In the News
Reason: Citizens United Decision Fulfilled Earl Warren’s First Amendment Vision
By Zac Morgan
Four years have come and gone since the Supreme Court handed down Citizens United v. FEC, striking down a federal law that prohibited a corporation from showing a movie critical of then-Senator Hillary Clinton shortly before the first round of Democratic primaries. (Although Citizens United intended to air the film in 2008, it had to wait until the second year of the Obama presidency before learning the Constitution protected the movie.)
Back then, the response by the campaign finance control crowd to Citizens United was vicious. In one of his hyperventilating ukases, then-MSNBC frontman Keith Olbermann decreed Citizens United the worst decision since Dred Scott. Senator Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Judiciary Committee which oversees nominations to the federal courts, charmingly suggested that the case “could threaten the public’s confidence [sic] the Court’s impartiality.” The president of the United States took time out of his State of the Union address to lecture the Supreme Court, claiming (incorrectly) that Citizens United overturned a century of law and would allow foreign money to dominate our elections.
If only the Supreme Court had listened to the wisdom of Chief Justice Earl Warren and his likeminded justices, we would never have had to deal with Citizens United. In fact, had the Supreme Court listened to Chief Justice Warren, as well as FDR appointees William O. Douglas and Hugo Black, the holding of Citizens United would have been the law of the land for the past 57 years.
Cleveland Plain Dealer: Should politicians have the right to lie? U.S. Supreme Court could decide in Ohio case
By Sabrina Eaton
In a column about the upcoming Supreme Court case on the Center for Competitive Politics website, Smith argues Ohio’s law “makes a sham out of the idea of due process,” and that complaints made under the law are usually dropped after the the election because they’ve already served their purpose of silencing critics.
“Ohio’s false statements law is much more pernicious than many realize,” he says. “Indeed, what’s fascinating is that there is no question that the SBA List ads that prompted this suit are true, yet SBA List was still forced to defend itself before the Ohio Election Commission and had to consider the possibility of criminal penalties before speaking.”
Reason: Remy: 5 Things You Didn’t Know About Citizens United
By Nick Gillespie
The controversial Citizens United Supreme Court decision, which struck down many restrictions on campaign finance practices, is four years old. When the ruling came down, blowhards such as Keith Olbermann (then on MSNBC) railed that it was “our Dred Scott,” likening it to the notorious and despicable antebellum ruling that blacks had no rights whites need respect.
The video above lays out “5 Things You Didn’t Know About Citizens United” and should make us all feel a little better about the ruling. It’s hosted by Reason regular Remy, produced by Sean Malone, and comes from the Center for Competitive Politics, a nonprofit headed up by former Federal Election Commission chairman Bradley A. Smith (read Reason articles by and about him here).
Mother Jones: Did These 68 Words Just Kill IRS Oversight of Dark Money?
By Patrick Caldwell
Congress rushed to pass a 1,524-page bill last week that funds government agencies for 2014. The bill—which President Obama signed into law last Friday—is full of minor measures that were slipped in to appease various members, but one small section could upend the Internal Revenue Service’s ability to regulate political organizations hoping to become nonprofits. Tacked on as a symbolic effort to mollify conservatives’ anti-IRS mania, the text is so overly vague that it could mean the dissolution of long-standing rules. Or nothing at all. No one’s really sure.
“It’s really hard to know if this is clever or just abysmal drafting,” says Frances Hill, a tax law professor at the University of Miami School of Law.
Marcus Owens, who spent a decade as director of the IRS’s Exempt Organizations Division, is worried, though. “Just taken on its face,” he says, “it would make it very difficult for all forms of tax-exempt organizations [to be stopped] from engaging in explicit political activity, excessive lobbying activity, [and] commercial speech.”
NY Times: Leaning Right in Hollywood, Under a Lens
By Michael Cieply and Nicholas Confessore
Now the Internal Revenue Service is reviewing the group’s activities in connection with its application for tax-exempt status. Last week, federal tax authorities presented the group with a 10-point request for detailed information about its meetings with politicians like Paul D. Ryan, Thaddeus McCotter and Herman Cain, among other matters, according to people briefed on the inquiry.
The people spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the organization’s confidentiality strictures, and to avoid complicating discussions with the I.R.S.
Washington Post: The Volokh Conspiracy joins The Washington Post
The Washington Post today announced a partnership with The Volokh Conspiracy, a blog that covers law, public policy, politics, culture and other topics.
Eugene Volokh, a law professor at UCLA, founded the blog in April 2002, and it quickly became a regular destination for Supreme Court junkies, academics, and anyone interested in law and national issues. Most of the contributors are law professors, and include some of the top legal scholars in the nation.
Candidates, Politicians, Campaigns, and Parties
The Atlantic: Asking If Obama Schmoozes Enough Is the Wrong Question
By Conor Friedersdorf
Every time this topic comes up, it is framed as if it either reflects poorly on Obama or is an unfair criticism. Remnick lays out both theories, and perhaps leans toward the latter. The dispute doesn’t interest me, so I won’t weigh in. What I think about, whenever I read these stories, is what they say about Congress. Who are these shallow, frivolous legislators who’d change their votes on matters of great substance if only the president would butter them up with playdates?
State and Local
Virginia –– NY Times: When Political Spouse Helps Cause a Downfall
By Trip Gabriel
In most tales of political careers destroyed by personal weaknesses, it is the officeholder’s spouse who has wound up embarrassed and humiliated. The wives of two former governors, Eliot Spitzer of New York and Mark Sanford of South Carolina, and of former Representative Anthony Weiner of New York, have often looked like stunned bystanders to their husbands’ sex scandals. The archetype has inspired a television drama, “The Good Wife.”
But there is another drama that plays out, too: the political spouse whose own misjudgment and taste for luxury contribute to an officeholder’s downfall.
In a 43-page federal indictment of the McDonnells, charging them with aiding a Virginia businessman in exchange for cash and designer baubles, prosecutors portray Ms. McDonnell as the person whose desires for luxury items led the couple to use the governor’s office to promote a contributor’s dietary supplement business.