Daily Media Links 1/4: What Is the Fate of the First Amendment in the Digital Age?, Keith Ellison Vows To Ban Lobbyist Contributions To The DNC, and more…

January 4, 2017   •  By Alex Baiocco   •  
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In the News     

The NonProfit Times: California AG Designate Has History With Charities

By Mark Hrywna

California Gov. Jerry Brown officially nominated Congressman Xavier Becerra to replace Attorney General Kamala Harris…

Becerra isn’t expected to stray far from Harris’ perspective on charity regulation. The California Attorney General’s Office has been embroiled in litigation regarding its regulations to require filing donor information for a number of years…

The Center for Competitive Politics, Americans for Prosperity Foundation, Thomas More Law Center, and Citizens United Foundation all have challenged the regulations by state charity officials in California and New York in court.

During a hearing in May on a bill that would prohibit the Treasury Secretary from requiring that the identity of contributors to nonprofits be included in annual returns (H.R. 5053), Becerra warned that the legislation could create a loophole for foreign governments or others to use their money to influence government without disclosure.

Free Speech      

The Nation: What Is the Fate of the First Amendment in the Digital Age?

By Jameel Jaffer

The collection and retention of all this information is likely to have far-reaching implications for the freedoms of speech, assembly, and the press, though the change in our behavior may be subtle and gradual. A person who believes she’s being monitored may hesitate before participating in a political demonstration, visiting a website the government is thought to disfavor, or following an unpopular political group on social media…

In the early 1960s, the Supreme Court barred a congressional committee from requiring the NAACP to disclose information about its membership; it reasoned that compelled disclosure of membership information would have a “chilling effect” on the freedoms of expression and association.

A decade before that, the Court heard the case of Edward Rumely, a bookseller who had declined to comply with a congressional subpoena commanding him to divulge the names of those who had purchased his books. The Court held that the subpoena was unenforceable, and in a concurrence, Justice William O. Douglas reflected at length on the dissuasive effect that unchecked surveillance would certainly have on the exercise of First Amendment rights. 

Wisconsin John Doe   

Racine Journal Times: State should end system of John Doe investigations

By Editorial Board

The John Doe probe involving Gov. Scott Walker ran on interminably – for more than six years – with, ultimately, little to show for it in terms of prosecutions. While the coordination between politicians and businesses and outside interests may have been illegal at one time, changing campaign finance laws made that murky and ultimately judged legal.

Secrecy and gag orders in John Doe proceedings didn’t serve the state well in the Walker probe and Wisconsin already has a grand jury system that is more than sufficient to fill their roll. As we enter the year 2017, this might be a good time to end John Doe probes altogether.


Observer: Republicans Won’t Drain the Swamp and Democrats Still Deny It Even Exists

By Michael Sainato

Upon the Republicans’ announcement to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), Democrats were in an uproar. While the plan was ultimately pulled amid widespread criticism-including from President-elect Donald Trump-the Democratic Party’s partisan response fails to acknowledge that they also once attempted to gut the OCE. In truth, the OCE has been widely ineffective.

In addition to often publishing complaints from Hillary Clinton propagandist David Brock, the OCE was also accused of racism by the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC). In 2010, The Washington Post reported “Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), joined by 19 other members of the Congressional Black Caucus, last week introduced a resolution that would essentially neuter the ethics board, making it more difficult for OCE to launch investigations and inform the public of its findings.” However, The Post said Fudge’s motivations stemmed from her chief of staff being reprimanded by the OCE for helping CBC members obtain an all-expenses paid trip to the Caribbean.

Washington Examiner: Schumer, favorite senator of Wall Street and K Street, takes over Senate Dems

By Timothy P. Carney

When Senate Democrats chose their new leader, they selected the favorite senator of K Street and Wall Street, Chuck Schumer, an unparalleled expert at blending policymaking and fundraising.

Schumer’s new job, Senate Minority Leader, will mostly involve holding together the Democratic majority to filibuster GOP measures in the Senate, along with raising money to stave off further GOP Senate gains in 2018.

Campaign finance data show Schumer as the favorite Senator, in either party, of lobbyists, bankers, and hedge funders…

This is Schumer’s method: blend policy fights with fundraising to pry big business and K Street away from Republicans and bankroll Democratic efforts. He’s done this well from secondary roles in the party, as when he headed the DSCC. Now that he’s the party’s leader, we can expect a Democratic Party more explicitly grounded in K Street and Wall Street. 

The Media

Wall Street Journal: Finale

By James Taranto

Our advice to journalists who wish to improve the quality of their trade would be to lose their self-importance, overcome the temptation to pose as (or bow to) authority figures, and focus on the basic function of journalism, which is to tell stories. Journalists are not arbiters of truth; we are, unlike fiction writers (or for that matter politicians), constrained by the truth. But fiction writers bear the heavier burden of making their stories believable.

When you think about journalism in this way, its failure in 2016 becomes very simple to understand. Whether you see Trump as a hero or a goat-or something in between, which is our still-tentative view-his unlikely ascension to the presidency was a hell of a story. Most journalists missed the story because they were too caught up in defending a system of cultural authority of which they had foolishly allowed themselves to become an integral part.

Variety: Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes Talks AT&T Strategy, WB Shakeup, CNN Growth and First Amendment Threats

By Cynthia Littleton

“I was asked if we were worried about the new president’s criticism of CNN’s coverage and whether or not that amounted to a threat to the First Amendment. When my answer got short-handed into partisan politics, it got taken out of context.”…

But what did you mean by a threat from Democrats?

“The dictation of their party platform proposed a constitutional amendment to repeal Citizens United (the 2010 Supreme Court decision designating political spending a protected form of free speech) which holds among other things that corporations have a First Amendment right to produce programming of political importance in the weeks leading up to an election. We have the First Amendment to rely on whenever an elected official tries to impinge on our rights to speak. If somebody is talking about restructuring or constraining the First Amendment, which was what was being bandied about by (Democrats) in relation to the adjacent issue of campaign finance (in Citizens United), that’s a threat to the First Amendment. I was trying to say that everybody ought to be alert to how important the First Amendment is because of the nature of news coverage.”  

Citizens United

The Hill: The renewables industry must reject existing structure of corporate influence in politics

By Rachel Goldstein

Corporate money in politics influences energy policy and can stifle renewable growth and climate solutions. It is time the renewable energy industry address this problem. The Citizens United Supreme Court decision means that efforts to displace the fossil fuel industry with renewable energy face an uphill battle.

As renewable energy growth and development continues, clean energy advocates must think about how such influences implicitly play into the Unites States’ ability to grow a nascent yet burgeoning infrastructure sector…

Though renewables should inherently have equal opportunities to compete in the market and corporate lobbying sphere, the reality is that fossil fuel interests have the money to competitively participate in this system, while renewable interests don’t. The bottom line is that with an uneven playing field, effectively battling climate change while democracy is hijacked by corporate special interests is not possible. 

Political Parties

Huffington Post: Keith Ellison Vows To Ban Lobbyist Contributions To The DNC

By Zach Carter

“Yeah, I would,” Ellison told HuffPost when asked about banning lobbyist donations. “I think it’s important that people feel that the party is their party … There is a pragmatic, perhaps too pragmatic step that you can say, ‘We’ll just take whatever money from whatever source in whatever amount.’ But once you do that, I think you cross a line where people do not feel that the party is really theirs.”

President Barack Obama banned lobbyist contributions to the Democratic National Committee after winning the 2008 election, but the then DNC Chair, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) quietly lifted the ban during Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential run. In a December interview with HuffPost, Ellison’s chief rival for Wasserman Schultz’s successor, Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, refused to rule out lobbyist donations.

“I think we have to have everything on the table,” Perez said. “We have to have a conversation where we bring in all the stakeholders and say, ‘What is the vision of the Democratic Party?'”

Candidates and Campaigns

Madison Capital Times: One person, one algorithm, one vote: Campaigns are doing more with data, for better or worse

By Katelyn Ferral

Two months after an election where political campaigns were blamed or credited for relying on voter data to an unprecedented degree, Kim, a professor and researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication, is studying how campaigns used that data in Wisconsin and across the country…

Micro-targeting is the practice of narrowing down large pools of voters to smaller ones that campaigns believe are most likely to be persuaded to support their candidate. The approach, along with sophisticated mathematical models based on large sets of voter data, enable campaigns to more precisely engage individual voters on specific issues that matter most to them.

It’s an aspect of campaigning that has grown over the last 15 years, with campaigns pouring more money into collecting and making sense of voter data each election cycle. According to Kim, campaign finance reports show that paid online ads by both parties in the last election cycle hit $1.1 billion, a nearly 5,000 percent increase from the $22.25 million spent on digital ads in 2008. The spending increase shows campaigns are relying more on technology and data to target voters online, she said.

The States

Tacoma News Tribune: State ordered to pay $121,000 for failed campaign-finance lawsuit involving local initiatives

By Sean Robinson

The state Attorney General’s Office owes more than $121,000 in attorney fees to a trio of public and private entities that challenged two local ballot measures last summer, but an appeal could be in the works.

A ruling entered last week in Pierce County Superior Court awards the bulk of the fees to the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber of Commerce ($60,458) and the Port of Tacoma ($53,934). An additional $7,000 goes to the Economic Development Board for Tacoma-Pierce County.

The decision by Judge Ronald Culpepper is the follow-up to an earlier ruling that found the three entities did not violate state campaign-finance laws when they challenged the validity of ballot measures filed by Save Tacoma Water last year.

Seattle King 5 News: Seattle Democracy Vouchers in the mail

By Natalie Brand

Vouchers cannot be transferred, or sold, and they can only be assigned to qualified candidates who opt into the program.

The Seattle Ethics and Elections Commissions says it’s currently working with the Public Disclosure Commission to clarify rules on whether politically active groups can “bundle,” or collect vouchers from their members.

In its first year, the vouchers will apply only to the two at-large city council races, along with the city attorney’s race…

Candidates have until June to sign up for the public campaign finance option. To qualify, they need to collect a minimum number of signatures from supporters, as well as agree to lower campaign contribution limits.  

Mississippi Daily Journal: Campaign finance high on agenda for session

By Bobby Harrison

Legislators, stinging from criticism they received during the 2016 session for their inability to pass campaign finance reform, no doubt will place a priority on the issue during the 2017 session, starting at noon today.

Both Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, who presides over the Senate, and House Speaker Philip Gunn said in separate, recent interviews that passing legislation dealing with campaign finance will be a top priority…

Reeves said he is in favor of unlimited contributions as long as the receipt and the expenditure of the funds are fully reported and available to the public. In addition, he said people running for office must understand that thoroughly filling out campaign finance reports – as prescribed by law – is not an option. In many instances, some of the information is not placed on the reports, such as the occupation of the campaign contributor.

“We have to do a better job with disclosure,” he said.  

Los Angeles Times: The money race is well underway for California’s 2018 campaign for governor

By Phil Willon

California’s 2018 race for governor may still be in its infancy, but the competition for campaign donations is well underway.

Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who launched his bid in January 2015 , on Tuesday announced he raised $2.7 million during the second half of 2016. Newsom also reported having $11.5 million cash on hand, which includes money socked away in his old campaign account for lieutenant governor.

Not to be outdone, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Tuesday tweeted out his fundraising totals . The Democrat said he has raised $2.7 million for his gubernatorial campaign since he jumped into the race on Nov. 10 .

State Treasurer John Chiang, also a Democrat, reports he raised $1.93 million in the second half of 2016. Chiang launched his bid for governor in May , and his campaign said it has $7 million on hand – including money left in his campaign account for treasurer.

Alex Baiocco

Alex Baiocco


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