Daily Media Links 7/28: Senator McConnell Calls the DISCLOSE Act as it is – A Vehicle for Intimidation, “More Speech, Not Enforced Silence,” and more…

July 28, 2014   •  By Joe Trotter   •  
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Senator McConnell Calls the DISCLOSE Act as it is – A Vehicle for Intimidation



“More Speech, Not Enforced Silence”

By Brennan Mancil

The value of money in politics is inestimable. Constitutional rights aside, campaign spending enables challengers to compete against entrenched incumbents, individuals to voice their political opinions, and buttresses competition in the “marketplace of ideas.” Contrary to popular belief, money doesn’t buy elections. It promotes civic debate, offers a contrast, and gives candidates, especially challengers, a chance. It’s often said that money is the lifeblood of politics. If so, campaign finance regulations are bloodletting, with each new law cutting deeper into the veins of discourse.

Money has not flooded into the political system, as the pro-regulation community holds. Rather, political spending is a rivulet of broader consumer spending trends. In the 2012 election cycle, Americans spent roughly $7.3 billion on campaigns. In the same year, consumers spent $17.6 billion on Valentine’s Day, $10 billion on romance novels, and$65.5 billion on lottery tickets. Heart-shaped chocolates aren’t constitutionally protected. The value of Americans to express political views requires a different metric than a dollar amount, but if we measure power in dollar figures, it appears that Hallmark may have the upper hand on elections.

In his concurring opinion in Whitney v. California, Justice Brandeis wrote one of the best defense of free speech in the history of the Supreme Court. Within it, he said, “If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence [emphasis added].”

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First Amendment


Washington Examiner: Protecting free speech means standing up for it no matter what

By Senator Mitch McConnell

The Disclose Act has become something of a preoccupation for Washington Democrats. Its stated purpose is the forced disclosure of donors to political causes, but the truth is, it’s little more than a crude intimidation tactic masquerading as good government.

And the fact that Democrats are proposing it again is clear proof of their fixation on stifling speech. To dismiss this bill as just an election year gimmick would be a mistake. It is unquestionably that.

But its reappearance for the third time in four years is more than just a tactic. It’s a clear sign that Washington Democrats have given up on the power of their message alone to carry the day electorally. It’s a sign that speech suppression is now a permanent feature of their politics.

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Wall Street Journal: Democrats Release More from IRS Analyst’s Testimony on Missing Emails

By John D. McKinnon

Republicans this week touted the technical analyst’s interview as another example of how the IRS hasn’t been forthcoming. That’s because IRS officials have told lawmakers her hard drive was deemed to be unrecoverable at the time. But in the interview a few days ago with congressional investigators, the analyst said he suggested back in 2011 that the agency consider getting outside help in restoring it. Republicans said that showed the data was not really unrecoverable.

In the transcript, the analyst does indeed say he suggested trying a third party. But he also says clearly that he had done all he could do to restore the drive’s contents.

“I had told them [IRS officials] that … they may want to consider a third party” to continue the effort, he said.  “But … I had exhausted all my avenues that I had at my disposal.”

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Independent Groups


NY Times: Chamber of Commerce Lost Its Way in Right Turn

By Joe Nocera

Twice a year, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce convenes what it calls its Committee of 100 — which is composed of heads of regional chambers and Washington trade associations. They hear about the business climate from the chamber’s longtime president, Thomas J. Donohue, and about the political landscape from Bruce Josten, its chief lobbyist.

In the summer of 2012, a few months before the elections, the bulk of the meeting, according to people who were there, was devoted to one subject: the importance of electing Republicans. The Chamber of Commerce — which once supported its share of pro-business Democrats — went almost completely to the Republican side, spending millions to oppose such Democratic senatorial candidates as Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts; Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, who was up for re-election; and former Gov. Tim Kaine of Virginia. It ran ads against Senator Claire McCaskill, a Democrat from Missouri who often took pro-business positions, accusing her of being anti-jobs because she supported the Affordable Care Act.

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NY Times: Heady Summer, Fateful Fall for Dinesh D’Souza, a Conservative Firebrand


Mr. D’Souza, 53, said his foray into filmmaking began after a talk with the billionaire Joe Ricketts, a major donor to right-wing causes. According to Mr. D’Souza, Mr. Ricketts was taken with his 2010 book, “The Roots of Obama’s Rage,” and wanted more Americans to be exposed to its thesis, which argues that Obama is carrying out the anticolonial agenda of his Kenyan father.

“A book can reach 50,000, maybe 100,000, people,” Mr. Ricketts said, as recalled by Mr. D’Souza. “How do you reach a million people?”

“You have to make a movie,” Mr. D’Souza replied.

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Free Beacon: Senator Calls Out Campaign Finance Reformers for Ties to Secretive Democracy Alliance

Sen. Pat Roberts (R., Kansas) criticized an apparent double standard at a Wednesday hearing by advocates of campaign finance reform who have received funds from the left’s leading purveyor of political “dark money.”

Questioning a witness who said she supports additional disclosure requirements for non-profit groups that exercise their First Amendment rights to too great a degree, Roberts pointed out that the witness’ employer is funded by donors affiliated with the secretive Democracy Alliance.

The Alliance is a club of ultra-rich Democratic donors that strategically vets left-wing groups for support, and coordinates activities among many of those groups. The DA does not disclose any information about its donors or their support, through the alliance, for its portfolio of more than 130 prominent political and policy groups.

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Candidates, Politicians, Campaigns, and Parties


LAT : House candidate Carr’s campaign drops ball on required finance filing

By Jean Merl

Gang prosecutor Elan S. Carr, a Republican vying this fall to succeed retiring Rep. Henry A. Waxman, failed for weeks to file a required financial disclosure report, House Ethics Committee records showed.

Carr’s campaign filed the report Thursday morning, after a Times reporter asked earlier this week about why it appeared to be missing.

John S. Thomas, Carr’s chief strategist, said the task of submitting the report “had been delegated to a campaign intern last March.”  But, he added, the intern had “lost track of the project” due to Carr’s being out of the country then “to help train Jewish students in the UK to combat anti-Israel propaganda on their college campuses.”

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Bloomberg View: Led by Pelosi, Democrats Are Winning the Battle for Donors

By Albert Hunt

WASHINGTON — The Democrats have little say in the agenda of the Republican-run House of Representatives, and no dispassionate expert predicts the party will win control in the November elections. More likely is a Republican House majority for at least three or four more elections.

That should be a prescription for chaos, despair and money troubles for Democrats. Instead, the minority party in the House is unified and dominating the fund-raising war with Republicans.

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Market Wired: PayStand Platform Drives Bitcoin Donations for Candidates

PayStand, a next generation online payment solution which accepts Bitcoin as well as traditional forms of payment, is in the forefront of the newest wave of political contribution as Bitcoin donations start to hit the mainstream. With the May decision by the Federal Election Commission making Bitcoin an acceptable and legal form of currency for campaign donations, candidates are now adding Bitcoin to their campaign fundraising efforts. For roughly a dozen New Hampshire state senate candidates, PayStand’s solution is making political donations with these new next-generation payment methods easier than ever.

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Lobbying and Ethics


The Hill: Bombshell: Ethics office alleges illegal lobbying

By Megan R. Wilson

The Office of Congressional Ethics has for the first time accused an entity of lobbying Congress illegally.

The complaint has been referred to the Justice Department, which enforces the Lobbying Disclosure Act, but few other details are available.

The Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) operates mostly in secrecy. It does issue a quarterly report that summarizes the cases it has taken. At the end of themost recent report — which covers April through June — the office noted it had “voted to refer one entity to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia for failure to register under the Lobbying Disclosure Act.”

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CPI: Campaign shenanigans are top targets for Office of Congressional Ethics

By Dave Levinthal

Misusing taxpayer money? Nope.

Luxuriating on special interest-funded junkets? Sorry.

Accepting ethically questionable gifts? Close, but no tobacco industry-bestowed cigar.

Since early 2009, nearly half of the Office of Congressional Ethics’ investigations into U.S. House members and staff involve election activity such as potential campaign finance violations, according to a new report the independent office published this week.

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Inside Political Law: FEC Dismisses Challenge to Use of Trade Association Dues for Independent Expenditures

By Brendan Parets

An FEC enforcement action recently made public may be of interest to organizations that use members’ dues for political activities.  In a complaint to the FEC, a Massachusetts realtor claimed the National Association of Realtors and its state and local affiliates were forcing her into paying for their political activities.   The realtor’s local affiliate required her to pay dues to the National Association of Realtors (NAR) in order to access the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), which she contended was required for her to perform her job as a realtor.   NAR raised their membership dues by $40 per year, and some portion of this increase went to financing independent expenditures out of NAR’s treasury funds and through a Super PAC.  In effect, the realtor asserted that the dues increase constituted improper coercion of political contributions.

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State and Local


Maine — Washington Times: Senate president’s PAC faces campaign finance fine

The Maine Senate president’s leadership political action committee may be fined due to a campaign finance violation.

The Maine Democratic Party said Thursday that contributions and expenditures were inadvertently left off two quarterly reports from Senate President Justin Alfond’s “Alfond Business Community & Democracy PAC.”

The penalty for such a violation is more than $31,000, but the staff of the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices is recommending a fine of only $1,500. The staff considered several factors, including that the PAC self-reported the errors to the commission.

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Massachusetts – Mass Live: Super PAC disclosure bill clears Massachusetts Senate, protects higher union limits

By Colleen Quinn

The Massachusetts Senate unanimously passed campaign finance legislation Wednesday that forces more disclosures from super PACs, an attempt to increase transparency in campaign spending in the post-Citizens United era.

The legislation also increases the individual campaign contribution limit from $500 to $1,000. Since the $500 limit was set in 1994, it makes sense to increase it to reflect inflation and the rising cost of campaigns, Sen. Barry Finegold said before the bill passed 38 to 0. The contribution limit change will not take effect until January.

Finegold, a Democrat from Andover, said the majority of the campaign finance law reforms in the bill concern super PACs, which are independent expenditure committees allowed to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money on elections.

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New York –– Business Insider:  Cuomo Campaign Admits Its Volunteers Staged Mysterious Protests Against Rival

By Hunter Walker

Business Insider attended one of Teachout’s press conferences Thursday where she highlighted a New York Times report on allegations the governor interfered with an anti-corruption commission. Afterwards, we followed the protesters to determine their origins.

Our attempt ended with one of the protesters, a young man who carried an identification badge from a real estate firm that has donated to the governor and owns the building where the Cuomo campaign is headquartered, screaming, cursing and threatening us. The young man declined to discuss his reasons for protesting Teachout. 

The Cuomo campaign’s admission of involvement in the protests came shortly after Business Insider informed operatives working on the campaign we had identified several of the protesters and uncovered evidence on social media linking them to the governor’s political operation. The Cuomo campaign spokesperson said the volunteers protested at a press conference Teachout held Tuesday in Manhattan with Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino where they criticized Cuomo’s ethics as well as at the event on Thursday.

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New York –– Wall Street Journal: Cuomo’s Favorable Ratings Are on the Decline


But political observers said Mr. Cuomo’s chances at the kind of overwhelming re-election victory that would draw national attention would be difficult. It may also hurt his chances at quickly rebounding from damaging revelations about his aides influencing the work of an anticorruption panel. Federal prosecutors are investigating.

“It’s not clear how successful they’re going to be at mobilizing their rank and file,” said Kenneth Sherrill, a professor emeritus of politics at Hunter College. “Like it or not, Cuomo isn’t the kind of person who engenders affection, so it’s going to be hard work.”

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Joe Trotter