Daily Media Links 8/5

August 5, 2019   •  By Alex Baiocco   •  
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In the News

Epoch Times: Senator Kamala Harris’s Rise Fueled by Big Money Donations, Including Donald Trump

By Masooma Haq

To solicit donations for her presidential campaign, Kamala Harris tweeted on July 31, “Trump has mega-donors, huge corporations, and dark-money PACs willing to cut blank checks to buy him four more years in power. We have you. Help us win this.” …

Harris’s connection to wealthy donors is keeping her ahead of most of her rivals in the 2020 presidential race.

Harris received criticism for a fundraising event in the Hamptons in 2017, but will be hosted by Michael Kempner and his wife in the Hamptons on Aug. 18 for a 2020 campaign fundraiser. The event is at his home in Water Mill, New York, and tickets start at $2,800, according to an invitation obtained by Politico

Many of the democratic candidates have sworn off of donations from lobbyists and corporate donor committees (PACs).

Joseph Albanese, a research fellow at the Institute for Free Speech, recently wrote in a Hill opinion piece that “pledging” (as some of the democratic presidential candidates have) to not accept cooperate PAC money is deceptive because the majority of donations are made by individuals. Those individuals can still contribute to the candidates, bypassing PACs.

Albanese also commented that the corporate PAC pledge is mostly symbolic but may fool the public into thinking it really has some impact on donations.


Watertown Daily Times: Amending our thinking on big money in politics

By Jerry Moore

Some people working to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case clearly don’t understand the issue…

A recent article in Newsweek further demonstrated what’s wrong with the movement to reverse the Citizens United case.

Jeffrey D. Clements penned an opinion column titled “Drain big money out of politics. Overturn Citizens United. Pass the 28th Amendment,” posted online July 30.

Clements serves as president of American Promise, a group formed to pass a constitutional amendment to restrict spending designed to influence elections…

In his column, Clements lauds the introduction of the Democracy for All Amendment by congressional Democrats.

It has the support of U.S. Sens. Kirsten E. Gillibrand and Charles E. Schumer, both of New York…

“Data shows that because money reigns, most Americans cannot participate meaningfully in determining candidates and election results,” he wrote. “Wealthy Americans and corporate interests hold wildly disproportionate influence, and they typically have different policy preferences than the average voter. Incumbents raise more money because they can reward donors and punish enemies, and they usually win, no matter how frustrated the voters may be.”

Let’s clarify the errors that Clements makes here.

The Citizens United v. FEC and a subsequent Supreme Court case, SpeechNow.org v. FEC, dealt with how groups could spend money on expressing their views.

They did not address direct contributions to political candidates, so Clements is misleading on this point.

Talking Points Memo: Watch Out, Nunes Trolls: GOPer Vows More Lawsuits Are Coming

By Nicole Lafond

Nunes told the local CBS affiliate, KSEE24, that he will “probably” file another three to five lawsuits “soon” to address “defamation and slander” that he claims he’s been a constant victim to.

“We have probably another three to five lawsuits that we’ll be filing and it’s all about, as you know, I’ve been maliciously attacked by the media. They’ve tied me to things that are just simply straight up defamation and slander,” he said. “If you go and Google right now, you do a Google search, virtually every story is either not true or it’s based off of a previous story that wasn’t true and so the only way I can clear my name up is through the courts.” …

“Every man and woman has a right to his or her name and just because I am an elected official that doesn’t mean that any mainstream media outlet can say whatever they want about me,” he said. “So we’re going to hold them accountable and hopefully it will change the way – we’re going through a period of time in this country right now where every day political people are being slandered, almost by the second if you mention Twitter. And the only way we’re going to get that, to rein all that in is if public officials are able to sue for slander and defamation. I think it was a mistake that happened 50 years ago.”

Fresno Bee: Devin Nunes sues over ‘fake farmer’ challenge. He says dark money was behind it

By Brianna Calix

Rep. Devin Nunes’ campaign is suing the people who accused the congressman of being a “fake farmer” and tried to get his ballot designation removed, alleging they conspired with “dark money” groups to injure the campaign.

The lawsuit, filed in Tulare County Superior Court on Thursday, alleges the group also targeted Nunes’ wife, Elizabeth, by seeking public records requests for her school emails that were costly to produce and resulted in harassment to innocent teachers and school administrators.

The Nunes campaign also accuses Andrew Janz’s congressional campaign of “mirroring” super PAC spending…

Nunes’ campaign alleges the defendants conspired with groups such as Fight Back California, the American Democracy Legal Fund and The Fresno Bee’s parent company McClatchy to mount a campaign against Nunes and promote “baseless” ethics complaints filed against Nunes …

Brian Whelan, a local business attorney who helped secure the largest award in California for a defamation suit, said the lawsuit likely won’t make it past California’s anti-SLAPP protections…

“In this situation, the complaint has to do with ethics complaints filed with the Offfice of Congressional Ethics and an improper ballot designation,” he said. “Both of these fall within anti-SLAPP.” …

“This law was enacted in this state to prevent people from punishing those that want to exercise their constitutional rights to freedom of speech and petition the government,” Whelan said. “It’s very probable that this law will protect these people. They have constitutional rights to do these types of petitions.”


Daily Beast: Kobach Campaign Can’t Get Its Story Straight on Allegedly Illegal Fundraising Tactic

By Lachlan Markay

The Daily Beast reported on Thursday that Kobach had sent a fundraising plea to the email list owned by We Build The Wall-a nonprofit group looking to privately finance wall construction on the southern U.S. border-asking subscribers to donate to his Republican Senate primary campaign. Kobach is We Build The Wall’s general counsel…

In an emailed statement late Thursday night, the Kobach campaign’s field director, Kerrick Kuder, denied any knowledge of the email. “That email did not come from the Kobach campaign or any association there of,” he wrote.

But the following day, the campaign released a statement implying that the email was in fact the work of a Kobach campaign vendor. “If any mistake was made with respect to the vendor’s failure to include a ‘Paid for by’ notice on any campaign email, that was immediately addressed by the sending of a correction email to all recipients of the original email,” the statement said.

As of Sunday afternoon, no such email had gone out to subscribers of the We Build The Wall list that Kobach used to solicit campaign contributions and the Kobach campaign had not provided a copy of the email they claimed was sent to The Daily Beast.

“I see no way to reconcile the statement that the ’email did not come from the Kobach campaign or any association there of’ and the reference to whoever sent the email as a ‘vendor,’ presumably a vendor of the Kobach campaign,” said Paul S. Ryan, vice president of policy and litigation at the group Common Cause.

Ryan’s group filed complaints with the Federal Election Commission and the Department of Justice alleging “reason to believe that solicitations for campaign contributions to [Kobach’s] Senate campaign distributed by We Build the Wall, Inc. violated multiple campaign finance laws [and] the ban on corporate contributions to a federal candidate.”

New York Post: Feds probing AOC’s chief of staff Saikat Chakrabarti after sudden resignation

By Mary Kay Linge and Jon Levine

The feds are looking into possible campaign finance misdeeds by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s chief of staff and lead rainmaker, who suddenly resigned Friday, federal sources told The Post.

The inquiry centers on two political action committees founded by Saikat Chakrabarti, the top aide who quit along with Ocasio-Cortez spokesman Corbin Trent, the sources said…

The two PACs being probed, Brand New Congress and Justice Democrats, were both set up by Chakrabarti to support progressive candidates across the country.

But they funneled more than $1 million in political donations into two private companies that Chakrabarti also incorporated and controlled, according to Federal Election Commission filings and a complaint filed in March with the regulatory agency.

In 2016 and 2017, the PACs raised about $3.3 million, mostly from small donors. A third of the cash was transferred to two private companies whose names are similar to one of the PACs – Brand New Congress LLC and Brand New Campaign LLC – federal campaign filings show.

While PACs must follow stringent federal rules on disclosure of spending and fundraising, private companies are not subject to the same transparency.

The complaint filed by the National Legal and Policy Center, a government watchdog group based in Virginia, alleged that the LLCs appeared to have been set up to obscure those federal reporting requirements…

They may also have violated the $5,000 limit on contributions from federal PACs to candidates, according to the complaint.


Washington Post: How small-dollar donors are reshaping the Democratic primary

By Anu Narayanswamy, Kate Rabinowitz, Hailey Fuchs, and Michelle Ye Hee Lee

About a fifth of donors have given to more than one Democratic presidential nominee in the first six months of this year, pointing to the difficulty candidates face distinguishing themselves among those giving small amounts at a time.

That revelation comes according to an analysis of ActBlue data, released by the Federal Election Commission this week…

Small-dollar donations have played a big role in the primaries so far, thanks to new rules from the Democratic National Committee. Unlike in years past, candidates must gather a certain number of donors to qualify for the debates. As a result, campaigns have competed for a base of supporters who give a few dollars at a time.

Democratic voters interviewed by The Washington Post say they are giving differently than in years past. Rather than simply donating to a favorite candidate, they are offering a few dollars at a time to help certain people raise their profiles or bring their policy ideas to a broader audience.

That competition may help explain why, in recent months, many Democratic candidates who initially distanced themselves from big donors have been holding more traditional fundraisers courting donors who give maximum $2,800 checks at a time.

The only candidate who has completely shunned courting wealthy donors at private fundraisers is Warren. Even so, Warren drew one of the biggest hauls in the second quarter, at $19.1 million – suggesting a potent small-dollar donor base for the candidates who can successfully tap into it.

Candidates and Campaigns 

Washington Post: Why go to the trouble of running for president to promote ideas that can’t work?

By Editorial Board

Candidates who promise big ideas should also be pressed on how they will realize them. Mr. Sanders says he will lead a revolution. Ms. Warren will take on the “giant corporations that have taken our government and that are holding it by the throat.” Then, the theory goes, they can bring about radical change.

But the United States is a vast, pluralistic country, and Congress will continue to reflect its ideological range. Big donors and billionaires may exercise too much influence, but Democratic primary voters should be wary of candidates who use that fact to explain away all opposition to their ideas. Even if you undid Citizens United and enacted campaign finance reform, sustainable policy in America would emerge only by means of principled compromise.

The States

San Francisco Chronicle: Three judges nullify more search warrants in San Francisco police raid on journalist

By Evan Sernoffsky and Michael Cabanatuan

Three San Francisco Superior Court judges on Friday ordered warrants obtained in the search of a freelance videographer’s phone, home and office to be nullified and their contents unsealed due to the Police Department’s violation of California’s shield law that protects journalists.

The three rulings followed a judge’s order last month to quash and unseal the first of five search warrants police obtained before raiding Bryan Carmody’s home and office on May 10 in their investigation into who in the department leaked a confidential report on the death of Public Defender Jeff Adachi.

Carmody, a freelance journalist, had sold the report to three television news stations shortly after Adachi’s Feb. 22 death. He had a press pass issued by the Police Department. The raid sparked a national controversy over an apparent violation of the First Amendment.

“It is indisputable that Mr. Carmody is a journalist under the definition of California’s shield law and the shield law would protect Mr. Carmody,” Judge Victor Hwang said in his ruling on the warrant police obtained to search Carmody’s office.

Judges Gail Dekreon and Christopher Hite in separate hearings earlier Friday ordered the warrants police obtained to search Carmody’s home and phone quashed and unsealed, leaving one warrant unresolved, which a judge is scheduled to rule on later in August.

Arizona Republic: These courts must protect kids’ privacy. They also must be public. Can it be done?

By Dianna M. Náñez and Mary Jo Pitzl

Durango Juvenile Court’s 12 courtrooms each year hear thousands of cases alleging abuse or neglect.

During The Republic’s May review, 11 courtrooms held 69 hearings, and all but two were open to the public. Republic reporters observed:

– Judges didn’t precisely follow court mandates intended to guard the privacy of children. Rules require every hearing start with a warning – known as “the admonition”- against observers releasing “personally identifiable” information. The admonition was invoked in just six of the 69 cases.

– Judges’ definitions varied on what “personally identifiable” means. That causes confusion about what parents can say about their case, and what advocates or the media can say about courtroom developments. It also calls into question whether the admonition works against free-speech rights and the spirit of an open court.

– Judges rarely required attendees, other than the parties to a case, to identify themselves, although doing so is part of the training judges receive.

– Some courtrooms seemed unprepared for observers and unaware of the rules. In one case, a court worker concerned by the presence of a reporter summoned a guard and two sheriff’s deputies to a public courtroom before the situation was resolved in favor of the reporter remaining in the courtroom.

– State law specifies six factors a judge must consider before closing a court. But in two hearings, judges closed the courtroom without addressing all of those factors.

– While the courts by law are open, dockets listing cases to be heard, and when, are not publicly available, making it difficult, if not impossible, for the public to observe a case.

– The laws and rules that apply to a child welfare case vary depending on which court has the case. Final decisions of juvenile-dependency judges are sealed. But if a case is appealed, appellate court opinions are public and protect identities by referring to children by first name only and parents by first name, last initial.

Alex Baiocco

Alex Baiocco