Daily Media Links 7/26: Here’s What You Won’t Hear About Citizens United at the Democratic National Convention This Week, IRS Gives Opposite Rulings to Convention Committees, and more…

Citizens United

Reason: Here’s What You Won’t Hear About Citizens United at the Democratic National Convention This Week

Damon Root

Needless to say, you won’t hear much at the DNC this week about how the federal government once tried to claim the power to ban books in its losing Citizens United argument. Nor will you hear much about the fact that the ACLU−nobody’s idea of a conservative outfit−actively sided with Citizens United and filed a brief that opposed the government’s censorious position (Floyd Abrams, the legendary First Amendment lawyer who previously battled the Nixon administration in the 1971 Pentagon Papers case, likewise came down on the side of Citizens United).

So ignore Hillary Clinton and ignore the DNC. Citizens United was about free speech prevailing over government censorship. The Supreme Court got it right.

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U.S. News and World Report: Constitution v. Citizens United

Jeff Clements

The 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission is the most well-known of a series of 5-4 Supreme Court decisions that invalidated limits on political spending and declared that spending money to influence elections and policy is a constitutional “free speech” right that may not be limited. Since Citizens United, more than $30 billion has been spent in elections, most of it from a relatively handful of wealthy people, global corporations and some large unions. Beyond election spending, corporations now are using Citizens United to challenge the validity of financial regulation, environmental and energy laws, health care laws, cuts in taxpayer corporate subsidies and more.

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Independent Groups

Fox News: Clinton Foundation questions hang over Dem convention start, pols seek probe

Fred Lucas

A group of 64 House Republicans, in a letter, has asked the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Trade Commission to examine the dealings of the foundation, alleging “criminal conduct” and describing it as a “pay to play” enterprise.

“I don’t know if it would be a super PAC or a for-profit entity,” Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., who circulated the letter, told FoxNews.com. “There sure is a lot of money going through there and it seems the contributions would touch on Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation. It is a hub of some kind of activity and let’s leave it to the IRS, the FBI and the FTC to discern exactly what that is.”

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USA Today: Super PAC works to stop anti-Clinton smears almost before they start

Michael Collins

Virtually around the clock, the group’s researchers, communications experts and digital gurus monitor live news feeds from the major television networks, cable channels and even local television markets. They search newspapers and watch social media sites for disparaging or misleading remarks about Clinton or her record.

Whenever they spot what they believe is a distortion or outright lie, they fight back – with point-by-point fact-checks quickly disseminated to the news media, with slick videos that often use the offenders’ own words against them, and with a cascade of social media posts on sites like Twitter and Facebook.

“People in our war room are brilliant – they are some of the brightest minds in Washington,” Wright said earlier this week from the cubbyhole of an office where he oversees the group’s operations.

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Haaretz: U.S. Jewish Democrats Launch Super PAC to Battle Republican Jewish Coalition

Jacob Kornbluh

In remarks to Pennsylvania Democrats at a Monday morning delegation breakfast in Philadelphia, Marc Stanley, the immediate past chair of the National Jewish Democratic Council, announced the formation of a super PAC named ‘Jews for Progress’ aimed to fight back against the RJC’s campaign.

“Sheldon Adelson and the Republican Jewish Coalition, and their allies, have pledged to spend $25 million to fight a war in eight swing states,” said Stanley. “You are going to see horrible signs like, ‘We can’t trust Hillary; she sold out American and Israel.’ It’s the only thing they can talk about. So Jews, we’ve got a super PAC called ‘Jews for Progress.’ We are going to fight that $25 million.”

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Convention

Wall Street Journal: Philadelphia Feels the Bern

James Taranto

Who says protesting is futile? One of the first signs we saw when we wandered into the pro-Bernie Sanders rally Sunday afternoon read FIRE DEBBIE. Hours later, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, whose full name is too unwieldy to fit on a sign, had indeed been ousted after more than five years as chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

We know, post hoc ergo propter hoc. But in a year that defies political logic, why not let our hair down and enjoy a good old-fashioned fallacy?

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The Nation: Welcome to the 2016 DNC, Sponsored by Special Interests

George Zornick

This has been a long time coming. In 1996, the Federal Election Commission allowed “host committees” to pay for some convention-related costs, which quickly became a conduit for corporate cash. But the government still gave each convention $20 million in taxpayer funding, making it somewhat less necessary for parties to rely on wealthy patrons.

As soon as Congress scrapped the public funding for conventions in 2014, both the Democratic and Republican parties asked the FEC to dramatically increase the contribution limits for people who wanted to help fund conventions. The FEC granted their request, and instead of an annual limit of $33,000, individuals can now give up to $133,600 each year to fund the conventions.

Moreover, the DNC did not renew its self-imposed ban from 2012 on corporate and lobbyist cash for the convention-host committee.

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Pillar of Law Institute: Convention Delegates Win Settlement in Free Speech Lawsuit Against Federal Election Commission

“Our win ensures that convention delegates will have access to similar sources of funding as party operatives. It also allows non-profits to donate free legal services and educational materials to delegates,” said Benjamin Barr, lead counsel in the case. “Our settlement goes further than that, recognizing that corporate non-profits may provide delegates with travel stipends and other financial assistance, breaking new ground in federal campaign finance law.”

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IRS

Bloomberg BNA: IRS Gives Opposite Rulings to Convention Committees

Kenneth P. Doyle

When Cleveland’s host committee for the just-completed Republican National Convention applied for charitable tax-exempt status nearly two years ago, approval by the IRS came in just 12 days, according to a spokeswoman for the host committee.

“We dotted our i’s and crossed our t’s,” the spokeswoman, Emily Lauer, told Bloomberg BNA in a phone interview. She explained that lawyers for the host committee studied previous convention host committee applications for exempt status under tax code Section 501(c)(3), all of which had been approved by the IRS, and used them as a road map.

Philadelphia’s host committee for the Democratic National Convention set to begin July 25 wasn’t so lucky. While neither the committee nor the IRS will discuss details, it is clear that approval of the Philadelphia committee’s request for the same charitable tax-exempt status didn’t come quickly and ultimately was denied.

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FEC

Pillar of Law Institute: Campaign Legal Center Files Possibly the Dumbest Campaign Finance Complaint Ever

Stephen Klein

Did anyone in the press ask, “Is this a joke?” No. In fact, this issue has garnered a good deal of coverage, despite being baseless. Brendan Fischer of Campaign Legal suggests an e-mail list—undoubtedly millions upon millions of addresses—can be culled with “minimal diligence.” “Diligence” to filter these out for something so inconsequential adds unnecessary costs that simply are not worth it, even for presidential campaigns. To be sure, the reform community works diligently to get money out of politics by forcing as much campaign money to go to lawyers and accountants as possible, but this is ridiculous even by that standard.

Perhaps most silly is that Campaign Legal considers a generalized e-mail to fall within the realistic scope of a “solicitation” worthy of investigation and enforcement. What’s next, social media ads reaching the wrong IP addresses? What about all the foreign nationals undoubtedly receiving e-mails at innocuous “.com” domains? If Trump staff were making repeated phone calls to foreign nationals there would be fire; here, there’s not even smoke.

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The Media

Washington Post: Leave Politico’s Ken Vogel alone

Erik Wemple

The WikiLeaks batch of emails fetched from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) show that Chief Investigative Reporter Ken Vogel in late April forwarded a full draft of a pending story to Mark Paustenbach, the DNC’s national press secretary and deputy communications director. In an email to a colleague, Paustenbach wrote, “Vogel gave me his story ahead of time/before it goes to his editors as long as I didn’t share it. Let me know if you see anything that’s missing and I’ll push back.” Included in the email was a long story that Vogel had written about the apparently unfulfilled promised of Hillary Clinton to rebuild the Democrats’ critical state party organs.

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Lobbying

Washington Free Beacon: Ted Strickland Accepts Nearly $120K in Bundled Lobbyist Contributions

Morgan Chalfant

Ted Strickland, a Democratic candidate for Senate in Ohio, accepted over $118,000 in bundled lobbyist contributions this year while his campaign blasted his competitor for relying on “wealthy special interests.”

Strickland for Senate received the bundled lobbyist contributions, disclosed in a recent Federal Election Commission filing, from three special interest groups based in Washington, D.C., during the first six months of 2016. In the same period, the Strickland campaign cast incumbent Sen. Rob Portman (R.) as a “Washington insider” who is out of touch with Ohio voters due to ties to lobbyists and special interests.

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Influence

Daily Caller: Report: Green Billionaire Used Money To Purchase Dem Party Energy Platform

Chris White

Steyer is also acting in cahoots with the Democratic Governors Association to cobble together governors to join the fight to hold “climate denier” groups “accountable” through criminal prosecutions under Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) statutes, the E&E Legal’s report notes.

The group added: “By combining this initiative with his massive federal campaign donations, Steyer is simultaneously advancing his climate change agenda at both the state and federal levels in an attempt to silence those who argue that investing in solar power is a bad idea.”

Ethics groups have criticized the effort to investigate so-called climate deniers and oil producers on RICO statutes, claiming such inquisitions are tantamount to an attack on the First Amendment.

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Candidates and Campaigns

Bloomberg: Kaine’s $160,000 in Gifts Was Legal, Unfortunately

Noah Feldman

Not all gifts to politicians are illegal. But it can be difficult to draw the line between what the Supreme Court has called “access and ingratiation,” which is protected by the First Amendment, and quid-pro-quo corruption, which isn’t.

The $160,000 in gifts accepted by Democratic vice-presidential nominee Tim Kaine when he was Virginia governor were completely legal. All the same, they shed a distinct light on the Supreme Court’s decision last month to absolve his successor, Bob McDonnell, of corruption charges. Comparing Kaine’s gifts to McDonnell’s suggest that there was an ethical difference — and also that the court may have been right to find that the difference would be hard to measure legally.

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The States

Bozeman Daily Chronicle: Gianforte sends cease and desist against TV stations

Troy Carter

An attorney for Greg Gianforte sent the letter to TV stations earlier this month, asking them to stop showing the Good Jobs Montana PAC’s “Hooked” ad.

Gianforte takes issue with the ad’s claim that he is “a millionaire from New Jersey” and that he “sued to eliminate a popular access spot” near his home.

The letter argued that Gianforte, 55, has lived in Montana for the last 21 years and raised his family here. He lived, but was not born, in New Jersey for 16 years.

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