Daily Media Links 2/13: Your 2012 flashback: Did the Bain Capital ads really matter?, The FEC Hearing and Its Detractors, and more…

February 13, 2015   •  By Scott Blackburn   •  
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Las Vegas Review Journal: No magic words, no problem!

By Steve Sebelius
The majority — comprised of Chief Justice James Hardesty and Justices Ron Parraguirre, Michael Cherry, Mark Gibbons and Kristina Pickering — agreed. “Nevertheless, the Legislature did not discuss [in 1997, when the law was originally written] either the magic words or the contextual approach in any depth,” the majority wrote. “Thus, we cannot conclude from the legislative history that the Legislature intended ‘advocate expressly’ to include communications that lack magic words.”
In 2011, however, the law was amended to say that either fliers with magic words or those without such words but that nonetheless are subject to no other reasonable interpretation but that they are expressly advocating the election or defeat of a candidate are subject to disclosure. And while the state argued that amendment established the 1997’s Legislature’s intent to include fliers with both magic words and those without, the court determined that at best, the issue wasn’t clear.
“Perhaps the 1997 Legislature intended express advocacy to include more communications than those that contain magic words, but this intent was not clear — from either the language of NRS 294A.004(2) (2009) or its legislative history — when Citizen Outreach distributed its fliers,” the majority wrote.
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Sunlight Foundation: FEC hearing shows little consensus on regulating political money 
By Peter Olsen-Phillips
Brad Smith, a former FEC commissioner now at the Center for Competitive Politics, saw no need to add to the existing regulatory framework. He told attendees that there are currently more campaign regulations on the books than at any time previously, noting that the rules on disclosure alone “are longer than Plato’s Republic.” 
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Amending the First Amendment
Richmond Times-Dispatch: The constitution: Wrongage 
The other day President Obama said he would “love” to see a constitutional amendment to roll back the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United. This isn’t surprising, given how badly he misunderstands it.
Obama, who once lectured on constitutional law, repeatedly has said the ruling lets foreign corporations spend unlimited sums to sway U.S. elections. This is simply false. The ruling did nothing to overturn the longstanding ban on foreign nationals making either direct campaign donations or independent expenditures of any kind to influence a U.S. election. The law defines a foreign national as foreign individuals, groups, governments — or corporations.
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Independent Groups
The Hill: In support of Citizens United, against targeting political speech 
By Christopher C. Horner
This delay, denial and stonewalling of perceived political opponents recalled the president’s desire to “punish our enemies and…reward our friends” (the EPA’s Inspector General, asked by Congress to look into the matter, responded by avoiding the specific charges levied). 
Politicians at the state level joined the fray. In Wisconsin, liberal prosecutors used some rather indefensible legal theories to prevent conservative donors and groups from assisting Governor Scott Walker’s (R) reelection campaign. In California, Attorney General Kamala Harris (D) demanded that a conservative group, Americans for Prosperity Foundation, disclose its donors to the state—information which then surely would have been leaked to the group’s opponents, as the Internal Revenue Service did in another case. 
That same IRS perpetrated the most invidious attacks against unwanted political speech, openly encouraged by Senate Democrats. In May 2013, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration found that the IRS had singled out Tea Party groups and other government critics for further review solely because of “their names or policy positions.” In June 2014, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee concluded that this targeting was triggered by the agency’s fears that the Citizens United decision would strengthen conservative and free market groups. 
The common theme here is a concerted effort to prevent conservative nonprofits from politically challenging the left.
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Washington Post: Your 2012 flashback: Did the Bain Capital ads really matter?  
By John Sides
There is an empirical question here: Did the ads sponsored by the pro-Obama super-PAC Priorities Action USA actually shape the views of voters and the election outcome?  During the 2012 campaign, some commentators were completely certain that these ads mattered.
Focus groups, contra Robert Draper’s tweet, will not give us much purchase on this question.  People are not good at reporting what actually influences their decisions.  The fact that a small group of Ohio voters could remember the “coffin” ad (which was actually known as “Stage”) does not tell us  that this ad mattered.  Even if Ohio voters had said it was the most powerful piece of television that had ever seen in their lives, this would not constitute good evidence that the ad actually mattered.
In The Gamble, Lynn Vavreck and I investigated the effect of the advertising in the 2012 presidential election and in particular attacks on Mitt Romney’s time at Bain Capital (see also our  here, here and here).  Here is what we found:
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Politico: David Axelrod: ‘Podesta has to get control of the Clinton operation’   
The infighting is fodder for mocking. During an event in New Hampshire on Wednesday, Democratic strategist James Carville joked that he had some “breaking news” regarding a diplomatic breakthrough.
Carville said Secretary of State John Kerry “has just announced a cease-fire between Hillary’s ‘super PACs,’” The New York Times reported.
Washington Post: Va. man pleads guilty to coordinating campaign contributions  
By Matt Zapotosky
Harber admitted as part of his plea that he founded a PAC and arranged for it to buy $325,000 in ads from a particular vendor to help Perkins’s campaign. He also admitted asking a major donor to give to his PAC once that donor had given the maximum in contributions to Perkins’s political committee.
Prosecutors, Harber and his defense attorneys did not name in court the candidate for which Harber worked, the PAC he founded or the vendor from which he bought ads, though they described the scheme with precise figures and dates and specified the congressional race. 
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The Daily Caller: FEC Democrat Opposed Republican’s Appeal But Supported Democrats’  
By Chuck Ross
“I think it is a bad sign of how certain Democratic commissioners are starting to act on a partisan basis, something that is very damaging to the FEC,” von Spakovsky told The Daily Caller.
“The commissioners have always enforced the law equally against both Republican and Democratic candidates on a nonpartisan basis,” continued von Spakovsky.
“Unfortunately, these votes by Commissioner Weintraub, with the concurrence of Chairwoman Ann Ravel in the latest vote on Boxer and McCaskill, show that they are now acting in a partisan manner in enforcement, which will completely destroy the credibility and effectiveness of the agency if they continue their behavior.”
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Townhall: Feds Hope to Regulate Political Speech on the Internet  
By Michael Schaus 
So who are we really talking about regulating here? The guy that rants into his computer camera and posts it on YouTube? The casual blogger? I mean, by the very fact that we’re discussing nonpaid content, I’m assuming these are mostly people without the Koch brother’s fortune to blow on an election. (And, by the way, those evil Kochs don’t even make it into the top 20 list of America’s biggest-spending political donors.)
What part of “free” speech seems so impossible for our Democrat friends in the FEC to understand? Or are Democrats simply adapting their Second Amendment objections to the First? “It’s an antiquated amendment,” they say. “Our founding fathers never could have imagined the technology we have today!”… Sure. But in their day, the musket was an assault weapon, and pamphlets were viral communication. And just as pamphleteers objected to King George’s “Stamp Act”, bloggers, columnists, and online content producers should probably worry about the FEC’s plan to monitor online political speech. 
Disclosure in political spending is a fine goal, but there still has to be such a thing as speech that is unmonitored, unregulated, and intrinsically “free”. After all, the First Amendment doesn’t protect our right to speak under the condition that we obtain prior approval and comply with ongoing regulatory schemes. (Somehow I don’t see folks like Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, or Ben Franklin really getting on board with that kind of government oversight of political discourse.)
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More Soft Money Hard Law: The FEC Hearing and Its Detractors
By Bob Bauer
It seem unfair that just holding a hearing subjects the FEC to criticism and ridicule. The agency was acted entirely reasonably in inviting views on what it might do, if anything, in response to the McCutcheon case.  So what followed was predictable: the usual strong divisions were expressed and anyone hoping for a clear picture of the problems of campaign finance and how to address them was bound to be disappointed.  The FEC is not the culprit here: it only hosted the discussion and is not responsible for its content. It was a hearing.
And while additional ridicule has come the agency’s way for inviting public comment, some of which was colorfully off-point, that, too, is no crime: why not give members of the public a chance to come and say what they will about money in politics? Critics cannot have it both ways, complaining one minute that campaign finance is an insider’s game and the public is shut out of it, and then mocking the expression of public sentiment when it is provided for.  Not all of the commentary, as reported, was uninformative.
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Kochs Obsession
Politico: Liberals’ secret Koch strategy  
By Tarini Parti
There was only one problem: Pro-Democratic outside groups representing some of the same interests spent millions in 2014 trying to draw attention to the Kochs — and lost almost every election in which they intervened. But with a more collaborative and thorough approach this time around, outside groups and party leaders are hoping that their anti-Koch strategy will move voters in 2016.
At the meeting Tuesday evening, representatives from groups such as AFL-CIO, Center for American Progress, Americans for Responsible Solutions, Correct the Record and Planned Parenthood heard from experts including Paul Tencher — who served as campaign manager for now-Sen. Gary Peters — and Guy Molyneux of Hart Research, who presented polling data showing that direct attacks on the Koch brothers could be effective.
Facing criticism from some within the party after millions of dollars spent on anti-Koch ads yielded few wins, Democrats have repeatedly used Peters’ 2014 race in Michigan as the prime example of how their Koch messaging can be successful.
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Candidates, Politicians, Campaigns, and Parties

Lexington Herald Leader: Rand Paul asks Kentucky GOP leaders for a presidential caucus in 2016 
By Sam Youngman
Kentucky law prevents a candidate from appearing on the same ballot twice, and Paul and his allies have endeavored for more than a year to either change the law or find a loophole that would allow him to run for the White House and re-election to his U.S. Senate seat at the same time next year.
Paul’s supporters also maintain that the law is unconstitutional, suggesting that it could be challenged in federal court.
Despite published reports to the contrary, Paul wrote that “this idea did not originate with me, or even in this current cycle.”
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Scott Blackburn


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