Daily Media Links 9/29: The Case For Back-Room Deals, Party Hacks & Unlimited Money in Politics, 10 Ways Super PACs and Campaigns Coordinate, Even Though They’re Not Allowed To, and more…

September 29, 2015   •  By Brian Walsh   •  
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As a reminder, CCP Chairman Bradley A. Smith will be speaking at a free Heritage Foundation event, “Advocacy and the First Amendment: Should Nonprofits Disclose Their Donors?” The event begins at noon today and runs until 1:00 PM. The Heritage Foundation is located at 214 Massachusetts Avenue NE, Washington, DC 20002. Also speaking at the event are the Cato Institute’s John Samples and the Heritage Foundation’s Hans von Spakovsky. More information about the event can be found

Daily Signal: Why Forcing Non-Profits to Disclose Their Donors Would Damage Free Speech

Hans von Spakovsky

Americans and advocacy organizations are already subject to campaign disclosure requirements under state and federal law. For example, the names, home addresses, occupations, and employers of individuals contributing to federal candidates must be disclosed, with similar disclosure requirements in state elections. Political action committees must disclose all of their contributors and donors. Nonprofit organizations engaging in independent political expenditures that urge the support or opposition of candidates must also file detailed expenditure reports with the government.

However, forcing nonprofit organizations that are not PACs to disclose their private donors as a condition of speaking about elections, candidates, issues, and politics in general would go far beyond the already stringent disclosure requirements that are currently in place. Such a requirement could, in fact, harm the vibrant American democracy we enjoy today, one where there is vigorous debate and discussion of the important, often vital issues we face as a nation.

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Political Parties

Reason: The Case For Back-Room Deals, Party Hacks & Unlimited Money in Politics

Nick Gillespie & Tod Krainin

So, the four-word bumper-sticker version of Political Realism is: “Let Politicians Be Politicians.”

The very slightly longer explanation is: In order to organize politics, and for anything to work, you need political machines, or things that function like political machines. These are informal hierarchies that make politicians accountable to each other, because in our system politicians cannot reward and punish each other directly. It’s not like Britain where you can basically be fired if you vote against the party. So you have to create these networks where they incentivize each other, so that followers will follow leaders and that requires stuff like pork barrel spending and political machines. It requires some control of the ballot, so you can protect your people and they can take a tough vote. The problem is that if you’re an idealist, those kinds of machines and structures don’t look really good when you hold them up to the light and say is this perfect, is it beautiful? So we spent the last 40 years demolishing all of that equipment, and libertarians have been a big part of that.

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The Hill: Strengthen the parties to strengthen democracy

Daniel I. Weiner and Ian Vandewalker

But avoiding polarization and gridlock is not the only good reason for wanting strong organized parties. The parties are engines for political participation by ordinary citizens. Parties have well-established infrastructure through which supporters can engage in civic life—including by volunteering and attending party events. The parties also have historically played a key role in registering large numbers of voters and getting them to the polls. And parties’ internal structures are far more democratic and transparent than that of the average super PAC run by a handful of consultants and mega-donors.

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Vox: A theory of how American politics is changing

Ezra Klein

This was one of the core insights behind the Party Decides theory of presidential primaries, which argued, persuasively, that political parties quietly dominated presidential primaries, and so the best way to predict the eventual winner is to watch early endorsements. But as Andrew Prokop wrote in his critique of the idea, after correctly predicting nine out of 11 contested presidential primaries between 1976 and 2000, the only primary the theory has correctly predicted since 2000 was Mitt Romney’s 2012 win.

Perhaps it’s just been a bad few years for the theory. Or perhaps parties are systematically losing their ability to decide.

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Independent Groups

National Journal: 10 Ways Super PACs and Campaigns Coordinate, Even Though They’re Not Allowed To

Adam Wollner

It’s just one of the latest examples of how campaigns and outside groups are pushing the limits that prohibit them from coordinating farther than ever. Super PACs are freed from the individual donor limits that campaigns, but they’re also supposed to exist as independent organizations that—though they may raise and spend as much money as they want on politics—are not allowed to work directly with the campaigns they are supporting. But in 2016, campaigns are increasingly offloading tasks to their better-funded allies…

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Tax-Financed Campaigns

Huffington Post: Republican Voters Want These Four Surprising Things

Zephyr Teachout

Public financing of elections, SEC action and FEC enforcement, taken together, is bigger than reform. It’s a structured political revolution. It transfers power. What these polls show is that Republicans want that structured political revolution, even though their leaders aren’t talking about it.

This means a majority of Bush and Trump voters would be happy if they came out and supported a new, opt-in system of citizen funded elections. The poll demonstrates to Republican candidates that a majority of their voters believe the system is rigged, and more importantly, they want politicians to act.

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CPI: FEC employees: a bedraggled lot

Dave Levinthal

Federal Election Commission employees — a generally unhappy lot for years — are even more unsatisfied with their jobs than before.

That’s the bleak conclusion drawn from the 2015 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey’s satisfaction index, which places the election law enforcer and regulator near the bottom of 41 small agencies ranked.

The FEC received an employee “global satisfaction” score of 43 out of 100, down a point from last year and 12 points from 2010, according to the annual survey released today by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Only the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (36) and African Development Foundation (18) received a lower score than the FEC among small agencies.

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“Dark Money”

Buffalo News: Disclosure of political contributions will reduce the power of ‘dark money’

Editorial Board

Not everyone agrees that disclosure is valuable. Prominent among those critics are giant donors and their mouthpieces who benefit from giving in obvious hopes of secretly influencing public policy. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce sounded a paranoid alarm about the push for disclosure in a recent news story.

“This orchestrated ‘disclosure’ campaign by opponents of the business community is meant to intimidate corporations from participating in important policy debates, either directly or through trade associations and organizations such as the U.S. Chamber,” the chamber’s spokeswoman, Blair Latoff Holmes, wrote in an email to the Los Angeles Times.

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Candidates and Campaigns

Washington Post: The Insiders: Nixonian Clinton strikes again

Ed Rogers

It is bad enough we have such a convoluted campaign system, but when a super PAC is essentially laundering talking points so that the campaign and the super PAC can say the same dumb things, we have reached a new low. Like everything else with Clinton, I am sure they will rely on the defense that it was “legal at the time” or that it is “allowed.” But this behavior plays exactly to Clinton’s negative stereotype; that she is shifty, used to ignoring the rules and dishonest. If you can’t even be honest about how you issue pedantic talking points, what can you be honest about?

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Washington Examiner: Is Clinton’s campaign coordinating with PACs?

Becket Adams

That these notes all include the suggestion that Clinton’s critics “move on” has drawn further scrutiny from her critics. For Fitton, the similarities between Finney’s and Woodhouse’s tweets would seem to suggest that someone in the Clinton camp is coordinating with a member of a PAC.

“It sure looks like they’re working together,” he told the Examiner. “It’s incumbent up on the individuals involved to tell us how they did this.”

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New York Daily News: America is not a democracy: Until we fix the core problem, all other political promises are meaningless

Lawrence Lessig

Partisanship, in other words, just comes with the territory of trying to govern a large, diverse, and complex country. Gridlock is a feature, not a bug.

But here’s the dirty big secret: The government we have is not a democracy. It’s nowhere close. Instead, a corruption in the very idea of a representative democracy has rendered our nation almost ungovernable. We have entered the age of the “vetocracy,” as political theorist Francis Fukuyama puts it, where very small numbers in America can block almost any sensible change.

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The States

Texas Tribune: Local campaign finance reform is as essential as national reform

Erik Dolliver

By starting with the conversation on the national level, we can begin to make changes here at home. Small-donor matching programs or tax incentives for low-dollar donors are both initiatives cities, counties and even states could enact. Such efforts have worked in places like New York City, where city council candidates in the most recent election received 61 percent of their contributions from small donations and matching funds.

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Brian Walsh

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