Daily Media Links 6/8: Really rich people aren’t actually that good at buying their way into political office, Who’s Who: Meet the Super PACs Backing Donald Trump, and more…

June 8, 2016   •  By Brian Walsh   •  
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In the News

Reason: The Transparency Bullies

Matt Welch

California Attorney General Kamala Harris, an enthusiastic member of the Gore-friendly A.G. team, has also been at the forefront of one-way transparency; i.e., government attempts to force disclosure of donors to hated nonprofits. In April, a district court judge ruled against Harris’ threat to prohibit the California fundraising activities of Americans for Prosperity (AFP), a 501(c)(3) associated with Charles and David Koch, unless the group discloses all donors above the $5,000 level. (David Koch, chairman of AFP’s board, also sits on the board of the Reason Foundation.) That court decision now heads to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals; meanwhile, a successful Harris attempt to inflict the same disclosure requirement on the pro-speech Center for Competitive Politics is currently at the U.S. Supreme Court.

Ed. Note: CCP’s case reference here was not taken up by the Supreme Court. The litigation efforts currently continue in lower courts.

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Effects of Campaign Spending

Vox: Really rich people aren’t actually that good at buying their way into political office

Andrew Prokop

Beyond that, contributions can be a signal of a candidate’s political strength to other political players like “potential opponents, opinion leaders, reporters, strategic campaign contributors,” Steen wrote. If you raise a lot of money, you look like a winner whose candidacy is “catching on” among actual people.

But if you just spend your own money — well, any rich person can do that. Indeed, a candidate’s very willingness to spend millions and millions of his or her own money might be compensating for an inability to build a network of supporters, or a lack of interest in doing that difficult work.

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Independent Groups

Wall Street Journal: Who’s Who: Meet the Super PACs Backing Donald Trump

Rebecca Ballhaus

Donald Trump once touted himself as the only candidate running for president without a super PAC. Now, he has so many that it’s hard to keep track. As the outside groups supporting the presumptive GOP nominee vie to become the primary vehicle for high-dollar contributions, we’ve created your unofficial guide to the world of Trump super PACs…

Here are the super PACs:

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Daily Caller: PAC Founded By Young Turks Host Cenk Uygur Spends Absurd Amount Of Budget On Operating Costs

Jonah Bennett

“The Young Turks” host Cenk Uygur is so intent on keeping money out of politics his own PAC spends virtually all its donor money on personnel and operating expenses.

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Free Speech

Library of Law and Liberty: Campaign-Finance Law, the State of Nature, and the Nirvana Fallacy

Richard L. Hasen

Smart reforms using generous limits and voucher-like market mechanisms can protect robust political speech and debate even as they help prevent the United States from becoming a plutocracy in which those with the greatest wealth have by far the most influence over who is a viable candidate running for election and, by extension, which policies the government pursues or fails to pursue.

Rather than pretending that campaign-finance laws interfere with a pristine state of nature, we should realize that all systems of power serve as forms of regulation. The public’s outrage over Citizens United and what it has wrought is well-founded. The people should be able to ensure that the Supreme Court does not interpret the Constitution in a way that will destroy American democracy, with its commitment to both free speech and political equality.

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Fox News: IRS targeting scandal: We will not allow Team Obama to run out the clock

Jay Sekulow

With the release of this list, I am certain the IRS will use this occasion to once again claim that the targeting is over — a claim it has made now for several years.

But, that assertion is simply nonsense. The fact is that we still represent two groups that have not been approved by the IRS.

One group – Albuquerque Tea Party – has been waiting more than 6 years since the day it filed its application for tax-exempt status in December 2009.  No approval. No denial. Nothing.

As I have stated many times, the IRS is incapable of self-correction. That is why litigation is so important. We have to rely on the federal courts for justice.

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The Media

Buzzfeed: BuzzFeed Terminates Ad Deal With Republican Party Over Trump

Kyle Blaine

In an email, Peretti cited Donald Trump’s rhetoric and campaign promises as the reason for the decision to terminate the buy, worth $1.3 million according to a source who spoke with Politico.

“Earlier today, BuzzFeed informed the RNC that we would not accept Trump for President ads and that we would be terminating our agreement with them,” Peretti said. “The Trump campaign is directly opposed to the freedoms of our employees in the United States and around the world and in some cases, such as his proposed ban on international travel for Muslims, would make it impossible for our employees to do their jobs.”

Peretti added later in the email, “We certainly don’t like to turn away revenue that funds all the important work we do across the company. However, in some cases we must make business exceptions: we don’t run cigarette ads because they are hazardous to our health, and we won’t accept Trump ads for the exact same reason.”

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Indianapolis Star: Joyful Noise releasing benefit song for Bernie Sanders

Justin Jacobs

On June 1, Indianapolis record label Joyful Noise released “Feel It In Your Guts,” a song composed by Sonic Youth’s legendary Thurston Moore and featuring empowering audio from Sanders’ speeches. But the single is more than just music — it’s a tool to raise money for the presidential hopeful’s campaign. Instead of selling the song, Joyful Noise is offering it to fans for free with proof of a campaign donation. The 1,000 copies pressed on limited-edition white vinyl sold out in five hours…

“Campaign finance laws were our biggest hurdle. We’re a for-profit company. We couldn’t just cut them a check,” says Hofstetter. Instead, a screenshot of a donation to Sanders’s campaign earned fans a now-sold-out vinyl copy with original artwork. Downloads are still available.

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Candidates and Campaigns

Atlantic: Is Bernie Going to Bring the Dems Down With Him?

Monica Bauer

If the Sanders campaign existed before social media, it would have had to spend money to communicate to supporters and would not have been able to count on the free services of millions of activists on Twitter and Facebook that are easily able to gather at a moment’s notice. Gone by March.

It is the ease with which campaign cash can be generated and followers exhorted that has come only with a robust social media environment that has artificially kept a fringe candidate not only alive, but able to thrive by winning low turnout caucuses where a small number of fanatical followers can easily be translated into victory.

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Politico: Bernie’s legacy: One of the most valuable donor lists ever

Shane Goldmacher

“Campaigns can be ephemeral. They exist. They are very important — the most important thing. And then, win or lose, they go away,” said Erin Hill, ActBlue’s longtime executive director. But the idea of ActBlue is that it lives on, she said, allowing each successive campaign to reap the benefits of the previous cycle.

The Sanders camp knows that, long after the Democratic primary is over, this is the key part of the digital inheritance it is leaving for the political left.

“Sen. Sanders’ participation in building up the Democratic fundraising ecosystem will pay dividends for progressive candidates up and down the ballot for years to come,” predicted Kenneth Pennington, digital director for the Sanders campaign.

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The Hill: Donors: Trump’s remark on judge hurts fundraising

Jonathan Swan

More than half a dozen top donors and fundraisers have told The Hill they are exasperated by the racially tinged comments from their party’s presumptive presidential nominee, including two members of the leadership of the Trump Victory Committee, a joint arrangement between Trump, the Republican National Committee and 11 state parties.

“These kinds of comments make it more difficult,” said a member of Trump’s joint fundraising leadership, granted anonymity to discuss private conversations.

“I am telling the Trump people that, but whether they can control him or not, I don’t know. … They are tearing their hair out, too.”

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The States

Los Angeles Times: It gave birth to Apple and Google, but California doesn’t have the tech to track campaign contributions

Editorial Board

Thanks to years of ineptitude by past officials, the state that gave birth to Apple and Google has been stuck with Cal-Access, a 1990s-era campaign finance database that’s ugly, difficult to use, doesn’t aggregate data, crashes often and requires users to employ Microsoft Excel just to get basic information. The only highlights of Cal-Access are the two recently added search tools built by an outside organization, MapLight.

It’s so clunky and user-unfriendly that good government groups like Common Cause don’t send members there to get basic information. It’s so old the software vendors responsible for the Cal-Access don’t even support it anymore. It’s so out of date that it’s making it hard for the Secretary of State and the Fair Political Practices Commission to make the public disclosures mandated by law.

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Arizona Capitol Times: Initiative, referendum could raise complex legal questions

Jeremy Duda

The unique circumstances of a proposed citizen initiative to strengthen the Clean Elections system and the ways it may conflict with a campaign finance law overhaul passed by the Legislature this year could force the courts to unravel a series of complicated issues that would be the legal equivalent of figuring out a Rubik’s cube.

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Albuquerque Journal: Council wants ABQ voters to boost public financing for candidates

Dan McKay

The proposed amendment to the City Charter would provide over $630,000 to each mayoral candidate in 2017, up from about $362,000 available in the 2013 campaign…

Harris said the goal was to come up with a “competitive” amount of money but not something so generous as to put privately funded candidates at a disadvantage.

Trudy Jones, a Republican, was the lone dissenting vote. People who want to run for office should be prepared to knock on doors and raise their own money to campaign, she said.

“I don’t believe it’s up to the citizens of Albuquerque to pay this much money for candidates to run for office,” Jones said.

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Austin Monitor: Council to consider dark money ordinance

Jack Craver

Under the proposed ordinance, any group that spends money to either support or oppose a candidate or ballot measure must report the names, addresses, occupations and employers of any donors who contributed more than $250.

In some jurisdictions with similar campaign finance laws in place, independent groups avoid disclosing their donors by arguing that the law requires them only to disclose those who gave with the intent of funding a specific campaign effort, rather than to the group in general.

The Austin measure seeks to prevent that type of evasion by specifying that groups can shield the identity of donors who give above the threshold only if those who contributed did not have reason to believe that their money would be spent to influence an election or that it would be “commingled with other funds” spent on elections.

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Brian Walsh

Brian is a Research Fellow at the Center for Competitive Politics.