In the News
Watertown Public Opinion: Election law more than we bargained for
By Brad Johnson
Eric Wang, a special counsel in election law in Washington, D.C., warned about the measure before the election in a detailed brief written on behalf of the Center for Competitive Politics. His group did not recommend how to vote, but simply tried to present the facts.
The measure, he said, makes more than 70 changes to South Dakota’s elections law. It greatly restricts freedom of personal and commercial speech, severely restricts campaign contributions and creates a government reporting burden that may not “survive a constitutional challenge in litigation. “This could result in substantial legal fee payments by the state to successful plaintiffs under federal civil rights laws.”…
It “would enact expansive new disclaimer, reporting, and compelled speech requirements for anyone – even an individual – who spends even a minimal amount communicating about issues of public concern.”
This requirement, he said, “would deter and punish the exercise of First Amendment rights.”
Pacific Legal Foundation: Friends of the First Amendment file friend-of-the-court briefs
By Wen Fa
Financial regulators targeted Bob Bennie after he made unsavory comments about President Obama. Although Bennie spoke as a tea party activist, the regulators pressured Bennie’s employer to levy financial sanctions on him for sharing his political views. In a Supreme Court petition, PLF explained that the regulators’ actions violate the First Amendment prohibition against government retaliation for speech. This week, several friend-of-the-court briefs reiterated the need for Supreme Court review…
These briefs, along with another friend-of-the-court brief by the Center for Competitive Politics, underscore the importance of Bennie’s petition. Briefing is set to conclude at the end of the year. PLF hopes for a favorable decision at the beginning of 2017.
By Tyler O’Neil
When Donald Trump won the presidency on Tuesday night, he didn’t just dash Hillary Clinton’s hopes – he also overcame millions of campaign and “dark money” dollars spent against him. In every area of campaign finance, Clinton’s raised (and almost certainly spent) more money but “money can’t buy you love” – or votes, for that matter.
According to data from the Center for Competitive Politics, Clinton outspent Trump more than 2 to 1, Pro-Clinton ads outnumbered pro-Trump ads 3 to 1, “dark money” groups for Clinton outspent those backing Trump 3 to 1, Clinton backers ran 3 times as many ads in battleground states, and the three biggest super PACs each backed a losing candidate.
In other words, if you believe like Bernie Sanders said over and over and over again, that “millionaires and billionaires” buy elections, 2016 should be a blaring wake-up call.
U.S. News & World Report: Free Speech Won
By Jean Card
Just a few days before the election, liberal comic Amy Schumer attempted to influence voters in a viral video that reminded me of a key reason why President-elect Donald Trump became a phenomenon in the first place: He is a living, breathing and leading symbol of unfettered, unfiltered free speech…
Schumer then made it crystal clear what cool kids needed to do, if they didn’t want to be publicly shamed: “I hope that people don’t blame you if an orange sexually-assaulting Godzilla who started a fake college is f***ing up the entire planet a year or so from now.”…
In a world run by Schumer, our actual votes might be made be public (like our political financial contributions already are) because it would be so much easier to target and shame Trump voters, conservatives and, heck, anyone who doesn’t buy into the left’s agenda; deride as “steamy dumps” those who might deserve a little cyberbullying to get them in line.
Wall Street Journal: Free Thought Under Siege
By Daniel Shuchman
Rancorous trends such as microaggressions, safe spaces, trigger warnings and intellectual intolerance have taken hold at universities with breathtaking speed. Last year’s controversy over Halloween costumes at Yale led to the departure of two respected faculty members, and this year made the fall festival a flashpoint of conflict at campuses across the country. The recent explosion in the number of university administrators, coupled with an environment of perpetual suspicion-the University of Florida urges students to report on one another to its “Bias Education and Response Team”-drives students who need to resolve normal tensions in human interaction to instead seek intervention by mediators, diversity officers, student life deans or lawyers…
At stake is whether freedom of thought will long survive and whether individuals will have the temperament to resolve everyday social and workplace conflicts without bureaucratic intervention or litigation.
By Jack Noland
In the post-McCutcheon landscape, then, an individual would be able to give a $2,700 check to every candidate in every federal primary and general election in the country, plus more to PACs and party accounts, if they were so inclined. While there is not yet evidence of this happening, some donors have taken advantage of unlimited aggregate contributions to give more cash than they ever could before…
In fact – whether due to a calcifying partisan divide or not – a huge majority of donors give all their money to one side or the other. In 2014, 71.1 percent of donors gave only to Republicans or Democrats. This cycle, that number has climbed to almost 74.2 percent by mid-October, with 434 McCutcheon-level donors giving exclusively to Republicans and 437 to Democrats.
One effect of the no-limits landscape has been the turbocharging of joint fundraising committees – committees formed by candidates with their party and sometimes other candidates. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s Hillary Victory Fund, for instance, has seen at least 120 donors give at least $400,000, something that previously was against the law.
By Theodore Schleifer
Almost all players, Republican and Democrat, acknowledge that their dollars had a far more limited impact than they themselves had predicted at the campaign’s starting gun.
What has perplexed the nation’s political financiers, according to more than a dozen interviews with leading players, is what 2016 has signaled – if anything – about the changing country. Some, including loyalists to Trump and Bernie Sanders, argue that they have crafted the new normal, pooh-poohing the rich as self-important and – in a painful indictment of the entire big-money world – proven to be powerless. A high-wattage, carefully cultivated super PAC? No need, they say. Have a real movement, and watch the money bloom eternal.
The other train of thought – often from the spurned corps of professionals who have, at some point, been cast as the elite bogeymen: Trump is a self-financed, larger-than-life aberration that tells us next to nothing about how money will rule in the post-Trump era. Super PACs, attack ads and the luxury fundraising circuit? How the game is played – now and forever.
San Francisco Chronicle: Trump’s election will have significant impact on Supreme Court
By Bob Egelko
For the U.S. Supreme Court, the election of Donald Trump means a return to the status quo of the last 44 years. At least for now.
The seat that a Republican Senate has kept vacant since the death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia in February will be filled by a nominee who, Trump has promised, will be cut from the same cloth as Scalia…
The more momentous change would occur with the departure of one or more of the current justices. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who pointedly criticized Trump during the campaign, is 83 and has said she’ll stay as long as she can. Justice Stephen Breyer, another Democratic appointee, is 78, and Kennedy is 80…
Some of the remaining restrictions on the financing of political campaigns could be struck down as violations of free speech, along the lines of the 2010 Citizens United ruling that allowed unlimited corporate spending on campaign issues.
By Soo Rin Kim
While super PACs and other outside groups went on a jaw-dropping spending spree this year, traditional party organizations played key roles in boosting their candidates, often taking the lead in making independent expenditures in the cycle’s barnburner races.
Together, the Democratic National Committee and Republican National Committee raised a combined $1.7 billion through Oct. 19, the last date covered by Federal Election Commission reports due before the election – but they went in opposite directions.
The Democratic party boosted its spending to $922.9 million through mid-October, a $108.6 million increase from its outlays at the same point in 2012. Republican party groups, on the other hand, managed to win the presidency and maintain the majority in the both houses of Congress by investing just $665.7 million this cycle – a drop of nearly $112 million from their spending through mid-October four years ago.
By Amita Kelly and Barbara Sprunt
What follows is my 100-day action plan to Make America Great Again. It is a contract between myself and the American voter – and begins with restoring honesty, accountability and change to Washington
Therefore, on the first day of my term of office, my administration will immediately pursue the following six measures to clean up the corruption and special interest collusion in Washington, DC:
…a 5 year-ban on White House and Congressional officials becoming lobbyists after they leave government service;
…a lifetime ban on White House officials lobbying on behalf of a foreign government;
…a complete ban on foreign lobbyists raising money for American elections…
Next, I will work with Congress to introduce the following broader legislative measures and fight for their passage within the first 100 days of my Administration:
…Clean up Corruption in Washington Act. Enacts new ethics reforms to Drain the Swamp and reduce the corrupting influence of special interests on our politics.
By Matea Gold and Tom Hamburger
“We are fighting for every citizen that believes that government should serve the people, not the donors and not the special interests,” the billionaire real estate developer promised exuberant supporters at his last campaign rally in Manchester, N.H.
But just days later, there is little evidence that the president-elect is seeking to restrain wealthy interests from having access to and influence in his administration.
It’s not just corporate lobbyists who are playing early, visible roles in the new power structure. Some of Trump’s biggest political donors are shaping the incoming administration, including Rebekah Mercer, a daughter of billionaire Robert Mercer, who is figuring prominently in behind-the-scenes discussions, according to people familiar with the transition.
Mitchell Daily Republic: Credits offer new avenue for funding political campaigns
By Associated Press
Future political candidates will have access to a new public campaign finance system under a ballot measure approved Tuesday that has the potential to shift how campaigns are funded in South Dakota…
Foes argued during the campaign that the measure was a waste of taxpayer dollars for the benefit of politicians. Opposition group chairman Ben Lee said in an early Wednesday statement that foes “will work to overturn this measure and protect taxpayers from this costly new law.”?
Lee said he hopes to work with state lawmakers to make tweaks to the law passed by voters Tuesday during the upcoming legislative session.
An aide to Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard said in a statement that the governor was surprised the measure passed. Chief of Staff Tony Venhuizen said the initiative is poorly drafted and the governor believes it will require amending to make it workable.
KOMO News Seattle: Voters reject voucher system for political contributions
By Achel La Corte, Associated Press
Washington voters have rejected a measure that creates a publicly funded voucher system for political contributions.
Initiative 1464’s voucher system would have given voters three $50 “democracy credits” that they could use in state races every two years…
Opponents to the measure had argued that the measure would divert taxpayer dollars from services to politics.
“We recognize that there is real concern about the role of money in politics and transparency, but the voters want reforms that ensure Washington’s priorities are funded properly first,” Yvette Ollada, a spokeswoman for the “No on Initiative 1464″ campaign,” wrote in an email Thursday.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Despite vote to cap donations, Missouri donors say effort to limit money in politics failed
By Summer Ballentine and David A. Lieb, Associated Press
Although Missourians have voted to end the state’s policy of unlimited political giving, mega-donors say the effort to limit the role of money in politics won’t work and might inadvertently increase the clout of wealthy donors.
At issue is a constitutional amendment that caps donations to candidates at $2,600 and political parties at $25,000 per election. The measure, which also imposes restrictions on campaign committees in an attempt to increase transparency, passed with 70 percent of the vote in last Tuesday’s election…
But in practice, Missouri has opened a Pandora’s Box for so-called dark money and hasn’t effectively addressed concerns with money in politics, according to a spokesman for Rex Sinquefield, one of Missouri’s most prominent donors.
“It won’t change large donor fundraising at all,” spokesman Travis H. Brown said. “It actually will probably make it more powerful.”
That’s because while gifts directly to candidates and parties are now capped, donors still can give unlimited amounts to other obscure committees that can finance their own ads.