Daily Media Links 9/8: No Pretense Of Restraint On Government In Donor Privacy Ruling, Donald Trump’s Donation Is His Latest Brush With Campaign Fund Rules, and more…

September 8, 2016   •  By Alex Baiocco   •  
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Free Speech

Washington Examiner: Charge: Dems to change First Amendment to silence Tea Party, conservative media

Paul Bedard

In some the toughest criticism leveled at Democrats, Commissioner Lee E. Goodman said that the attack started once the Tea Party changed American politics in the 2010 election and now dominates the politics of the left.

“It has triggered a very aggressive movement by people to amend the First Amendment, left intellectuals have placed it on the table,” Goodman said on Boston’s Howie Carr show.

“The general tenor of the left in American politics today has certainly spoken out against First Amendment rights. It has been a reversal over the last 50 years,” he added, citing FDR Democrats who defended socialists and communists.

From trying to reverse the Citizens United decision to using the IRS to kill Tea Party groups, Goodman said that the Democrats have moved to change free speech in the country.

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Supreme Court

Concurring Opinions: Alito’s prophesy? Cert. petition in Gov. Speech case raises questions about future of doctrine

Ronald K.L. Collins

The constitutional controversy arouse in connection with a pilot program that allowed schools to hang banners on their fences to recognize the sponsors of school programs. The petitioner David Mech (a/k/a The Happy/Fun Math Tutor) sued the School Board for violating his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights when three of the County’s public schools removed Mech’s math tutoring business banner advertisements from their fences, while permitting other private banners to remain. The Petitioner’s banners were removed after some parents complained that Mech’s tutoring business shared a mailing address at a private postal center with his former adult media business, Dave Pounder Productions. An Eleventh Circuit three-judge panel denied Mech’s First Amendment claims: “the banners for The Happy/Fun Math Tutor are government speech.”

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Politico: Supreme Court gives Backpage.com temporary stay in Senate probe

John Bresnahan

Carl Ferrer, CEO of Backpage.com, filed an appeal on Tuesday with the Supreme Court seeking a stay as it appeals a lower-court ruling requiring it to turn over information to the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.

In an order, Chief Justice John Roberts gave Senate lawyers until Sept. 9 to respond to Ferrer’s request.

…Portman and McCaskill allege that Backpage has repeatedly posted advertising tied to such trafficking, and they issued a subpoena to Backpage to find out its internal policies on policing such ads, which the company refused to comply with…

Ferrer and Backpage have countered that the company has First Amendment protection. However, a three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia disagreed. On Friday, the court lifted its stay of the disclosure order, meaning Ferrer and Backpage would have 10 days to comply with the PSI subpoena. Ferrer wants his appeal to be heard by the full court.

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Independent Groups

USA Today: Wealthy donor will run anti-Clinton super PAC

Fredreka Schouten

Mercer, the daughter of hedge-fund billionaire Robert Mercer, now is running Make America Number 1, a super PAC that plans to attack Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in the weeks ahead.

Hogan Gidley, the group’s spokesman, said Rebekah Mercer already served as the super PAC’s chairwoman. “She’s the driving force behind its activity, and she’s taking an active role in its day-to-day operation,” he said.

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Daily Beast: In New Hampshire and Other States, Democrats Seem Just Fine With Dark Money

Robert Maguire and Ashley Balcerzak

Instead, it’s cast as an “issue ad” criticizing Ayotte’s purported views on Medicare. The FEC only requires such ads to be reported 30 days before a primary or 60 days before a general election, so dark money groups often go outside these windows to run what frequently are little more than thinly veiled political ads…

For years, Democrats have decried not only dark money in politics in general, but also the use of issue ads in particular as vehicles for stealth political spending. Yet that appears to be exactly what Majority Forward is doing with its latest buy…

Undercutting the idea that Majority Forward’s products are anything but political ads dressed up as issue advocacy is the fact that the buyer’s descriptions of the ad, filed at two stations, include the phrase “pro Maggie Hassan,” and are devoid of any mention of a policy issue. In another instance, the buyer lists both Hassan and Ayotte and the date of the election, along with the description “Ayotte Medicare voucher program.”

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Donor Privacy

Daily Caller: No Pretense Of Restraint On Government In Donor Privacy Ruling

Mark J. Fitzgibbons

A federal judge recently denied the opportunity for an open trial against liberal New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman about his licensing scheme used to coerce nonprofit organizations to disclose their donors to him and his office…

The court noted Schneiderman claims that he needs the names of donors for “investigat[ing] potential violations of the charitable solicitation laws, and … protect[ing] New York residents from fraudulent solicitations.” This is no more than “pre-crime” government surveillance. Besides, donors are not the ones soliciting New Yorkers for contributions, so Schneiderman’s  pretense accepted unquestioningly by the court is implausible.

Besides, Schneiderman could acquire this information on a case-by-case basis if he genuinely had grounds rather than using a dragnet licensing scheme violating the privacy rights of the innocent and unwary. This scheme is worse than collecting anonymous telephone metadata. It puts a bullseye on donors to causes disfavored by Schneiderman.

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Tampa Bay Times: Ruskin man who landed gyrocopter on Capitol lawn is free from prison

Ben Montgomery

Doug Hughes, the former mailman who landed his gyrocopter on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol last year to protest government corruption, returned home on Wednesday, his 62nd birthday, after serving three months of a four-month prison sentence at Federal Detention Center Miami.

He arrived home wearing prison-issued sandals and carrying meager belongings in a paper sack, along with bundles of letters from admirers who had written him in prison from places such as Walla Walla, Wash., and Bonne Terre, Mo.

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BillMoyers.com: A Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Bill?

Kathy Kiely

What Gosar describes as a “commonsense bill” would require federal candidates who accept political donations by credit card to verify the donor’s identity by obtaining the credit card verification code (the three- or four-digit number that most commercial vendors already insist on having with a purchase), as well as the card’s billing address.

Because that information currently is not required, “it leaves the door wide open” to violations of campaign law, including illegal contributions from foreign donors, according to John Pudner, a former Republican political consultant whose last gig was managing the Brat campaign that unseated Cantor. He has since started a conservative campaign finance reform group called Take Back Our Republic…

This year, Pudner said, both Hillary Clinton’s and Donald Trump’s campaigns are verifying the identities of credit card donors but Bernie Sanders — whose spokesman scoffed at Gosar’s bill as “a solution in search of a problem” — did not.

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New York Post: Schneiderman let Clinton Foundation skip identifying foreign donors

Bob Fredericks

Scripps News found that the foundation and its subsidiary, the Clinton Health Access Initiative, took in $225 million in government donations between 2010 and 2014.

New York’s charity law clearly states: “Organizations that received a contribution or grant from a government agency during the reporting period shall include the name of each agency from which contributions were received and the amount of each contribution.”

But both the foundation and the CHAI failed to do that, and Schneiderman, a member of Clinton’s “leadership council” in New York and a fierce critic of Donald Trump, did nothing about it.

Other charities complied, including the George W. Bush foundation, which reported receiving $5 million from Saudi Arabia and $500,000 from Kuwait.

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Candidates and Campaigns

Washington Times: Zephyr Teachout, a Sanders ‘revolutionary’ from Vermont, stirs up N.Y. race for GOP-held seat

Tom Howell Jr.

Rep. Christopher P. Gibson, a Republican, is retiring from the seat in New York’s 19th Congressional District, and Democrats see a chance to use the grass-roots unrest embodied by Mrs. Teachout to cut into Republicans’ sizable House majority.

Mr. Faso said Mrs. Teachout is an outsider of the worst kind: She moved into the district just last year.

“I have long experience both in and out of government in this district; she has none,” he said. “She’s a carpetbagger from Brooklyn.”

The Teachout campaign and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which is prioritizing the race in this cycle, said voters just want to know whether their elected leaders will stick up for them.

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New York Times: Donald Trump’s Donation Is His Latest Brush With Campaign Fund Rules

Steve Eder and Megan Twohey

Mr. Trump’s payment of a $2,500 penalty to the Internal Revenue Service over that 2013 campaign gift amounted to only the latest slap of his wrist in a decades-long record of shattering political donation limits and circumventing the rules governing contributions and lobbying.

In the 1980s, Mr. Trump was compelled to testify under oath before New York State officials after he directed tens of thousands of dollars to the president of the New York City Council through myriad subsidiary companies to evade contribution limits. In the 1990s, the Federal Election Commission fined Mr. Trump for exceeding the annual limit on campaign contributions by $47,050, the largest violation in a single year. And in 2000, the New York State lobbying commission imposed a $250,000 fine for Mr. Trump’s failing to disclose the full extent of his lobbying of state legislators.

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Los Angeles Times: Everything wrong with Gov. Brown’s dinners for donors

Dan Schnur

In a letter from the California Democratic Party, potential check-writers were invited to dinners at which Brown would “thank those that are able to help on his priorities.” The letter identified Brown’s top objectives as defeating a ballot measure that would give voters more of a voice on his signature high-speed rail and water conveyance projects (Proposition 53), as well as passing another initiative to implement his parole reform proposal (Proposition 57).

Left unmentioned, but understood by Capitol insiders, is that these meetings would take place at exactly the time when Brown would be making high-stakes decisions on legislation related to job creation, environmental protection, public safety and almost every other facet of life in California. The opportunity for deep-pocketed advocates to plead their case directly to the governor over small, leisurely dinners is invaluable – and the only cost to them is a big check.

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The States

San Francisco Chronicle: Chronicle recommends:Yes on state Prop. 59

Editorial Board

Nonbinding resolutions on the statewide ballot are generally a waste of time, and they are especially annoying when the subject is campaign finance reform and the measure was put on the ballot by a California Legislature that has done so little to curtail its own sleazy practices.

We understand why some voters will be tempted to reject Proposition 59 on principle: send a message to lawmakers to stop piling advisory measures on an already too-crowded ballot, and stop thwarting reforms such as those designed to end fundraising during peak legislative sessions and to provide greater transparency on hearings and bills…

However, the statement in Prop. 59 is too important to bypass. It calls on California’s elected officials to use “all of their constitutional authority” to help overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission decision.

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Los Angeles Times: Prop 59: Don’t amend the Constitution over Citizens United

Editorial Board

Like a similar measure approved by Los Angeles city voters in 2013, Proposition 59 doesn’t specify what a proposed constitutional amendment would actually say.

True, Proposition 59 suggests that an amendment or amendments would reverse Citizens United and “other applicable judicial precedents” — a reference mainly to Buckley vs. Valeo, a 1976 decision holding that individuals could spend unlimited amounts of their money on independent political expenditures. But the measure also suggests that a constitutional amendment would “make clear that corporations should not have the same constitutional rights as human beings.”

That’s a powerful, even poetic, pronouncement, but what does it mean? Would corporations lose only free-speech rights or other rights as well, such as the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures at their places of business or to due process of law if they were sued?  Would nonprofit as well as for-profit corporations be affected? What about the 1st Amendment rights of corporations that publish newspapers or broadcast the nightly news?

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Decatur Herald & Review: US judge says Illinois campaign finance law constitutional

Michael Tarm, Associated Press

A federal judge says current Illinois law that sets limits on how much political action committees can give candidates but allows political parties give as much as they want is constitutional.

Wednesday’s ruling follows a two-day bench trial in a civil lawsuit brought by the conservative Illinois Liberty PAC. It argued that letting parties and their legislative leaders contribute as much as they want to candidates while limiting what PACs and individuals can contribute violates rights to free speech…

The plaintiffs say they intend to appeal.

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San Antonio Express-News: Ethics agency ends lawsuit seeking ‘dark money’ subpoenas against conservative powerbroker

David Saleh Rauf

The Texas Ethics Commission is backing off a long-running battle to force conservative powerbroker Michael Quinn Sullivan to comply with subpoenas as part of an investigation into his nonprofit’s political activity.

Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office, which is representing the commission, told a state district judge in Travis County on Tuesday that the campaign finance regulator is no longer seeking the court’s backing to enforce subpoenas against Sullivan or his 501(c)4 nonprofit, Empower Texans.

The subpoenas are part of a “dark money” investigation launched in 2012 by the ethics commission into the campaign finance activity of Empower Texans. The group is allowed under federal law to make independent expenditures without having to disclose donors.

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Alex Baiocco

Alex Baiocco


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