Daily Media Links 12/20: Trump advisers spar over new political arm, In defense of lobbying, and more…

In the News  

Daily Caller: A Federal Election Commissioner’s Stages Of Grief

By Paul H. Jossey

While Weintraub accuses McGahn of refusing to accept the law, her actions show a disdain for Citizens United unbefitting her role. She penned an op-ed titled “Taking on Citizens United” where she seeks to “blunt its impact” with proposals that are almost certainly unconstitutional. She has absurdly misrepresented it as stating, “corporations are people” to sow public confusion. And she has used its guise to hold political-advocacy conferences at the FEC – making disturbing xenophobic overtures based on unproven charges that aliens might be influencing U.S. elections…

Beyond disdain for Supreme Court rulings, Weintraub is loath to follow the FEC’s own regulations. For example, along with fellow Democrat Ann Ravel, Weintraub has repeatedly refused to apply the FEC’s decade old regulations exempting much internet activity from regulation. The regulation is valid. Weintraub simply no longer likes it…

Another FEC doctrine Weintraub often ignores is the media exemption. Over the past few years, she and the other Democrats have refused to apply the exemption to network debate rules, a documentary filmmaker, or a book publisher. 

CCP  

Were efforts to sway Electoral College illegal under FECA? Could be.

By Brad Smith

The first, instant take among most campaign finance lawyers I’ve talked to seems to be “no,” because the vote of the Electoral College is not an election within the meaning of the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA). That was my instant take, too. But on a bit of further reflection, it’s not at all clear that that is the case. Indeed, these efforts to influence the electors may indeed be subject to the Act, and thus have resulted in several potential violations…  

Campaign finance laws have become so complex, it is almost impossible to explain even the basics in an hour-long lecture. And one threat of this complexity is that clever political types can almost always look at the law and discover new and unprecedented ways to harass their political opponents…

It also points out the obvious: What is wrong with people producing a video urging electors to vote in a particular way? Why should that be restricted by law? That the video is likely to be ineffective and mainly good for pro-Trump laughs, is beside the point. Why should people have to worry about the state when expressing their political views?

Free Speech 

Greenville News: Trey Gowdy and veterans group defend free speech

By Paul Hyde

U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy joined with a national veterans group Monday night to sound the alarm on threats to free speech in America.

Gowdy and Concerned Veterans for America were critical about what they see as retaliatory actions against whistleblowers within federal governmental agencies such as the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Internal Revenue Service.

“I don’t like bullies,” Gowdy said, speaking to an audience of a few hundred at the Old Cigar Warehouse. “Government against whistleblowers is an unequal fight.”

Gowdy, a Republican who represents parts of Greenville and Spartanburg counties, blasted the IRS for the controversy in which conservative groups saw their tax-exempt status targeted for intensive scrutiny.

“Free speech is the ability to speak truth to power without consequences,” Gowdy said.

The event, titled “Defend the First,” was hosted by Concerned Veterans for America.

Independent Groups

Politico: Trump advisers spar over new political arm

By Shane Goldmacher

The pro-Trump group is being modeled after the nonprofit created by President Barack Obama’s first campaign manager, David Plouffe, following his 2008 victory. Adding to the intrigue is the fact that, unlike the RNC, this pro-Trump group would not be tethered to Republican partisan politics, meaning it could conceivably target recalcitrant GOP lawmakers who get in Trump’s way.

That has some Republicans nervous, all the more so after Kushner told a group of New York business leaders that Trump is actually more closely aligned on infrastructure issues with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) than with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

And that came after Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, put a $1 trillion price tag on the president-elect’s infrastructure plan in mid-November, telling The Hollywood Reporter, “The conservatives are going to go crazy.”

For now, the Trump team is figuring out the legal limits of the new group, including how much its leaders, if engaged more directly in politics, could continue to communicate with the West Wing and the president-elect. 

Lobbying

Agri-Pulse Communications: In defense of lobbying

By Marshall Matz

President-Elect Donald Trump and President Barack Obama sure agree on one federal policy: Lobbyists Need Not Apply. That is unfortunate. While it may provide a good one-day sound bite, the policy eliminates a host of well qualified people from public service at a time when talented thinkers are desperately needed…

Lobbyists represent large numbers of people who are joined together by a trade association, public interest group or a single corporation enabling them to participate in the political process by representing their views. There are now more than 300 million Americans. It is not realistic for all of them to charge up Capitol Hill to Congress or meet with the various Departments of government. They need representation and that is what lobbyists do…they represent constituents, educate and, yes, try to make the case for their client or employer…

The First Amendment of the Constitution protects our freedom of religion, freedom of the press and free speech. It also protects our right “to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” The public needs advocates who can represent their free exercise of that right, and that is the role of the lobbyist.

Citizens United

National Review: Criminal Intent

By Kevin D. Williamson

Bribery can be very difficult to prove or to police. Historically, we have finessed that in part by placing limits on how much money people can donate to political campaigns per se – which is to say, to political operations under the direct control of the candidates themselves – as well as by prohibiting campaign donations from corporations, whether for-profit or nonprofit. That is also why we limit what individuals and corporations can donate to PACs, party committees, and the like. The idea is that we prevent bribery and the appearance of bribery by setting the limits below what any self-respecting politician (ho, ho!) would peddle himself for. The theory is imperfect but not indefensible.

What we should not limit – and, under the First Amendment, do not limit – is how individuals, nonprofits, corporations, or other groups spend their own money to communicate their own political messages. That is because, as Anthony Kennedy put it in Citizens United, these “independent expenditures do not lead to, or create the appearance of, quid pro quo corruption.” One need not accept the validity or prudence of the existing limits to understand the rationale for them. And that rationale, properly understood, is not broad enough to cover private parties spending their own money on their own political ideas.

The Media

Tucson Sentinel: Solutions to ‘fake news’ could easily be worse than the problem

By Blake Morlock

Journalism is traditionally one of the worst-paid gigs in the white collar world, to the degree that it is any way a jacket-and-tie gig.

A solution has long been at the ready.

The industry could establish a certification board to bequeath proper credentials on reporters before they are allowed to be hired…

Journalism is an institution. It’s a franchise. The power to license is the power to prohibit. The authority to prohibit certain people from practicing free speech, is the authority to censor…

A free society can’t outsource de-conflicting truth from lies. That’s one of the real costs of freedom that people pay day-after-day (or don’t). A free society is a pain in the ass but the alternative is too often a blindfold and cigarette.

Daily journalism and reporting hard news has never been about the truth. It’s about accurately covering new developments and citing sources to provide context. It’s always been on the reader to take from those grafs what they will.

Politico: The Long and Brutal History of Fake News

By Jacob Soll

Fake news is not a new phenomenon. It has been around since news became a concept 500 years ago with the invention of print-a lot longer, in fact, than verified, “objective” news, which emerged in force a little more than a century ago. From the start, fake news has tended to be sensationalist and extreme, designed to inflame passions and prejudices…

While partisan reporting and sensationalism never went away (just check out supermarket newsstands), objective journalism did become a successful business model-and also, until recently, the dominant one…

It wasn’t until the rise of web-generated news that our era’s journalistic norms were seriously challenged, and fake news became a powerful force again. Digital news, you might say, has brought yellow journalism back to the fore. For one, algorithms that create news feeds and compilations have no regard for accuracy and objectivity. At the same time, the digital news trend has decimated the force-measured in both money and manpower-of the traditional, objectively minded, independent press. 

Trump Administration

Huffington Post: On Trump Conflicts, Don’t Forget About the Other Emoluments Clause

By Brianne J. Gorod

As is now widely known, the Foreign Emoluments Clause prohibits any “Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust” from “accept[ing] . . . any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State,” without “the Consent of the Congress.” But that’s not the only Emoluments Clause in the Constitution. Importantly, there’s also a Domestic Emoluments Clause (in Article II), which explicitly applies to the President and prohibits him from receiving, on top of his salary, “any other Emolument from the United States, or any of them.” Together, these Clauses prohibit the President from receiving, other than his salary, any “emolument”-any compensation, gift, or other form of profit or gain-from foreign governments, the United States, or state governments and their instrumentalities…

And as the conversation continues about Trump’s conflicts of interest and the constitutional problems they pose, we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that there’s not just one constitutional provision at stake, but two.

The States

Omaha World-Herald: Bring election campaign spending out of the shadows, Nebraska lawmaker says

By Emily Nohr

A state senator from Bellevue is aiming to close a loophole that allows some groups to get involved in election campaigns without reporting their spending to the state…

Opponents are raising concerns, saying the bill planned by Crawford is an attempt to weaken the constitutional right of free speech.

Candidates, committees and unions must report spending for campaign ads in support or opposition to a candidate.

But Nebraska doesn’t require reporting from groups that distribute materials that are viewed as educational for voters…

Under the bill, groups would be required to report who’s spending the money and how much is spent on communication such as mailers, robocalls and purchased Facebook ads targeting a candidate’s electorate and distributed 30 days or less before an election.

The bill would also require the group to report the names of donors who contributed more than $250 to the group for “electioneering” purposes.

Los Angeles Times: Asian American donors are banking on John Chiang making history in bid for governor

By Phil Wilson

UC Riverside political scientist Karthick Ramakrishnan said Chiang’s fundraising success shows the vast, mostly untapped potential of California’s Asian American donor base – mostly college-educated, high-net-worth voters…

He said the muted participation by Asian American donors may be tied, at least in part, to the 1990s scandal surrounding John Huang of Glendale, whose fundraising efforts for the 1996 Clinton-Gore campaign triggered congressional and Justice Department investigations.

“They ended up returning a lot of contributions from Asian American donors … and later candidates put them under more scrutiny,” Ramakrishnan said. “That left a bad taste for many donors.”

Ramakrishnan said he believes many donors new to the political process tend to give more to politicians from their own ethnic group, even those from a different political party. But as donors become more seasoned, their spending tends to shift more toward their political ideology, he said.