Daily Media Links 3/17: Sen. Angus King seeks greater transparency for political contributions, Democratic super PAC goes after Trump’s Russia connections, and more…

Supreme Court                                      

Reason: Chuck Schumer’s Indecent Attacks on Neil Gorsuch

By David Harsanyi

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) now opposes a potential SCOTUS justice because he promises to be impartial when upholding the Constitution.

Since Gorsuch’s confirmation hearing starts Monday in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee and opponents have found “little to latch onto,” according to Politico (which means they’ve found nothing to spin into accusations of misogyny or racism), Schumer and his allies have launched a ham-fisted effort to paint Gorsuch as a corporate stooge.

This argument includes a preposterous New York Times piece headlined “Neil Gorsuch Has Web of Ties to Secretive Colorado Billionaire.” Who is this mysterious tycoon? Philip Anschutz, who is probably one the most familiar names in Colorado. He’s so secretive, in fact, that one of the largest medical facilities in the state is named after him. That’s just one of the many buildings that bears his name. If it’s disqualifying for one of the state’s leading lawyers to have a relationship with one of its leading businessmen, then nearly every Coloradan in Washington, D.C., will have to pack up and head home-including Schumer’s colleague Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.).

Fox 31 Denver: Where does Senator Bennet stand on Judge Neil Gorsuch?

By Joe St. George

The Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Colorado Federal Judge Neil Gorsuch is almost upon us. The official hearings begin on Monday.

A big question nationwide is which way will Senator Michael Bennet vote? Many progressive groups, like NARAL, have come out in opposition.

Meanwhile the Democratic Governor who first appointed Bennet to the Senate has come out in support.

“I have not yet made a decision,” Bennet told a crowd gathered at his town hall in Colorado Springs Thursday.

Bennet did however hint at the issue he has discussed the most with Gorsuch. “I spent more with him on Citizens United than I did anything else,” Bennet said.

Chicago Tribune: Democrats, let Neil Gorsuch be your peace offering

By James Robertson

Judge Neil Gorsuch is superbly well-prepared and well-qualified to serve as an associate justice of the Supreme Court. There is no real dispute about that. Nevertheless, it seems that anti-Gorsuch forces are girding their loins for battle. “Poor Gorsuch,” they will say. “We’re going to do the best we can to defeat your nomination – but it’s not about you.”

Just what is it about, then?

The first answer is: “We don’t like the decisions we are afraid he will make.” Anyone with a basic understanding of how judges make decisions rejects that simplistic argument out of hand. Teams of young lawyers are certainly doing opposition research on Gorsuch today just as we did 30 years ago, but they have found nothing disqualifying yet and (I predict) will fail to do so.

Does his record support the label “extremist”? Certainly not. “Ideologue”? No. “Conservative”? Yes, of course – but elections do have consequences. Gorsuch has declined and will continue to decline to answer questions about how he would decide any issue that might come before him – not only because he is ethically bound to do so, but also because, until he reads the briefs and hears the arguments, he doesn’t know. Neither does anyone else.

Congress                                       

Maine Sun Journal: Sen. Angus King seeks greater transparency for political contributions

By Steve Collins

U.S. Sen. Angus King is seeking to revise federal law to require that all campaign contributions of $1,000 or more be disclosed with the Federal Election Commission within 48 hours.

“Campaigns should be a battle of ideas on how to best serve the needs of the American people – not a shadow fight among wealthy donors and special-interest groups who have their fingers on the purse strings,” King, a first-term independent from Maine, said.

Under existing law, contributions of $1,000 or more have to be filed with the Federal Election Commission quarterly except for the 20 days preceding an election, when there is a 48-hour limit…

U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas, is pushing a companion bill in the House.

King said the bill “helps confront the money that is flooding unchecked into our political system and will help Americans looking to make a more informed decision at the ballot box.”

“The amount of money in politics is a threat to the fabric of our democracy, and the American people deserve to know – in real-time – who is funding political activity,” King said.

Independent Groups                                      

CBS News: Democratic super PAC goes after Trump’s Russia connections

By Jacqueline Alemany

The Democratic super PAC American Bridge launched a website Thursday that maps out the complicated web of relationships between Russian power players and people in President Trump’s orbit.

With potentially four investigations into allegations of Russian interference in the U.S. election that have loomed over the administration since assuming office, the site points out Trumpworld’s questionable affiliations with shady characters — relationships the administration has either denied or distanced itself from.

American Bridge’s cheekily named interactive website – TrumpConnections.ru — organizes the links between Trump and individuals connected to Vladimir Putin and Russian entities…

“Trumpconnections.ru clears up the Administration’s lies by outlining the Trump world’s dangerous connections to shady Russian oligarchs and Kremlin officials,” Jessica Mackler, a spokesperson for American Bridge, said in a statement on the launch. “It shows the public just how far this scandal extends and further demonstrates the need for a special prosecutor overseeing the investigation of Trump’s ties to Russia.”

The Media                                      

Washington Examiner: New York Times dubs Fox News a ‘propaganda arm’ for Trump

By Eddie Scarry

A New York Times editorial on Tuesday said that Fox News is now operating as President Trump’s “propaganda arm.”

The Times made the accusation as it entertained a theory that the White House fired U.S. attorney Preet Bharara, an Obama appointee, because he may pursue legal action against Fox.

“… Mr. Trump, as president-elect, had personally asked Mr. Bharara to stay on during a meeting at Trump Tower in November,” said the Times in its editorial lauding Bharara’s service as a federal attorney. “So why fire him now? It has been reported that Mr. Bharara’s office is investigating whether Fox News, essentially the propaganda arm of the White House, failed to properly alert its shareholders about settlements with employees who accused the channel’s former boss, Roger Ailes, of sexual harassment.”…

Fox is well known for its right-leaning programming, and some of its more prominent opinion hosts, like Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly, are generally sympathetic to the White House.

The States

Los Angeles Times: Democratic and Republican legislative leaders join to fight campaign finance rule change

By Patrick McGreevy

In a rare bipartisan agreement, the leaders of the Democratic and Republican caucuses of the state Senate and Assembly have united to fight a proposal by the state’s campaign watchdog agency to change the test for when a candidate controls a political committee…

The commission staff proposed to incorporate some of the legislators’ recommendations but the panel decided Thursday to delay action for a month at the request of new Commissioners Allison Hayward and Brian Hatch, who wanted more time to review the last-minute changes…

The proposed new rules might have determined that a candidate controls a committee based on factors that include whether he or she serves on its governing board, even if the candidate can be outvoted, or raises an “extensive” amount of money for the committee…
Commissioner Hayward had concern about determining a politician is exerting significant influence on a committee if he just raises money. “Control comes on the expenditure side,” she said.

Arizona Republic: Utility regulators vote 3-1 to let APS slide on political finance records

By Ryan Randazzo

Arizona utility regulators voted 3-1 Tuesday to fire an attorney and allow Arizona Public Service Co. to openly defy one regulator’s orders to provide political finance records.

The five Arizona Corporation Commissioners had a brief, heated discussion over the matter. Commissioner Robert Burns issued subpoenas to APS and its parent company, Pinnacle West Capital Corp., last year. The Tuesday vote ends the legal action aimed at making the companies comply with those subpoenas.

Burns wanted to know if the companies were the source of $3.2 million in so-called “dark money” that helped get commissioners Tom Forese and Doug Little elected. The money went to independent political campaigns supporting the candidates. 

Wall Street Journal: New York Mayor Bill de Blasio Cleared in Fundraising Probes

By Corinne Ramey, Erica Orden, and Mara Gay

Federal and state prosecutors on Thursday said they wouldn’t bring charges after investigating the fundraising of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and his aides, lifting a cloud hanging over the mayor and likely clearing the way for his second term.

Joon Kim, acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a statement that “absent additional evidence, we do not intend to bring federal criminal charges against the Mayor or those acting on his behalf relating to the fundraising efforts in question.”
Mr. Kim said his office, along with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, had been looking into the mayor’s fundraising for his 2013 election campaign; the Campaign for One New York, his now-defunct nonprofit; and the 2014 state Senate race. The federal probe looked at whether the mayor or his aides took government action that benefited donors to those entities…
State prosecutors on Thursday also said they don’t plan to bring charges in their fundraising investigation, which examined allegations that the mayor and his allies routed donations to fund state Senate campaigns through county committees to avoid contribution limits. 

More Soft Money Hard Law: Law and Opinion in the de Blasio Investigation

By Bob Bauer

The de Blasio campaign finance investigation ended with explanations from federal and state authorities of their decision not to pursue charges. The Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. chose to give the lengthier account: ten pages of conclusions of law and facts in a letter to the State Board of Elections, which had referred the matter for investigation. Yet again in recent legal history, the prosecutor declines to prosecute but does not stop there, adding his disapproval of the conduct he would not indict. He also suggests how the law could be improved so that it more directly, clearly prohibited the actions he does not approve of. The letter is something less than a model for productive prosecutorial encounters with the political process…

Mr. Vance finds that this conduct, while not chargeable, “appears contrary to the intent and spirit of the law.” The arrangement for funding the campaigns through the parties is an “end run” and a ‘work around,” and the District Attorney suggests that remedial regulatory or legislative action is advisable. The prosecutor decides, in effect, that those subject to the investigation got away with something, and that his office should call them on it. This fits with an unhealthy trend in prosecutions that end with a declination embedded in an editorial.

Gotham Gazette: Since State of the State, Cuomo Silent on Ethics Reform

By Rachel Silberstein

For the second year in a row, in his January State of the State, Governor Andrew Cuomo laid out an ambitious ethics reform agenda that touched on a variety of issues and aimed at restoring public trust in New York State’s scandal-plagued government. But, also for a second year in a row, Cuomo has not followed up with any discernable public push to rally support for that agenda or put pressure on members of the state Legislature to pass it.

Acknowledging that corruption and greed had tainted all branches of government, including his executive branch, Cuomo said on January 11 in Albany, “Imagine what we could do if we had the complete confidence of the people. If we had that confidence, there is nothing we couldn’t do – and I am not going to stop until I get there.”…

But while Cuomo outlined the need for new campaign finance and ethics measures and proposed a slate of reforms, as in years past, the governor has made virtually no mention of these reforms since, nor has he indicated how he will persuade a resistant Legislature to pass them.

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