Daily Media Links 12/19: The Privacy-Disclosure Balance and Its Complications, FEC gets modest budget boost, and more…

December 18, 2014   •  By Scott Blackburn   •  
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In the News

Meet the Press: Should There Be More Disclosure in Political Contributions? 
Meredith McGehee from the Campaign Legal Center and Brad Smith from the Center for Competitive Politics debate disclosure for political contributions. 
Washington Examiner: Jeb Bush on campaign finance: ‘no limits’ 
Besides alleviating concerns over freedom of speech, the elimination of contribution limits would also greatly simplify the campaign finance system. Keating told the Washington Examiner that campaign finance laws “are so complicated they make the tax code look like a model of simplicity and clarity.” Limits lead to complex laws that are supposed to ensure limits cannot be evaded.
Bush’s call for total transparency also is not radical. Keating explained that campaigns must disclose all donors who give more than $200. “It’s pretty close to total transparency already,” Keating said. Requiring disclosure of donors under $200 would excessively burden campaigns. Small donors below that level have little individual influence on candidates, and disclosure of small donors would have little benefit to the public.
Alliance for Justice: Groups say demand for nonprofit’s internal records threatens First Amendment rights 
“We support their effort to conduct effective oversight and believe that government agencies must follow the Administrative Procedure Act,” said David Keating, President of the Center for Competitive Politics.  “At the same time, if a Committee suspects an agency is not following the law, Congress has many tools to get needed information from government officials and agencies.  At this stage, there appears to be no need to request documents from an advocacy group, an action that could deter groups from exercising their First Amendment rights to petition government.”
“No individual or group working together should ever live in fear of a Congressional investigation for exercising their First Amendment rights,” said AFJ President Nan Aron.  “Bullying tactics clearly designed to chill the free speech of nonprofit organizations should have no place in a democracy.”
“While Congress is right to hold government agencies accountable for overreach, it needs to tread very carefully when questioning private citizens about the exercise of their First Amendment rights,” said Gabe Rottman, legislative counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union.  “It has not done so here. When Congress recklessly forces the public to open its books and lives to scrutiny simply for petitioning our government, lawmakers threaten the very Constitution they have sworn an oath to defend.”

Newsweek: Here Come the Million Dollar Judges 
This year’s judicial elections were dominated by the large-scale independent spending ushered in by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, with independent spending overtaking that of the candidates’ campaigns for the first time.
Of the $15 million spent, more than $8.5 million came from independent groups, including nonprofits that do not disclose their donors, sometimes known as dark-money groups. Using data on ad spending from Kantar Media and the Atlas Project, this column examines contributions to judges whose campaigns benefited from more than $1 million in spending.

More Soft Money Hard Law: The Privacy-Disclosure Balance and Its Complications
By Bob Bauer
When skeptics of compelled disclosure warn about the dangers of reprisal and harassment, the answer most often is that the Supreme Court has already addressed this contingency. Groups that can make a showing that they are uniquely vulnerable to harassment can apply for an exception. In this way the conversation drifts quickly to NAACP v. Alabama.
The skeptics, however, remain unpersuaded, and in a recent blog posting, Lyle Denniston points out that changes in politics may account for their discomfort. He refers specifically to the “deep polarization of the parties and the effect that has on coarsening the content of political expression.” He suggests that in this climate, the concern with donor privacy has broadened sufficiently that “privacy in political expression” now figures prominently in disclosure debates and requires a balance that the Supreme Court will be eventually called on to strike.
As the Denniston posting was published, a federal district court in Colorado entered an order in the latest phase of litigation over a state disclosure requirement modeled on the federal “electioneering communication” provision. This case serves as a good example of contemporary disclosure controversies, bringing out key disagreements over how disclosure laws should apply to smaller-scale issues speech.
Candidates, Politicians, Campaigns, and Parties

Shapiro Arato & Isserles: Shapiro, Arato & Isserles Petitions To Open Presidential Debates To Independent Candidate  
Shapiro, Arato & Isserles represents Level the Playing Field (“LPF”) in connection with its efforts to create an opportunity for an independent candidate to participate in the 2016 presidential debates. LPF is a non-profit, non-partisan corporation that seeks to enhance and strengthen our democracy by creating an opportunity for more competition in our political system. LPF is the successor to Americans Elect, which sought to nominate a nonpartisan presidential ticket in 2012. Americans Elect learned in 2012 that qualified candidates for the presidency will not run under the current debate rules because of the virtual impossibility of securing access to the debates. Accordingly, one major goal of LPF is to reform the presidential debate system to ensure the use of criteria that will provide an independent candidate a real chance to participate in the debates.
NY Times: As 2016 Nears, Hillary Clinton Keeps in Mind Mistakes of 2008 Campaign  
“Inevitability is not a message,” said Terry Shumaker, a prominent New Hampshire Democrat and former United States ambassador. “It’s not something you can run on,” he added.
These topics are being quietly discussed at private dinners with donors, at strategy talks hosted by an outside “super PAC” and in casual conversation as Mrs. Clinton greets friends at holiday parties and a Clinton Foundation fund-raiser in New York.
“If she runs, it will be different,” said Mrs. Clinton’s spokesman, Nick Merrill.

CPI: FEC gets modest budget boost 
By Dave Levinthal
After several years of budget cuts, the Federal Election Commission will receive a modest funding boost.
Congress’ government funding bill, signed Tuesday by President Barack Obama, allots $67.5 million for the agency, which enforces and administers the federal government’s election laws.
That’s about $1.7 million more than it received this year and more money than it’s had during any year this decade.
State and Local

New York –– New York Law Journal: Critics of Ongoing Investigation Should Hold Their Fire 
By Roger Adler  
Schwarz fails to acknowledge the close relationship between the Brennan Center, to which he serves as chief counsel, and the Working Families Party (WFP). The Brennan Center represents the party in a legal action against the New York State Board of Elections, offering that as a reason for not meeting with my office on issues related to campaign finance law reform.
He opines the New York City Campaign Finance Board (CFB) is the “gold standard” in administration of publicly financeded political campaigns. Unfortunately, that assertion is not borne out by fact. Several of the points made by Schwarz betray disappointing selective misstatements. To paraphrase the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Schwarz is entitled to his own opinion; he is not entitled to his own facts.
Grand jury secrecy precludes me from divulging those facts here but they will be discussed in a grand jury report at the conclusion of the investigation. Suffice it to say, if the Campaign Finance Board had done its job and not delayed completion of the audit of the Rose campaign within the statutorily mandated time frame, my investigation might indeed not be necessary.

Scott Blackburn

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