Daily Media Links 6/24: Confederate Flags and the Citizens United Effect, How Government Stifled Reason’s Free Speech, and more…

June 24, 2015   •  By Scott Blackburn   •  
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In the News

Michigan Capitol Confidential: The Fight for Free Speech

Kahryn Riley

Things aren’t looking good for individual privacy – at least for those who wish to participate in public policy debates. Despite the First Amendment’s strong defense of free expression, speech is increasingly regulated – especially political and policy dialogue. For an increasing number of nonprofit organizations, disclosing contributors’ identities is the price paid to be allowed to advocate in the public square. Some fight back against these regulations, arguing in the name of free speech and individual privacy that promoting public policy should not be regulated in the same way as funding a political candidate.

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U.S. Congressman has a Bold Plan to Put Non-Voters First

Luke Wachob

Is the purpose of increasing voter turnout to make politics more democratic, or to make politics more dominated by Democrats?

…According to Ellison, a Voters First program would “commit[] first to boost voter turnout by 3 to 7 percent,” use “best practices for effective field organizing,” “partner with candidates up and down the ticket,” and “set a goal to raise 25 percent or more of their contributions from low-dollar donors.”

But the details of Rep. Ellison’s plan are far less interesting than his apparent motivations for launching it. Notice that he did not say voter turnout is low and we should raise it. He said voter turnout is low, which benefits Republicans, and therefore we should raise it.

In other words, this isn’t principled. This is political.

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Free Speech

Bloomberg: Confederate Flags and the Citizens United Effect

Stephen L. Carter

After the Charleston massacre, heads of companies from Apple to Salesforce.com to Airbnb have called for the retiring of the Confederate battle flag that now flies over a memorial near the South Carolina state capitol. I think that’s grand. The flag is doomed, and I’ll be as delighted as anyone when it’s lowered for the final time. Yet this flurry of activity sparks a subversive thought: Suppose a South Carolina law prohibited corporations doing business in the state from challenging the flag. Would the law be unconstitutional?

The answer matters. Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, activists, academics and politicians have derided the majority’s conclusion that corporations possess a significant right to free speech under the First Amendment. Yet free speech would be the obvious ground that a company would cite in challenging the hypothetical South Carolina statute. After all, it is corporate speech that the law would be restricting.

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Reason: How Government Stifled Reason’s Free Speech

Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch

For the past two weeks, Reason, a magazine dedicated to “Free Minds and Free Markets,” has been barred by an order from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York from speaking publicly about a grand jury subpoena that court sent to Reason.com.

The subpoena demanded the records of six people who left hyperbolic comments at the website about the federal judge who oversaw the controversial conviction of Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht. Shortly after the subpoena was issued, the government issued a gag order prohibiting Reason not only from discussing the matter but even acknowledging the existence of the subpoena or the gag order itself. As a wide variety of media outlets have noted, such actions on the part of the government are not only fundamentally misguided and misdirected, they have a tangible chilling effect on free expression by commenters and publications alike.

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Wall Street Journal: House Aims to Prevent SEC from Requiring Corporate Political Disclosures Again

Emily Chasan

But when the U.S. House Appropriations Committee approved the Fiscal Year 2016 Financial Services Bill this week, it included a prohibition to the Securities and Exchange Commission from implementing a rule to require disclosure of corporate political spending.

Section 625 of the financial services bill would prevent the SEC from using authorized funds to create a rule on disclosure of political contributions, or contributions to trade associations and other tax-exempt organizations.

The House passed the same provision in the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act last year, but it did not make it through the Senate into the law.

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Independent Groups

Washington Post: Why Democrats will keep attacking the Koch brothers, even if it doesn’t change any minds

Paul Waldman

What it may do, however — and what Democrats are probably hoping — is that it can help mobilize the liberal base. When I go on liberal talk radio or talk to Democratic activists, the Kochs and their influence inevitably come up, no matter what issue you might be discussing. It’s something that the base cares deeply about.

You can motivate your voters by getting them to be enthusiastic about your candidate, but you can also mobilize them by getting them to despise and fear the other side’s candidate, which can be helped along by spotlighting the people around him. I’d be surprised if American Bridge uncovers anything monumentally scandalous in their investigation of the Kochs. But even if they don’t, the more they talk about the brothers and their influence, the more Democratic voters could be energized, seeing the 2016 election as vitally important to keeping the White House out of Republican hands.

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The Hill: Dems to Obama: Issue executive order on campaign spending

Lydia Wheeler

Democrats in both chambers of Congress are calling on President Obama to finalize an executive order that would force federal contractors to disclose their political spending.

The letter from members of the House was signed by 104 lawmakers, including Reps. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), Michael Capuano (D-Mass.) and Donna Edwards (D-Md.), and asks Obama to re-propose and finalize a draft executive order that dates back to 2011.

“Taxpayers have a right to know where their money is spent and you have the power to ensure that the American people can obtain this information,” the letter said. “With public funds come public responsibilities, and any company receiving federal tax dollars should be required by Executive Order to fully disclose their political spending in a timely and accessible manner.”

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Time: FEC Tells ‘Jews for Cruz’ PAC to Change Its Name

Jacob Koffler

Jews for Cruz, a political action committee (PAC) of Jewish-American Ted Cruz supporters, will have to change its name.

According to a letter sent to the committee from the Federal Election Commission (FEC) on Monday, the PAC cannot have Cruz’s name in its title because it is not an authorized committee of the 2016 presidential candidate.

The PAC’s Twitter profile description reads: “Help us fight the Islamic and liberal assault on America and Israel. In your heart, you know we’re right. And in your guts, you know they’re nuts.” They have almost 2,500 followers.

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Public Opinion

The Nation: Voter Participation Is at Historic Lows. It’s Time to Rethink GOTV.

Keith Ellison

The importance of grassroots fundraising extends beyond campaigns and makes a real difference in policies that get implemented. According to Demos, in 2010, 62 percent of those making $150,000 voted, while only 27 percent of those earning less than $10,000 voted. Non-voters are more progressive than voters as a whole. A Pew study found that only 39 percent of voters think government should do more to solve problems, while 52 percent of non-voters do. When more low-income voters turnout, politicians will respond with fairer economic policies.

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Candidates and Campaigns

New York Times: Presidential Hopefuls Sell Swag, Collect Data

Vanessa Friedman

Buy an item from a campaign store, and you are not actually purchasing a product; you are making a donation. According to Federal Election Commission regulations, candidates are not allowed to sell items for personal profit, so the product is the “premium” you get in return for your pledge.

As a result, when you put, say, a T-shirt or a coffee cup in your cart and go to checkout, you will, besides being asked for your full name, shipping address, phone and email, be met with the statement, “federal law requires us to collect the following information”: employer, occupation and whether you are retired…

“It’s all about learning who your supporter base is,” said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst of the NPD Group and the author of “Why Customers Do What They Do.” “How do they live? What are their trigger points? What words resonate with them? It’s worth its weight in gold, in the political arena just like the consumer arena. We call it demographic profiling, because voter profiling sounds like a dirty word, but that’s what it is.”

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ABC News: We find the weirdest campaign schwag money can buy

Abby Johnston

Because Trump will likely self-finance his campaign, American voters may never know the joy of gold-plated Trump 2016 golf tees or platinum Trump cufflinks.

But don’t fret, America. There are still campaign treasures to be had. What about a Stand With Rand cornhole board? Or a hand-stitched Hillary Clinton pillow? All of this can be yours with your money and tacit endorsement!

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The States

Bloomberg: New York Lawmaker’s Trial May Hold Clues for Silver, Skelos

Christie Smythe

John Sampson, once the Democratic leader of the state Senate, will fight charges he obstructed a U.S. probe into his work as a court-appointed referee in foreclosure cases. For Silver, the ex-speaker of the Assembly, and Skelos, the former Senate majority leader, what matters is whether jurors focus on the facts of the case, or judge Sampson based on perceptions of rampant wrongdoing in Albany.

Silver is accused of obtaining about $4 million in kickbacks for referring real estate and personal injury business to law firms. Skelos is accused of obtaining more than $200,000 in payments for his son from parties seeking favorable legislative treatment. They have also pleaded not guilty to those allegations.

Sampson’s case “is in many ways a warm-up act” for Silver and Skelos, said Blair Horner, legislative director of the New York Public Interest Research Group. Sampson’s trial helps create “the atmosphere in which their cases will be heard.”

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Scott Blackburn


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