Daily Media Links 5/3

May 3, 2021   •  By Tiffany Donnelly   •  
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Supreme Court

SCOTUSblog: Petitions of the Week

By Andrew Hamm

This week we highlight petitions that ask the Supreme Court to consider, among other things, … whether the Philadelphia transit system can prohibit political advertisements on its buses…

In the 2018 case Minnesota Voters Alliance v. Mansky, the Supreme Court struck down a Minnesota ban on political apparel at polling places as a violation of the First Amendment. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit subsequently ruled that the Philadelphia public transit system’s prohibition on political advertisements was similarly unconstitutional. The case had emerged out of the Center for Investigative Reporting’s interest in advertising in buses with a 10-panel political cartoon protesting systemic racism in the mortgage market. Arguing that Mansky had approved of an earlier Supreme Court decision allowing transit authorities to prohibit such advertising, the transit system asks for the court’s review…

Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority v. Center for Investigative Reporting


Issue: Whether the Supreme Court’s decision in Minnesota Voters Alliance v. Mansky overruled or abrogated the court’s holding in Lehman v. City of Shaker Heights that transit authorities have the discretion to categorically prohibit political advertisements.

Cato Daily Podcast: California v. Donor Privacy

By Caleb O. Brown

California wants to maintain a database of the identities of donors to all manner of charities throughout the U.S. Paul Sherman of the Institute for Justice says it’s an imposition on privacy and association.

The Courts

WAMU: Can A Teacher Fly A Black Lives Matter Flag At School? A Florida Court Will Consider

By Sydney Boles

Robert E. Lee High School in Jacksonville, Fla., was segregated — whites only — until the 1971-1972 school year. Its school colors are blue and gray, the colors of the Confederacy, and its sports teams are called the Generals.

But a lot has changed since the 1970s: Now, the student body is 70% Black. Students run an Instagram page to document racism they experience at school. And a student group called the EVAC Movement, focused on reframing Black youth in Jacksonville from “at risk” to “at hope,” met with then-President Barack Obama in 2016 and presented before the U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

In January 2020, a former member of the EVAC Movement, Reginald Boston, was killed by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.

That fall, Amy Donofrio, an English teacher at Lee and co-founder of the EVAC Movement, hung a Black Lives Matter flag outside her classroom to mark it as a safe space for students to process Boston’s death…

This March, Jacksonville’s public school district told Donofrio to take the flag down, saying it violated district policy on political speech by employees.

Donofrio said no. So she was taken out of the classroom and reassigned to non-teaching duties.

Donofrio is now represented by the Southern Poverty Law Center in a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida. The suit alleges the flag’s removal was a violation of her First Amendment rights.

Reason: Tennessee Man Arrested for Posting Picture Mocking Dead Police Officer Files First Amendment Lawsuit

By C.J. Ciaramella

…..A Tennessee man is suing state and local law enforcement officials for violating his First Amendment rights after he was arrested and charged with harassment for posting a meme mocking a dead police officer.

Joshua Garton filed a federal civil rights lawsuit on Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee alleging malicious prosecution, false arrest, and First Amendment retaliation for his January arrest by the Dickson Police Department.


Politico: Senate Dems agonize over voting rights strategy

By Burgess Everett and Marianne Levine

Senate Democrats made a major commitment to muscle through Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s ethics and voting reform bill. Yet many say they have no idea how to pass it and wonder what exactly the end game is for a signature Democratic priority.

Democrats are preparing to kick off a sensitive internal debate over the issue this month as the Senate Rules Committee takes up the sprawling House package. But no Republicans support it, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) hasn’t signed on and at least a half-dozen Democrats have issues with the bill, according to senators and aides. That’s not to mention the constraints of the filibuster in a 50-50 Senate.

Washington Examiner: Joe Manchin won’t support HR 1 in its current form

By Mike Brest

Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin announced that he will not be supporting H.R. 1, the Democrat-backed election reform bill, although he said he’s supportive of many provisions within the legislation.

The West Virginia senator “would not be able to support” the 800-page election overhaul bill, which passed in a party-line vote in the House of Representatives on March 3, he said.

“Every vote should be accessible, it should be secure, and it should be fair. That’s the responsibility we have, and [if] the states are subverting that, then we should put guard rails on it,” he said on MetroNews, although he did not specify what parts of the bill he doesn’t support.

Wall Street Journal: The Big Tech Oligarchy Calls Out for Trustbusters

By Josh Hawley

This is the year of the woke corporation, the year the chieftains of the most powerful companies got bored with making money and decided to remake America, principally by telling Americans how bigoted and backward they are.

Major League Baseball shipped the All-Star Game out of Georgia when that state’s elected representatives dared enact modest election-integrity measures. Big Tech silenced a sitting president, banned books it didn’t like, and threatened to install itself as censor of the nation’s speech.

America’s founders had a word for this state of affairs: aristocracy. We might call it oligarchy, rule of the wealthy and the few. The founders understood that concentrations of power in either government or the economy are dangerous, threatening the rule of the people…

It’s time America recovered the founders’ political economy. We need a new era of trustbusting, an agenda to break up Big Tech and the other concentrations of woke capital that threaten to turn the U.S. into a corporate oligarchy. The aim should be simple: Give working Americans control again over their government and their society. In short, protect our democracy…

I propose three measures. First, break up Big Tech.

Washington Examiner: Democrats shun Hawley Big Tech reforms that include many of their proposals

By Nihal Krishan

Missouri Republican Josh Hawley is struggling to gain support for his anti-tech monopoly legislation from both parties because of the controversy following his actions the day of the Capitol attack.

In the past few weeks, Hawley has introduced two Big Tech-bashing bills that have not received any support from Democrats or Republicans, even though his policies are popular and there is bipartisan agreement to hold the tech giants more accountable through increased regulation and government intervention…

For much of the past two years, Hawley has been the face of the conservative backlash against Big Tech, garnering praise from both Democrats and former President Donald Trump for taking a stand against Silicon Valley and introducing multiple relevant bills related to data privacy, antitrust, and content moderation.

Yet his tech agenda has been complicated by bipartisan criticism for his actions related to the Capitol riots. In particular, he received flack for raising his fist in support of those protesting outside the Capitol and sending fundraising messages to supporters in the days before the Capitol attack, saying he would be “leading the charge” to challenge President Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory…

The Missouri senator, author of a new book called The Tyranny of Big Tech, also blamed Democrats as being beholden to Big Tech campaign donations, which he said played a role in their lack of desire to work with him on tech legislation.

However, Democrats have indicated that they want to take on Big Tech companies as aggressively as Hawley does.


Axios: Exclusive: The DNC’s 100-day cash haul

By Alayna Treene

The Democratic National Committee raised $15.4 million online during President Biden’s first 100 days, beating its fundraising during either President Obama or President Trump’s first 100 days, Axios has learned.

The haul suggests the Democrats’ stellar small-dollar numbers last year weren’t solely dependent on opposition to Trump, as many in the party feared. The average donation was $23…

The Republican National Committee also posted huge grassroots fundraising numbers during the first quarter of this year.

It raised nearly $22 million from contributions of under $200 from January to the end of March, according to its filings with the Federal Election Commission.

It’s not clear how much of that haul came online or exactly what portion came in after Biden took office. But it shows how substantial small-dollar fundraising has been for both parties.

The DNC saw a 60% increase in the number of donors who gave in the first 100 days of Biden’s presidency, compared to the first 100 days of Trump’s.

New York Times: Swiss Billionaire Quietly Becomes Influential Force Among Democrats

By Kenneth P. Vogel

He is not as well known as wealthy liberal patrons like George Soros or Tom Steyer. His political activism is channeled through a daisy chain of opaque organizations that mask the ultimate recipients of his money. But the Swiss billionaire Hansjörg Wyss has quietly become one of the most important donors to left-leaning advocacy groups and an increasingly influential force among Democrats…

Mr. Wyss’s representatives say his foundations’ money is not being spent on political campaigning. But documents and interviews show that his foundations have come to play a prominent role in financing the political infrastructure that supports Democrats and their issues…

Mr. Wyss’s growing political influence attracted attention after he emerged last month as a leading bidder for the Tribune Publishing newspaper chain. Mr. Wyss later dropped out of the bidding for the papers.

Born in Switzerland and living in Wyoming, he has not disclosed publicly whether he holds citizenship or permanent residency in the United States. Foreign nationals without permanent residency are barred from donating directly to federal political candidates or political action committees, but not from giving to groups that seek to influence public policy — a legal distinction often lost on voters targeted by such groups.

Mr. Wyss’s role as a donor is coming to light even as congressional Democrats, with support from Mr. Biden, are pushing legislation intended to rein in so-called dark money spending that could restrict some of the groups financed by Mr. Wyss’s organizations.


Insider: 5 things to know about the US law designed to fight Nazi propaganda that now has Rudy Giuliani sweating

By Dave Levinthal and C. Ryan Barber

Thank Rudy Giuliani and the FBI raid of his home and office Wednesday for vaulting the Foreign Agents Registration Act — an obscure, pre-World War II law that went little-enforced for decades — back into public prominence.

“FARA is definitely having its moment in the spotlight now,” said Robert Kelner, chairman of law firm Covington & Burling LLP’s election and political law practice. 

So what, exactly, is FARA?

Here are five key things to know:

Free Speech

New York Times: A third of Basecamp’s workers resign after a ban on talking politics.

By Sarah Kessler

About a third of Basecamp’s employees have said they are resigning after the company, which makes productivity software, announced new policies banning workplace conversations about politics.

Jason Fried, Basecamp’s chief executive, detailed the policies in a blog post on Monday, calling “societal and political discussions” on company messaging tools “a major distraction.” He wrote that the company would also ban committees, cut benefits such as a fitness allowance (with employees receiving the equivalent cash value) and stop “lingering and dwelling on past decisions.”

Basecamp had 57 employees, including Mr. Fried, when the announcement was made, according to a staff list on its website. Since then, at least 20 of them have posted publicly that they intend to resign or have already resigned, according to a tally by The New York Times. Basecamp did not immediately respond to a request for comment…

“We’ve committed to a deeply controversial stance,” Mr. Hansson, Basecamp’s chief technology officer, wrote. “Some employees are relieved, others are infuriated, and that pretty well describes much of the public debate around this too.”

Candidates and Campaigns

Politico: ‘Disgusting’ robocall accuses Texas candidate Wright of causing husband’s death

By Alex Isenstadt and Ally Mutnick

Texas Republican congressional candidate Susan Wright is seeking help from federal law enforcement the day before her special election, after supporters reported receiving robocalls that accused her of being responsible for the death of her late husband.

Wright’s campaign reached out to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice on Friday after discovering robocalls baselessly alleging that she had “murdered” her husband, the late GOP Rep. Ron Wright. Wright is running in the special election to succeed Wright, who passed away in February after being diagnosed with coronavirus.

The States

USA Today: Ban Trump? Not so fast. Florida is about to pass a law to stop Facebook and Twitter from censoring politicians

By Jessica Guynn and John Kennedy

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is likely to sign into law a bill that would prevent social media companies Facebook, Twitter and Google’s YouTube from “deplatforming” politicians such as former President Donald Trump.

The bill was approved Thursday by the Republican-controlled state Legislature.

It would order social media companies to publish standards with detailed definitions of when someone would be censored or blocked and make companies subject to as much as $250,000 daily fines for deplatforming a Florida candidate. The bill would require a social media company to notify users within seven days that they could be censored, giving them time to correct posts…

“This bill abandons conservative values, violates the First Amendment, and would force websites to host antisemitic, racist, and hateful content. Content moderation is crucial to an internet that is safe and valuable for families and Floridian small businesses, but this bill would undermine this important ecosystem,” Carl Szabo, vice president and general counsel of trade group NetChoice, said in a statement to USA TODAY. 

Szabo argued that the legislation would make it more difficult for conservatives to get their voices heard. 

He told Florida lawmakers this month that “conservative speech has never been stronger.”

Politico: How a top New York mayoral candidate used a charity to boost his profile

By Joe Anuta

[Brooklyn Borough President and New York mayoral candidate Eric Adams] has steered hundreds of thousands of dollars into an ethical gray area where charity and self-aggrandizement intermingle — with fundraising practices that have drawn the scrutiny of investigators and government watchdog groups…

The spending that has boosted the candidate and his causes has come from both his office as borough president, the banners being a highly visible example, and a charity he created called One Brooklyn Fund. Adams controls the nonprofit, which is partially staffed with employees of his office and allowed the use of Brooklyn Borough Hall, a municipal building.

There is precedent in New York for non-profits to exist alongside official government operations…

The nonprofit, whose budget is typically between $300,000 and $500,000, does plenty of charitable work throughout the year. But money from the organization has also been spent on high-end fundraisers that raised little money, marketing materials that promote Adams’ name and image and awards given out to prominent businesses and constituents — some of whom later donated to his mayoral campaign.

Charities affiliated with elected officials — such as Adams’ predecessor Markowitz — have for years raised fears that they serve as thinly veiled excuses to promote a politician’s name recognition, even as they operate fully within the law.

Tiffany Donnelly

Tiffany Donnelly


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