Daily Media Links 8/11: Harvard Law professor Lawrence Lessig exploring White House bid, Senate Republicans Propose Making IRS Independent, Non-Unionized, and more…

August 11, 2015   •  By Brian Walsh   •  
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In the News

Law 360: Calif. Nonprofit Donor Disclosure Row Hits Supreme Court

Jesica Corso

A nonprofit organization and frequent opponent of campaign financing limits has told the U.S. Supreme Court that the Ninth Circuit wrongly determined California’s requirement that nonprofits disclose big-money donors on a tax form does not violate free speech.

The Center for Competitive Politics said in a July 30 certiorari petition that the case presents the high court an opportunity to rule on whether new donor disclosure laws in California, New York and Florida are legal. CCP believes that they are not.

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Comments Regarding June 11, 2015 Revisions to Proposed Tex. Admin. Code

David Keating and Eric Wang

Notwithstanding these substantial improvements, the Commission also has made two additional changes that significantly undermine these improvements. The addition of “images” and “sounds” to the “functional equivalent of express advocacy” concept reintroduces the same type of vague and indeterminate standards and unfaithfulness to relevant legal authority that plagued the initial version of the proposed regulatory text.  As discussed below, images and sounds (other than written and spoken words) are not part of the “functional equivalent of express advocacy” standard as articulated by the U.S. Supreme.  In practice, the meanings of most images and sounds will be difficult (if not impossible) to determine fairly and consistently, and thus these criteria are unconstitutional if used to regulate political speech.

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Larry Lessig

Politico: Harvard Law professor Lawrence Lessig exploring White House bid

Nancy Scola

Lessig’s candidacy is aimed at securing passage of the Citizen Equality Act of 2017, a legislative proposal for voter protection laws, new methods for electing representatives and a greater focus on citizen-funded elections.

In his launch video, he explains that he is running to put “citizen equality” on the map, and unless a leading candidate, “whether Hillary or Bernie or Joe or someone else” adopts that mantle, Lessig himself would run as a “referendum president,” serving only as long as it takes to pass that agenda.

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Daily Caller: Harvard Professor Larry Lessig To Explore Democratic Presidential Run

Alex Pappas

“Lessig will hold a press conference call to discuss his candidacy, which will concentrate entirely on fixing the corruption plaguing our political system and the need to make citizen equality the central issue of the 2016 Democratic Primary,” according to an email teasing his announcement provided to The Daily Caller.

The progressive Lessig famously founded Mayday PAC, described by the organization as “a crowd-funded Super PAC to end all Super PACs and the corruption of private money.”

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Bloomberg: Harvard Professor Larry Lessig To Explore Democratic Presidential Run

Emily Greenhouse

He is a man of laser-like focus, to quote his wife, an “all the way” individual who, after gaining weight on a sabbatical abroad, adopted a vegan diet and lost 60 pounds. Today, he is putting forward the Citizen Equality Act of 2017, to elect a president who could fix the government, overturning the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, ensuring equal freedom to vote, equal representation, and citizen-funded elections. …

Lessig wants to ask the American people “whether they support reforming the system to achieve equality as citizens,” only the Constitution does not give referendum power. “So the idea,” he said, “was to find a way to hack one into the Constitution.” He has devised a wish to be a “referendum president,” to reinstate a system in which each citizen has actually equal political power. “The referendum president says, I’m going to run for this one issue, this fundamental issue, the first issue that we have to resolve.

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Government Executive: Senate Republicans Propose Making IRS Independent, Non-Unionized

Charles S. Clark

Last week’s four-part, 5,400-page Senate Finance Committee report blasting mismanagement and politicization at the Internal Revenue Service included several fresh accusations and a proposal for reform.

Its contributions to the ongoing debate range from overlooked congressional testimony from former IRS executive Lois Lerner, to critiques of the National Treasury Employees Union, to a call for separating the IRS from the Treasury Department.

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Independent Groups

The Hill: New campaign finance reform group lands pro-Clinton PAC’s email list

Jonathan Easley

The End Citizens United PAC will become the first group outside of the pro-Clinton orbit to land a huge email list from Ready PAC, the independent political action committee created to support Clinton’s presidential bid.

“These are the most active and engaged liberal grassroots supporters around the country,” said Richard Carbo, a spokesperson for the group…

End Citizens United says that since its soft launch earlier this year, it has raised more than $2.1 million through more than 136,000 donations, for an average gift of under $15 dollars.

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Daily Chronicle: Zombie Apocalypse Super PAC asks politicians about role in possible event

Adam Poulisse

Sherman, a 44-year-old DeKalb resident, established the Zombie Apocalypse Super PAC, a nonpartisan political action committee dedicated to asking one, and only one, hard-hitting question – “the most important question,” according to the super PAC’s website – of current politicians and candidates for next year’s election.

The question: “What role does government have in the zombie apocalypse?”

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Tax-Financed Campaigns

Washington Post: The Insiders: This post is important! It’s not about Donald Trump.

Ed Rogers

This bill would “counter the influence of big money in politics and return power and a voice to the people” by providing citizens with a small tax credit for campaign contributions, a 6-to-1 match for small donor contributions from a fund and other public-matching fund incentives. Now, I don’t necessarily agree with every single aspect of their legislation — especially federal funding — but I think we can all agree this bill is a good place to start talking about returning elections to the voters and the parties.

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Candidates and Campaigns

Mediaite: Bernie Sanders Explains Why Trump’s Campaign Finance Comments Are Nonsense

Matt Wilstein

After once again denouncing the Citizens United decision, which allows billionaires to donate unlimited money to candidates, Sanders asked, “Do I think that the people who make these contributions — huge contributions — do it out of the goodness of their heart, or do they want something? Of course they want something.”

But on the other hand, he added, “It’s easy for Trump to say, ‘I don’t need their money.’ Yeah, because he’s a billionaire.” The “logical consequence” of that is that “the only people who can run for office in America who don’t have to curry favors are billionaires themselves.”

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The States

Montgomery Advertiser: Ruling on PAC transfers good news for Alabama


PAC-to-PAC transfers were used for years to mask the sources of money being funneled to political campaigns.

The transfers were essentially money laundering, which is a criminal enterprise in other contexts outside politics. By shuffling money among PACs to obscure the original donor, interests or individuals could make contributions to candidates without voters being able to tell who gave what to whom. The transfer ban was a major step in improving Alabama’s campaign finance disclosure laws, and it is gratifying to see the law withstand this legal challenge.

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Brian Walsh

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