Daily Media Links 7/11: U.S. Chamber President Comments on Senate Judiciary’s Vote to Eliminate First Amendment Rights, Senate panel advances plan to get money out of politics, and more…

July 11, 2014   •  By Brennan Mancil   •  
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Amending the First Amendment

Chamber of Commerce: U.S. Chamber President Comments on Senate Judiciary’s Vote to Eliminate First Amendment Rights

“We are clearly in an era when political adversaries don’t just want to win elections—they want to drive opponents out of the political process and the public debate. To play political games with our Constitutional protections is dangerous.

“Do the Senators who voted for this amendment think they know better how to protect Americans’ free speech rights than the founding fathers or the U.S. Supreme Court? Here’s a newsflash—they don’t.” 

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USA Today: Senate panel advances plan to get money out of politics

By Fredreka Schouten

A long-shot effort to amend the U.S. Constitution to curb political spending won the approval of a key Senate committee Thursday.

By a 10-8 vote, the Democratic-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee approved a measure that would give Congress and the states the power to ban corporations from spending money to influence elections. It heads next to the full Senate.

The proposed amendment stands little chance of winning the required support of two-thirds of Congress, but the heated debate at the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday underscores the intensity of the fight over the growing role of unlimited money in elections.

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Josh Blackman’s Blog: If the First Amendment is Amended, Would the Court’s First Amendment Jurisprudence Continue?

During an executive business meeting over the proposal to amend the First Amendmetn, Senator Durbin explained that Congress still could not regulate speech based on subject matter. Senator Ted Cruz interjected a question, and asked where in the Amendment is the phrase “content neutral.” (It’s not in there). Senator Durbin responded that Cruz, a former “Supreme Court clerk,” should know that the “content neutral” test is deeply rooted in the Court’s jurisprudence. Cruz shot right back, saying something to the effect of, “But this changes the Constitution.” Durbin said nothing in this Amendment would change the Court’s First Amendment jurisprudence about content neutrality. That can’t be correct.

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IRS

Wall Street Journal: Lerner’s ‘Perfect’ Plan for IRS Emails

By JAMES FREEMAN

“I had a question today about OCS [Microsoft Office Communications Server]. I was cautioning folks about email and how we have several occasions where Congress has asked for emails and there has been an electronic search for responsive emails – so we need to be cautious about what we say in emails. Someone asked if OCS conversations were also searchable – I don’t know, but told them I would get back to them. Do you know?”

Ms. Hooke responded that individual employees could choose to save their communications, but that the software was not set to automatically save any messages.

Ms. Lerner’s response: “Perfect.”

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Wall Street Journal: U.S. Judge Orders IRS to Explain Lost Emails

By John D. McKinnon

WASHINGTON—A federal judge on Thursday ordered the Internal Revenue Service to explain how it lost two years’ worth of a former official’s emails, and tapped a magistrate judge to find out whether the documents can be obtained from other sources.

At a hearing in a conservative group’s lawsuit, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan gave the IRS until Aug. 10 to provide a sworn declaration explaining how the email loss occurred. The IRS previously has said that the emails were lost because the top agency official’s computer crashed in 2011, and backup tapes were routinely reused after six months.

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NPR: Interpreting The IRS Emails, Washington-Style

By Peter Overby

Here’s the biggest recurring theme in the IRS controversy — the one about alleged targeting of conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status.

Throughout the yearlong investigation, congressional Republicans and Democrats have not only highlighted their own evidence but also taken the same evidence and drawn diametrically opposed conclusions.

The latest example came Wednesday afternoon, at a subcommittee hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Officially, the subject was a separate IRS issue. But lawmakers couldn’t help veering off into a row over Lois Lerner’s missing emails.

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Independent Groups

Wall Street Journal: Primary Fights Drain Republican Super PACs

By Rebecca Ballhaus

A contentious primary season has taken a toll on pro-Republican super PACs, which spent heavily on election battles among GOP candidates and are looking to November with less cash on hand than their Democratic counterparts.

The largest pro-Republican super PACs have not only raised less money than Democratic groups but spent a far larger share of it on primary fights, a Wall Street Journal analysis of campaign-finance filings shows. For the current campaign cycle through July 3, pro-Republican super PACs in the study directed more than 70% of their spending toward battles among GOP candidates, while the largest Democratic super PACs put just 9% of their spending into primaries.

The bottom line: The largest Democratic super PACs are heading into the general-election season with a combined $36 million in the bank as of their latest filings—nearly three times as much as the largest Republican political-action committees.

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SCOTUS/Judiciary

LA Times: Judge under fire for blog post on Hobby Lobby case

By David G. Savage

A federal judge turned part-time blogger who garnered unwanted national attention this week after using a profane expression to tell the Supreme Court to, effectively, “shut up” has decided to take his own advice and shut up for a while.

“Blogging will be light while I figure this out,” U.S. District Judge Richard G. Kopf of Nebraska said this week after coming under fire from fellow jurists and legal experts for writing a blistering criticism of the high court’s recent ruling in the Hobby Lobby case.

U.S. District Judge Richard G. Kopf said “blogging will be light while I figure this out,” after drawing fire for comments on the Hobby Lobby case. (U.S. District Court for Nebraska)

Kopf told readers Monday that he was prompted to curtail his Internet musings by a note from a lawyer he held in the highest respect who explained to him that people “expect judges not to be publicly profane, lewd or disrespectful.”

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Candidates, Politicians, Campaigns, and Parties

WAPT: Cochran campaign amends finance reports

By Scott Simmons

U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran’s campaign staff is amending its campaign finance reports because of a $50,000 payment to a staff member.

The campaign said the money, which federal election reports show was paid to staff member Amanda Shook, was money to get out the vote. Shook was to use it to help pay people who were knocking on doors and making calls, campaign officials said

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State and Local

Arizona –– The Arizona Republic: Extremist politics? Thank public election funding

By Doug MacEachern

He has had plenty of radical company as a “Clean” candidate, too.

As it turns out, political extremists have loved Clean Elections. Hey! Who the heckelse is going to fund the campaign of a nut job like me, huh?

In 2006, when Clean Elections was approaching the height of its influence before its “matching funds” provision was struck down, the libertarian Goldwater Institute found that the law was doing precious little in the way of positive reform. Incumbency re-election rates remained at almost 100 percent. And the number of primary candidates tumbled from 247 to 195.

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New York — NY Daily News:  Mayor de Blasio registers with city’s Campaign Finance Board, eyeing re-election in 2017

By Jennifer Fermino

Mayor de Blasio is thinking ahead — to 2017.

Barely seven months into his four-year term, de Blasio has registered an account with the city’s Campaign Finance Board for the next city-wide election cycle, the first step toward launching his re-election campaign.

The mayor must declare all fundraising activity by July 15, when it will be made public.

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North Carolina – News and Record: Walker requests investigation into donations made to super PAC

By Susan Ladd

Mark Walker has called for an investigation into donations made to the super PAC Keep Conservatives United, which supports Phil Berger Jr., his opponent for the GOP nomination to the 6th Congressional District.

Walker said Berger’s father, Phil Berger Sr., has leveraged his position and influence as Senate leader to steer contributions to the super PAC, which has spent thousands on ads supporting Berger Jr. and attacking his opponents.

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Maryland – WBAL: Hogan To Take Public Financing For Campaign

By Robert Lang

Republican Larry Hogan will use public campaign finance money for his general election run for governor of Maryland, a move that will effectively tap out the state’s fund unless it is replenished, a state elections board official said Wednesday.

Hogan, who used public funding for his successful primary campaign, notified the board late Tuesday that he would again use public financing, his campaign said.

“Late last night we confirmed with the (Maryland) State Board of Elections our decision to accept Fair Campaign Financing Act funds,” Adam Dubitsky, a Hogan campaign spokesman, said in an email Wednesday.

Hogan will be eligible for about $2.6 million to spend on his campaign, and he will be limited to spending that much. Both the state central committee for the Republican Party and local central committees could spend an additional $1.8 million each to help Hogan’s campaign. Democratic central committees could spend an equivalent amount on Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown’s campaign.

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Maine – Sun Journal: Analysis: One candidate’s unfair campaign finance law is another’s protection

By Mario Moretto

Supporters of independent gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court Monday, alleging that Maine’s current election laws unfairly prevent them from giving as much money to Cutler as backers of party candidates can donate to their preferred nominee.

If the court rules in their favor, it could create complications for future elections in the Pine Tree State, according to some national election and campaign finance experts.

In Maine, individual contributions to political candidates are capped at $1,500 per election. Primaries — the tool used by political parties to select nominees for office — are considered elections, so Democratic and Republican candidates may accept $1,500 from an individual twice — once for the primary and, if they win, once again for the general election.

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Colorado – CBS: Hearing Held On Fracking Campaign Finance Dispute

An administrative law judge in Denver is hearing a complaint alleging that a group promoting fracking limits isn’t properly disclosing its source of money.

The complaint being heard Wednesday seeks to force the group Coloradans for Safe and Clean Energy to disclose the source of a donation worth $1.5 million. A rival group aligned with the oil and gas industry has argued that Democratic Rep. Jared Polis is backing the group.

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Brennan Mancil