Daily Media Links 4/18: Georgia special election: one local penny for every $10 in national cash, Gov. Eric Greitens’ reliance on ‘dark money’ drawing greater scrutiny from lawmakers, and more…

April 18, 2017   •  By Alex Baiocco   •  
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Free Speech                                          

Reno Public Radio: Free Speech Lawyer: “There’s Nothing Wrong With Having Something To Hide”

By Noah Glick

Reno Public Radio’s Noah Glick spoke with David Greene, one of the event’s panelists and the Civil Liberties Director for the Electronic Frontier Foundation…

There’s still of lot of classic cases of civil lawsuits between people based on online speech. We’re also very involved in issues of government surveillance. I do a lot of work crafting arguments about government surveillance, especially mass surveillance of communications, is an abridgment of free speech rights…

And it’s true that our free speech protections includes the protection of people to speak in a way where the government isn’t monitoring what they’re speaking, but also to speak anonymously…

You have a right to be a thorn in the government’s side. You have a right to protest. You have a right to criticize. And to the extent that you need some privacy protections in order to be able to do that, that’s a good thing. That’s positive for our democracy.

Supreme Court                                         

More Soft Money Hard Law: The Supreme Court as “Electoral Prize”

By Bob Bauer

Presidential candidates campaign on promises to support the nomination and confirmation of Justices who will move the Court’s jurisprudence in a desired direction. Why should they not? The Court does not decide only abstruse legal issues of interest primarily to learned commentators. If electoral competition necessarily features arguments about-to name a few- reproductive rights, or voting rights, or the role of money in politics, then it will require candidates to take a stand on the Court. And in some elections, the issue will be right in the thick of the fight.

Donald Trump made as much as he could of the critical importance to Republicans of a Court molded in the image of the late Justice Scalia. Secretary Clinton told the Democratic Convention that: “We need to appoint Supreme Court justices who will get money out of politics and expand voting rights, not restrict them. And we’ll pass a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.” No one doubted that the election would be consequential for the Court. Voters were entitled to know how much of a priority each party attached to the issue and what the candidates would look for in their nominees. The parties and their candidates obliged-as they should have.

Independent Groups                                        

CPI: Georgia special election: one local penny for every $10 in national cash

By Rachel Wilson

Through Sunday, super PACs, nonprofits and other groups independent of any candidate’s campaign have spent $9 million on the Georgia 6th race.

Just one of these outside groups spending money to influence the Georgia 6th election – Athens, Georgia-based Better Georgia Inc. – is headquartered within state lines. Better Georgia Inc.’s $1,070 in spending, all to support Democratic front-runner Jon Ossoff, accounts for less than one one-thousandth of overall non-candidate spending.

Said another way: When the candidates’ own campaign money is excluded, the Georgia 6th special election has attracted about one Georgia penny for every $10 in national cash, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of federal campaign finance disclosures…

Many cash-flush organizations such as the pro-Republican Congressional Leadership Fund, the National Republican Congressional Committee, the 45 Committee, the National Rifle Association and Planned Parenthood, are spending money in the district for the first time this century.

Daily Caller: When “Free Speech” By Special Interests Tramples On The Rights Of Citizens

By John Pudner

Even if we accept the idea that money is somehow “speech,” free speech is not unlimited. You can’t shout “fire” in a crowded theater. Therefore money sent to or spent by shady third-party groups for political attack ads can certainly be limited, because they infringe on the free speech rights of individual American citizens.

As a conservative who wants to drain the swamp of secret political money being traded for our tax dollars, I’ve wrestled with the best approach for fixing this crisis.

At Take Back Our Republic, we encourage the discussion of conservative approaches to campaign finance reform that fall within current Constitutional decisions; but powerful lobbyists trading secret contributions for our tax dollars can only be dislodged via: 1) a Supreme Court decision, 2) an Article V Convention, or 3) a 28th Amendment to the Constitution…

After much soul-searching over the past year, that leads me to believe a 28th Amendment is the cleanest way to address a specific clarification to one of the greatest documents ever created by man – the US Constitution.


Courthouse News Service: Feinstein Fends Off Hecklers at Town Hall Meeting

By Nicholas Iovino

Feinstein also cited the Gorsuch nomination fight as another reason to get “dark money” out of politics, saying $10 million in untraceable money was raised to support his nomination.

“We have to stop that dark money,” Feinstein said. “It has to be stopped.”

But as she spoke, the senator faced heckles from crowd members, shouting “We know the problem,” and “What will you do about it?”

The senator replied the question everyone should ask is, “Will I vote for a law that stops dark money and limits individual contributions, and the answer is yes.”

Recent media reports have speculated Feinstein is angling to run for a sixth term in 2018, and that the two town hall meetings being held in San Francisco and Los Angeles this week are part of a strategy to drum up support for her reelection bid.


Raw Story: ‘Wake up!’: Comedian Zach Galifianakis gets deadly serious about billionaires’ ‘dark money’ poisoning our politics 

By Elizabeth Preza

In a preview for an upcoming documentary series, comedian Zach Galifianakis spoke extensively with Federal Election Commission Democratic Commissioner Ann Ravel about “dark money” in politics, noting how a lack of disclosure requirements in existing campaign finance law seems “anti-common sense.”

Galifianakis, whose popular segment “Between Two Ferns” occasionally tackles political subjects, was interviewing Ravel for “America Divided,” an upcoming EPIX series produced by Common, Norman Lear, and Shonda Rhimes and featuring celebrity correspondents Galifianakis, Rosario Dawson and Amy Poehler, among others.

“We live in a system where the policies are obviously geared towards the people that give the most money,” Galifianakis began.

“It’s one percent of one percent that contribute the most,” Ravel explained. “And the mass of American public, even groups that are representing the mass of American public, have almost no policy influence whatsoever. With the rise of all the dark money, it is almost impossible to know whether that money is coming from illegal sources.”

Candidates and Campaigns

San Diego Union-Tribune: A giant rabbit with a political committee wants to bug Rep. Hunter

By Joshua Stewart

With two cute ears, a pair of beady eyes and a little white tail, Thumper is the anthropomorphic personification of Hunter’s pet rabbit, the one that took a cross-country flight paid for by the congressman’s political campaign.

Thumper, it turns out, is really into politics. The rabbits likes voter registration more than carrots, shaking hands (paws?) with voters more than hopping. And more than anything else, Thumper likes talking about the campaign finance scandal that has hounded Hunter for the last year.

Thumper will be the image of a political action committee, Bunny PAC, dedicated to focusing on Hunter’s campaign finance issues. Thumper also has a Facebook page, Twitter account, and website (the latter of which some of Hunter’s opponents in the 2018 election don’t even have)…

Through the campaign season Thumper will be billed as a “congressional ethics advisor,” and, from the perspective of a rabbit, explain, one at a time, why it made sense to use campaign money on personal expenses and as well as other snafu’s that Hunter has been tied to. 

Wall Street Journal: Donald Trump’s Companies Benefit From Campaign Funds

By Rebecca Ballhaus

President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign and joint party committees continued to direct funds to his companies in the first quarter of the year, paying close to $500,000 to Trump-owned hotels, golf clubs and restaurants, according to new campaign-finance disclosures.

The new reports, filed late Friday with the Federal Election Commission, showed that Mr. Trump’s campaign directed more than 6% of the $6.3 million it spent in the first three months of 2017 to the president’s companies..

The Journal reported this month that the Trump campaign raised more than $3 million in the first quarter, about three-quarters of which came from donations of $200 or less. The overall haul was about triple what President Barack Obama raised in his first quarter in office, aided by near-daily fundraising emails.

The new disclosures show that the campaign’s spending habits remained fairly consistent, even after Mr. Trump won the White House late last year.

The States

Kansas City Star: Gov. Eric Greitens’ reliance on ‘dark money’ drawing greater scrutiny from lawmakers 

By Jason Hancock

As a nonprofit founded to promote Gov. Eric Greitens makes its first foray into Missouri politics, state lawmakers are increasingly raising alarms about the governor’s reliance on dark money.

The Missouri Senate voted 19-12 this week in support of a requirement that nonprofits engaging in political activity disclose their donors. The vote was largely ceremonial because the requirement was attached to a resolution urging states to convene a constitutional convention.

But with an ethics reform debate on the horizon, the vote demonstrates that Greitens’ use of anonymous money to bankroll his political activity will assuredly continue garnering attention…

Dark money – donations routed through nonprofits and other organizations to hide their source – is what’s fueling a New Missouri Inc., a nonprofit created in February by some of Greitens’ closest advisers. It has launched a series of digital ads urging Missourians to call specific Republican state senators and ask them to “keep fighting for Gov. Greitens’ conservative agenda.”

Kansas City Public Radio: Campaign finance reports show impact of new limits for Missouri politicians 

By Jo Mannies

Amendment 2 limits statewide officials and Missouri legislators from accepting individual donations of more than $2,600 per election. State campaign reports from Jan. 1 to March 31, due Monday, document the impact since the constitutional amendment went into effect Dec. 8.

Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, for example, reported raising $137,457 since Dec. 4 (a timeframe that was broader than other campaign reports filed before the deadline). But three-quarters of his money – $100,000 – came from a GOP donor who made the single contribution the day before the new restrictions took effect…

The campaign committee of Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, a Republican, reported raising only $25,000 during the past three months…

His donations and spending involving his campaign fund do not include any money going in, or out, of his separate nonprofit, called “A New Missouri Inc.,” which does not have to report its donations or spending.

His campaign bank account still has about $2.4 million in it, most of which is the result of a post-election fundraising blitz he conducted in the month between his Nov. 7 election and the day Amendment 2 kicked in. 

Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: That’s all folks: Cuomo says ethics reforms unlikely 

By Joseph Spector

Cuomo said he proposed a series of new ethics and campaign-finance policies in January, but he contended that the Legislature was not interested.

“They will not do it. Their position is: We did it. We did more ethics reform than ever before, which is true,” Cuomo told reporters Saturday at the governor’s mansion, where he hosted an annual Easter Open House.

“There is more disclosure. There is more transparency. My point is: There is more to do. There is no political will to do it.”…

Assembly Democrats have passed a series of ethics reforms that have yet to receive final approval by the Republican-led Senate, said Mike Whyland, a spokesman for Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, D-Bronx.

He pointed to one in particular that has languished: banning campaign donors from setting up multiple limited-liability companies to skirt donation limits to politicians.

“The Assembly majority has passed multiple reforms including closing the LLC loophole and improving elections,” Whyland said.

Alex Baiocco

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