Daily Media Links 7/20

July 20, 2021   •  By Tiffany Donnelly   •  
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Supreme Court

Morning Consult: A Win for America’s Principles – and Progress

By Emily Seidel

The case is Americans for Prosperity Foundation v. Bonta. And the justices struck down California’s attempt to obtain lists of people who support the organization I lead. The decision upholds the right of every American to support causes without fear of government harassment or ideological intimidation…

Why do nonprofits want to protect the identity of donors? Because putting their supporters on government lists threatens their ability to advocate for their beliefs…

Take the Council on American-Islamic Relations. It told the court that Muslims in America are endangered by government attempts to catalogue people’s activities and associations. The ACLU and NAACP said that such government demands “seriously diminish” people’s right to “organize to defend values out of favor with the majority.” Another brief, signed by groups ranging from Charity Navigator to the Southern Poverty Law Center, made clear that shifting political winds and elected officials mean that groups must constantly be afraid of “threats, harassment, reprisals, and even political targeting,” especially those engaged on “controversial issues unpopular at the time.”

What issues might those be? Who would have to fear the most? Take your pick. Historically, the opponents of Jim Crow laws or the supporters of marriage equality would have been easy targets. Today, it could be advocates for racial justice, criminal justice reform or government accountability, to name a few. In some states, the advocates of socialism could be targeted. In others, it could be the defenders of economic freedom. People whose views are in vogue today could find themselves the targets of vicious personal attacks or even violence tomorrow.

Tax Notes Federal (LTE): Americans for Prosperity and the Future of Schedule B

By Ellen P. Aprill

In this Letter to the Editor of Tax Notes Federal, Professor Aprill expresses her concern that the reasoning of the Supreme Court in its July 1 decision, Americans for Prosperity Foundation, could render unconstitutional the current requirement under section 6033 of the Internal Revenue Code that section 501(c)(3) organizations file with the IRS a Schedule B that includes the names and addresses of major donors.


Biden Administration

Axios: Biden clarifies vaccine comments: “Facebook isn’t killing people”

By Jacob Knutson

President Biden attempted to clarify comments he made last week about Facebook, saying on Monday that the company itself is not “killing people” — but those who post misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines are…

“It was pointed out that on Facebook, of all the misinformation, 60% of the misinformation came from 12 people. … Facebook isn’t killing people, these 12 people who are out there giving misinformation … [are] killing people,” Biden said Monday, referring to a report by the Center for Countering Digital Hate.

“My hope is that Facebook, instead of taking it personally that somehow I’m saying Facebook is killing people, that they would do something about the misinformation. There’s outrageous misinformation about the vaccine. That’s what I meant,” he added.

AP News: Garland bars prosecutors from seizing reporters’ records

By Eric Tucker and Michael Balsamo

Attorney General Merrick Garland on Monday formally prohibited federal prosecutors from seizing the records of journalists in leak investigations, with limited exceptions, reversing years of department policy.

The new policy largely codifies the commitment Garland made in June, when he said the Justice Department would abandon the practice of seizing reporters’ records in leak investigations. It aims to resolve a politically thorny issue that has long vexed Justice Department prosecutors trying to weigh the media’s First Amendment rights against government’s desire to protect classified information.

But the memo makes clear that federal prosecutors can, in some cases, seize journalists’ records, including if the reporters are suspected of working for agents of a foreign power or terrorist organizations. There is also an exception for situations with imminent risks, like kidnappings or crimes against children.

Garland was moved to act following an outcry over revelations that the department during the Trump administration had obtained records belonging to journalists at The Washington Post, CNN and The New York Times as part of investigations into who had disclosed government secrets related to the Russia investigation and other national security matters.

Free Speech

The Hill: ‘Shadow State’: Embracing corporate governance to escape constitutional limits

By Jonathan Turley

The public is now required to discuss public controversies within the lines and limits set by corporate censors — with the guidance of the government…

The common refrain from the left is that corporate censorship is not a limit on free speech because the First Amendment only addresses government limits on speech. That not only maximizes the power of corporations but minimizes the definition of free speech. Free speech is not exclusively contained in the First Amendment. It includes the full range of speech in society in both private and public forums. Yet, liberals — who once opposed the recognition of corporate free speech rights in cases like Citizen’s United — are now great advocates for corporate speech rights, in order to justify the censorship of opposing views.

Politico: New academic center aims to ‘strengthen’ democracy in U.S.

By Zach Montellaro

A well-regarded elections law expert is launching a new center focusing on elections and free speech at the University of California-Irvine School of Law.

UC-Irvine law professors Rick Hasen, a well-known expert in elections law, and David Kaye, a former UN appointee focused on freedom of opinion and speech across the globe, are co-directing the new center, called the Fair Elections and Free Speech Center

The center’s early events focus on elections and democracy, both in the United States and globally. The group’s first event will be on Sept. 1, with a focus on the global impact of disinformation and digital media on elections…

The center’s advisory board includes dozens of academics, civil rights advocates and experts who will guide the center going forward.

The board also includes staffers from the Brennan Center for Justice, the liberal-leaning think tank and advocacy group focused on voting rights, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the ACLU.

Alex Stamos, the former chief security officer at Facebook who is now director of the Stanford Internet Observatory, and Pam Fessler, a recently-retired NPR voting rights reporter, are also on the board.

Candidates and Campaigns

The Hill: Controversy equals cash for Greene, Gaetz

By Christine Mui

Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) are among the top-ranked fundraisers in the House, according to new Federal Election Commission filings, with each bringing in more than $1 million…

Those numbers are smaller than what the top House GOP leaders raked in but are a reflection of how controversy is paying off for some lawmakers who match inflammatory words with high-profile presences on cable news and social media.

“Even though they aren’t necessarily the most powerful members of Congress, they have a very high profile on social media, and that enables them to reach potential contributors,” said John J. Pitney Jr., a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College. “Before social media, before online contributions, it would have been very, very difficult for backbenchers to get that kind of visibility and raise that kind of money.”

Pitney also said that lawmakers such as Greene are taking advantage of a “permanent” campaign process in which they are constantly asking for people to donate to them, often off of their own controversies.

“The more visibility she has, the more money she can raise, and the more money she raises, the more she can buy ads,” he said, referring to Greene’s purchasing patterns.

“Outrage equals visibility,” he said.  

Roll Call: Rep. Michelle Steel reported $7,900 donation from woman who’d died months earlier

By Kate Ackley

Dead people aren’t supposed to make political contributions, unless they leave instructions for managers of their estates to do so. But one campaign finance expert said other campaigns have run into trouble in the past when depositing checks from joint accounts, which appears to be what happened in [Rep. Michelle] Steel’s case…

In an original April 15 disclosure, Steel Victory Fund said $7,900 was deposited March 31 from Lorrie Y. Hong…The same amount was reported as coming from her spouse, Myung K. Hong…

Lorrie Y. Hong died Aug. 21, 2020, however…

In past advisory opinions, the FEC has said that campaign finance regulations may permit an independent third-party “escrow agent” to make donations on a deceased person’s behalf, within contribution limits, to national party committees. That is not the situation with the Hong donation, though.  

After listing both Lorrie Y. Hong and Myung K. Hong as donors in April, the Steel Victory Fund filed an amended disclosure with the FEC last week. The new report attributes the combined donation of $15,800 solely to Myung K. Hong…

Michael Toner, a former Republican chairman of the Federal Election Commission who does not represent the Steel campaign, said that joint checking accounts have been a reason for attributed donations to deceased donors in the past.

“You get into a scenario where one of the two people may have passed away, but then the question is: Who signed the check, and is that person still alive?” Toner said.

Online Speech Platforms

Politico: Declan O’Scanlon’s harrowing 12-hour Twitter suspension

By Matt Friedman

State Sen. Declan O’Scanlon saw his Twitter account suspended for 12 hours this weekend. Why? This tweet.

O’Scanlon, more than a lot of members of his party…has been a vaccine booster on social media. There are some legitimate issues with this tweet. It’s hyperbolic to say that COVID has been “crushed,” for instance. And the article it linked to is from a disreputable tabloid whose source is a scientist who claims to have invented mRNA vaccines, and it just takes his word for it.

But mainly his tweet disagreed with the idea of mandatory vaccinations and “vaccine passports.” It may not be perfect, but every day you see politicians, radio personalities and a former New York Times reporter tweeting lies and misleading statistics to undermine confidence in vaccines that have proven to be effective at slowing the spread of COVID and lessening its severity. Yet these tweets are still online. You don’t need me to direct you to them.

I’m guessing that O’Scanlon’s tweet got him suspended because of the article it linked to. But it’s an arbitrary decision when you look at the straight up lies published on that site every day…

CNBC: YouTube to add labels to some health videos amid misinformation backlash

By Jennifer Elias

YouTube said Monday it will promote more credible health resources and label some videos to direct viewers away from misinformation, which has been prevalent across the service for more than a year.

The delayed action comes as the company faces questions about hosting misinformation surrounding Covid-19 and vaccines as cases and deaths begin to rise again. The U.S. Surgeon General last week called out tech companies for their role in hosting misinformation and urged companies to take a number of actions, including sharing data with researchers.

The States

Sludge: Small Donors Hit Record Highs in New York City’s Public Campaign Financing Program

By David Moore

New York City’s longstanding public campaign financing program shattered its previous records, with more small donors using the system than ever before and more candidates participating…

This cycle, the city’s Campaign Finance Board (CFB) has issued more than $112 million to candidates opting-in to have small donations matched out of a public fund. In the 2017 election cycle, which featured a much smaller mayoral field with the current occupant up for reelection, the CFB paid $17.7 million to qualifying candidates…

“We have seen more candidates running, more contributions collected, and more public funds paid to more candidates than in any previous election cycle,” said Matt Sollars, CFB’s director of public relations. “As a result, voters had more candidates, and a more diverse group of candidates, to choose from in the June primary elections than ever before.”…

Even with the presence of robust public campaign funding, big donors sought to influence New York City primary races by funding super PACs that sent mailers to voters and ran ads on TV and digital platforms. The CFB reported that outside groups in total made almost $39 million in independent expenditures, with Adams benefiting from the most super PAC spending at $7.7 million.

Tiffany Donnelly

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