Daily Media Links 7/8

July 8, 2019   •  By Alex Baiocco   •  
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The Courts

Associated Press: Missouri pays $500,000 after losing campaign finance lawsuit

Missouri taxpayers footed a more than $500,000 legal bill after the state attorney general lost a case defending a new campaign finance law.

Taxpayers paid attorneys for two lobbying groups that opposed the limits a combined total of roughly $508,000, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Wednesday.

Attorney Chuck Hatfield represented the Association of Missouri Electrical Cooperatives in a lawsuit to overturn the ban. Todd Graves represented the American Democracy Alliance…

At issue is part of a 2016, voter-approved campaign finance law that banned campaign contributions between political action committees…

Opponents argued the ban on PAC-to-PAC giving would limit interest groups’ ability to have members’ voices heard through political fundraising.

The Missouri Ethics Commission, represented by the state attorney general’s office, argued that the ban ensured that political donors couldn’t evade the individual contribution limit of $2,600 by funneling money through PACs.

But federal judges ultimately sided with the lobbying groups, ruling that the ban violated free speech laws. U.S. District Court Senior Judge Ortrie Smith in April ordered the state of Missouri to pay the electrical co-op and American Democracy Alliance’s attorney fees.

Internet Speech

The Hill: France has turned into one of the worldwide threats to free speech

By Jonathan Turley

Just over one year ago, French President Emmanuel Macron came to the United States to import two potentially invasive species to Washington. One was a tree and the other was a crackdown on free speech. Ironically, soon after the tree was planted, officials dug it up to send it to quarantine. However, the more dangerous species was his acorn of speech controls, a proposal that resulted in rapturous applause from our clueless politicians.

While our politicians in the United States may applaud Macron like village idiots, most Americans are hardcore believers in free speech. It runs in our blood. Undeterred, however, Macron and others in Europe are moving to unilaterally impose speech controls on the internet with new legislation in France and Germany. If you believe this is a European issue, think again.

Macron and his government are attempting to unilaterally scrub out the internet of hateful thoughts. The French Parliament has moved toward a new law that would give internet companies like Facebook and Google just 24 hours to remove hateful speech from their sites or face fines of $1.4 million per violation. A final vote is expected next week. Germany passed a similar measure last year and imposed fines of $56 million.

The French and Germans have given up in trying to convince the United States to surrender its free speech protections. They realized that they do not have to because by imposing crippling penalties, major companies will be forced into censoring speech under poorly defined standards. The result could be the curtailment of the greatest invention fostering free speech in the history of the world. It is all happening without a whimper of opposition from Congress or from most civil liberties organizations.

Independent Groups 

CNN: First on CNN: Pro-Booker super PAC launches black voter push

By Fredreka Schouten

As part of a push to advance Cory Booker’s presidential ambitions, a pro-Booker super PAC is launching a campaign to reach half a million black voters in four states to persuade them to back the New Jersey senator.

The voter outreach plan, shared first with CNN, is the major inaugural effort by Dream United and its founder, San Francisco lawyer and Democratic donor Steve Phillips, on Booker’s behalf…

Booker’s campaign said he doesn’t want any super PAC help.

“Cory is building a movement powered by grassroots donations,” Booker campaign spokeswoman Sabrina Singh told CNN in an email. “Cory opposes super PACs aiming to support his or anyone’s candidacy for president.”

Most of the two dozen candidates seeking the Democratic presidential nomination have disavowed the work of independent political groups such as Dream United…

“I, frankly, would defy any of the candidates to say that trying to contact and organize and mobilize black voters is a bad thing,” Phillips said in a telephone interview.

Fundraising   

Center for Public Integrity: Steve Bullock Hates ‘Dark Money.’ But A Lobbyist For ‘Dark Money’ Donors Is Helping His Campaign.

By Laura Zornosa

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock is staking his name and presidential campaign on battling “dark money” …

But next month, Bullock is scheduled to visit Washington, D.C., for a closed-door campaign fundraiser co-hosted by 11 of the capital’s elite – including a federally registered lobbyist whose clients have contributed corporate cash to groups that don’t disclose their donors, according to an invitation obtained by the Center for Public Integrity.

Jay Driscoll – a Bullock friend and managing partner at lobbying firm Forbes-Tate – lobbied for 37 corporate clients during the first quarter of 2019 alone, according to congressional lobbying records.

The Center for Public Integrity in 2014 found that nine of Driscoll’s current corporate lobbying clients had contributed to politically active nonprofit groups that don’t voluntarily disclose their donors. The donor companies disclosed the contributions long after the fact, in little-scrutinized corporate governance filings…

Does Bullock accepting help from Driscoll compromise his fight against “dark money?”

“Gov. Bullock has been a leader in the fight against ‘dark money’ and he will continue working to rid our system of its corrupting influence – and no contribution will ever impact that work,” Bullock’s campaign said in an emailed statement.

As for accepting money from lobbyists in general, the campaign wrote: “Gov. Bullock believes that the influence of undisclosed, ‘dark money’ is corrupting our elections and that is why he will only accept disclosed contributions and will reject all PAC money.” …

Bullock, a late entrant to the presidential race, is one of 11 Democratic presidential primary candidates who have not promised to reject contributions from federal lobbyists.

HuffPost: Joe Biden, Campaign Finance Reformer, Is Now One Of Big Money’s Favorite Candidates

By Kevin Robillard

“I don’t think there’s anyone around in public life who has a longer track record of supporting public financing of elections than Vice President Biden,” said Fred Wertheimer of Democracy 21…

But in the early stages of his third bid for the presidency, Biden has quickly become one of the favorite candidates of the Democratic Party’s biggest donors.

He opened his campaign with a fundraiser at the house of a top Comcast executive in Philadelphia. He’s setting up a bundler program, asking donors to raise up to $100,000 for his campaign. He’s already held high-dollar fundraisers in Miami, Nashville, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. He’s not taking donations from lobbyists, but a few have attended his fundraisers. All of this helped him raise $21.5 million in his first few months in the race, his campaign announced Wednesday.

For years, much of the Democratic Party has lived with contradictions like these. President Barack Obama and many Democratic House and Senate members simultaneously collected checks from wealthy donors while also advocating for both incremental and wholesale changes to how American elections are financed. Most campaign finance reform advocates were satisfied…

“This is the way the system works for many candidates,” Wertheimer said of Biden’s fundraising. “For us, the test is always what they are prepared to do to change the system. It’s a rotten system that people who run for office function in.”

But a younger, more emboldened generation of progressives isn’t willing to take that deal, and is pushing for Democrats to ditch high-dollar fundraising and raise most of their money in small-dollar increments online.

Wall Street Journal: Warren’s 2020 Campaign Raised $19.1 Million in Second Quarter

By Julie Bykowicz

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren said she raised $19.1 million in the most recent three months of her Democratic presidential bid, more than tripling her fundraising for the prior quarter and outpacing Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who like Ms. Warren has focused entirely on small donors for campaign money…

Ms. Warren’s latest haul makes her financially competitive with the best fundraisers of the second quarter: South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who raised $24.8 million; and former Vice President Joe Biden, who raised $21.5 million. Mr. Sanders raised $18 million for the quarter, and California Sen. Kamala Harris’s campaign said Friday that she had raised almost $12 million…

Messrs. Buttigieg and Biden and Ms. Harris are running more traditional fundraising operations that include events where donors are asked to pay the maximum $2,800 to attend.

All presidential candidates must report their second-quarter fundraising and spending activities to the Federal Election Commission by July 15…

[Ms. Warren] said she wouldn’t hold any high-price fundraisers or make any calls to big donors. Her national finance chairman left as a result.

Ms. Warren said the fundraising approach would free her up to spend more time talking to voters…

Ms. Warren has made it a feature of her campaign to randomly call small donors and post videos of the exchanges to her social media accounts.

The States

Ballotpedia News: Oregon legislature passed campaign finance amendment that will appear on 2020 ballot

By Jackie Mitchell

[T]he Oregon State Legislature approved a constitutional amendment (SJR 18) that would authorize the state legislature and local governments to (1) enact laws or ordinances limiting campaign contributions and expenditures; (2) require disclosure of contributions and expenditures; and (3) require that political advertisements identify the people or entities that paid for them. The constitutional amendment is required to enact campaign finance limits since campaign contributions and expenditures were found by the state supreme court in 1997 to be forms of free speech protected by the state constitution…

Oregon has no limits on campaign contributions to candidates or ballot measure campaigns from individuals, candidate committees, political action committees, political parties, corporations, or unions. Along with Oregon, 10 other states allow unlimited individual contributions, 17 other states have no limit on state party contributions, five other states have no limits on corporate contributions (while 22 states prohibit corporate contributions entirely), and 12 other states have no limits on PAC contributions.

House Bills 2714 and 2716, sponsored by Rep. Dan Rayfield (D-Corvallis), were designed to implement some aspects of the constitutional amendment…

HB 2714 passed in the House on June 6, 2019, in a vote of 35-23 with two representatives excused. It was referred to the Senate on June 10, 2019.

House Bill 2716 was designed to require that a communication (advertisement) in support of or in opposition to a clearly identified candidate must state the name of the persons that paid for the communication. The bill was passed by the legislature on June 29, 2019.

Arizona Republic: Phoenix ‘dark money’ ban, OK’d by voters in November, becomes law

By Lauren Castle

Eight months after Phoenix voters approved an amendment to outlaw the use of “dark money” in city elections, it officially became law this week.

The City of Phoenix was notified Wednesday by the governor’s office that the amendment had received final approval, Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego announced on Twitter.

The amendment had been under legal review, a spokesperson for Gov. Doug Ducey told The Arizona Republic in March…

Gallego said on Twitter that the city had pushed the governor’s office for eight months to approve the amendment.

“This is a momentous day for our city, she said on Twitter. “For far too long, we have allowed political operatives to exist in the shadows, wielding influence over city elections without having to reveal their true identities.” …

In November, voters approved Proposition 419, which forces outside groups that are trying to influence elections to reveal their donors…

The Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce was against the proposition, according to a report by The Republic.

“It has the potential to open up the chamber’s and other nonprofits’ finances to groups that disagree with positions these groups take in regards to candidates or ballot measures,” the organization website stated before the 2018 election. “Additionally, this effort will effectively suppress the business community’s speech in elections.”

Topeka Capital-Journal: Judge dismisses lawmaker’s defamation lawsuit against Kansas City Star

By Sherman Smith

A Johnson County district judge has dismissed Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning’s defamation lawsuit against the Kansas City Star, but both sides are claiming victory in a fight over the newspaper’s credibility and the lawmaker’s resistance to Medicaid expansion.

For Denning, a Republican from Overland Park, and his attorney, Kansas GOP chairman Mike Kuckelman, the lawsuit served as a platform to air grievances with the Star’s opinion page and influence voters’ thoughts about the reliability of the publication. Critics accuse Denning and Kuckelman of filing a frivolous lawsuit for political gain.

District Judge Paul Gurney’s decision Tuesday reinforces protections afforded to news publications under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and strengthened by a 2016 state law endorsed by Denning. The judge ordered Denning to pay the Star’s legal fees, estimated by the newspaper’s attorney to be $40,000.

CNN: Portland’s police chief calls for an anti-mask law following violent protests

By Ray Sanchez

The police chief of Portland, Oregon, is calling for legislation banning masks worn by demonstrators after violent street clashes between rival protesters last weekend left eight people injured.

“In other states, you’ll see that it’s illegal to wear a mask during the commission of a crime,” Police Bureau Chief Danielle Outlaw told reporters Wednesday, according to CNN affiliate KOIN. “I understand and we wholeheartedly support individuals’ first amendment right to free speech, but we cannot allow … people to use the guise of free speech to commit crimes.” …

“Legislation would really be helpful — prohibiting the wearing of mask during the commission of a crime,” she said, referring to steps the city could take to head off such violence in the future.

“If you knew that you can be easily identified, do you think you would be as inclined to commit that act of violence or commit that crime?” Outlaw asked. “A lot of people are emboldened because they know they can’t be identified.”

Other jurisdictions have tried, some successfully, to outlaw the donning of masks in public or at public protest events, though opponents argue the act is protected by the First Amendment…

Under a bill introduced last year in Congress, Antifa activists would have faced up to 15 years in jail for wearing masks. HR 6054 would have punished anyone wearing a mask or disguise who “injures, oppresses, threatens, or intimidates” someone else exercising a right guaranteed under the Constitution.

The bill’s title — “Unmasking Antifa Act of 2018” — made it clear that Antifa activists were its target, but the text of the bill, sponsored by US Rep. Dan Donovan, R- New York, never mentioned them. The bill did not make it out of committee; Donovan is no longer in Congress.

Alex Baiocco

Alex Baiocco