Daily Media Links 11/16: Trump’s lobbyist ban complicates administration hiring, Initiated measure prompts early announcement for Governor’s race, and more…

November 16, 2016   •  By Alex Baiocco   •  
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CCP

Should Candidates Have Control Over Who Can Speak About Elections?

By Luke Wachob

After losing to Republican John Faso in New York’s 19th congressional district, Teachout wrote an op-ed bemoaning the number of ads run in the race…

Calling super PAC ads “annoying” and “negative” is fine for a losing candidate who wants to vent, but Teachout is not venting. She marshals these arguments in support of her goal of having the government overturn Citizens United and ban super PACs, so that is how they must be evaluated. As a justification for government action, these gripes are laughable. Who in their right mind thinks that the government should ban speech simply because it is irritating?

The only compelling reason Teachout offers for preventing these groups from speaking is the possibility that they corrupt democracy by doing so. But do they? For over 40 years, the Supreme Court has rejected arguments that independent spending poses a risk of corruption, and persuading the Court otherwise requires more than a mere assertion. There is no strong evidence that limits on direct contributions to candidates reduce corruption, let alone restrictions on independent spending.

Citizens United

Business Insider: The truth about whether you can be fired for expressing your political views at work

By Áine Cain

GrubHub CEO Matt Maloney recently caused a stir over an email to employees expressing his opinions on the 2016 US presidential election…

While some might have interpreted Maloney’s initial email differently than how it was meant, it’s actually not illegal in the United States for bosses to suggest that their employees vote for a particular candidate, or to terminate employees based on speech – with several important caveats.

This all started with the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, which allowed companies to endorse and campaign for political candidates. This means that, in most cases, your boss can send out a mass email encouraging you to support a certain politician, according to Steven Greenhouse writing for The New York Times. However, as CBS News reports, states like Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia ban “businesses from posting notices saying that they will be shut down if a particular candidate is victorious at the ballot box.”

Note that your boss can try to influence your vote, but they cannot ultimately force you to choose a certain candidate – voting is private, after all.

Independent Groups

Times Union: Overturn Citizens United, get rid of SuperPAC donors

By Zephyr Teachout

The SuperPAC spending was particularly bad in this race, but it is happening all over the country, and the difference is Citizens United. This kind of money shapes representation. Candidates who want millions of dollars spent on their behalf try to shape their behavior so that rich people will invest in their district. And candidates regularly break the spirit, if not the letter, of the law, essentially coordinating with those big donors, all the while not taking responsibility for the ads. (We did not do that.)…

Well, it should stop. These ads are annoying, negative, misleading, not useful, and are corrupting our democracy. SuperPACs and secretly funded committees, backed by billionaires and big corporations, do not have to answer to people or members of political parties.

But it will only get worse unless we overturn Citizens United. SuperPAC advertising is the new normal. It took six years for big outside money to overtake congressional races and state Senate races, but it’s only been six years; soon this will be every race. 

The Media

New York Times: Mark Zuckerberg Is in Denial

By Zeynep Tufekci

The problem with Facebook’s influence on political discourse is not limited to the dissemination of fake news. It’s also about echo chambers. The company’s algorithm chooses which updates appear higher up in users’ newsfeeds and which are buried. Humans already tend to cluster among like-minded people and seek news that confirms their biases. Facebook’s research shows that the company’s algorithm encourages this by somewhat prioritizing updates that users find comforting…

Facebook may want to claim that it is remaining neutral, but that is a false and dangerous stance. The company’s business model, algorithms and policies entrench echo chambers and fuel the spread of misinformation. 

Reason: Policing ‘Fake News’ Is Our Own Responsibility, Not Facebook’s

By Scott Shackford

We all understand what people demanding Facebook do something about “fake news” are actually getting at. They’re generally not asking for Facebook to serve as an arbiter of the factual components of controversies (though I wouldn’t put it past some people). Facebook is not very good at managing controversy. Rather what these folks have in mind that is that there are clearly news outlets that are producing fake news stories on purpose to get page views and earn some cash, and they’re absolutely right.

But that’s exactly how Trump would describe the media outlets who run with the assault stories. So what these frustrated people need to realize is that if they convince Facebook to censor sharing of these obviously fake stories, then there’s going to be a fight over what a “fake story” actually is. There’s a bias here-in media circles most obviously-that it’s simply going to be a matter of cutting out the outlets making stuff up from whole cloth. These little no-name places that aren’t known journalistic outfits.

Why would it end there?     

Donors

CRP: Federal prosecutors open criminal grand jury probe of Thornton Law firm donations

By Andrea Estes and Viveca Novak

Federal prosecutors in Boston have opened a grand jury investigation into potentially illegal campaign contributions from lawyers at the Thornton Law Firm, a leading donor to Democrats around the country, according to two people familiar with the probe.

The U.S. Attorney’s office is one of three agencies now looking into the Boston-based personal injury firm’s practice of reimbursing its partners for millions of dollars in political donations, according to the two people. The law firm has insisted that the donations were legal, but, soon after the Globe and the Center for Responsive Politics revealed the firm’s practice, politicians began returning hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations.

Trump Administration

Washington Post: Lobbyists in the running for Trump Cabinet jobs, despite ‘drain the swamp’ pledge

By Catherine Ho

President-elect Donald Trump’s stated plan to keep lobbyists out of his administration is off to a bumpy start, with questions being raised about the role they are already playing on his transition team.

Now, attention is turning to whether Trump will nominate members of his Cabinet who hail from K Street.

Nominating a lobbyist to serve as the head of a department would require Trump to roll back ethics restrictions put in place by President Obama, according to ethics experts, a move that would run counter to his campaign promise to end the influence of special interests in Washington…

Ethics experts say it would be unusual for a lobbyist to become a Cabinet secretary, though some who work in the influence industry have been nominated in previous administrations and others have assumed top deputy positions, including in the Obama administration. 

AP News: Trump’s lobbyist ban complicates administration hiring

By Julie Bykowicz

Trump’s ethics plan would ban all executive-branch officials from lobbying for five years after leaving their government jobs – one of several policies aimed at curbing the influence of lobbyists. His campaign released his plan about three weeks before Election Day, and “drain the swamp” quickly became a favorite rallying cry and social media hashtag.

Lobbyists, many of whom are massed along the K Street corridor downtown just blocks from the White House, see the plan as misguided and argue that it could backfire on him. The incoming Republican president is racing to hire some 4,000 executive-branch employees, and his ethics plan could cause some job-seekers to look elsewhere because it limits how they can earn a living when they decide to leave the administration.

“This will have a chilling effect on his hiring, no doubt,” said Paul Miller, who leads the National Institute for Lobbying and Ethics. “Most people who agree to government service want to go back into the private sector. We don’t want career politicians, and that’s what he could end up with.”

Candidates and Campaigns

NBC News: Donald Trump Campaign Offers T-Shirts for Donations of $45 – $2,700

By Alexander Smith and Thomas Roberts

Donald Trump has the presidency in the bag but he’s still trying to drum up funds by hawking limited edition T-shirts on his campaign’s website.
Trump’s campaign is asking supporters to donate between $45 and $2,700 (the maximum annual individual contribution) in exchange for one of the white shirts from a limited run of 1,000.
“Now, only for supporters, President-elect Trump is offering an EXCLUSIVE deal,” read a text message sent to supporters. “He wants YOU to be the first to have his OFFICIAL 1st Edition Trump-Pence Presidential T-shirt. Don’t wait – we’ve only made 1,000. Contribute $45 for the 45th President to get yours (while supplies last)!”     

Paste Magazine: Zephyr Teachout’s Loss and the Struggle to Maintain the Sanders Platform Beyond 2016

By Benjamin Powers

Teachout, a lawyer and professor, oversaw the Sunlight Foundation, a group that focused on government transparency and campaign finance reform, before she emerged on the political circuit in 2014 when she made a surprisingly strong showing in a primary challenge to incumbent governor Andrew M. Cuomo.

In terms of her policies, she closely aligned with the Bernie Sanders legacy, and Sanders had campaigned for her earlier in the year at a rally in New Paltz, NY.

Both her and Sanders are vehemently for campaign finance reform,decrying dark money in politics, and at the time, she was at odds with the traditional Democratic party on trade, opposing both NAFTA and the TPP…

As supporters of Sanders’ presidential bid start to mount campaigns to displace long entrenched members of the Democratic party in states across the nation, it’s worth trying to remember that candidates like Teachout were already running on that platform, and just like Clinton, were rebuffed.

The Hill: We spent $6.8 billion this election – was it worth it?

By Noelle Nikpour

Just think about that cash for a minute. You ready? Well, that crazy cash came from you, me, small donors, deep pockets, and everyone else in-between. It’s not rocket science nor am I exposing a dark money secret.

Look at all those millions raised by Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders in this election cycle that were given by folks that were under $250.

Trump broke Republican Party fundraising records, passing $100 million from donors who gave less than a couple hundred dollars, and Sanders repeatedly broke fundraising records as the months for his campaign passed.

Those small checks add up. Check out the infamous bundlers and fat cat mid-level donors on both sides of the aisle. All that money plus the Super Pacs was how we ended up with a $6.8 billion race.

You want to know what that money you pumped into the political system went for? It went for those damn ads that you saw that annoyed the hell out of you every single day leading up to the election! So, in a sense, you funded your own misery. 

The States

KSFY Sioux Falls: Initiated measure prompts early announcement for Governor’s race

By Carlos Gonzalez

Yesterday – Congresswoman Kristi Noem became the first big name to throw her hat into the ring for the state’s top job.

But why did she do it just 6 days after winning a fourth-term in the house?

Could it be because rules for campaign finance in the state are changing after the passage of Initiated Measure 22?

The law – set to take effect tomorrow – would not allow Noem to transfer her almost 2-million dollar campaign war-chest towards a run for Governor.

So waiting to make an official announcement could cost her – literally…

The early announcement comes as a surprise to many South Dakotans but it’s all prompted by Initiative Measure 22 they voted in last Tuesday.

New Haven Independent: Time For A Clean-Money Tweak?

By Mark Pazniokas

Senate President Pro Tem Martin M. Looney of New Haven blames the rare loss of Democratic legislative seats in a presidential year on the targeted spending by business groups, not voter dissatisfaction with Hartford after two decades of Democratic control of the Connecticut General Assembly…

He said he wants the legislature to examine whether the Citizens’ Election Program, a voluntary system of public financing that restricts what participating candidates can raise and spend on campaigns, provides sufficient funding to defend against outside spending that topped $1.4 million on legislative races in 2016.

Joe Brennan, the president of the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, said Democrats badly misread the election if their only takeaway is that they were outspent in legislative campaigns waged around calls for change in Connecticut and against a backdrop of Donald J. Trump’s angry, unconventional and, ultimately, successful run for president.

Denver Post: Slowly but surely, improving Colorado’s election laws

By Megan Schrader

Coloradans love meddling with election law.

This year we said the state’s 1 million unaffiliated voters should be able to participate in primary elections, and that when it comes to presidential races there should be an actual primary election with ballots.

I hope the changes will mean more moderate candidates and increased voter participation, but I’ve been heartbroken by reform efforts before.

I turned 18 in 2002 just in time to vote for a massive campaign finance reform effort, Amendment 27, which won by a significant margin and promised to take big money out of politics. It was the same year as the McCain-Feingold Act at the federal level and I remember thinking both were wonderful ideas.

That’s almost laughable 14 years later, following an election where $79 million was spent on state- and county-level campaigns in the four months leading up to Election Day.

Alex Baiocco

Alex Baiocco