Daily Media Links 8/12: Campaign finance curbs and bipartisan censorship, Justice’s IRS Connection, and more…

August 12, 2014   •  By Joe Trotter   •  
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Amending the First Amendment
Washington Examiner: Campaign finance curbs and bipartisan censorship
Congressional Democrats are lining up behind a constitutional amendment to allow restrictions on campaign contributions and spending, and Republicans, to their everlasting credit, are opposed. They agree with the Supreme Court that limits like these are limits on speech, and they think it would be a mistake to amend the Constitution to abridge freedom of speech.  
This position is particularly welcome because it represents something of a reversal by the GOP — not on regulating campaign finance, but on censoring speech. Republicans, oddly, have made the reversal without acknowledging — or perhaps even realizing — what they’ve done.  
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Wall Street Journal: Justice’s IRS Connection
We’ve been telling you about the pro-Israel group Z Street, which sued the IRS in 2010 on grounds that the agency engaged in viewpoint discrimination when it singled out 501(c) groups with Israel-related missions for additional scrutiny. The case has been handled by Justice Department trial attorney Andrew Strelka, who previously worked in the IRS office run by Lois Lerner that handled tax-exempt applications.
From August 2008 until August 2010, Mr. Strelka was a presidential management fellow assigned to the IRS Exempt Organizations division. That’s the same period that Z Street says it was told by an IRS agent that its application had been singled out for special scrutiny to see if it comported with Administration policies. Mr. Strelka was thus both Justice’s lawyer on the case and potentially a witness.
We say “was” because recently Mr. Strelka was withdrawn as the Justice Department’s counsel of record on the Z Street case. A review of court dockets showed that he has also withdrawn from two other cases involving tax-exempt groups, including Judicial Watch’s suit against the IRS.
Read more…
Independent Groups
Politico: Waiting for the next Watergate
By Byron Tau
“One of the jobs of the reform community is to identify the problems in the system as it stands and to try to create good policy proposals — and then wait for the scandal,” said Lisa Gilbert, director of the Congress Watch division at the pro-reform group Public Citizen.  
Read more…
Note: Then it’s our job to keep the overzealous elements in check.
SCOTUSBlog: Ask the author: Robert Post – Citizens Divided
By Ronald Collins
So, for example, in the firstlecture of my book I trace how judicially protected First Amendment rights were created in the twentieth century to compensate for the failure of American political parties during the Progressive Era to maintain the representative integrity of elections.  Historical questions of this kind are not at the center of Justice Breyer’s discussion.
The central thesis of my book is to distinguish between two forms of American constitutional self-government.  In the first and historically prior form of self-government, self-determination consists of a process of representation mediated by elections.  I call this view of self-government “representation.”  In the second form of self-government, which did not emerge until the twentieth century, self-determination consists of processes of ongoing communication constituted by First Amendment rights.  I call this view of self-government “discursive democracy.” It turns out that representation and discursive democracy possess entirely different constitutional structures and properties.  The tension between representation and discursive democracy is at the heart of the doctrinal confusion of cases like Citizens United.  My book emphasizes theoretical and academic distinctions of this kind, which differ in focus from Justice Breyer’s prior work.
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Columbus Dispatch: Put Senate campaign-finance reports online
The U.S. Senate is wasting taxpayer money and keeping the public in the dark about its donors by letting the Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act languish. This is a common-sense bill that would require Senate candidates to file their quarterly campaign-finance reports electronically, as House candidates, presidential candidates and other political committees have done for many years.  
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Candidates, Politicians, Campaigns, and Parties

NY Times: Midterms Give Parties Chance for Sweeping Control of States
At a time when Democrats and Republicans in control of statehouses are using their authority to push through ambitious policies that by contrast highlight the paralysis in Washington, the potential for further Republican gains has raised the possibility of deepening the policy divide between red and blue states. Republicans now control 59 of the 99 partisan legislative chambers, and have complete political control — both legislative houses and the governor’s mansion — in 23 states, while Democrats control 13. The total number of states ruled by a single political party, 36, is the highest in six decades.  
Read more…
NY Times: Uniting to Take Congress, G.O.P. Tries to Become the Party of ‘Yes’
By Carl Hulse
“We need to change our mentality,” said Senator John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Senate Republican. “Because we have been in the minority, some people are used to saying no. We need to find something we can say yes to, something that advances our agenda.”  
Fear of a splintered majority was a principal reason top Senate Republicans were determined to fend off Tea Party challenges to incumbents, an effort that culminated last week with primary victories by Senators Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Pat Roberts of Kansas, two pragmatic Senate veterans considered team players.
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State and Local

New York –– Capitol New York: Judge throws out Cuomo challenge to Teachout
By Conor Skelding
A challenge to Zephyr Teachout’s ballot status brought on behalf of Governor Andrew Cuomo is invalid, a state Supreme Court judge ruled today.  
Teachout, a Fordham Law professor who first challenged Cuomo for the nomination of the Working Families Party, successfully collected petitions to appear on the Democratic ballot in September.
Read more…
Virginia –– Washington Post: In opening 2 weeks of McDonnell trial, prosecution case looks strong
By Robert McCartney
But the defense still has an out by arguing that McDonnell accepted the gifts and loans while privately intending to do nothing out of the ordinary for Williams.
Here, the government’s case has shortcomings. It doesn’t have an e-mail, text message or other physical evidence in which Bob McDonnell says, “I’ll do this if you’ll do that.”
Also, the “official acts” performed in the alleged quid pro quo were less than overwhelming.
Read more…

Joe Trotter

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