Daily Media Links 6/22: Ossoff Complains About ‘Money in Politics’ After Running Most Expensive House Race Ever, McConnell: Free Speech Is Crucial To Who We Are As Americans, and more… 

June 22, 2017   •  By Alex Baiocco   •  
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In the News

Washington Examiner: Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse is a hypocrite on the First Amendment

By Alex Baiocco

It is heartening to see that Whitehouse is now encouraging citizens (and corporations) to engage in political speech instead of yet again attempting to silence opposing viewpoints.

His statement demonstrates that he does indeed understand the value of First Amendment-protected advocacy. However, the statement is also an example of the far too common tendency among many politicians to view only friendly advocacy as legitimate.

The First Amendment protects the right of every American to privately support an environmental group. It also supports the right of every corporation to speak in opposition to the president’s actions regarding climate policy.

But Whitehouse must realize that the First Amendment also protects the right of citizens, nonprofit groups, and corporations to engage in political speech he opposes. In the end, his anti-speech objectives will harm the First Amendment rights of his allies as much as his opponents.


The Washington Post Holds Series of Panels on the First Amendment

By Joe Albanese

On Tuesday, The Washington Post hosted a series of First Amendment panels at its offices in an event called “Free to State: A New Era for the First Amendment.” The panels touched on several different topics related to free speech and freedom of religion and were moderated by Post writers…

One thing that stood out (obviously due to my own organizational affiliation) was the First Amendment rights not featured in any of the four panels. To be sure, there was no panel focused exclusively on freedom of the press either – despite the introductory comments about President Trump’s relations with the media and the fact that this event was held by a major newspaper. But neither was there any mention of threats to political speech with regard to various campaign finance regulations…

Despite decades of Supreme Court jurisprudence and the logical link between spending money and practicing free speech, the issue is still viewed by most members of the media as one of preventing corruption in the electoral system rather than the right of citizens to participate in their democracy. This may be due in no small part to the fact that speech by the media is protected by a separate class of First Amendment rights. As such, many in the media do not see any constitutional equivalence with the speech of ordinary Americans, who are subject to a panoply of local, state, and federal regulations when speaking.

Free Speech

McConnell: Free Speech Is Crucial To Who We Are As Americans

“Today I want to touch on a topic, as I announced recently, that I will continue to address regularly here on the Senate floor: the right of free speech. This fundamental right is one of our most cherished. It forms the beating heart of our democracy. It sits at the core of our civic identity. Yet, these days it seems to be coming under increasing threat across the country…

“The growing trend of intolerance we’re seeing has taken many forms recently, but the underlying hostility to free speech has not changed. As I noted earlier, in recent years the threat had often come from the federal government. These days, the threat tends to come from different quarters. There have been many high-profile incidents of speech suppression and violence at universities across the country in particular, but it would be a mistake to think that this problem is isolated to college campuses. The bottom line, for me, is this: we simply cannot allow this trend of violence and intimidation to become the new normal in our country…

“From this platform, I will continue to raise the importance of free speech, outline the threats it faces, and do what I can to inform and encourage Americans to rally in its defense.”

Washington Examiner: If you want to restrict free speech, you can Ossoff

By Washington Examiner

In response to the Supreme Court’s repeatedly vindicating this treasured First Amendment right, not just with Citizens United but also by striking down key parts of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law in earlier decisions, Senate Democrats voted in 2014 to weaken the First Amendment guarantee of free political speech. The constitutional amendment that every single Democrat present on the floor voted to pass would have explicitly empowered both Congress and state legislatures to pass laws abridging the freedom of political speech for the first time in this nation’s history.

Last year, Democratic Federal Election Commissioners went even further in their war on the First Amendment by attacking the freedom of the press, again in the name of campaign finance regulation. They tried unsuccessfully to prevent newspapers with more than 5 percent foreign ownership (this would include The New York Times) to endorse candidates…

The increasing hostility of leftists and their party toward the First Amendment may not have played a large role in the Democrats’ several recent losses. But it is misplaced in any event. As various and ideologically diverse large-dollar donors have learned the hard way – everyone from Sheldon Adelson to Tom Steyer – one cannot just buy elections, hard as one tries. 

Supreme Court

The Atlantic: The Supreme Court Offers a Warning on Free Speech

By Matt Ford

The U.S. Supreme Court handed down two notable victories for free-speech advocates on Monday as it nears the end of its current term. The two First Amendment cases came to the Court from starkly different circumstances, but the justices emphasized a similar theme in both rulings: Beware what the free-speech restrictions of today could be used to justify tomorrow…

In the first case, Matal v. Tam, the Court sided with an Asian-American rock band in Oregon named The Slants in a dispute with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The PTO had denied band member Simon Tam’s application to register the group’s name as a trademark…

The plaintiff in the other free-speech case, Packingham v. North Carolina, was far less sympathetic. When he was a 21-year-old college student in 2002, Lester Packingham pled guilty to a sexual crime involving a 13-year-old girl. North Carolina law automatically required him to register in the state’s sex-offender database. Six years later, the state passed a law making it a felony for registered sex offenders to access a “commercial social-networking site.”…

The eight justices who heard his case-Neil Gorsuch didn’t join the Court in time to participate in Packingham or Tam-unanimously ruled in his favor and struck down the North Carolina statute in question.


Washington Examiner: FEC Dem eyes widening Russia probe to Facebook, Drudge, foreign companies

By Paul Bedard

A new proposal by an anti-Trump Democrat on the Federal Election Commission would expand the federal government’s probe into alleged Russian influence to foreign companies and internet sites that take political ads, like Facebook or the Drudge Report, while giving the FEC an unprecedented role that some say oversteps its authority.

Democratic Commissioner Ellen Weintraub, citing petitions from leftist groups demanding a wider investigation, on Thursday plans to push for commission support for her idea…

Her bid to jump into the Russia probe would crowd the field of government agencies investigating the allegations. None have asked for the FEC’s help. She would also reach into states, a huge expansion of federal authority.

Critics of the idea called it a “federal power grab” beyond the scope of the FEC’s powers. Her previous efforts to focus on politically active U.S. corporations with foreign ownership have been blocked by Republicans on the FEC.


ABC News: Free speech on college campuses in the Senate spotlight

By Kevin Freking, AP

Free speech on college campuses attracted congressional attention on Tuesday as a Senate panel questioned students, academics and lawyers after the abrupt cancellation of several high-profile speeches from California to Texas…

Eugene Volokh, a professor at the UCLA School of Law, said that a “heckler’s veto” should not be allowed.

“I think the answer is to make sure they don’t create a disturbance and to threaten them with punishment, meaningful punishment, if they do create a disturbance,” Volokh said. “If thugs learn that all they need to do in order to suppress speech is to threaten violence, then there will be more such threats.”

Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, said the tensions on college campuses reflect the growing political polarization in society…

Cohen cited the appearance of white nationalist Richard Spencer at Auburn University this spring in telling lawmakers what the university did right and wrong in handling his speech. University officials were right to say they abhor Spencer’s views, but they were wrong to cancel his appearance altogether out of fear of violence, Cohen said.

Candidates and Campaigns

Washington Free Beacon: Ossoff Complains About ‘Money in Politics’ After Running Most Expensive House Race Ever

By Paul Crookston 

“The role of money in politics is a major problem and particularly the role of unchecked anonymous money,” Ossoff told NPR host Rachel Martin. “There have been super PACs in Washington who have been putting up tens of millions of dollars of attack ads in here for months now.”

Ossoff outspent his Republican opponent $22.2 million to $3.5 million on advertisements and other campaign expenses, according to an election-eve analysis by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Handel benefitted from more political action committee money to support her, but Ossoff still retained a massive spending advantage…

He went on to call for campaign finance reform so candidates will spend less time fundraising.

“There’s no question that money in politics is a major problem, which is one of the reasons that we need campaign finance reform so that candidates and campaigns will spend more time talking to voters and discussing the issues and less time raising money,” Ossoff said.

The Georgia Democrat drew criticism during his campaign for more than 95 percent of his contributions coming from out of state.

The States

U.S. News & World Report: Wisconsin Assembly Passes Bill on Campus Free Speech

By Scott Bauer and Todd Richmond, AP

The measure, approved on a 61-36 vote Wednesday night with no Democrats in support, is the latest salvo in the national push among some conservatives to crack down on disruptions they say is quelling free speech on liberal college campuses. Conservatives are worried that right-wing speakers aren’t given equal treatment as liberal campus presenters, while other students have complained about free expression fanning hate speech.

Democrats, who didn’t have the votes to stop the bill in the Assembly, blasted it as an unconstitutional attack on freedom of speech.

“It basically gags and bags the First Amendment,” said Democratic Rep. Chris Taylor of Madison.

Republican backers told reporters that the bill would protect speech from those who repeatedly try to quash it…

The proposal must still pass the GOP-controlled Senate and be signed by Gov. Scott Walker before becoming law. 

Alex Baiocco

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