Daily Media Links 9/19: Senate Democrats’ war on free speech, Fascism in the First Amendment?, and more…

September 19, 2014   •  By Joe Trotter   •  
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Amending the First Amendment
McClatchy-Tribune: Senate Democrats’ war on free speech
By Jay Ambrose
By recently voicing full-hearted approval of a bill eviscerating the First Amendment guarantee of free speech, Senate Democrats showed themselves to be among the most extreme, irresponsible, self-serving and historically ignorant establishment politicians of this era. If they should actually get their way — and they conceivably could short of voter outrage — we could someday see a once strapping American spirit hopelessly hobbled when imperiousness comes its way.
It will never happen, say many who apparently haven’t noticed what I’ve noticed in my lifetime, namely that almost every significant, broad political or cultural change was once something that would never happen.
No, it will not happen soon, and there are major hurdles, such as the need for supermajorities in Congress prior to ratification by states. But 54 Democrats getting behind a failed resolution in a party-line vote is hardly a timid start, and the amendment has much more going for it: fear of billionaire, special-interest fat cats, a public seemingly susceptible to cries of crisis and victimhood and great numbers of pundits and academics who share these worries.
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Sonoran News: Fascism in the First Amendment? 
By Tom Toth
While the words to the Pledge of Allegiance still rang fresh from the Senate chamber after opening the session yesterday, Harry Reid took the podium to announce his party’s intentions to establish a plan to corrupt the First Amendment with a contradictory constitutional amendment.
Reid continued by announcing on behalf of Senate Democrats — albeit nearly incoherently at times — that how you spend your money on politics isn’t, in fact, protected activity under the First Amendment. 
This fascist notion oils an onerous slippery slope. Imagine a United States where the government can tell you how you can and cannot spend your money, and in what proportion. It’s not too farfetched considering the ramifications of the proposed amendment. Democrats cannot have it both ways; if allocating your personal financial resources to political campaigns isn’t political speech, spending money in the marketplace isn’t protected free speech either. The Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that spending money, especially in the political realm, is a protected form of speech under the First Amendment — Democrats are seeking to kill the heart of the first established, and perhaps most precious, in the Bill of Rights.
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The Hill: IRS commissioner: Our story isn’t changing
By Bernie Becker
John Koskinen, the IRS chief, used his testimony to rebut statements from a conservative group that the agency had back-ups of Lerner’s emails, and sought to explain why Lerner’s BlackBerry was wiped clean just months before she started getting questioned about the agency’s improper scrutiny of Tea Party groups.
Koskinen said that Treasury’s inspector general for tax administration was examining back-up tapes, which the IRS had routinely recycled before 2013, to see if any of Lerner’s emails could be retrieved.
Lerner’s old BlackBerry, Koskinen added, was recycled to protect confidential taxpayer information. The BlackBerry, Koskinen said, would have been little help to investigators anyway, because Lerner’s email was managed elsewhere.
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Wall Street Journal: Stonewall Koskinen 
By Kimberley Strassel
The only thing Mr. Koskinen has seemed remotely interested in turning around is his agency’s ugly story-line. He has yet to even accept his agency did anything wrong, spending a March hearing arguing that the IRS didn’t engage in “targeting” and claiming the Treasury inspector general agreed. This was so misleading the Washington Post gave Mr. Koskinen “three Pinocchios, ” noting the IG had testified to the exact opposite.
Under his management, the agency has ignored and strung out congressional demands for documents and witnesses. Mr. Koskinen waited months to tell Congress the IRS had “lost” the emails of Lois Lerner, the former IRS official at the center the probe, and arguably only did so because an outside lawsuit revealed that the email record was incomplete. He testified that there were no backup tapes with Lerner emails, but we have since learned there are 760 server drives that may contain copies.
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AP: House passes bills highlighting IRS controversy 
One bill makes it illegal for IRS workers to use personal email accounts to conduct official business. Another bill guarantees groups that are denied tax-exempt status the right to appeal the decision to a separate IRS office.
The third bill addresses complaints from groups that have had their confidential taxpayer information improperly disclosed by IRS employees. The bill allows the IRS to tell victims about the status of investigations into the disclosures. Current law forbids the IRS from releasing such information.
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Independent Groups
Roll Call: Meet the Super PAC Woman 
By Abby Livingston
Meet Alixandria Lapp, the executive director of a super PAC with the sole mission of electing as many House Democrats as possible.
At House Majority PAC, she oversees tens of millions of dollars in television advertising every fall. But Lapp’s place in Democratic politics goes beyond a single political organization.
Behind the scenes, the seasoned operative plays traffic cop among House races, wrangling the spectrum of Democratic groups to ensure they work together to get the best bang for their buck in the super PAC ad wars.
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Wall Street Journal: Book Review: ‘Billionaires’ by Darrell M. West 
By Tom Perkins
But the rich don’t simply have different views, according to “Billionaires.” They also spend enormous sums of money to make sure that their views prevail. The author chronicles the failed efforts to limit campaign spending—namely through the McCain-Feingold Act of 2002, which capped the amount that donors could contribute to national political parties, among much else. The Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission(2010), one in a long line of decisions equating freedom to spend with freedom of speech, overturned critical parts of McCain-Feingold by ruling that corporations and individuals can spend an unlimited amount on advertisements in national elections.
And the spending has been stupendous. Right-wing billionaires, like Charles andDavid Koch, now spend about as much in national campaigns as unions and left-wing progressives like George Soros. Yet despite the fortunes they’ve spent, rich conservatives failed to unseat President Obama in 2012. Thus, Mr. West says, more effort is now going into buying senators. Mr. West, probably in fear of libel suits, doesn’t go into specifics.
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Politico: Sheldon Adelson cracks open checkbook for GOP 
By Kenneth P. Vogel
Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson has donated $10 million to a Karl Rove-backed outfit boosting Republican Senate candidates and promised a similar amount to an allied group focused on House races, POLITICO has learned.
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NY Times: Proposal Would Require Think Tanks to Disclose Funding by Foreign Governments 
By Eric Lipton
WASHINGTON — Expressing concern that prominent think tanks may be covertly trying to push the agendas of foreign government donors, the House of Representatives is considering a rule that would require that their scholars testifying on Capitol Hill disclose any such support — a proposal that won immediate bipartisan endorsement on Wednesday.
Representative Jackie Speier, Democrat of California, who drafted the proposal, said lawmakers had a right to know when a foreign government was financing a scholar’s research, even if the foreign government did not control the scholar’s recommendations.
“The American people have a reasonable expectation that these links will be transparent and allow for no appearance of a conflict of interest,” she told a House Rules subcommittee that has started the process of preparing new guidelines to govern conduct during the next Congress, starting in January.
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Lobbying and Ethics

Washington Post: Visclosky aide offered earmarks for campaign donation, convicted lobbyist said 
By Spencer S. Hsu
Lobbyist Paul Magliocchetti told the FBI that an aide to Rep. Peter J. Visclosky (D-Ind.) offered him legislative earmarks in exchange for campaign contributions annually for about a decade, according to newly released FBI files.
The lobbyist — who pleaded guilty to illegally funneling $386,000 in campaign donations to lawmakers — said a representative of Visclosky’s office first approached him in 1997 and told him earmarks were “for sale” for $10,000 to $15,000 in campaign cash for Visclosky, the documents show.
When Visclosky later became chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee for energy and water development, the price for earmarks increased to $20,000, Magliocchetti told the FBI, according to the files.
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State and Local

Virginia –– Roll Call: McDonnell Appeal Begs Question: What Is Corruption? 
By Eliza Newlin Carney
McDonnell’s lawyers argued during his dramatic public trial that businessman Jonnie Williams Sr. received nothing beyond routine courtesies in exchange for his $177,000 in gifts and loans to the McDonnells. Some experts argue that McDonnell has strong grounds for an appeal, and that his indictment effectively criminalizes politics and constituent service.
But a Virginia jury lost no time indicting McDonnell on 11 criminal counts and his wife, Maureen, on nine, after hearing descriptions of the designer clothes, $6,500 engraved Rolex watch, lakeside vacation, free golf outings, wedding catering and a low-interest loan that the McDonnells received from Williams. Particularly damning was an email McDonnell sent to an aide to discuss Anatabloc, the dietary supplement Williams sought to promote, just six minutesafter McDonnell spoke with Williams about a $50,000 loan.
McDonnell’s official appeal must wait until his sentencing in January. The appeals process is likely to drag on for months as it wends through the courts — possibly reaching as high as the Supreme Court. Though the McDonnells were indicted under ethics and not campaign finance laws, the question of what constitutes corruption cuts across both sets of rules. And the Supreme Court has defined campaign finance corruption increasingly narrowly.
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California –– Washington Post: Jerry Brown’s campaign has $22 million and he hasn’t even aired any ads. If he wanted, this is how much he could buy. 
By Hunter Schwarz
California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) has $22 million for his reelection campaign, but he doesn’t seem interested in spending it.
Brown, who leads his Republican opponent Neel Kashkari by 21 points in the latest poll, hasn’t appeared in any television, radio or Internet ads yet. He agreed to participate in one and only one debate that just so happened to fall in the middle of the U.S. Open and the NFL season opener, and at events, he doesn’t even mention his reelection.
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Connecticut –– Wall Street Journal: Lawyers Clash on Rowland’s Motivations 
By Joseph De Avila
Prosecutors said Mr. Rowland violated the public trust by concealing his paid role in the 2012 congressional campaign of Lisa Wilson-Foley.
“This isn’t about politics,” said Christopher Mattei, assistant U.S. attorney. “This is about hiding from the public what the public has the right to know.”
Mr. Rowland’s attorneys said the government failed to prove that Mr. Rowland broke any laws. “John wanted to work and he wanted a friend to get elected,” said Reid Weingarten, an attorney for Mr. Rowland. “Those were his motivations.”
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Joe Trotter

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