Daily Media Links 6/16: FEC Dismisses Lawmakers’ Complaint Against Super PACs, Five Clichés Used to Attack Free Speech, and more…

June 16, 2017   •  By Alex Baiocco   •  
Default Article

In the News

Washington Times: Paying politicians to run for office

By Joe Albanese

A new report by the Center for Competitive Politics (CCP) asks a key question: would tax-funded campaigns help challengers beat incumbents more often? The study examines state legislators running for re-election in two groups of states. One group consists of the five states with some form of tax-financed campaigns (Arizona, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, and Minnesota). The other group is the remaining 45 states.

CCP’s report shows incumbents win at sky-high rates no matter what state group they’re in. From the 2010 to 2016 election cycles, 89 percent of incumbents won in tax-financing states, and 91 percent won in the others. The gap between these states is statistically insignificant – there is basically no difference between them. This is like when a poll says candidate A will beat candidate B, but the survey is within the margin of error; meaning B could be tied with or even beating A. The situation is the same here. We cannot tell the difference between re-election rates in tax-financing states and other states…

Our new report shows that Americans should be skeptical of public financing and its claimed benefits. Any “reform” that subsidizes politicians should be seen for what it is: a program that spends your tax dollars on politics. 

Free Speech

Variety: Facebook Aims to Start Debate on Censorship, Fake News

By Janko Roettgers

The social media juggernaut kick-started an effort to more openly debate questions of free speech and censorship, false and misleading news and the impact social media has on democracy Thursday, announcing a series of posts that aims to explain the thinking and internal debates behind some of the company’s policies.

“As more and more of our lives extend online, and digital technologies transform how we live, we all face challenging new questions – everything from how best to safeguard personal privacy online to the meaning of free expression to the future of journalism worldwide,” wrote Facebook VP of Public Policy and Communications Elliot Schrage in a blog post…

A first post, also published Thursday, explored how social networks should fight the spreading of terrorist propaganda online. Another post in the pipeline will aim to answer who should decide if a post is false news, or just political speech.

In addition to explaining Facebook’s side, the company also asked users to chime in – albeit not publicly. Instead, Schrage encouraged anyone to email questions of comments to a dedicated email address, hardquestions@fb.com – arguably an odd choice, given the fact that these very issues are about speech on Facebook.

Reason: Five Clichés Used to Attack Free Speech (New @ Reason)

By Todd Krainin

Nick Gillespie has some sharp insights on how to fight back against the would-be censors by shredding the most-popular clichés used by people trying to make the rest of us shut the hell up.

Washington Post: Canada shouldn’t let concerns over foreign funding stifle free speech

By J.J. McCullough

The report, which was produced by several individuals with ties to the opposition Conservative Party, including a former Tory member of Parliament who lost her seat in the 2015 election, basically accuses the American left of funding Canadian proxies to secure a Trudeau victory…
It’s unpopular to defend the role of money in politics, and people snicker at the notion that cash equals “speech.” Yet Canada’s capacity to sustain a robust political debate featuring voices beyond the traditional players – political parties and the mainstream press – requires a legal regime capable of tolerating strong and well-funded political action groups on both right and left.

American money could indeed be the thin edge of a broader phenomenon of global interests seeking to manipulate Canadian politics for their own purposes, be they strategic or ideological. Yet against the backdrop of this very particular anxiety, some are clearly sniffing an opportunity to indulge a much more conventional desire to limit, as George F. Will is fond of saying, the “quantity, content and timing” of political speech. The cause of free expression deserves advocates, too.

Concurring Opinions: FAN 156 (First Amendment News) Special Post: The Espionage Act at the 100 Year Mark: Commentaries by Bambauer, Chemerinsky, Stone & Vladeck

By Ronald K.L. Collins

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the Espionage Act of 1917 (18 U.S. Code Chapter 37). In light of that, I have collected some background materials about the Act followed by several original commentaries on it, which follow the introductory materials below.


Bloomberg BNA: FEC Dismisses Lawmakers’ Complaint Against Super PACs

By Kenneth P. Doyle 

The Federal Election Commission has dismissed an administrative complaint filed by members of Congress against the nation’s leading super political action committees. But a court challenge will continue arguing that super PACs illegally allow unlimited contributions to influence federal elections ( Lieu v. FEC, D.D.C., No. 16-cv-2201, motion filed 6/13/17)….

The FEC complaint was filed last summer in an effort led by Reps. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) and Walter Jones (R-N.C.), and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), to curb the rising power of super PACs in congressional campaigns. The plaintiffs claimed they were unfairly harmed because super PACs can raise millions of dollars in unlimited contributions to oppose them, while federal candidates can raise only $2,700 per individual contributor for each election…

The ultimate aim of the court challenge is to reverse a 2010 federal appeals court ruling that created super PACs, according to the challengers. The target is a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in a case called SpeechNow.org v. FEC.  

CPI: Center for Public Integrity sues Federal Election Commission

By The Center for Public Integrity 

For the third time in two years, the Center for Public Integrity has sued the Federal Election Commission – an agency that touts “transparency” in its mission statement – for refusing to release documents requested under the Freedom of Information Act.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday with the U.S District Court for the District of Columbia, stems from the FEC’s refusal to make public emails between agency officials and the Office of Management and Budget during the initial days of President Donald Trump’s administration…

As part of its lawsuit, the Center for Public Integrity has also asked the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to force the FEC to release internal documents pertaining to @alt_FEC – a popular Twitter account purportedly run by an anonymous FEC staff member and critical of the Trump administration and the agency’s Republican commissioners.

The Courts

Weekly Standard: High Court Ruling

By Scrapbook   

Iowa State’s administrators were not amused when people started pestering them with questions about why the university was promoting marijuana (especially when those people were from the Iowa Governor’s Office of Drug Control Policy).

University officials sought to clear the air, if you will, by changing the rules under which student groups are allowed to use school logos. The new rules just happened, in effect, to proscribe student weedvocates from putting Cy the Cardinal and a marijuana leaf on the same T-shirt.

This being America, the students sued, arguing the school was infringing on their right to free speech. After a few years of legal wrangling, the appeals court affirmed the ruling that Iowa State had “discriminated against that group on the basis of the group’s viewpoint.”

Any victory for free speech on campus is welcome, which may explain the odd assortment of conservative groups who weighed in along the way. Amicus briefs supporting the marijuana crowd were filed by such non-beatnik types as Students for Life of America, Ratio Christi, the Christian Legal Society, and the Young America’s Foundation.

Independent Groups

Bloomberg BNA: Pro-Trump Nonprofit Spends $1.3 Million in Georgia Race

By Kenneth P. Doyle  

America First Policies got involved in the Georgia race June 6, just two weeks before the election, according to an independent expenditure report filed with the FEC. It was the group’s first reported spending in a campaign, though it sponsored earlier ads touting Trump’s decisions as president and calling for Senate confirmation of Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch.

As a nonprofit group that’s tax exempt under Section 501(c)(4) of the tax code, America First Policies doesn’t report its contributors to the FEC and hasn’t provided any information publicly about its funding sources.

Mother Jones: Lawsuit Accuses Private Prison Company of Illegally Funding a Trump Super-PAC

By Samantha Michaels

In August and November, GEO Group, the country’s biggest private prison company, donated a total of $225,000 through a subsidiary to a pro-Trump super-PAC, according to campaign disclosures. . . But according to a lawsuit filed Thursday by the Campaign Legal Center, the prison company’s decision to fund the super-PAC allegedly violated federal law, which prohibits government contractors from making political contributions…

In its lawsuit, the Campaign Legal Center is asking the Justice Department to turn over documents related to the administration’s decision to keep working with private prisons. In particular, the nonprofit watchdog is seeking records that might shed light on whether the administration’s decision was influenced by GEO contributions to the pro-Trump super-PAC…

GEO Group denies the allegation that its contributions broke campaign finance laws. “These are absolutely baseless and meritless allegations. All of our company’s contributions have been fully compliant with all applicable laws,” the company said in a statement to Mother Jones.

The States

U.S. News & World Report: Judges Won’t Delay Ruling Merging NC Elections, Ethics Board

By Associated Press

A three-judge panel says it will not block a North Carolina law merging oversight of state elections, ethics, lobbying and campaign finance laws into a single agency.

The same three-judge panel that two weeks ago dismissed Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s lawsuit against legislative Republicans said Thursday the law will stay in effect while Cooper appeals.

The law takes away a chunk of Cooper’s authority over managing elections. The new elections, ethics and campaign finance board has an equal number of Democrats and Republicans, but a Republican will head it during presidential election years.

The judicial panel’s earlier ruling means that the old state elections board is extinct but the new, combined version has no members until Cooper appoints some.

Alex Baiocco

Alex Baiocco