Daily Media Links 7/28: Obama IRS Abuse Should Unite Trump and Sessions, Conservative group challenges Santa Fe’s campaign finance law, and more…

IRS

Wall Street Journal: Obama IRS Abuse Should Unite Trump and Sessions

By Jerome Marcus

I’m referring to the cases, still on file today, challenging or seeking to expose Internal Revenue Service policies that delayed applications for tax-exempt status from conservative groups. That’s viewpoint discrimination, a clear First Amendment violation…

So why is the department handling the cases as if it were still run by Eric Holder or Loretta Lynch ? Because many of the career lawyers who were put on these cases by Obama Justice Department officials continue working on them, with no supervision from this administration. Those lawyers are still doing now what they have always done: fighting as hard as they can to prevent disclosure of what the Obama IRS, and the rest of the Obama administration, was doing to the country…

Cleta Mitchell, who has represented tea-party organizations in the IRS viewpoint-targeting scandal, says Justice Department lawyers “have been stalling, obfuscating and doing all they can in these cases to avoid holding the IRS accountable.”…

The executive branch, through the Justice Department, can on its own agree to release the desired information and end these cases, without any permission from Congress or CNN.

The Courts

Loudoun Tribune: District Court Says Officials’ Social Media Are Forums for Free Speech

By Veronike Collazo

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia decided July 25 that Facebook pages operated by elected officials are forums for free speech and cannot block constituents.

The decision stems from the case Brian C. Davison v. Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, et al, where Davison sued the County because he was temporarily blocked from commenting on Chair Phyllis Randall’s Facebook page.

The court issued a declaratory judgment clarifying that Facebook pages operated by elected officials are forums for free speech. As a result, the decision by Randall to allow the plaintiff to comment on the Chair Phyllis J. Randall Facebook page – following a brief blocking of the Davison’s ability to comment – was appropriate, according to a County release…

While the court clarified that a public official’s social media constitutes a forum for speech, the court found that the plaintiff was not entitled to any damages or other remedy. The court stated that the plaintiff failed to demonstrate that a ban from the Chair Phyllis J. Randall Facebook page for only a few hours “meaningfully curtailed his speech.”

Santa Fe New Mexican: Conservative group challenges Santa Fe’s campaign finance law

The city’s ethics board reprimanded the Rio Grande Foundation after it spoke out against the proposed tax but did not file a campaign finance report.

The foundation disclosed the donors behind its soda-tax advocacy, but it maintains that requiring it do so violates the privacy of donors and has a chilling effect on political speech.

“Santa Fe forces non-profit groups to choose between protecting the privacy of their donors and meaningfully participating in topics of debate that are important to those same donors,” says the lawsuit, filed on behalf of the foundation by the Arizona-based Goldwater Institute.

Similar to policies adopted by several other major cities around the country, Santa Fe’s campaign finance law requires a nonprofit group to file a report with the city clerk if it spends more than $250 to advocate on a particular ballot issue. The law only applies if the group reaches more than 99 voters within two months of Election Day. The report must detail all donations and spending connected to the issue.

The lawsuit asks a judge to prohibit the city from enforcing the rule. A hearing on the case has not been set.

CNN: Palin’s lawyers want New York Times journalists’ emails

By Tom Kludt

Documents filed Wednesday in a New York federal court detailed the efforts by Palin’s legal team to obtain the internal communications of the Times staffers…

The Times issued a correction to the faulty editorial last month and the paper has vowed to fight the lawsuit. Asked for comment about the subpoenas, a Times spokeswoman reiterated the paper’s statement from last month.

“It is agonizing to get something wrong, but as soon as our editors become aware of the error, they corrected it,” the statement said. “We are confident that the First Amendment protects publishers in these circumstances, and we intend to defend the action vigorously.”…

Lawyers for the Times also said that Palin’s case shows no malice on the part of the newspaper, and that her claims could “effectively eliminate the threshold protections afforded by the First Amendment every time a news organization published a report about a controversial political figure.”

Congress

eNews Park Forest: Senator Durbin Introduces Fair Elections Now Act

By Office of Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL)

Under the legislation, qualified Senate candidates would earn grants, matching funds, and television vouchers to run competitive campaigns based on small-dollar contributions, rather than rely on funding from wealthy donors and corporate special interests.

The Fair Elections Now Act would help reduce the influence of wealthy donors and big-money special interests by creating a voluntary system of public financing for Senate candidates. Candidates who participate in the Fair Elections process would agree to limit their campaign spending to the amounts raised from small-dollar donors plus the amounts provided by the Fair Elections Fund…

The bill also creates a type of small-donor political action committee, known as a “People PAC.” In contrast to traditional federal PACs that can accept contributions of up to $5,000 per year from individuals or Super PACs that can accept unlimited contributions, People PACs would only be permitted to accept contributions of $150 or less per election from individuals…

A companion bill was introduced earlier this year in the House of Representatives by U.S. Representative John Sarbanes (D-MD). The Government by the People Act would establish a similar public financing system for House candidates.

The Hill: Lawmakers push to toughen foreign lobbying rules

By Megan R. Wilson

Lawmakers called for strengthening laws on how the Department of Justice (DOJ) regulates foreign lobbying efforts at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday.

The hearing comes with the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) in the spotlight amid probes into potential Russian interference in the 2016 presidential race and as former Trump campaign officials register retroactively as foreign lobbyists…

A bill from Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.) would give the National Security Division of DOJ – which oversees FARA activity – more powers, eliminate filing fees and give agents more time to submit certain required disclosures. The House has companion legislation…

A forthcoming bill from Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) reportedly will close an exemption in FARA that allows people to avoid registering with the DOJ if they represent a private foreign interest and disclose the relationship under the Lobbying Disclosure Act, according to a lobbyist working on the issue.

The States

Los Angeles Times: Watchdog panel’s support for lifting some donation limits is likely boost to state senator facing recall

By Patrick McGreevy

A watchdog commission appointed by Democrats opted Thursday to support lifting the limits on donations to officials targeted by recalls – just as a Democratic state senator is facing one…

Going against the recommendation of its attorney, all but one Fair Political Practices Commission member voted in support of allowing larger contributions than have been allowed in the past.

The change could be a big boost to freshman state Sen. Josh Newman, being targeted for ouster for voting to raise the gas tax…

Richard R. Rios, an attorney for Senate Democrats, said it is “unfair and creating a playing field that is not level,” to limit contributions to Newman’s committee, while large contributions can be made to the recall…

Carl DeMaio, a Republican activist involved in the recall, denounced the panel’s vote. “With this action to decimate campaign finance rules in favor of big money in politics, California Democrats show they are breaking and bending all the rules to keep power,” said DeMaio, a former San Diego City Councilman.

Omaha World-Herald: Omaha man starts petition for ballot initiative on campaign contribution limits

By Emily Nohr

An Omaha man has launched a petition drive with the goal of letting voters decide whether to place limits on campaign contributions in Nebraska.

David Flick of Nebraska Initiative for Clean Elections said that the petition has been finalized and that he’s begun collecting signatures to place a measure on the 2018 general election ballot.

The initiative would ban groups such as corporations and unions from making direct political contributions to candidates and political parties in the state.

It also would prohibit individual donors from giving more than $1,000 in total to candidates and more than $1,000 in total to political parties each year.

The effort would not put limits on independent expenditures.