Daily Media Links 9/19: Speak While You Still Can, Campaign finance ruling to be appealed, and more…

September 19, 2016   •  By Alex Baiocco   •  
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Free Speech

U.S. News & World Report: Speak While You Still Can

Peter Roff

The armchair constitutionalists who have lately been about the business of trying to nullify the decision of the United States Supreme Court in the Citizens United case are so full of ardor for their cause they are no longer thinking clearly.

They believe passionately to the point of distraction that money is a singularly corruptive influence on the American political process – as long as it is corporate money which, to them, means it comes from General Motors, Microsoft, Goldman-Sachs and other really big repositories of wealth.

There’s so much wrong with this thinking that there isn’t enough bandwidth available on the internet to explain the errors in one place. Suffice it to say, their passion for the subject has led them in directions that threaten the constitutional integrity of the American system.

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Reason: Trump’s Threat Against The Washington Post Is Yet Another Reminder That He is a Bully and an Authoritarian

Peter Suderman

Trump has offered plenty of evidence throughout the campaign that he is a bully who personalizes even the mildest criticism and has no respect for freedom of the press. But even still, this is deeply worrying stuff.

Trump is singling out a media company for its reporting into his candidacy, and then suggesting that the investigations are an attempt by the paper’s owner to avoid a federal investigation into another one of the owner’s businesses, Amazon, under a Trump presidency—an investigation that Trump, by saying that Amazon’s behavior is “wrong,” implies he might undertake.

As with nearly all Trump remarks, it is a kind of word salad. But even still, it is difficult to read this as anything other than a threat to use the power of the federal government to crack down on a bothersome political critic.

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The Intercept: FEC Republicans Kill Attempt to Block Foreign Money in U.S. Elections

Jon Schwarz and Naomi LaChance

The three Republican FEC commissioners offered their own proposal, that the FEC issue a statement clarifying that the ban on foreign money in U.S. elections applies to independent expenditures direct from corporate treasuries. The proposal would prevent political committees from facing legal consequences regarding foreign money as long as they obtain a statement from corporate donors that no foreign nationals were involved in the decision to make the contribution…

The Republican proposal was also stymied by a 3-3 deadlock.

Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist for the public interest organization Public Citizen, argues that the FEC’s current frequent stalemates are due to a 2008 realization by Sen. Mitch McConnell, R.-Ky., that “he could bring the enforcement of campaign finance laws largely to a halt by selecting Republican FEC commissioners hostile to campaign finance laws.”

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Yahoo News: Should Late-Night TV Hosts Grill Presidential Candidates?

They are not journalists, but they are giving campaigns valuable exposure. In fact, it’s now a given that as part of their media schedule, candidates will turn to such “soft-talk” shows as a way to reach non-news audiences and boost their own likability…

Fallon does not purport to be a probing interviewer. Rather, his show emphasizes comedy and laughs, and has been particularly successful in generating viral videos of celebrities and politicians that get wide traction the next day. Hillary Clinton, scheduled to appear on “The Tonight Show” on Monday, participated in a skit a year ago in which she spoke by phone to Fallon, playing Trump. It got more than 11 million views on YouTube.

The difference between then and now is that the stakes are higher, with just seven weeks to the general election. Candidate appearances, wherever they are, are subject to much more scrutiny.

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Wisconsin John Doe

U.S. News & World Report: The Campaign Finance Farce

Dan I. Weiner and Brent Ferguson

In Citizens United, the Supreme Court invalidated political spending limits for corporations like the Wisconsin Club for Growth because it assumed that such spending would be independent of candidates’ campaigns and fully transparent, and so pose little corruption risk. The court held that limits on direct contributions to candidates and disclosure were enough to protect the integrity of our political system. But such rules are pointless if a candidate can get around them as easily as Walker did.

These revelations are a stark example of what most political practitioners already know: Candidates and supportive groups like the Wisconsin Club for Growth often coordinate their activities with one another to get around campaign finance rules.

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Vox: Is Congress working as it should? Depends on who you are.

Frank R. Baumgartner and Lee Drutman

Congress has given itself a lobotomy over the past three decades. It has eliminated thousands of staff positions, eviscerated its ability to carry out policy analysis, and generally has such low pay and difficult work environments that it relies on inexperienced and overstretched 20-somethings for the vast bulk of its work.

Before puzzling why any institution would do something so self-destructive and attributing the cause to irrationality or worse, we should consider perhaps that the system is now working just as many people would prefer.

Congress would significantly improve its problem-solving capacity under a reempowered committee system, with more and more professional staff to conduct policy analysis. Under such a system, committees have both the resources and the breathing space to tackle public problems. Congress would get more discovery on a range of problems, more information about potential policy solutions, and more capacity to solve problems.

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Lifezette: Debate Rules Being Set by Hillary Donors

Brendan Kirby

The men and women who run the supposedly “nonpartisan” Commission on Presidential Debates have put their money where their mouths are — and it all has gone to Democrat Hillary Clinton.

The amount of money is small by the standards of a modern presidential campaign, but it is one-sided. A pair of Ph.D. candidates at Stanford University examined campaign finance reports and found that all of the $5,650 in contributions that commission members have made to presidential candidates during this election season have gone to Clinton.

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Candidates and Campaigns

Politico: Trump shatters GOP records with small donors

Shane Goldmacher

All told, Trump is approaching, and has possibly already passed, $100 million from donors who have given less than $200, according to an analysis of available Federal Election Commission filings, the campaign’s public statements and people familiar with his fundraising operation. It is a threshold no previous Republican has ever achieved in a single campaign. And Trump has done so less than three months after signing his first email solicitation for donors on June 21 — a staggering speed to collect such a vast sum.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” said a senior Republican operative who has worked closely with the campaign’s small-dollar fundraising operation. “He’s the Republican Obama in terms of online fundraising.”

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Huffington Post: Most Of Mitt Romney’s Biggest Donors Are Sitting Out The Presidential Election

Paul Blumenthal

The Republican Party’s last presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, has been forthright about his opposition to the party’s current nominee, Donald Trump. It appears that most of Romney’s biggest donors feel the same way.

A review of campaign finance records finds that just slightly more than 10 percent of the 22,000 donors who gave $5,000 or more to Romney’s 2012 presidential bid had donated to Trump’s campaign by the end of July. On the other hand, about 1 percent, or more than 260, of Romney’s largest donors contributed to the campaign of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

The underwhelming financial support from these major donors demonstrates the split Trump’s nomination has caused between the Republican Party’s elite and its voter base.

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Washington Examiner: Report: Clinton campaign may have overcharged donors

Ashe Schow

But the charges didn’t stop. Roger said his mother is “very good with the Internet,” and doesn’t believe she would have mistakenly signed up for recurring donations. But even if she had, why would the recurring donations change from $25 to $19? Why would the charges come on the same day or in the same month instead of monthly? And why would the charges stop even after Roger complained to the campaign and they agreed to stop charging his mother?…

The source said this has been going on since the spring, and that the campaign stops after it has taken a little less than $100 from a one-time donor.

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Washington Examiner: Kaine: Clinton campaign ‘all about disclosure and transparency’

Gabby Morrongiello

Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine on Sunday said that he and Hillary Clinton are committed to making government more open and transparent, and their presidential campaign should serve as an example…

The Virginia senator said he and the former secretary of state would push legislation forward in the first 100 days of their administration that would amend campaign finance laws, which he described as “the most important transparency government reform that the nation needs right now.”

Kaine also defended Clinton against the widespread public opinion that she is not a transparent candidate, noting that both her campaign and the Clinton Foundation discloses its donors.

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The States

Cook County Record: Campaign finance ruling to be appealed

Andrew Burger

A recent U.S. District Court ruling that denied a challenge to state limits on campaign contributions is being appealed.

Liberty Justice Center and its political action committee are joined in the appeal by State Sen. Kyle McCarter (R-Lebanon) and Edgar Bachrach. They argue that the state’s statutory limits on campaign funding violates First Amendment rights by limiting donations to the campaigns of candidates by individuals and political action committees while allowing corporations, political parties and legislative leaders to make much higher or unlimited donations.

Opponents of the ruling say this ends up tilting the electoral playing field decidedly in favor of incumbents and makes it more difficult for newcomers to mount challenges.

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Portland Press Herald: Thanks to Maine Ethics Commission, party’s over for rule-bending fundraisers

Steven Biel

The idea, as it was explained to me, was to make sure that a volunteer can invite friends and neighbors over to meet a candidate and not have to deal with complicated campaign finance reporting.

However, because the law neither limits the number of people who can “host” any given party nor defines what it means to be a “host,” Chipman interpreted it as allowing him to collect an unlimited number of undisclosed $250 checks to pay for direct mail advertising without counting the spending against the expenditure limit he agreed to in exchange for taxpayer financing of his campaign.

As long as his advertisement made some mention of a house party, Chipman argued, he could privately raise as much money as he wanted and still run “clean.”

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Alex Baiocco

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