Daily Media Links 9/3

September 3, 2019   •  By Alex Baiocco   •  
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The Courts

New Jersey Law Journal: ‘Dark Money’ Disclosure Law Goes Beyond Constitutional Limits

By Editorial Board

It is not often that the ACLU and NJ Right to Life are on the same page, but S-1500 has galvanized issue advocacy organizations in opposition, objecting to the onerous reporting requirements it imposes, and perhaps even more fundamentally, to the intrusion upon donor privacy and anonymity that it creates…

The policy justification for this expansion of S-1500 was not well articulated. The New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission had initially sought donor disclosure only for electioneering, but then warmed to an expanded role in regulating issue advocacy. The best public explanation that ELEC’s executive director could muster was “The more I thought about it as time went by, why not”? “Why not?” is hardly a convincing policy rationale for any legislation, and particularly one that has constitutional ramifications. The Brennan Center withdrew its support, now calling the amended bill “the most intrusive in the country [that] will have a chilling effect on citizen participation in government.”…

Gov. Murphy originally conditionally vetoed S-1500 and recommended that it be curtailed to its original purpose of mandating donor disclosure for electioneering organizations. Faced with the prospect of an override, however, and perhaps predicting that eventually the courts would intervene, he capitulated, and the Legislature reenacted and presented to him S-150, which is identical in all respects to S-1500. The governor signed S-150 based upon a vague understanding that a “clean up” bill would ensue, but although such a bill has been introduced (A-5633 (18R)), with bird in hand, legislative leadership has now made it clear that they are in no rush to bring it up for consideration.

And so it will be left to the courts to restore the constitutional principles that we had hoped our legislators would honor without prompting.

U.S. News & World Report: Conservative Group Challenging Montana Campaign Order


The challenge was filed [last] Tuesday in U.S. District Court by the Illinois Opportunity Project, which said it plans to spend money during the 2020 election cycle to urge Montana gubernatorial candidates to repeal the executive order.

IOP argues requiring disclosure of donations could lead to personal and economic repercussions for its supporters, who may want to seek state contracts in Montana.

“Across the country, individual and corporate donors to political candidates and issue causes are being subject to boycotts, harassment, protests, career damage and even death threats for publicly engaging in the public square,” the lawsuit states…

[The executive order] requires companies that receive contracts valued at more than $25,000 for services or more than $50,000 for goods to report two years’ worth of political spending if that spending exceeds $2,500…

Daniel Suhr, an attorney with Liberty Justice Center, said Bullock’s executive order violates free speech and privacy rights.

“Ultimately this case is about the right of every American to engage in advocacy around the issues that are important to our community without fear of disclosure, reprisal or harassment,” Suhr said. “Privacy in advocacy is especially important for people with unpopular and minority views.”

The court filing argues that if Bullock’s executive order remains state policy the Illinois group will “chill its own speech and not engage in its desired communication.”

“If their theory is dark money groups won’t spend in Montana’s elections if they have to disclose . then that proves the whole point of why we need to do things like this,” Bullock said, adding that others who are seeking state contracts are complying with the order.

Wall Street Journal: Can a State Rewrite a Movie Script?

By Jeremy Tedesco

Carl and Angel Larsen are professional storytellers. Clients hire their firm, Telescope Media Group, to produce short documentaries…

They decided to get into the wedding business so they could use their talents to promote their beliefs about marriage. Couples would hire them to produce videos celebrating their nuptials. Like everything else they do, they’d only accept projects that align with their convictions. But as they planned to expand their business, they learned that Minnesota officials took the position, as a state website declares, that “the law does not exempt individuals, businesses, nonprofits, or the secular business activities of religious entities from non-discrimination laws based on religious beliefs regarding same-sex marriage.” They sued in 2016, and the state affirmed repeatedly in litigation that they’d face punishment if they declined to create marriage films that violated their beliefs…

The state argued that Telescope was a public accommodation performing a “commercial activity,” and that the state’s regulatory power included the authority to overrule the Larsens’ editorial decisions.

In rejecting the argument, the [Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals] judges noted that the First Amendment protects not only Christians but all of us. By Minnesota’s logic, nothing would stop the state from compelling an atheist musician-for-hire to play an evangelical church service, a Muslim tattoo artist to inscribe “my religion is the only true religion” on a Christian’s skin, or a Democratic speechwriter to work for a Republican politician.

The Supreme Court has often affirmed the “cardinal constitutional command” that government cannot force “free and independent individuals to endorse ideas they find objectionable.” This line of cases runs from West Virginia v. Barnette (1943), holding that Jehovah’s Witness students couldn’t be forced to salute the flag or say the Pledge of Allegiance, to the 2018 cases Nifla v. Becerra and Janus v. Afscme, which involved pro-life pregnancy centers and public employees, respectively.

Free Speech

New York Times: Palestinian Harvard Student Blocked From Coming to U.S. Is Allowed to Enter

By Anemona Hartocollis

Mr. Ajjawi, 17, landed at Logan International Airport in Boston on Aug. 23 and was turned back after immigration officials objected to his friends’ social media posts, he told The Harvard Crimson, the student newspaper. Mr. Ajjawi, who lives in Tyre, Lebanon, had received a visa before traveling.

The episode prompted a furor among free speech advocates…

Amideast, an American nonprofit cultural exchange and education program founded in 1951, credited the public outcry over the case with helping Mr. Ajjawi regain his visa.

“We express our gratitude to the many voices in the media and the public at large, both in the United States and abroad, who recognized the injustice of what happened to Ismail and voiced their concerns in traditional media and on social media,” the Amideast statement said…

In the account given to The Crimson after he was turned back, Mr. Ajjawi said that his phone and laptop computer were searched at the airport, and that an agent had yelled at him and “said she found people posting political points of view that oppose the U.S. on my friend list.”

He told the agent that he should not be held responsible for other peoples’ posts, the account said…

Free speech advocates said they hoped that the Ajjawi case would raise awareness of the broader issue.

“Given the serious chilling effect viewpoint-based decision-making creates, we hope that other cases like Ajjawi’s will receive similar attention and scrutiny,” said Sarah McLaughlin, director of targeted advocacy for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a free speech watchdog group.


Washington Post: Congressional Democrats plan to launch inquiry into Trump’s alleged role in scheme to silence affair accusations

By Rachael Bade and Tom Hamburger

The House Judiciary Committee is preparing to hold hearings and call witnesses involved in hush-money payments to ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal and adult-film star Stormy Daniels as soon as October, according to people familiar with the plans who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal discussions.

Democrats say they believe there is already enough evidence to name Trump as a co-conspirator in the episode that resulted in his former attorney, Michael Cohen, pleading guilty to two campaign finance charges…

The new congressional inquiry will reopen questions about the extent of Trump’s involvement in the episode – and whether he would have been charged if not for Justice Department opinions that a sitting president cannot be indicted.

“The fingerprints are all over this one – it’s not like a big mystery,” said Rep. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Md.), a member of the Judiciary panel. “As with the evidence of presidential obstruction of justice, the conclusion seems inescapable: that [Trump] would have been tried had he been anybody else. And now it’s left to Congress again to figure out what to do with the lawbreaking and apparent impunity of the president.”…

The Judiciary Committee is also considering as a potential witness David Pecker, the chairman and CEO of American Media Inc., the parent company of the National Enquirer, which admitted making the payment to McDougal.


Washington Examiner: Liberal FEC chairwoman targets online news she considers ‘fraudulent’

By Paul Bedard

Politico reported this week that FEC Chairwoman Ellen Weintraub is hosting the event and summoned the tech giants. Her invitation reads, “The goal of the symposium will be to identify effective policy approaches and practical tools that can minimize the disruption and confusion sown by fraudulent news and propaganda in the 2020 campaign,” according to the outlet…

“The FEC has no business policing the truth or accuracy of speech of any kind by American citizens on the internet,” said Lee Goodman, a former Republican FEC chairman…

Goodman, an election lawyer, said that investigating foreign fake news is a job for the FBI, not the FEC. “The FEC’s only role is prohibiting foreigners from spending money to influence American elections, and foreign propaganda should be policed by the FBI and Department of Justice,” he said.


Fox News: Debra Messing joins ‘Will & Grace’ co-star, calls for Trump supporters in Hollywood to be outed

By Joseph A. Wulfsohn

Debra Messing has joined her “Will & Grace” co-star Eric McCormack in calling for the names of Trump supporters in Hollywood who’ll be attending an upcoming fundraiser for President Trump to be outed.

Trump plans to attend the Sept. 17 fundraiser in Beverly Hills during a trip to California that will also include visits to the San Francisco Bay Area and San Diego, The Hollywood Reporter wrote Thursday…

On Friday, McCormack drew comparisons to the late Sen. Joseph McCarthy after he called on THR to report on “everyone attending the event” and hinted at creating a blacklist of those Trump donors.

“Hey, @THR, kindly report on everyone attending this event, so the rest of us can be clear about who we don’t wanna work with. Thx,” McCormack wrote.

Late on Friday night, Messing appeared to express the same sentiment as her sitcom roommate.

“Please print a list of all attendees please. The public has a right to know,” Messing said.

Like McCormack, Messing drew McCarthyism comparisons on social media, referring to McCarthy’s Cold War efforts to oust Communists from Washington, Hollywood and other spheres of influence resulted in a Hollywood blacklist of those whose loyalty to the U.S. was questioned.

Washington Examiner: Whoopi Goldberg rips into Debra Messing and Eric McCormack for demanding Trump donor ‘blacklist’

By John Gage

Whoopi Goldberg, host of ABC’s The View, slammed Will & Grace actors Debra Messing and Eric McCormack after they demanded a list of attendees to a Hollywood fundraiser for President Trump be made public.

“Listen, the last time people did this. People ended up killing themselves. This is not a good idea,” Goldberg said as she compared the actors’ insistence for a public list of Trump donors to McCarthyism. “We had something called a blacklist, and a lot of really good people were accused of stuff. Nobody cared whether it was true or not. They were accused. And they lost their right to work.”

“In this country, people can vote for who they want to. That is one of the great rights of this country. You don’t have to like it, but we don’t go after people because we don’t like who they voted for. We don’t go after them that way. We can talk about issues and stuff, but we don’t print out lists. I’m sure you guys misspoke when you said that because it sounded like a good idea. Think about it. Read about it. Remember what the blacklist actually meant to people and don’t encourage anyone, anyone, to do it.”

Goldberg’s rant against the stars of the sitcom Will & Grace was met with cheers and applause from the audience.


CBS News: Despite pledge, Biden hauls in 2020 donations from lobbyists


Joe Biden entered the Democratic primary promising “from day one” to reject campaign cash from lobbyists.

“I work for you – not any industry,” he tweeted.

Yet hours after his April campaign kickoff, the former vice president went to a fundraiser at the home of a lobbying executive. And in the months since, he’s done it again and again.

It’s difficult to quantify how much Biden has raised from the multibillion-dollar influence industry, but the roughly $200,000 he accepted from employees of major lobbying firms is far more than any of his rivals has received, according to a review of campaign finance data by The Associated Press.

Though it’s a small fraction of the $21.5 million he reported raising in the second quarter of 2019, the money demonstrates a comfort with an industry that is the object of scorn of Democratic activists and some of Biden’s principal rivals.

Biden’s pledge applies only to federally registered lobbyists, and most of the money tracked by the AP was from others in the influence industry. But thousands of dollars did come from federally registered lobbyists, and Biden’s campaign said it is returning such donations.

Candidates and Campaigns 

ABC News: Andrew Yang’s speaking fees, including from JPMorgan, raise campaign finance questions: Experts

By Armando Garcia

Yang described the speaking engagements to ABC News as speeches about the subject matter of his book, “The War on Normal People,”…

But a PowerPoint presentation given to ABC News by the Yang campaign titled, “The Impact of Technology on the U.S. Workforce,” shows his 2020 campaign logo on the opening slide of the PowerPoint and an abbreviated campaign symbol on most of the other 30 slides…

“It’s not one of those cases of clear illegality,” [Richard] Hasen told ABC News. “It does create an appearance question as to why he would have thought to have included his campaign logo on a private activity.”

But Jan Baran, a former ABC News contributor and campaign ethics lawyer, said the issue was “whether this financial services company was paying Mr. Yang to promote his candidacy.” In Baran’s opinion, it may have been.

“It may be in violation of the terms of their agreement,” Baran added, “but they should have been put on notice the first time he gave a speech and promoted his candidacy that that’s what he was doing.”…

Andrew Gray, a spokesman for the bank, said JPMorgan makes clear with officials and political figures who give speeches that “we do not facilitate electioneering or political fundraising at corporate functions.”…

“Generally speaking, a candidate can’t get checks from big banks while they’re running for president, but Andrew Yang may be an exception because he had already established a career of doing just that,” said Brendan Fischer…

“There is an exception that’s built into the law for internal communications, and that does allow a candidate to appear in an internal communication setting that a corporation can pay for,” said Scott Thomas, a former FEC Chairman and current head of Blank Rome’s political law practice.

The States

Houston Chronicle: Democrats cry foul as GOP group solicits voters at Texas driver’s license offices

By Taylor Goldenstein and Dylan McGuinness

As people filed in and out of the massive driver license office in Southwest Houston on Tuesday morning, two workers at a tent affiliated with a conservative advocacy group asked if the passersby would sign a petition or register to vote…

State Rep. Chris Turner, who leads the Democratic Caucus in the Texas House, said he witnessed something similar Monday outside Department of Public Safety driver license offices in Fort Worth and in Hurst, a suburb of Dallas, where people who signed a petition to ‘ban late-term abortion’ were asked to register to vote.

“The taxpayers of Texas have a right to expect that their hard-earned dollars are not subsidizing political activity, as is the case here,” Turner wrote Tuesday in a letter to DPS. “And Texans who are trying to renew their driver licenses, already forced to wait hours – sometimes outside in the heat – are enduring enough already without having to deal with political operatives while stuck in line.”

But DPS said in a statement that public spaces outside driver license offices are available for “political speech,” and it appears that Engage Texas is just beginning to ramp up its efforts to register voters ahead of the 2020 elections in which the GOP faces more competitive races than it has in over a decade…

“So long as individuals or groups do not interfere with department operations, driver license office staff are advised that individuals and groups are allowed to peacefully utilize the public spaces outside driver license offices,” DPS said in its statement.

Orlando Weekly: Florida attorney John Morgan threatens to sue Andrew Gillum if he runs for office again

By Ana Ceballos, News Service of Florida

Morgan’s remarks to the Tiger Bay Club in Tallahassee were an escalation of a public tirade over Gillum’s decision to sit on more than $3 million ahead of the November election, which the Democrat narrowly lost to Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.

In October 2018, Morgan contributed $250,000 to Gillum’s political committee, Forward Florida. When the powerful Orlando trial lawyer asked Gillum for his money back, Morgan said he was told “no.”

“If he does decide to run again, I do believe I have a cause of action,” Morgan told the crowd of political insiders on Wednesday. “I do believe I will sue him to get that $3.7 million back to the ones that gave at the end. I do believe that.”…

“Andrew Gillum kept that money to promote Andrew Gillum,” he said. “I gave my money to promote things I believe in.”

After his November loss to DeSantis, Gillum, a former Tallahassee mayor, said he would use the money to register and “re-engage” 1 million voters for next year’s presidential election.

Alex Baiocco

Alex Baiocco