Daily Media Links 2/18

February 18, 2020   •  By Tiffany Donnelly   •  
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In the News

Bleeding Heartland: Am I a member of the media? Iowa Republican leaders still say no

By Laura Belin

A number of readers and some journalists have asked me recently whether I was able to resolve the credentialing problems I experienced last year.

The short answer is no. Despite being warned that their press credentialing policies “suffer from serious constitutional deficiencies,” leaders in the Iowa House and Senate and… Gov. Kim Reynolds’ [staff] continue to deny me access to resources they provide to most other reporters who cover state government…

David Keating, president of the Washington-based Institute for Free Speech, had reached out to me after learning of my credentialing problems. That organization commissioned a legal memo about my situation, which Keating sent to the governor’s office and Iowa House and Senate leaders last April…

Since last spring, Pat Grassley replaced Linda Upmeyer as Iowa House speaker, and Meghan Nelson succeeded Boal as House chief clerk. When applying for credentials to cover the 2020 session, I attached a letter explaining why I met the terms of the House credentialing policy…

Commenting on the new denials, Keating of the Institute for Free Speech told the Associated Press last month, “If they have a policy, why aren’t they applying it? […] When I look at the policy, it looks like she would qualify.”

The Courts

Courthouse News: Judge Set to OK Bulk of San Francisco Political Ad Disclosure Rules

By Nicholas Iovino

Largely rejecting claims that an ad disclaimer law hinders political speech, a federal judge said Friday he will uphold the bulk of a San Francisco ordinance that requires political ads disclose top donors and secondary funding sources…

Proposition F, approved by 77% of San Francisco voters in November 2019, requires print, audio and video political ads disclose the top three donors who contributed at least $5,000. If one of those donors is a political action committee, that committee’s top two donors must also be disclosed.

Yes on Prop B, a committee sponsoring a ballot measure for a[n] earthquake safety and emergency response bond in San Francisco’s March 3 election, sued the city in January seeking a court order to block enforcement of the law…

Noting that the First Amendment has limits, Breyer cited Justice Oliver Wendel Holmes’ famous metaphor from the 1919 decision Schenck v. United States, which noted that shouting “fire” in a crowded theatre would not be permitted under the Constitution.

First Amendment

Spiked: ‘The ACLU would not take the Skokie case today’

By Tom Slater

[I]t was the civil-rights movement of the Sixties that gave the First Amendment the teeth it has today, says [former American Civil Liberties Union executive director Ira] Glasser: ‘The First Amendment had suffered in this country a lot during the McCarthy period, in the Fifties, with all the anti-Communist hysteria. A lot of bad decisions were issued from the Supreme Court.’

‘What revived the First Amendment, in the Sixties, legally, was the civil-rights movement’, he goes on. Challenges to clampdowns on civil-rights marches and demonstrations, he says, ‘created most of the good First Amendment law in the Sixties that resulted in protecting everybody else thereafter’.

The civil-rights leaders of that time recognised how important free speech was to their cause…

Freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, he says, were the lifeblood of the fight for racial justice: ‘The civil-rights leaders understood out of concrete experience that the first instrument of change they had available to them was demonstrating and marching and organising.’

But this idea, Glasser laments, is alien to a lot of young people today, who see the ‘First Amendment as an antagonist to social justice’. 

Section 230

Washington Post: Corporations are working with the Trump administration to control online speech

By Sen. Ron Wyden

Some of the biggest corporations in the United States are brawling over the future of the law that allows free speech and innovation to thrive online. Under the guise of getting rid of lies and protecting children, they’re working with the Trump administration and top Republicans to undermine Americans’ rights and give the government unprecedented control over online speech…

The fight is defined by an intensive lobbying effort by big legacy corporations such as Disney and IBM that are looking for an advantage against big tech companies such as Google and Facebook…

Whenever laws are passed to put the government in control of speech, the people who get hurt are the least powerful in society…

If Congress somehow were to amend the First Amendment and ban hate speech from the Internet, I see no reason to believe President Trump and Attorney General William P. Barr would use that authority to protect LGBTQ activists or female journalists or African American civil rights leaders…

There are plenty of things Congress can do to hold Big Tech accountable. I’d start with passing a strong privacy law, such as my Mind Your Own Business Act, which includes tough enforcement provisions for tech executives, including the possibility of jail.

The Federalist: Here’s A Small-Government Solution To Section 230’s Big Tech Problem

By Jon Schweppe and Craig Parshall

“Techlash” isn’t just limited to the right. A number of progressives have quietly suggested doing away with Section 230 altogether…

While the left and right become even more entrenched, and free enterprise devotees spar with free speech acolytes, there is an elegantly simple solution to this dilemma. We shouldn’t repeal Section 230, but we should certainly rewrite it.

Let’s start by clearly delineating between “platforms” and “publishers.” If a company wants to create an open forum or platform that adheres in good faith to a First Amendment standard of free speech and expression, they can do that. If they want to selectively edit and present a particular point of view and be a publisher, they are free to do that as well…

The major problem with Section 230 as currently written is that it denies a right of private action even to users who have a legitimate case that they have been wrongly censored or barred from participation in the digital public square.

Online Speech Platforms 

Politico: Bloomberg’s meme spree prompts changes in Facebook, Instagram rules

By Nancy Scola

From now on, Facebook and its Instagram subsidiary will allow “branded content” from political candidates – a practice in which a campaign pays so-called influencers to place supportive posts on their accounts. Previously, a Facebook spokesperson said, the platforms had banned such content…

Under the new rules, the content will have to be clearly marked as sponsored…

Candidates’ use of paid memes still falls in a gray area of federal election law…

A spokesperson for the Federal Election Commission told POLITICO that “commission regulations do not explicitly address social media influencers.”

“Public communications that expressly advocate the election or defeat of a candidate for federal office and placed on the Internet for a fee must include a disclaimer to inform that public of the identify that entity that paid for the communication,” said the spokesperson, who also alluded to the fact that three of the FEC’s six seats are vacant.

Candidates and Campaigns

Wall Street Journal: Bloomberg Buys the Democratic Elite

By Holman W. Jenkins, Jr.

If one news outlet had the manpower and mind-set to dig cynically into the many ways Mike Bloomberg is spending his money to become president, it would be Bloomberg News-if it weren’t owned by Mike Bloomberg…

When a recording leaked of Mr. Bloomberg defending stop-and-frisk in New York, Andre Fields of the liberal voting-rights group Fair Fight Action rushed out a tweet hitting him as a “true terrorist” but promptly deleted it. Fair Fight Action had received $5 million in funding from Mr. Bloomberg. Three members of the Congressional Black Caucus helped out with timely endorsements of a man who spent at least $90 million on House Democratic races in the last 19 months.

New York Times columnist Tom Friedman on Wednesday joined in with 1,500 words implying that other Democratic candidates should make way for Mr. Bloomberg. He ended his piece with a disclosure that his wife’s charity was supported with Bloomberg donations.

The States

Charleston Gazette-Mail: Legislature passes bill prohibiting state from identifying some nonprofit donors

By Lacie Pierson

The West Virginia House of Delegates on Thursday approved a bill that would prevent state government from releasing information about who makes donations to certain nonprofit organizations in the state.

The House approved Senate Bill 16, also called the “Protect Our Right to Unite Act,” in a 75-22 vote. Three delegates were absent. The bill unanimously passed the Senate with no debate Jan. 20…

Delegate Barbara Fleischauer, D-Monongalia, asked Judiciary Chairman John Shott, R-Mercer, whether different groups or company owners could use the law to bypass donation reporting requirements for certain political contributions…

Shott noted political candidates and campaigns aren’t affected by the bill, and would still have to report donations to the relevant entities…

Leaders with the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union last month expressed its support for the bill…

The bill advances to Gov. Jim Justice for his consideration.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Judge denies subpoenas in Abrams campaign finance case

By Mark Niesse

A judge ruled in favor of Democrat Stacey Abrams’ 2018 campaign for governor Friday, denying a request from the Georgia ethics commission for more documents in an attempt to find campaign finance violations.

In a one-page order, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Jane Barwick said she didn’t have jurisdiction to enforce subpoenas from the commission.

The decision came in a case where the state ethics commission is investigating an allegation that the Abrams campaign illegally coordinated with several nonprofit organizations that supported her run for governor against Rep. Brian Kemp.

Attorneys for the Abrams campaign told Barwick on Thursday that they had already turned over 4,000 documents showing checks, wire transfers, bank records and campaign transactions.

They said the ethics commission lacks evidence of wrongdoing, and now it’s trying to dig into personal emails and other documents unrelated to the allegations.

Wyoming Liberty Group: Senate File 20 and Wyoming’s Creep Toward Campaign Censorship

By Steve Klein

Campaign finance law has found its way into interim discussions at the Corporations & Elections committee of the Wyoming Legislature for the last four years. This followed a number of reforms enacted in 2015 that were suggested or supported by WyLiberty. Campaign finance was an officially designated topic for in legislative interims from 2016-2019, and produced some substantial changes to the law. But this year the topic slipped in via “Election Code revisions,” a diverse bill suggested by Secretary of State Ed Buchanan.

The changes to Wyoming campaign finance law over the last few years have been a mixed bag-again, some of the better ones thanks to our input. But about one page of Buchanan’s bill, what is now on pages 9-10 of Senate File 20 (2020) sponsored by the Corporations committee, is a potential harbinger of all that is wrong with campaign finance law.

West Dakota FOX: ND Dark Money Bill circulating

By Jacob Notermann

State Legislators received a bill draft that would eradicate dark money, and some say it would bring transparency to campaign finance laws.

The bill calls for political non-profits to list the names of their donors and the amounts given…

A bill draft by State Representative Karla Rose Hanson would force Super PACs to disclose who is giving them money…She added:

“This bill is really trying to prevent problems. I think there are certainly examples where 501c(4)’s have been used to influence voters’ decision making process. Whether it be for a candidate or an issue campaign like a ballot measure,” …

North Dakota already has disclosure laws for parties and campaigns. Hanson said these new laws would hold other political entities to similar standards…

This bill draft still has a long and difficult road ahead. The earliest it could be passed is during the next legislative session in 2021; after the 2020 election. The bill also has yet to be discussed by the state’s judiciary committee.

MassLive: Should Massachusetts politicians be allowed to use campaign funds to pay for child care? Commission takes closer look

By Steph Solis

The Office of Campaign and Political Finance does not consider child care an allowable campaign expense, but a November 2019 campaign finance law established a commission to study whether it would be feasible to change the law to pay for child and family care. The group has until June 1 to submit its recommendations to the Legislature.

Wednesday marked the first of our meetings for the commission, which includes lawmakers, an appointee from Common Cause and members of the commission for the status of women. Several said they agree child care should be coverable just like tuxedo rentals and other expenses incurred during political campaigned.

But they grappled with several questions that could shape what such a change in campaign finance law would look like. Could a candidate use political donations to cover expenses caring for a sick spouse or parent, or would the donations strictly cover child care? How long could a candidate expense child care for? Could a candidate use campaign funds to pay a relative or friend who provides those services? 

Pamplin Media: Suit seeks penalty for $73,000 donated to Portland mayor

By Zane Sparling

An elections advocate is suing Portland’s auditor – claiming she failed to enforce campaign finance limits approved by city voters in 2018.

In a lawsuit filed Feb. 13 in Multnomah County Circuit Court, plaintiff Ronald Buel points to $73,100 in allegedly over-the-limit contributions accepted by the re-election campaign of Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler. Whether such limits are constitutional, or even in effect, remains in contention…

The 25-page suit seeks to compel City Auditor Mary Hull Caballero to apply financial penalties to Wheeler’s campaign for breaking the donation limits. Wheeler had announced voluntary caps of $5,000 per individual, and $10,000 for unions and organizations, in November.

Houston Chronicle: Judge orders congressional candidate to stop making domestic violence claims about opponent

By Jasper Scherer

A state district judge this week barred Democratic congressional candidate Nyanza Moore from making domestic violence allegations against opponent Derrick Reed after the former Pearland councilman sued her for defamation.

Brazoria County Judge Patrick Sebesta on Wednesday issued a temporary restraining order after concluding that Reed would “suffer immediate and irreparable damage” to his integrity and reputation if Moore persisted with a series of social media posts implying that Reed “beats women.”

Politico: Massachusetts Playbook

By Stephanie Murray

On the issue of money in politics, Kennedy and Markey for months have disagreed over how to handle outside spending in the Senate primary, which could be one of the most expensive primaries in the country in 2020.

Kennedy is needling Markey again this morning, hours before they meet on the debate stage. Kennedy released a new video, first reported in Playbook, calling on Markey to sign a so-called People’s Pledge to limit outside spending in the Senate race before the debate begins. Markey was a proponent of the pledge when he first ran for Senate back in 2013…

Kennedy has pressed Markey to sign the pledge for months – he even held a signing ceremony with Liss-Riordan before she dropped out, which Markey declined to attend. Markey countered with a pledge that would allow groups deemed to be positive voices, like environmental or reproductive justice groups, to spend money on a candidate’s behalf.

“When we start coming up with carve outs for voices we like, it means that you create carve outs for voices you don’t. Massachusetts is better than that,” Kennedy says in the video. “I hope Sen. Markey will sign that pledge.”


Tiffany Donnelly

Tiffany Donnelly