Daily Media Links 8/24: Even Speech We Hate Should Be Free, Silicon Valley Icon Wants to Hack His Way to the Presidency, and more…

August 24, 2015   •  By Brian Walsh   •  
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Attention Members of Congress: Super PACs Disclose Their Donors

Scott Blackburn

We often read articles and letters to the editor from individuals demanding the full disclosure of donors to Super PACs. It is an understandable confusion. News reports regularly warn about the “torrent of dark money” and then go on to talk about Super PACs, or decry the evil of secret money “flooding” our campaigns and then discuss donors to a super PAC independently supporting some major candidate. And so voters and pundits who fight for this cause assume the two, that is, Super PACs and “dark money,” are one and the same.

Of course, this is false. Super PACs do disclose all of their donors, and news outlets regularly use this government-reported information to write articles informing the public about how much some citizens give to these groups.

What is surprising is when this mistake is made, not by an average citizen or even a journalist, but by a politician who really should (or does) know better.

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Free Speech

Wall Street Journal: Even Speech We Hate Should Be Free

Mick Hume

Are there legitimate grounds to limit speech because it is too dangerous? The answer is no—once we are clear about what free speech means. Explicit threats against specific targets are not free speech. Nor, I would happily concede, is it free speech falsely to shout you-know-what, you-know-where.

That is why Holmes’s view in Schenck was never persuasive. He used a theatrical example that had nothing to do with free speech to attack something that definitely did. The declarations of antiwar agitators, revolutionaries and even KKK racists most certainly are free speech. They involve ideas, beliefs, passions and hatreds in an argument about what sort of society we want.

There should never be any constraint on that sort of debate, however heated. We always need more speech rather than less to clarify arguments and to let people choose their own idea of the truth.

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Independent Groups

Philadelphia Inquirer: In politics, money talks

Editorial Board

Candidates embrace super PACs because traditional candidate and political action committees have to abide by legal contribution limits and frequent public disclosure requirements. Super PACs are allowed to raise unlimited funds and report spending and donations less often than traditional committees.

Even more dangerous than super PACs are the fake charities exploiting a loophole in the federal tax code to conceal donors. Their names may be hidden from the public, but the candidates know who their sugar daddies are. Their favors are too often returned in the form of lucrative government contracts and favorable policies for the special interests behind the biggest contributions.

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CBS News: Jeb Bush super PAC denies Photoshop mishap claim

Reena Flores

If you look closely at the Twitter preview of the ad, Bush’s left hand in the photo has a decidedly darker skin tone than the rest of his body. According to the super PAC, the email went out to thousands of voters in the early voting state of Iowa…

But when asked by CBS News whether the organization had superimposed Bush’s head on another person’s body, Right to Rise spokesman Paul Lindsay said “no” — it was indeed Bush’s body…

Lindsay later Tweeted the original photo of Bush that Right to Rise had used.

While super PACs are allowed, under Federal Election Commission rules, to advertise on behalf of a candidate, they are not allowed to coordinate directly with the presidential campaign. The rule could prevent a super PAC — even one with a more than $100 million treasure chest — from asking for a photo of Bush while visiting Iowa.

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Lawrence Lessig

Wall Street Journal: Silicon Valley Icon Wants to Hack His Way to the Presidency

Cat Zakrzewski

Mr. Lessig, a 54-year-old Harvard professor who helped build cyber law, is exploring a run as a Democratic presidential candidate on a narrow platform: overhauling campaign finance law. To do that, he is relying on the Internet. He is crowdsourcing donations and polling his site’s visitors to choose his running mate. He said he is the first candidate to make his campaign entirely open source, in the hopes of collecting more data about potential donors and voters.

“We don’t have the advantage of a candidate who has been on the field for the last four years, we don’t have the advantage of a reality TV candidate who is worth $10 billion,” Mr. Lessig said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. “So one place we might get an advantage is with innovation for software that runs and drives the campaign.”

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Wisconsin John Doe

Newsweek: The Email Trail That Proves Scott Walker’s Collusion

Lou Dubose

The four-justice Republican majority leaned heavily on the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, holding that the investigation had trampled the First Amendment rights of political donors exercising free-speech rights by making political contributions (up to $1 million per individual).

The justices also declared the investigations a violation of Fourth Amendment privacy protections of the Milwaukee County staff, Walker’s campaign workers and nonprofit groups engaged in campaigns indirectly supporting Walker.

Now, as Walker’s presidential campaign gets under way, conservative think tanks and news outlets—the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute, The Weekly Standard, et al.—are trying to characterize the investigations as a political witch hunt.

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WUWM: Wisconsin Moves Toward Ending John Doe Probes into Political Activities

Marge Pitrof

“The investigation went on for years in Milwaukee, and they never did really come out with any charges, high level charges for campaign corruption and then when you look at the abuses that were perpetrated by this law, invading people’s homes at six o’clock in the morning, taking their children’s computers,” Ott says.

Ott says the lengthy probe consumed an unjustified level of resources and funding, so he supports the GOP plan to prevent such episodes. The bill would only allow John Does only for certain felonies – not for offenses related to elections or campaign finance.

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Wisconsin Watchdog: Legal defense of rogue John Doe agents costs taxpayers nearly $1.2 million

M.D. Kittle

More than $1.1 million and counting – $1,189,199.70 to be precise, according to information obtained by Wisconsin Watchdog through a records request. The records were provided by the state Department of Administration.

And the bill continues to grow.

Taxpayers spent $407,558.25 to defend special prosecutor Francis Schmitz in a federal civil rights lawsuit filed by targets of the lengthy John Doe investigation into 29 conservative organizations and the campaign of Gov. Scott Walker.

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Candidate and Campaigns

Roanoke Times: Webb: Super PAC money ‘screwing up’ the political process

Markus Schmidt

Fighting low name recognition on the national stage and struggling to move beyond his single-digits in the polls, Webb is still optimistic that he will become a more visible candidate once the dust from Trump’s bombastic entering into the race has settled.

“Americans are very frustrated with the basic political system. That’s why you are seeing so much attention to Donald Trump, and he is doing a great job dominating (the race), then we have Bernie Sanders on the other side who is getting great crowds,” Webb said Friday. “But pretty soon, the electoral process is going to calm down.”

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The States

The Tennessean: Lawmakers spent $30K of campaign funds on pro sports tickets

Dave Boucher

Miller and another lawmaker argued they purchased the tickets so they could give them away to constituents. They provide those tickets to constituents as a way to give back to their local communities and supporters, never to influence an election or otherwise curry favor, they said. They were quick to point out they never broke the law.

“It’s within the rules,” Miller said.

They’re right. Although state law bans the use of campaign funds for tickets to sporting events, concerts or other similar activities, there’s an exemption that allows essentially all ticket purchases to go unchecked. Buying such tickets with campaign funds is largely banned for federal candidates.

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Ohio Watchdog: Union worker deposition requires ‘willing suspension of disbelief’

Maggie Thurber

In the complaint, they said CJN failed to file a designation of treasurer form, which must be done prior to accepting any funds, and failed to file a financial report.

CJN filed a response, saying it wasn’t a political action committee and not required to file either form. Instead, it was a non-profit corporation authorized to do business in the state and to “participate in partisan politics by making independent expenditures.”

The response identified White, of Dayton, as the founder and sole trustee. It said there were no employees and no one else was involved with the organization.

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Bozeman Daily Chronicle: Legislative committee stalls new campaign disclosure rules

Troy Carter

They relented after hearing opposition to the rules from representatives of the Montana Trial Lawyers Association, the AFL-CIO and MEA-MFT labor unions — who said that, in places, Motl had gone beyond the Legislature’s mandate and in others had drafted rules too ambiguous. They aired their concerns after having submitted them directly to Motl.

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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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