Daily Media Links 6/3: The Case for More Money in Politics, New “AlternativePAC” to Launch Supporting Johnson/Weld from Grassroots Free-Market Advocate Matt Kibbe, and more…

June 3, 2016   •  By Brian Walsh   •  
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In the News

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Reform requires knowing basics about campaign financing

Bradley A. Smith

The PG notes that in 2012, about $570 million was spent in the presidential race by independent groups. This, it says, is “often called ‘dark money,’ ” with donors “kept secret.”

This confuses two issues. Independent spending is merely spending by groups of citizens not affiliated directly with a candidate or political party. It amounts to approximately 20 percent of total spending on presidential campaigns. In congressional races, it is approximately 15 percent. The vast majority of spending comes from the candidates themselves.

Furthermore, most independent spending is not “dark money” — it is done by “super PACs,” which are required by law to disclose all donors over $200. So-called “dark money” is spending by nonprofit organizations such as the Sierra Club and National Rifle Association. These organizations must report their campaign expenditures, which may not exceed half of their total activity. They are not required to report the names of their members and supporters (hence the pejorative “dark money” label), but total spending by such organizations amounted to less than 4.5 percent of political spending in both 2012 and 2014.

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Free Speech

Library of Law and Liberty: The Case for More Money in Politics

Derek Muller

Should a democracy, in the name of combatting political corruption, and in the name of equal participation in politics, regulate the formation of political opinions—or should it be guided by the principle of the free formation of opinion that emerges spontaneously in society?

The phrase “campaign-finance reform” assumes a premise: that the way American political campaigns are run needs reform. Specifically, it assumes that the problems in our political discourse are principally ones about who pays for campaigns. These problems are alluded to, in breathless tones, as “money in politics,” or “dark money,” or, most glibly, “Citizens United.”

Consider, though, that there isn’t a problem with “money in politics” unless there is something bad that “money in politics” does. Rather than assuming a premise of reform, we ought to step back and consider whether or not campaign finance needs reforming. As we evaluate competing justifications for reform, we should be mindful, as citizens of a nation built upon regular and meaningful elections, that these be regulated to do the least damage to our constitutionally guaranteed rights, that is, to the open exchange of political views. As we will see, this priority is largely lacking in today’s reforms, whether existing or proposed.

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Independent Groups

Reason: New “AlternativePAC” to Launch Supporting Johnson/Weld from Grassroots Free-Market Advocate Matt Kibbe

Brian Doherty

“I have been talking to donors for several weeks as the reality of a Trump vs. Clinton ticket really sunk in. There is real interest in the Libertarian ticket, and Gary Johnson has an historic opportunity,” Kibbe said in an exclusive email this morning.

“So I am launching a new SuperPAC to help raise awareness, drive messages, and change the conversation on social media. I think I can raise significant funds for this,” he wrote. In a later phone interview, he was not able to name specific donors who might give big money to the PAC.

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“Dark Money”

CNN: Gun control group with Bloomberg ties endorses Clinton

David Wright

Everytown for Gun Safety was launched in 2014 with a $50 million pledge from former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an outspoken advocate of gun control laws, in response to the Sandy Hook shooting massacre.

The organization describes itself as “a movement of Americans working together to end gun violence and build safer communities,” and says it works to pass ballot initiatives requiring criminal background checks on gun sales and “support candidates in federal and local races who support gun safety.” It was the top spender among gun safety groups in the 2014 election cycle, according to the campaign finance tracking site OpenSecrets.org.

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Daily Beast: The Lousy Senate Democratic Campaign Finance Reform Plan Would Change Nothing

Lawrence Lessig

But the details of this package are astonishingly weak, and would represent an extraordinary step backward. The plan is weaker than those of both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. It is weaker than the position of the vast majority of Democrats in the House. And most importantly: It would do little if anything to end the corrupting influence of money in politics.

At the core of the proposed package are four ideas: Senate Democrats would strengthen disclosure; they would propose a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United; they would strengthen enforcement at the FEC and SEC; and they would direct the states to make redistricting decisions through non-partisan commissions.

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Campaign Finance Abroad

Guardian: Turnbull restates belief in donations cap but does not commit to act

Gabrielle Chan

The prime minister said it was difficult to reform the political donation system without leaving loopholes which allowed donors to “get around the system” by spending directly in third-party campaigns…

At a federal level, parties must disclose donations of more than $13,000 and there is no cap on the amount. Federal Labor voluntarily discloses donations of $1,000 or more. Labor does not support a ban on corporate or union donations or real time disclosure.

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The Media

Bloomberg: Demise of Local News May Be Ruining Congress

Jonathan Bernstein

David Mayhew, in his classic study of incentives for members of Congress (“Congress: The Electoral Connection”), identifies three things politicians may do to secure re-election: advertise (including all efforts at publicity, not just paid ads), claim credit for accomplishments, often ones which benefit their districts, and take positions. They all depend quite a bit on the assumption that the media will notice when a member of Congress does something that will have an effect on the constituents he or she represents.

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Candidates and Campaigns

Los Angeles Times: Donald Trump spent the least on TV ads en route to becoming GOP nominee

Kurtis Lee

As he bested 16 challengers en route to the nomination, hurling a barrage of insults that helped earn him free airtime, Trump spent about $19 million, according to a report by NBC News and SMG Delta. That sum was the lowest of any candidate, Republican or Democrat.

By contrast, Hillary Clinton and super PACs backing her candidacy have spent about $49 million on television advertising. Her challenger for the Democratic nomination, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, has spent about $58 million.

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CBS 10: Protesters punch, throw eggs at Trump supporters in San Jose

Martha Mendoza, Associated Press

A dozen or more people were hit and car windows were broken. Trump hats grabbed from supporters were set on fire on the ground. One least one woman was pelted with an egg.

Police stood their ground at first but after about 90 minutes moved into the remaining crowd to break it up and make arrests. At least four people were taken into custody, though police didn’t release total arrest figures Thursday night.

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The States

Texas Tribune: More than 300 Gubernatorial Appointees Have Expired Terms

Ross Ramsey

Empower Texans, a conservative advocacy group that has been warring with the Texas Ethics Commission, recently called on Abbott and other state leaders to replace the four commissioners at that agency whose terms have expired. Two of those would be gubernatorial appointments.

“We have for some time been concerned with the use of the Texas Ethics Commission by certain elected officials as a vehicle to harass and silence the voice of the people during their participation in the political process,” they wrote in a letter to Abbott also signed by officials with several other conservative organizations.

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Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: Wolf wants lobbyist legislation tied to campaign finance reform

Brad Bumsted and Mike Wereschagin

Wolf wants ethics measures to be passed that include a statewide gift ban, disclosure of public officials’ outside income, more audits of lobbyists’ reports, and campaign finance reform, said Press Secretary Jeffrey Sheridan…

Jason High, a spokesman for Senator Wagner, called it “encouraging that Governor Wolf would support Senator Eichelberger’s bill.”

But High added that “it is unfortunate that he is making his support conditional on the passage of legislation that has been historically impossible for the Legislature to pass.”

Campaign finance reform has floundered for decades, especially when the issue turns to limits on what state lawmakers can raise and spend in campaigns. Pennsylvania allows unlimited individual contributions.

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KTVH Helena: GOP lawmakers call for special session on campaign-finance

Mike Dennison

At least 76 positive votes are needed to call the session.

However, all 62 Democrats in the legislature are likely to oppose it, and moderate Republicans told MTN News they won’t support it, either.

The chairman of the state Republican party also told MTN  News there is no point in holding a special session unless Democratic Governor Steve Bullock agreed in advance to sign any legislation it might pass.

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New York Times: De Blasio Defends Fund-Raising and Stokes Feud With Cuomo

David Goodman

Seated at a blue table, the mayor restated the mantra that his administration would eventually be found to have done everything appropriately. He laid out dots but no names — referring to “a particular reporter” at one point, a state official with “a particular employment history” at another — and asked reporters to connect them, arguing by insinuation that they would lead back to Mr. Cuomo, a fellow Democrat.

“A lot of good questions to follow up on there,” Mr. de Blasio said, suggesting as he has for weeks that an investigatory report from the State Board of Elections highly critical of his fund-raising on behalf of Democrats in the State Senate had been leaked by those close to the governor to damage him.

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Brian Walsh

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