Daily Media Links 10/28: The Long Path to Reversing Citizens United, Hillary Clinton’s Super PAC Has Raised More Money Than Any Super PAC Ever, and more…

In the News

Washington Examiner: Shield your free speech

By Luke Wachob

The Founding Fathers knew a thing or two about freedom of speech. One, free speech is essential to a flourishing democracy. Two, it can only serve that vital role when speakers are free from retaliation…

With the internet, it’s easier than ever to access and weaponize information about someone’s views on controversial issues. Opinions in the mainstream today may seem radical decades later, but public records of your contributions will live online forever. In a country where civic engagement is on the decline – 2014 saw the lowest voter turnout in 70 years – the threat of an internet mob attacking you, your family, or your business is one more reason to stay silent.

Fortunately, we can roll back this culture of intimidation by taking a page from the Founding Fathers and the civil rights movement. They recognized that if supporters of causes could be bullied into silence, speech could not play its crucial role of challenging the establishment and driving social progress. Let’s vow not only to protect the First Amendment, but also to protect the privacy that keeps speech free. 

Missourinet: Missouri voters to decide whether campaign contributions will be limited

By Jason Taylor

Amendment 2 would limit donations to statewide, legislative, and judicial offices to $2,600 per election and would cap contributions to political parties at $25,000.

Ryan Johnson with Missouri Alliance for Freedom contends the current arrangement, which allows for unlimited donations, is a central pillar of free speech…

Johnson with Missouri Alliance for Freedom contends large contributions don’t lead to outsize influence of those donors. He notes St. Louis billionaire Rex Sinquefield has made such donations this year with little to show for it. “He spent somewhere in the neighborhood of $11 million this election cycle.  And most of those results did not turn out the way he desired.” Johnson also points to a study by the Center for Competitive Politics which showed no relationship between contribution limits and states’ corruption rates. The Center for Competitive Politics claims its mission is “to promote and defend First Amendment rights to free political speech, assembly, and petition.”

CCP

Brennan Center Outlines Strategy for More Supreme Court Rulings Upholding Speech Regulations

By Joe Albanese

The Brennan Center for Justice recently released a report entitled “Developing Empirical Evidence for Campaign Finance Cases.” Written by Brent Ferguson and Chisun Lee – a Counsel and Senior Counsel, respectively, at Brennan – their paper serves three basic functions. It is part examination of the current landscape surrounding campaign finance jurisprudence, part survey of previous studies on the effects of campaign finance laws and how the Court used that evidence in its past rulings, and part call to arms for pro-regulation activists hoping to have an impact on future campaign finance battles in the courts…

The Brennan Center’s report provides an interesting look at the mindset and strategy of those who would constrain free speech. The best way to ensure continued First Amendment protections is to adopt the paper’s advice and insights by conducting research that exposes the negative consequences of regulation and points out the shortcomings of supportive research. CCP will certainly continue to do its part by continuing to conduct and disseminate research on a variety of political speech topics.

Dangers of Disclosure

Washington Post: A school board member’s support for Trump stirs a free speech debate

By Moriah Balingit

Sue Langley, chair of the Fairfax County Democratic Committee, recently called for Schultz to resign from the board after she posted tweets related to Trump that Langley found threatening and offensive…

Schultz said she was “stunned” by the demand for her resignation and views the incident as emblematic of a divisive political climate that she sees as growing intolerant – even hostile – to opposing views. Schultz said the fact that the head of the local Democratic Party called for her resignation because of tweets “sent a chill down my spine.”

“You see people attempting to suppress the rights of other people to speak,” Schultz said.
While the school board is officially nonpartisan, school board members can receive endorsements from political parties and board policy does not prohibit members from personally addressing political issues. 

Supreme Court

Politico: Cruz: GOP may block Supreme Court nominees indefinitely

By Burgess Everett

 After staking his endorsement of Donald Trump on a list of potential conservative Supreme Court nominees, Cruz said on Wednesday that there is precedent to limiting the Supreme Court to just eight justices. Last week, Cruz’s colleague, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), suggested the GOP should confirm President Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, to avoid having to swallow a more liberal nominee under Hillary Clinton…

Republicans have blocked from even holding hearings on the Garland nomination for more than seven months, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said the Senate will not confirm Garland in the post-election lame duck. In his last availablity on Capitol Hill before the election, McConnell refused to entertain the possibility that the Senate may be forced to entertain a more liberal judge next year, though there may be enough centrist Republicans and those deferential to presidential prerogative to confirm a justice like Garland. 

Bloomberg BNA: Uphill Climb for Trump, Clinton to Overturn SCOTUS

By Kimberly Strawbridge Robinson

Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump vowed during the final presidential debate Oct. 19 to appoint U.S. Supreme Court justices that would overturn polarizing cases.

Trump said that if he appointed the next justice, the high court would “automatically” overturn its abortion jurisprudence like Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973). Clinton said she’d appoint justices that would overturn the court’s campaign finance decision, Citizens United v. FEC,558 U.S. 310 (2010).

But neither scenario is likely, court watchers told Bloomberg BNA. The Supreme Court infrequently overrules its own precedent, Ilya Shapiro, editor-in-chief of the libertarian-leaning “Cato Supreme Court Review,” Washington, told Bloomberg BNA.  

Citizens United

Moyers & Company: The Long Path to Reversing Citizens United

By John Light

Reform advocates have already begun to tee up challenges that could give a Supreme Court with a new majority an opportunity to rethink rulings like Citizens United and a lower-court ruling, SpeechNow v. FEC, which created super PACs. The battle is being waged on two fronts.

The first involves a frontal assault on some of the most prominent super PACs in this year’s election. Advocacy groups have sued the Federal Elections Commission for failure to enforce election law.

Lawyers behind the effort, including former advisers to Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, argue that super PACs should not be legal, and that the lower court that effectively greenlit them with the SpeechNow ruling made a mistake. Ultimately that case could wend its way to the Supreme Court.

The second front is opening at the grass roots. The idea is that a city or state can create a law cracking down on some of the big-money election tactics that have become commonplace, expecting that that law will then be challenged.

The Hill: Local leaders turning the heat up on Citizens United

By Scott Greytak

Today, the City Council of St. Petersburg, Florida, is considering a first-of-its-kind ordinance to protect their local elections from “super PACs” – post-Citizens United political committees that have become corrupting conduits for big-money interests – and from high-spending corporations that are owned or controlled in significant part by foreign nationals…

Reformers working toward a better democracy hope that a new Congress may make the issue a top priority. But we need not wait for Congress to act. Our local governments are all potential laboratories of democracy, and leaders who care about creating a more equitable, representative, and fair system of elections can take up the fight right now, and push back against the growing power of big money in our local elections.  

Candidates and Campaigns

NBC News: Donald Trump’s Presidential Campaign Has a Cash Flow Problem

By Leigh Ann Caldwell

In the final weeks of the election, Donald Trump’s presidential campaign is facing a potentially crippling financial scenario.

The Republican presidential candidate has just $16 million on hand and is $2 million in debt, according to filings to the Federal Election Commissionthrough October 19. The outlook, which will be the last FEC filings before Election Day, looks a bit better for Trump when the totality of his two other fundraising committees are included, giving him $67 million for the final days.

His challenger, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, is in a much better position, however. Her campaign and two fundraising committees have more than twice what Trump has with $153.5 million in the bank. Clinton has just $111,000 in debt.

Huffington Post: Hillary Clinton’s Super PAC Has Raised More Money Than Any Super PAC Ever

By Paul Blumenthal

The pro-Clinton group raised a total of $176 million from January 2015 through Oct. 19. Its most recent report, filed with the Federal Election Commission on Thursday, shows the group raised $18 million in the first 19 days of October. This is the super PAC’s last disclosure before the next month’s election, but it’s not the final total for the campaign.

The record figure for Priorities USA Action continues the trend of escalating super PAC fundraising. But it’s the first time a group supporting a Democrat has claimed the title. Priorities USA Action’s haul tops 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s super PAC, Restore Our Future, which raised $154 million for the campaign that he lost to President Barack Obama. The third-largest sum raised by a super PAC in one election cycle was the $117 million collected by American Crossroads in 2012.

CPI: The surprising way that governor candidates namedrop Trump, Clinton and Obama in TV ads 

By Kytja Weir

Several Democratic gubernatorial candidates are running ads against their party’s leader, President Barack Obama, and their nominee, Hillary Clinton – even as she appears headed for a landslide victory.

In fact, more than 97 percent of the gubernatorial TV ads mentioning the presidency are either anti-Obama, anti-Clinton or against them both, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of Kantar Media/CMAG data from January 2015 through Oct. 24 of this year. Of course, that also includes plenty of ads from Republicans and conservative political groups who are slamming Obama and Clinton…

By comparison, Trump is a ghost. Very few of the ads from either party go so far as to mention the Republican, either with praise or damnation.

The States

Wall Street Journal: Speech Regulators on Retainer

By Editorial Board

If you think policing for profit is a bad idea in ordinary law enforcement, imagine what it can do to free speech. That’s the experiment headed for the ballot in Washington, where an initiative would put the state’s speech police on a commission, allowing campaign regulators to keep a percentage of fines they collect.

Under ballot measure 1464, the Washington state Public Disclosure Commission would be eligible to receive half of the civil penalties it assesses for state campaign-finance violations. The agency would also get a 50% cut of awards from cases it refers to the state attorney general. Putting any enforcement agency on a commission is dangerous, but especially one that regulates political speech. This would give regulators a financial stake in going after as many potential petty violations as possible in hopes the percentages will pay off in the department’s budget.

Vox: Washington and South Dakota could become the first states to enact campaign finance vouchers 

By Lee Drutman

The state-level campaign finance reform with the strongest chance of success in 2016 is probably in Missouri. In the Show-Me State, 64 percent of voters say they support Amendment 2, which would reinstate limits on campaign contributions, reversing a 2008 law that abolished those limits…

In contrast to pushes for constitutional amendments, resources are much better spent in places like Washington and South Dakota, where reform is actually possible.

Whether or not these initiatives pass, state-level and city-level experimentation remains the best way forward on campaign finance reform. The more states experiment, the more we will know about what works. And the more states have citizen-funded elections, the more politicians will be comfortable with these systems, and the stronger the case will be to change the law nationwide.