Daily Media Links 12/13: Federal election regulators could unmask political ad buyers on Facebook, Losing Faith in Free Speech Has Consequences, and more…

December 13, 2017   •  By Alex Baiocco   •  
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In the News

Observer: Federal Case Could Upend New Jersey’s Campaign Finance Law

By Jeff Brindle

Laura Holmes and Paul Jost, a married couple from Florida, challenged a provision in the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) that limits contributions by individuals to $2,700 in the primary and $2,700 in the general election…

Holmes and Jost, while not challenging contribution limits per se, maintain that it is a violation of their First Amendment rights to bar them from contributing $5,200, or two times $2,600, to a candidate in the general election…

Bradley Smith, a former FEC member and free speech advocate, said the election-cycle contribution split clearly favors incumbents, who often face little primary opposition and simply roll their primary contributions into their general election campaign kitties.

“Campaign finance laws often raise difficult questions about the intersection of free speech and elections, but not every case is a tough one. Some laws are just plain dumb and unfair, no matter what your views on campaign finance,” said Smith in an April 10, 2017, op-ed column in the Washington Examiner. His group, Institute for Free Speech, represents the Holmes and Jost.

Internet Speech Regulation

USA Today: Federal election regulators could unmask political ad buyers on Facebook

By Fredreka Schouten

Political advertisements on Facebook would have to include disclosures showing who paid for them, under two draft legal opinions the nation’s federal election regulators are scheduled to take up this week.

If the Federal Election Commission (FEC) votes to adopt either opinion at its Thursday meeting, it would mark the government’s first major move to regulate political advertising on social media following revelations that Kremlin-tied groups used ads on Facebook and other platforms in an effort to sway the 2016 presidential election.

“Addressing the issue of Internet disclaimers is just one small step – but a small step in the right direction – towards getting the American people the information they need to be able to assess the information they are receiving over the Internet,” said Ellen Weintraub, a longtime Democratic Federal Election Commission member who has advocated for the regulation.

Free Speech

Bloomberg: Losing Faith in Free Speech Has Consequences

By Leonid Bershidsky

Recent attacks on U.S.-tied media outlets in Eastern Europe are part of an unsettling movement against liberal democracy. But they are also a reminder of the costs of America’s fading role as a defender of free speech across the world.

This week, Poland fined TVN, a station based there controlled by Tennessee-based Scripps Networks Interactive, for covering last year’s protests against governments attempt to limit press freedoms. Last month, the Hungarian government accused the U.S. of election meddling after the State Department announced a $700,000 grant for media organizations operating outside Budapest.

“What’s this, if not interference in the election campaign and in Hungary’s internal political processes?” Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto, wondered…

Do either of the European examples actually amount to foreign political meddling by the U.S.? It sure doesn’t look like it. But even if Scripps or the State Department happened to be pushing a U.S.-dictated agenda, their actions still wouldn’t qualify as interference…

Poles did not suddenly lose their ability to make up their own minds about the protests after watching TVN. And Hungarians wouldn’t vote against Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party just because a U.S.-funded local paper told them to do so.

Wisconsin John Doe

MacIver Institute: Elections Commission Lawyers Up In Wake Of Bombshell John Doe Report

By M.D. Kittle

The Wisconsin Elections Commission is doubling down in its defense of staff integrally involved in the state’s infamous John Doe investigation…

Schimel’s report includes emails showing GAB staff members, including former lead attorney Shane Falk, assembling and saving illegally obtained John Doe evidence long after the John Doe judge in early 2014 told the government agents to stop. And it appears those government agents held on to hundreds of thousands of documents long after the state Supreme Court ordered the investigation shut down for good, that the secret probe was unconstitutional, and that all Doe documents be delivered to the court.

The attorney general’s report also details a sloppiness that slips into criminal negligence in the handling of private, court-sealed documents.

The States

Spokesman-Review: Legislature should pass ‘dark money’ bill

By Editorial Board

A bill aimed at unearthing the names of anonymous political donors has died more than one mysterious death in the Washington state Senate. But now that Democrats are in charge of the chamber, Sen. Any Billig’s perennial “dark money” bill should see the light of day…

Billig’s prefiled bill, which has 25 co-sponsors, including Republican Sens. Joe Fain and Mark Miloscia, would force into the open the top contributors when a nonprofit engages in political activity, such as giving to a PAC. The top 10 donors giving $10,000 or more would be disclosed, as would all donors giving $100,000 or more.

The aim is to force political players who give to nonprofits to instead give to PACs, which are subject to full disclosure. Anyone can log onto the Public Disclosure Commission website and track PAC donations…

SB 5991 should improve public discourse, because groups could no longer raise unlimited funds to bash away. Plus, large donors would have their names associated with those attacks. It would end the safe haven for people who don’t have the courage to publicly state their case. 

Maryland Reporter: Md. public campaign finance fund too small to help multiple candidates for governor

By Glynis Kazanjian

There is enough money in the state public campaign fund for one candidate and one election in the 2018 gubernatorial election, according to the state campaign finance director.

Sen. Rich Madaleno, D-Montgomery, who is running for governor recently claimed it.

“You can fully fund one candidate for either the general election or the primary, but not both,” said Maryland Candidacy and Campaign Finance Director Jared DeMarinis of the pending 2018 elections…

Last week, Madaleno announced he would use public campaign financing in his run for governor. He could face as many as eight Democrats in the June 26 primary election.

He cautioned fellow Democrats to weigh the benefits of using public funding in the primary given the bleak amount of funding available.    

Ventura County Star: A test for election transparency

By Tom Elias

For the first time, big donors to ballot proposition campaigns will not be able to hide behind phony campaign committee names like “Californians for Safe Streets” when they put their money behind causes, many of which can be self-serving.

It will be somewhat harder to keep dark money from having at least some light shined upon it. But no one can be certain just yet how difficult it will be for real donors to hide and just how exposed they might soon be. That’s partly because of vague language in the state’s new Disclose Act, quietly signed as Assembly Bill 249 by Gov. Jerry Brown, who issued no statement along with his signature, as he often does on important bills…

The bottom line is that even with some vague parts of the law likely to be disputed and litigated for years, there will still be more disclosure of campaign finance information than ever before seen anywhere in America.  

Alex Baiocco

Alex Baiocco