Daily Media Links: Trump team talks of setting up political arm, Out-of-state cash in hot races does little to help Dems, and more…

November 17, 2016   •  By Alex Baiocco   •  
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In the News

The Sun Daily: Making Sense – How NOT to lose an election

By Tan Siok Choo

Although full spending reports haven’t been submitted, assuming both candidates spent all that they raised, as at Oct 28 this year, Clinton’s war chest totalled an astronomical US$687 million (RM3 billion), more than double Trump’s US$307 million.

Despite blanketing six states – Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Nevada and Iowa – with 299,067 ads supporting Clinton compared with 89,995 ads for Trump, the former secretary of state lost all states except Nevada, Ken Kurson of the Observer noted.

“Money can’t buy love, it can’t buy votes. All it can do is help deliver a message. The voters didn’t want what Clinton offered,” David Keating, president of the Center for Competitive Politics, said. 

Free Speech

THE Journal: FIRE Launches Online First Amendment Library

By Dian Schaffhauser

The First Amendment of the United States Constitution contains 45 words and references five freedoms: religion, speech, press, assembly and petition. Yet, according to a survey done by the Newseum earlier this year among 1,008 Americans, 39 percent couldn’t list any of the five. When asked whether students on college campuses specifically should be allowed to say whatever they wanted, 57 percent of respondents agreed with the sentiment of free speech, and 40 percent disagreed. The count among conservatives who agreed was higher (66 percent) than among liberals (62 percent); moderates were about evenly divided (52 percent).

Now an organization dedicated to defending the rights of students, staff and faculty on college campuses has launched its own online library with the goal of helping “the public’s understanding of the First Amendment.”

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) said it created the “First Amendment Library” for use by anyone – students, attorneys, law clerks, judges, journalists – who wants to learn more about the amendment.    

Independent Groups

Politico: Trump team talks of setting up political arm

By Shane Goldmacher

Donald Trump’s top advisers are discussing a plan to launch a new political organization outside the White House and the Republican Party to harness the energy that powered his populist candidacy, according to people familiar with talks.

While the planning for such a group is still in its infancy, the idea is to create a structure akin to what President Barack Obama did after he won in 2008, when members of his campaign team launched Organizing for America.

For Trump, the concept is to tap into the grassroots enthusiasm that led to his unlikely victory, and to keep his supporters engaged for upcoming legislative battles in Congress. The exact form of the entity, whether it would be a super PAC or a nonprofit like OFA was, remains undecided.

Supreme Court

USA Today: Stand up to GOP on Supreme Court: Column

By Ilann M. Maazel

Now that Donald Trump is on path to be president, Senate Democrats should vow to filibuster any Trump Supreme Court nominee until Garland gets an up-or-down vote in the Senate…

Assuming the Electoral College actually votes for Trump and he is inaugurated in January, Senate Democrats will have two options: Capitulate to the power grab and let the Senate confirm a different, more conservative Trump nominee, or take a stand.

The Democrats must take a stand.

They should filibuster any Trump Supreme Court nominee until Garland first gets his up-or-down vote. If the full Senate votes against Garland, end the filibuster. If the Senate confirms Garland, the seat is filled.  

Washington Times: Winner: McConnell’s gamble saves the Supreme Court

By Kelly Riddell

Mitch McConnell took a gamble and won: President-elect Donald Trump will be able to name Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s replacement, preserving the ideological balance of the highest court.

The Senate majority leader took a hard line after Mr. Scalia’s death in February, stating clearly that there would be no confirmation hearings to the Court until after the election. A less riskier option would’ve been to take – and then delay – the hearing. The Kentucky Republican refused.

“The next justice could fundamentally alter the direction of the Supreme Court and have a profound impact on our country,” Mr. McConnell said at the time…

 Although Republicans hold the Senate, it’s likely Democrats will filibuster Mr. Trump’s Supreme Court pick. Mr. McConnell will then have to make a hard decision: use the so-called “nuclear option,” which Senate Democrats used in 2013 to counter judicial blockades, or try to broker a broader consensus.  


Wall Street Journal: Mary Jo White Packs Up

By Editorial Board

Yet in a partisan era, the independent Ms. White was the rare Obama regulatory chief who resisted politicization. This is how the no-nonsense former prosecutor ended up in Sen. Warren’s cross-hairs. The Massachusetts Democrat has never forgiven Ms. White for refusing to regulate corporate political speech. Leftists want new reporting burdens that would allow them to target firms supporting groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and shame them into withdrawing from public debate. Ms. White wisely decided that the commission’s job is to focus on disclosure of facts that are relevant and material to investors.

Ms. White then stuck to her guns through years of Warren acting out. “A year ago I called your leadership at the SEC extremely disappointing,” Sen. Warren told Ms. White at a Senate hearing in June. “Today I am more disappointed than ever.” Ms. White simply responded: “I’m disappointed in your disappointment.”


Vox: Republicans plan to “drain the swamp” by gutting campaign finance laws

By Jeff Stein

Seeing the federal government slip into Republican hands is terrifying campaign finance experts, who are bracing for a wave of deregulation that could give millionaires and billionaires powerful new ways to influence American politics.

Top Republican leaders – most vocally, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell – have spent years advocating specific changes that would gut what’s left of an American campaign finance regime that’s already been crippled…

We’re getting ready for a fight. We know that Republicans aren’t going to do anything about Citizens United and that they’re probably going to want to throw out what little is left of McCain-Feingold,” says Craig Holman, a government affairs lobbyist at the transparency nonprofit Public Citizen…

With control of the House and Senate, congressional Republicans have the power to ram through a series of measures – including repealing limits on what political parties can get from individual donors – that are inscribed in the GOP’s official party platform. 

CRP: Out-of-state cash in hot races does little to help Dems

By Jack Noland

In the majority of 31 battleground races the Center for Responsive Politics identified, Democrats had a larger share of their funds come in from out-of-state donors than Republicans did. (The 31 races include 24 “hot” races and seven other late-breaking contests.) In the end, though, the Dems were largely unsuccessful on Election Night, taking just 10 of these seats.

Out-of-state money did help candidates pad their campaign accounts, though: Those who brought in a higher percentage of out-of-state contributions usually outraised their opponents. (Our analysis is based only on contributions of more than $200, since identifying information about donors of smaller sums is not disclosed.)… 

Ultimately, as Democrats across the country chased a wave election, their lead in out-of-state contribution rates and subsequent failure to win those battleground contests may be further proof of the axiom that all politics is local. 

Trump Administration

Wall Street Journal: Trump Transition Team’s Code of Ethics Takes Aim at Lobbyists

By Rebecca Ballhaus

President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team on Wednesday finalized a 13-point code of ethics that bars registered lobbyists from working on transition matters on which they had previously lobbied the government, similar to the lobbyist ban President Barack Obama enacted in 2008.

The code also bars team members from lobbying on the issues they worked on during the transition for six months after their departure. In a call with reporters on Wednesday evening, Republican National Committee chief strategist Sean Spicer said team members would be banned from serving as a registered lobbyist for the following five years.

The new guidelines follow a turbulent chapter for the transition team. Last week, Vice President-elect Mike Pence was appointed head of the team, ousting New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Despite Mr. Trump’s campaign pledge to “drain the swamp,” the team had under Mr. Christie’s watch hired at least a half dozen major Washington lobbyists and some of the president elect’s key donors. On Tuesday, Mr. Pence ordered the removal of all lobbyists from the transition team.


Observer: Dems and New Dem Chair Must Break Reliance on George Soros

By Michael Sainato

Politico reported Soros recently held a closed door strategy meeting with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, and Rep. Keith Ellison-currently the Democratic National Committee chair nominee-and Clinton Super PAC hit man David Brock and Clinton loyalist Neera Tanden. Ellison is one of 12 Democratic members of Congress to receive funding from Bend the Arc PAC, chaired by Soros’ son, Alex…

Though Ellison offers the most progressive and pragmatic solution for a DNC chair, his ties to George Soros need to be addressed. Campaign finance reform has little chance of success so long as billionaires like Soros are able to entangle political parties in a web of large donations, Super PACs, think tanks and policy advocacy groups. If Democrats want to truly move forward and recover after failing to recoup a majority in both houses of congress, and suffering an embarrassing defeat in the presidential election, they need to disavow funding and influence from billionaires, especially Soros.  

Reuters: Exclusive: Billionaire green activist Steyer vows to battle Trump, says money not an issue

By Richard Valdmanis

Billionaire environmental activist Tom Steyer, who has spent more than $140 million on fighting climate change, said on Tuesday he will spend whatever it takes to fight President-elect Donald Trump’s pro-drilling and anti-regulation agenda.

The former hedge fund manager from California is putting together a strategy that will “engage voters and citizens to fight back” once Trump takes the White House in January, he told Reuters in an interview. However, he stressed he was not planning to fight Trump through the courts.

Instead, he would focus on “trying to present an opposite point of view and trying to get that point of view expressed, and communicated to citizens.”…

“We have always been willing to do whatever is necessary,” Steyer said, when asked how much money he was willing to spend to oppose Trump’s agenda.   

The States

American Prospect: Stalled at the Federal Level, Democracy Advocates Look to the States

By Justin Miller

Across the country on Election Day, voters in cities and states approved several campaign-finance and ethics ballot measures designed to fight big money and special-interest influence while empowering small donors…

Even if conservatives regain a majority on the Supreme Court, most state and local reforms are expected to hold up. That’s because public funding systems and robust disclosure are the two campaign-finance areas that the Roberts Court has steadfastly supported. Experts do not anticipate legal attacks on these local laws to succeed in court, though they do worry that laws imposing contribution limits are more vulnerable.

Building on this year’s success, reformers are already eyeing where they think legislatures and city councils could support new public financing and anti-corruption laws, and other jurisdictions where ballot measures may be viable.

Alex Baiocco

Alex Baiocco