Daily Media Links 9/6: Democrats launch super PAC to win back statehouses, A Free-Speech To-Do List for College Administrators, and more…

Wall Street Journal: A Free-Speech To-Do List for College Administrators

Erwin Chemerinsky and Howard Gillman

During the past year appearances by controversial speakers on college campuses have led to a string of tense, sometimes violent, incidents. As students return to school, administrators will again face the challenge of protecting freedom of speech while ensuring safety for their students, staff and faculty. We offer this checklist to help them prepare for the difficult issues that are sure to arise…

  1. Disseminate a clear statement of free-speech values and create opportunities to teach the campus community about free speech…
  2. Publish a clear statement supporting the presence of controversial speakers before particular incidents occur…
  3. Devise and publicize transparent and neutral procedures for approving events…
  4. Ensure everyone’s safety…
  5. Put in place rules that prohibit disrupting the speech of others during authorized campus events-with disciplinary measures when appropriate…

In our roles as university officials, we are aware of the difficulty many campuses face regarding free speech. Careful messaging and planning before crises develop can make a huge difference.

The Courts

Wall Street Journal: Reports That ‘Privacy Is Dead’ Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

By Lawrence Cappello

Two days before DreamHost’s challenge to the warrant was to be heard in court, the Justice Department announced it would seek a significantly scaled-back warrant…

The government must now submit an amended report on what data it’s collecting and explain how it will protect the identities of “innocent visitors” to the website…

The First Amendment gets a small win, and privacy maintains a pulse in the digital age. This revised order strikes a much-improved balance between privacy rights and the interests of the Justice Department. Episodes like these can be useful reminders that the relationship between privacy and free speech has a rich heritage in America’s political history…

Faced with the latest news about a political hacking scandal or a corporate data breach, many Americans have developed a troubling tendency to shrug their shoulders and remark knowingly that “privacy is dead.” The DreamHost fight shows it is still alive, and the fight for it can foster a search for reasonable solutions.

Electronic Frontier Foundation: EFF Calls on New York Court to Vacate Unconstitutional Injunction Against Offensive Speech

By David Greene

A court’s order preliminarily enjoining a website from publishing certain images and statements about a former governmental official is an unconstitutional prior restraint and must be rescinded, EFF argued in an amicus brief filed yesterday in the New York state appellate court.

The case, Brummer v. Wey, is a dispute between Christopher Brummer, a Georgetown law professor and a former presidential nominee to the Commodities and Futures Trade Commission and the online publication The Blot…

[O]ur amicus brief, like those we have recently filed in similar cases in Texas and the Seventh Circuit, focused on the fact that orders requiring the takedown of online content are always prior restraints and will be unconstitutional except in the rare situation in which the highly demanding prior restraint test is met…

Prior restraints should be rare. But takedown orders such as this one seem to be happening with greater frequency. We expect the New York Court of Appeals to nullify this one and remind other courts that the First Amendment rarely allows for speech injunctions.

Independent Groups

Politico: Democrats launch super PAC to win back statehouses

By Gabriel Debenedetti

Aiming to play a similar role as Senate Majority PAC does for Senate races and House Majority PAC does for House races, Forward Majority is launching this week as a vehicle for winning back state legislatures ahead of the next round of redistricting in 2021.

Led by a group of Barack Obama campaign alums and veterans of Democratic politics and the business world, the organization is kicking off with a $1 million prototype effort to play in races for Virginia’s House of Delegates this year…

The goal is to flip chambers from GOP hands to Democratic control by using the kinds of expensive campaign tactics seldom used in such local races, including polling and message testing… 

National Republicans have poured money into state legislative races for years. But Democrats have only recently put national political muscle behind such an effort, with Obama endorsing the new National Democratic Redistricting Committee led by former Attorney General Eric Holder.

Forward Majority’s leaders are in touch with the NDRC, which they view as a central clearinghouse for the party’s strategy before the looming redistricting round that could reshape congressional districts in their targeted states.

Recode: Laurene Powell Jobs is using Ronald Reagan in political ads to attack Trump’s DACA decision

By Theodore Schleifer

Laurene Powell Jobs’ philanthropic arm is purchasing its first-ever political ads on television, according to advertising placement records seen by Recode.

Emerson Collective, Powell Jobs’s vehicle for activism and investments, will begin a flight of spots on Wednesday that attack President Donald Trump…

The 30-second spots, placed by Democratic media firm GMMB and confirmed by Emerson, will run until next Tuesday, though only tens of thousands of dollars of ad spending appear to be behind them. It will air on cable in at least the television markets of Denver, Colo.; Louisville, Ky.; Raleigh, N.C.; Las Vegas, Nev.; and Milwaukee, Wis., according to the records. Emerson declined to disclose the total size of the buy.

“These ads are a new tool for Emerson, but when millions of lives hang in the balance, we won’t shy away from any opportunities to encourage Congress to do the right thing,” said Marshall Fitz, who run Emerson’s immigration advocacy program.

In recent years, political donors have begun launching their own shadow organizations, choosing to operate their own outside groups rather than merely fund them.

New York Times: Long List of Top Democrats Have 2020, and Money, on Their Minds

By Kenneth P. Vogel and Rachel Shorey

In interviews, more than three dozen leading Democratic donors, fund-raisers and operatives agreed that it was the earliest start they had ever seen to the jockeying that typically precedes the official kickoff to the campaign for the party’s presidential nomination…

They are making their cases to wealthy donors, while spending briskly through political committees to pay staff members, organize fund-raisers, arrange travel and rally small donors and volunteers, according to campaign finance reports filed with the Federal Election Commission, the Internal Revenue Service and state regulators…

Major donors figure to play an outsize role in the 2020 Democratic race, which will be the first with neither an incumbent nor a candidate who is a clear donor favorite since the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision…

But there also are early indications that the courtship of the party’s donor class could in itself become an issue the way it did in 2016, when Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont did little high-dollar fund-raising. 

Political Parties

Vox: We need political parties. But their rabid partisanship could destroy American democracy.

By Lee Drutman

Finally, there is the outsized role of private money in politics. Again, because one-party majority dominance is always narrowly in reach, both parties have been in a decades-long fundraising arms race that has consumed their ability to govern.

In the campaign finance chase, both parties have gained profitably from catering to extremely wealthy individuals. In theory, the disconnect between voters’ wishes and donors’ priorities should create a problem for both parties, given that the parties economic policies are at odds with what most of their voters would prefer. But herein lies the great advantage of the two-party system – for party leaders. By dialing up the cultural conflict, they can distract voters from the disconnect between elite preferences and the public good. To the extent campaign finance reform can get politicians to refocus their attention on the economic needs of voters, not donors, that will help greatly in controlling polarization.

Twin Falls Times-News: Our View: Idaho’s campaign finance laws need reform

By Editorial Board

Driven by concerns elections are being bought in Idaho, top legislators formed a bi-partisan working group last session to examine whether the state’s campaign finance laws need reform…

The working group met most recently late last month, when Secretary of State Lawerence Denney recommended sweeping changes to the outdated law…

In a bit of irony, Denney himself helped trigger some of those criticisms back when he was a state legislator.

In 2002, Denney came under fire for transferring money from the House Victory Fund, a pool of money to help Republican incumbents get reelected, to a political action committee targeting his opponent. It was perfectly legal, but the move drew the ire of many in the GOP, including current House Speaker Scott Bedke, who helped set up the working group now considering reforms.

Many of the proposals originate with ethics advocates who tried unsuccessfully to force a voter initiative that would have curbed donation limits, banned gifts from lobbyists to lawmakers and increased penalties for violations.