Daily Media Links 12/21: Senate sends $1.8 trillion deal to Obama, New Anti-Trump Super PAC Launches — to Flog Trump on Putin Nod, and more…

In the News

Politico: White House surrenders on ‘dark money’ regulation

Katy O’Donnell

“From the Obama administration’s point of view, nothing was going to happen this election cycle … it was going to happen after he was done anyway,” said David Keating, president of the Center for Competitive Politics, which supports the rider. “And going into an election year the last thing they needed to do probably was raise the whole topic of the IRS scandal again.”

Congress didn’t stop there.

Keating pointed to a handful of other riders and tax provisions in the year-end tax-and-spending deal — including a provision barring the Securities and Exchange Commission from requiring corporations to disclose campaign spending to shareholders, and a ban on applying the gift tax to nonprofit donors.

“I’m pleasantly surprised, I wasn’t expecting so many of them to make it into the bill,” Keating said.

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Chippewa Herald: Wisconsin loosens campaign finance rules for ‘dark money’

Associated Press

David Keating, the president of the Center for Competitive Politics in Alexandria, Virginia, hopes Wisconsin’s rules set a more widespread precedent. He said campaign finance restrictions can amount to constraints on free speech.

“We’re going to tell people to look at what Wisconsin did,” Keating said. “It’s actually quite good.”

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Congress

The Hill: Senate sends $1.8 trillion deal to Obama

Alexandra Bolton

The 65-33 vote effectively wraps up the congressional session for the year, with the House and Senate adjourning for the holiday recess.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) hailed the vote as a major accomplishment fulfilling his 2014 campaign pledge to get the Senate back on track if voters gave Republicans control.

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Independent Groups

Wall Street Journal: New Anti-Trump Super PAC Launches — to Flog Trump on Putin Nod

Beth Reinhard

In a twist on the typically shadowy world of super PACS, a new anti-Donald Trump group is openly seeking donations for an ad that would flog the New York businessman for drawing and accepting praise from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Make America Awesome is also offering to pay commissions to people who bring in big donors. The size of the commissions is not disclosed in the appeal circulated early Friday by Republican operative Liz Mair, and she did not immediately respond to a request for details.

“If there was ever an event that justified bringing out the big guns against Trump, not merely for the sake of the GOP and conservatism, but for America’s sake, this would be it,” she says in the fundraising appeal.

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First Amendment

Concurring Opinions: Confronting Trump — An American Debate Censorship Cannot Stop

Floyd Abrams and Ronald KL Collins

The European way of dealing with such speech has its defenders. Offensive speech can be harmful, sometimes dangerously so. Europe has its own history which may lead it to a different calibration of what speech may be permitted and what not. The American alternative chooses debate over suppression, the risks of speech over those of governmental overreach.

The result is that Mr. Trump is free to vent as he chooses and the public is free to respond as stridently as it chooses. Rachel Maddow’s characterization of Mr. Trump on MSNBC as a fascist was one response; Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell’s dismissal of Mr. Trump’s views as “completely and totally inconsistent with American values” was another.

That is our First Amendment way.

As a result, Mr. Trump is free to speak as he likes and then to defend his views in the marketplace of ideas. It now rests with the public to pass judgment on the man and his ideas.

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FEC

Cal Buzz: Chair Ann Ravel Explains Why the FEC is Broken

Ann Ravel

My year as Chair has taught me even more clearly just how dysfunctional the Commission is, and how our dysfunction is harming the democratic process in this country.

It is the FEC’s responsibility to ensure the integrity and fairness of elections by issuing regulations to clarify campaign finance laws, by providing advice about how to comply with those laws, and by enforcing the laws when they are violated.  To maintain public trust in our representative democracy, the Commission must perform these vital functions.

But the Commission, which consists of 6 members, no more than 3 of which may be affiliated with one political party, has been unable to do any of these things when it comes to the significant election spending issues facing this country today.

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Washington Post: Why the FEC says that a random woman raised more money than Bill Clinton in 1996

Philip Bump

According to FEC data, Elvena Lloyd-Duffie raised $50.1 million for her presidential bid in 1996, taking on the incumbent president, Bill Clinton, in the Democratic primary. That’s $15 million more than Clinton himself raised to spend in the primary and general elections — and if you convert the amount into 2014 dollars, it’s the equivalent of raising $75.6 million during the most recent cycle. In 2014 dollars, Elvena Lloyd-Duffie raised the ninth-most from individual donors of any candidate in the past 20 years.

And you’ve never heard of her.

There’s a good reason for that. Elvena Lloyd-Duffie was not a real candidate. She’s a real person, mind you, though she is apparently no longer actually a Democrat. She never held elected office and ended up getting less than 1 percent of the vote.

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Media

Boston Globe: New Hampshire station poised to rake in record haul in ads

Sarah Schweitzer

As the only network affiliate based in the state, WMUR is leveraging its deep market penetration to lure advertising dollars — an anticipated nearly $40 million this cycle, according to one projection — from campaigns vying in the first-in-the-nation presidential primary.

The proliferation of super PACs and the large number of 2016 candidates has helped the station’s bottom line. In an era when broadcast television has had to scramble to keep up with competition from cable outlets and digital media, WMUR has had the ballast of campaign spending.

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Wisconsin ‘John Doe’

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Chisholm, two other DAs seek to move John Doe to U.S. Supreme Court

Mary Spicuzza and Jason Stein

“Wasting more money on a frivolous appeal that has no chance of being granted is simply irresponsible. What he should do, at this point, is apologize to Milwaukee taxpayers and to the victims of this political witch-hunt,” Andrew Grossman said.

There are five district attorneys involved in the John Doe, two Republicans and three Democrats. The two GOP district attorneys recently walked away from an attempt to revive the probe.

In a letter and court filing last week, Dodge County District Attorney Kurt Klomberg wrote he would not seek to intervene in litigation over the probe as a way to get the matter before the U.S. Supreme Court. Columbia County District Attorney Jane Kohlwey sent a nearly identical letter on Monday.

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Wisconsin Watchdog: Chisholm quietly returns illegal campaign contribution

M.D. Kittle

On Dec. 10, a day after Wisconsin Watchdog first reported Citizens for Chisholm accepted a donation in excess of the limit during the same election cycle, the campaign filed an updated disclosure report with the state Government Accountability Board. The check is no longer listed on that report.

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Candidates and Campaigns

Washington Post: Amid DNC dust-up, Sanders raises $1 million in a single day, campaign associate says

John Wagner

But Friday afternoon, the Sanders campaign went on offense against the DNC, claiming that it had vastly overreacted by shutting off the campaign’s access to the voter file — including information that Sanders’s team had amassed itself.

Sanders’s campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, held a defiant news conference in Washington, where he claimed the DNC was actively undermining Sanders’s campaign, and then Sanders filed a federal lawsuit. (It was resolved — at least for the time being — early Saturday morning.)

Sanders’s supporters responded to the dispute by opening their wallets. By the end of the day Friday, the campaign had collected more than $1 million, the vast majority of it over the Internet, according to the person close to the campaign, who requested anonymity to more freely discuss a number that Sanders has not announced.

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Huffington Post: It’s the Strategy, Stupid! The Secret of Trump’s Success

Bob Burnett

So far, Trump has brilliantly met these challenges. He’s used his media skills to dominate the mainstream media. While his competitors had to spend money to run advertising, Trump has mainly avoided this by regularly spiking the attention of the media with a series of explosive statements such as: John McCain is “not a war hero;” Mexico is “pushing their worst elements into the US;” and calling for a “complete shutdown of Muslims coming to the United States.” His plan has worked: Rachel Maddow recently reported that, as of December 1, Jeb Bush had spend $28.9 million on TV ads and Donald Trump had spent $220 thousand.

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CBS News: Fact Check: How much is Wall Street donating to Hillary Clinton’s campaign?

Reena Flores

And as for whether or not more teachers and students donate to the campaign, OpenSecrets.org lists donors in the “education” industry as giving only about $1.96 million. It ranks fifth of the top industries that donate to Clinton’s campaign. The “securities & investment” industry ranks one slot higher: it’s the fourth industry that gives most.

After the debate, the campaign told CBS News that by their accounting, all donations that come from teachers and students (including university professors, tutors, retired teachers, even yoga instructors) actually add up to just over $3 million. According to campaign spokesperson Josh Schwerin, OpenSecret’s accounting does not include the campaign’s fuller list of small-dollar donations.

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Associated Press: Trump’s mix of business, politics makes for unorthodox bid

Julie Bykowicz and Jill Colvin

The political novice’s use of corporate resources — his own and others — is just one more campaign tool. But it has drawn the attention of federal regulators, as well as campaign-law experts who say some of what he’s doing could be illegal.

“The entanglements with his business and his campaign are certainly unusual, and maybe unprecedented,” said Kenneth Gross, a lawyer who previously led the Federal Election Commission’s enforcement division. “Use of a candidate’s own corporate resources is highly, highly regulated activity.”

At the FEC’s demand, Trump’s campaign on Thursday provided regulators with the names of employees at his real estate and entertainment company who are doing work for his campaign

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The States

Great Falls Tribune: Motl: Montana Growth Network violated campaign laws

Phil Drake

On Friday, Commissioner Jonathan Motl posted his findings on a complaint filed in January and March 2013 by Great Falls resident Dyrck Van Hyning; Sen. Bradley Hamlett, D-Cascade; and Sen. Robyn Driscoll, D-Billings, against the conservative Montana Growth Network, claiming that expenditures made by the group in the 2012 elections were not reported, attributed and disclosed in a timely manner.

MGN said it did file timely and properly report expenditures. It also said much of its campaign-related activity was issue focused and did not have to be reported under state campaign practice law.

Motl disagreed.

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The Oregonian: Advocates to file measure on donation limits

Dennis C. Theriault

Representatives from three Oregon political parties are looking to place a measure on the November 2016 ballot that would amend the state’s constitution to allow campaign contribution limits.

Titled “Get Big Money Out of Politics in Oregon,” the measure would add clauses to the state’s constitution making clear that Oregon’s strict free speech rules would be trumped by federal free-speech protections that clearly allow limits on political donations. The measure could be filed with Oregon Secretary of State’s Office as soon as tonight.

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