Daily Media Links 7/29: San Francisco Sued Over Unconstitutional Soda Restrictions, Newly recovered Lois Lerner email shows IRS tried to cover up tea party targeting, and more…

July 29, 2015   •  By Brian Walsh   •  
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In the News

Wall Street Journal: Citizens United Loses Bid to Conceal Donors from New York Attorney General

Jacob Gershman

The ruling follows a similar decision handed down by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in May. In that case, the Center for Competitive Politics sued the California attorney general over its donor disclosure policy.

In a statement, Mr. Schneiderman said Monday’s ruling “reaffirms some of our most basic responsibilities in overseeing the nonprofit sector” in New York.

The public, he said, “deserve[s] to know that we have the tools to ensure that charitable funds are properly used and can take action again dishonest fundraisers and solicitors.”

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The Campaign Finance ‘Zombies’ Have Spoken. Their Answer? Reform. Again.

Brian Walsh

If corporations are zombies to Mr. Polis, then reading the inconvenient lengthy history of corporate personhood (available here) must be the equivalent of Dawn of the Dead. For more than half of the United States’ history, there has been a definition of corporate personhood on the books. This definition has been fundamental to how we define corporations and what rights they have under the law.

This definition is also important because it guarantees the rights of corporations to have ‘equal dignity’ under the law as a human would. Corporations represent human ideals and aspirations. They are taxed, regulated, and comprised of citizens, and, therefore, should be able to express their opinions as any other individual.

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Free Speech

Reason: San Francisco Sued Over Unconstitutional Soda Restrictions

Baylen Linnekin

While the ordinance compels that warning, it also contains a host of equally shocking restrictions on free speech. For example, the law would prohibit soda makers from identifying the products they sell while protesting against the law on public space. It bars ads advertising soda, Frappuccinos, or some Jamba juices on public property—including buses, parks, and bus stops—but allows, notably, ads attacking such drinks. It also engages in other forms of viewpoint discrimination. It contains vague and undefined terms, including “producing sugar-sweetened beverages.” Those restrictions, the compelled speech, and other clear violations of bedrock First Amendment principles forced the American Beverage Association and its fellow plaintiffs to sue.

This is a case about ensuring that government can’t restrict speech simply because it doesn’t like that speech, and can’t force a company to warn consumers off of its products without good reason. Such reasons don’t exist in this case.

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Washington Times: Newly recovered Lois Lerner email shows IRS tried to cover up tea party targeting

Stephen Dinan

The IRS sent one of its intrusive scrutiny letters to a nonprofit group in order to throw up a smokescreen and prevent the group from complaining to Congress about poor treatment, according to one of Lois G. Lerner’s apparently lost emails, which were recovered by auditors and released by an interest group Tuesday…

“Just today, I instructed one of my managers to get an additional information letter out to one of these organizations — if nothing else to buy time so he didn’t contact his Congressional Office,” she wrote in the email released by Judicial Watch.

Ms. Thomas said she feared a judge would get involved soon and order the IRS to move the applications more quickly.

That email exchange did confirm that IRS employees in Washington were deeply involved in making decisions about the nonprofit groups’ cases.

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MSNBC: House Republicans pretend IRS ‘scandal’ still exists

Steve Benen

Just so we’re clear, these House Republicans still haven’t uncovered any evidence of official wrongdoing, and they didn’t accuse Koskinen of having any role in “targeting” anyone. Rather, the GOP lawmakers are convinced Koskinen hasn’t done enough to help them find evidence to substantiate allegations that fell apart two years ago.

Or put another way, they want to fire the IRS guy who replaced the other IRS guy who was fired over a “scandal” that never really existed in the first place.

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Wisconsin John Doe

More Soft Money Hard Law: Questions of Criminal Enforcement

Bob Bauer

All of these and other questions are significant.  They are being argued and complained over, and legislative proposals, such as a recent one in the Senate sponsored by Senator Leahy, have been introduced.  To many observers, the answers will determine the utility of contribution limits–the point of having such limits at all.  But these questions are not obviously “significant” in the sense that criminal prosecution is the means by which the answers should be established.  There are problems of notice, and in view of this uncertainty, a reasonable, compelling concern to prevent the use, or the appearance of the use, of the criminal justice system to gain political ground or settle political scores.

Of course, there have been cases where the coordination is blatant, and the law was criminally enforced because the rules were clearly violated.  But the hard questions of what is fit for criminal enforcement and how investigations should be conducted don’t arise in the straightforward cases, and there is no reason to believe that these investigations must be ineffective if they are conducted with the due concern DOJ has expressed for the “political sensitivity” of these cases, and the need for “the appearance of complete enforcement impartiality.”

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Donor Disclosure

The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette: Campaign finance reports don’t tell whole story

Brian Francisco

Contributors sometimes are vague about their jobs, judging by the latest campaign finance reports filed by the four announced candidates for what will be an open U.S. Senate seat in Indiana’s 2016 elections.

For example, Democrat Baron Hill lists a contributor who identified himself as a self-employed entertainer. That might be true, but the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame biography for 2008 inductee John Mellencamp describes him as “an authoritative rocker and adroit storyteller.” Mellencamp identified himself as a singer/songwriter for his campaign donations when Hill was a member of the U.S. House…

Likely the most unusual identifying information came from a contributor to the Senate campaign of Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-3rd. In giving $20 to Stutzman’s campaign, Willis Forster of Kingman, Arizona, named his employer as “God” and described his occupation as “Liberty.”

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Washington Post: Donald Trump’s trucker hat has sold out. And it’s a good case study in campaign finance.

Philip Bump

That is by no means the end of the legal trickery. Since every sale is a campaign contribution, it means that the store should be tracking who’s buying and how much they’re spending. A campaign can accept cash donations less than $100 and doesn’t have to itemize individual contributions under $200, Noble explained. This means that if the Trump Store sells 11 hats to one person, the store should be collecting information on the person’s name, employer and occupation to be reported to the Federal Election Commission.

What’s more, any tourist stopping by Trump Tower from his or her home in Europe or Asia or Australia cannot buy a hat or shirt, because foreign nationals are not permitted to donate to political campaigns. (When I was at Trump Tower to ask people if they’d read Trump’s book, a number of visitors told me they were from foreign countries.) Imagine buying a trucker hat that says “Make America Great Again” to give to your kid back in Oslo and learning that you just broke the law.

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Independent Groups

Bloomberg: Huckabee Super-PAC Sues FEC to Use Candidate’s Name

Jackie Kochell

-Pursuing America’s Greatness super-PAC that is promoting Huckabee’s candidacy is challenging recent FEC advisory opinion ruling that concerned super-PAC supporting Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

-Ruling says anti-fraud provisions of federal campaign finance law prevent independent PACs from incorporating candidate’s name, including using name in “special project,” such as website, to support candidate.

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Salon: Billionaire donors of the world, unite: Kochs, Adelson and others host high-stakes donor summit

Jim Newell

David and Charles Koch will host their annual summer gathering this weekend under the banner of the Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, “the umbrella group in the Kochs’ increasingly influential network of political and public policy outfits.” As Politico’s Ken Vogel reports, the event “is expected to draw 450 of the biggest financiers of the right for sessions about the fiscally conservative policies and politics that animate the billionaire industrialist brothers.”

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Huffington Post: One Email That Proves Campaign Finance Laws Are A Joke

Paul Blumenthal

The problem is that federal campaign coordination laws ban only certain types of cooperation and association between candidates and supposedly independent groups. A candidate cannot have input on the content — text, video, imagery or other materials — or the conduct — strategy, timing or payment — of a communication. This leaves a lot of other activity open to the interpretation of the Federal Election Commission, which rarely enforces the anti-coordination rules in particular and at this moment is deeply divided on how to enforce its regulations overall.

FEC gridlock is just one of many reasons why the 2016 presidential campaign has seen a complete meltdown of the notion that candidates don’t work with the super PACs and nonprofits supporting them.

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Brian Walsh

Brian is a Research Fellow at the Center for Competitive Politics.https://www.ifs.org/author/bwalsh/

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