In the News
By Tiffany Donnelly
Democrats often rail against the dangers of “hate speech” and “extremist content,” yet their radical election overhaul bill, H.R. 1, would use taxpayer funds to subsidize the very speech they claim is bigoted…
Under their radical plan, participating congressional candidates would receive a 600 percent match from the government for donations up to $200, with additional funding in the weeks leading up to a general election. Thus, a $200 donation would ultimately be worth $1,400 to the candidate…
The First Amendment prohibits discrimination against individuals based on the content of their message. It’s an important and necessary feature of our government, ensuring people in power can’t punish citizens because they have different or unpopular views. As a result, however, the government can’t be as discerning as its citizens when it decides to fund political candidates.
If H.R. 1 is enacted, taxpayers would be constitutionally required to fund the speech of all candidates that meet the bill’s qualifications. This includes any speech labeled by Democrats as racist, antisemitic, sexist, homophobic, or otherwise hateful. Voters across the political spectrum would be appalled by the offensive messages H.R. 1 would subsidize.
This is not conjecture. In New York City’s similar taxpayer-financed scheme, a 2017 City Council candidate received nearly $100,000 in public money for his campaign against “greedy Jewish landlords.” Then-New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said, “to have someone be able to spend [taxpayer dollars] to put forth that kind of a message is despicable.”
By Jeffrey Brindle
Many campaign finance law pundits have a larger concern, one that goes beyond the immediate question of whether donors to charities in California must be disclosed to the State’s Attorney General. Their concern is that the current conservative leaning court might apply the “strict scrutiny” standard as suggested by the plaintiffs and thereby impact campaign finance disclosure laws, possibly leading to a massive increase in “Dark Money” expenditures by independent groups.
Wall Street Journal: Media Mistrust Won’t Inoculate You Against Misinformation
By Gerard Baker
It’s easy to become inured to the daily procession of flagrant falsehoods, tendentious misrepresentations, deceitful exaggerations and narrative-driven editorial distortions from many of the nation’s leading media outlets. As opinion surveys suggest that most of these organizations now rank in public trust a little below emailed pleas from deposed Nigerian princes, it’s easy to think the power they once wielded has been so diminished that they are little more than a mildly diverting source of contemporary color in our lives.
It’s easy but wrong. The ability of major news organizations, television and entertainment companies, and increasingly the big tech firms, to frame the context in which Americans see important issues and make decisions about them is as significant as ever. Discerning conservatives know to discount or dismiss much of what they see and read, but we should remember that the editorial judgments still largely shape the way in which most people—including many of those same discerning conservative—view things.
Wall Street Journal: A Tech Company Tried to Limit What Employees Talk About at Work. It Didn’t Go Well.
By Katherine Bindley
When leaders of the project management and communication software company Basecamp announced last week that it would curb political conversations at work, fallout came fast.
Tech employees, workplace consultants and politicians alike assailed the decision on Twitter and LinkedIn, though other company leaders called it a courageous move. Some employees publicly threatened to quit. Ultimately, the Chicago-based company offered buyouts to its staff of about 50. A significant number of employees decided to leave…
With Basecamp, co-founder and CEO Jason Fried cited “especially choppy” social and political waters and said such dialogue had become a major distraction…
Reporting in Platformer, a newsletter about tech, highlighted some of the internal issues around diversity, equity and inclusion that led the founders to institute the ban.
The episode laid bare a simmering debate at tech companies large and small over how to define what is political, whether such issues can be separated from diversity and inclusion, and how colleagues should engage on those issues.
David Heinemeier Hansson, Basecamp’s co-founder, told The Wall Street Journal in an email that since the company’s announcement he had received “an avalanche of supporting emails from executives and employees that work at companies where societal politics are taking over more and more of the domain, and if you’re sitting with the wrong ideology, it’s very intimidating.”
Online Speech Platforms
By Cristiano Lima
A group of 19 lawyers, scholars, activists and journalists from around the world will announce on Wednesday whether former President Donald Trump’s Facebook account is to be reinstated or kept off the platform for good, a ruling with massive implications for U.S. politics.
The so-called Facebook oversight board has been deliberating Trump’s case since January, when he was booted off after the Jan. 6 siege on the Capitol over fears he might incite more violence. Their decision could give the former president back one of his most powerful megaphones or muzzle him permanently on yet another major social media platform.
While the board members have spoken sparingly about how they are weighing Trump’s suspension, many have a long track record of weighing in on contentious issues around free speech on social media, and their backgrounds could offer a glimpse into how they each approached Trump’s blockbuster case.
By Angela Couloumbis, Brad Bumsted, and Sam Janesch
For the first time, the Pennsylvania Legislature’s top leaders are expected to throw their weight behind reining in the influence of lobbyists who also moonlight as political consultants, blurring the worlds of politics and policy in the Capitol.
In the coming weeks, House Speaker Bryan Cutler and Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman plan to unveil a proposed ban on the practice as part of a lobbying reform package. The hope, the Republicans have said, is to restore public faith in government.
Yet even as the final details of the plan are being penned, Corman is jetting off to a ritzy fundraiser organized by one in a trio of companies that has cornered the market on the business practice Corman’s lobbying reform legislation aims to stop. The Harrisburg firms, called The Mavericks, fundraise for elected officials, run their political campaigns, then lobby them once they are in office…
For Corman, who made transparency a cornerstone of his agenda when he ascended to the Senate’s top job this year, the fundraiser could undercut the message that he is serious about ushering in good-government reforms.
“They [Corman and Cutler] deserve credit for recognizing the problem, but it is going to take some effort to make it work with any degree of credibility,” said Barry Kauffman, the former executive director of Common Cause Pennsylvania, which advocates for lobbying transparency and government accountability. The proof will be in the details of the legislation, he added.
Los Angeles Times: How a $1-million donation on behalf of Newsom was hidden in plain sight
By Melody Gutierrez
The $1-million donation came as the COVID-19 crisis was unfolding, a charitable gift given on behalf of Gov. Gavin Newsom last year. But unlike with other so-called behested payments, philanthropic contributions made at the request of an elected official, the source of the donation was concealed in public disclosures required under a state law meant to ensure transparency and limit undue influence in government.
The seven-figure gift was made from a donor-advised fund, a type of charitable giving account offered by some nonprofit foundations and for-profit investment firms that provides more generous income tax deductions and anonymity. The practice of routing behested payments through such accounts is little known, even to the most seasoned political insiders, but it is raising concerns with government watchdogs who say it allows unidentified donors to avoid scrutiny when making charitable contributions on behalf of politicians with whom they may be trying to curry favor.
In required filings with the California Fair Political Practices Commission, Newsom’s office reported that the $1-million donation was made in April 2020 from the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. The foundation confirmed to The Times that the money was not from the charity itself, but was made at the request of a person or company with a donor-advised fund at the organization.
“The public needs to know who the original donor is,” said Bob Stern, a co-author of the state’s Fair Political Practices Act, approved by voters in 1974 and updated in 1997 through legislation to include behested payments. “This clearly wasn’t anticipated when the law was passed.”
Austin Chronicle: May 1 Special Election Early Voting Results Are In
By Mike Clark-Madison
Proposition H: Public campaign financing (“Democracy Dollars”)
FOR: 34,289 (38.4%) * AGAINST: 54,979 (61.6%)