Daily Media Links 11/6

November 6, 2020   •  By Tiffany Donnelly   •  
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Candidates and Campaigns

Wall Street Journal: Oh, Money Buys Elections?

By The Editorial Board

How many crisp, green Ben Franklins did Democrats light on fire trying to sweep the elections? The three most expensive congressional campaigns ever, according to preliminary data at OpenSecrets.org, were this year’s Senate races in North Carolina, Iowa and South Carolina, all of which the GOP appears to have held, though the first still hasn’t been called.

The figures aren’t final, but at last count the Democratic candidates in those states raised $200 million. That includes $108 million in South Carolina, as Jaime Harrison broke the all-time record. Add $88 million for Kentucky, where Democrats fantasized about taking out Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. In those four states alone, the Democratic contenders outraised the Republicans by a combined $116 million.

Overall, the 2020 elections will cost $14 billion, Open Secrets projects. That might sound like a big number, but it’s in the realm of what Americans spend on sports drinks during an 18-month political campaign. Democrats typically equate money in politics with corruption. But this year they dominated the money game, up and down the ballot, while placing some bad bets…

The Week: Democrats raised more than $315 million to decisively lose 6 Senate races

By Kathryn Krawczyk

Democrats raised an unprecedented amount of money to challenge Republicans’ Senate majority. It didn’t pay off.

Democratic Senate candidates set fundraising record after fundraising record throughout 2020, bringing in a combined $315 million as they tried to flip races in Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, South Carolina, and Texas. But Democrats ended up losing all six of those races as of Wednesday, and in most cases, the results weren’t even close.

The Courts

WLBT 3: Lawsuit filed after school bans girl’s ‘Jesus loves me’ mask

By Jacob Gallant

A disagreement over a third grade student’s mask is the basis of a federal lawsuit.

Lydia Booth wore a face covering with the words “Jesus loves me” on October 13 at Simpson Central School. Her principal made her remove the mask and wear another one, according to attorneys.

Two days later, the school issued a statement regarding masks. It says in part:

Masks cannot display political, religious, sexual or any inappropriate symbols, gestures or statements that may be offensive, disruptive or deemed distractive to the school environment.

Alliance Defending Freedom filed a federal lawsuit on the family’s behalf.

The suit alleges the school district infringed on the girl’s first amendment right to free speech.

“Public schools have a duty to respect the free expression of students that the First Amendment guarantees to them,” said ADF Legal Counsel Michael Ross. “…Other students within the school district have freely worn masks with the logos of local sports teams or even the words ‘Black Lives Matter.’ This student deserves an equal opportunity to peacefully express her beliefs.”

Right to Protest

ABC 15: ‘Freedom of speech zone’ set up outside Maricopa County Elections Dept. ahead of expected rally

By Josh Frigerio

A “free speech zone” has been established near the Maricopa County Election Department, where election workers are busy counting the remaining ballots in the 2020 election, and where protesters, primarily supporters of President Donald Trump, gathered late Wednesday to demand a fair and legitimate count of the remaining ballots…

“The eyes of the nation are on Maricopa County and it is imperative that we balance the protection and well-being of our election workers and volunteers with the constitutional right of protesters who may wish to demonstrate outside the Elections Department,” read a statement from the Maricopa County Elections Department’s official Twitter account.

“For that reason, we will be setting up a free speech zone tonight, in accordance with the law and in coordination with the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, which will allow protesters the ability to be seen and heard while also ensuring that our Elections staff can do their jobs and leave the building without the threat of intimidation,” the statement said.

Independent Groups

Business Insider: A civil-rights organization and a watchdog group are demanding that Jack Dorsey suspend Trump’s Twitter account over violations of its civic-integrity policy

By Katie Canales

A civil-rights organization and a watchdog group are calling for Jack Dorsey to suspend President Donald Trump’s Twitter account over what they say are multiple violations of the company’s civic-integrity policy.

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and Common Cause, two self-described national, nonpartisan organizations, wrote a joint letter Thursday demanding that Twitter do more to prevent the president from posting misleading statements surrounding the 2020 presidential election.

“We fear that in the absence of action by Twitter, the President may be successful in his goal of delegitimizing the integrity of our democratic processes for many, and not just Twitter users but other voters and members of the public, sowing uncertainty about the voting and election process and potentially inciting violence against civil servants or others,” the letter says.

It was posted on Twitter by the Lawyers’ Committee President and Executive Director Kristen Clarke.

The letter goes on to say that even a 12-hour pause on Thursday “would provide a cooling period to recognize the multiple violations” since their “intensity and frequency” hint that Trump would continue to use Twitter to “promote disinformation in the period ahead.”

In a statement to Business Insider, a Twitter spokesperson said the company “can confirm that we received the letter and that we intend to respond.”

Online Speech Platforms

New York Times: Facebook, Alarmed by Discord Over Vote Count, Is Said to Be Taking Action

By Mike Isaac

Facebook is planning to enact new measures to make it more difficult for election misinformation to spread virally across its platform, two people with knowledge of the matter said Thursday, as the outcome of the presidential race remained uncertain.

Facebook plans to add more “friction” – such as an additional click or two – before people can share posts and other content, said the people, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly. The company will also demote content on the News Feed if it contains election-related misinformation, making it less visible, and limit the distribution of election-related Facebook Live streams, the people said.

The measures, which could be rolled out as soon as Thursday, are a response to heightened strife and social discord on Facebook after the election on Tuesday, these people said. They said there had been more activity by users and Facebook groups to coordinate potentially violent actions over issues such as voter fraud. 

New York Times: Twitter Has Labeled 38% of Trump’s Tweets Since Tuesday

By Kate Conger

Throughout his term, President Trump has relied on Twitter to be his bullhorn. But since early Tuesday morning, the company has stepped up its effort to fact-check the president, labeling 38 percent of his 29 tweets and retweets (not 39 percent, as reported here earlier) with warnings that said he made misleading claims about the electoral process, according to a tally by The New York Times…

Twitter added labels to 11 of Mr. Trump’s tweets or retweets (although one tweet that Mr. Trump had shared was later deleted by its author). Most of the labels said Mr. Trump had shared content that was “disputed and might be misleading about an election or other civic process.” But one tweet, in which Mr. Trump preemptively claimed to have won Pennsylvania, Georgia and North Carolina, was marked with a small reminder that those races had not yet been called.

“Big tech interfered against President Trump before Election Day, and they are now continuing that interference in the days after as they silence the president on their platforms,” said Samantha Zager, the deputy national press secretary for the Trump campaign. “The American people deserve to know what is happening with this election, but big tech is only interested in stopping the flow of information to voters.”

Wall Street Journal: Facebook Pulls ‘Stop the Steal’ Group Organizing Protests of Vote Counting

By Jeff Horwitz and Sam Schechner

Facebook Inc. took down a fast-growing group on its platform called “Stop the Steal” that was organizing protests of vote counts around the country, in one of the social-media giant’s most aggressive moves yet to police online activity over the election results.

The group had grown to more than 361,000 members within 24 hours and was devoted to protesting the administration of the election, which the organizers allege has been marred by widespread vote fraud. While President Trump has repeatedly made the same claim, news organizations and fact-checking groups have found no support for it to date…

Facebook’s decision to remove the group was “in line with the exceptional measures that we are taking during this period of heightened tension,” according to a spokesman who said that “Stop the Steal” was “creating real-world events.”

“The group was organized around the delegitimization of the election process, and we saw worrying calls for violence from some members of the group,” he said…

Facebook’s decision to take down the group is likely to feed into Republicans’ long-running claims that the company censors conservative speech. Minutes after the takedown, the president’s son Donald Trump Jr. retweeted a post responding to the move that read in part, “Is this how social media treated Black Lives Matter protesters?”

Washington Post: Facebook bans ‘STOP THE STEAL’ group Trump allies were using to organize protests against vote counting

By Tony Romm, Isaac Stanley-Becker, and Elizabeth Dwoskin

Anticipating a crackdown, some of the group’s members preemptively shifted their discussions to MeWe, a messaging app favored by militia groups that previously had been banned by Facebook.

Washington Post: Twitter bans Steve Bannon for video suggesting violence against Fauci, FBI Director Wray

By Jaclyn Peiser

If President Trump wins reelection, former chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon said in a video posted Thursday that he should quickly eliminate Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious-disease expert, and FBI Director Christopher A. Wray – by means of medieval execution.

“I’d actually like to go back to the old times of Tudor England. I’d put the heads on pikes,” Bannon said during a live taping of his online show, “War Room: Pandemic.”

Twitter permanently suspended Bannon’s @WarRoomPandemic account on Thursday after he posted the clip, a spokeswoman told The Washington Post, citing the service’s prohibition on “the glorification of violence.” …

Facebook, YouTube and Spotify also removed video clips and audio from the episode…

Trump Jr., meanwhile, urged his father on Twitter “to go to total war over this election.” Twitter flagged the tweet for making misleading statements about the election.

The States

Denver Gazette: Aurora City Council passes sweeping campaign finance reform

By Hannah Metzger

In a 7-3 vote, the Aurora City Council passed a major campaign finance reform ordinance Monday night, increasing transparency and limiting money in the city’s local elections.

The ordinance limits donations from individuals and committees to $1,000 in at-large and mayor races and $400 for city council wards.

It also bans contributions from “artificial persons” and increases transparency of donations and enforcement of regulations.

The ordinance…will go into effect on Jan. 1…

The ordinance is one of five campaign finance reforms passed in Colorado in the past three years, including Denver’s 2018 Fair Elections Act and similar 2019 reforms in Lakewood.

The ordinance was endorsed by organizations including CleanSlateNow Action, PDA Colorado, Our Revolution Metro Denver, Colorado Working Families Party, Colorado Common Cause, DSA Colorado, Indivisible CD6, The Campaign Legal Center and Democracy Enter Colorado.

Reason (Volokh Conspiracy): Proposition 16 Goes Down in 22 Million Dollars Worth of Flames

By Gail Heriot

Thank you to all Volokh Conspiracy readers who helped us defeat Proposition 16 in California by volunteering, contributing or voting!

The YES campaign supporters are now making excuses as to how they could have spent about $22 million (as against our pathetic $1.7 million) and still lost.

Colorado Politics: Judge finds former Deputy Secretary of State Suzanne Staiert violated state campaign finance law

By Marianne Goodland

A campaign finance complaint was filed by Dorota Wright-O’Neill on May 6, 2020, alleging that [former deputy Secretary of State and a Republican candidate for Senate District 27S Suzanne] Staiert had failed to file a required personal financial disclosure (PFD) statement when she became a candidate for the state Senate in August 2019…

One of the issues raised in the complaint was whether Wright-O’Neill had filed the complaint in a timely manner. State law requires complaints to be filed within 180 days, but the law also includes a caveat: whether someone “either knew or should have known, by the exercise of reasonable diligence, of the alleged violation.” Wright-O’Neill asked for a copy of Staiert’s PFD on March 17 at the behest of Christy Powell, a board member of ProgressNow Colorado, a Democratic advocacy organization.

Administrative Law Judge Matthew Norwood, in his ruling, said Wright-O’Neill had little knowledge of Colorado’s campaign finance laws and she could have asked for the PFD anytime between Aug. 7, 2019, and March 17. “She did not know about the issues in this case,” Norwood wrote, “and they were not on her radar until Ms. Powell asked her if she would be willing” to look into the issue. Wright-O’Neill lives in Denver and is not a resident of Senate District 27, which is in Centennial.

OPB: Election night delivered a Portland City Council that will be more diverse – and more moderate

By Rebecca Ellis 

Two council races were Portland’s first election under the stringent campaign finance limits voters approved in 2018. The limits, which the city began enforcing this spring, capped the donations candidates could take at $500, with the intention of limiting the role special interest money plays in politics.

This made the council races something of a test case on how the limits would work in practice. That test case showed, despite the new rules, there are still ways a candidate can benefit from large checks.

Although voters approved a $5,000 cap on how much candidates can fund themselves, the city decided not to enforce that limit, contending it was unconstitutional. That enabled Wheeler to loan his campaign $150,000. One month ago, an independent expenditure committee, formed under the name United For Portland, also began pouring money into the race on Wheeler’s behalf. The group ultimately raised nearly $500,000, much of it through big checks written by business and real estate developers…

Jason Kafoury, an attorney who helped craft Portland’s campaign finance limits, said he believes that outside spending altered the course of the race.

“I think they had a huge influence. The mayor was out of money and pretty much was unable to raise money, and that’s why he had to loan money to his campaign,” Kafoury said. “I think without United For Portland, I think Sarah wins the race – I really do. He was broke and he couldn’t take anything over $500.”

Kafoury said there are some tweaks he’d like to see made to the local campaign finance rules to make these committees more transparent. But without changing Supreme Court precedent, he said, there are no changes that can be made to prevent well-financed expenditure committees from influencing a race.

Tiffany Donnelly

Tiffany Donnelly


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