Daily Media Links 8/17: FEC Commissioner Ann Ravel: It’s Not My Role To Apply Constitutional Principles, Why Clinton’s plan to scrap Citizens United won’t work, and more…

August 17, 2016   •  By Alex Baiocco   •  
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In the News

Fox & Hounds: An Attempt to Get Public Financing of Campaigns Through the Back Door

Joel Fox

Sen. Ben Allen’s SB 1107 wants to allow public funding of campaigns, something voters prohibited years ago. A long time acquaintance of mine, David Keating who now runs the Center for Competitive Politics in Washington, D.C. had an opinion piece in yesterday’s Orange County Register blasting the attempt by Sen. Allen to overturn a vote of the people with what Keating says is an unconstitutional bill. The voters outlawed public financing of campaigns with Proposition 73 in 1988. As someone who signed the ballot argument in favor of Proposition 73, I agree with Keating’s assessment. If legislators want public financing, legislators can’t do it on their own—they have to ask the voters.

Allen and supporters of SB 1107 claim that they are following the rules of the proposition that allow for legislative changes that “further the purposes” of the initiative. However, as Keating argues in his piece, “How can a bill “further [the] purpose” of the law banning tax-funded campaigns by allowing for tax-financed campaigns? The answer is: It can’t.”

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Bloomberg BNA: FEC Foreign-Money Proposal Unlikely to Yield Consensus

Kenneth P. Doyle

The proposal by Democratic FEC Commissioner Ann Ravel, which is on the agenda for an Aug. 16 commission meeting, calls for rescinding a decade-old FEC advisory opinion that allowed a U.S. domestic subsidiary of a foreign-based company to establish a corporate political action committee and pay for the PAC’s administrative costs…

FEC Democrats repeatedly have warned that campaign spending by corporations and other outside groups since the 2010 Citizens United ruling could open the door to foreign influence in U.S. politics. Republicans have countered that the supposed threat of foreign money is overblown and meant to provide cover for Democrats to impose a broader regulatory agenda.

After an FEC-sponsored forum on the issue in June, Republican election lawyer Bradley Smith, a former FEC commissioner who heads of the nonprofit Center for Competitive Politics, said foreign money already is illegal in U.S. campaigns, and there was “no evidence of any significant efforts by foreigners to circumvent the prohibition”

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Renewed IRS Scrutiny Reminds Us Free Speech is Still Vulnerable to Federal Encroachment

Joe Albanese

Furthermore, skepticism of the IRS’s inclination to restrain itself can and should be applied to other federal agencies. There is reason to suspect that others would also try to actively stretch their authority within and perhaps even beyond existing law by claiming more regulatory powers.

Thus, supporters of political speech regulation are mistaken in trying to lavish even more authority to regulate campaign finance law to agencies besides the Federal Election Commission, which is an appropriate regulator in this area, despite its flaws. Over the years, pro-regulation activists and some politicians have pressured non-expert agencies like the IRS, Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Federal Communications Commission to regulate political speech. Agencies like these that are not expert in campaign finance law may be susceptible to the same direct or indirect political biases that were evident in the IRS (and already exist within the FEC), making these agencies susceptible to scandals of their own.

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Independent Groups

NBC News: Pro-Trump Super PAC Hire Tests Federal Election Rules

Andrew Perez

The Trump campaign announced in April it had hired Ken McKay as a senior adviser, saying he would “support our delegate operations team and bolster our ground game efforts.” McKay left the Trump campaign in early June to join Rebuilding America Now. When the move was announced, a number of media outlets, including CNN and the Wall Street Journal, reported that McKay would have to go through a 120-day “cooling off” period before working with the super PAC, under federal elections rules.

That didn’t happen. Rebuilding America Now began paying McKay for “political strategy consulting” only days after it was reported that he was leaving the Trump campaign, according to the group’s filing with the Federal Election Commission (FEC).

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Huffington Post: This Democrat Isn’t Challenging Her Opponent To A Debate. She’s Challenging A Donor To His Super PAC.

Zach Carter

On Monday, Teachout decided to bypass Faso himself and go after his donor. In a video posted to her Facebook account, she criticized Singer and challenged him to a debate.

“This is very serious,” Teachout says in the ad. “Paul Singer, I challenge you to come here and have a debate with me … I think the people of the 19th District deserve to hear your actual voice when you’re putting so much money into trying to buy up representation.”

Teachout is an academic corruption expert who is building her campaign message around curbing the influence of large corporations and money in politics. So highlighting Singer isn’t just an attempt to dismiss Faso as a tool of big money interests ― it also draws attention to Teachout’s strongest issue.

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Daily Caller: FEC Commissioner Ann Ravel: It’s Not My Role To Apply Constitutional Principles

Caroline Hunter, FEC Commissioner

Commissioner Ann Ravel’s tenure on the Federal Election Commission has been marked by a progression from foolishness to nihilism as to the role of the agency, the importance of the First Amendment, and the role of the courts in interpreting the law.  Criticism isn’t unusual coming from me, a Republican member of the Federal Election Commission, as I often disagree with my Democratic-leaning colleagues on how best to interpret and apply campaign finance law.  But her recent remarks and actions are a symptom of an accelerating devolution: Commissioner Ravel was recently quoted in The Washington Post as saying that her “role in the Commission is not to apply constitutional principles” because she’s “not on the Supreme Court.”  The fact that Commissioner Ravel said this while explaining her vote to censor a news organization for hosting a candidate debate would be troubling even if it weren’t part of a disturbing trend.

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Citizens United

The Economist: Why Clinton’s plan to scrap Citizens United won’t work


While Mrs Clinton is enjoying the spoils of what she calls a “disaster for democracy”, she pledges to tear it down once in office. The goal is worthy, and her proposals to increase transparency and establish a federal matching programme for small donations are both promising and plausible. But her more ambitious plan is guaranteed to come up short. Consider first her promise to nominate Supreme Court justices who will overturn Citizens United. Litmus tests are dubious tools: many potential nominees will not have a record indicating how they would rule on the matter, and it is uncouth for a president or senator to ask (or for a nominee to answer) such direct questions. Even a bloc of justices fully committed to overturning Citizens United would be powerless to do so unless and until an appropriate case comes before them. Mrs Clinton also says she will (in her first 30 days in office) sponsor a constitutional amendment “to overturn Citizens United”. While she’s at it, she should push for an amendment abolishing Islamic State and calling for fairy dust to rain down over America.

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New York Times: Roger Ailes Is Advising Donald Trump Ahead of Presidential Debates

Maggie Haberman and Ashley Parker

Mr. Ailes is aiding the Republican nominee as Mr. Trump turns his attention to the first debate with Hillary Clinton, his Democratic opponent, on Sept. 26 at Hofstra University on Long Island, according to four people briefed on the move, who insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter.

Two of them said Mr. Ailes’s role could extend beyond the debates, which Mr. Trump’s advisers see as crucial to vaulting him back into strong contention for the presidency after self-inflicted wounds that have eroded his standing in public opinion polls.

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Washington Free Beacon: Clinton Foundation Advised World Bank on Contracts That Netted Donors Millions

Lachlan Markay

Drug companies that have donated to Hillary Clinton’s foundation received most of the contract money from an international tuberculosis initiative after the foundation was brought on to manage the initiative’s procurement operation, public records show.

Two of every three dollars spent acquiring anti-tuberculosis drugs through the program, which is administered by the World Bank, have gone to two companies—Swiss health care giant Novartis and Indian drug company Lupin Ltd.—that together have donated up to $130,000 to the Clinton Foundation.

Clinton and her allies have pointed to the foundation’s international charitable work to deflect allegations of cronyism. However, the millions of dollars in contracts awarded to the two drug companies illustrate how foundation donors profited from laudable causes.

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Candidates and Campaigns

The Street: 5 Myths About Money in Politics That May Affect Voters’ Decisions

Deena Zaidi

With November approaching, political analysts have started crunching the numbers behind the 2016 presidential campaigns.

Although Democrats and Republicans have been criticized for the millions of dollars they receive in contributions both parties have said that they want campaign finance reform. The unlimited sums of money in campaigns can often lead to miscalculations or overestimation of a candidate’s campaign contributions.

Here are five myths related to campaign finance…

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Wall Street Journal: Gary Johnson’s Campaign Steps Up Its Fundraising

Byron Tau

The campaign ran an online “money bomb” asking supporters to donate $15 by Aug. 15 with a goal of raising $1.5 million. It reported that more than 90,000 people contributed an average of $32 in support of the Libertarian candidate—nearly double its goal.

Though modest by the standards of Republican and Democratic presidential fundraising, Mr. Johnson’s two week haul is bigger than the total amount he raised—$1.4 million—from January through June. No Libertarian presidential candidate has raised more than $1 million in a single month dating back to at least 1996, before which digital campaign finance records aren’t available.

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The States

USA Today: Charles Koch’s network launches new fight to keep donors secret

Fredreka Schouten

Luke Hilgemann, Americans for Prosperity’s national CEO, cast the South Dakota fight as a battle to protect donors’ free-speech rights. Politicians who have been targeted by AFP over taxes and other policy issues over the years now want to unmask contributors’ identities “because they don’t like us bringing these issues to light and holding them accountable,” he said.

He argued that revealing donors’ identities could subject them to threats and intimidation and drive them away from funding advocacy groups.

“The chilling of public discourse is a bad path for the country to go on,” he said.

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Miami New Times: Activists to Sue County to Force Campaign-Finance Reform Onto November Ballot

Jerry Iannelli

When an activist group called Accountable Miami-Dade sent the county 127,000 petitions, each demanding the government reform its campaign-finance laws to help stop public corruption, the county — by law — had 30 days to start counting up the signatures.

But so far, neither the commission nor the mayor will actually start that that process. Instead, activists say the government, led by County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, is just making up excuses to avoid reforming its campaign donation rules. So today, Accountable Miami-Dade officially upped the ante: The group says it will sue the county to get the petitions counted.

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New Mexico Political Report: Upcoming ballot initiative will reduce influence of money in politics

Dede Feldman and Eric Griego

On an 8-1 vote, the Albuquerque City Council recently passed legislation to make the City’s public financing program workable again. Our thanks go to City Councilors Don Harris and Pat Davis* for reaching across the aisle to fix the current system, which was originally approved by about 69 percent of the voters in 2005. As soon as the Bernalillo County Commission works out the positions of various measures on this fall’s ballot, city voters can expect to see it on the ballot in November…

The Council’s charter amendment solves this problem by increasing the public stipend for participating mayoral candidates from $1 to $1.75 per voter. A qualifying mayoral candidate would get $630,000, enough to compete with privately funded candidates. To get the stipend, candidates must collect small donations from local constituents, something not all candidates are willing or able to do.

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Alex Baiocco


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