Daily Media Links 12/16: Democratic donors call for Clinton campaign post-mortem, Vindication for Citizens United, and more…

December 16, 2016   •  By Alex Baiocco   •  
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In the News  

More Soft Money Hard Law: The White House Counsel and Donald Trump

By Bob Bauer

There is a long history of congressional pressure for the appointment of Commissioners with dependable perspectives on the constitutional limits of regulation and the reasonableness of specific statutory interpretations… Republicans even before McGahn have strongly favored more permissive readings of the rules, more insistence on what they judged to be the constitutional limits.

And the Republican party and its congressional leaders could be fierce in advancing their positions. They pressed successfully for the nomination of one Commissioner who wrote a book expressing the view that the 1970’s federal campaign finance reforms were in material respects, in both design and enforcement, incompatible with the First Amendment…

And during the period of McGahn’s tenure, he had the Supreme Court’s jurisprudence running in his direction. This was a Court, after all, that in Citizens United endorsed the dark view, expressed by Justice Kennedy for the majority at the time, that the FEC exercises “power analogous to licensing laws implemented in 16th- and 17th-century England, laws and governmental practices of the sort that the First Amendment was drawn to prohibit.” 558 U.S. 310, 335 (2010).

Los Angeles Times: Taxpayers’ group sues Gov. Brown to overturn law allowing public financing of campaigns

By Patrick McGreevy

A taxpayer group has filed a lawsuit against Gov. Jerry Brown that seeks to invalidate a new law that will allow public funds to be used for political campaigning.

The lawsuit was filed in Sacramento Superior Court by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn. The legal challenge says that a law signed by Brown in September that allows cities and counties to use public financing for political campaigns violates Proposition 73, which voters approved in 1988 and prohibits public funds from being used in campaigns.

“It runs directly contrary to the expressed language of the Political Reform Act,” Jon Coupal, president of the association, said on Tuesday. He said the law cannot be changed without another vote of the people.

Free Speech 

Washington Post: The right shuts down free speech, too

By Catherine Rampell

Over the past few years, there have been many high-profile cases of left-wing college students or their cowed administrators chilling the public discourse…

Now, the right has (re)discovered that two can play at this game…   

The most recent case involves professor Olga Perez Stable Cox at Orange Coast College in California. An anonymous student in her human sexuality class secretly recorded Cox discussing her political views. She referred to Donald Trump as a “white supremacist,” his running mate Mike Pence “as one of the most anti-gay humans in this country” and their election as an “act of terrorism.”…  

Meanwhile, the Orange Coast College Republicans – the group that disseminated the gotcha video – is campaigning for her firing. The group’s president said that expunging commentary such as hers from campus is necessary to ensure the college’s commitment to “diversity, equity and inclusivity.”

If this language sounds familiar, it’s because it’s eerily similar to the pseudo-free-speech rhetoric often used by the left to stamp out words and ideas it dislikes, too.      

Bloomberg: On Climate Change, Who Will Censure the Censors?

By Megan McArdle

The Department of Energy has balked at a request from the Trump transition team to provide the names of all department employees or contractors who attended UN global climate talks in the last five years…

Eight months ago, state attorneys general were issuing subpoenas to the Competitive Enterprise Institute aimed at forcing the organization to cough up all communications about climate change, based on novel and changeable legal theories that boiled down to “We don’t like what you said about climate change.” How many of the people who were horrified by Trump’s actions were equally horrified by this chilling move by government authorities to abrogate the free speech rights of private actors? How many were worried about what the precedents thus set might do to the spirit of free and open inquiry?…

It is the unpopular, the unpleasant, and the dangerously controversial ideas that come under fire from government officials, and those are the ideas around which we must build stout fortifications. It is those fortifications that will protect our own ideas when the other side brings out its howitzers.   

Wisconsin John Doe

Wisconsin State Journal: Brad Schimel: Grand jury likely to investigate John Doe leak

By Molly Beck

The Department of Justice will likely convene a grand jury to investigate a leak of evidence collected during a secret criminal investigation into whether Gov. Scott Walker’s recall campaign circumvented state campaign finance law, Attorney General Brad Schimel said Thursday.

“This isn’t the type of investigation that you go knocking on doors and ask people to talk with you,” Schimel said in an interview with the Wisconsin State Journal. “(The investigation is) going to be best suited (in) a protected environment of a courtroom where we’re asking questions and developing information.”

The grand jury would investigate a leak of materials to the Guardian US, an arm of the British newspaper, which published hundreds of leaked documents from a closed secretive John Doe investigation looking into Walker raising millions of dollars for a supposedly independent group to help win the 2011 and 2012 recalls.        

Independent Groups

Politico: Liberals cribbing from conservatives’ playbook to attack Trump

By Josh Gerstein

“Judicial Watch has a $30 million budget, and they had a significant impact on the election,” Clinton ally David Brock said. “And if we’re heading into an administration that looks like it could well be as corrupt as the gilded age, we need to significantly reinforce the capacities for an aggressive ethics watchdog.”…

Brock has made clear his goal is to keep up the legal pressure on Trump.

 “I would like to get Trump into discovery. I would like to subpoena him. I would like to put him under oath,” Brock added in an interview for POLITICO’s “Off Message” podcast. “I think we need a strategy around how to use the power we have and a lot of that will be about litigation.”…

For now, the leading contender to assume the role of a liberal Judicial Watch is Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, an organization founded in 2003 with an announced goal of rooting out government corruption. The group quickly built a strong reputation as an ethics watchdog and transparency advocate, filing complaints against lawmakers from both parties, though the bulk of its ethics work targeted Republicans.      

Citizens United 

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: Vindication for Citizens United

By Katie Pavlich

When the Supreme Court upheld Citizens United v. FEC in 2010, effectively allowing corporations and organizations to be considered individual donors, progressives hysterically warned the influx of money into the political system would threaten democracy and allow only those with money to gain power through elections…

Over the years in election after election and on a number of issue-based ballot measures, we’ve seen this argument fall flat as campaigns with less funding than rival campaigns come out victorious. On Nov. 8, 2016, when Republican Donald Trump walloped Clinton in the race for the White House, the argument that money controls politics was completely blown out of the water…  

While Clinton and her Democrat supporters continue to lick their wounds, the progressive argument surrounding campaign finance has been thoroughly debunked. Citizens United still stands as constitutional, while enormous amounts of funding, even at the highest levels, can’t guarantee a victory.

The American people, voters, are still in charge.


Politico: Democratic donors call for Clinton campaign post-mortem

By Gabriel Debenedetti

The call for a deep and detailed accounting of how Clinton lost a race that she and her donors were absolutely certain she’d win didn’t begin immediately after the election – there was too much shock over her defeat by Donald Trump, and overwhelming grief. Her initial conference call with top backers, which came just days after the outcome, focused primarily on FBI Director Jim Comey’s late campaign-season intervention.

But in the weeks since, the wealthy Democrats who helped pump over $1 billion into Clinton’s losing effort have been urging their local finance staffers, state party officials, and campaign aides to provide a more thorough explanation of what went wrong. With no dispassionate, centralized analysis of how Clinton failed so spectacularly, they insist, how can they be expected to keep contributing to the party?  

The Media 

NBC New York: Facebook Is Now Letting You Flag Fake News

By Asher Klein

Facebook is letting its users flag news stories as fake or a hoax and working with fact checkers to vet them, the social media giant announced Thursday, in its first efforts to address fake news since the United States election…

News that’s identified as fake by the fact checking organizations, which must sign on to Poynter’s International Fact Checking Code of Principles, will be marked as “disputed” and have an explainer accompanying that content, Facebook said. Facebook’s algorithm may also have those stories appear lower in users’ feeds. Recode reported that ABC News, Politifact, FactCheck and Snopes are the partner news organizations…

“We believe in giving people a voice and that we cannot become arbiters of truth ourselves, so we’re approaching this problem carefully,” News Feed Vice President Adam Mosseri said in a statement. “We’ve focused our efforts on the worst of the worst, on the clear hoaxes spread by spammers for their own gain, and on engaging both our community and third party organizations.”

Trump Administration

Los Angles Times: On Trump’s short list to run the SEC: an ex-U.S. attorney who’s an L.A. native

By Geoffrey Mohan

For half a decade, U.S. Atty. Debra Wong Yang was the last person corporations would want to hear from if they were operating at the edge of the law.

Now, she’s the first person they might call to defend that kind of accusation, as top crisis manager for one of the premiere corporate litigation firms in the country, the Los Angeles-based Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. 

That experience on both sides of the regulatory fence has reportedly vaulted her onto the short list to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission at a time when President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to loosen post-recession financial regulations enacted during the Obama administration.

“She’s very well respected,” said former U.S. Atty. Thomas P. O’Brien, a partner at the Paul Hasting law firm who led the criminal division during Yang’s tenure, then succeeded her. “She has deep experience working with corporate litigation cases. She has led from the bench. She led a massive staff at the U.S. attorney’s office – she is a terrific choice for the SEC.”

Vocativ: Activists Demand Trump Dump His Business Holdings

By Ethan Harfenist

On a frigid Thursday, a consortium of activists gathered in front Trump Tower in New York to deliver a 400,000-signature petition demanding Trump sell off his businesses entirely and place the proceeds in a blind trust…

“There is only one acceptable course of action, and that is for Trump to divest his holdings. If he’s going to be president after the electoral college votes next Monday, then he must avoid all conflicts of interest,” said Susan Lerner, the executive director of corruption watchdog Common Cause New York…

Adam Smith, the communications director for Every Voice, a liberal political advocacy organization, poked fun at Trump’s schedule, noting that even though the president-elect was supposedly too busy to discuss his business holdings, he still found time to tweet about Vanity Fair on Thursday…

Unfortunately, the activists had a difficult time delivering the boxes of signatures to Trump Tower – police only allowed a few to enter the tower.

The States

New York Post: De Blasio to face fine for violating campaign-finance rules

By Rich Calder and Yoav Gonen

Mayor de Blasio will be socked with a large fine Thursday for violations of campaign-finance regulations during his 2013 run for City Hall, sources told The Post.

“It’s going to be another bad day for the mayor,” said a city official was briefed on the matter. “We’re talking about a significant amount of money.”

The official said Wednesday that de Blasio is slated to be hit with a penalty of “tens of thousands of dollars” by the Campaign Finance Board, which regulates the program that provides taxpayer matching funds to candidates…

When asked about the expected fines, de Blasio campaign spokesman Dan Levitan said in a statement, “In any campaign that raises nearly 20,000 contributions, there will be a small number of paperwork errors.” 

NorthJersey.com: Christie offers nomination for hobbled election agency

By Nicholas Puliese

While millions of dollars were flowing into thousands of local races this past election cycle, the watchdog agency that regulates political campaigns and lobbying in New Jersey was unable to hold meetings and punish offenders.

Three seats on the four-member Election Law Enforcement Commission have been vacant since April. One hasn’t been filled in five years. A Republican nomination for the board that Gov. Chris Christie announced in August has not been acted on by Senate President Stephen Sweeney, the South Jersey Democrat who controls the Senate nomination process.

On Wednesday, Christie nominated another candidate to fill a vacant seat, this time a retired Democratic Superior Court judge from Camden County, Stephen Michael Holden…

But it remains unclear if and when Holden and the other pending nominee, Eric H. Jaso, a former federal prosecutor, will receive a confirmation hearing.  The governor first nominated Jaso last year, but the nomination languished in the Senate and expired in January without a hearing. 


Alex Baiocco

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