Daily Media Links 6/9

June 9, 2021   •  By Tiffany Donnelly   •  
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The Courts

Orlando Sentinel: Judge asked to block new law that limits contributions to Florida amendment initiatives

By Jim Saunders

The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida and other supporters of three proposed constitutional amendments designed to expand voting want a federal judge to block a new state law that places a $3,000 limit on contributions to ballot-initiative drives.

The ACLU and three political committees last week filed a motion for a preliminary injunction, arguing the contribution limit is unconstitutional and would prevent them from collecting enough petition signatures to put the proposed amendments on the November 2022 ballot…

The ACLU last month filed an underlying lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the new law. The motion for a preliminary injunction was filed against the Florida Elections Commission, which investigates alleged violations of campaign finance laws and can assess penalties. U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor has given the state a June 15 deadline to reply to the motion,

Congress

Politico: Dem leaders struggle to keep voting rights bill afloat

By Sarah Ferris and Laura Barrón-López

Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday delivered an urgent call for Democrats not to abandon their marquee election reform bill in favor of more narrow legislation preferred by their party’s powerful and well-known centrist, Sen. Joe Manchin.

In a letter to her caucus, Pelosi stressed that Democrats must prioritize their sweeping elections bill, which she noted includes key protections on voting rights, 300 pages of which were written by the late Rep. John Lewis. She said Democrats would also take up the more targeted bill that is favored by Manchin but firmly said “it is not a substitute” for the broader bill. In a further setback for Democrats, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday he did not support the narrower bill.

The Hill: Manchin unmoved after ‘constructive’ meeting with civil rights groups

By Jordain Carney

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said on Tuesday that he had a “constructive” meeting with a group of civil rights leaders but that he was unmoved on his opposition to a sweeping bill to overhaul federal elections.

“There was nothing basically for-or-against. … Basically everyone’s position was discussed,” Manchin told reporters after the meeting.

Asked if the meeting changed his position on S.1, known as the For the People Act, he added: “No, I don’t think anybody changed positions on that.”

Manchin met with NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson, as well as National Urban League President Marc Morial, the Rev. Al Sharpton, Lawyers’ Committee President Damon Hewitt, National Council of Negro Women President Johnnetta Cole, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights interim President and CEO Wade Henderson and the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation President Melanie Campbell. 

Politico: What’s in the massive Democratic bill Joe Manchin just tanked

By Zach Montellaro

Manchin’s op-ed did not cite specific provisions of the legislation he opposes, but he has called [S. 1] “too broad” in the past. Indeed, other Democrats have also quietly raised concerns about parts of the bill…

On campaign finance, the public campaign financing ideas made some congressional Democrats squeamish and even made an occasional appearance in Republican political ads, even though the legislation has not become law. And an unusual coalition has formed to oppose the proposed disclosure requirements for nonprofits, from conservative organizations like the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity to the American Civil Liberties Union, which has argued that broad disclosure language could run “a risk of chilling public discussion.”

New York Times: Democrats’ Improbable New F.E.C. Strategy: More Deadlock Than Ever

By Shane Goldmacher

Now, the Democratic commissioners have stealthily begun to strike back by leveraging some of the same arcane rules that have stymied enforcement efforts for years — namely, that a bipartisan vote is necessary to do almost anything — to make the agency do even less. The goal appears to be to take a commission widely seen as dysfunctional and create further deadlock, compelling federal courts to fill the breach when it comes to policing federal election law.

“I think of it as a desperate cry for help,” said Adav Noti, a former lawyer at the F.E.C. who is now a senior director at the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan watchdog group that is among those that have sued the F.E.C…

The chief architect behind the strategy is Ellen L. Weintraub, a Democratic F.E.C. commissioner since 2002, who described it as something of a last-ditch effort after years of watching enforcement actions become sidelined in 3-3 split decisions. “I’m using the small amount of leverage that I have,” she said. “It’s not a lot.”

Here is what has been happening behind closed doors, according to people familiar with the commission’s private executive sessions: First, the Democrats are declining to formally close some cases after the Republicans vote against enforcement. That leaves investigations officially sealed in secrecy and legal limbo. Then the Democrats are blocking the F.E.C. from defending itself in court when advocates sue the commission for failing to do its job.

RNLA: Democrat Commissioners Aim to “Zombify” the FEC

In Tuesday’s New York Times, Shane Goldmacher reported on the latest tactic by Democrats on the Federal Election Commission to punish more Americans for exercising free speech rights: deadlock enforcement votes, conceal the agency action from the public, and then default the agency in federal court…

RNLA board member Lee Goodman told The Times:

“Lee E. Goodman, a Republican former F.E.C. chairman who stepped down in 2018, said the tactic amounted to ‘sandbagging federal judges’ by making them believe deadlocked cases are unresolved. ‘While we can admire it in its creativity, it fundamentally rests on a dishonesty,’ he said.”

Members of the Commission have raised alarm in the past about the body being manipulated to serve outside groups’ purposes, and they continue to do so now.

The Republican commissioners are livid. Commissioner Sean J. Cooksey has warned his Democratic colleagues that they are going down “a very, very dark road” and revealed in a recent memo that there are now 13 such unclosed cases, calling them “zombie matters — dead but unable to be laid to rest.” Commissioner Trey Trainor said in an interview that the Democrats were “poisoning the well” at the agency with a tactic that he said was “an abuse of the process.”

Wyoming Tribune Eagle: Inside the campaign-finance “end run” that earned GOP an FEC fine

By Nick Reynolds, WyoFile.com

In the spring of 2017, several months after Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election, the Wyoming Republican Party’s then-treasurer, Doug Chamberlain, received a letter from the Federal Elections Commission warning him of a potential campaign finance violation, he said.

The violation — which resulted in a $52,000 fine, and was first reported by WyoFile in May — cited the party’s failure to meet donation report deadlines for a series of unusual transfers between the Republican National Committee, the Wyoming Republican Party and the “Trump Victory Fund” political action committee, according to Chamberlain.

But there was a bigger problem: Chamberlain, who was responsible for signing off on all of the party’s financial activities and compliance with all FEC requirements per bylaws, was completely unaware of the arrangement, he said. According to Chamberlain, then-party chairman Matt Micheli had brokered a deal to pass donations made to the state party through to Trump’s campaign without informing Chamberlain or securing his approval.

The transactions were part of a legal if dubious practice that enabled donors to circumvent campaign-contribution limits…

“It’s sort of a shell game that allows donors to write six-figure checks to support a party’s presidential candidate,” said Brendan Fischer, director of the federal reform program at the Campaign Legal Center in Washington D.C.. “It’s a very problematic practice, but for the most part it doesn’t violate current campaign finance law.”

Free Speech

New York Times: The Left Needs the A.C.L.U. to Keep Defending Awful Speech

By Michelle Goldberg

I can understand why the free speech libertarianism that I grew up with has fallen out of fashion. As The New York Times’s Michael Powell reported in a fascinating article last weekend, there’s a divide at the A.C.L.U. between an old guard committed to an expansive version of free speech and staff members who argue that a “rigid” view of the First Amendment undermines the fight for racial justice…

I wonder, however, if this divide could soon fade away, because events in the wider world are conspiring to remind the American left how dependent it is on a robust First Amendment. Civil libertarians have always argued that even if privileged people enjoy more free speech protections in practice, erosions of free speech guarantees will always fall hardest on the most marginalized. This is now happening all over the country…

In a number of states, Republicans have responded to last year’s racial justice uprising by cracking down on demonstrators…

Meanwhile, the right-wing moral panic about critical race theory has led to a rash of statewide bills barring schools — including colleges and universities — from teaching what are often called “divisive concepts,” including the idea that the United States is fundamentally racist or sexist.

The Hill: Obama warns of ‘dangers of cancel culture’ going ‘overboard’

By Dominick Mastrangelo

Former President Barack Obama in an interview that aired Monday warned against what he characterized as “the dangers of cancel culture” going too far in American society. 

“A lot of the dangers of cancel culture and ‘we’re just going to be condemning people all the time,’ at least among my daughters, they’ll acknowledge that among their peer group or in college campuses, you’ll see people going overboard,” Obama said during an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper…

“But we are gonna call out institutions or individuals if they are being cruel, if they are, ya know, discriminating against people,” Obama said. “We do want to raise awareness.” 

Obama has in the past criticized what he in 2019 called “woke” culture that leaves little room for forgiveness for misdeeds of people in public life. 

The States

Ballotpedia News: Four states have enacted donor disclosure laws so far in 2021

By Jerrick Adams

So far this year, four states – Arkansas, Iowa, South Dakota, and Tennessee – have enacted legislation prohibiting public agencies from disclosing identifying information about a nonprofit’s donors. Today, we take a look back at those bills.

The four enacted bills are Arkansas SB535, Iowa HF309, South Dakota SB103, and Tennessee HB0159

Law 360: As ‘Anti-Riot’ Laws Pass, Legal Challenges Grow

By Carla Bayles

Weeks after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law what he called “the strongest anti-looting, anti-rioting, pro-law-enforcement piece of legislation in the country,” two different federal lawsuits sought to overturn it.

The 52-page law, known as H.B. 1, expanded the definitions of rioting and inciting a riot. It added stiffer penalties for riot-related offenses and barred defendants from being released on bail before their first court appearance…

Since last May, the number of bills seeking to limit when, where and how demonstrators can protest have tripled compared to prior years, according to data compiled by the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law.

“It’s been a real spike this year at just a completely different level,” Nicholas Robinson, a legal adviser for ICNL, told Law360. “We’ve never seen anything at the scale that we’ve seen this past year. The overwhelming number of bills this year were in response to the Black Lives Matter protests last summer.”…

Vera Eidelman, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, confirmed civil rights attorneys have their eyes on the legislative landscape.

“We will be watching closely to see how this new tranche of laws gets applied,” she said. “I think there may be some other laws in the most recent tranche that may be susceptible to facial challenges.”

Washington Post: Judge orders Virginia school district to reinstate teacher who said he wouldn’t use transgender students’ preferred pronouns

By Hannah Natanson and Robert McCartney

A Virginia judge said Tuesday that a Loudoun County teacher suspended for refusing to address transgender students with their preferred names and pronouns should return to work immediately.

In a seven-page ruling, 20th Circuit Judge James E. Plowman Jr. sharply rebuked the Loudoun County Public Schools system for its treatment of the teacher, Tanner Cross. Plowman called Loudoun’s attempts to discipline Cross “an unconstitutional action . . . which has silenced others from speaking publicly on the issue.”

 

Tiffany Donnelly

https://www.ifs.org/author/tdonnelly/

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