Daily Media Links 3/24: Wall Street Journal: A Free Speech Victory in California, Red Alert Politics: Young Americans for Liberty receives tax-exempt status after two-year delay, and more…

Independent Groups

Wall Street Journal: A Free Speech Victory in California

By Allysia Finley

“I think they’re wrong on constitutional grounds,” Mr. Reed told me last October. “I think they have a vague and ambiguous and confusing regulation that they’re applying to limit free speech.” In his defense brief, the mayor cited the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ( 2010) decision: “The First Amendment does not permit laws that force speakers to retain a campaign finance attorney. . . before discussing the most salient political issues of our day.”

He also argued that the rule itself violated Citizens United by barring independent expenditures and unconstitutionally restricting his First Amendment rights. Likely recognizing that their charges were dubious, the commission’s board last September dunned Mr. Reed all of $1. While Mr. Reed could have settled the case by paying the trivial fine, he instead sued the commission to overturn the regulation.

Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Allen Sumner last week vindicated Mr. Reed by reversing the penalty and striking down the rule. “The ability to communicate freely about candidates for political office and the issues in an election lies at the heart of the First Amendment’s protections,” Judge Sumner wrote.

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Red Alert Politics: Young Americans for Liberty receives tax-exempt status after two-year delay

After a long two-year wait, Young Americans for Liberty was granted tax-deductible status from the Internal Revenue Service after joining a legion of conservative organizations targeted by the agency.

The organization, which spurned from former Rep. Ron Paul’s (R-Texas) 2008 presidential campaign and seeks to preserve and promote liberty, waited approximately 28 months to receive tax-deductible status from the IRS. And because the group used words like “Constitution” and “liberty” in their application, YAL President Jeff Frazee believes they were targeting by the agency.

“I’m sure you have seen the news about Obama’s IRS scandal. Well, we were part of it,” Frazee said in a press release.

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Free Beacon: Cruz: DOJ Must Appoint Special Prosecutor to Investigate IRS Targeting

It is the height of hypocrisy for the Obama Administration to claim that the investigator leading the investigation into the IRS’s illegal program has no conflict of interest. The investigator is a partisan Democrat who has donated over six thousand dollars to President Obama and Democrat causes. Just as nobody would trust John Mitchell to investigate Richard Nixon, nobody should trust a partisan Obama donor to investigate the IRS’s political targeting of President Obama’s enemies. Sadly, “in the discretion of the Attorney General,” Eric Holder has chosen to reject the bipartisan tradition of the Department of Justice of putting rule of law above political allegiance.  

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Bloomberg: Forget the Dictionary, Super PACs Aren’t New

By Francis Barry

Merriam-Webster announced this week that it has added the term “super PAC” to its dictionary. The entry cites a quote tracing the term’s birth to the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision and a subsequent lower court ruling. That connection — while technically accurate — unfortunately perpetuates a gross misunderstanding of the impact the case has had on political spending.

There may be no bigger bogeyman in liberal political circles than Citizens United, which is widely blamed for a huge increase in outside campaign spending by wealthy interests. Much of that growth, however, has been via channels that had nothing to do with the case, and much of the rest probably would have happened anyway.

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Richmond Times-Dispatch: Weaponizing the IRS

By A. Barton Hinkle

The saga of All Saints could soon be coming to a community near you. Thanks partly to the scandal surrounding the IRS’ targeting of conservative groups, the agency has proposed a new set of rules for a huge number of social-welfare groups that claim tax exemption under Section 501(c)4 of the tax code. That includes groups such as the Sierra Club, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, the League of Conservation Voters and the Alliance for Justice (a coalition of more than 100 liberal organizations). It also includes many conservative groups, from Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS to grass-roots tea-party groups — the ones the IRS scrutinized by demanding, e.g., old fundraising letters and all Facebook posts.

Under a finding that dates back to 1959, those social-welfare groups can remain tax-exempt so long as they are “primarily engaged in promoting in some way the common good and general welfare of the people of the community.” Politicking cannot be their primary focus, and “primary” in this case means “51 percent or more.”

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SCOTUS/Judiciary

Washington Times: Hobby Lobby case’s First Amendment backing

By Timothy Sandefur

That’s where Citizens United comes in. In 2008, the court held that corporations are “persons” capable of exercising free speech rights under the First Amendment. Laws restricting the ability of corporations to express political opinions are, therefore, unconstitutional, the justices said.

The Citizens United decision was obviously correct. Corporations exercise First Amendment rights all the time: newspaper companies, television studios, radio broadcasters, book publishers — all are corporations that enjoy constitutional protection for their right to express themselves. Yet liberals denounced the decision. Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota called it a “disaster,” and termed the notion of corporate personhood a “mess” that should be thrown into “the Dumpster of Bad Ideas.” The New York Times — itself a corporation engaged in free speech — editorialized that protecting corporate speech rights would “expand corporations’ rights in ways that would undermine the election system.”

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Tax Financing

Bloomberg: Nixon No Longer Kicks Around the Campaign-Finance System

By Jonathan Bernstien

Just because President Richard Nixon extorted money from ITT in the form of funding for the 1972 Republican National Convention doesn’t mean we need public financing for conventions today. The nomination process and campaign-money regime have evolved (Dita Beard references are always welcome, but not always relevant).

I don’t favor full public financing of presidential campaigns. It’s a legitimate position, but the rules imposed by the courts and the preferences of the major parties ensure it won’t happen. These days, a rich individual can sink millions into a presidential campaign, and that’s the way it’s going to be.

By itself, public financing of the conventions doesn’t protect against corruption. It’s merely an incentive from the government for the parties to advertise themselves in a particular way, through multiday informercials, which is what the conventions are these days.

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State and Local

Rhode Island –– NY Times: Rhode Island House Speaker Resigns Amid Investigation

By Ashley Southall

Mr. Fox, a Democrat, said in a written statement that he was abandoning the speakership he has held for the last four years because he did not want the raids to distract his colleagues from addressing the challenges the state faces.

“My personal focus going forward will be on my family and dealing with the investigation,” he said. “Because of the nature of this matter, I will not be commenting further.”

Federal and state law enforcement agents raided Mr. Fox’s office at the State House and his home in East Providence, R.I., on Friday, but did not disclose the reason for the raids. Mr. Fox, too, has been silent on the raids.

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Vermont –– AP: Vt. Senate backs reversing Citizens United ruling

The Senate endorsed the idea on a 25-2 vote Thursday after adding an amendment by Sen. Peter Galbraith saying Vermont would withdraw its support if the convention were not limited to the campaign finance issue.

Galbraith later said without that restriction, a convention could be open to amendment proposals including bans on abortion or same-sex marriage.

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