Daily Media Links 11/25

November 25, 2019   •  By Tiffany Donnelly   •  
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In the News

Daily Caller: Daily Caller: In Less Than A Year, 3/4 Of The ‘Squad’ Is Under Financial Investigation

By Andrew Kerr

The three most prolific members of the so-called “squad” of freshman Democratic congresswoman face allegations of violating campaign finance laws and House ethics rules for their personal or political benefit 10 months into their terms…

One complaint, submitted in April, centered on Ocasio-Cortez’s control over Justice Democrats while the PAC was simultaneously supporting her primary campaign.

Ocasio-Cortez and her former campaign chair Saikat Chakrabarti were appointed to hold two of the PAC’s three board seats in December 2017, but the Federal Election Commission was never notified of the affiliation between her campaign and Justice Democrats.

Multiple former FEC commissioners told the Daily Caller News Foundation that Ocasio-Cortez could face civil or criminal penalties for failing to disclose her campaign’s affiliation to the outside PAC.

“At minimum, there’s a lot of smoke there, and if there are really only three board members and she and [Chakrabarti] are two of them, sure looks like you can see the blaze,” said former FEC Chairman Brad Smith.

“If this were determined to be knowing and willful, they could be facing jail time,” Smith said. “Even if it’s not knowing and willful, it would be a clear civil violation of the act. … I think they’ve got some real issues here.”

Former FEC Commissioner Hans von Spakovsky added: “If the facts as alleged are true, and a candidate had control over a PAC that was working to get that candidate elected, then that candidate is potentially in very big trouble and may have engaged in multiple violations of federal campaign finance law, including receiving excessive contributions.”

New from the Institute for Free Speech

Supreme Court Expresses Doubt About Contribution Limits in Alaska and Five Other States

The Institute for Free Speech (IFS) released the following statement in response to today’s opinion and remand by the U.S. Supreme Court on a First Amendment challenge to Alaska’s contribution limits. IFS filed an amicus brief urging the Court to take the case.

“The Randall test on contribution limits remains complicated and quite possibly unworkable. Still, it is good that the Court put some teeth into the test. The Court’s message is clear: lower courts must apply serious review and not give a green light to states to restrict First Amendment rights,” said Institute for Free Speech Chairman Bradley A. Smith.

“The Court provided strong reasons to doubt Alaska’s contribution limits will survive. Its opinion also singles out five other states with an ‘individual-to-candidate contribution limit of $500 or less per election: Colorado, Connecticut, Kansas, Maine, and Montana,'” said IFS Legal Director Allen Dickerson.

To read the Supreme Court’s opinion, click here. To read the Institute for Free Speech’s amicus brief in the case, click here. For more information on the case, Thompson v. Hebdon, click here.

Supreme Court 

The Hill: Supreme Court refuses to hear case involving climate scientist’s lawsuit

By John Kruzel

The Supreme Court on Monday declined to take up an appeal involving a prominent climate scientist who sued an iconic conservative magazine and libertarian think tank for defamation.

In a closely watched request to the Supreme Court, the National Review and Competitive Enterprise Institute asked the justices to intervene in a suit brought against them by scientist Michael Mann. The case, which pits climate scientists against the free speech rights of global warming skeptics, drew interest from lawmakers, interest groups, academics and media.

The Supreme Court’s denial means at least four justices declined to take on the case, which is required to grant an appeal. Justice Samuel Alito dissented from the court’s decision to decline the case.

“The petition in this case presents questions that go to the very heart of the constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech and freedom of the press: the protection afforded to journalists and others who use harsh language in criticizing opposing advocacy on one of the most important public issues of the day,” Alito wrote.

“If the Court is serious about protecting freedom of expression,” Alito added, “we should grant review.” 

Mann, the plaintiff, is best known among climate scientists for his “hockey stick” graph, which showed a sharp uptick in the earth’s temperatures over the 20th century as carbon emissions from human activity were on the rise.

He later came under fire from skeptics after leaked emails with colleagues fueled accusations of misconduct, in a controversy dubbed “Climategate.” But Mann was ultimately cleared by multiple investigations, including a 2010 review by his employer, Penn State University.

The National Review questioned the university’s findings, however. The magazine accused the school of a whitewash, and Mann of scientific fraud…

The defamation case will now continue to proceed through D.C.’s equivalent of state court.

USA Today: Supreme Court re-enters debate on money in politics by vacating decision on Alaska contribution limits

By Richard Wolf

The Supreme Court re-entered the national debate over the influence of money in politics Monday by vacating a lower court decision that upheld Alaska’s low campaign contribution limits.
The justices sent the case back to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit with instructions to consider if limiting donations to $500 annually is “consistent with our First Amendment precedents.”
In doing so, the court cited several of its previous rulings upholding the rights of individuals, corporations and labor unions to spend more freely on elections. There were no apparent dissents.
Alaska sets a $500 annual limit on individual donations to candidates and non-political party groups. The court called that “the most restrictive in the country in this regard.”
The limits are lower, after inflation, than the $600 limits the high court struck down in a Vermont case 13 years ago. They are similar to limits in five other states – Colorado, Connecticut, Kansas, Maine and Montana – but the court noted that those states allow higher contributions to candidates for governor and lieutenant governor.

The Courts

Fox 40: Billboard company files federal lawsuit over Caltrans’ political sign restrictions

By Lonnie Wong

A billboard company in Tracy says it should be allowed to display a “Trump for President” sign in advance of the period when such political signs are allowed by the California Department of Transportation.

NorCal Outdoor Media, which is based in Livermore, filed a lawsuit in federal court saying such restrictions are unconstitutional.

The sign site in dispute currently shows an American flag alternating with a public service announcement urging motorists to not text and drive, but earlier, the site had a much smaller sign featuring a re-election message, simply saying “Trump 2020,” expressing the political views of the billboard company.

According to California’s outdoor advertising act, political signs visible from within 660 feet of a state highway right of way is illegal if it’s more than 90 days from an election.

The Trump sign was displayed in busy Interstate 205 near Tracy Boulevard several weeks earlier than allowed since California’s presidential primary is on March 3rd.

The law is not constitutional according to NorCal Outdoor Media attorney Joshua Furman who spoke to FOX40 from Southern California.

“Political speech is one of the fundamental important hallmarks of the first amendment,” said Furman. “I think limiting political speech to certain timeframes is simply unacceptable.”

In a lawsuit filed in federal court in Sacramento, Furman alleges that the Outdoor Advertising Act has dozens of exemptions.

Commercial advertising is allowed anytime. Signs identifying businesses are exempt as are real estate signs and any message signs sponsored by any government agency is exempt, even if it is political.

Furman gave a hypothetical involving anyone who wants a billboard objecting to any local issue.

“That private citizen is restricted from being able to speak,” said Furman. “But the government or the school district can put up a sign a mile high and a mile wide with flashing neon lights with no restrictions. That’s the disparity we’re talking about and that’s why this act is unconstitutional.”

Online Speech Platforms 

Axios: 1 big thing: Political ads become Big Tech headache

By Mike Allen

Political ads have become a flashpoint ahead of the 2020 election, in part because new technologies make it nearly impossible to apply a universal definition of them to all advertising channels, media trends expert Sara Fischer writes.

Why it matters: Without a commonly accepted definition of a political ad, efforts to regulate them fail. Experts worry that without smart regulation of political ads, free speech – a tenet of democracy – can be gamed.

By the numbers: More pressure on people and companies to take a public position on politics and issues means that more political ads are being bought now than ever before…

Political ads have become a hot topic now that most campaigns are buying lots of ads online instead of on TV and radio. Campaign finance laws haven’t been modernized to address how political advertising should be regulated online.

The FEC set up guidelines for political ads in the 1970s that were easy to adhere to in print, radio and broadcast. But those rules haven’t been updated by the commission to address the digital era.

Some states have their own campaign finance laws that draw clearer distinctions. In Washington state, for example, Facebook and Google have struggled to enforce political ad bans that they’ve established in response to strict campaign finance laws…

There have been disputes over whether a political ad should be fact-checked or even allowed to run if it disputes a commonly understood fact or makes misleading claims. In 2015, a Turkish-backed group took out an ad in the Wall Street Journal that denied the existence of the Armenian Genocide. The Washington Post opted not to run the ad.

Washington Post: The ‘Silicon Six’ spread propaganda. It’s time to regulate social media sites.

By Sacha Baron Cohen

Unfortunately, the executives of these platforms don’t appear interested in a close look at how they’re spreading hate, conspiracies and lies. Look at the speech Facebook founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg delivered last month that warned against new laws and regulations on companies like his.

Zuckerberg tried to portray the issue as one involving “choices” around “free expression.” But freedom of speech is not freedom of reach. Facebook alone already counts about a third of the world’s population among its users. Social media platforms should not give bigots and pedophiles a free platform to amplify their views and target victims.

Zuckerberg claimed new limits on social media would “pull back on free expression.” This is utter nonsense. The First Amendment says that “Congress shall make no law” abridging freedom of speech, but this does not apply to private businesses. If a neo-Nazi comes goose-stepping into a restaurant and starts threatening other customers and saying he wants to kill Jews, would the restaurant owner be required to serve him an elegant eight-course meal? Of course not. The restaurant owner has every legal right, and, indeed, a moral obligation, to kick the Nazi out. So do Internet companies.

Zuckerberg seemed to equate regulation of companies like his to the actions of “the most repressive societies.” This, from one of the six people who run the companies that decide what information so much of the world sees…These super-rich “Silicon Six” care more about boosting their share price than about protecting democracy. This is ideological imperialism – six unelected individuals in Silicon Valley imposing their vision on the rest of the world, unaccountable to any government and acting like they’re above the reach of law. Surely, instead of letting the Silicon Six decide the fate of the world order, our democratically elected representatives should have at least some say.

New York Times: Social Media and the Populist Moment

By Ross Douthat

Social media is bad for everything and everybody, for human beings and journalists and other living things. But at least it reliably generates interesting juxtapositions from which op-ed columns can be made – including columns about how a fixation on, well, social media, is damaging liberalism’s understanding of the world.

The relevant juxtaposition comes from my Twitter feed, which on Friday featured – to great acclaim and many retweets – a speech by Sacha Baron Cohen, the erstwhile fake newsman Borat, condemning “a handful of internet companies” for building the “greatest propaganda machine in history” and driving the rise of authoritarianism, demagoguery and bigotry…

[W]e should be more doubtful of Cohen’s larger narrative, which is commonplace among progressives – a narrative that invokes the “sewer” of social media to explain everything from climate-change skepticism to anti-immigration sentiment, portrays Russian trolls and YouTube stars as the crucial actors of the populist era, and proposes the regulation of online speech as the main restorative that the liberal order needs.

Instead, the evidence in the papers cited above hints at a different scenario – in which because educated liberalism is increasingly so very online itself, ensconced in its own self-reinforcing information bubble, liberals end up analyzing populism exclusively through their digital experience even when that analysis is obviously insufficient.

NBC News: Trump-Zuckerberg 2020? Might as well, says an activist upset by false ads

By David Ingram

A few thousand people on a highway Friday in Utah were the first to hear that President Donald Trump has a new running mate in the upcoming election: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Not true, of course, but a progressive activist plans to spend $50 a day to spread the message on billboards advertisements as part of a broader effort to criticize Facebook and Zuckerberg for their political advertising stance and their relationship with the president.

“This is a way of drawing attention to the fact that Trump and Zuckerberg are colluding to rig another election for the ruling party in the United States,” Adriel Hampton, the activist who’s behind the ads, said in a phone interview.

Hampton, 41, has been a thorn in Facebook’s side for weeks as he has protested the company’s decision not to fact-check ads of political candidates. Hampton, like many Facebook critics, thinks Facebook should refuse false ads from candidates.

The billboards touting Trump-Zuckerberg 2020 began running Friday on the highway near Eagle Mountain, Utah, where Facebook has a data center, Hampton said…

To test Facebook’s policy, Hampton in October filed papers to run for governor of California, a status he thought would let him run false ads, too, though Facebook made an exception and decided it would fact-check him, after all…

Through the Really Online Lefty League, or TROLL, a political committee he helps run, he said he plans to also run the ad on billboards in California, where Facebook is based, and in Maryland on a road heading into Washington, D.C. 


Albuquerque Journal: We need a 28th Amendment on campaign financing

By Ishwari Sollohub

With the 2020 general election ramping up, many people wish there was more sanity, less deception, and less big money in our elections. We want a truly representative government, but what can any of us actually do?…

Public campaign financing was also well-utilized. Locally, good things are happening. But at the federal level, and in many states, Big Money influences elections too much.

Over 80% of Americans – of all persuasions – agree that our electoral system is out of control. Billions of dollars pour into campaigns from corporations, unions and the wealthy. Special interests direct large sums of money into political campaigns expecting something in return; they usually get it. Everyday citizens lose their voice in the process.

A 28th Amendment would overturn the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, which gave constitutional rights to corporations and struck down laws limiting campaign spending, with increasingly frightening consequences.

In October, over 300 Americans met in Washington, D.C., for the National Citizen Leadership Conference (NCLC). Voters, organizational leaders, constitutional scholars and members of Congress from all 50 states met to drive forward a 28th Amendment, allowing Congress to regulate campaign spending and financing…

Our conversations were fruitful and we are following up. Over 140 meetings took place that day, with Americans from across the nation urging their congressmembers from both sides of the aisle to support a 28th Amendment.

The good news is that legislation has already been introduced. HJR 2, SJR 51 and HJR 48 all call for campaign finance regulation.

Congress needs to hear from their constituents that we want our democracy back.


Politico: How Bernie’s Small Donors Are Making Credit Card Companies Rich

By Tik Root, Mark Fahey and Rosie Cima

Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have eschewed big-dollar fundraising events to support their 2020 campaigns, instead turning to their grassroots supporters for small-dollar contributions. It’s central to both candidates’ appeal: the idea that everyday people, not big financial institutions or wealthy and powerful interests, are financing-and benefiting from-their efforts…

But what these grassroots supporters may not realize is that, in making small, repeated contributions, they have, in aggregate, delivered a huge payday for the middlemen, often large banks and financial institutions that process those payments…

A Newsy analysis of Federal Election Commission data found that since the start of the 2008 election cycle, federal political campaigns have paid more than $220 million to credit card-processing companies including American Express, Bank of America and PayPal, among dozens of others.

Between the 2008 and 2016 election cycles, the amount nearly doubled, from $28.2 million to $51.5 million…

The driver of the ever-increasing windfall for credit card processors is a fundamental change in the way political campaigns have courted online donors. With candidates both seeking a large number of donors-irrespective of the amount they give-and aiming to turn them into repeat low-dollar contributors, there’s a huge upside for the companies that process those donations: the per-transaction fees…

An October Newsy-Ipsos poll found that nearly half of donors didn’t know processing fees were taken out of their donations. At least 44 percent said knowing the connection between donation size and fees could change how they donate.

The Media 

The Atlantic: Does the First Amendment Hold at the Border?

By Conor Friedersdorf

In the fall of 2018, five American photojournalists began going on trips to Mexico to gather news about the caravan of Central Americans migrating through that country. At the end of each reporting trip, they returned to the U.S. through official ports of entry. Coming home ought to have been easy. These were law-abiding citizens traveling for one of the few kinds of work that are specifically protected by the Constitution. Instead, U.S. border officers kept referring them to secondary inspection and asking them intrusive questions about their work that struck them as having no legitimate purpose…

Were they being targeted because they were members of the press? Was the government trying to obtain access to their source lists and the intelligence they’d gathered in the course of their reporting? Suspicions to that effect were bolstered when The Intercept reported on an apparent pattern: U.S. and Mexican authorities seemed to be coordinating harassment of the journalists. Then a leak from an anonymous source at the Department of Homeland Security added clarity. “The [U.S.] government had listed their names in a secret database of targets, where agents collected information on them,” an NBC affiliate in San Diego reported. “Some had alerts placed on their passports, keeping at least two photojournalists and an attorney from entering Mexico to work.”

If accurate, that is a serious abuse of power: The government allegedly jeopardized the livelihood of these journalists, as well as their ability to relay useful information to Americans. A government spokesperson told CNN at the time that Customs and Border Protection “does not target journalists for inspection based on their occupation or their reporting.” But in one case, a Mexican border official who turned one of the photojournalists away told her he was doing so at the behest of the American government.

Now the photojournalists are suing three federal border agencies. Their complaint, filed this week in federal court, alleges several related violations of their civil rights. They were subject to questioning that “substantially burdened Plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights to freedom of speech, association, and the press,” the lawsuit asserts, requiring them “to disclose confidential information about their observations, sources of information, and/or work product, including the identities of individuals with whom they may have interacted in the course of their work as journalists.”

Independent Groups 

The Fulcrum: How to end foreign money in politics? Progressive group has a bold idea.

By Sara Swann

Foreign election interference is among the most troublesome challenges confronting democracy now – and not just by America’s adversaries who hack votes and spread disinformation. Federal law is written to prevent allies and enemies alike from spending foreign money to influence American politics. But the loopholes are ample and they’ve been exploited for decades.

The Center for American Progress, one of the country’s most prominent progressive public policy advocacy groups, has stepped forward with a solution – albeit a lofty one. On Thursday it outlined an ambitious proposal to virtually eliminate spending on U.S. campaigns by businesses under even minimal foreign influence.

As with so much else on the democracy reform agenda, however, the odds are prohibitive that any legislation along the lines CAP wants will get through the current Congress. Such bills might get through the Democratic House but are doomed in the Republican Senate…

The proposed legislation unveiled by CAP would prohibit election spending by corporations that meet any of three thresholds for overseas investment:

A single foreigner owns or controls 1 percent or more of the corporation’s equity.

Foreign shareholders combine to own or control 5 percent or more of the corporation’s equity.

Any foreign entity participates in the corporation’s decision-making process about election spending.

Under these restrictions, CAP estimates, 98 percent of the nation’s 500 biggest publicly traded companies would currently be barred from political spending – leaving fewer than a dozen businesses in the S&P 500 index free to contribute to candidates and special-interest campaigns at will. The group estimates that slightly more than a quarter of smaller public companies would be similarly pushed out of the campaign financing world.

Candidates and Campaigns 

New York Times: Bloomberg Vows to Refuse Donations, Presidential Salary

By The Associated Press

Michael Bloomberg will not accept political donations if he runs for president and he will not take a salary if he wins, according to senior aides who offered new details on Saturday about the New York billionaire’s plans to navigate his wealth as he marches toward a formal 2020 announcement…
Bloomberg’s wealth has already emerged as a central issue as the political world awaits his formal announcement. He is estimated to be one of the 10 richest people in the world…
“I’m disgusted by the idea that Michael Bloomberg or any billionaire thinks they can circumvent the political process and spend tens of millions of dollars to buy elections,” Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders, a Vermont senator, wrote Friday on Twitter. “If you can’t build grassroots support for your candidacy, you have no business running for president.”
Another Democratic candidate, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, swiped at Bloomberg as she campaigned over the weekend in New Hampshire.
“He didn’t want to deal with all of this grassroots campaigning from the beginning, you know that’s on him. I think this is important,” Klobuchar said. She added, “I think that you want to have a candidate for president who’s willing to go out, day after day, and talk to regular people like this.”
Bloomberg’s team insists that his wealth allows him to be more responsive to the concerns of everyday people because he isn’t beholden to special interests. Wolfson said Bloomberg would work for only $1 a year as president, just as he did when he was New York City mayor for more than a decade…
Bloomberg “is wholly independent of special interests, will not take a dime in any contribution, and never has in any of his three races,” Wolfson said…
Any money Bloomberg raises and spends on his presidential ambitions will come from one place: His own pocket.

ABC 7: Warren pledges not to nominate ‘wealthy donors,’ but has approved them in Senate

By Sasha Pezenik

As the fifth Democratic debate kicked off Wednesday night, Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., addressed impeachment through condemning the corrupt influence of money in Washington, which she has continuously called out as she makes her 2020 bid for “big structural change.”…

However, a review of her voting record in the Senate from President Barack Obama’s time in office shows that in 2014, she herself voted in favor of appointing “wealthy donors” to multiple ambassadorships.

She voted for at least three out of more than 30 of Obama’s ambassador nominees, who were also his bundlers, according to an ABC News analysis of voting and campaign finance records. Bundlers are top campaign fundraisers who reach the max of their own donations, and raise large amounts for campaigns by mining their networks of friends and acquaintances to donate as well.

Others were confirmed by voice vote, which would mean that Warren did not raise an objection on the Senate floor — despite her vocal objections to such nominations now.

Moreover, some of those appointees faced strident criticism from Republican colleagues, and scrutiny from the press, for appearing to lack proper qualifications to fill such high-stakes international roles…

In July, Warren proffered a plan that pledged to “put America’s national interests ahead of campaign donations and end the corrupt practice of selling cushy diplomatic posts to wealth donors.”

“I won’t give ambassadorial posts to wealthy donors or bundlers — period,” she wrote. “The practice of auctioning off American diplomacy to the highest bidder must end.” She does not specify what the cutoff would be for a “wealthy” donor that would disbar someone’s appointment.

Warren’s plan also calls for “finding the most qualified person for the job.”

The States

Ms. Magazine: They Call it “Grassroots Lobbying”-I Call it Anti-Rape Activism

By Kat Sullivan

I was the whistleblower in the Jezebel article “Andrew Cuomo is Still a Fucking Snake.” I’d report Alphonso David for blatant ethics violations, but the state agency I’d report him to is currently violating my first amendment rights.

I’m am an RN, poet, artist and rape survivor who fought for the Child Victims Act-a law that put Jeffrey Epstein and the Roman Catholic Church in court. For the last 20 months, a corrupt New York state agency called the Joint Commission On Public Ethics (JCOPE) has threatened me with fines and criminal charges. They say steps I took to protect children from rape by supporting the passage of the Child Victims Act constitutes “grassroots lobbying.” But JCOPE is picking on the wrong woman.

With help from pro-bono lawyers, Cam McDonald of the Government Justice Center and David Grandeau Esquire, I filed a lawsuit in October 2019 to defend my rights.

This shouldn’t be happening. Federal and state laws are on my side. I am being forced to suffer because I spoke truth to power, blew too many whistles, sounded too many alarms-and went on record.

But one time, I was “unnamed.” I exposed Gov Cuomo’s then Lead Council Alphonso David of corruption and the editor was concerned for my safety. The editor was right: within a year I was being harassed by JCOPE…

I will wait for my day in a Supreme Court. I will continue to make art inspired by what I read in the newspapers.

New York Daily News: Reform the reform: New York’s lame Public Campaign Finance Commission limps to the finish line

By Daily News Editorial Board

The nine appointees on the jury-rigged Public Campaign Finance Commission, tapped by the governor and legislative leaders, are doing their job as expected, crafting a scheme full of incumbent-friendly booby traps, loopholes, poison pills and trap doors.

Given no resources and no staff by the elected politicians who created the panel – probably unconstitutionally ceding their legislative authority in the process – the panelists have been both too broad and too narrow in pursuing their mandate.

Too broad, in that they’ve looked for ways to kneecap minor parties that are a thorn in the side of the Democrats and Republicans.

Too narrow, in that they’ve punted on regulating party committees, which can collect $117,300 contributions and then transfer that haul directly to candidates without limits.

So why just not bar candidates, who they can regulate, from receiving such large amounts?

Equally important: Why is the current cap of $69,700 for statewide contenders only being trimmed down to the still far too high range of $25,000 to $16,000? The presidential and congressional limit is $5,600.

On public matching funds, the panel is looking to confine matchable contributions to a legislative district, which is strange. And incumbents will have the ability to roll over money from earlier races. How is that a level playing field for challengers?

The city’s successful matching program forbids rollovers, has much lower limits, which are getting lower, and severely curtails contributions from those with business with the city to just $400.

Campaign finance commissioners had one job. They blew it.

Insider NJ: Mastrangelo Takes a Loss in Court – for Now

By Fred Snowflack

This was a win for Fenske and his clients, losing 2019 freeholder candidates Donald Dinsmore, Cathy Winterfield and Will Felegi.  And it was a loss for Mastrangelo.

But the legal action may not be over…

This battle has its roots in the county’s Republican freeholder primary last June.

While Mastrangelo was one of the winners he remains troubled by his opponents’ campaign tactics, most specifically a flyer that compared Mastrangelo to a number of truly despicable characters, including Harvey Weinstein. The opponents also brought up a police report of an incident involving Mastrangelo that had been expunged. A companion issue is the fact the opponents’ campaign consultant, Checkmate Action Group with a Wyoming mailing address, has still not been fully identified…

Zakin’s seeming aim is to connect the flyer to the Dinsmore team.  Fenske response is that his clients had nothing to do with it.

This raises an intriguing political question. The flyer clearly was meant to discredit Mastrangelo. So if the Dinsmore team had nothing to do with it, who did?

All campaign material is supposed to have a disclaimer identifying who paid for it. The flyer in question said it was paid for by a “Patrick Flake,” a fairly obvious fictitious name. This prompted the judge to facetiously express great shock and astonishment that something like that would occur in politics.
Zakin also raised the name of King Penna, a rather colorful campaign consultant.  Mastrangelo, who has tangled with Penna before,  would love to identify him as the man behind the shadowy group with the Wyoming address. But so far, documented evidence of that seems to be elusive. This is a legitimate issue, as campaign finance laws mandate detailed reports of how candidates spend money.

In general, Fenske said his clients are being “punished” by Mastrangelo for having the temerity to run against him…

Judge McGovern’s decision on Friday precludes Zakin’s intention of taking depositions from relevant actors to further his case.

But that doesn’t mean the matter is over.

Tallahassee Reports: Rocky Hanna 2016 Superintendent Campaign: Twenty-Six Donations from One Address

By Steve Stewart

Campaign reports indicate that donations made to the 2016 Rocky Hanna for Superintendent campaign included sixty-five $1,000 donations from businesses and individuals with addresses in Nevada and the Atlanta, Georgia area.

Of the sixty-five $1,000 donations, fifty-one were from corporate entities and fourteen were from individuals. Ten of these individuals appear to be employed by the corporate entities that donated to the Hanna campaign.

In addition, Tallahassee Reports discovered that one address -Five Concourse Pkwy, Suite 300, Atlanta, GA 30328 – was listed for twenty-six of the $1,000 donations tied to eighteen different companies that donated during the primary and general election cycles…

During the campaign, Hanna raised approximately $300,000. This means approximately 20% of the money raised came from Las Vegas and the Atlanta area…

[S]everal media outlets have reported that the use of LLC’s for campaign donations is a legal way to avoid limits on contributions. Campaign laws limit the amount individuals can donate to the superintendent race to $1,000…

[I]n 2017, after the federal investigation into local government corruption was revealed, the Tallahassee Democrat did a report on the donations coming from 311 E. Jennings Street.

The Democrat article stated that “while the activity raises eyebrows among election officials, it appears to be legal under Florida law. But campaign finance experts say it’s an example of individuals taking advantage of what they call ‘the LLC loophole.’ “

Ben Wilcox of Integrity Florida says the LLC loophole is a “form of bundling” which shows a “determined effort to evade” contribution limits…

Tallahassee Reports has recently reported that some of the same Las Vegas and Atlanta area companies were involved in the Andrew Gillum campaign for governor.

East Oregonian: Our view | A tip of the hat, a kick in the pants

A tip of the hat to the proposed plan to place more stringent restraints on political campaign financing that was unveiled this week. The plan has merit but still needs more work and more input from voters.

The interim committee on campaign finance is busy creating a series of reforms to be pondered by the 2020 Legislature. Oregon is one of five states with no limits on campaign contributions. A committee hearing on the issue last week gathered input from lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle and from campaign finance reform advocates.

Not surprisingly, lawmakers expressed reservations about a plan to reform the state’s campaign finance blueprint. Under a new proposal, individuals would be limited to $750 in donations to any legislative candidate and $2,000 for those seeking a state office.

If there is one truism of democracy, it is that large sums of money tend to taint the political process. Lawmakers shouldn’t be so quick to discard the idea of some kind of campaign finance reform.

New York Post: The commission rewriting NY campaign law has lost all legitimacy

By Post Editorial Board

Whatever plan the nine-member Public Finance Reform Commission releases soon, the Legislature should reject it – because the panel has sacrificed whatever shreds of legitimacy it had with its nakedly cynical maneuverings.

The most obvious outrage is the out-of-the-blue effort to kill the Working Families Party – via rule changes that few if any legislators realized they were empowering the commission to make…

Officially, the change would just raise the bar for how many votes a party must win on a statewide ballot to retain its guaranteed line in future elections. The bar is now 50,000, but all the numbers floated for the new line are above what the WFP can hope to achieve…

You can make a fine policy case for raising the cutoff, as you can for completely ending “fusion voting,” which lets minor parties endorse major-party candidates. (Indeed, we’re on record supporting such a change.) But it’s not supposed to be this panel’s job.

On top of that, the head of the commission that’s poised to kill one party is in fact the head of another one, state Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs.

It’s plainly obscene that Jacobs is even a member of a commission that’s rewriting campaign and election laws: The conflicts of interest are blatantly huge.

But state lawmakers didn’t notice that Gov. Andrew Cuomo slipped a line into the bill to create the commission that lets his handpicked party boss “serve” on it.

No, Jacobs and other Cuomo-picked members aren’t a commission majority; they have to cut deals with other pols’ picks. But the whole thing still reeks – and will even if they drop the bid to kill the WFP.

Sadly, all manner of supposed “reformers” are likely to get bought off simply because the commission gives them what they want – the “right” limits on private donations and the “right” amount of taxpayer funding, for state political campaigns. Blatant corruption is OK, we guess, when it’s in the name of “cleaning up the system.”

Savannah Business Journal:  EDITORIAL: Disappointing Business Practices of the SMN May Also Violate FEC and Georgia Ethic’s Laws

By Lou Phelps

Yesterday, on Sunday Nov. 24, the Savannah Morning News (SMN) chose to run a full-page ad in support of Eddie DeLoach in the upcoming Dec. 3 Mayoral run-off election, signed by a mysterious group, “”Concerned Citizens for Savannah.” The ad also urges a vote against Alderman Tony Thomas.

There does not appear to be any such registered political action committee in Chatham County or Georgia. .

There IS a Facebook blog, run by citizen activist Yolanda Shipp, but followers of her FB page seem to have very different perspectives, and she made clear today that she did NOT pay for the ad. Further, she objected to “someone” using her blog group’s name.

The SMN’s acceptance and publication of the ad appears to violate both Federal Election Commission (FEC) laws and Georgia Campaign Finance and Transparency Commission laws.

When Publisher Michael Traynor was informed Sunday that there was no such registered PAC, and that Georgia and Federal law required what is termed a “Disclaimer” that identifies who PAID for any political ad, he sent representatives of the Van Johnson for Mayor campaign committee an email stating that the SMN would not accept any further ads from the unidentified group.

Billings Gazette: Gazette opinion: Billings City Council initiative threatens free speech

By The Editorial Board

A new proposal up for discussion by the Billings City Council isn’t just politically vindictive, it’s also unconstitutional.

The initiative was introduced late on the night of Nov. 12 at the end of the City Council meeting. It was not on the agenda available to the public before the meeting. Six members of the 11-member City Council voted to move forward with Councilman Reg Gibbs’ initiative…

Basically this initiative seeks to allow the city to cancel any contract of a business or person who endorses a candidate for the City Council either officially or unofficially – Gibbs’ words, not ours.

That means if you dare to do something as reckless as put up a yard sign, make a campaign contribution or commit an egregious act like writing a letter to the editor, the city would stop doing business with you, just because some City Council members want to legalize their hurt feelings…

Sure, The Gazette by its very history and nature, which includes editorial endorsement of city council candidates, would stand to have some contracts cancelled. And since we’re on the topic of legality, the council should also expect that if this boneheaded measure passes, we will be among the first to file suit challenging the constitutionality of such an action…

The real issue here is that some thin-skinned city council members don’t fancy the Billings Chamber of Commerce reporting how elected officials vote. The chamber had the audacity to talk about real issues, including local-option sales taxes, public safety, and the One Big Sky District. Rather than defending their positions, these council members would just stifle debate so as not to let their own feeble positions come under the sharp light of public scrutiny…

How far does this logic go, and who gets to decide what endorsements and city opinions are reasonable? Which endorsements are orthodox? Which ones are wrong? And how would the city justify cancelling a contract when going with another business, vendor or contractor could result in costing thousands more to taxpayers?

The wording of the proposal is sure to fail a legal challenge, because it says that no one can give an official or unofficial endorsement. But, what constitutes an “unofficial” endorsement? A yard sign? An overheard conversation? And does this mean all endorsements or just ones a majority of city council member agree with?

Tiffany Donnelly

Tiffany Donnelly


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