multiply someone’s donations for someone who can give only $15,” Loeffler said. “But that someone could be giving their hard-earned tax dollars to someone they fundamentally disagree with.”   

Wall Street Journal: Head of the NYC Campaign Finance Board Is Stepping Down

By Mara Gay

Rose Gill Hearn, chairwoman of the New York City Campaign Finance Board, plans to step down in December, leaving an opening at the helm of the nonpartisan agency ahead of next year’s city elections…

Ms. Gill Hearn said she would step down at the end of this year, according to a resignation letter, dated Sept. 23, that she sent to Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Her coming departure creates a vacancy at the board, which is responsible for overseeing the city’s campaign-finance system. The board matches low-dollar contributions from donors with public funds.

Alex Baiocco

Alex Baiocco


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