Daily Media Links 5/31: Liberals Versus Political Speech, Democrats Prepare Major Campaign Finance Reform Push, Pillar of Law Files Lawsuit for Convention Delegates’ Rights to Free Speech, and more…

May 31, 2016   •  By Brian Walsh   •  
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Free Speech

New York City-Journal: Liberals Versus Political Speech

John O. McGinnis

Once upon a time, liberals pushed free speech at every opportunity. They lauded Justices Oliver Wendell Holmes and Louis Brandeis for protecting unpopular views via the First Amendment early in the last century, for instance. During the 1960s, Berkeley’s Free Speech Movement demanded the right to demonstrate politically on campus—and liberals championed the cause. Similar progressive cheers rang out when the Supreme Court extended the First Amendment to protect inarticulate expression, like nude dancing and flag burning.

But now liberals want to empower the government to put people behind bars for advancing political ideas, come election time. Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has declared one litmus test for a Supreme Court justice: a commitment to overrule Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission, the 2010 Supreme Court opinion upholding Americans’ First Amendment right to use a corporate form to criticize or praise politicians running for office. (The politician criticized in that case was none other than Hillary Clinton.)

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National Journal: Democrats Prepare Major Campaign Finance Reform Push

Ben Geman

“The purpose is to respond to the public’s frustration about a Congress that is jammed up by special interests and as a result isn’t meeting the needs of the American people,” Whitehouse told National Journal in the Capitol.

The measures are unlikely to advance, given the dwindling legislative calendar and widespread GOP resistance to imposing major new regulations on political spending.

But the election-season effort could help lawmakers tap into voters’ interest on the topic, which has played a high-profile role in the campaign of Bernie Sanders.

It will offer Democrats, who are fighting to win back the Senate majority, a way to put Republicans on the defensive politically over the role of money in politics.

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Independent Groups

Santa Barbara Independent: Dark Money Spending on Campaigns Is Spiking

Mayor Helene Schneider

In the last few weeks of this campaign, Central Coast voters are going to be inundated with over $1 million of outside Washington, D.C., money trying to determine the outcome of the election. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has already put in $300,000; the House Majority PAC (a SuperPAC, which is not required to disclose its donors, can spend unlimited amounts of dark money in campaigns, and is also tied to the DCCC) has promised to spend at least that much in addition. Their Republican counterpart, the NRCC, has committed at least $200,000. Their goal? To manipulate the voters into choosing their hand-picked candidates, rather than allowing us to determine for ourselves who we would like to see as our next Congressional representative.

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Washington Free Beacon: Feingold Cozying Up to Dark Money Groups Despite Past Criticism

Joe Schoffstall

Feingold, who had previously spent 18 years in Washington, recently attended a rally with the D.C.-based League of Conservation Voters, a far-left environmental group that “works to turn environmental values into national, state, and local priorities.”

The group began running some of the earliest ads in the Wisconsin senate race hitting Sen. Ron Johnson, who defeated Feingold in 2010. The first ad, titled “7000 Wisconsin” attempted to hit Johnson for his ties to “big oil.” The second ad—called “Disappear Wisconsin”—tried to paint the senator as indifferent to carbon pollution while pushing for President Obama’s Clean Coal Power plan.

Nearly $100,000 was spent to run the two television ads throughout the state. The League of Conservation Voters, which contains a dark-money arm, is not disclosing the source of who is funding their advertisements against Johnson.

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Book Review

Federalist Society: Book Review: Dark Money and Plutocrats United

William R. Maurer

Mayer does not write to persuade. She writes to produce vigorous head-nods from people who have “Corporations Are Not People” bumperstickers on their cars. Reading her book is like being trapped in a malfunctioning elevator with a Red Sox fan who is obsessed with Derek Jeter—it will only be bearable if you also hate the Yankees…

Hasen is attempting to redefine the entire thrust of campaign finance jurisprudence, so he, to his credit, also attempts to preemptively address and answer objections to these proposals from those opposed to further regulation. Specifically, he responds to the objection that, if implemented, his policies would insulate incumbents from challenge, give the media an outsized voice in the political debate, and increase political polarization. He has varying degrees of success here—his argument about the press essentially can be paraphrased as, “Yes, the press will have greater opportunities to influence politics, but they are important and people get nervous if you start restricting the press, so the press gets to exert undue influence, but nobody else.” On the other hand, he argues persuasively that American politics is already extremely polarized and giving people more of an opportunity to participate in political campaigns may, in fact, alleviate some of that polarization.

These are important questions. However, there are more fundamental issues with Hasen’s proposal that he does not examine and his book would have benefitted from his wrestling with them as well. In particular, he never articulates what he ultimately hopes to achieve, how equality will be measured (and by whom), and whether restrictions on political activity can ever succeed in reducing inequality in the modern bureaucratic welfare state.

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The Courts

Pillar of Law: Pillar of Law Files Lawsuit for Convention Delegates’ Rights to Free Speech

The Pillar of Law Institute filed a lawsuit in Wyoming federal court today, challenging a law that prohibits delegates to political party conventions from accepting books, travel stipends, and legal assistance from non-profits.

“For the upcoming Republican Convention, delegates could receive unlimited money from individual donors, but could not accept even books or a travel stipend from organizations like Pillar,” said Benjamin Barr, lead counsel in the case. “Federal election law actually bans the distribution of books to delegates because it deems them corrupting.  This is not just fundamentally unfair; it is also unconstitutional.”

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Tax-Financed Campaigns

Atlantic: The Price of Public Money

Marilyn W. Thompson

Matthew King of suburban Tacoma, Washington, is a Democrat who believes the average American should donate to presidential candidates to thwart big money’s influence. Though he is looking for work, he feels so strongly about the issues that he makes small monthly contributions to Democratic candidates and causes. “It’s democracy in action,” King says, describing his hopes for a president who will combine leftist ideals with strong Christian values. “Right now, money is our voice in politics.”…

Tacoma, Washington’s King is exactly the kind of voter the public-financing system set out to engage—smart, committed, and generous, even in trying times. But King says he did not check the box on his 2015 taxes and knows little about the public-financing program. He gave directly to O’Malley. King also donates regularly to Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, and the Democratic National Committee.

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Campaign Donors

CPI: Meet the people who have donated to both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump

Michael Beckel

For instance, Victor Williams, a law professor at Catholic University in Washington, D.C., last year donated $400 to Clinton’s campaign as a “dutiful Democrat.”

But he now says he’s “a Trump man” — and has donated $5,400 to Trump’s campaign, $2,700 toward the primary and $2,700 toward the general election…

“What I’m genuinely excited about is the possibility that the established political order and those elites who have been at the trough for 40, 50 years will be sent home,” Williams told the Center for Public Integrity. “It’s really now or never.”

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Washington Post: Tech billionaires like Democrats more than Republicans. Here’s why.

Gregory Ferenstein

But the backlash against Trump is just the surface of an underlying trend. Over the last three decades, the super-wealthy have slowly shifted to donating more to Democrats than Republicans, as measured by trends in donations from the Forbes 400 list of richest Americans. Democrats have been the overwhelming winners as tech slowly takes over the Forbes list.

“Changes in [the Forbes 400] partisanship could well reflect changes from a manufacturing and extraction economy to a technology and information economy—Silicon Valley and Hollywood are generous to Democrats,” wrote Stanford professor Adam Bonica in a recent paper analyzing the political giving of the Forbes 400 since the Reagan administration.

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Candidates and Campaigns

Washington Examiner: Trump camp concedes it’s low on money

Joel Gehrke

Donald Trump’s campaign has alerted Senate Republicans that he won’t have much money to spend fending off attacks from Hillary Clinton over the next couple months.

The notice came when Paul Manafort, Trump’s senior advisor, met with a group of Senate Republican chiefs of staff for lunch last week, sources familiar with the meeting told the Washington Examiner. The admission suggests that Trump will be far more dependent on the GOP brass for money than he has led voters to believe, but it’s consistent with his reliance on the Republican National Committee to provide a ground game in battleground states.

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Wall Street Journal: Presidential Campaigns End, but Debts Remain

Rebecca Ballhaus

Former candidates in both parties still owe more than $5.4 million, according to the most recent Federal Election Commission records. To retire that debt, they are faced with a tricky task: asking their financial backers to give even more money to campaigns that no longer exist.

It’s a process that can take years. Hillary Clinton, now the front-runner for the Democratic nomination, was still raising funds to pay off debt from her 2008 presidential campaign while she was secretary of state, and only retired the debt in 2012.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich—who has indicated he is interested in joining Donald Trump on the Republican ticket as vice president—suspended his presidential campaign in April 2012, but his campaign is still raising money and filing reports with the FEC. As of the end of April, it was still $4.6 million in debt.

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The States

Charleston Post and Courier: S.C. House tacks ‘dark money’ regulation amendment on income disclosure bill

Maya T. Prabhu

House members Thursday amended a bill that requires elected officials to report income from private companies so that it also requires nonprofit organizations to reveal the source of their money that is spent on elections.

“It’s been debated long and hard up here,” said author and Laurens Republican Rep. Mike Pitts. “This amendment requires third parties who get involved in elections to do the same thing that you and I are required to do. We are required to report what money comes to us. We are required to report where the money goes.”…

But Rep. Jonathan Hill, R-Townville, said lawmakers are held to a different standard because they represent the government.

“This is a bill that is clearly motivated by desire of incumbents to protect their seats,” Hill said. “And I say ‘their seats’ on purpose, because that is how incumbents often view the House seats that they occupy.”

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Oregon Public Broadcasting: Effort To Cap Campaign Contributions In Oregon Sputters Again

Chris Lehman

Oregonians won’t be voting this fall on whether to limit campaign finance contributions in state and local races. The Oregon Secretary of State’s office has rejected wording on a proposed initiative that would have changed the state’s Constitution to allow that.

Petitioners wanted to ask Oregon voters to allow the state to limit campaign contributions and to require disclosure on who funds political advertising. Current Oregon law has no limits on contributions and does not require ads to list funders.

Oregon Secretary of State Jeanne Atkins rejected Initiative Petition 77. She said the contributions limits and the disclosure rules are different concepts that would have to be voted on separately.

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Brian Walsh

Brian is a Research Fellow at the Center for Competitive Politics.https://www.ifs.org/author/bwalsh/

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