Daily Media Links 11/19

November 19, 2020   •  By Tiffany Donnelly   •  
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FEC

Courthouse News: Trio Vying to Flesh Out Scraggly Election Commission Round Senate Bases

By Brandi Buchman

The Federal Election Commission could finally be on track to functionality as nominees for the agency tasked with rooting out campaign-finance fraud concluded a long-awaited confirmation hearing on Wednesday…

Though he will not get a second term to see their efforts, President Donald Trump put forward the three nominees who appeared Wednesday before the Senate Administration Committee: two Republicans, Sean Cooksey and Allen Dickerson, and one Democrat, Shana Broussard…

If confirmed by the full Senate, their appointments could create some obstacles for the incoming President-elect Joe Biden’s designs on achieving a more tailored or Democrat-friendly FEC plurality.

But for both Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, who chairs the Senate Administration Committee, and Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, the committee’s vicechair, an easy agreement could be had on Wednesday: As the country moves further away from the last election and begins running down the clock until the next one, restoring the FEC to operational status is paramount.

“A full slate [of commissioners] means the FEC is not hobbled and is able to continue its work when a single commissioner departs from the agency,” Blunt said.

The Hill: How to bolster federal elections

By Trevor Potter

The Biden administration could immediately start working to help the [Federal Election Commission] fulfill its mission by establishing a blue-ribbon, bipartisan panel of experts from diverse backgrounds to recommend a list of potential FEC nominees, Republican and Democrat, who are committed to the rigorous, even handed enforcement of campaign finance laws. Biden should commit to making the panel’s recommendations public, giving them great weight, and providing a written explanation for any decision to depart from them.

Lifesite News: Facebook censorship of trans sports ad equivalent to $47k campaign contribution to Dems, conservative org says

On Tuesday, American Principles Project and its affiliated American Principles Project PAC filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) against Facebook, Inc. The complaint alleges that Facebook’s censorship of an APP PAC ad focusing on Sen. Gary Peters’ (D-Mich.) and Joe Biden’s support for legislation undermining women’s sports amounted to a roughly $47,000 in-kind contribution to the Democrats’ campaigns.

[On Tuesday], during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Big Tech and elections, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) questioned Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg over his company’s censorship of APP PAC’s ad.

The Courts

Washington Post: Antiabortion groups sue D.C. after arrests for chalking in front of Planned Parenthood

By Emily Davies

Two antiabortion groups whose members were arrested for chalking outside a Planned Parenthood office in August sued the District on Wednesday, alleging that the city used defacement of public property laws to “silence disfavored speech.”

The complaint was filed by attorneys with the Alliance Defending Freedom on behalf of the Frederick Douglass Foundation and Students for Life of America, among others…

The filing concerns an incident from the early morning of Aug. 1, when a group of about two dozen people led by Students for Life of America showed up to paint “Black Pre-Born Lives Matter” in front of the Planned Parenthood office in the 1200 block of Fourth Street NE.

Police arrested two protesters after warning them that they would be detained if they painted the street and telling them that they could not write on the sidewalk with chalk, either, according to the complaint…

“The government can’t discriminate against certain viewpoints by allowing some voices to be heard while silencing others,” said ADF legal counsel Elissa Graves in a statement. “The First Amendment prohibits the government from picking and choosing whose speech to allow.”

Baltimore Sun: Federal judge in Maryland dismisses ‘reopen’ lawsuit, upholds Gov. Hogan’s coronavirus restrictions

By Pamela Wood

A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit Wednesday that attempted to challenge Gov. Larry Hogan’s executive orders that limited activities and shuttered businesses to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake found the plaintiffs failed multiple legal tests in their argument against the orders…

The group that filed the lawsuit included business owners, pastors, veterans, Republican politicians and an anti-restrictions group called “Reopen Maryland.” They claimed that Hogan’s stay-at-home order, in effect from late March to mid-May, and other directives illegally infringed on their rights, including their First Amendment rights of speech, assembly and religion. They also argued that the orders violated the Maryland Constitution.

Fresno Bee: Devin Nunes sues Washington Post again, saying midnight run ‘never happened’

By Kate Irby

California Rep. Devin Nunes has filed a second federal lawsuit against The Washington Post alleging reporters defamed him in their coverage, now the eighth defamation lawsuit he has filed in two years.

Nunes, R-Tulare, says in the complaint that the Post defamed him by including false allegations against him in a story published Nov. 9. The story was about the selection of Michael Ellis to be the top lawyer at the National Security Agency. Ellis was former chief counsel to Nunes.

Nunes takes issue with two paragraphs in the story, saying they make false allegations about him.

Right to Protest

Jackson Clarion Ledger: Jackson repeals noise rule on Mississippi’s only abortion clinic

By Emily Wagster Pettus, Associated Press

Mississippi’s capital city has repealed a year-old local law that sought to restrict noise levels outside the state’s only abortion clinic by limiting amplified sound and banning protesters from approaching patients without their permission.

A group that sued the city of Jackson said the repeal is a victory for free speech, while the clinic’s owner sharply criticized the city for not protecting patients and clinic employees from harassment.

The Jackson City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to take the ordinance off the books. It was responding to a lawsuit filed by Mississippi Justice Institute, a group that pushes for limiting government regulations.

“We are pleased that the city of Jackson has decided to do the right thing and end this unconstitutional restriction on free expression,” the institute’s director, Aaron Rice, said in a news release Wednesday. “This is a major victory for free speech for Jackson and the state of Mississippi.”

Jackson City Council members adopted the ordinance in October 2019, and the institute quickly sued the city on behalf of Sidewalk Advocates for Life, whose members pray outside the abortion clinic.

The lawsuit said the ordinance unconstitutionally limited speech rights as people tried to persuade women not to end pregnancies.

Free Speech

Fox News: Tucker: Big Tech’s coordinated suppression amounts to a ‘censorship cartel’

By Tucker Carlson Tonight (Transcript)

Censorship doesn’t simply kill expression, though it does, censorship kills thinking and innovation and wisdom. Censorship inexorably leads to self-censorship. 

People quickly learn what they are allowed to express and what they are allowed to believe, and so they stop asking questions even of themselves.

Their minds become narrower. They stop creating. Art dies. Banality takes its place. Science, which depends on free inquiry becomes impossible. 

Does that sound familiar to you? It’s where we are right now…

In the past two weeks, Corporate America has rushed to consolidate its control over information and dissent in this country. We could give you countless examples of that. Here are a few. 

The e-mail delivery service MailChimp announced it is refusing to provide service — e-mail — to the Northern Virginia Tea Party. Why? The company cites potential misinformation. It turns out the Tea Party had attempted to notify its members about a recount rally by e-mail. But that’s not allowed anymore. MailChimp banned them along with other conservative organizations.

They are not allowed to use e-mail. 

PayPal and Airbnb have done the same thing. They’ve taken out accounts belonging to conservatives because they don’t like the message. But the message they are sending is really simple. If you want to live a normal life here, send an e-mail, transfer money, rent an apartment, you had better be on the right side. 

How is that different from what happens in China? Call us and let us know if you can spot the difference, we can. 

Heated: For $25K, you can publish climate denial in The Washington Post

By Emily Atkin

[Lawrence Gelman, an anesthesiologist based in Edinburgh, Texas] is a climate truther: Someone who believes, without evidence, that climate change is a hoax. It is the editorial policy of most reputable news outlets not to publish the views of climate truthers, because they are fundamentally grounded in falsehoods.

But Gelman has found a way around most news outlets’ editorial policies: the advertising section. When he wants to get published in reputable newspapers, he simply takes his views there. He’s gotten ads containing scientific falsehoods and conspiracy theories published in many small newspapers over the years…

But last week, Gelman got his biggest get yet: a full-page, 1,421-word screed of unhinged climate trutherism in The Washington Post…

He says it cost him $25,000, and that it was worth every penny.

Shani George, the Post’s director of communications, did not confirm the price Gelman paid for the ad. She did, however, confirm that it is in line with the Post’s advertising policies. “We have long accepted individual advocacy ads from readers and they, like other advertisers, are given wide latitude to exercise their First Amendment rights and convey their opinions,” she said…

But are the claims in Gelman’s ad really “opinions?” … [S]everal climate researchers I spoke to for this story don’t think so.

Jonathan TurleyAll Speech Is Not Equal”: Biden Taps Anti-Free Speech Figure For Transition Lead On Media Agency

For those of us who have been critical of the growing anti-free speech movement in the Democratic Party, the Biden transition team just took an ominous turn.  The New York Post reports that Biden tapped Richard Stengel to take the “team lead” position on the US Agency for Global Media, including Voice of America, the Middle East Broadcasting Networks and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. As I previously addressed in a column, Stengel has been one of the most controversial figures calling for censorship and speech controls. For a president-elect who just called for everyone to “hear each other,” he picked a top aide who wants to silence many.  Since it would be difficult to select a more anti-free speech figure to address government media policy, one has to assume that Biden will continue the onslaught against this core freedom as president.  This is not the first Biden aide to indicate a crackdown on free speech in the new Administration and Biden himself has called for greater censorship on the Internet.

Online Speech Platforms

Independent Women’s Forum: A Warning To Conservatives From The Senate’s Grilling Of Facebook, Twitter CEOs

By Patrice Onwuka

Censorship of conservative voices and suppression of unpopular opinions undercounts our freedoms and democracy. Conservatives rightly call out these instances. However, we must also recognize that social media platforms offer conservatives unprecedented opportunity and ability to spread their messages, attract followers, and advance the conservative movement in ways that are impossible with an extremely partisan legacy media ecosystem. New regulations may not stop censorship but worse, may undercut the advantages that social media provides and trigger other unintended consequences.

Reason: The Conservative Antitrust Case Against Big Tech Is a Giant Self-Own

By Peter Suderman

Few prominent political arguments have been so nakedly self-refuting as the conservative case for antitrust action against big tech. 

The argument typically goes something like this: Big tech has too much power, and social media companies like Facebook use that power to shape and stifle political debates, censoring conservatives and conservative speech in ways that are both visible and invisible. They are not neutral actors but partisan boosters, and their sheer size means they must be reigned in. 

As Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) put it on Fox News last night, following yet another congressional hearing featuring Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter chief Jack Dorsey, “These are the most powerful companies we’ve seen in American history. They’re the most powerful companies in the world. And it’s time we took them on.” Hawley, the right’s foremost critic of big tech, has repeatedly called for taking antitrust action against Facebook, arguing that it represents a monopoly. Facebook, he said in October, “is a lot like a supermarket…except there’s only ONE supermarket in town, and they decide who can and can’t shop.” 

Facebook, in Hawley’s telling, is the only online venue for political speech. There are no other options. There’s no place else to go to share your political views, especially if you’re a conservative. 

He explained all this, of course, on Twitter. 

The States

New Mexico In Depth: Modest sunshine still leaves campaign cash in shadow

By Bryan Metzger, New Mexico in Depth, and Sara Swann, The Fulcrum

An ocean of money still floats through [New Mexico’s] elections while remaining out of public view…because [its new disclosure] law didn’t strengthen donor disclosure requirements for political action committees…

Toulouse Oliver, New Mexico’s chief elections official as secretary of state, said she supports further bolstering of the state’s campaign finance disclosures because it’s important information for the public in making voting decisions. “It’s something that I absolutely will be talking to our legislators about as we prepare for the next legislative session,” she said…

But Toulouse Oliver expressed trepidation, saying she didn’t want to see New Mexico’s laws voided by the courts again, after a decade during which the state’s Campaign Reporting Act was unenforceable. And she said a push for new rules would likely be an uphill effort.

“It’s something that I anticipate having a lot of pushback on from every entity or organization that does this kind of political activity, because it will mean that they have to dedicate more resources to keeping their books straight in terms of where the money is coming from,” she said.

Portland Press Herald: Ethics commission to review records of Maine legislative ‘leadership PACs’

By Kevin Miller

The Maine Ethics Commission will review the finances of 15 so-called “leadership PACs” run by state lawmakers to ensure the groups are keeping accurate records and not violating state laws prohibiting personal use of PAC money…

Commissioner William Schneider, a former lawmaker from Durham and Maine attorney general, initially raised concerns about signals the commission was sending by singling out leadership PACs. But Schneider eventually voted for the review after language was added clarifying that the one-time reviews were being conducted “without any suggestion of impropriety.”

Tiffany Donnelly

Tiffany Donnelly

https://www.ifs.org/author/tdonnelly/

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