Daily Media Links 6/28: Supreme Court overturns corruption conviction of former Va. governor McDonnell, Super PAC attacks on Trump pass new milestone, and more…

June 28, 2016   •  By Brian Walsh   •  
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Supreme Court

Washington Post: Supreme Court overturns corruption conviction of former Va. governor McDonnell

Robert Barnes

The Supreme Court unanimously overturned former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell’s public-corruption conviction Monday and imposed higher standards for federal prosecutors who charge public officials with wrongdoing.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. described the former governor’s actions as “tawdry” but agreed that instructions to the jury in his case about what constitutes “official acts” were so broad, they could cover almost any action a public official takes.

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Roanoke Times: Supreme Court reverses Bob McDonnell’s corruption convictions

Frank Green and Andrew Cain

“There is no doubt that this case is distasteful; it may be worse than that,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., wrote in delivering the opinion for the court. “But our concern is not with tawdry tales of Ferraris, Rolexes, and ball gowns.

“It is instead with the broader legal implications of the governments’ boundless interpretation of the federal bribery statute. A more limited interpretation of the term ‘official act’ leaves ample room for prosecuting corruption, while comporting with the text of the statute and the precedent of this court.”

Roberts concluded: “The judgment of the Court of Appeals is vacated and the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.”

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Election Law Blog: Influence of Justice Scalia Felt in Unanimous Decision Throwing Out Gov. McDonnell Conviction

Rick Hasen

The Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling throwing out the conviction of Gov. McDonnell (while leaving open the possibility of a retrial on a narrower theory of the case) is sensible and courageous, and shows the continuing important influence of Justice Scalia in this area of the law. It is hard to write an opinion letting off the hook someone whose actions were as odious as Gov. McDonnell, in taking rolexes, funding for his daughter’s wedding and more from someone who wanted the governor’s assistance in marketing the equivalent of snake oil. But it was the right thing to do.

…It is not enough that conduct is odious—the rules governing political action need to be clear enough so that politicians know the line between politics as usual and crossing the line. In this case, all the government had to prove was that the Governor contacted state officials and asked them to take a meeting with the donor. The government did not have to prove that the Governor sought to influence anyone’s decision on anything. This raised problems of both a vague statute as well as overzealous prosecutors.

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Roll Call: Campaign Finance Watchdogs Decry McDonnell Corruption Ruling

Kate Ackley

“The question was one of bad jury instructions, so it’s unclear how far we should read into it,” said Sheila Krumholz, who runs the nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign money and lobbying. “It does fit into an ongoing relaxation of rules regarding lobbyists and donors, and some may interpret this as there’s less appetite for pursuing corruption cases.”…

Ethics and campaign finance watchdog organizations decried the high court’s latest ruling in favor of McDonnell.

“The repercussions are massive,” said Lisa Gilbert, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch. “This case was a critical test, and the court failed.”

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Independent Groups

Washington Examiner: Super PAC attacks on Trump pass new milestone

Jason Russell

Combined anti-Trump spending passed $50 million on June 14, when Priorities USA Action (a pro-Hillary Clinton super PAC) spent nearly $4 million on video production and two different TV ad buys.

Two days later, Priorities USA Action spent another $2.2 million on a digital ad buy. To date, the group has spent $16.6 million against Trump and only $5.8 million to support Clinton. All major super PACs combined have spent $54 million against Trump.

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USA Today: Thousands of Republican donors avoid Donald Trump

Fredreka Schouten and Christopher Schnaars

Just 29 people who contributed to a super PAC supporting Republican Mitt Romney’s presidential bid four years ago had donated either to Trump’s campaign, to the Republican National Committee via a joint fundraising committee he established with the party or to a pro-Trump super PAC, Great America PAC, according to a USA TODAY analysis of new campaign-finance reports.

That accounts for about 2% of the more than 1,400 people who donated to the pro-Romney Restore Our Future during the 2012 election.

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Dangers of Disclosure

Los Angeles Times: Activists reveal more dark-money donors to campaigns against unions and schools-funding tax

Howard Blume, Maloy Moore and Doug Smith

The group’s game plan could be called preventive disclosure, or strategic shaming…

“Proposition 30 is too crucial to risk their interference this time around. We’re calling them out,” added Schur, whose group is part of Hedge Clippers, a coalition of unions and self-described progressive groups…

The new names emerged this week from sleuthing based on a partially redacted list of donors that a political operative had provided to regulators. On it, names and addresses of so-called “dark money” donors are partially blacked out. But enough remained in view to allow researchers to cross reference visible information with more complete public filings elsewhere. And, from there, it was a matter of fill-in-the-blanks.

The work is the latest Hedge Clippers report to target the “one-percent,” wealthy Americans with politics they oppose. The Hedge Clippers also are active in New York City and elsewhere.

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The Courts

Bloomberg BNA: Soft Money Ban Should be Scrapped, Skeptical Judges Urged

Kenneth P. Doyle

Attorney James Bopp, who has led court challenges of dozens of campaign finance laws over more than two decades, argued against the soft-money restrictions during a hearing at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. He cited recent Supreme Court cases, including the 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and the 2014 ruling in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, which held that contributions can’t be limited if they don’t corrupt a candidate.

The logic of these cases should apply to parties and not just outside spending groups, Bopp argued.

U.S. Circuit Judge Sri Srinivasan, who presided over the panel, challenged Bopp. He noted that the Citizens United and McCutcheon cases stopped short of overturning previous Supreme Court rulings that upheld the soft money provisions of the McCain-Feingold law, formally known as the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA).

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Moyers & Company: Dark Money: How You Can See More of It, Thanks to the FCC

Kathy Kiely

On June 24, the Federal Communications Commission began requiring the nation’s radio broadcasters and cable television stations to upload all of their political ad contracts to a public online database. TV broadcasters have been doing so since the last presidential election. The FCC’s decision to expand its online public file is important in the context of campaign 2016 because it vastly expands the field of vision for reporters and citizen monitors who are trying to track the efforts of dark-money groups to influence the elections.

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Vanity Fair: The Cast of Hamilton Will Help Raise Clinton Cash

Mahita Gajanan

Nothing brings people to a political fundraiser like a special performance of Hamilton—and Hillary Clinton knows it. The Clinton campaign announced on Saturday that an extra performance of the Broadway hit has been scheduled for July 12 as a fundraiser for the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, according to an email sent to supporters…

Organized by the Hillary Victory Fund, seats for the matinee performance start at $2,700 and go to $100,000 for “event chair” tickets, which includes two premium seats, a wrap party with Clinton and “other special guests,” and an invite to the Democratic National Convention. Tickets are available on Clinton’s website.

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Candidates and Campaigns

Yahoo News: Donald Trump has a big problem with email spam

Rob Pegoraro

If you didn’t get Donald Trump’s first email asking for money, you may be among the silent majority—that is, the silent majority of people who signed up for his emails but had this message silently dumped into a spam folder.

A full 59.3% of copies of Trump’s “The First One” email got filtered out as junk Wednesday, according to the mail-services company Return Path.

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Fusion: Why is Team Trump asking liberal Scottish politicians for donations?

Adam Weinstein

The emails themselves appear to be boilerplate donation solicitations, familiar to political journalists, and emailed automatically to any email address registered with the Trump campaign through its website. The MPs reported receiving the emails — at least four apiece — in the inboxes of their public-facing email accounts, listed on the U.K. Parliament’s website…

A Federal Elections Commission representative told Fusion that while the commission cannot comment on specific candidates or situations, donations by foreign nationals to U.S. elections causes are generally forbidden, and “it is also unlawful to help foreign nationals violate that ban or to solicit, receive or accept contributions or donations from them.”

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The States

New York Post: De Blasio fundraiser admits to pay-for-play bundling scheme

Frank Rosario, Michael Gartland and Bruce Golding

A high-profile cabby advocate whose wife needs the city’s OK for a women-only livery service admitted to The Post on Monday that he raised campaign cash for Mayor de Blasio and funneled it through an unemployed Brooklyn woman.

Fernando Mateo, founder of the New York State Federation of Taxi Drivers, came clean about the blatant violation of election law after The Post learned he had personally solicited a donation for Hizzoner and then had Ahlam Jaoui take credit for it.

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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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