Daily Media Links 6/1: Today’s Dose of Liberal Heresy: Campaign Finance Reform Isn’t That Big a Deal, Trump Super PAC’s New Political Guru Must Wait to Do Work, and more…

June 1, 2016   •  By Brian Walsh   •  
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Campaign Spending

Mother Jones: Today’s Dose of Liberal Heresy: Campaign Finance Reform Isn’t That Big a Deal

Kevin Drum

Liberals love campaign finance reform. Citizens United is our Roe v. Wade, and it’s become an even more central issue since Bernie Sanders began his presidential run last year. As near as I can tell, Bernie—along with most liberals—thinks it’s the key foundational issue of modern progressivism. Until we seriously reduce the amount of money in political campaigns, no real progressive reform is possible.

I’m pretty sure this is completely wrong. Here are seven reasons that have persuaded me of this over the years, with the most important reason left to the end:…

Campaign spending hasn’t gone up much anyway. I told you I’d leave the most important reason for the end, and this is it. It’s easy to be shocked when you hear about skyrocketing billions of dollars being spent on political campaigns, but billions of dollars aren’t that much in a country the size of the United States. In 2012, Obama spent $1.1 billion vs. Mitt Romney’s $1.2 billion. That’s about 1 percent of total ad spending in the US. Hell, in the cell phone biz alone, AT&T spent $1.3 billion vs. Verizon’s $1.2 billion. If you want to look at campaign spending, you really need to size it to the growth in GDP over the past half century or so.

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Independent Groups

ABC News: Trump Super PAC’s New Political Guru Must Wait to Do Work

Julie Bykowicz, Associated Press

Stuart Jolly served as the now-presumptive Republican presidential nominee’s national field director until April 18. On Tuesday, the group Great America PAC announced he was coming aboard as its national adviser for “general political and fundraising activities.”

Jolly’s hiring may boost the credibility of a group that has so far struggled to land major donations. But Federal Election Commission rules require Jolly to wait 120 days to begin helping the super PAC with political advertising strategy.

That “cooling off” period for Jolly ends in mid-August.

Great America’s statement about his hiring hints that the group is going to keep Jolly from political work at first, as required by federal regulators.

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Washington Post: Libertarian super PACs gear up for Gary Johnson

David Weigel

Purple PAC, originally founded by former Cato Institute president Ed Crane as a vehicle for supporting the party’s two-time Virginia candidate Robert Sarvis, briefly transformed into a pro-Paul group in 2015, with $1.2 million in the bank. It hit the pause button in September, when Crane saw Paul tanking in the polls and doing little (apart from debate performances) to spread a libertarian message. The new-old Purple PAC, Crane said, may promote Johnson on social media and plan rallies for him, in addition to giving him air cover.

“We want to raise $10 million, and hopefully we’ll do even better than that,” said Crane, who had gathered some potential donors to meet Johnson earlier in May. “If we don’t have that much, there’s no point going through this exercise.”

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USA Today: ‘Friends and family’ super PACs play big in some House races

Fredreka Schouten and Christopher Schnaars

A USA TODAY analysis of newly filed reports found 182 super PACs with three or fewer donors during the 2016 election cycle. In all, they have collected $71.6 million or nearly 10% of the $766 million raised by all super PACs through the end of April.

The single-donor groups range from labor unions moving money into their own super PACs to Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire former mayor of New York City, replenishing the funds in a group he controls, Independence USA. Bloomberg’s super PAC works to elect candidates who share his views on gun-control, the environment, education and gay rights…

In other cases, these PACs also amount to “friends and family” committees, in which a spouse, parent or longtime friend emerges as the sole funder to help elect a loved one. Super PACs funded by just a handful of donors have been active in at least two Maryland Houses races, for instance.

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Wall Street Journal: Sheldon Adelson in Talks to Create Pro-Trump Super PAC

Rebecca Ballhaus

Creation of the super PAC, which also would support Republicans in key congressional races, hasn’t been finalized, according to two people familiar with the talks. But it marks the latest sign that more of the party establishment is coalescing around the New York businessman after a bitter primary fight. Mr. Adelson endorsed Mr. Trump in early May, saying the election of another Democrat in 2016 would be “frightening.”

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Free Speech

Bloomberg: Attention, Media People: Peter Thiel Changes Nothing

Megan McArdle

I find myself in agreement with the basic sentiment — powerful folks using their power to shut down speech they don’t like is deeply worrisome. That’s true whether those folks are Silicon Valley billionaires going after low gossip, or state attorneys general trying to shut down climate change advocacy they don’t like, or politicians using the power of the Federal Elections Commission to keep critical movies about them from airing during election season.

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BillMoyers.com: Campaign Finance Reformer Tom Udall Seeks Republican Allies

Kathy Kiely

Udall, 68, is a member of a west-of-the-Rockies political dynasty. His father, Stewart Udall, was a Democratic congressman from Arizona for four terms before joining President John F. Kennedy’s cabinet. Continuing as interior secretary under President Lyndon Johnson, the elder Udall was instrumental in assisting Lady Bird Johnson in her crusade to enhance and preserve the nation’s natural beauty.

After Stewart Udall left his House seat, his brother, Mo Udall, won it. A onetime professional basketball player, Mo Udall served three decades as a member of Congress and ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1976. His son, Mark Udall, served as a Democratic state legislator, congressman and US senator for Colorado until his defeat in 2014.

Another Udall cousin, Republican Gordon Smith, represented Oregon for 12 years in the US Senate.

Six years old when his father was first elected to Congress, Tom Udall waxes nostalgic about the way politicians ran in the 1950s. “I think he raised $5,000 for his first campaign,” Udall says of his dad, whom he recalls holding just one fundraiser a campaign cycle, usually a Saturday night potluck, “maybe two weeks before the election.” The money went for yard signs and slate cards. There were no campaign consultants and certainly no media expenses.

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Citizens United

This Is Krist Novoselic: Citizens United: The Real Story

Krist Novoselic

The catchphrases of Citizens United “turning corporations into people” or making “money speech” loom large in the minds of many. Their grip on the reactionary psyche is a powerful rhetorical opportunity for politicians, non-profits and others dependent on political fundraising. The BCRA effectively turned the FEC into a state censorship board. As described above, filmmaker Michael Moore’s production company Dog Eat Dog Films had to stand in front of a state agency to get permission to show his documentary during an election season. Same with the group Citizens United.

The best one can do to serve democracy is to understand and study issues. Don’t believe the hype about Citizens United. It was a good ruling that protected the right of people to hear information without the government picking and choosing who could speak.

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Campaign Regulations

Naples Daily News: Money keeps some wondering whether they should seek U.S. Rep. Curt Clawson’s seat

Alexandra Glorioso

Following the lead of Dr. Paige Kreegel of Punta Gorda, Michael Dreikorn of Bokeelia and Byron Donalds of Naples are trying to raise money through outside groups before they file to seek the office. By not forming a campaign, the potential candidates can coordinate fundraising with outside groups.

“Paige Kreegel made a very good point last week,” Dreikorn said Tuesday. “There are so many restrictions if you do announce.”

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Wisconsin John Doe

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: U.S. Supreme Court allows secret debate in John Doe filing

Jason Stein

In an order Monday, the court said the justices would accept filings made under seal and release copies to the public with parts redacted, a practice that would be similar to what happened in other state and federal courts.

Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm last month asked the nation’s top court to overturn a decision by Wisconsin’s Supreme Court to shut down an investigation into Walker and groups on the right.

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The Media

New York Times: Television Networks Struggle to Provide Equal Airtime in the Era of Trump

Michael M. Grynbaum

Mr. Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, has become a daily fixture on influential programs, startling producers by even personally calling control rooms to shape coverage.

Mrs. Clinton, the Democratic front-runner, is not absent from cable news; she called in to CNN and MSNBC last week to rebut attacks from her rival. But she remains leery of TV’s unscripted nature, appearing far less often than Mr. Trump and irking some bookers who complain about the difficulties of luring her on the air.

For broadcasters, turning down an interview with a candidate is anathema to a news culture trained to pursue maximum access. Yet the starkly different strategies of the candidates are straining the industry’s bedrock notions of evenhandedness.

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The States

Los Angeles Times: Jerry Brown should veto California’s misleading ‘Citizens United’ referendum

Editorial Board

But “permissible” doesn’t mean “useful.” SB 254 describes its Citizens United question as “a voter instruction,” but state legislators and members of Congress would be as free to disregard its results as they are to disregard any other advice about how they should do their jobs. It’s more accurate to describe the proposed referendum as a publicly financed opinion poll.

But what’s the harm of using the election machinery to conduct such a poll? Gov. Brown already put his finger on the problem when he noted, with regard to the measure that was challenged in 2014, that  “we should not make it a habit to clutter our ballots with nonbinding measures, as citizens rightfully assume that their votes are meant to have legal effect.”

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New York Daily News: De Blasio doled out appointments from spreadsheet of big donors

Jennifer Fermino and Greg B. Smith

“Confidential notes” on the list reveal the candidate’s business ties, but do not highlight actual qualifications for specific appointments. They do, however, reference support for the mayor, sometimes in financial terms.

Candidates are described as “with us early on,” “did a lot,” “real deal” and “showed up early.” One states “decent amount,” an apparent reference to the candidate’s fund-raising for the mayor.

Politicians often appoint big donors to these types of board posts, which are typically unpaid but offer a certain cachet, and, not incidentally, sway City Hall decisions.

De Blasio, however, has for years criticized the effect of money on politics. When he ran in 2013, he railed against “the rich and powerful having their voices heard above the rest of us because of weak laws and loopholes that allow money to permeate our elections.”

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Montana Billings Gazette: 10 Montana Republicans call for special session on campaign finance

Holly Michels

Ten Republicans filed paperwork on Tuesday seeking a special session to fix flawed campaign finance laws, but Democrats say the move is unnecessary.

For a session to convene, at least 76 of the 150 members of the House and Senate must approve.

Republicans say the emergency measure — which is also expensive — is necessary to fix what they call “defects” in Montana law governing campaign contributions and close a “loophole” that allows for cash from political action committees to flow to candidates without limit.

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Helena Independent Record: Judge issues stay reinstating campaign contribution limits from political parties

Holly Michels

A federal judge on Thursday put back into place limits on what Montana’s political parties can give to campaigns.

State attorneys on Tuesday argued that U.S. District Court Judge Charles Lovell should issue a stay over part of his own order from last week that removed contribution limits for the political party committees.

In his order May 17, Lovell said the contribution limits were too low and unconstitutional, but left what happened next up to Attorney General Tim Fox.

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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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