Daily Media Links 7/14: Three Nonprofits, Former Koch Brothers’ Associates, Fined by F.E.C., Bernie’s Fundraising Was Revolutionary. How He Spent His Money Was Not., and more…

July 14, 2016   •  By Scott Blackburn   •  
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New York Times: Three Nonprofits, Former Koch Brothers’ Associates, Fined by F.E.C.

Nicholas Confessore

The Federal Election Commission fined three nonprofit groups formerly connected with the political network overseen by the brothers Charles G. Koch and David H. Koch, according to documents released by a liberal watchdog group on Wednesday, a rare intervention by the commission into the world of outside spending.

Each of the groups — Americans for Job Security, the 60 Plus Association, and the American Future Fund — ran political advertisements to support Republican House candidates during the 2010 election.

Millions of dollars worth of those contributions were provided by an Arizona-based organization that, at the time, was a central hub of financing in the Koch network of donors and political groups. The Koch network has since cut ties with the groups, replacing them with political organizations more closely controlled by its own operatives.

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American Prospect: The FEC Just Slapped Koch Brothers Groups with a Big Fine

Justin Miller

Three groups funded by Charles and David Koch’s expansive political network agreed to pay $233,000 in fines to the FEC for illegally hiding the identities of donors to their 2010 political ad campaigns, according to a Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) press release. The watchdog group filed a FEC complaint against several groups in 2014…

“This is the largest fine the FEC has collected from groups active in post–Citizens United elections,” Bookbinder said. “This case sends an important signal that groups that brazenly disregard the law will be held accountable. We hope this is a sign of things to come and the FEC will continue to hit dark money groups with major penalties for violating the law.”

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Free Speech

The Hill: Obama’s legacy: The trashing of free speech

Patrick Maines

No administration in memory has more thoroughly undermined freedom of speech and of the press than that of President Obama. From the White House itself, as well as the independent and executive branch agencies, have come a steady stream of policies, initiatives, and pronunciamentos that have threatened or compromised both of these constitutional rights.

Indeed, the Administration’s example has inspired like-minded actions outside of the White House. For example, those Democratic members of Congress who actively encouraged IRS action against conservative nonprofit organizations before Lois Lerner turned to the task…

The Federal Election Commission is another federal agency that, by the actions of some of its commissioners, today threatens free speech. As reported by FEC Commissioner and former chairman Lee Goodman, the Commission has recently been the scene of tie votes on matters related to online political speech through such as websites, blogs, and podcasts.

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Reason: Hillary Clinton Tweet Explains Perfectly Why the Issue is Limiting Government Power, Not Just Personalities in Charge

Ed Krayewski

Clinton Tweeted: Imagine if Trump had not just Twitter to go after critics and opponents, but also the IRS—or our military. Do you think he’d be restrained?

As plenty of twitter users noted to Clinton, it’s not hard to imagine given President Obama’s record of using the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to target conservative groups. Similarly, President Obama has continued the tradition of concentrating the decision to use military force in the hands of the executive branch despite the Constitutional role prescribed for Congress in war-making. The Congress has not taken any legally effective vote in favor of any of the campaigns Obama has engaged the military in, from West Africa to the Middle East.

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Politico: IRS manager punished for attending Obama rally on work trip

Josh Gerstein

A supervisor at the Internal Revenue Service has received a 14-day suspension for ditching work in 2012 to attend a re-election rally for President Barack Obama.

The IRS official’s actions violated the Hatch Act, a federal law limiting politicking by government employees, according to a statement Wednesday from the Office of Special Counsel.

“OSC’s investigation confirmed allegations that the employee, while on official travel to perform site visits with her subordinates, canceled a site visit and asked a subordinate to drop her off at the location of a presidential candidate’s campaign rally,”

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Independent Speech

Washington Post: To further his ‘revolution,’ Sanders looks to launch up to three new organizations

John Wagner

“In the coming weeks, I will be announcing the creation of successor organizations to carry on the struggle that we have been a part of these past 15 months,” the senator from Vermont said. “Our goal will be to advance the progressive agenda that we believe in and to elect like-minded candidates at the federal, state and local levels who are committed to accomplishing our goals.”

Jeff Weaver, Sanders’s campaign manager, said Sanders is working to set up at least two, and possibly three, “sister organizations” to carry out those missions.

One will be devoted to policy formulation. A second will focus on recruiting and training candidates. And a third might engage in other political activity, possibly registering as a political action committee, Weaver said.

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Daily Camera: Congress must act on money in politics

Michael Bennet

But the problem is much deeper than annoying interruptions to your favorite primetime show. As outside spending increases, it seems that Congress accomplishes less and less.

Colorado’s to-do list for Washington is long. Families across our state expect Congress to act on climate change, take steps to make college more affordable and meaningfully address income inequality. We need to make long-term investments in our infrastructure, including schools and rural communities.

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Reason: Watch Barbara Boxer Falsely Accuse Reason of Trying to “undermine climate science”

Matt Welch

Regrettably, as I explained yesterday and Bailey the day before that, this name-and-shame campaign is not limited to comically inaccurate smears from the Senate floor—it involves prosecutorial fishing expeditions through the communications and donor records of think tanks perceived to be on the opposite side of an issue Democrats feel frustrated about. The effort is a naked attempt to punish and even prosecute organizations based on the content of their speech, and discourage donors from wanting to touch these organizations with a 10-foot stick. Boxer should be ashamed of herself not just for speaking gross untruths about her own constituents, but for gleefully encouraging the use of government power to punish people for expressing opinions she doesn’t like. That is the work of authoritarians, not democrats.

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Government Technology: Overhauls Needed to Improve Trust in Government, House Minority Whip Says

Lindsey McPherson

“We can’t fully tap into our economic opportunities if we don’t make sure government works too,” the Maryland Democrat said in a speech at the Georgetown University Law Center…

Many of the ideas Hoyer discussed came from members of the House Democratic caucus who testified at hearings on how to update his “Make It in America” job creation plan. Hoyer unveiled the latest phase of that plan, which was first launched in 2010, in Baltimore last month.

Regarding campaign finance changes, Hoyer cited success of small-donor participation in President Barack Obama’s and Sen. Bernie Sander’s campaigns and the need to replicate that in campaigns down the ballot.

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The Media

Washington Post: No room at RNC for campaign finance watchdog? Group’s director doesn’t buy it.

Callum Borchers

What it won’t have, for the first time in more than two decades, is a journalist from the nonprofit, nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, the campaign finance watchdog better known as OpenSecrets. The group’s request for credentials was denied by convention organizers…

“Given that there have been so many reports about people not attending the convention in Cleveland, and given our history of going, it’s a little hard to believe there is such limited space that we can’t have one credential,” said OpenSecrets Executive Director Sheila Krumholz.

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Candidates and Campaigns

Slate: Bernie’s Fundraising Was Revolutionary. How He Spent His Money Was Not.

Eli Clifton and Josh Holland

But what did that money buy, exactly? Where did all those $27 checks go? A close examination of public records and interviews with campaign finance experts and grass-roots organizers suggests that, in some significant ways, a campaign that took in money like folk bandits wound up spending it like drearily conventional pols. In April, the campaign had a burn rate of 143 percent, meaning it was spending nearly half as much again as it was bringing in. A great deal of that money bought a blast of commercials preceding caucuses and primaries across the country, one effect of which was to enrich a small group of Democratic consultants whose compensation is tied to media spending. Disclosure forms examined by Slate suggest the campaign contracted with a front company—possibly created to obscure who made what off the Sanders movement—and in one cozy arrangement, effectively shared a third-party vendor with a pro-Bernie dark money group.

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Washington Post: Gingrich is a vice-presidential finalist, but his last campaign is still millions in debt

Matea Gold and Rosalind S. Helderman

The former House speaker’s 2012 campaign committee owes more than $4 million to about 100 vendors, including firms that provided charter flights, event planning, public relations and security services.

Gingrich is required to submit a debt repayment plan to the Federal Election Commission by Aug. 1 as part of a settlement he negotiated with the agency in the wake of a complaint that he used campaign re­sources to promote his books.

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The States

Tampa Bay Times: Rice tries again to limit big money in city elections

Charlie Frago

To that end, she’s introducing a resolution at the July 21 meeting for the city to consider a ban on super PACs spending on city elections and requiring corporations to certify that they aren’t foreign influenced…

Such an ordinance could be challenged in court, she said.

“That would make this bigger than St. Pete,” Rice said.

She’s working with a Austin-based group, Free Speech for People, on the effort.

If she can persuade enough of her colleagues to go along next week, the proposal will be referred to a committee of the whole for an in-depth presentation, she said.

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Daily Caller: Playing Field Now Level For Donations By Unions And Corporations In Kentucky

Mary Lou Lang-Byrd

The judge struck down the law in Kentucky that allowed only unions, not corporations, to give money directly to state and local political candidates and to also support candidates through union-funded political action committees. Corporations were barred from contributing even one dollar to a candidate or to a PAC.

“This judgment will put an end to the case and an end to an era of unequal treatment in Kentucky election law,” said Jim Manley, the lead attorney from Goldwater Institute, in an email.

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Scott Blackburn

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