In the News
New York Daily News: Taxpayer-financed campaigns could be an expensive mistake for New Yorkers
By Alex Baiocco
In the midst of a devastating pandemic and plummeting tax revenue, New York’s new budget law gives millions of tax dollars to politicians for their campaigns. As Assemblyman Mark Walczyk put it, “With unemployment at record levels… [Gov. Cuomo] has the audacity to ask taxpayers to foot the bill for campaign ads, consultants and those annoying robocalls?”
The program will inevitably fund things more toxic than robocalls. Your tax dollars will fund speech you won’t like, including hateful speech. That happened in New York City, which has a similar program. Former City Council candidate Thomas Lopez-Pierre received nearly $100,000 in taxpayers’ money for a blatantly anti-Semitic campaign.
Making matters worse, the program won’t even achieve its intended goals. The text of the budget bill claims taxpayer-funded campaigns will curb corruption, or at the very least, “the appearance of corruption.” But the vast majority of New York’s corruption has nothing to do with campaign finance. Most of it deals with lawmakers abusing their power – often their power over the public purse – for personal gain. Besides, tax financing doesn’t prevent campaign finance scandals. It will simply inject taxpayers’ money into these scandals.
Plus, the program will enable a new form of campaign finance malfeasance: defrauding taxpayers.
Federalist Society (Teleforum Audio): Litigation Update: Associational Privacy at the Supreme Court
[Audio now available from May 20, 2020 Federalist Society Teleforum]
In NAACP v. Alabama ex rel. Patterson, the Supreme Court recognized a First Amendment right to privacy of association and belief. Almost 60 years later, while California’s Attorney General began requiring charities to provide their office with a federal form listing major donors. That document — Schedule B to IRS Form 990 — is provided directly to the IRS, and its privacy is guaranteed by federal law. The California Attorney General asserted that her office would also protect donors’ privacy, and that the information was necessary to pursue law enforcement duties. The American for Prosperity Foundation and others assert the evidence at trial indicated that donor information was publicly available, and that California authorities seldom used it for the reasons stated. The Supreme Court has been asked to review the Attorney General’s policy, and has called for the views of the Solicitor General in what could prove a seminal case concerning associational privacy.
Mr. Robert Alt, President & CEO, The Buckeye Institute
Mr. Allen Dickerson, Legal Director, Institute for Free Speech
Mr. Paul S. Ryan, Vice President, Policy & Litigation, Common Cause
Mr. Derek Shaffer, Partner, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP
Right to Protest
By Glenn Thrush
Former President Barack Obama threw his support behind the efforts of peaceful protesters demanding police reforms during his first on-camera remarks since a wave of protests over the killing of George Floyd…
“For those who have been talking about protest, just remember that this country was founded on protest – it is called the American Revolution,” Mr. Obama said from his home in Washington. He made the comments during an online round-table event with his former attorney general Eric H. Holder Jr. and activists from Minneapolis sponsored by My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, a nonprofit group Mr. Obama founded…
In a lengthy statement, former President George W. Bush expressed solidarity with the demonstrators in the streets and, without naming the incumbent president, warned against trying to suppress the protests.
“Those who set out to silence those voices,” Mr. Bush said, “do not understand the meaning of America – or how it becomes a better place.”
New York Times (Video): The Bill of Rights, Revised
By Emily Holzknecht and Kristopher Knight
Police are acting like the Constitution has been rewritten.
By Spencer S. Hsu
The American Civil Liberties Union and Black Lives Matter on Thursday accused President Trump and his administration of authorizing an “unprovoked and frankly criminal attack” on demonstrators to enable a photo op of the president holding a Bible in front of the historic St. John’s Episcopal Church.
In a federal lawsuit, the groups asserted that U.S. and military police officers’ use of horses, batons, shields and riot control agents – including pepper spray, smoke-canisters and rubber or plastic projectiles – violated largely peaceful protesters’ constitutional rights of free speech and assembly 30 minutes before a citywide curfew took effect June 1.
The suit – which also names Attorney General William P. Barr as a defendant – was brought by the ACLU of the District of Columbia, the Washington Lawyers’ Committee, and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. All plaintiffs said they were gathered peacefully to protest the videotaped police custody death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and others…
Jonathan M. Smith, executive director of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee, called the White House “a uniquely important venue for protest and demonstration.” He said the Trump administration’s actions were “a shocking assault” on constitutional rights.
The American Civil Liberties Union has accused Minnesota law enforcement of wrongly arresting, injuring and harassing journalists covering unrest sparked by the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, in Minneapolis police custody.
In a lawsuit, filed on behalf of journalists in U.S. District Court in Minnesota on Wednesday, the ACLU accuses the Minneapolis Police Department and Minnesota State Patrol of shooting journalists in the face with rubber bullets, arresting reporters and photographers without cause, and threatening them at gunpoint…
“We are facing a full-scale assault on the First Amendment freedom of the press,” said Brian Hauss, staff attorney with the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project. “We will not let these official abuses go unanswered.”
By Tal Axelrod
More than 80 House Democrats on Thursday called for the Justice Department to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate an incident in which law enforcement broke up a peaceful protest outside the White House.
In a letter to Attorney General William Barr led by Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), the lawmakers expressed alarm over the use of tear gas, pepper balls and other devices to disperse the crowd in Lafayette Square.
By Jordain Carney
Senate Democrats introduced legislation Thursday to limit presidential power under the Insurrection Act after President Trump warned that he could deploy active military troops into U.S. cities.
The bill, introduced by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), would require consultation with Congress before a president used the Insurrection Act and would limit use of the law to 14 days unless lawmakers pass a resolution to extend it.
“President Trump has threatened to use a slavery-era law to silence calls for justice from thousands of Americans protesting centuries of racist oppression,” Blumenthal said in a statement…
In addition to Blumenthal, Democratic Sens. Tammy Baldwin (Wis.), Chris Van Hollen (Md.), Patrick Leahy (Vt.), and Edward Markey (Mass.) are supporting the legislation, known as the Curtailing Insurrection Act Violations of Individuals’ Liberties (CIVIL) Act.
“I am supporting the CIVIL Act because we cannot allow President Trump to weaponize our military and use active duty troops to violate the constitutional rights of peaceful protesters working to bring about the change our nation desperately needs,” Baldwin said in a statement.
Inside Sources: Trainor Confirmation a Win for the FEC, Campaign Finance Law
By Dan Backer
The Federal Election Commission is back from the dead.
After the Senate confirmed James “Trey” Trainor – President Trump’s long-delayed nominee to be the FEC’s newest commissioner – the regulatory agency regained its ability to regulate campaign finance law.
Trainor is now the FEC’s fourth commissioner, allowing the agency to resume operations for the first time since August of last year, when it lost its quorum. FEC leadership has six bipartisan slots, but Trainor’s colleagues are long holdovers of past administrations.
Ellen Weintraub, the FEC’s Democratic commissioner, has been in her post since 2002 -18 years into a six-year term. Indeed, there are Americans voting this November who were born after she was first nominated to that term.
While the campaign finance report processing functions of the FEC have continued, it takes a quorum of at least four commissioners to engage in any “official” activity – from issuing advisory opinions to holding hearings and actually enforcing campaign finance laws.
And, despite Senate Democrats’ obstruction, that quorum has been restored. Some Democrats and anti-speech nonprofit organizations rallied to undermine Trump’s nominee at all costs, but even they couldn’t stand in the way of the law.
Washington Free Beacon: End Citizens United Enters Unusual Fundraising Venture With Six Democrats
By Joe Schoffstall
The left’s premier group against money in politics has teamed up with six establishment-backed Democratic Senate candidates in an unusual fundraising venture that runs counter to many pledges put forth by those candidates.
The End Citizens United PAC quietly entered into a joint fundraising agreement in April with six Democratic Senate campaigns, several of whom have decried the influence of money in politics, including Steve Bullock of Montana, Mark Kelly of Arizona, Theresa Greenfield of Iowa, and Sara Gideon of Maine…
The Democratic candidates who are party to the agreement have advocated for overhauling the campaign finance system and cracking down on coordination between campaigns and outside groups.
A spokesman for End Citizens United said the group maintains strict internal separation between the arm that makes independent expenditures and the one that coordinates with campaigns…
The joint fundraising venture allows committees to share fundraising costs and split between them the money raised. Democrats Cal Cunningham in North Carolina and Raphael Warnock in Georgia are also a part of the new agreement.
Online Speech Platforms
Wall Street Journal: Zuckerberg’s Credibility Test
By The Editorial Board
CEO Mark Zuckerberg last year committed that Facebook would not try to control American debate by censoring politicians, thereby infuriating Democrats and the press. Amid the national tumult following the death of George Floyd, the pressure for Mr. Zuckerberg to buckle and act against Donald Trump is ferocious. But his instincts were right last year…
There is no legal ban on censorship by private social-media firms not bound by the First Amendment. But Mr. Zuckerberg’s stance is based on the spirit of free speech and traditional liberal thought. The idea is that political brawls are best fought in the open and that citizens are equipped to hold politicians accountable-and to be able to do that, they need to “see for themselves what politicians are saying,” as he put it last year…
The racial unrest of the last week has accelerated the drive for social-media firms to abandon neutrality and transform into political vehicles that can be wielded against disfavored politicians. The prospect is especially attractive to those who are convinced they have justice on their side. It’s precisely in such times of passion when sober judgment is most important. We hope Mr. Zuckerberg refuses to be bullied into repudiating his sound principles.
National Review: Why We Need Section 230
By Charles C.W. Cooke
Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 is arguably the best law Congress has passed in the last three decades. So it is only natural that both presidential candidates, all of America’s most outspoken senators, and partisan media outlets of all stripes are trying as hard as they can to destroy it…
In its recent “Executive Order on Preventing Online Censorship,” the White House claimed that, by taking aim at Section 230, it was striking a blow for “freedom of expression.” In practice, it was doing precisely the opposite…
There are two core myths surrounding Section 230, which, when taken together, lead critics to conclude that it is being abused. The first of these myths is that Section 230 requires the entities to which it applies to be in some way politically neutral. This is false. As it is written, the law protects National Review and The New Republic in precisely the same way as it protects Twitter and Facebook – and, indeed, in the way that it has to protect them in order to comply with the content-neutrality obligations imposed by the First Amendment.
By Mike Isaac
[Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg] faced fresh criticism on Wednesday as nearly three dozen people who worked at the social network in its early years called out his decision to leave President Trump’s aggressive posts on the site unaltered…
Read the full text of [their open letter to Zuckerberg] below:
Facebook’s leadership must reconsider their policies regarding political speech, beginning by fact-checking politicians and explicitly labeling harmful posts…
Facebook’s leadership interprets freedom of expression to mean that they should do nothing – or very nearly nothing – to interfere in political discourse. They have decided that elected officials should be held to a lower standard than those they govern. One set of rules for you, and another for any politician… This exposes two fundamental problems:
First, Facebook’s behavior doesn’t match the stated goal of avoiding any political censorship. Facebook already is acting, as Mark Zuckerberg put it on Friday, as the “arbiter of truth.” It monitors speech all the time when it adds warnings to links, downranks content to reduce its spread, and fact checks political speech from non-politicians…
The company we joined valued giving individuals a voice as loud as their government’s – protecting the powerless rather than the powerful.
By Chris Mills Rodrigo
Facebook announced Thursday that it has started labeling posts from state-controlled media outlets…
Advertisements from the outlets will also start being labeled later this summer.
“We’re providing greater transparency into these publishers because they combine the influence of a media organization with the strategic backing of a state, and we believe people should know if the news they read is coming from a publication that may be under the influence of a government,” Facebook’s head of cybersecurity, Nathan Gleicher, wrote in a blog post.
Facebook’s definition of state-controlled media was developed in collaboration with experts and organizations in the fields of media, governance, human rights and development.
The company says it will make the determinations based on the funding and structure of media companies, as well as open-source reporting about them.
By Jonathan Easley
Twitter on Thursday removed a video tribute to George Floyd posted by President Trump’s reelection campaign, claiming it had run afoul of the website’s policy on copyrighted material…
The Trump campaign says it reached out to Twitter to ask who had complained about the video and how it had run afoul of the website’s copyright policy.
“This incident is yet another reminder that Twitter is making up the rules as they go along,” said Andrew Clark, a spokesman for the Trump campaign. “From the dubious removal of the hilarious Nickelback video to capricious fact checks and manipulated media labels to questionable claims of copyright, Twitter has repeatedly failed to explain why their rules seem to only apply to the Trump campaign but not to others. Censoring out the president’s important message of unity around the George Floyd protests is an unfortunate escalation of this double standard.”
By Eliyahu Kamisher
A coalition of four current and former district attorneys called on the State Bar of California on Monday to ban law enforcement unions from funding district attorney campaigns, saying the contributions represent a conflict of interest that must be urgently addressed in the wake of recent police killings of Black men and women.
In a letter to the state bar association, the reform-minded district attorneys said their colleagues cannot ethically prosecute police officers if they are receiving funds and endorsements from unions that finance those officers’ legal expenses.
“District Attorneys will undoubtedly review use of force incidents involving police officers,” San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin said in a statement. “When they do, the financial and political support of these unions should not be allowed to influence that decision making.”
The Post and Courier: SC Republican House member sues his own party, claiming it helped primary opponent
By Andrew Brown
A Republican member of the S.C. House is suing his own party after it allegedly paid for campaign ads assisting his political opponent in the leadup to next week’s primary election.
Jonathon Hill, R-Townville, filed the lawsuit in Richland County on Wednesday, arguing the state’s Republican Party should not be allowed to contribute more than $5,000 to assist his primary opponent’s campaign.