In the News
Stanford PACS: The Election Reform Agenda – Part 4: Campaign Finance
Webinar: February 9th, 2021 – 12:00 pm to 1:15 pm
What exactly is included in H.R. 1 and what are the arguments of its supporters and detractors? Join us for a deep dive into four components of this historic legislation. Each panel brings together advocates, critics, and academics to describe the specific reforms under consideration…
Nate Persily, Co-Director of the Program on Democracy and Internet at Stanford PACS and the Stanford-MIT Healthy Elections Project
Didi Kuo, Associate Director for Research, Center on Democracy, Development and Rule of Law at Stanford University
- Bradley Smith – Josiah H. Blackmore II/Shirley M. Nault Professor of Law, Capital University Law School
- Richard Pildes – Sudler Family Professor of Constitutional Law, New York University School of Law
- Meredith McGehee – Executive Director, Issue One
- Alex Kaplan – Vice President of Policy & Campaigns, RepresentUs
- Adav Noti – Senior Director of Trial Litigation & Chief of Staff, Campaign Legal Center
By Jack Fowler
There’s more projection in Washington than in a chain of movie theaters. An excellent example of this is the Left’s relentless attack on “dark money,” cast as a distinctly conservative poison polluting American politics. So goes the hooey.
Just what it is, how much of it there is, who gets the bulk of the dark dough, and whether there is an approaching day of ruing for Democrats and their cash-flush “philanthropy” sidekicks, such as Arabella Advisors and the Tides Foundation – the Left’s superlative hypocrisy on the issue is matched by that of a supportive, echo-chamber media – are questions prompted by the legislation deemed so important, so vital and urgent, it gets the distinction of being numbered H.R. 1. The bill’s formal title is the “For the People Act of 2021” (we might suggest the “For the People Who Are Not Conservatives Act”), and it is sponsored by John Sarbanes (D., Md.). The Senate version’s sponsor is Jeff Merkley, the Oregon Democrat to the left of whom is the Pacific Ocean.
The legislation states that its mission is “to expand Americans’ access to the ballot box, reduce the influence of big money in politics, strengthen ethics rules for public servants, and implement other anti-corruption measures for the purpose of fortifying our democracy, and for other purposes.”
Yes, and unicorns are real.
By Vera Eidelman and Shreya Tewari
“Take to the streets.” These words have always held a special significance when it comes to exercising our right to protest. Throughout our history, generation after generation of activists, people, and communities have taken to our nation’s public streets to make their voices heard and to protest for their rights.
But, too often, the government still tries to shut down public protests and silence our voices through violence and oppression.
Indigenous-led protests have been frequent and special targets of these suppression tactics…
Recently, Indigenous protesters have had to deal with yet another government attempt to silence their voices. The government is trying to get rid of a lawsuit brought by four Standing Rock protesters and water protectors by relying on a troubling – and incorrect – argument: that some public streets, including rural streets, don’t belong to the community.
As we argued in a friend-of-the-court brief filed earlier this week, the government’s argument ignores the history of protest in our country, and it misunderstands our First Amendment rights. Our right to protest in the street is essential, and it shouldn’t depend on the location or other characteristics of the specific road we choose.
By Nicholas Fandos, Michael S. Schmidt, and Maggie Haberman
Claims by former President Donald J. Trump’s lawyers that his conduct around the Jan. 6 Capitol riot is shielded by the First Amendment are “legally frivolous” and should do nothing to stop the Senate from convicting him in his impeachment trial, 144 leading First Amendment lawyers and constitutional scholars from across the political spectrum wrote in a letter circulated on Friday.
Taking aim at one of the key planks of Mr. Trump’s defense, the lawyers argued that the constitutional protections do not apply to an impeachment proceeding, were never meant to protect conduct like Mr. Trump’s anyway and would most likely fail to shield him even in a criminal court…
Among the lawyers, scholars and litigants who signed the letter, a copy of which was shared with The New York Times, were Floyd Abrams, who has fought marquee First Amendment cases in court; Steven G. Calabresi, a founder of the conservative Federalist Society; Charles Fried, a solicitor general under President Ronald Reagan; and pre-eminent constitutional law scholars like Laurence Tribe, Richard Primus and Martha L. Minow.
New York Times: They Stormed the Capitol. Their Apps Tracked Them.
By Charlie Warzel and Stuart A. Thompson
A source has provided another data set, this time following the smartphones of thousands of Trump supporters, rioters and passers-by in Washington, D.C., on January 6, as Donald Trump’s political rally turned into a violent insurrection. At least five people died because of the riot at the Capitol. Key to bringing the mob to justice has been the event’s digital detritus: location data, geotagged photos, facial recognition, surveillance cameras and crowdsourcing.
The sacking of the Capitol was a shocking assault on the republic and an unwelcome reminder of the fragility of American democracy. But history reminds us that sudden events – Pearl Harbor, the Soviet Union testing an atomic bomb, the Sept. 11 attacks – have led to an overreach in favor of collective security over individual liberty that we’d later regret. And more generally, the data collected on Jan. 6 is a demonstration of the looming threat to our liberties posed by a surveillance economy that monetizes the movements of the righteous and the wicked alike…
While there were no names or phone numbers in the data, we were once again able to connect dozens of devices to their owners, tying anonymous locations back to names, home addresses, social networks and phone numbers of people in attendance. In one instance, three members of a single family were tracked in the data.
Online Speech Platforms
By Emily Birnbaum and Issie Lapowsky
Three top Democratic senators added to the stack of proposed Section 230 reforms Friday, introducing their own bill that creates narrow carve-outs for a range of online harms, dramatically limits the scope of behaviors that Section 230 covers and takes aim at illicit activity that online platforms directly profit from.
The so-called SAFE TECH Act was introduced Friday by Sens. Mark Warner, Mazie Hirono and Amy Klobuchar. Under the bill, online platforms would not be able to claim Section 230 immunity for alleged violations of federal or state civil rights laws, antitrust laws, cyberstalking laws, human rights laws or civil actions regarding a wrongful death. The law would strip companies of immunity for any speech they were paid to carry, such as ads or marketplace listings, and it would make clear that Section 230 does not shield companies from complying with court orders.
In addition to the specific carve-outs it includes, the SAFE TECH Act attempts to limit Section 230 more broadly, so that it would be applied only to actual speech, not all bad behavior online: for example, illegal gun sales. To achieve this, the bill makes a subtle but meaningful tweak to the part of the law that’s often referred to as the “26 words that created the internet.”
Law & Liberty: Can a Classical Liberal Support Big Tech Regulation?
By Mike Rappaport
Recently, big tech-Facebook, Twitter, Google, Apple, and Amazon-have become even more aggressive at eliminating conservatives from their platforms and services. While some people have criticized these actions as a violation of freedom of speech, the common defense is that these are private companies and freedom of speech only restricts the government. To a classical liberal like me, this is a strong argument. But I now believe that classical liberalism allows the legislature to prohibit many of the actions of big tech not as violations of freedom of speech but as impermissible discrimination exercised by those with quasi-monopoly power.
It is important to stress that my argument relates only to whether such a prohibition on discrimination is consistent with classical liberal principles, not whether it would be desirable policy.
Candidates and Campaigns
By Robyn Sidersky
After making a promise in 2018 to not use money from corporate political action committees, U.S. Rep. Elaine Luria has changed her mind.
Luria, a Democrat who lives in Norfolk, ended her 2020 campaign owing more than she had in her campaign account and accepted more than $30,000 from corporate PACs at the end of 2020, according to CQ Roll Call, which first reported Luria’s reversal…
When asked why Luria changed her mind, [Luria’s campaign manager] Kate Fegley wrote, “We’ve always taken ideological PAC money, association PAC money, and labor PAC money. All of our reports show that. The new element is corporate employee pooled money. All these PAC funds come from individual small dollar contributions from employees.”
Campaigns make the distinction of “corporate employee-funded PACs” and “corporate PACs” because when someone says “corporate PAC,” folks think big business money, Fegley said…
“After serving her first term, Congresswoman Luria learned more about the issue from her constituents and made the decision to accept corporate employee pooled PAC contributions, as they are an important way for the average person to be involved in the political process,” Fegley wrote.
By Nicholas Reimann
Fundraising numbers filed with the Federal Election Commission have confirmed what was long suspected: the pivotal Georgia Senate runoffs that swung control of the Senate shattered records for how expensive they were, with the race between Jon Ossoff and David Perdue coming in as the costliest of all-time and the Raphael Warnock-Kelly Loeffler race following close behind.
The Ossoff campaign raised $162.6 million in its successful challenge of incumbent Sen. David Perdue-by far the most money of any congressional candidate ever.
Warnock placed second with $147.1 million, still enough to be ahead of the candidate who had only recently set the old fundraising record, South Carolina Democrat Jaime Harrison, whose campaign racked up $130.2 million in its unsuccessful 2020 challenge of Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).
The Ossoff-Perdue race was the most expensive in history, with Perdue raising around $103 million for a combined total of $265.5 million raised between the two candidates.
The Warnock-Loeffler race wound up as the third most expensive of all-time, behind the Graham-Harrison race, after Loeffler raised $92.2 million for a combined amount in that race of $239.3 million.
Courthouse News: NC High Court: Lt. Governor Can Sue Over Political Ad
By Erika Williams
Former North Carolina Lt. Governor Dan Forest can sue over a 2012 political ad that favored his Democratic opponent, the state’s Supreme Court ruled on Friday.
In 2012, a political action committee for the State Employees Association of North Carolina placed television advertisements supporting Linda Coleman, a Democratic candidate who narrowly lost the lieutenant gubernatorial election to Forest later that year.
According to a complaint filed by Forest’s election committee, the Employees Political Action Committee (EMPAC) did not include proper disclosures when it ran one of these advertisements.
Democratic Associate Justice Robin Hudson wrote Friday’s 91-page opinion, which affirmed a divided appeals court decision that allowed Forest to proceed with the lawsuit in 2018.
Forest says EMPAC owes $78,000 in damages – the proximate cost of running the ad – because it failed to follow the state’s “stand by your ad” statute, which has since been repealed.
The statute passed by the General Assembly in 1999 allowed candidates to sue their opponents for violating disclosure rules. Among those rules was a requirement for televised political ads to include a photograph of the sponsor’s CEO or treasurer with a spoken statement from that person.
Forest’s complaint states that the photo included in EMPAC’s ad was not a full-screen picture as then required by law. Additionally, the image depicted Dana Cope, who did not hold either of the required jobs.
By Nikita Biryukov
State Sen. Nicholas Scutari on Thursday introduced a bill that would completely overhaul the state’s campaign finance disclosures, eliminating quarterly reports and requiring candidates, municipal committees and PACs to report fundraising in spending in near real time.
“It’s the beginning of a discussion as far as I’m concerned to change our campaign finance laws so that there is full disclosure,” Scutari said. “And I think that’s the direction we should be moving in.”
The measure would remove contribution limits for those groups and require they report any donations over $200 and all spending within 72 hours.
Currently, candidates and various types of political committees report campaign finance figures once a quarter, with additional disclosures due in the days before and after a given election.
By Tim Craig
When local Black Lives Matter activists started marching through the small, coastal town of New Port Richey, Fla., last summer – shouting slogans and demanding racial justice – it took only a few days for the Proud Boys and other counterprotesters to show up and confront them…
Amid fears that the confrontations could lead to clashes or shootings, police started enforcing the town’s rarely used noise ordinance, which essentially forbids disturbances louder than a close conversation between two people. But only the Black Lives Matter protesters were cited…
After months of public outrage and accusations of discrimination over the disparate penalties, New Port Richey police dropped the citations against Boneta and six other Black Lives Matter demonstrators in early January. But not before the Tampa suburb became another front in the national debate over whether authorities treat left-wing protesters too harshly while cozying up to far-right extremists.
That discussion has turned particularly intense in Florida, where Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and other GOP leaders are pushing for a sweeping state bill to crack down on disruptive protests, creating new classes of crimes that include up to 15 years in jail if police declare that nine or more people have participated in a riot…
Similar legislation has proliferated through statehouses around the country in recent years in response to racial justice demonstrations. At least 28 states considered bills that created new or harsher penalties for protesters last year, according to the International Center for Not-For-Profit Law, a global organization focused on laws affecting civic freedom.
By Luke Ramseth
Mississippi lawmakers advanced legislation this week that would make it easier to find out who is donating campaign money to your mayor or county supervisor.
House Bill 718 would let the public search online for the campaign finance reports of local elected officials and candidates. As it stands now, those reports must be requested in-person from the county or city clerk, who may charge a fee to make copies…
The bill unanimously passed the House on Thursday with little discussion. It now heads to the Senate.
The bill’s author, Rep. Timmy Ladner, R-Poplarville, said the measure is all about government transparency and accountability.
“I mean, it’s a public record,” Ladner told the Daily Journal. “Why not give the public access to it?”