Daily Media Links 9/21: How Funny or Die Is Changing Politics, Who’s behind those annoying political ads?, and more…

September 21, 2015   •  By Brian Walsh   •  
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CCP files amicus brief urging Supreme Court to take campaign finance case

The Center for Competitive Politics today announced that it filed an amicus brief with the US Supreme Court in the case of Yamada v. Snipes. In the case, A-1 A-Lectrician, Inc., an electrical construction company, paid for newspaper advertisements and was required by the state of Hawaii to register as a PAC or political committee. A-1 sued and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Hawaii’s law, contrary to the precedents set in the Citizens United and Buckley decisions. A-1 has asked the Supreme Court to review the decision.

“Hawaii’s law hampers speech with complex paperwork burdens that generate no useful information,” said David Keating, President of CCP. “This law makes it more difficult for groups of people to speak in the public square, and we urge the Supreme Court to take this case and strike down this junk disclosure law.”

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Independent Groups

Daily Beast: How Funny or Die Is Changing Politics

Asawin Suebsaeng

Just as the presidential campaigns are heating up, the comedy website is headed straight into virgin territory—carefully embedding themselves into the maelstrom of 2016 (and other political misadventures) in a manner that merges election-year rapid response, Hollywood talent, campaign finance law, political advocacy, sponsored content, and (of course) web comedy…

“Now, all you hear about is branded entertainment and branded content,” Funny or Die’s outgoing CEO Dick Glover said. “So we saw this opportunity in this more narrow arena, if you will, that a [political] cause or a position or a person is no different than a brand.”

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The Atlantic: A Campaign-Finance Fiction Crumbles

Matt Ford

It’s plausible that, in the heat of the debate, Bush chose to focus on his own achievements instead of drawing further attention to the allegation. He certainly wasn’t the only candidate on the stage who ignored the substance of a question last night.

But the underlying assumption is crucial. Tapper is an experienced political reporter who knows the technical difference between a campaign and a super PAC. Bush obviously knows his own campaign doesn’t have $100 million in donations. And yet the distinction between independent expenditures and direct campaign donations didn’t matter during a nationally televised presidential debate. If the candidates, the press, and the public don’t see a difference, why should the Supreme Court?

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Washington Free Beacon: FEC Report from Pro-Sanders Super PAC ‘a Mess’

Lachlan Markay

Newly released Federal Election Commission filings raises a number of legal questions about a Super PAC supporting Sen. Bernie Sanders’ bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.

According to a report from the Center for Public Integrity, the mid-year report from Americans Socially United has major financial discrepancies, and even reports contributions from legally ineligible donors.

CPI calls the report “a mess.”

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Washington Examiner: Meet the new breed of PACs helping Hillary Clinton

Nicole Duran

Changes to campaign finance laws over the last few cycles have allowed a new breed of political action committees to develop, and several of these liberal, hybrid PACs have already been created to help win Hillary Clinton the White House in 2016.

A 2012 Federal Election Commission decision allowed these so-called “Carey committees” to be established. These hybrid PACs can maintain two separate accounts: “one for contributions to federal candidates and parties, and the other for independent expenditures, to which unlimited contributions can be made,” according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks political fundraising.

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The Hill: Who’s behind those annoying political ads?

Newton Minnow and Michael Copps

In this age of unprecedented dark money, reform might seem hopeless. Thankfully, it isn’t. True, Capitol Hill hasn’t accomplished much in recent years, but the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) can require effective “sponsorship identification” (SID) rules thanks to a little-known section of the Communications Act (Section 317).  Imagine that: instead of being given the name of a nebulous political action committee at the end of each political or controversial issue commercial, voters might hear an on-air in the ad a list of the top four or five individual donors.

The FCC has had SID authority for more than 80 years, but has applied these requirements only to commercial advertising, not political—even though the statute clearly covers both and in spite of FCC rules clearly stating that voters are entitled to know who is trying to influence their votes.  The agency should update these rules to keep pace with the ever-changing world of big money campaigning.  The agency can assert its statutory authority and sort out the dark money groups, which are frequently nested within one another like Russian dolls.

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Candidates and Campaigns

Vanity Fair: Lawrence Lessig Imagines the Worst Possible Outcome of a Trump Presidency

Tina Nguyen

What’s wrong with being a really, really, really rich politician?

We should remember that most rich politicians who self-fund their campaigns lose because they’re actually not very attractive to people. Donald Trump has an advantage there because he’s the reality-TV star, so he has some sense of what creates a rise out of the people.

I think one of the things that’s striking about Trump is it’s clear he’s surrounded by a bunch of yes-men. Usually, billionaires are surrounded by yes-men. These are people who basically take every word and say, “Oh, Donald, that’s so smart, that’s so smart.” When he says these really truly objectively idiotic things, and he gets the reactions in the public that [says he’s] idiotic, he’s genuinely surprised because he’s not had that.

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The States

Ravalli Republic: Ruling says trapping groups broke campaign finance laws

Rob Chaney

The ruling released last week found the Montana Trappers Association and Montanans for Effective Wildlife Management “failed to report as contributions the amounts (approximately $25,000) paid by bidders in the trappers’ anti I-169 auction, as required by Montana law.”

It also found the two groups failed to report expenses of activity opposing I-169. And it ruled that Montanans for Effective Wildlife Management improperly followed state naming rules “because it did not identify the economic and special interest of ‘trappers’ in its name.”

…Last week’s ruling supported the claims of Trap Free Montana Public Lands, a group lobbying to prohibit animal trapping.

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New Mexico Political Report: ‘Flawed’ campaign finance system in NM leads to more questions

Joey Peters and Andy Lyman

New Mexico is one of the few states in the U.S. that is run by an unpaid state Legislature. Representatives and senators often rely on the stipend they receive and campaign contributions. New Mexico laws allow legislators to use campaign funds for daily expenses such as office supplies or official trips.

That, coupled with a problematic reporting system, opens the door for ambiguous use of campaign money.

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KTVQ: Bullock raising corporate cash for Dems’ gov group — does that make him a ‘hypocrite’?

Mike Dennison

This weekend in Whitefish, Gov. Steve Bullock hosts a “retreat” for the Democratic Governors Association, where its members will gather – and corporate donors and others will pour cash into DGA coffers.

Bullock chairs the DGA, which raises millions of dollars to help elect Democratic governors nationwide – just as the Republican Governors Association raises big bucks to help GOP gubernatorial candidates.

But Bullock’s work as DGA chair has drawn a steady stream of criticism from the Montana Republican Party, which labels him “Governor Hypocrite,” saying he is raising the very money he himself has called a bad influence on politics:

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Brian Walsh

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