Daily Media Links 3/13

March 13, 2020   •  By Tiffany Donnelly   •  
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In the News

City Journal: Voters Aren’t For Sale

By Bradley A. Smith

The political world is practically giddy at the failed campaigns of Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer. The Democratic primary’s billionaire candidates rediscovered an age-old truth: money can’t buy love.

It couldn’t buy love for Hillary Clinton, who nearly doubled Donald Trump’s spending in 2016 and had three times as many positive ads. Or for Jeb Bush’s wealthy backers in the Republican primary preceding that race. Or for self-funders from years past like Meg Whitman, Linda McMahon, and Steve Forbes. Money can help a campaign’s message get heard, but it doesn’t mean that listeners will like what they hear. Yet fears of campaign spending “buying” elections continue to drive our campaign-finance laws. The result is bad law and poor policy.

The Courts

Must Read Alaska: State workers sue union over forced union dues

By Suzanne Downing

Two Alaska state employees filed a lawsuit against the State of Alaska and the Alaska State Employees Association today for forcing them to pay union dues against their will…

In fall 2019, Alaska administration issued an order to ensure no government employee was forced to pay union dues against their will.

But within weeks, the matter was tied up in state court and the Administration’s efforts to defend workers’ First Amendment rights and to implement the Supreme Court’s Janus ruling were halted.

Linda Creed and Tyler Riberio brought their lawsuit with help from the Alaska Policy Forum and the Liberty Justice Center, the nonprofit law firm behind the 2018 U.S. Supreme Court case Janus v. AFSCME.

Law.com: Eighth Circuit Affirms Preliminary Injunction Against Enforcement of Arkansas ‘Blackout’ Periods for Campaign Contributions

By John M. Baker and Katherine M. Swenson

While much of the country has been focused on the upcoming November 2020 election, the Eighth Circuit issued an opinion affecting those who are looking even further ahead when it comes to elections and campaign contributions. Specifically, on Jan. 27, 2020, the court affirmed a preliminary injunction against enforcement of an Arkansas statute that prohibits campaign contributions from being made during a two-year “blackout” period well before an election. Jones v. Jegley, 947 F.3d 1100 (8th Cir. 2020).

The statute in question-§7-6-203(e) of the Arkansas Code-makes it illegal “for any candidate for public office, any person acting in the candidate’s behalf, or any exploratory committee to solicit or accept campaign contributions more than two (2) years before an election at which the candidate seeks nomination or election.” The statute was part of a package of amendments to Arkansas’ campaign-finance laws approved by popular vote in 1996.


Santa Fe Reporter: Legislators File for Office

By Julia Goldberg

US Sen. Tom Udall, D-NM, attempted for a second time yesterday to pass the For the People Act, a campaign finance reform bill that passed the House last year and has been languishing since. Udall and Jeff Merkley, D-OR, brought back the bill, which was co-sponsored by every Democrat in the Senate, and Republicans, as they did last year, rejected the effort. “At a time when dark money and foreign interference are threatening our elections, the For the People Act repairs our broken campaign finance system, opens up the ballot box to all Americans, and lays waste to the corruption in Washington,” Udall said in a statement that also takes aim at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who Udall says “needs to stop doing the bidding of the wealthy special interests.”


WhoWhatWhy: Despite Shattered FEC, One Commissioner Is Still Fighting For Clean Elections

By Gabriella Novello

Since the Federal Election Commission (FEC) lost its quorum, Commissioner Ellen L. Weintraub has used her position to highlight the many gaps and flaws in campaign finance regulations, travel throughout the US to educate the public about these laws, and, from time to time, remind the country that accepting help from a foreign government is illegal…

WhoWhatWhy recently caught up with Weintraub at the FEC headquarters to talk about her views on campaign finance reform efforts throughout the country, tightening disclosure requirements on online political advertising, and the FEC continuing to be hamstrung by the absence of a quorum.


Wall Street Journal: Democratic Voters Smash Media Myths

By Rahm Emanuel

It’s time to reset the media’s obsession with money in politics. I got my start as a fundraiser, so I’m well aware that candidates need a certain level of support to mount a successful campaign. Moreover, I’ve been horrified to see excessive sums of corporate money pour into the process since the Supreme Court wrongly decided Citizens United.

But the conventional wisdom about money’s role in American politics is overblown. The two billionaires in the race fell flat. Their ability to self-fund became a political liability. Maybe even more remarkable, the candidates whose campaigns were fueled by armies of small donors didn’t do much better. In Democratic politics, biography, ideas, character, message and organization all bear more heavily on a candidate’s fortunes…

Here’s the problem. The media’s obsession with identity politics, the role of money, and the views of politicians who flourish on Twitter prevents citizens from getting a full picture of what’s going on at the heart of the campaign. If voters are going to regain trust in the world of journalism, journalists need to start explaining the world as it is-not as it appears on an app.

Candidates and Campaigns 

Daily Beast: Democrats Worry Biden Camp Is Unprepared for Coming Disinformation Onslaught

By Hanna Trudo and Hunter Woodall

The video in question was taken from a rally Biden held in Kansas City, Missouri on Saturday. Posted at 8:18 p.m by Dan Scavino, President Trump’s social media adviser, it showed Biden appearing to stumble over his words before settling on: “we can only re-elect Donald Trump.” In reality, Biden said nothing of the sort. A fuller video showed him saying “we can only re-elect Donald Trump if in fact we get engaged in this circular firing squad here. It’s gotta be a positive campaign, so join us.” …

The Democratic National Committee that flagged the video to Twitter…

Speaking to The Daily Beast about their disinformation strategy, a Biden campaign adviser said that their more publicly hands-off approach was by design. The campaign, the adviser said, is partially relying on-and working with-reporters to police content that they flag for being inaccurate or misleading, as part of an “earned media” approach towards correcting disinformation.

That strategy, according to the campaign, helped lead to Twitter, and eventually Facebook, labeling the video as either “manipulated media” or “partly false information” in what the campaign trumpeted as a first.

PoliticoReflections on a Failed Democratic Revolution

By Bill Scher

For me, the legislative sausage-making that produced the Affordable Care Act sparked my own political epiphany…

We had told ourselves that we couldn’t have nice things because of the power wielded by corporate interests, which necessitated the stripping of that power through campaign finance reform. Yet with the Affordable Care Act, corporate interests aided and abetted, however begrudgingly, the biggest expansion of health insurance since the creation of Medicare. That was the single biggest reason why Obamacare passed and Hillarycare didn’t.

I suddenly found myself diving into the histories of the Great Society and the New Deal, wondering how Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Lyndon Baines Johnson were more easily able in their respective times to be corporate slayers. I found the opposite: Those crafty machiavellians had compromised with corporate interests too! This rocked my progressive world.

Obamacare prompted other progressives-dissatisfied that single-payer was never part of the debate, and that the final bill lacked a public option-to conclude that bolder issue positions must be part of the presidential campaign and that big donors needed to be treated as toxic if a true progressive agenda was to be realized. I went in the opposite direction: To advance liberal priorities, history teaches us that we need corporate assistance.

The States

New York Post: State judge strikes down New York campaign finance, election law overhaul

By Bernadette Hogan and Carl Campanile

A state judge ruled Thursday that Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature broke the law last year when they punted an overhaul of the state’s election laws and campaign finance regulations to an unelected panel.

Niagara County Supreme Court Justice Ralph Boniello declared in an 11-page ruling that the law – which was tucked in last year’s state budget – amounted to “an improper and unconstitutional delegation of legislative authority.”

The appointed Public Finance and Elections Commission recommended stricter contribution limits for statewide and legislative campaigns, while instituting a new matching funds program for candidates.
It also lifted requirements making it more difficult for minor parties to maintain ballot status – from 50,000 votes to 130,000.

The recommendations from the commission – whose members included Cuomo ally and state Democratic Party chairman Jay Jacobs – became law when the Legislature took no action in December, but kick in with the 2026 campaign.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Pa. House Dems push package of voter bills that fall in line with national group’s policies

By Julian Routh

Marking this week’s one-year anniversary of the U.S. House passing its now-stalled voter reform legislation, Democrats in the Pennsylvania state House re-upped calls for its own legislature to pass a package of bills that they say will make it easier for people to vote and make it harder for corporations and special interests to buy elections.

The package, sharing a name with the federal “For the People Act” that now awaits unlikely action in the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate, would institute automatic voter registration, same-day voter registration and early voting, and put limits on corporate campaign contributions, among other reforms…

The House Democratic caucus, in a memo announcing the reform package, included a quote from Daniel Squadron, the co-founder and executive director of a group called Future Now, which houses a policy shop that pushes model legislation and a political-action committee with a stated goal of flipping the Pennsylvania House blue – among other legislative chambers nationwide.

In a tweet on Monday, Future Now wrote that it’s helping 10 states roll out voting reform packages in their legislatures. A similar message – which also praised Pennsylvania legislators in particular for their efforts – was posted by Future Majority, a separate group that, according to Politico, is co-chaired by major Democratic donors including Philip Munger, son of Berkshire Hathaway billionaire Charlie Munger.

Baltimore Sun: Maryland House of Delegates passes sweeping ethics and campaign finance reform package

By Luke Broadwater

Maryland’s House of Delegates has passed a package of campaign finance reform legislation aimed at preventing corruption and helping the State Board of Elections investigate wrongdoing…

The package of seven bills that advanced Wednesday aims to eliminate conflicts of interest by prohibiting former administration secretaries from lobbying their department for a year after leaving office, increasing criminal penalties for bribery, and prohibiting a candidate’s family members from serving as the campaign treasurer.

The legislation also seeks to increase oversight and accountability by adding two positions to the State Board of Elections to help audit, investigate and enforce campaign finance laws and requiring campaigns to produce bank statements if they are assessed a civil fine by the State Board of Elections. The House also is expected to advance legislation to expand the State Prosecutor’s ability to investigate misconduct in office.

Uprise RI: Bill to outlaw masks and protective gear at protests heard in House committee

By Staff

The [Rhode Island] House Judiciary Committee committee heard testimony on H7543 on Tuesday evening. If passed, the bill would “prohibit people at parades, rallies, demonstrations or assemblies from the possession or wearing of gas masks, riot helmets, face visors, body armor, vests, neck protection, knee pads, riot shields or any other equipment meant to defeat law enforcement tactics to control crowds. It would also prohibit attendees from wearing a mask, hood, makeup, robe, helmet, disguise of any type or facial alteration with the intent of avoiding their identification.” …

Members of the public and the ACLU testified against the bill, while representatives from law enforcement testified for it…

“There’s something especially problematic about a bill like this that bans masks solely in the context of engaging in core political speech,” said Steven Brown of the ACLU. “It’s in the context of a demonstration, parade or rally – That’s the only time that this ban occurs, and we think that because it’s aimed directly at first amendment activity, that in our view makes it much more constitutionally problematic.”

Brown went on to reiterate the right to protest anonymously having a long history in the United States, back to the founding of the country.

Idaho County Free Press: Voter initiative process faces changes to improve or encumber it

By David Rauzi

Two bills before the Idaho Legislature propose to change the state’s voter initiative process; one to improve it, the other to encumber it.

On the house side, HB 548 has its goals as transparency and integrity of the process, as according to its sponsor, Rep. Jim Addis. It proposes to narrow the scope of initiatives to a single subject, classify paid signature gathering as campaign finance information – subject to public disclosure – and require petition signature sheets notify voters of the process to remove their signatures later…

SB 1350 would require a hypothetical funding source to be included in initiative proposals. This information would be included on petitions while gathering signatures, published in the state’s voter informational pamphlet, and printed on official ballots.

Muskogee Phoenix: Rejecting campaign finance reforms disappointing

By Muskogee Phoenix Editorial Board

It was disappointing to see city councilors reject an effort to revive an ordinance proposed almost a decade ago that would make reporting campaign finances by municipal candidates mandatory.

Their silence and lack of discussion when Deputy Mayor Wayne Johnson tried to resuscitate the measure this past week was appalling. That silence is quite telling during the aftermath of an election permeated by negative advertisements distributed anonymously by mail…

There may be legitimate concerns about character assassination of donors given the new low that seems to have been set by the author(s) of campaign mailers distributed in advance of the general election. Those donors, however, have the option of contributing at levels below the threshold that requires them to disclose their identities, so there really is no concern at all.

State ethics laws mandate reporting by most candidates competing in municipal elections, but those competing for Muskogee City Council posts have a loophole that gives them an out. State law defines municipal office as one in which a candidate files his or her declaration with the secretary of the county election board, and Muskogee City Council candidates, in accordance with the charter, file declarations with the city clerk.

Past efforts to close that loophole have failed. 



Tiffany Donnelly

Tiffany Donnelly