In the News
RTÉ (States of Mind podcast): Listen: For the Love of Money
By Jackie Fox
The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the landscape of the US Elections in more ways than one…
Without massive fundraising events, gala dinners and the opportunity to schmooze with those who have deep pockets – campaigns are having to get creative so they can fill cheque books.
In this week’s ‘States of Mind’ podcast, Brian and Jackie look at the ways and means of campaign fundraising from small donors to powerful Super PACs, and where the money goes.
Sarah Bryner from America’s premier research group for tracking money in politics, The Centre for Responsive Politics, discusses the type of money which is the most important to raise while former chair of the US Federal Election Commission, Prof. Bradley Smith argues that Super PACs should never change.
To listen on iTunes click here.
To listen on Spotify click here.
SCOTUSblog: Wednesday round-up
By Edith Roberts
This morning the justices have two cases on their telephonic-argument agenda…
Today’s second argument is in Barr v. American Association of Political Consultants, a First Amendment challenge to a federal law banning robocalls. Amanda Shanor had this blog‘s preview. Angela Shin Wei Ting and Grant Shillington preview the case for Cornell. At Bloomberg Law, Jon Reid reports that the case asks “whether automatic phone calls for government debt collection should be exempt from an anti-robocall law,” and that “[b]usinesses are hopeful the court will invalidate the law’s exemption for the debt calls-and then strike down the entire anti-robocall statute as unconstitutional.”
[Editor’s Note: The Institute for Free Speech filed an amicus brief in this case in support of the American Association of Political Consultants.]
By Garrett Epps
Today, advocates for “free speech” will offer a good way for the Court to become the least popular institution in America: by making it decide that Americans have to live with unsolicited, repeated prerecorded calls-so-called robocalls-to their cellphones.
That’s the opportunity presented by Barr v. American Association of Political Consultants, a First Amendment challenge to a federal law that forbids anyone from calling a cellphone to transmit a recorded message…
They are enough of a nuisance that I don’t answer my cellphone anymore if I don’t recognize the number. They are also forbidden under a law called the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), passed in 1991. But the plaintiffs in this case-a professional organization of political managers, strategists, and pollsters-are asking the Court for it to be otherwise, to invalidate the TCPA’s robocall prohibition. If they prevail, it will be open season on your cellphone, courtesy of your Supreme Court…
Does the First Amendment protect this intrusive technology, which is, in many ways, tailor-made for large-scale fraud?
Florida Daily: Greg Steube Takes Aim at Ilhan Omar With New Bill
By Kevin Derby
U.S. Rep. Greg Steube, R-Fla., is taking aim at U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., with a new proposal.
Last week, Steube introduced the “Obstructing Monetary Allocations to Relatives (OMAR) Act” which, the congressman’s office noted, “would prohibit a candidate for election to a federal office from using campaign funds to pay any vendor controlled by an immediate family member.” …
“Currently, the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) states that candidates cannot use campaign funds for personal gain. This legislation closes a loophole and ensures FEC standards are kept,” Steube’s office noted.
The bill was sent to the U.S. House Committee on House Administration on Friday. So far, there are no cosponsors and no companion bill over in the U.S. Senate.
Wall Street Journal: Judicial Code of Misconduct
By The Editorial Board
Here’s one for the books: The ethics committee that wants to bar judges from belonging to the Federalist Society because it is supposedly too political is now being used as a political weapon against a judicial nominee.
Let’s unspool the political skulduggery. In January we told you about the draft advisory opinion by the Committee on Codes of Conduct of the U.S. Judicial Conference. The committee, composed of 15 or so judges, sets ethical guidelines for the judiciary. The committee had circulated a draft that reversed decades of policy by saying judges shouldn’t belong to the Federalist Society or American Constitution Society (ACS).
The draft offered a phony political balance because the Federalist Society leans right and ACS was created as a liberal counter to the Federalist Society. But the ACS plays an active role in political issues while the Federalist Society avoids taking sides on policy and doesn’t file amicus briefs. The Federalist Society is composed of chapters, notably at law schools, that host debates and panels on legal issues that often include giants of the legal left.
Wall Street Journal: Disinfecting Journalistic Ethics
By Holman W. Jenkins, Jr.
I finally read the lengthy transcript of President Trump’s April 23 press conference but it turned out to be unnecessary. Under the heading of “If your time is short,” the Poynter Institute’s PolitiFact website kindly summarized: “The briefing transcript shows that Trump did not say people should inject themselves with bleach or alcohol to treat the coronavirus. He was asking officials on the White House coronavirus task force whether they could be used in potential cures.”
It was a reporter in the audience who asked an accompanying official: “The President mentioned the idea of cleaners, like bleach and isopropyl alcohol you mentioned. There’s no scenario that that could be injected into a person, is there?”
No, was the answer, but the question was apparently enough for a few dozen common-run-of-humanity journalists to create a 99% fake story, and it’s not hard to guess why: clicks and page views; cable channels whose business model depends on a steady flow of contempt for Mr. Trump and his voters.
By Emily Zanotti
Failed 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton will hit the ground running for her successor to the party’s nomination, headlining a major “virtual fundraiser” for former Vice President Joe Biden.
Attending the livecast won’t come cheap: to be listed as an event host, donors will have to fork over $100,000, even though the online chat won’t feature the typical dinner, speeches, or photo opportunities associated with high-dollar fundraisers…
There are less expensive slots available. “Donors can contribute funds at multiple levels,” according to The Hill, including some ‘limited availability’ seats at $2,800,” the cutoff for an individual donation to a single presidential candidate under Federal Election Commission rules. Most seats, though, cost far more…
Biden can, technically, raise upwards of $300,000 per person thanks to a deal inked with the DNC sometime last month. According to the provisions – which are similar to those in an agreement President Donald Trump has with the Republican National Committee – as long as Biden is willing to split fundraiser proceeds with his party’s committee, the limit on individual gifts can be significantly higher than the FEC’s $2,800 cap…
The Clinton event seems particularly egregious, given that it comes at a time where nearly 30 million Americans are unemployed, and nearly half have felt some financial impact of the coronavirus lockdowns.
Candidates and Campaigns
By Roger Sollenberger
The Trump campaign has not returned an illegal donation it received from a foreign national in 2019, records from the Federal Election Commission (FEC) show. It is the campaign’s only known illegal foreign contribution.
Rabia Kazan, a Turkish writer and author living in the U.S. on a student visa, made a $2,800 campaign donation in exchange for access to a March 2019 event at Mar-a-Lago featuring the president. The contribution was first reported this February in BuzzFeed News.
But FEC records show that the campaign has not yet disgorged that money, as required by law.
“This is actually one of the rare areas where election law is quite clear,” Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, professor of election law at Stetson University, told BuzzFeed when asked about Kazan’s contribution.
“Unless you’ve got a green card, foreign nationals can’t give money to campaigns, and campaigns can’t accept that money,” she added.
Rick Hasen, an election law expert at the University of California – Irvine, pointed out that it could be difficult to meet the legal bar of “willful intent” on behalf of either the donor or the recipient. But the Trump campaign has been aware of Kazan’s status for more than two months.
By Pamela Wood
The Maryland state government is poised to pay $400,000 to several newspapers to settle a lawsuit challenging a law that would have required the papers to collect and share information about political advertisers.
The settlement will be before the state’s Board of Public Works for its meeting Wednesday at 10am.
The Baltimore Sun, several other newspapers and the region’s press association sued in 2018 to block a law passed earlier that year that required companies that are paid to run online campaign ads to collect information about the advertisers and turn it over to state elections officials.
The goal was to prevent foreign interference in elections, following evidence of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election…
The newspapers argued that while the goal may be compelling, the law was overly broad, put a burden on Maryland companies and infringed on free speech and other Constitutional rights…
Gov. Larry Hogan allowed it to become law without his signature in 2018 and noted that he expected a legal challenge…
The newspapers filed suit in federal court August 2018 and won a preliminary injunction in January 2019 that prevented the state from enforcing key parts of the law.
The state appealed, but a three-judge panel in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upheld the injunction last December.
[Editor’s note: The Institute for Free Speech filed an amicus brief in support of the newspapers in the case, The Washington Post, et al. v. McManus.]
Portland Tribune: Fight over Wheeler’s contributions to last beyond election
By Jim Redden
The fight over whether Mayor Ted Wheeler’s reelection campaign should have accepted contributions above $500 likely will last beyond the May 19 primary election.
Portland voters approved the limit in 2018. But a Multnomah County Circuit Court judge subsequently declared the limit unconstitutional, based on his reasoning in a legal challenge to a similar limit approved by Multnomah County voters in 2016.
Wheeler’s campaign continued accepting contributions above $500 after the ruling. So did a number of other candidates for City Council seats in the primary election. But the Oregon Supreme Court upheld the county limit on Thursday, April 23, prompting mayoral challenger Sarah Iannarone and others to file a lawsuit seeking to prohibit Wheeler’s campaign from spending the contributions over the limit they call “illegal.”
A Multnomah County Circuit Court judge refused to prohibit the spending on Friday, May 1, ruling that Wheeler’s campaign was justified in relying on the previous ruling.
Dan Meek, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said they now will seek a preliminary injunction to prevent Wheeler from spending the contributions above $500.
By Talia Richman
A nonprofit advocacy group has filed an ethics complaint with the Maryland elections board, alleging campaign finance violations by a super PAC that is backing Baltimore mayoral candidate Mary Miller.
The Citizens for Ethical Progressive Leadership PAC was established April 30, state records show, and is supporting Miller, a former U.S. Treasury official and T. Rowe Price executive.
The group recently circulated a memo describing a poll by Garin-Hart-Yang Research Group of 500 likely Democratic primary voters, conducted April 13-16.
Progressive Maryland, which endorsed City Council President Brandon Scott in the June 2 mayoral primary, filed a complaint Monday saying the date of the poll signaled a campaign finance violation.
“The failure of the super PAC, its chairperson and treasurer to register with the Board of Elections until two weeks after it had apparently expended funds is a clear violation of the Maryland election law finance filing requirements and regulations,” the complaint reads…
Martin G. Knott Jr., the super PAC’s treasurer, said he commissioned the poll to “understand the state of the race before going through the process of setting up a PAC and collecting money from people to support it.” When the numbers looked good for Miller, he proceeded.
He said the PAC tried to register April 22 with the state board, but ran into challenges related to closures caused by the coronavirus pandemic.