By David KeatingIt is 3 a.m. when the pounding begins. You awake in daze, your dog is barking, your children are frightened and you can hear voices yelling at the front door. You look outside to see armed police officers, poised with a battering ram, ready to break into your home. You run, half-dressed, to the door, quickly inch it open, and suddenly the police are everywhere. Two of them drag your children out of bed, another is shouting at your husband who is desperately trying to calm down the dog, three more are grabbing your computers, and laptops, and cellphones. Another tells you to sit down and shut up or he will haul you out of the house in handcuffs. As you shiver in fear, your only thought is: What did I do? What crime did I commit that warrants such an aggressive and intimidating response?You wrote an article publicly criticizing the local sheriff and his policies.Such a hypothetical seems unreal, like a scene from Orwellian science fiction or the Soviet Union. Surely it is impossible in present day America. The sad reality, however, is that such raids have already been conducted here in the United States, and the tactic by prosecutors has the potential to silence any speaker criticizing those in power, including reporters and bloggers.Victims of such abuses in Wisconsin went to court to stop it, and won in a federal District Court. But the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals slammed the courthouse door on the case, ruling that federal courts are not the place to contest abusive investigations by state officials. Now the plaintiffs’ last hope lies with the U.S. Supreme Court.
By Rebekah L. SandersWhen a political donation becomes controversial, a CEO like Eich can make ends meet while searching for another job, Altman said. But other people don’t have that luxury. When a low-level employee of a Catholic hospital is found to support a pro-abortion group, the consequences are worse, he said.Today’s online records make donations far more accessible, said Allen Dickerson, legal director for the Center for Competitive Politics, a Virginia non-profit that advocates for political speech.“In a world where this information is put online in very small dollar amounts, and it stays there permanently in a searchable format … a lot of people might not be comfortable with that level of inquiry,” Dickerson said. “Any employer, any romantic interest, any friend, any business contact with Google can figure out who I supported.”
By Lachlan MarkayHillary Clinton’s proposal to get money out of politics could allow the federal government to restrict or ban the publication of a book that has embroiled her presidential campaign in controversy, experts say.Clinton called for a constitutional amendment to “get unaccountable money out of” politics in an op-ed for the Des Moines Register published Monday. Her campaign did not respond to requests for additional details, but legal experts say similar efforts over the past two years would have profound effects on Americans’ free speech rights.Constitutional amendments introduced by Democratic senators in 2013 and 2014 could give the federal government the authority to prevent expenditures by a publisher, for example, to produce or publicize books critical of political candidates.
By Bernie BeckerAn inspector general investigating the IRS’s improper scrutiny of Tea Party groups has found thousands of emails from Lois Lerner, the agency official at the center of that controversy, according to committees involved in the probe.The Treasury inspector general for tax administration (TIGTA) said it found roughly 6,400 emails either to or from Lerner sent between 2004 and 2013 that it didn’t think the IRS had turned over to lawmakers, the panels said. The committees have yet to examine the emails, according to Capitol Hill aides.
By Brent Kendall And Jess BravinWASHINGTON—A divided Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that states can prohibit judicial candidates from soliciting campaign donations, rejecting arguments such bans violate the free-speech protections guaranteed by the First Amendment.Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the court’s majority in a 5-4 opinion, said judges aren’t politicians, even when they join the bench by way of an election.“A state’s decision to elect its judiciary does not compel it to treat judicial candidates like campaigners for political office,” the chief justice wrote. “A state may assure its people that judges will apply the law without fear or favor—and without having personally asked anyone for money.”
By Jacob GershmanJustice Scalia, dissenting:The first axiom of the First Amendment is this: As a general rule, the state has no power to ban speech on the basis of its content. One need not equate judges with politicians to see that this principle does not grow weaker merely because the censored speech is a judicial candidate’s request for a campaign contribution…Neither the Court nor the State identifies the slightest evidence that banning requests for contributions will substantially improve public trust in judges. Nor does common sense make this happy forecast obvious….The peaceful coexistence of judicial elections and personal solicitations for most of our history calls into doubt any claim that allowing personal solicitations would imperil public faith in judges…A Court that sees impropriety in a candidate’s request for any contributions to his election campaign does not much like judicial selection by the people. One cannot have judicial elections without judicial campaigns, and judicial campaigns without funds for campaigning, and funds for campaigning without asking for them. When a society decides that its judges should be elected, it necessarily decides that selection by the people is more important than the oracular sanctity of judges, their immunity from the (shudder!) indignity of begging for funds, and their exemption from those shadows of impropriety that fall over the proletarian public officials who must run for office.
By Bob BauerThe Court’s campaign finance jurisprudence has come under just criticism for its incoherence, and today’s decision on judicial campaign finance does not mark a step toward improvement. There is much to be said about the case, but a good starting point is the question of whether Chief Justice Roberts is right to say—in fact, to assert flatly—that “judges are not politicians.” Williams-Yulee v. Florida Bar, No. 13-499, slip op. at 1 (2015).The Chief Justice is joined in this view, quite emphatically, by Justice Ginsburg, who argues, as she has before, that judges do not participate in representative democratic processes—and so are not properly seen to be politicians. Over a decade ago, in Republican Party of Minnesota v. White, Justice Scalia, then writing for the Court, had countered that the distinction drawn between judicial and other elections had been exaggerated: “the complete separation of the judiciary from the enterprise of “representative government”…is not a true picture of the American system.” 536 U.S. 765, 784. In the case today, the Court doubles down on the contrary proposition.
By Derek WillisScott Walker enters the Republican presidential race with far stronger ties to the party’s biggest fund-raisers than any other candidate besides Jeb Bush.Roughly half of the nation’s top 250 Republican donors have given money to Mr. Walker in his campaigns for Wisconsin governor, according to an Upshot analysis of Federal Election Commission records and state records. By comparison, 30 percent have given to Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, 20 percent to Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and 10 percent to Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey.A presidential campaign is a chance for candidates to introduce themselves to top fund-raisers, and it’s possible that another candidate will become the favorite of donors. But the data underscores the reason that Mr. Walker appears at this early stage to be in the strongest position of any candidate other than Mr. Bush.
By Matea Gold and Anne GearanWith her debut on the 2016 fundraising circuit this week, Hillary Rodham Clinton is seeking to send a clear message: The biggest donors don’t come first.A ticket to one of Clinton’s events in Washington, San Francisco or Beverly Hills is $2,700 — a striking contrast with the $100,000-a-head affairs that former Florida governor Jeb Bush has been headlining.The approach is in keeping with the Clinton campaign’s low-to-the-ground approach, allowing Clinton to separate her fundraising from the wooing of mega-donors preoccupying much of the GOP presidential field.
By Kenneth P. VogelThe uncertainty comes at the beginning of what was supposed to have been a four-month victory lap of sorts — starting with Bill and Chelsea Clinton’s trip to Africa with major donors this week. Next week’s splashy Clinton Global Initiative conference in Marrakesh was originally supposed to have been followed by a lavish reception and conference in Athens in June, and finally a September extravaganza in Manhattan featuring an appearance by Elton John.Instead, it’s turned into heartburn for Hillary Clinton’s campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination and for the foundation, which has been under increasing pressure to distance itself from its more controversial partners.It scrapped early internal conversations about borrowing a private plane owned by Canadian billionaire donor Frank Giustra — whose business ties to Russia have brought recent scrutiny — to fly the delegation to Africa, according to sources with knowledge of the foundation’s planning (the foundation would not say who owns the plane that was ultimately used, which suffered engine problems Wednesday and was forced to make an unscheduled landing).
ALBANY, N.Y. — The New York Assembly Election Law Committee has approved legislation to close the campaign finance loophole for limited liability companies.Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh’s bill would treat LLCs like corporations subject to the same $2,500 candidate contribution limit as partnerships, after which donations would be attributed to individual partners or LLC members.Currently LLCs are treated like individuals, who can give up to $60,800 to a statewide candidate.