Daily Media Links 8/12: Professor Sues Town Over Yard Sign Free Speech, Levitt, Smith, and the Possibilities in Discussion, and more…

In the News
 
Reason: Professor Sues Town Over Yard Sign Free Speech 
By Zenon Evans
Frustrated by demands from town officials, one professor is suing his local government for violating his First Amendment rights by harshly regulating political yard signs.
David Rubin’s struggle began in 2006 when government workers of Manlius, New York, told him to remove political signs from his yard.
 
More Soft Money Hard Law: Levitt, Smith, and the Possibilities in Discussion
By Bob Bauer
Justin Levitt and Brad Smith are each top-flight thinkers about campaign finance who bring very different perspectives to issues in their field. Now a Professor at Loyola, Justin’s affiliations have included the Brennan Center for Justice. Brad, a Professor at Capital University Law School, founded and chairs his own Center, (the Center of Competitive Politics) and the two Centers are not at all alike in outlook or mission. Levitt and Smith have each recently written a piece—Levitt on the contribution/expenditure doctrine, Smith on the regulation of tax-exempt organizations—that, read side by side, track major, persistent disputes in political law. Each gets much right, but then overstates his case. For Levitt, his defense of regulation comes at the price of an understanding of the political costs. Smith is highly skeptical of regulation but in a way that gives short shrift to one complex regulatory goal that will not go away—public disclosure of certain kinds, and at certain levels, of spending to influence politics or policy. 
 
FEC
 
Washington Post (LTE): GOP members of Federal Election Commission seek transparency
By Don McGahn
Congress decided long ago that the commissioners, not the staff, make the decisions at the FEC. The reason is clear: to prevent partisan targeting. On whether the FEC should have a publicly available enforcement manual, this is not a partisan issue. My proposal tracks the statute and mirrors one suggested by the Democratic powerhouse lawyers of Perkins Coie. Staff members have other ideas and want to centralize decision-making in their hands, bypassing the commission.  
 
Independent Groups
 
Tribune Star: Bopp fires back at CREW accusations 
By Arthur Foulkes
“They [CREW] have filed dozens and dozens of complaints against every prominent Republican in the United States to try and win their policy argument by personal attack,” Bopp told the Tribune-Star on Friday. “They don’t seem to care about the merits of their complaints. They just care about the smear.”
In a news release issued Friday, Bopp stated he is “not surprised by the Secretary of State’s” findings and is “confident that the other government officials with whom CREW filed complaints will reach similar conclusions.”
 
Huffington Post: Organizing For Action Restates It Won’t Get Involved In Electoral Politics
By Sam Stein
WASHINGTON — Following a report it was considering involvement in the Georgia Senate campaign of Democratic candidate Michelle Nunn, the head of Organizing for Action on Wednesday reiterated that the organization won’t put resources into political campaigns.
Jon Carson, OFA executive director, said in a phone interview that the group -– an offshoot of President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign apparatus –- was focused on policy advocacy. ”OFA is not going into electoral politics,” Carson told The Huffington Post definitively.
 

Corporate Governance 

 
CalWatchdog: Debaters clash over allowing corporate free speech (Part I)
By Dave Roberts
“I start from the premise that the government is large enough at all levels — local, regional, state and federal,” he said. “It’s pervasive enough, it’s intrusive enough that the business community has really little choice but to engage with the government. Whether business thrives, or sometimes whether it survives, often depends on what the government does and doesn’t do. We all know that. So as a pragmatic matter you have to engage with the government; the business community does.
“The folks who view themselves as usually adverse to business — not always, but usually; the big labor federations, the trial lawyers and others, you know who they are — have got lots of money. They have got lots of manpower. They are very sophisticated. And they are very aggressive, as you all know, in their involvement in electoral politics. So, the business community really can’t afford to cede the field to them. Because if it does, it’s just going to get rolled.”
 
CalWatchdog: Leftists seek SEC regulation of corporate speech (Part II)
By Dave Roberts
When the petition does reach the SEC board, at least one commissioner, Daniel M. Gallagher, may be skeptical, judging by his remarks at the SCS&GP conference on July 11. He agreed that there are benefits for investors from more disclosure, but he draws a tighter line on how much needs to be disclosed.
“[T]he disclosure regime was [not] meant to guarantee that investors receive allinformation known to a public company, much less to eliminate all risk from investing in that company,” said Gallagher. “Instead, the point has always been to ensure that they have access to material investment information.”
 

Disclosure

 
Wyoming Liberty: Masters of Illusion: Stopping the Speech Police 
By Benjamin Barr
Over a year ago, we asked the FEC a simple set of questions: (1) What do your basic regulations mean? and (2) Do they apply to our client? We’re still waiting for a (sensible) answer. Our lawsuit dared state an obvious proposition. If sophisticated election bureaucrats in Washington cannot give consistent answers about how the law works, how could any individual be expected to follow its edicts?
This sort of boundary-line drawing has been the normal stuff of First Amendment jurisprudence. Without firm lines of demarcation, government bureaucrats will, consciously or not, suppress speech they find distasteful,ideologically impure or wrongheaded. But bright lines at least keep government actors away from certain speech. This ensures that we all enjoy, as the Supreme Court calls it, some “breathing room” to exercise our First Amendment freedoms.
 
State and Local
 
West Virginia –– State Journal: Federal judge rules caps to independent expenditure PACs unconstitutional  
By Andrea Lannom
A West Virginia federal judge recently declared unconstitutional subsections of state code that prohibited businesses and individuals from contributing more than $1,000 to independent expenditure political action committees.
The suit was brought in May 2012 by Stay the Course West Virginia and its chairman, David Bailey, along with Pineville Lumber Inc. and Kanawha County voter Thomas Stephen Bailey. It was filed against Secretary of State Natalie Tennant and Mercer County Prosecutor Scott Ash.

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