Daily Media Links 5/20: Tea Party Stumbles As GOP Establishment Flexes Fundraising Strength, “Great and Extraordinary Occasions” for Constitutional Reform—and The Question of Evidence, and more…

May 20, 2014   •  By Joe Trotter   •  
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In the News

NPR: Tea Party Stumbles As GOP Establishment Flexes Fundraising Strength

Tea Party candidates did well in GOP primary elections in 2010 and 2012; this year, not so much. Part of this lack of success is because establishment candidates have generally out-raised them, and establishment-aligned outside groups are no longer reluctant to get involved in primaries.  


Amending the First Amendment

MSMHL: “Great and Extraordinary Occasions” for Constitutional Reform—and The Question of Evidence

By Bob Bauer

Of the several constitutional amendments favored by Justice Stevens, the one dealing with campaign finance reform strikes Cass Sunstein as “the strongest.” Cass Sunstein, The Refounding Father, N.Y. Review of Books Vol. LXI, No. 10 (June 5, 2014) at 10.  He argues that without controls on political spending, income inequality will beget political inequality.  Especially because we are prepared to accept vast inequality in the economic sphere, we cannot tolerate it in our politics. To the extent that we might worry about incumbent entrenchment if politicians are empowered to set the rules of the game, we should take comfort that the workings of the political process—“democratic debate”—will supply the necessary safeguards.  

Sunstein’s article appears around the same time that Seth Masket reports on evidence at odds with the belief that wealthy spenders reliably buy political outcomes.  This is the latest social science tending to show that the linkage of wealth to political influence is a complicated question that does not find its answer in routine reform argument.  

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Daily Beast: The Democrats’ Free-Speech Hypocrisy

By Lloyd Green

Last week, the war on the First Amendment entered a new phase when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced his support for S.J. Res. 19, a proposed constitutional amendment designed to “advance the fundamental principle of political equality for all, and to protect the integrity of the legislative and electoral processes.” The intent of the proposed amendment is to empower the Congress and the States to limit all categories of campaign-related spending and contributions and overturn the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United, which held independent political expenditures by businesses and unions alike to be protected by the First Amendment.  

In plain English that’s called censorship. It’s also called hypocrisy, as many of the proposed amendment’s supporters—and most of its likely opponents—take a situational stance on the First Amendment.  

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Salon: Supreme Court’s money debacle: The truth behind Dems’ campaign finance amendment

By Jim Newell

“It is entirely unclear from that language,” Ryan says, “whether the Supreme Court would interpret that as meaning only limiting ‘express advocacy’ type expenditures — expenditures on communications that say ‘vote for’ or ‘vote against’ a candidate — or whether the Supreme Court would interpret it more broadly than that.” As in, there’s still wiggle room to argue that outside ads that don’t expressly advocate for or against a candidate, but still clearly exist to hurt or help one candidate’s chances against another, can be allowed — especially when you’re arguing in front of a receptive audience like that of Chief Justice John Roberts.  

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Independent Groups

Free Beacon: Democracy Alliance Network Revealed

By Lachlan Markay

The Democracy Alliance connects major Democratic donors with some of the largest and most influential liberal activist groups in the country. Previous beneficiaries, such as the Center for American Progress and Media Matters for America, are set to get millions more in 2014.

The list also reveals DA support for newer organizations, such as Organizing for Action, the advocacy group that succeeded President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign. That group has received official sanction from the White House, and operates websites and social media accounts branded with the president’s name.

In all, the document reveals, the Democracy Alliance hopes to provide $39.3 million to 20 organizations this year. If it meets those fundraising targets, it will likely be responsible for one out of every five dollars in those groups’ 2014 budgets.

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Bloomberg: GOP’s Business Wing Sends Tea Party a Chilling Message

By John McCormick and Greg Giroux

The nation’s largest business-lobbying group hasn’t said how much it will spend in the 2014 election, though it probably will exceed the $33.8 million in 2010. The Chamber has already aired television ads in more than 20 House and Senate races, and it’s expected to intervene in key districts to defend pro-business House Republicans against Tea Party opponents, or to help business-friendly challengers unseat Tea Party incumbents.

The aim is to send a chilling message to the Tea Party’s most zealous members, as well as bolster Republicans who have been loyal to House Speaker John Boehner and taken tough votes, such as those to raise the federal debt ceiling.

“It all started in the Alabama special late last year, when one candidate vowed to come to D.C. and shut the place down,” said Republican political strategist Scott Reed, who advises the Chamber of Commerce. “He lost and a strong conservative was elected.”

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Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Courts to decide whether John Doe a useful tool or unfair witch hunt

By Jason Stein, Patrick Marley and Daniel Bice

Four months later, the commercial real estate broker received and then made public a letter saying he would not be charged as part of the John Doe investigation and that he was not considered a target.

But that’s it. No one to this day has told the public why Jensen was handcuffed and put behind bars.

Nor has anyone explained why Walker appointee Cynthia Archer had her house raided by law enforcement and FBI officials in September 2011. Prosecutors also have remained quiet about surprise sweeps at the homes of two advisers to the Wisconsin Club for Growth — information made public by a judge.

“Sheriff deputy vehicles used bright floodlights to illuminate the targets’ homes,” U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa wrote in a recent ruling. “Deputies executed the search warrants … while their targets were restrained under police supervision and denied the ability to contact their lawyers.”

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NY Times: D’Souza Expected to Plead Guilty to Charge

By Benjamin Weiser

A federal court hearing has been scheduled for Tuesday morning in which the conservative author and filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza is expected to plead guilty to a charge stemming from campaign finance violations, according to a notice sent out by the government.  

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NY Times: There’s a Better Way to Measure Who Has Raised the Most Money

By Derek Willis

It seems like a simple question: Who has raised more money this cycle, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida or Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky? But it’s not very simple, although there is a way to tally it that makes sense in the real world of campaigning.  

On an absolute basis, Mr. Rubio brought in significantly more money than Mr. Paul, his potential rival for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination: $9.9 million through March 31 versus $6.3 million, according to Federal Election Commission records. But that’s not exactly a good comparison.  

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State and Local

Minnesota –– IJ: Federal Judge Orders Minnesota to Stop Enforcing Restrictive Campaign Finance Law

St. Paul, Minn.—Today, U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank issued a dramatic ruling that will greatly expand the freedom of political speech in Minnesota’s 2014 state elections. Judge Frank ordered state officials to cease enforcement of a long-standing Minnesota campaign finance law called the “special sources limit” as it applies to contributions from ordinary citizens. The lawsuit was filed by the Institute for Justice, a non-partisan, public-interest law firm.

The special sources limit dishes out First Amendment rights on a first-come, first-served basis. The law cuts in half the maximum contribution an ordinary citizen can make to a candidate after that candidate receives a certain amount of money from donors donating more than half the legal limit. For example, if a candidate for State House receives 12 contributions of $1,000, the thirteenth contributor (and all subsequent contributors) may give no more than $500. As a result, early contributors have a greater ability to support the candidate of their choice than those who contribute later. 

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Minnesota –– MPR News: Campaign law changes don’t make final cut at Capitol

By Catharine Richert

At the start of the session, House Speaker Paul Thissen of Minneapolis said his chamber would have the opportunity to vote on the proposed changes after a similar bill stalled in 2013. Last year, the state’s Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board made legislative recommendations that the state should require more information about spending on political ads.

But Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, said that pressure from a handful of interest groups including Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL) and the Minnesota Business Partnership once again prevented the bill from going anywhere.

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Joe Trotter

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