Daily Media Links 10/9: Clinton ‘SNL’ Cameo Could Entitle Challengers to Free Air Time, Corporations are disclosing more information about their political contributions, study says, and more…

October 9, 2015   •  By Brian Walsh   •  
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In the News

Harvard Law and Policy Review: 10th Circuit: Do Voters Really Need Political Spending Disclosure

Peg Perl

The cases argued last week challenge Colorado state disclosure laws as applied to political ads run by nonprofit corporations: Independence Institute v. Williams and Coalition for Secular Government v. Williams. In both cases the groups objecting to disclosure are represented by the Center for Competitive Politics, founded by former Republican FEC Chair Bradley Smith to roll back campaign finance regulation at the state and federal level.

Although the cases were heard by two different panels, questioning in both centered on the extent to which voters have an “informational interest” that justifies disclosure of the amount raised and spent on the political ads and whether the standards for regulation first articulated in Buckley v. Valeo (1976) still govern our 21st century political landscape.

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Companies Should Ignore the CPA-Zicklin Index

The Center for Competitive Politics (CCP) today denounced this year’s fifth annual CPA-Zicklin Index released by the Center for Political Accountability (CPA). The CPA-Zicklin Index is a deceptive tool used to sell more and more companies on the idea of corporate ‘transparency’ with the partisan goal of removing these voices from the public policy debate altogether:

“The CPA Index is used to sell corporate boardrooms a bill of goods,” said CCP Chairman and former Federal Election Commission Chair Bradley A. Smith. “While board members think they will be enshrined as good corporate citizens, the reality is that companies quickly find themselves in the increasingly uncomfortable position of trying to comply with CPA’s changing demands for unnecessary disclosure year-after-year. This is an attempt by activists to capture more and more companies in their disclosure dragnet.”

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Businesses and Shareholders Shouldn’t Be Misled by the CPA-Zicklin Index

Luke Wachob

The end goal of these policies is not corporate transparency, but corporate silence, even in the face of legislation or regulation that could severely damage shareholder value. The 2015 CPA Index proclaims, “Many companies have placed restrictions on their political spending. This is a major change since 2004 when few companies imposed such restrictions, or had policies about how they would spend on politics.”…

CPA is free to advocate whatever corporate practices it desires, but shareholders and managers who put the best interests of their company and their shareholders before their politics should know that CPA won’t do the same. They should also know that a strong majority of Americans view political action by businesses as beneficial in many contexts, and would engage in political activity if they were a corporate manager. Maybe shareholders are already wise to CPA’s scheme: roughly 80 percent of shareholders at Fortune 250 companies rejected proxy resolutions related to corporate public policy and lobbying disclosures in 2015.

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Independent Groups

Wall Street Journal: Clinton ‘SNL’ Cameo Could Entitle Challengers to Free Air Time

Jacob Gershman

Hillary Clinton’s appearance on “Saturday Night Live” last weekend could trigger the so-called equal-time rule, the federal law that allows qualified opposing candidates to demand comparable air time.

The Democratic presidential contender had a three-minute cameo in the “SNL” season opener, playing a bartender named Val who comforts a distraught, pretend Hillary sitting at the bar. During her three-minute on air, the former secretary of state poked fun at her delayed support for gay marriage, did a Donald Trump impression and sang before a sympathetic, cheering live audience…

The federal equal-time rule applies when a broadcast station gives air time to a candidate for office and the appearance doesn’t fall into one of several exempt categories: a newscast, interview, documentary or a live news event like a political convention. A comedy sketch show like “SNL” doesn’t obviously fall into any one of those groups.

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More Soft Money Hard Law: “Chaos”

Bob Bauer

In each instance Wertheimer seems to assume that he is stating the obvious. But, of course, the polls always reflect American dissatisfaction with (and suspicion of) the way campaigns are funded; each era of campaign finance is defined in part by claims that the quantity of money being spent is excessive; and the relationship of all the spending to “corruption” defined one way or the other has been much studied and not very clearly established.  By these measures the risks presented by Super PAC spending is not materially distinguishable from the sources of major money—such as independent expenditures, bundling, issue advertising– that came before…

It is understandable that anyone committed to the eroding regulatory regime will look for an explanation in aberrant ideology, foolishness or bad faith.  The Court is blamed, or the FEC, or the Congress, or sometimes a President.  But it is also possible, and there is every good reason to believe, that the structure established in the 1970’s is showing its age and the flaws in its design.   This can look like “chaos.”

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Corporate Disclosure

Washington Post: Corporations are disclosing more information about their political contributions, study says

Catherine Ho

More corporations are also placing restrictions on political spending to candidates, parties, committees and so-called “dark money” groups, according to the report from the Center for Political Accountability, a nonpartisan group that promotes greater transparency in corporate political spending…

The report has surveyed an increasing number of companies each year and it tracks subsequent improvement by those companies. This year, for the first time, the study looks at all the companies in the S&P 500…

About 25 percent of the companies placed some restrictions on political spending, including on contributions to candidates, parties, committees, ballot measures, 501(c)(4) groups and payments to trade associations for political purposes.

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Political Parties

Washington Post: The GOP sinks deeper into chaos. Can it still function as a party?

Karen Tumulty

First, a contingent of several dozen conservative House members effectively forced Speaker John A. Boehner (Ohio) to resign rather than face a possibly losing battle to hold on to his job. Now they have claimed House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), who had been considered the favorite to replace Boehner until he announced Thursday that he is dropping out of the race…

 “You know Kevin McCarthy is out, you know that, right?” Trump crowed to a crowd of about 1,500 in Las Vegas, “They’re giving me a lot of credit for that, because I said you really need somebody very, very tough — and very smart.”

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Candidates and Campaigns

Al Jazeera America: Hillary Clinton dominating presidential race’s TV ad war

Dave Levinthal

The Clinton campaign has bought and aired nearly 5,500 TV ads this year through Monday targeting voters in the early presidential caucus and primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of data from Kantar Media/CMAG, an advertising tracking firm.

Such a number accounts for nearly one in four TV ads aired so far during the 2016 presidential race by any source, Democrat or Republican.

That includes any of nearly two-dozen other presidential candidates, political parties and political action committees. It also includes big-dollar super PACs and nonprofit groups, which thanks to the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision may raise and spend unlimited amounts of money to advocate for political candidates.

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New York Times: Marco Rubio Campaign Delivers a Mixed Report on Its Latest Fund-Raising

Jeremy W. Peters

Its senior strategists told donors that Mr. Rubio’s two strong debate performances and his climb in national polls were already helping them recruit new donors. And they set an ambitious fund-raising target for the next quarter of about $15 million. In perhaps the biggest validation of Mr. Rubio’s growing popularity, two of his biggest competitors are swooping in to attack. Jeb Bush, who was governor of Florida when Mr. Rubio was the speaker of the State House, has been disparaging his attendance record in the Senate, and even his leadership abilities. On Thursday, Donald J. Trump rallied a lunchtime crowd here just a few hours before a nearby appearance by Mr. Rubio, whom he has mocked as too young, too inexperienced and even too sweaty to be presidential material.

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Boston.com: Larry Lessig, Harvard law professor, says he’s scraping to get by as presidential candidate

Nik DeCosta-Klipa

The New York Times reported Thursday that the Harvard law professor and his family are scraping to get by since he announced his candidacy for president in early September.

That’s because campaign finance rules dictate that candidates cannot draw a salary before the first candidacy filing deadline in the states where they’re running. For presidential candidates, the first filing deadline comes in early November.

Meanwhile, according to the Times, Harvard cannot pay Lessig a salary while he is on leave to seek office.

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The States

Huffington Post: California Moves To Crack Down On Super PAC Coordination

Paul Blumenthal

New rules proposed by the Fair Political Practices Commission would redefine illegal coordination between candidates and outside groups supporting them to include: the operation of an outside group by former staff of the candidate, the employment of similar vendors across primary and general elections by both the candidate and group, the appearance of a candidate at a fundraising event for the group, the reliance of the group on significant contributions from the candidate’s family, and the republication of candidate materials obtained directly or indirectly by an outside group.

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Alaska Dispatch News: Campaign group tied to Walker aide under investigation

Nathaniel Herz

Alaska campaign finance regulators are investigating a political group tied to Gov. Bill Walker’s deputy chief of staff…

The group raised a total of $75,000 — $50,000 from philanthropist and former grocer Barney Gottstein, $20,000 from Bristol Bay Native Corp., and $5,000 from Ahtna Inc.

But those donations, all made before the election, were not disclosed until the group made an updated filing with the Alaska Public Offices Commission on Wednesday.

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Brian Walsh

Brian is a Research Fellow at the Center for Competitive Politics.