Daily Media Links 8/9: How The Left Is Weaponizing The American Legal System, New super PAC launching to support Evan McMullin’s independent White House bid, and more…

August 9, 2016   •  By Alex Baiocco   •  
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In the News

Alpha News Minnesota: The Man Behind the Complaints Against Daudt & Emmer Primary Challengers

Andrea Mayer-Bruestle

As has been reported by Alpha News, the AJ Kern for Congress Campaign received notification from the FEC that a complaint had been filed against the campaign…

FEC rules & regulations are intended to protect the public from being misled by unscrupulous political operatives but, as FEC has identified, these rules can also be abused.

Former FEC commissioner Bradley Smith wrote:

“Charges and litigation are used to harass opposing candidates and make political hay with the press …used most effectively by ‘incumbents’.”

Smith also wrote that, “Many, if not most, of these cases end up being dismissed, but not without distracting the campaigns and using up their resources.”

It is the Kern campaign’s opinion that Matt Stevens submitted a complaint with the federal government, not intended to protect the voters of CD-6 but rather to distract the Kern campaign during a critical point just prior to the primary.

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Free Speech

The Federalist: How The Left Is Weaponizing The American Legal System

Daniel Payne

The modern liberal impulse cannot very well tolerate a society that allows for multiple viewpoints, but the American tradition of free speech—along with its damaged but still vibrant culture of conservatism and conservative political thought—means that much of our political debate is still favorable ground for conservatives. That’s the way America was designed, intentionally and with forethought: to allow for dissent, to foster it, even to encourage it.

So the Left is turning to lawfare: a systematic effort to turn the American legal system against liberalism’s political opponents. The point is to take the court system (which is supposed to be a neutral arbiter of justice) and the law itself (which in many cases is ideologically neutral) and convert both into partisan weapons for liberal political advancement. It should cause you no small measure of discomfort to know that the Left has been largely successful in these efforts. Lawfare works.

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Washington Post: How will the Internet change political advertising?

Robert Gebelhoff

Conservatives say regulating YouTube videos would be an unnecessary intrusion into the Internet. Republican FEC Commissioner Lee Goodman rejected the notion that “dark money” groups could take over the Web, arguing in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that “unlike the expensive television-ad buys targeted by campaign-finance reforms of the 1970s, free and low-cost Internet postings are not corrupting because no large expenditures of money are necessary. On the Internet, well-expressed ideas can find an audience without cost barriers.”

The debate seems to boil down to two values: transparency and free speech. Conservatives want to place the onus of being informed on voters; liberals doubt that voters are prepared, and therefore want more regulation.

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Independent Groups

Washington Post: New super PAC launching to support Evan McMullin’s independent White House bid

Matea Gold

Evan McMullin, the conservative Republican and former CIA officer making a late independent bid for the White House, is poised to get a boost from a new super PAC being formed by two GOP strategists with experience in third-party ballot access…

“We want to be the conduit for people to be able to stand up and not just support his candidacy, but the efforts of an independent to satisfy the American people’s need for something more than they have seen,” Byrd told The Washington Post. “We are down to the two major party candidates, yet people are still looking for someone else.”

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Supreme Court

Washington Post: The sinking fantasy that Trump would defend the Constitution

George F. Will

The court’s two most important decisions in this century are Kelo and Citizens United. Conservatives loathe Kelo; Trump loves it. Conservatives celebrate Citizens United; Trump repeats the strident rhetoric of its liberal detractors…

Hillary Clinton favors amending the First Amendment to empower government to regulate the quantity, content and timing of campaign speech about the government’s composition and conduct. It would do this by regulating campaign spending, most of which funds the dissemination of speech. The rationale for this, and for the broader liberal objective of replacing private funding with public funding of politics, is the theory that politicians are easily bought and that private contributions breed quid pro quo corruption. Trump loudly voices this proposition.

The court has said that campaign-speech regulations can be justified to combat corruption or the appearance thereof. Trump says he has made innumerable contributions to members of both parties because, “When you give, they do whatever the hell you want them to do.”

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Washington Post: Trump is wrong. Pulpit freedom already exists.

Editorial Board

To be sure, the law and accompanying IRS regulations are not models of legal clarity. They bar churches from “directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office,” upon pain of losing tax-exempt status. Turning over the Sunday collection plate to, say, the Clinton campaign, would fall on the wrong side of the line. But what about more common activities — publishing voter issue guides, railing about various campaign topics from the pulpit or, of particular relevance to historically black congregations, encouraging people to register to vote or turn out at the polls? Well, says the IRS, “certain activities or expenditures may not be prohibited depending on the facts and circumstances.” Unavoidably, this puts government in the business of evaluating speech’s content and is bound to have some chilling effect on someone.

Yet historical experience with the law is notable mainly for how little church-based political engagement it has prevented: Precious few organizations have even been investigated by the IRS; fewer still have been penalized.

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The Hill: Clinton allies to IRS: Probe Trump Foundation

Mark Hensch

A watchdog group with ties to Hillary Clinton wants the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to investigate Donald Trump’s personal foundation, according to a new report.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is accusing Trump’s organization of unfairly helping his presidential bid, The Washington Post said Monday.

“The Trump Foundation appears to have violated this prohibition by participating in Mr. Trump’s campaign,” Noah Bookbinder, the group’s executive director, told the IRS in a letter.

The Post noted the group’s ties to longtime Clinton ally David Brock.

CREW’s complaint says Trump’s Donald J. Trump Foundation violated IRS rules governing nonprofits last January, when the candidate skipped a GOP presidential primary debate and instead hosted a televised fundraiser for military veterans.

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Foreign Contributions

Huffington Post: The Real Threat To American Sovereignty

Robert Reich

“Without a border, we just don’t have a country,” Donald Trump says repeatedly. For him, the biggest threats to American sovereignty are three-dimensional items that cross our borders, such as unwanted imports and undocumented immigrants.

He’s wrong. The biggest threats to American sovereignty are invisible digital dollars wired into U.S. election campaigns from abroad.

Yet Trump seems to welcome foreign influence over our democracy.

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Los Angeles Times: Clinton makes a lot of promises — which can she keep?

Evan Halper

The reality that some of those dreams will be deferred makes this an anxious time for policy advocates who back Clinton and those seeking to influence her…

The groups are cajoling, confronting and corralling the Clinton campaign and potential sympathizers in Congress to move their crusades to the top of her 100-day agenda.

“There is finite time, and there are only so many things a brand new administration can accomplish,” said Lisa Gilbert, who helps lead the campaign finance reform effort at Public Citizen.

“We have seen candidates talk about this before and not really follow through,” she added. “The question is the urgency and priority when a candidate first gets into office, and their willingness to use that capital.”

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Candidates and Campaigns

New York Times: Donald Trump’s Allies Battle for Favor of G.O.P. Givers He Mocked

Nicholas Confessore

The goal is to persuade thousands of the party’s most reliable patrons to overcome their lingering objections to the candidate most of them never wanted, and to help defeat a Democrat most of them want even less.

In the coming weeks, Mr. Trump and campaign officials will attend a string of high-dollar fund-raisers organized with the Republican National Committee, hitting the summer haunts of the well-to-do — from East Hampton to the California wine country — in a last-ditch effort to tap into the party’s vast financial reserves.

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Politico: Trump embraces fundraising, not transparency

Shane Goldmacher

Trump continues to hammer Hillary Clinton for her pursuit of campaign cash, even as he has joined in the hunt. “She’s got to do right for her donors,” he said last Monday at a rally in Ohio “I’m going to do right for you.”

Trump’s move to keep his bundlers secret is just one element of a dramatic campaign-finance flip, from attacking donors to soliciting them, from bashing super PACS to embracing them, from promising to release his taxes to refusing. Some of the very donors he demonized by name Trump has since gone back to seek support from, hat-in-hand.

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More Soft Money Hard Law: Political Morality and the Trump Candidacy: Part II

Bob Bauer

Donald Trump doesn’t have any particular feeling for irony and so he misses it altogether in his recent suggestion that the coming election is likely to be rigged against him. Of course he’s now doing the rigging: he’s rigging the post-election assessment of the results. If he wins, it reflects the will of the electorate; if he loses, that will has been thwarted, by a rigging.

This raises the question discussed here of whether, if there are limits to ends-justifies-the-means political ethics–if it is accepted that there are superior and inferior types of political morality– Trump has exhibited clearly a moral style that is both distinctive and troubling.

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The States

American Prospect: Q&A: Building a Movement for Democracy Reform

Jennifer Baik

But we are also seeing reforms moving at a really remarkable pace. We have online voter registration that has passed in 38 states. Common Cause chapters helped work to pass it in California and Oregon and now it has moved through five states (Oregon, California, West Virginia, Vermont, Connecticut, Illinois). This legislation has been introduced in close to half the states, so we are seeing bipartisan support to shift the burden of registration onto government to greatly expand the ability to get out the vote.

What we’re seeing crop up on the state level on small donor public financing and voter reforms makes us very optimistic for the future: Nearly half of members of Congress come from state legislatures, and that innovation and willingness to work in a bipartisan way to solve some of the problems of our democracy will eventually make its way to the federal level.

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Yellowhammer News: Al.com’s ‘dark money’ hypocrisy costs Alabama taxpayers millions

Cliff Sims

The al.com report does not accuse the UA System of breaking the law. In fact, it concedes that the whole structure is “keeping pace with a rapidly evolving campaign finance landscape.”

But the writer bemoans the existence of so called “dark money” arrangements that shield from public view the names of donors.

In a country where the Democratic leader of the U.S. Senate calls out private citizens by name hundreds of times for donating to candidates and causes with which he disagrees, it’s no wonder donors don’t always want their names dragged through the mud for their beliefs.

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New Haven Register: Connecticut Citizens’ Election Program a gem, but needs public awareness

Elona Vaisnys

Sen. Fasano contends that Democrats all along tried to weaken CEP while Republicans made efforts to make CEP stronger, but announces, again, that Republicans are calling “for eliminating the law entirely in its present form.”

In the meantime, candidates for state offices are busy applying for CEP funding to run their 2016 campaigns and trusting the SEEC to monitor that the publicly financed elections are clean and transparent.

If voters knew that Connecticut could lose CEP and revert to the “Corrupticut” election practices of old, they wouldn’t stand for it. But most don’t know it. Ask your co-workers and friends about CEP. You’ll get a puzzled look. But ask whether they would like candidates to get an equal amount of public funding to run their campaigns rather than solicit campaign contributions from special interests, you’ll get nods of approval.

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Alex Baiocco

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