Daily Media Links 5/11

May 11, 2020   •  By Tiffany Donnelly   •  
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Supreme Court

Wall Street Journal: Supreme Court Rebukes Appeals Panel Over Noncitizens Ruling

By Jess Bravin

A federal court convicted Evelyn Sineneng-Smith, a San Jose, Calif., immigration consultant, of defrauding would-be immigrants from the Philippines by falsely telling them she could arrange legal residency in exchange for fees starting at $5,900. She appealed on several grounds, but when the case reached a federal circuit court in San Francisco, the panel pushed aside Ms. Sineneng-Smith’s own lawyers and invited attorneys from three advocacy groups to make broader arguments that the law was unconstitutional.

That, the Supreme Court said on Thursday, was going too far…

The decision sent the case back to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for reconsideration of Ms. Sineneng-Smith’s conviction “attuned to the case shaped by the parties rather than the case designed by the appeals panel.”

While the justices’ language faulting the appellate court was striking, the decision sidestepped the conflict at the core of the case, between the broad rights to speak and to petition the government guaranteed by the First Amendment and the federal power to protect the nation’s borders…

Justice Clarence Thomas filed a separate opinion arguing that the court’s own doctrines were themselves a problem, because since at least 1940 they have sometimes gone beyond the facts of a case to strike down laws for violating First Amendment freedoms of speech and of the press.

The Courts

Courthouse News: Federal Judge Denies Request to Halt California Ban on Protests at Capitol

By Jon Parton

A ban on protests at California’s state Capitol will remain in effect as a federal judge on Friday denied a request to halt it, ruling that the state has expanded powers during emergencies.

In a 24-page order, U.S. District Judge John Mendez denied a temporary restraining order requested by California residents Ron Givens and Chris Bish in a lawsuit filed last week…

They filed the lawsuit in the Eastern District of California after the California Highway Patrol denied their separate requests for permits to protest on the grounds of the state Capitol over the state’s stay-at-home order…

In Friday’s ruling, Mendez…wrote of the importance of the First Amendment, calling the Capitol grounds “a place for the citizenry to convey important messages to its lawmakers.”

But the judge also found that the state did not necessarily target their particular protests since the highway patrol banned all protests on state grounds, not just theirs.

“The State’s order seeks to suppress the virus, not expressive association,” Mendez wrote.

Congress

Washington Post: FISA needs reform. Our amendment would do that – and protect constitutional rights.

By Sens. Patrick J. Leahy and Mike Lee

[T]he Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) allows our government to secretly surveil Americans suspected of acting as foreign agents, a process that often falls short of our fundamental constitutional principles…

[R]eform has become even more important in light of a bill recently passed by the House – and still under consideration by the Senate – to reauthorize several FISA programs… Section 215 allows the government to conduct FISA surveillance on a great deal of First Amendment-protected activity, which places journalists, religious and ethnic minorities, political groups and others under threat.

To address this and other problems with existing law, we are leading a bipartisan group of senators that will vote for a reauthorization of these FISA authorities, but only if we include additional reforms that are necessary to protect Americans’ privacy and the Fourth Amendment…

We propose measures that would authorize and actively encourage judges in this secret court to seek independent amicus reviews in all sensitive cases – such as those involving significant First Amendment issues – thereby adding a layer of protection for those who will likely never know they have been targeted…

Our amendment would also specifically protect the First Amendment rights of the media, religious and political organizations, public officials and campaigns. Recognizing that the targeting of any of these domestic groups or officials could affect the rights of all Americans, our amendment specifically requires the appointment of independent advisers whenever substantial political or religious liberties are involved. 

Disclosure

New York Daily News: Taking government money? Disclose your political spending: Companies should opt for transparency now more than ever

By Bruce Freed

With increasing reports of large public companies and politically connected ones receiving COVID-19 rescue aid and the Trump administration blocking proper oversight, business leaders can act on their own to protect the integrity of the government aid effort and of companies themselves. They can do that by disclosing their companies’ political spending to show that political influence is not a factor in who gets help…

Transparency is always important. But given the ongoing stream of billions of dollars in public assistance for large companies, it’s even more important now. Many companies receiving or seeking assistance also contribute to lawmakers’ elections, sometimes through “dark money” groups, raising concerns of both real and perceived corruption…

By embracing sunlight, companies can address concerns of preferential treatment; strengthen corporate governance and mitigate reputational risks; and help rebuild trust in our democracy. If there ever were a critical time for companies to pull aside the veil on the hundreds of millions they spend politically, it’s today.

Online Speech Platforms

Washington Post: Facebook and other companies are removing viral ‘Plandemic’ conspiracy video

By Travis M. Andrews

Social media companies including YouTube, Vimeo and Facebook are removing a viral conspiracy theory video because of its claims regarding the coronavirus…

The approximately 26-minute video was presented as an extremely long “trailer” for a full-length film titled “Plandemic” and features an extended interview with Judy Mikovits, a well-known figure in the anti-vaccination movement who has made various discredited claims about the effects of vaccines.

A YouTube spokesperson said the company removes “content that includes medically unsubstantiated diagnostic advice for covid-19,” which includes the “Plandemic” video. A Facebook representative said, “Suggesting that wearing a mask can make you sick could lead to imminent harm, so we’re removing the video.”

A Vimeo spokesperson said the company “stands firm in keeping our platform safe from content that spreads harmful and misleading health information. The video in question has been removed by our Trust & Safety team for violating these very policies.”

Twitter said…it has removed the hashtags #PlagueofCorruption and #PlandemicMovie from its searches and trends sections.

The video makes the false claim that billionaires aided in the spread of the coronavirus to further the spread of vaccines. It also attacks the credibility of Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, by using out-of-context footage of him speaking at White House news briefings. 

Washington Post: In America, lies are preferable to a ministry of truth

By Gary Abernathy

It is frightening how many Americans today seem to clamor for a ministry of truth, insisting on everyone agreeing to one set of facts determined either by the state or by media fact experts. It plays into the idea that Americans are fragile or infantile, in need of guardians or babysitters, since they are incapable of deciphering for themselves right from wrong, safe from unsafe, or truth from lies. And it can only serve to stifle the search for a path forward at a time when the country needs all the creative thinking it can get.

When Donald Trump was elected president in 2016, there were immediate demands to investigate allegations that Russia had influenced the election by planting false information on social media. Facebook and others have since caved to pressure to identify and prohibit fabrications, appointing arbiters of truth. But since the dawn of elections, misleading and inaccurate information has been employed by candidates and political parties against other candidates and political parties. Foreign countries are no more effective at it than domestic players, and no more alarming.

New York Post: Facebook’s new ‘supreme court’ looks like a license to censor

By Post Editorial Board

[T]he majority of members on the Facebook Oversight Board are clearly prone to view truth through a left-wing lens…

Tellingly, Wired reports that insiders said getting liberals for the board was fairly easy “since human rights activists generally shade liberal” – revealing a horrific blindness about the difference between activism in the fuzzy human-rights field and a genuine commitment to free speech.

The real purpose of the board is to get Mark Zuckerberg and other Facebook execs out of the no-win position of being responsible for what speech they ban…

At The Post, we know Facebook makes mistakes: It took us weeks to get the company to reverse its blockage of Steven Mosher’s opinion column suggesting that the coronavirus might have escaped from that Wuhan lab. It’s an official government investigation now, but back then Facebook determined it wasn’t a topic you were allowed to discuss.

We have less confidence that this “court” will make fairer decisions or be anything more than thought police.

Independent Groups

Roll Call: Bullock attacks money in politics as super PAC goes after Daines

By Kate Ackley

When Montana Gov. Steve Bullock launched his bid last year for the Democratic presidential nomination, he said he aimed to “defeat the corrupt system that lets campaign money drown out the people’s voice.”

Though his White House effort flopped, Bullock’s money-in-politics messaging had deep roots, including his unsuccessful challenge, as Montana’s attorney general, to a landmark Supreme Court decision that led to unlimited-spending super PACs. Now, Bullock is taking on incumbent Republican Sen. Steve Daines in a pivotal race that could determine which party controls the chamber next year.

As outside groups, including super PACs, line up to spend money on the race, sources of political cash, as well as policies to limit or regulate it, will be a point of contention in the dueling campaigns.

The coronavirus pandemic and resulting economic calamity promise to take the spotlight in the race, but already political ads and campaign rhetoric aim to link campaign finance matters and the crisis.

“Voters need even more assurance that politicians are working for them, not corporate interests,” said Tiffany Muller, president and executive director of End Citizens United, a group that takes its name from the 2010 Supreme Court decision that Bullock challenged, Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission.

New Hampshire Union Leader: Granite Status: Dark money in the spotlight

By Josie Albertson-Grove

A spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee on Wednesday called Rep. Chris Pappas a “hypocrite” for accepting support from a so-called “dark money” group after he sponsored a bill requiring those groups to disclose who funds them.

The statement was prompted by Pappas’ virtual appearance Tuesday with leaders of a political action committee called End Citizens United, a group whose mission is to limit money spent on elections.

The National Republican Congressional Committee criticized Pappas for taking $1.2 million from Super PACs in the 2018 election, groups whose donors can give unlimited amounts.

The National Republican Congressional Committee is itself a PAC – a political action committee with limits on how much it can take from each donor – that has spent heavily to influence First District races.

Candidates and Campaigns

New York Times: Knock, Knock, Who’s There? No Political Canvassers, for the First Time Maybe Ever

By Shane Goldmacher

For decades, showing up on a voter’s doorstep has been one of the most reliable ways to get people to the polls. Now political parties and candidates that put tens of millions of dollars into training and deploying door knockers are grappling with costly, consequential and imminent decisions about whether they should even invest in traditional brick-and-mortar infrastructure that powers such operations…

What physical campaigning will look like this fall is especially important for Mr. Biden, the likely Democratic nominee, who has a far less robust digital presence than President Trump. Mr. Trump enters the race with other advantages of incumbency, including a vast financial edge, a unique ability to command attention and a supporter base that has proved particularly enthusiastic and durable.

Washington Post: The Trailer: I signed up as a Trump supporter, then a Biden supporter. Here’s what happened next.

By David Weigel

On the 48th day of quarantine, as traditional presidential campaigning became a gauzy memory, I immersed myself in the worlds created by the campaigns of Joe Biden and President Trump. I downloaded both campaigns’ apps – TeamJoe and Trump 2020, respectively – and agreed to get notifications. I created a Twitter list consisting of nothing but official campaign accounts and checked in a few times a day. What I found: The Republican effort was designed to keep supporters energized, inspired and sometimes angry. The Democratic effort was genteel and gave me much less to do…

The point of the Trump app, social media accounts and Web TV was not just to keep me informed – it was to replace some of the news I might be getting from other outlets. “Forget the mainstream media,” went one ad that played at the start of the daily Trump video broadcasts. “Get your facts from the source.”

Washington Post: Biden virtual Tampa rally runs into glitches, awkwardness and blank screens

By Sean Sullivan

Thursday’s event billed as a “Virtual Rally with Joe Biden in Tampa” was an hour plagued by technical glitches, awkward pauses, delays and even some blank screen time.

For a campaign seeking a substitute for the rousing events that Biden would be holding if not for the coronavirus, the first-of-its kind rally served as a tough lesson about the perils of remote campaigning that played out in real time…

The event showed how the pandemic has dramatically changed the campaign.

The States

Alaska Landmine: Alaska’s ridiculous campaign laws

By Jeff Landfield and Lee Baxter

The landscape of campaign finance law is a complex web of statutes and regulations. The Alaska Public Offices Commission enforces these laws. Over the past few decades, state and federal campaign finance laws have been sliced and diced by court decisions ruling that prohibitions and reporting requirements violate free speech principles. Courts looking at these rules often make the point that restrictions affecting political discussions must be closely scrutinized to ensure that political debate is not chilled (when someone self-censors because they are unsure of what is legal and illegal) and is not prohibited.

APOC’s enforcement of independent expenditure reporting requirements on the purchase of letsackrevack.com brought to light one example of how campaign finance laws can go too far and can chill run-of-the-mill political advocacy…

What is striking about Alaska law on independent expenditures is that there is no minimum dollar threshold that is exempt from reporting to APOC. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, as of 2014, Alaska is one of only seven states that does not exempt small independent expenditures from the reporting requirements…

The law should not allow people to weaponize APOC against their political rivals. It should allow APOC to differentiate between those who are violating the law with malicious intent and those who are using constitutionally protected free speech to engage in political activity. 

Willamette Week: Campaign Finance Watchdogs Call Out Committee Backing Sam Adams for Nondisclosure

By Nigel Jaquiss

An independent expenditure committee backing former Mayor Sam Adams in the May 19 primary appears to have violated the city’s new election rules.

“It’s most likely we made a mistake,” Jenn Baker, director of the “Sam Works for Portland” political action committee, told WW on Sunday.

Washington Examiner: ‘This is NUTS’: Ted Cruz slams city council resolution deeming ‘Chinese virus’ a hate speech term

By Andrew Mark Miller

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz lambasted the San Antonio City Council following news that they were set to vote on a resolution labeling terms for the coronavirus’s Chinese origin as “hate speech.”

“Resolution being voted on by San Antonio City Council this morning labels terms ‘Chinese Virus’ and ‘Kung Fu Virus’ as hate speech and ‘all persons are encouraged to report any such antisemitic, discriminatory or racist incidents to the proper authorities for investigation,'” San Antonio, Texas, investigative reporter Jaie Avila wrote on Twitter Thursday.

Cruz, responding to a tweet from syndicated talk show host Joe “Pags” Pagliarulo, called the move “nuts” and used the Twitter hashtag “#nospeechpolice.”

The measure was passed unanimously by the San Antonio City Council moments after Cruz’s tweet.

“Hate speech is more dangerous than the virus itself,” council member Manny Pelaez said during the voting process, according to Avila.

 

 

Tiffany Donnelly

Tiffany Donnelly