Daily Media Links 3/6: Taxpayer-funded hate, thanks to the city campaign-finance system, Dem senator introduces bill to ‘drain the swamp,’ and more…

March 6, 2017   •  By Alex Baiocco   •  
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Tax Financed Campaigns                               

New York Post: Taxpayer-funded hate, thanks to the city campaign-finance system

By Editorial Board

In a fresh sign of the perversity of the city’s campaign-finance system, it looks like the taxpayers this year will be subsidizing outright hate speech.

In Upper Manhattan, Thomas Lopez-Pierre is making “greedy Jewish landlords” the centerpiece of his campaign against Councimember Mark Levine.

Lopez-Pierre vows on Twitter to use $100,000 in public campaign cash to inform voters that his bid for office is about “protecting” tenants from those greedy landlords…

Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito rightly says that to “have someone be able to spend [taxpayer dollars] to put forth that kind of a message is despicable.”

Yet the possibility is intrinsic to the system. As the city Campaign Finance Board has noted, the US Constitution won’t allow efforts to control candidate speech.

Nor should it. We’re firm supporters of free speech: Lopez-Pierre has every right to spew his bile, and others are free to donate to support him doing it.

But the taxpayers shouldn’t have to back him, too. That they might have no choice is one more reason to scrap taxpayer financing of political campaigns.


ABC News: US Sen. Warren turns fundraising powerhouse for Democrats

By Steve Leblanc, Associated Press

At the core of Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s appeal is a critique of an economic system she says is rigged against the little guy.

Helping fuel that message is a voracious fundraising machine that has turned the Massachusetts Democrat into a powerhouse in her party as she looks ahead to a 2018 re-election campaign and what supporters hope is a 2020 presidential bid.
Warren started 2017 with $4.8 million in her campaign account, the biggest piggybank of any Senate Democrat facing voters next year, according to an Associated Press review of campaign finance records…

Warren’s success at cultivating small donors will be crucial to the Democratic Party’s White House hopes in 2020 whether Warren runs or not, according to Peter Ubertaccio, director of the Martin Institute for Law & Society at Stonehill College.

“Her people have really figured out the secret sauce,” Ubertaccio said. “Anyone who wants to be the Democratic nominee in 2020 is going to have to spend a lot of time cultivating Elizabeth Warren’s supporters and donors, and ultimately her.”

The Hill: Dem senator introduces bill to ‘drain the swamp’

By Jordain Carney

Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) is touting legislation to create a five-year wait period before ex-lawmakers can lobby their former colleagues – by referencing President Trump’s pledge to “drain the swamp.”

Tester this week introduced a bill that would extend the “cooling off” period for lawmakers, as well as ban hundreds of executive officials from becoming registered lobbyists for five years after they leave their job.

“This legislation will hold public servants accountable and ensure folks in Congress and in the Administration are thinking about what’s best for our country – not what’s best for their wallets,” Tester said in a statement on Friday.

Currently, House members have to wait one year after leaving office to lobby, while senators have to wait two years.

During his campaign last year, Trump promised to “drain the swamp” of corruption in Washington by instituting a five-year lobbying ban for executive officials and asking Congress to pass a similar wait period for former lawmakers.

The Courts                        

Washington Post: Law restricting protests during Supreme Court proceedings is upheld

By Robert Barnes

At the 2015 incident, a string of protesters rose to speak after the courtroom full of spectators had been admonished to remain silent as the oral argument proceeded.

“We rise to demand democracy,” said Belinda Rodriguez. After she was removed, Matthew Kresling stood up: “Money is not speech. One person, one vote!” Another demanded the court overturn its campaign finance decision in Citizens United v. FEC.

They were charged with violating the statute against protests in the Supreme Court building, but last year U.S. District Judge Christopher R. Cooper agreed with them that the language about harangues and oratory was unconstitutionally vague…

In Friday’s ruling, however, Brown said the meaning was clear: “By employing two words that cover public speeches of myriad forms within a statute focused on the Supreme Court’s building and grounds, Congress’s use of ‘harangue’ and ‘oration’ indicates these terms are meant to cover any form of public speeches that tend to disrupt the Supreme Court’s operations.”  

The Media                                  

National Review: The Press Is Still Free – And Still Way Too Sloppy

By Alexandra Desanctis

There is some merit to the contention that Trump has continuously behaved in an unpresidential fashion toward the media; the president shouldn’t routinely make the press a punching bag or refer to “the fake news media” as the “enemy of the American people.” For White House press secretary Sean Spicer to forbid particular outlets – those that have been especially critical of Trump – from entering a press gaggle in his office last week was both politically foolish and morally wrong, even though the press pool attended and full audio of the event was made available to reporters. What’s more, the Trump administration’s repeated critiques of particular outlets or stories often appear to be motivated by a distaste for certain depictions of the president or his policies rather than by substantive, factual disputes.

Nevertheless, there is a material difference between the uncouth and the unconstitutional, and the escalating “war on the media” rhetoric – expressed most recently at Vox and The Atlantic and, of course, in the consistent griping of journalists on Twitter – is a classic example of the press’s turning a sideshow into the headline attraction. Despite journalists’ heated rhetoric, it is possible for Trump’s behavior to be both undesirable and not existentially threatening. 

Reason: When SCOTUS Stopped a Government-Led Attack on Freedom of the Press

By Damon Root

In 1934 the Louisiana legislature passed a law requiring all newspapers, magazines, and periodicals with a circulation of 20,000 or more to pay an annual licensing tax of 2 percent on all gross receipts “for the privilege of engaging in such business in this State.” Ostensibly justified as just another run-of-the-mill tax, the measure’s true purpose was plain for all to see. The governor at that time was the notorious populist demagogue Huey P. Long, also known as the “Kingfish.” The Long administration was famously rife with corruption and criminality and the state’s biggest newspapers just happened to be some of the governor’s most outspoken critics. So the Kingfish told his allies in the legislature to use the state’s vast taxing powers to harass and punish his enemies in the press.

The American Press Company, along with eight other newspaper publishers, promptly filed suit, charging the Long administration with waging an illegal war on the freedom of the press. Their case, ultimately known as Grosjean v. American Press Co., arrived at the U.S. Supreme Court in 1936. The resulting decision stands as one of the great First Amendment rulings of its time.


Politico: Trump pleads for cash at closed donor retreat

By Darren Samuelsohn and Marc Caputo

President Donald Trump buttered up a room full of Republican donors Friday night by boasting of his upset 2016 election win and ticking through a list of his surprise swing state victories that even the party high rollers at the private dinner couldn’t have imagined possible.

But Trump also told them to focus on what he needs most: campaign cash to win 60 Republican-held seats in the U.S. Senate in 2018.

“I need you guys to step up and overwhelm them,” Trump said at the Republican National Committee’s spring retreat, according to one source who described portions of the president’s speech…

Many Republican donors and insiders acknowledge they’re concerned about the upcoming elections. Generally, the political party of a president loses seats in Congress during a midterm election, and Trump’s poor approval ratings adds to the sense of worry.

However, Republicans have a sizable majority in the U.S. House and the Senate electoral map seems to favor Republicans, with many Democrats up for election in red states in 2018, giving the GOP a chance to play offense.

The States

News Center 1 Rapid City: IM-22 replacement bills headline final week of legislative session

By Sam Kraemer

Initiated Measure 22 – the campaign finance and ethics law passed by voters in November, but then repealed this year by the legislature – has been a controversial issue throughout the session. But lawmakers said they’ve heard the voice of the voters evident in proposed legislation – like Senate Bill 171, to create a government accountability task force.

“The legislature perked up their ears and they said, ‘We have some issues that the community of South Dakota, the voters, are concerned about. Let’s address them in a constitutional manner.’ That’s what we’ve done,” said State Rep. David Johnson (R- Rapid City). “And there’s, like I said, as many as 12 to 15 laws that have been brought up that address those issues. And I’m real proud of the legislature, and anybody who does their investigation into this, I think, would feel the same.”

IM-22 was enjoined in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals by judge Mark Barnett, who said he withheld the law because he thought parts could be deemed unconstitutional. Still, there has been no legal ruling on the actual constitutionality of the initiated measure.

KDLT Sioux Falls: State lawmakers Weigh New Campaign Finance Regulations

By Anndrea Anderson

State lawmakers are weighing new campaign finance regulations that would remove South Dakota from the short list of states that allow politicians to pocket the money in their campaign accounts.

Senate Democratic leader Billie Sutton said he’s pushing to restrict candidates’ ability to tap political contributions for personal use because political office shouldn’t be used for personal enrichment. South Dakota is one of just a few states including neighboring North Dakota where withdrawals are legal.

“That’s a pretty common theme in South Dakota, I’m afraid, with a lot of different things,” Sutton said. “I would venture to say a lot of people don’t know that you can currently use the campaign funds for whatever you want.”

State campaign finance records show that officials leaving office often give their remaining funds away. Some recently retired lawmakers have held onto the balance of their accounts, but it’s difficult to track how former officials use money they keep.

Portland Press Herald: Legislative committee splits on voter ID, clean elections bills

By Kevin Miller

Meanwhile, the public campaign financing system created by the Maine Clean Election Act also has become an increasingly partisan issue, as demonstrated by Friday’s 6-6 vote. This is despite the fact that lawmakers from both parties use the system to pay for their legislative campaigns.

L.D. 300 would have eliminated public campaign financing for future gubernatorial races in order to reduce the potential cost to taxpayers, who subsidize some but not all of the “clean elections” program. Clean elections candidates receive campaign funds from the program in exchange for not accepting donations from individuals or outside organizations, other than the minimum number of $5 “qualifying” donations needed to join the program.

Since 2002, 78 candidates have registered to run for governor but only 10 qualified as clean election candidates. None of those were elected…

Jonathan Wayne, executive director of the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices, said the commission would like to be prepared for four primary candidates and two general election candidates participating in the clean elections program during the 2018 gubernatorial race.

Boston Globe: Healey hands Thornton Law case to independent prosecutor

By Andrea Estes

Attorney General Maura Healey will appoint a special prosecutor and recuse herself from any investigation into alleged campaign finance violations by Thornton Law Firm, whose lawyers, including former House assistant majority leader Garrett Bradley, donated to her political campaign.

The action followed a day of calls by Republicans, including Governor Charlie Baker, for her to step aside to avoid a potential conflict of interest. Campaign finance regulators say they have evidence that Thornton Law, a major Democratic funder, illegally reimbursed the firm’s partners and their spouses for political contributions…

Several Republicans, including House Minority Leader Bradley Jones of North Reading, Representative Shawn Dooley of Norfolk, and former US attorney Michael Sullivan, had urged Healey to name an independent prosecutor to investigate whether the firm violated the law by reimbursing partners for up to $175,000 in political donations from 2013 to 2016. Such reimbursement schemes are generally illegal because they disguise the true source of the donation – in this case, the law firm.

Bend Bulletin: Tweak Oregon’s campaign finance law

By Editorial Board

In Oregon, campaign committees are required to report contributions from an individual only after they contribute $100 or more. The state’s system has three options for reporting campaign contributions. In two of the options, a campaign committee uploads a contributor’s information into the state website called ORESTAR. ORESTAR automatically labels any person’s contribution of less than $100 as “miscellaneous” and the person’s name does not appear.

In the third option, a campaign committee can opt out of ORESTAR and self-report the contributions below $100 without names. There’s nothing illegal about that. But it means that there is no way to ensure compliance with the law.

Parrish’s bill eliminates the transaction limit of $100, which means the names of people reporting less would have to be reported to the state. If the bill passed, the contributions would still show up in ORESTAR as “miscellaneous” without a name attached, but the state could track contributions from an individual.

Alex Baiocco

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