Daily Media Links 7/15: DNC host committee goes to court to keep its fund-raising under wraps, Donald Trump is crashing the system. Journalists need to build a new one., and more…

July 15, 2016   •  By Scott Blackburn   •  
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In the News

Deseret News: Utah agrees not to enforce parts of political disclosure law

Associated Press

The Utah Attorney General’s Office said in a settlement Wednesday that organizations will have to report donations from political advocacy groups, but requiring more disclosure would be unconstitutional.

The settlement comes after three nonprofits challenged the law, saying forcing them to reveal donors violates their freedom of speech.

Groups like the Utah Taxpayers Association said it kept them from weighing in on a proposed sales tax increase last year.

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Utah settles lawsuit, concedes First Amendment violation

“Our judicial challenge came from the need to gain clarity for all nonprofits that engage in a limited amount of political activity in our state,” said Billy Hesterman, vice president of the Utah Taxpayers Association, another plaintiff in the case. “If the law had been left in place, an individual’s First Amendment right of free speech and association would have been in question and it would have had a chilling effect on Utah’s nonprofit and charitable organizations by requiring them to disclose their donors if they decided to engage on a political issue. We are pleased with the outcome of this settlement.”

“Utah’s law is so overbroad that our clients were concerned that participating in any public debate could destroy the privacy of their donors, many of whom believe that their donations to charitable organizations should be done in private,” Dickerson added. “This isn’t about regulating speech urging voters to support or oppose a candidate or ballot issue. It’s about the larger First Amendment right to privacy of association and belief.”

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The Corruption of “Corruption”

David Keating

Many of those opposed to free speech today see corruption everywhere, often when politicians vote the “wrong” way. In short, free speech opponents have corrupted the use of the word “corruption.”

A good example is the hysteria about the sensible decision by the Supreme Court in the McDonnell case, an 8-0 decision that would’ve been 9-0 if Justice Scalia was still on the Court.

Tara Malloy denounces the decision. The specter she sees is “Taken to its logical end, the Court’s approach permits officials literally to put ‘access’ up for sale, including, as the government wrote in its merits brief, a White House scheduler ‘accepting a $5000 payoff to secure a Rose Garden event’ or a cabinet secretary ‘auctioning off his official appearances to the companies willing to pay him the most.’”

That’s how those who want ever more regulation think. Imagine some scenario, and we need a rule, a law, or something to stop it from happening…

Our system has a better way of policing this type of behavior: the ballot box. Do unseemly things, and your political career is dead.

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Time: Republican Platform Calls for Repeal of Ban on Political Organizing by Churches

Elizabeth Dias

“All section 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office,” the IRS explains of the rule on its website. “Violating this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise taxes.”

Repealing the amendment was a priority of the Trump campaign in the GOP platform meetings this week in Cleveland. “They understand the importance of religious organizations and nonprofits, but religious organizations in particular which is what the Johnson Amendment affects, to have the ability to speak freely, and that they should not live in fear of the IRS,” said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, who is on the Republican platform committee.

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Philadelphia Inquirer: DNC host committee goes to court to keep its fund-raising under wraps

Claudia Vargas

The committee is appealing “because we fundamentally disagree with the office’s interpretation of the law,” spokeswoman Anna Adams-Sarthou said in an email following the filing of the appeal in Common Pleas Court. “As we have said throughout this process, these documents contain proprietary information, and releasing them would be detrimental to the host committee’s competitive position as it concludes its fund-raising efforts and negotiations with vendors.”

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Independent Speech

Washington Post: SEIU teams up with billionaire Tom Steyer on voter mobilization effort in key battleground states

Matea Gold

The Service Employees International Union and billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer are launching a $10 million effort to turn out voters for presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton and other Democratic candidates in Colorado, Ohio and Pennsylvania, part of a broader effort to expand collaboration between the labor movement and environmental activists.

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Washington Post: Pence pick as Trump’s running mate would not bring Koch network off the sidelines

Matea Gold

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence has been a favorite of the Koch political operation and a featured speaker at Koch-backed events. But that doesn’t mean his selection to be Donald Trump’s running mate would mobilize the network of conservative nonprofit groups in support of the Republican presidential ticket.

“It doesn’t change our engagement on the presidential,” James Davis, a spokesman for Freedom Partners, the network’s funding arm, said on Thursday. “We are going to remain focused on the Senate.”

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Washington Examiner: FEC deadlocked on requiring regulation of online activism

Rudy Takala

The 3-3 party line vote came in response to a request for an advisory opinion from the Internet Association, a trade group representing 36 tech companies, on whether it could set up an online chat room to help candidates interact with voters and raise money online.

“They’ve created an online space to hold a fundraising event,” Democratic Commissioner Ellen Weintraub said. “It’s not cost-free. If it were, then we wouldn’t have any costs we had to worry about as a potential in-kind contribution…”

Republican Commissioner Lee Goodman pointed out that Democrats were trying to apply campaign finance laws to activity that didn’t involve finances. “That’s what is so unique about the Internet. It takes old-world physical events and reduces them to bits and bytes of information being disseminated not at any cost, but for free. The only costs associated … are the back-office production costs.”

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New York Times: House Democrats Unveil Campaign Agenda in Hopes of Gaining Ground

Carl Hulse

Mr. Israel said that the Democratic themes of “securing our nation, securing our future, securing our democracy” went beyond worries about terrorism in an unsettled world to include economic security as well as guaranteeing rights through campaign reforms, voting law improvements and an immigration overhaul.

Democrats will advocate specific legislative initiatives in each of those policy areas. He said the various factions of House Democrats have coalesced around the agenda to a degree he had not seen before.

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Washington Post: Republicans just escalated the war over ExxonMobil and climate change

Steven Mufson

Call it a tit for tat over subpoenas, one that escalates an ongoing spat over what the biggest U.S. oil company knew and when it knew it.

House Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Tex.) said Wednesday his committee was issuing subpoenas to the New York and Massachusetts state attorneys general, who have issued their own subpoenas as part of probes into whether ExxonMobil misled the public and investors about what it knew about the dangers of climate change decades ago.

ExxonMobil and its defenders have asserted that the company has merely been exercising its free speech rights with respect to climate change.

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Citizens United

Cato: Citizens United and Electoral Reform

Caleb Brown

Krist Novoselić is chairman of Fairvote.org. In his assessment of reforms to make changes to elections in the United States, he ranks overturning Citizens United at the bottom and argues that groups have free speech rights.


The Media

Washington Post: Donald Trump is crashing the system. Journalists need to build a new one.

Jay Rosen

“Mexico will pay for the wall” chips away at one of the foundations of campaign coverage: that running for president is serious business. If you take it seriously, you become the joke. If you don’t, then you let him get away with an absurdity. The fact that there’s no right answer should tell us something. Trump is crashing the system — violating norms and assumptions that were previously taken for granted because so far, everyone who had reached the point of consideration had obeyed them.

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PvP Live: A Gamer’s Guide to the Twitch Democratic Convention

Josh Mull

With that recognition comes a host of non-gamers jumping on board to get a piece of gamer’s attention. The newest entrant is the Democratic party, who will be broadcasting the Democratic National Convention July 25 – 28.

It makes sense. The Democratic party is one of those brands that isn’t really cool, but like Mountain Dew or Arby’s, when they get involved with gaming you’re like “yeah, that sounds right.”

Like most entertainment media, gamers as a whole tend to be relatively apolitical. It’s hard to disagree about the issues when you’re slaying dragons or clicking heads with your buddies. So with that in mind, here’s a handy guide to help you understand the latest live event broadcast on Twitch.

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Candidates and Campaigns

NPR: Every Position Donald Trump Has Taken On How He Is Funding His Campaign

Peter Overby

As he has gone about reinventing presidential campaigns, Donald Trump has offered many ideas about how to finance his operation. Sometimes those ideas contradict one another. This timeline traces Trump’s journey through the confusing world of campaign finance.

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The States

Pierre Capital Journal: Campaign measure attracts opposition

Stephen Lee

Supporters of the initiated measure aimed at reforming South Dakota’s campaign finance and lobbying laws, as well as form an ethics commission, say it’s a bipartisan idea that will improve state government in big ways.

Opponents say it will waste taxpayer money, sending it to politician’s treasure chests instead of feeding the hungry and bettering schools for children.

The opponents, calling themselves the “Defeat 22 coalition” for the measure’s number, began airing radio advertisements in recent days.

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Scott Blackburn

Scott Blackburn