Daily Media Links 9/13: Trump nominates Texas lawyer Trey Trainor for Federal Election Commission, The Better IRS Reform, and more…

September 13, 2017   •  By Alex Baiocco   •  
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Washington Examiner: Trump to nominate Texas lawyer to FEC

By Diana Stancy Correll

The White House announced Tuesday evening that President Trump intends to nominate James Trainor III of Texas to be a commissioner of the Federal Election Commission for the remainder of a 6-year term, which would last until April 2021.

Once officially nominated, Trainor will then be considered by the Senate.

Trainor is a partner at Akerman LLP where he has practiced election law, campaign finance, and ethics representation for government officers, interest groups, corporations, and two presidential campaigns. More recently, Trainor was a special assistant to the Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Trainor also served as counsel for Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. and the Republican National Committee, and represented former Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s presidential campaign in 2012.

Texas Tribune: Trump nominates Texas lawyer Trey Trainor for Federal Election Commission

By Patrick Svitek

President Donald Trump is nominating Trey Trainor, an Austin lawyer well known in Texas politics, to serve on the Federal Election Commission.

The White House announced Trainor’s appointment late Tuesday night. He must be confirmed by the Senate.

Trainor is a longtime attorney specializing in election law, campaign finance and ethics. He has served as the lawyer for the conservative group Empower Texans, representing it during its long-running battles with the Texas Ethics Commission.

Trainor had temporarily worked for the Trump administration earlier this year, helping with the Pentagon’s transition in leadership. He has most recently been serving as the assistant general counsel for the Texas GOP.

The White House said Trump is tapping Trainor to serve the “remainder of a 6-year term expiring April 30, 2021.” It was not immediately clear which seat he would fill on the six-member commission, which currently has one vacancy.


Wall Street Journal: The Better IRS Reform

By Editorial Board

What House Republicans should do now is create a structure that will stop assaults by bureaucrats on political activity. They’ve been putting riders in spending bills to bar the IRS from imposing restrictions on nonprofit speech. But this thumbs-in-the-dike approach does nothing about powers that IRS functionaries already have over political activity.

The solution is to get the IRS out of the political arena by limiting its role to the most basic administrative task of giving initial approval to nonprofits. Transfer to the Federal Election Commission the job of deciding whether a nonprofit is abiding by the existing rules governing political spending. The FEC’s commissioners would decide if complaints against the political activities of nonprofits had merit…

Campaign-finance fights make Republicans nervous, but they’ve got a political self-interest in permanently transferring this job to the FEC. Once back in power, Democrats will mobilize a crackdown against their single biggest obsession-“dark money.” Meaning the conservatives who fund their opposition.

Lois Lerner’s IRS operation was the swamp at its worst. The GOP would do the country’s politics a favor by draining these bureaucrats of partisan political power. 

Free Speech

New York Times: The Free Speech-Hate Speech Trade-Off

“Controversies over freedom of speech on college campuses have existed as long as there have been college campuses. But the specific issues vary with each generation.”

That is the first line of Erwin Chemerinsky’s new book, “Free Speech on Campus,” written with Howard Gillman. Mr. Chemerinsky is not only one of the foremost legal scholars on the First Amendment but also a firsthand witness to the free speech debates of today as the new dean of the University of California Berkeley School of Law.

Here he talks with Natalie Shutler, the editor of the On Campus column, about hate speech, censorship and what campuses can and can’t do. 

The Courts

Reason: Sheriff Forced to Pay After Ordering Raid on Blogger Who Criticized Him

By Elizabeth Nolan Brown

[I]n a statement, their attorney declared the agreement “a victory for citizens’ right to be critical of their elected officials without fear of retribution” and said it’s “reassuring to see that the Sheriff has decided to take responsibility for what he did to the Anderson’s, and compensate them for the harm they suffered due to his actions.”

U.S. District Court Judge Lance Africk officially dismissed the case on Thursday, but he said he retains the right to open it again if the settlement’s terms aren’t met in a reasonable time period.

In an earlier ruling, Africk opined that “Jennifer Anderson’s speech [on ExposeDAT] falls squarely within the four corners of the First Amendment.” Larventer’s actions, Africk wrote, send a message that “if you speak ill of the sheriff of your parish, then the sheriff will direct his law enforcement resources toward forcibly entering your home and taking your belongings under the guise of a criminal investigation.” This “would certainly chill anyone…from engaging in similar constitutionally protected speech in the future.”

Meanwhile, Louisiana’s 5th Circuit Court of Appeal declared there was insufficient probable cause for the warrants and declared the subsequent searches unconstitutional. 

The Media

The Hill: Russian network RT must register as foreign agent in US

By Megan R. Wilson

The company that runs the U.S. version of RT, the Russian state-owned outlet originally known as Russia Today, must register with the Justice Department as a foreign agent, signaling that all of their content would be labeled as propaganda from Moscow.

In a report Monday, RT did not name the company that the Department of Justice (DOJ) has compelled to file paperwork under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, but blasted the edict as overreaching.

“The war the US establishment wages with our journalists is dedicated to all the starry-eyed idealists who still believe in freedom of speech. Those who invented it, have buried it,” Margarita Simonyan, RT’s editor-in-chief, said about the registration.

Media organizations have been exempted from the law, which is wide-ranging in its disclosure requirements and generally applies to political consultants and those working in lobbying or public relations. 

Independent Groups

CNBC: Watchdog group wants Facebook to release Russian-sponsored ads

By Christina Wilkie

The Campaign Legal Center is urging Facebook to release the content of political ads purchased by Russian nationals and displayed on Facebook, most notably during the 2016 presidential campaign cycle.

CNBC obtained an advance copy of a letter sent Tuesday to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg from CLC President Trevor Potter. The nonprofit watchdog group accuses Facebook of having been “used as an accomplice in a foreign government’s effort to undermine democratic self governance in the United States.”

The letter urges Zuckerberg to release the ads and “allow the country to better understand the nature and extent of foreign interference with our democracy.”…

The letter marks the latest sign of growing pressure Facbeook faces from Washington, where members of Congress are demanding more information into how the Russian bots managed to purchase the ads and what Facebook will do in the future to prevent foreign influence campaigns. 

The States

Sioux Falls Argus Leader: Does low turnout signal fizzling support for campaign finance reform?

By Dana Ferguson

Two people showed up Tuesday to urge lawmakers to limit the amount corporations and political action committees can give political candidates…

Less than a year ago, South Dakota voters narrowly approved an extensive ballot measure that capped campaign contributions from political action committees and political parties and lowered limits on how much individuals, corporations and labor unions can give candidates.

Low turnout at the meeting could signal dwindling support for the changes, said Sen. Jordan Youngberg, R-Madison, who chairs the task force created to revisit issues passed in Initiated Measure 22 and later repealed by lawmakers.

“You had a lot of people that were angry and upset to the point that I got a threat they were going to burn my house down over the repeal of this,” Youngberg said of the responses to legislative efforts to strike IM-22 in January. “Where is that passion now to come and talk this through and move forward as a state?”

Forward: Candidate Who Condemned ‘Greedy Jewish Landlords’ Faces Uphill Election Bid

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

A candidate who blamed the displacement of Harlem’s black and Hispanic residents on “greedy Jewish landlords” is on the ballot in New York City today after his campaign received nearly $100,000 in public funds…

Lopez-Pierre raised only $17,000 for his longshot campaign. But thanks to city laws that provide public funds to candidates who meet a certain threshold, the city’s Campaign Finance Board has given him $99,000 for his campaign.

Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly: Charter school group to pay record fine

The New York group that funded much of the 2016 ballot campaign to expand charter schools in Massachusetts agreed to pay the largest campaign-finance fine in state history to resolve questions about whether it sought to conceal the identities of its donors.

Families for Excellent Schools – Advocacy, a non-profit group known as FESA, will pay $426,466 as part of a settlement reached on Sept. 8 with the Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF)…

OCPF concluded after an investigation that FESA had collected donations and passed them to Great Schools Massachusetts “in a manner intended to disguise the true source of the money.”

Regulators said that FESA should have registered as a ballot campaign committee, rather than a non-profit social welfare organization, a status that allowed it not to disclose its donors.

As part of the settlement, FESA agreed to dissolve itself as a social welfare non-profit with the Internal Revenue Source, and the umbrella group Families for Excellent Schools agreed not to fundraise or solicit in Massachusetts or engage in any election activity for four years.

Alex Baiocco

Alex Baiocco